Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Lady Power

Through my peripheral vision, l could see the flutter of flags outside The Cafe. A flutter of flags outside a cafe, pub, restaurant or shop usually means there is a promotion going on but, seeing the flags did not have the customary green and black colours of Tusker Malt Larger (TML) that I am well acquainted with, there was no need to squint my eyes to find out who they belonged to.

In The Cafe, it was one of those days when I wanted to be left alone. Well not literally. I did want Waitress to take my order and then scoot as far away from me as possible. She did just that though not voluntarily I might add. You see, it had taken her the best of a whole five trips to and from the bar just to serve me a TML, so if she was that scattered then, I was justified in wanting her to be as far away from me as possible.

I was settled. As the iPod serenaded me with Roberta Flack’s killing me softly and setting me on a blissful memory drift, I was irked to find that there was a female form standing next to me and coughing in an attempt to garner my attention. What was wrong with Waitress? Did she not comprehend my earlier instruction that she scoots as far away from me as possible? Did she want me to spell it out to her in Luganda?
Taking a leaf out of John Nagenda’s book when he berated a journalist at The Sheraton Hotel who interrupted him as he had his lunch, I too did just that. The berating was so ferocious that, she was reduced to tears.

Oh, not tears which happen to be the first and last line of defence for most women! As I tried to calm her down, it became all too apparent she was not Waitress but Marketing Girl who was pimping Vero Water. With tears all swelled up in her eyes, she blabbered on about how she wanted to offer me a free bottle of Vero Water and if I liked it enough, she would give me a crate because it would be befitting of my celebrity status.

Okay, so Marketing Woman acknowledged that I am a celebrity though she was still at fault because you just don’t pounce on a celebrity nor do you cough to introduce yourself. I think Small Mark who works for a drinks company near ‘the beach’ should know. But wait a minute, is Small Mark a celebrity? Hmm, I don’t think so. Wrong person to use as an example. Perhaps Q and Speaker would be better examples.
So I let Marketing Woman finish her spiel and though the tears were still streaming down her cheeks, she had done her homework and had done a good enough job in selling the brand to me.

However, it did leave me with a dilemma. As she had done a better job of pampering me than Marketing Women from TML or Marketing Men from Sportsman (I quit the latter last week in protest), seeing that I am now into healthy living, I ought to abandon TML for Vero and I suppose my threats will put more than a shudder of fright down the spines of the people at BAT and UBL.

There is a ‘but’. I didn’t like losing out to Marketing Woman. I should have been stronger and laid some more into her – chewing her up and spitting her out the moment I saw her eyes fill up with tears. Not so?

Waitress – not Waitress who I told to scoot and put a million miles between her and me. This was another one. I was at a function at which, I was one of the organisers. The function was attended by HE and Wifey amongst other people – by the way, is calling President Museveni ‘HE’ and referring to his wife, Janet as ‘Wifey’ instead of First Lady abusing the office of the presidency?

As finger nibbles were served, from my vantage point, Waitresses were doing a grand job. They were moving though the guests with relative ease and doing the job just the way it was demanded of them during a briefing earlier that afternoon.

I have to pause for a while because my smile of satisfaction is starting to wane. There is something wrong with Waitress whose hairstyle is difficult to comprehend. I think Salon Lady would have called it a weave but in my opinion, it looks more like a nest – a nest that the Marabou Storks that hang around The High Court build out of the rubbish from Grand Imperial and Sheraton hotels’.

As I was saying, there was something wrong with Waitress with Marabou Stork Hairstyle but I just could not figure out what it was. As she weaved her frame through the guests, I lost her. I scanned the room trying to find out where she had vanished off to, but bleak. It was as if she had been beamed into the black hole without anybody noticing.

I put an APB out on her. I know somebody is going to ask me what APB stands for and it is ‘all points bulletin’ which, is used by the police when they are hunting for a fugitive on the run.

With the APB out, I once again scoured the room looking for her but can’t find her. May be she went to the washrooms? I wait by the doors to the washrooms until it dawns on me that I have to move for two reasons. First reason: Women Guests going in and out of the washrooms are looking at me like I am some pervert who makes it a habit of loitering about women’s toilets. The second: There is a pungent smell that’s wafting out whenever the door is pushed open. Hmm, I wonder who could be responsible. Despite her appealing size 8 figure, could it be Lady in Blue Trouser Suit for she looked the type who could let rip a killer of a fart.

With no success at the ladies washrooms – well apart from being tagged a pervert who hangs by the ladies washrooms, I return to the function and going up to the bar for a TML refill (no, I have not gone back to drinking TML for this incident happened before my run in with Marketing Woman from Vero Water), I peer behind the bar and notice movement on the floor. Getting a closer look, it is Waitress with Marabou Stork Hairstyle and guess what, she is squatted and stuffing her face with fish fingers!

Eek, eek, eek! What would happen if HE or Wifey decide to saunter over for a drink and caught sight of her? I had to move fast. I politely tell her to put down the tray and be on her way home. Her response? “Shia!” and finished off with a look of contempt.

When it finally dawns on her that I am one of the organisers, she pleads for forgiveness. It doesn’t work. So she goes in for Plan B and fills her eyes with tears. Plan B didn’t work either. I had won. Satisfied that I had put her in her place, I went back to mingling with Guests.

I think I was talking to Erik Van Veen and Philip Besiimere who, were then with MTN when I saw her emerge from behind the bar. Rather than making for the door and going home like I had ‘firmly’ instructed her, she made a beeline for me.

And just like that she dropped to her knees, lashed her arms tightly round my leg and started squirming out for forgiveness! It was panic stations! Despite the cold night, I was suddenly hot and sweaty. Van Veen and Besiimere gave me ‘looks’ as did one or two Guests. I tried to calm her down but, she was not having any of it – well not until I had forgiven her and promised not to tell her bosses. And with that came the dreaded feeling that I was about to lose the battle. Okay the thought of losing the battle did not hurt much. What did, was losing to Waitress with Marabou Stork Hairstyle of all people.

I had no choice but to forgive her. And with that, she stood up, dusted down her knees and returned to serving fish fingers while making it a point to sneer at me whenever she saw me. And whoever said: ‘It’s a man’s world’, I am sure a certain Jennifer Musisi who firmly wears the pants in KCCA would vehemently disagree.

Independence Day? Don't Make Me laugh

Do I have a cowardly tale for you this Sunday or what! But before I get into it, there is an itch that has been bothering me since I woke up. I know there is something very significant about today, Sunday October 9th but for the life of me I can’t think what it is. Ah, let me see. No it’s not my birthday. That’s in April. Perhaps I had been invited to a party? No, not that either. Was I supposed to have flown out? I can’t think, I can’t think! Okay seeing that it is going to nag at me, I think it’s prudent that I transgress and write about something else while I wait to see what the Google search yields.

New Portbell Road, especially between MUBS and Akamwesi Hostel should be declared an accident black spot zone. If not, the authorities should build an underpass so the students – especially the female students that is, can connect between Akamwesi and MUBS. You see, I have had numerous near miss car accidents on that road because I am too busy ogling the nubile female students instead of concentrating on the flow of traffic ahead. And like Family Buffet Policewoman told me when I almost knocked her over: “You man, do you know what crime you have committed? You men are all the same. As soon as you see these young campus girls, you take your eyes off the road and instead of knocking the girls you were looking at, you want to knock me. Is it because I am fat?”

I didn’t know what response she hoped to illicit from me so I just kept quiet, stared at her and thought, if I took her to Zone 7 for lunch, I bet she could waffle down the entire buffet on her own. That’s why I’ve tagged her ‘family buffet’ for the fatness that she had on her.

Ah, the Google search on October 9th is complete and eek, it tells me that today is Uganda’s Independence Day and the nation is celebrating its 49th birthday! How could I have forgotten that? Well, I did and trust me it was not a hard thing to do.
So what that today is Independence Day. I am not feeling the slightest bit patriotic nor do I feel inclined to trudge down to Kololo Airstrip to be part of the celebrations or switch television channels from some Nigerian movie full of juju scenes on Africa Magic onto UBC to listen to another lengthy speech from President Museveni.

I would like to be patriotic. I want to wave the Ugandan flag about and sing all three stanzas of the national anthem but I don’t because the authorities, the people in government do not allow me - and even you out there to be patriotic.
Early this year I went round parts of Uganda taking photographs of various landmarks so I could send them to an old school friend from Missouri in the US and who will be visiting Uganda for the first time this December. It should have been an easy affair but the government, the authorities, the police, ISO and just about every security organ blocked me the moment they saw the camera.

First point of call was parliament. I stood outside the main gates, focused and started clicking away. As I did, through the corner of my eye I saw a security official dressed in black and wielding an AK-47 walking hurriedly towards me. Lowering the camera, he was pointing in my direction and shouting out in Swahili. Since I had no beef with him I went back to clicking away until I felt a thud in my back.

Looking round, I am surrounded by security who, are asking me a multitude of questions in quick succession that I don’t know who to answer first. The demanding questions range from “identify yourself, where are you from, who told you to take pictures, this is a secure zone, you don’t take pictures of parliament, we have the authority to arrest you, affande we should take him to CPS.”

The funny thing about security people is that when you answer back, you are deemed to be trying to appear smart and they don’t like it. When I told them that parliament belongs to all Ugandan’s because it is we the electorate who elect the people who use parliament, one chap who was so obviously an ISO operative shot back. “Are you an MP?” His friend also chipped in, “do you know the laws of Uganda?”
It took a number of phone calls to extradite myself from their interrogation and onto State House, Nakasero I went.

I didn’t even have the time to get the camera out of its protective casing when they were upon me. With the digital camera confiscated, they started to browse through the pictures I had taken earlier. They wanted to know everything about the 60 or so pictures that were stored in its memory and what I was doing loitering outside State House. My answer was simple enough.
TB: “I want to take pictures of State House so I can send them to my friend in America and tell him that this is where Museveni lives”.
There is a silence, like a two minute silence.
Security: “Who is your friend in America?”
TB: “Matthew, Matthew Holberg. Do you know him?”
Eh, for a while there I could have sworn I saw Security Chap scratching his head to see if the name rang a bell. Before I am released, I am told that State House Nakasero, State House Entebbe and all State Lodges are off limits to us wanainchi. We are not allowed to walk near State House, take pictures of it or even linger about in its vicinity.
TB: “When they call it State House, am I not part of the sate?”
Security: “TB, I know you. You are a stubborn man. Just go home.”
TB (sarcastically)“Perhaps the Museveni’s are embarrassed about the house that they live in and that’s why I can’t take pictures?”
The sarcastic joke fell flat.

Okay so parliament is out as is State House. Let’s try Owen Falls Dam. Owen Falls Dam just like the bridge at Karuma Falls are considered by the government to be places of ‘strategic interest’ and must be protected at all costs. The interpretation of ‘all costs’ means no photography is permitted.

Digging around, I find that we Ugandan’s are not allowed to take pictures of many government institutions. You can’t even take a picture of the museum without the guard there jumping on you. You can’t even own a flag or hoist one up in your compound. People who have flags on their cars like the artiste Bobi Wine amongst others, are breaking the law and are liable for arrest. Flags on cars are for the president and his ministers.

When a friend of mine who used to live on Munyonyo Road and who we call Kashari, hoisted a flag off the roof of his house, he received a ‘friendly visit’ from some people in security advising that it would be in his best interests if he pulled it down. Totally absurd!

In other countries – like the US, South Africa, UK, Netherlands and Spain for example, the authorities there have no issues with you if you took pictures of say The White House, Camp David, Buckingham Palace or 10 Downing Street.

And owning a flag? What is so wrong with owning a flag they would ask? As a national, you are entitled to own a flag because a flag among many other things build patriotism.

The funny thing though, is that we are all allowed to own a portrait of President Museveni and we are allowed to hang it up on the walls of our shops, offices and homes. Weird isn’t it?

With that said, I say to hell with Independence Day. I am going to spend the day patriotically watching Nigerian movies. Let the people who are in government, President Museveni, his cabinet, the security people - ISO, JATT, Anti Terrorism, police and the military police who without reservation enforce draconic laws like prohibiting me from taking pictures of Parliament, State House and Owen Falls Dam have Independence Day to themselves.

And who knows, next year they might start telling the people who gather at Kololo for the celebrations that what they are doing is illegal and that Independence Day of ‘strategic interest’ to the government so they better disperse and go home.

If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It

There is this saying: ‘If it ain’t broken, then don’t fix it.’ It is a saying that the marketing or is it the advertising people at BAT have neglected especially with the ‘new look’ Sportsman packet. To be honest, it is the most hideous cigarette packet on the market. What was wrong with the design of the old pack? It was simple –white and red with a head of a horse as a logo though years earlier, somebody decided that the man who used to sit on the horse ought to go. As a brand, Sportsman was IT, but the new look hideous packet which incidentally I won’t be caught dead with, means that heads at BAT have to roll or I will quit smoking. That said, does anybody want my collection of lighters?

Anyway, he walked into Miki’s Pub and didn’t take a keen interest in the pool game that was raging at one of the tables. Rather, he perched himself up at the bar and watched whatever it was that DStv was showing, ordered for a Coke and a packet of cigarettes and was given the hideous new look Sportsman pack.

I am into pool but I am not fanatical about it because it is just a game.
Getting back, as the pool game wore on, it made sense to have a game as I wait for lunch to be served. However just as I was about to lay my sh500 coin on the table, the chap who had shown no interest in the game and who was content with his Coke, DStv and Sportsman cigarettes slapped down three sh500 coins. I gave him a quizzical look and let him be.

Returning to his seat, he was later joined by two ladies – one carrying a small valise that obviously nestled a pool cue. The lady with the valise and The Chap had something in common. They were wearing matching purple track suits. I would have thought it odd, but then again, the landlord of Miki’s Pub has this habit of turning up on a hot Sunday afternoon with his wife and daughter in tow and the trio are dressed to the nines in heavy winter jackets and ski boots. So this couple dressed in matching purple tracksuits didn’t make me gasp out in horror.

The Chap, when it was his turn on the table, turned out to be a ‘talker’. A talker as in one of those people who wants everybody watching to know how he is going to knock the yellow ball off the side cushion and have it double back to end up in the corner pocket. If not, in between shots as he puffed on his cigarette, he would talk of his exploits on the Nankulabye pool tables and how he was the best there is in that area.

If that wasn’t bad enough, it was the shenanigans of his lady friend in the purple track suit who I presumed to be his wife. With every ball that The Chap potted, she would leap up, rush to the table and slap her hand on it. And when this happened, the response from The Chap and in Luganda went along these lines.

The Chap: “Mulaba, (you see) I was telling them that me, Ssekitoke, I am the best pool player in Nankulabye. They even call me professor because I studied the game and I am here to show these people what professor can do.”

Woman in Purple Tracksuit: “Wama, Ssekitoke, show them what you are made of.”

I seem to be running away with this article that I need to slow it down a trifle. With a name like Ssekitoke, he was bound to be a pool hustler and the type to have a wife wearing a purple tracksuit with...wait for it, wait for it, wait for it – HIGH HEELS! There is a need to upper case ‘high heels’ so that you get the same feel of anguish and disgust that I had for her.

By the way, The Chap was very good at his game. He cleaned, he massacred, he wiped and slaughtered just about everybody he took on. And he did it with a vile and sarcastic glee about him.

Then it was my turn. As I racked the balls he looked me up and down and sneered. In Luganda, he was saying: “Now who is this person you have brought me? Is this the best you have? He won’t last long because I am going to show him what Ssekitoke is made of.”

Inside me, I was on his side. I knew what was coming to me that rather than think about the game, I thought of my exit. That as soon as he’s beaten me, I will flush my food and be on my way home to hide out the rest of the day in shame.

I broke. As the clatter of the noise from the balls knocking each other began to subside, there was that unmistakable sound. The unmistakable sound of a ball dropping into a pocket and rolling down to the collection tray below the table. I had potted a yellow. The next yellow spun off the black into the side pocket and the next was a mere tap into the upper left corner pocket. Then I missed.

Back on the table, The Chap wasted no time. Four balls were potted in a quick succession. Then he attempted a double and missed. My turn and I felt strange. I pulled off seemingly impossible shots by luck and when that happened, I thought it best that I swagger round the table with an air of self confidence to convince The Chap that it was a shot that I had planned.

Suddenly there were six balls left on the table. The white, the black, my solitary yellow ball and three of his red balls with my yellow, hanging over the pocket. All it took was a simple kiss from the white ball and the game was over.

The Chap could not believe it. He went into a rant shouting out that, he could not be beaten and a rematch was required.

Wait a minute. This is pool and not boxing. In pool, the winner stays on the table, there is no ‘rematch’ and The Chap knew this but because he was the ‘the professor of pool from Nankulabye’ and had been beaten, he had to take me on again.

Luckily for him, the person who was on the table next, relented and let The Chap play again. The Chap spewed out more threats and insults and encouraged by his woman in the purple tracksuit and HIGH HEELS, he threw down 10k as a wager.

“Look here chap” I told him. “This is just a game. There is no need to get angry or take other peoples games. And no, I am not going to bet with you!”

So The Chap taunted me to an extent that I lost my cool and took on the bet. It was a tight game and with all due honesty, The Chap should have won but I got some lucky breaks here and there and prevailed to win.

And as gamblers say: ‘Quit while you are ahead.’ I did just that, snatched the 10k out of The Chaps hand and took my throbbing ego to a stool at the bar.

As the bar lady was about to pop open the Mirinda Fruity I had earlier ordered to have with my lunch, I stopped her. Seeing I was 10k richer, I told her in my bad Luganda: “Mpa ka Tusker Malt. Ate, oyo guy ku pool table muwe soda” (give me a Tusker Malt and the chap at the pool table, give him a soda).

I don’t think it was something that I should have done - sending him a Coke that is. The Chap went livid, ranted some more, packed his pool cue along with the hideous new look Sportsman pack and left with his entourage.

Four days later, I thought I would have a game. Placing my sh500 coin on the table, there were “be very afraid” whispers of how good I was. When it was my turn, I broke and didn’t pot a ball from the break and that was it. The game was over. The Rasta I was playing, 7-balled me!

To Hell With The Media!

Chapter One: Michael Jackson was no doubt one of the greatest performers to walk this earth and he seemingly had everything that money could buy. His list of friends was impressive. He had a huge ranch complete with an amusement park and whenever he opened his mouth to sing, that song was almost guaranteed a number one slot in the music charts.

One thing though that his money seemingly could not buy, was happiness for the media hounded the life out of him. They were un-relentless that every day, the tabloids came up with new headlines designed to ridicule and embarrass him. Wacko Jacko so one newspaper headline ran. Another had Sicko Jacko. The media felt they had just cause to ridicule him because he was not like the rest of us. He did not conform.
So what that he had facial surgery, wore a face mask or had a chimp for a pet when the rest of us had dogs and cats. That was his preference.

How Jackson got through the day especially when his financial and sexual problems kicked in, I don’t know. The tabloids ridiculed him, tore him to shreds, did susu on him and much more. Stories were made up from ‘friends close to Jackson’ if not, from ‘family members’ or ‘sources close to Jackson.’

Hogwash I say. I doubt any of his family or indeed his friends were spilling the beans to the media. If anything, spurred on by the desire to sell sensational stories to a public that was willing to lap up everything that was printed, the media just made up stories on him.

Chapter Two. Does anybody remember an English footballer called John Fashanu who used to play for Wimbledon FC during the 80s and 90s? Well, Fashanu was a target of the English tabloid press. But there was a problem. They couldn’t find any dirt on him. Frustrated they started making up stories but the real coup came when they found out that his younger brother, also a footballer was gay.
That was it. The tabloids went into over drive that any story related to Justin always started off along these lines: Gay Justin Fashanu, brother of football star John Fashanu...” That was the way they got at John and for good eight years or so, anything that Justin did, the next day in the tabloid headlines were the key words -'Gay’ and ‘brother of John Fashanu’, yet the story had nothing to do with John.

Chapter Three: Closer to home, former Vice-President Gilbert Bukenya was crucified by a tabloid. For weeks on end, the tabloid published endless storied on how Bukenya was alleged to have snatched somebody’s wife and went on to ‘expose’ details of their sexual dalliances.

The tabloid claimed to know how many times the VP romped amongst other details. The source of their information was from ‘friends close to the VP’, ’family members of Bukenya’ and ‘people in the know.’

While I do know Bukenya, I hardly think he is the type who still has the teenage boy antics of kiss and tell. Like he said, ‘there is a Mafia out there’ and after what I have been through, I am inclined to believe him. Coincidentally none of the other papers had any reports on his dalliances.

Chapter Four: Let’s not forget that I was one of the pioneers of Have you heard. Have you Heard then, did have boundaries and still has. Children were not written about out and we did evaluate peoples’ position in society and the work place before we when ahead with a story. We didn’t dwell on the negativity again and again and again. However, it can be argued that ‘people who live in glass houses should not throw stones’. I did live in a glass house so why am I now throwing stones?

Right now, there is a chap who could be described as a ‘hot potato’. Chap is a hot potato courtesy of a tabloid who, have seen it fit to publish a story about him almost every month for the past four years or so.

Chap is rather miffed at his status. A friend once told him that he is ‘a brand’ and as a brand he has to expect a battering in the media. May be whenever a story is written about Chap, their sales go up? Hmm, that is food for thought. Perhaps an extra sh10m is added to their coffers every time they publish a story on him?
Another told Chap, that because of his ‘celebrity status’ he is fodder for the media. Chap a celebrity? Hardly! A quick definition of celebrity is: Somebody who is famous during his or her own lifetime. I wouldn’t describe Chap as famous but rather somebody who is known.

Chap has not done anything tangible that will be remembered years after his demise. All he is, is a writer who was once a newspaper editor and a television producer. He has not published a book, nor does he live in a huge mansion, drive a fancy car or have a fat bank account. He is just your regular type of chap who has a normal run of the mill job, who sometimes after work likes to hangout in with friends, go to Club Silk until the wee hours and sometimes like everybody, else push the boat out a little. Is there any harm in that?

Well according the tabloid, there is. They have issues with Chap going out and drinking beer, that he has been branded ‘a booze war hero’ amongst many other not so kind things. Just like everybody else out there, Chap does go out and just like everybody else he has broken the rules and stayed out late.

But no, Chap is not allowed to do that for some weeks ago and in a full page story (wow, a full page story!) on Chap they wrote this: “When every responsible parent is dropping their kids off at school Chap is just getting in home from the bar.”

The worst thing about that statement was the writer’s decision to drag children into the sordid details.

Wait a minute, do I see similarities between the Chapter Two story on John Fashanu? I think I do. Did they decide to cast their sordid net wider in an attempt that their readers will look at Chap as some irresponsible parent who is in the bar as early as 8:00am instead of dropping off his kids off at school Yikes!

Well for the people who do know Chap well enough, his daughters and family at least they know where he is at 8:00am.

Chap is not the first person nor will he be the last to land in some financial difficulty. Things happen to all of us that sometimes they turn sour. It happens. And when the tabloid found out, it was music to their ears. The headlines were big and bold and since then, every story written about Chap starts of as follows: “Chap, the city booze war hero whose picture was put in the papers by a financial institution...” Oh yes, how they have milked that episode!

Not content, they went below the belt when they wrote that “... because of his ‘marriage had broken up’, his mother-in-law got high blood pressure that she died.” Chap read that sentence again and again trying to make sense of it and to-date, he thinks it was written and designed to have an element of malice, ridicule and spite. Oh yes, the people who do know the truth were supportive enough and yes tabloid, Chap did get some abuse from some two ladies whilst he was shopping in Nakumatt. Is that what you were hoping for?

Chap would be lying if that full page story and others that have been written about him did not hurt. They hurt a lot just like they must have hurt Jackson, Fashanu and Bukenya.

When that full page story was written, It was a tough call to leave the house because as soon as he did, there was the finger pointing. There were the whispers, the smirks and the vilifying ‘smiles’. But life has to go on.

Chap does not think he will get any grace from them. But if they do move on and decide to pitch camp on somebody else, this is how you handle it. Don’t lock yourself at home and mope. Don’t show rage. Keep a stiff upper lip and maintain your dignity.

As long as your ‘real’ friends know the truth, that is all that matters.