Tuesday, February 4, 2014

A Happy New Year and a Happy New Blog

Memories always bring me back here. Oh we had great times here. I remember how I'd hide in the computer lab until the lab assisitant would kick me out, and I would stay drawing illustrations on word trying to be as funny as I could. And I did become funny, eventually, and I got a great following and we built something that worked, a good thing, but with mostr good things, life happened.

I guess I grew up. It's not you, it's me. All of a sudden I could not draw to save my life. I always ended up with squiggles and doodles, and then the humor disappeared, and when I thought it couldn't get worse, the words.



But I was determined. I pushed, and tried, and eventually I knew nothing would come of this. I was trying to resuscutate something that was long dead. Now all I have is memories and posts.

All is not lost. Little did I know that as this our relationship was dying, a new one was being born. My writing became 'serious', I started to write fiction, I started to grow in style and form, and before I knew it, a novel was in the oven.

Every now and then I come back here and remember what we used to have, but I do not feel sad, because we have a new thing going on, a good thing, probably a better thing.

So be a good sport and click here. If you don't want you could read on the click here. It's just the same link, but you know how we do.

Guys, we moved. It's called progress. See you on the other side.

Monday, November 11, 2013

We Are Moving (But Still in Denial)

Hi there!

This is meant to be a letter or memo, or something people use to send bad news... or good, depending on who is sending it.

So this blog, wow, it's been a while. Uum, yeah, I really don't have much to say, so I'll cut to the chase. We are moving, slowly and surely. No more funny MS Paint drawings and tales of zombies and spiders. Okay, maybe a little.

Thing is, your boy here is growing, teething, and in the process he has realized he can sink his teeth into other things. I'm now focusing more on creative writing (the serious type) and so most of my work will be posted on my new blog. For instance, today I posted a post on my experimenting with Magical Realism and also posted a new short story unfortunately titled The Cosmic Dance.

Most of my work will be posted there, but occasionally I will drop by here and throw a few lines, you know, for old time sake.

I know most of you are not pleased....

I will find you...and I will tickle you...TO DEATH!
Before you start assembling the masses and grabbing your pitch forks, here me out.... I am doing this for you.

Oh really?

You have to believe me. Look, the better I become as a writer, the more awesome things you will have to read.

Ya, I'm not buying that load of crap

No? Okay what do you want from me?


Uum, before you kill me, hey look!

See you on the other side.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Feelings of a Yeti (And an Announcement)

Sometimes I feel like a Yeti.

You know the Yeti, the hairy snowman monster thingy that was apparently once a man who got lost in some snowy mountain and slowly grew hair, lost his voice, and eventually his marbles and became a monster, white and cuddly, but monster nonetheless.

Actually I don't want your blood or to kill you, I just want to know how to get to... No? Okay.

A few months ago I decided to quit all forms of formal employment and lock myself up in a room full of snacks and dreams. I think the lack of human contact and light has turned me into a social Yeti. I've become socially awkward, and somewhat rebellious, but in my defense I... I've got nothing.

You want a hug? What's that...?

Anyway, I've been writing a lot, just for writing sake, just to become a better writer. I'm still far from that, but at least I can string along a few coherent thoughts and through about some punctuation marks here and there and actually look like I have something going.

[My friend just called me. He's in a bookshop and he wanted to know which book I'd like. It is people like this that still keep me human.]

Human, as opposed to a psychopathic murderous clown 

Anyway, Yeti, yes I've become one. This is probably false, but I think every Yeti's dream is to reach the summit of the mountain that turned him into the monster he is, and probably every time a Yeti attacks climbers is just an attempt to ask for directions, and in their scared-as-heck foolishness the climbers scare the Yeti, and in return the Yeti... you get the picture. My dream too is to summit this damned mountain, and every so often as people, as they stare back at me incredulously, "Can't you see? Can't you see I'm onto something big?" But that often comes out in verbal blobs of incoherent gibberish, and they run away.

AARRRRRGGGGHHHHH! [Hi, I like your sweater]

But I'm getting there, hopefully without scaring off too many people, and when I finally reach the peak, I'll keep at it, because in all honesty, it reaches a point where it's all downhill, and that is an eventuality I will keep far from me.

Oh look, there's Nakumatt Junction

This blog is slowly coming to an end. I'm working on a site in which I will put all my thoughts together, a page for this sort of nonsense, and one for my more 'serious' work. In the meantime, I'll keep this blog alive (barely breathing), and post my almost serious experiments on this (other) blog.

Here's the latest short story: A Strange Sameness.

Let's keep the love and fun going on there too. Oh and we have a Facebook Page. You know you like it.... (see what I did there.)

To all other Yetis out there, it's possible, keep on.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

#SmallFatesKe: The Old Man

Everyone saw it, the dark blue Toyota Vitz with the bloody back seat. Everyone also noticed how the two men handled the old man; like used diapers, pinky fingers sticking out, noses facing away trying to smell something on their backs. The rumor started immediately the tiny car pulled off the emergency parking, and soon after, everyone knew the story of the man who bled from everywhere.

The collective gasp of the doctors almost sucked all the air out of Mombasa when one of them suggested that the 61 year old man might be ailing from Ebola. The man, who's bleeding they could not stop, was placed in a shoddy quarantine and handled with two pairs of gloves and two masks, for extra care. Later, when the tests came back, Peter Simiyu, the Coast Director of Medical Services, wiped his brow and breathed a sigh of relief, "We can now celebrate," he told a nurse as the old man was moved, unconscious, to the general ward, "at least his severe bleeding will not kill us as well." 

Friday, August 30, 2013

An Announcement (And a Mini Post At The Very End)

Today I woke up to some depressing news; 41 people had died in a grisly bus accident. Before I continue, am I the only one who pictures a big brown bear every time a newsman says the word grisly? You know, like a (grizzly) bear was driving and then it lost control and then there was an accident, or a bear jumped onto the highway and scared the driver off it…. 

Umm... I think I'm lost

Anyway, not to make light of the matter, I wondered what happened, what single action led to the loss of 41 lives, men, women, children, each with a story, a story that had suddenly come to an end and for some, had just started. I mulled over the incident as I rolled about in my bed, and no matter how I looked at it, how I romanticized it, how I thought of the stories therein, the sad fact was 41 people had died.

This story will probably make it onto the front page. It will be announced in bold, a few pictures splashed about, and the whole country will think about this accident, and the lives lost, and we will mourn together, because it will be our loss. But wait, what about the story on page 11 about the child abandoned by its mother (and father), or the drunk who hacked his family then hanged himself on an old sad tree, or the poor child suffering from diabetes who will finally get free insulin. What of these stories, stories that will never make it to the headlines and will therefore not be given the same attention as the bus story. This is sad.

A few weeks back I got a call, and I was asked to be part of a team that would highlight these stories, stories that will probably never be acknowledged except by the few, patient enough to take some time between the headline and the sports news. So this team will highlight these stories in a series of posts called Small Fates. This project was started by writer TejuCole who highlighted these ignored stories in his tweets.

The aim, for me, will be to go past the story itself and try and bring out something deeper from the incident, while trying as much as possible to stay true to the narrative, some good old creative nonfiction.

I will post the first one on Monday, and I will do so until the Story Moja Hay Festival, on the 19th of September. This will be a chance for us to appreciate these small fates that go unnoticed, and for us to appreciate life, including the small insignificant nuances that make up the big picture.
The tag used will be #SmallFatesKe.

Oh, I’ll be posting the small fates on this blog, as well as and my Facebook Page (Ras Mengesha) which you should like and share, or something bad will happen to the little puppy you saw last week and swore it was the most adorable thing in the world.

p.s. There have been rumors going around that the blog is dead. Really? A blog primarily on zombies dead? Ha!

One more thing, I feel like I owe you a blog post (you know, the usual Mengesha’s Colors post) so here’s a mini version, think of it as a bonus for old times’ sake:

My best friend is a writer, and like most writers, she spends a lot of time lost in her head and such times often bring out instances of sheer brilliance. So last night she called me and told me she had a new blog post. I asked her what it was on and she said it was a dumb post that even had a disclaimer because of how silly it was. I insisted that she let me know what exactly it was on so that I knew what exactly to expect. Here’s the conversation:

Her: So I posted something on my blog.
Me: Oh cool! What’s it on? (I hoped it was something close to this: )
Her: It’s a conversation between me and Gath.
Me: Oh sweet, is it like Sunset Company?
Her: Like what?
Me: Sunset Company, the movie where Samuel L. Jackson and Tommy Lee Jones engage in some philosophical conversation on existentialism and choice…
Her: Oh, ya, almost…
Me: Almost?
Her: Ya, it’s a conversation…
Me: Philosophical?
Her: Not exactly…
Me: Okay, what’s it about?
Her: Well… It’s about brown rice…
Me: Say again?
Her: It’s about brown rice…
Me: Okay, what about brown rice?  
Her: Well, you see how our mums…
Her: Hallo? Hallo? Ras? Are you there?

What the...

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Time Travel (A Journey Through 2012)

I miss many things that made my childhood awesome, but one of the things I miss most is my time machine. In it I would embark on adventures, breaking the laws of time and space, going back in time to ride dinosaurs, or into the future to stop the bound to happen zombie apocalypse. My time machine would take me whenever my heart would desire, that is of course until my mother asked me to stop being an idiot and get out from under the bed. I would leave my time machine, amused by her simple mind’s inability to decipher the intricacies of time travel.

As I grew older, I too would suffer the same fate as my mother. Time travel, lost its appeal. But occasionally, I would long for the good old time travelling days, mostly while enduring an afternoon double lesson, I would yearn for the days when I would travel into the future; or after exam results were out I would long to go back to the past. Sadly though, the older I grew, the more detached I was from time travel. Then a few days ago, while staring for a long time at nothing in particular, I had a brilliant idea; and from this idea, the time traveler was reborn.

So what if I had become too big to fit in my old time machine (plus going under the bed at my age is just unnecessary and wrong) I would still travel to the past, but leave my body in the present. Yes people, kind of like Inception.

Any moment now and she'll leave the room

This is how I would do it, I will write to a letter to my past self, then send it back in time, then…
As we come to the end of this year, there are a few things I feel I need to know before I get into this year…you see? Inception. I feel I need to be warned about 2012. Maybe future me will thank me, maybe I’ll mess up with the time-space continuum and cause the world to implode. Let’s see what happens.

Dear Ras of 2011,
So I finally rekindled your old passion, time travel. Yes, I know you are excited, yes, you are welcome. Now calm down…get from under there it works differently now! Anyway, I’m writing this from 2012, December, oh, ya, the Mayans and the makers of the movie 2012 are idiots, the world did not end. There were a few floods, but only on Lang’ata Road, nothing serious.

I thought you’d be better off if I let you know a few things that happen in 2012, then maybe your year won’t be [I left out this adjective to add some suspense. Some motivation for you to come to the future and slap me].

So you know that girl you are ‘in love’ with? The one you almost broke up with her last week but thought she was the one you’ll end up with? Ha! You are wrong…again. Turns out she wasn't the one and you’ll get your heart yanked out and stomped to little bits, before she puts in tiny shards of glass in it then stomps on it again.

But wait, before you text her, you’ll have some good moments somewhere through the year, but you’ll still be punched in the gut by cupid, so if I were you, and I am, you’d run like a man attacked by bees (and that’s really fast).

Well he should have run faster...

You know how we don’t like Valentines Day? Well, you’ll run away from the pressures of the ‘big day’ and go on a road trip with the boys. I feel like saying spoiler alert; but you won’t make it to Tinderet. The six-gear Toyota Alex you’ll be in will veer of the road and roll severally. Don’t worry, you won’t die; no one will. The next morning you’ll look at the car, totaled, then you’ll have mushy existential moments that will make you appreciate life, you’ll even blog about it. Of course you’ll ride on that story for a while and then people will move on, then you’ll come up with some sappy story, but no one will care because in that story you don’t almost die.

Oh snap! I was in there?

Life will be hard in the coming months. You’ll hate your job, you’ll be in a relationship you really shouldn't be in but you won’t see that because you are an idiot and you’ll be in love; two things that shouldn't mix. But you’ll take a bold step: you’ll quit your job. That of course doesn't help at all because in addition to food and rent, you still have to woo a certain lady, so you will have to embrace poverty.

Just as life hands you a few more lemons, your heart, as I mentioned earlier will be…okay fine, the first time was enough. So jobless, loveless, and almost hopeless, you will say F.U. to the world and go on a pilgrimage on Mount Kenya. Of course to you it’s just a trip but wait till you come back.

On the mountain you will see God, you will see a new you, who looks really like me now, a much less crappy version of the current you, you will be broken, you will lose all will to fight for that relationship, you will push yourself beyond your limits and you will achieve everything you had set out to. In addition, you will meet a girl. Now remain seated you dim bulb.

Yes, she is an amazing lass, you will like her, she will be everything you ever wanted, she will let you in and you will let her glimpse at your sorry insides. It won’t be anything serious at first, but she will leave an impression, and you will blog about her, and in the coming months you will spend more time with her, but your broken heart will try hard to keep all feelings at bay, and that is a good thing. (Future me just wrote me and told me to keep it that way a while longer, just a while…) so fret not, you will learn the art of emotional restrain, but by Jove will she amaze you!

She will challenge you, and ask you hard questions, questions about your life, and your art. Consequently, you will write more; about her, about life, about anything, but only because she will text you every day at 6, and ask you to write, and you will.

Your writing will grow, well people will tell you that. You’ll question your writing, want to hang your pen (huh?) but you’ll keep on. Then one day, something amazing will happen. You will get that job offer you always wanted. And before you are done celebrating, you will get news that you've been accepted for the Master’s degree you always wanted. This will be the beginning of a turnaround in your life. Don’t worry, you won’t mess it up.

You will become him...well not yet

Often you will ponder about the year, how you almost died, how you got your heart broken, how you lost (quit) your job, how you met God on the mountain. You will be more aware of the events in your life, and as you sit through class, looking at your classmates, most of them more than ten years older than you, you will be thankful. 

Somewhere in there after a really cool seminar presentation and later a film festival, you’ll go home late. On the way a group of evil ninjas will accost you and rob you of everything, including your sense of security. Your computer, work, manuscripts, school notes, seminar presentations, and notebook containing all your world domination schemes will be lost. But on the next day, through a miracle of sorts, you will rise (a dark knight) and you will be strengthened by the one thing the robbers didn't get, your hope.

If they looked like this it wouldn't be a robbery.

One day, while you travel through Ukambani, you will picture the whole year in one blog post, you will think of how best to write it and you will think of writing a letter to yourself. As you pass the shady pub on the hill you will smile, remember all the good things that have come out of 2012, you will text her, you will think of the research project you are working on, you will think of this blog, and you will think of your manuscripts yet to be published, and you will wish that you, a year ago, would only know what is in store for you. I know, Inception.

Happy New Year everyone. To bigger things.


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Back To School (And Other Stories)

It took me 30 minutes to walk the two kilometer road between home and school. Every morning, for 5 years I walked on the dustiest, and when it rained, muddiest road Rongai had to offer; and yes, we still went to school during El Nino. Most of you might be reading this going, ah, 2 kilometers tu? What a wind bag… but I’ll add that before I transferred to a school in Rongai, I was in a preparatory school. I think that is what people who go for Blankets and Wine call Prep School… Yes? So all my 5 years here were riddled with culture shock and disillusionment; but on some days, something in me would stir, a raw unadulterated force, I think it was the spirit of Rongai, the Rongai-ness within. And on such days, amazing things would happen.

I had gotten to school earlier than most. Jim was the brightest student in our class, well, according to exam results…and they were mostly right. He was also, my best friend, a move I later came to suspect was more strategic than random. I would come early to school all panicky like a doctor in ER, then I’d go straight to where Jim sat and ask for his homework. Of course anyone who was in primary school knows how this story ends.

So one such day, after finishing my homework (don’t give me those eyes… fine!) after copying most of Jim’s homework, (happy now?) I was in the toilets idly staring at the random graffiti, passing time…yes, that was kind of my thing…. I was reading something along the lines of Brian loves Catherine wondering what Brian ever did to anyone to deserve such a cruel fate. Just to put it into perspective, Catherine was the girl who always came to class late, dress all creased, with the distinct smell of urine floating about her. 

The yelp was soft, but still loud enough to be heard. It came from behind the toilet, and by Jove the Derrick in me had to investigate. Nestled between the hedge and rusty barbed wire was the cutest puppy; a very debatable statement. Like anyone, I wouldn’t leave it there, I had to take it with me, and to class nonetheless.

My coolness level had escalated from the kid who went to the toilet to read the graffiti to the kid who brought his puppy to class. I was almost a hero. The girls were all head over heels for me (I highly suspect it was the puppy). I told the story of how I rescued the pup to anyone who asked, and watched as the girls’ eyes became bigger in awe and as the boys’ became smaller in envy.

By the time class was starting I had fans. But they were the fake type, like MC Hammer fans, who when the time came to wipe the poop and pee, they all left….

I was rolling in my glory, basking in my fame when the teacher walked in. He was a burly man, still is. He taught English and music. Now he sings with one of those groups that add ­Africa to their name maybe to sound more authentic.

I hadn’t had much time to come up with a strategy, and so when I saw him I did what the voices in my head told me: I stuffed the puppy in my desk.

The teacher was going on about nouns and grammar and all that jazz while my head was filled with prayers. Please God let the dog not make a sound, please please, I promise never to write in the toilets again. (I’m not the one who framed you Brian, I promise). As the poem Mama by Nkirote Laiboni reads: … but… the gods of small children must have been busy… because the dog did make a sound, and the teacher did hear it. And since everyone in class knew my little secret, none of them could make it to the third yelp. The class was in uproar.

When the teacher, a rock of a man, came towering above me and asked what was going on, I meekly reached into my desk and brought out a scared-to-bits puppy whose eyes matched mine. You should have seen his face when he said, what can I say? Boys will be boys. Take it outside. And as if that was just a normal day at work for him, he continued on nouns and grammar as I walked out of class with a puppy in my hands.

It is in this same classroom glazed with such boyhood experiences that one day my GHC teacher asked what we wanted to be when we grew up. I must have been the luckiest person in the planet. I was honored, or at least I should have been. In a class of 30-something kids, I was among doctors, engineers, pilots, architects; it almost felt like a Kids Next Door version of Rotary Club. But there I stood, lost in all this expectation. When my turn came, I didn’t think much. I said I wanted to be a journalist. I could feel the awkward stares, the have you no vision in life looks and the terse cough that would motion the teacher to move on swiftly, move to bigger dreams, dreams that made the class sink under a series of uuuuhhhs and aaaaahhhhs.

Truth be told, I didn’t always want to be a writer. There were times when I wanted to be a war dog, yes, a war dog. Don’t look at me that way, Chip the War Dog was an awesome movie, you too would have wanted to be a war dog. Every season in my childhood was marked by a new career interest. There was that time I wanted to be a pilot.

My dad had just bought my brother and me a model fighter jet…or as we used to call it jetfaita. I would watch curiously as the toy inched its way across the living room, taxing but never taking off. In those moments I would be inside the cockpit, taking instructions, saying “roger” and “over over”. Suddenly I wanted more. I needed to know what drove this thing, how a mound of plastic and screws would move from here to there, and so at that point, I wanted to be an engineer.

Dad woke up one Saturday to find the expensive toy jet in bits and pieces, strewn between my spread legs. The look on his face didn’t match mine. His was a mix of what the heck and I will kill you, I swear I will. Mine started as hey? Would you believe there is no tiny man driving this thing, to uuhm dad, please don’t kill me, think of what mum will do to you for killing me, and what she’ll do to me for making you kill me.

On such occasions, I wanted to be a ninja; how else would I defend myself against my father’s rage? I would take the beating like a man…waiting to become a ninja and avenge my honor.

But even through all these seasons, I was always like a drawing compass. One leg would move, explore, discover; while the other would always be pegged on one thing, the story books my mother bought me.

Our house was like a library store room; so many books and no shelves. I remember sifting through an old box of African Series Writers books, the likes of Ousmane Sembene, Ali Mazrui, Chinua Achebe, Francis Celormey, random books on amnesty, apartheid, Kenyatta, Kimathi, Mau Mau. Then there was the box filled with Daniel Steele, Sydney Sheldon, Mills and Boons; and another full of Readers Digest, Viva, Drum and Parents. My room too had boxes packed with Ladybird Series books, various Bedtime Stories, the Bible Stories collection and many more story books. On most nights I would get lost in faraway kingdoms, fight evil knights, save princesses, drink magic porridge, chase a magic pancake, a gingerbread man, touch a black rose, pet a cat in boots, climb a beanstalk and all the while as my feet hang above me as I lay on my bed, which often would turn into a ship that would sail away in the ocean of my imagination, each time taking me on a new adventure, and to a new destination.

It was almost inevitable, that I too, would eventually have stories of my own. I would get lost in the woods of my imagination, and when I came back I brought with me stories that were at times incredibly ludicrous. I remember describing a man I had seen in church to my father, and likening him to Rastapopoulos, the villain from Tintin. I also remember my dad laughing so hard that day, that I felt the pride fall on me like a warm blanket. And from there on, I knew I had an audience.

And so as I grew up, met new people, had new experiences, and fought new battles; as new interests were found, and new seasons came, and as I grew up, the little boy who brought a stray puppy to class, who swam against the grain, who always wanted to discover, who always had a story at the back of his tongue, and who was fortunate enough to learn how to put those stories down on paper, still remained in me.

I had posted on Twitter a few weeks back that Ras Mengesha was going back to school, not wanting to put the cart before the donkey (an old Rongai saying) I kept it under wraps until things cleared out. And so it’s with great delight that I announce to you guys that I joined the University of Nairobi this semester, doing my Masters of Arts in Literature. I’d like to thank you guys for always coming back, for the comments and feedback and for the encouragement. And in all truth, the decision to take this course is partly and greatly because of you. Let’s keep on guys, embrace the voices in your head, and strive for greatness, no matter what you do.

Oh, and one more thing, thank you mum…. Okay fine, and you too dad.

I felt I needed a more climactic ending so I thought I'd add these: (I fear the Masters will turn me into one of these)

Then, check out my new stop motion animated short film here: