Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Mini Coopers and Childhood Memories (Take It Slow)

When I was a little boy, Rongai was nothing more than a series of quarries and river beds. Every rainy season, the one road that led to my dad’s newly constructed house would turn into a raging river complete with jagged rocked rapids.

A normal school day

Since my father, in all his wisdom, had chosen a Mini Cooper over an inflatable raft,

Ideal vehicle

What my father got

We were forced to use alternative routes.

Normally, alternative routes are those that take us slightly from our comfort zones. A pothole here, an unexpected bump there, sometimes a stray dog tired of living might walk in front of your car…you know, the usual; but not this alternative route. If you’ve been following the story, at this time Rongai is made up of riverbeds and quarries, and so since the riverbed is now a bona fide I-will-drown-the-heck-out-of-you river, the next best, and only option is the quarry. Thinking about it, the quarry wasn’t such a bad idea, if we had a monster truck; but a Mini Cooper, that’s like…(be as creative as you can)

Next door neighbour using alternative routes... Damn show-offs!

So due to our car’s limited abilities in doing practically anything, going into the quarry was out of the question (and most of the time the damn thing was filled by brown murky waters of doom anyway) the only thing left to do was go around it. Problem solved. Well not really.

The quarry was conveniently surrounded by bush and boulders leaving a path wide enough for a small car and maybe a monkey. What made it worse was the soil on this path was a well concocted mix of black cotton and clay, and so when it rained, our trusty Mini’s traction was reduced to that of a mountain goat on skates.

Every time my father would use this route, mum would be seated shotgun and I would be at the back. From my seat I would jump over to the left window (I was small enough to jump around in a Mini Cooper) scan the bush and boulders, then jump over to the right and see the quarry which to my simple mind was the equivalent of the Grand Canyon. My mind would slowly do the math, slowly taking in all the factors, no escape to the left, death inducing drop to the right, slippery road, all this could only mean one thing 

As if on cue, my brain would send my body into an adrenaline filled fit of panic and my poor parents would have to deal with the possibility of death by driving into a quarry, or spending life in prison trying to silence me. I’m sure on many such occasions Mum would place her loving hand over my fathers and gently squeeze it and look into his eyes, eyes that would tell him, `Don’t do it hun, it’s not worth it.’ And he would let go of the door handle and drive on, all the while as I jump up and down in a panic fit screaming, `WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE!!! WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE!!!’


Thankfully, we never did.

When we got home I would quiet down, spend the next few minutes trying to catch my breath and dad would announce with a smile, ‘We are home.’ Never mind a few minutes back he had wanted to kill me, or drive off the cliff just to make it all go away. He would look back at me, and I would stare back, then he would turn off the engine and pull up the handbrake, and that moment would be my favorite part of our journey home.

The metal cogs scraping against each other as the handbrake lever went up meant that I was home, I was safe. So every time I felt like life was going a bit too fast, may be a race in the neighborhood or when dad would drive too fast on our way to shags I would secretly pull an imaginary handbrake lever and seek comfort in it. It kind of became my thing, that and imaginary friends, then I grew up.

When you grow up into what I had become, an icon of rebellion, a pirate ship sailing the seas fighting the corporate slave ships, a freelancer, a Ras, at one point you will lose yourself in the hype and try to catch up with the standards set by the people, the fans. Life then becomes a race, a race to prove a point, to show the world that it is possible to swim against the current, to stick it to the man, your life becomes defined by your identity until one day you realize you are going too fast, in the wrong direction.

Pictured: That guy

And so what happens next is only natural, slow down, step on the brakes, then once you stop, pull up the handbrake.

Life only makes sense when you stop and look around, find out where you are and where you are headed to. Heck, look back from where you've come from for most of the time not only will you find where you are headed to, but you will remember a story that will help you understand your life much better.

I pulled that lever, but not only to stop and observe, then drive again; no I know I suck as a driver. This time I’m getting out of the car and into the back seat, and just like old times, I am no longer doing the driving, for the comfort and security is there at the back seat, the one place we grownups never look.

Thanks dad.


So I cut my locks... Yes, I look good. You can now refer to me as The Artist Formerly Known As Ras Mengesha. NO, not Mengesha,  but The Artist Formerly Known As Ras Mengesha. Yes, its one name, like A Tribe Called Quest...or (you said it) A Pimp Named Sleek Back.

Pictured: The Artist Formerly Known As Ras Mengesha (without the dreads)