Monday, 21 April 2008 penance to past loves

To Hauwa:

With the unique embellishment of nostalgia, the Samco orange drink that you shared with me that break time, retains, to this moment, the immortal sweetness of ambrosia. That feeling of victory, attained in spite of a clutch of suitors, was as gratifying a moment as any significant landmark I have achieved since. I remember how you used to watch me playing football – from a distance. With little tactical acumen and with even less consideration of my teammates, I would seek to impress you by picking the ball and dribbling as many players as I could. Scoring a goal was merely an incidental bonus. I would often beat no more than five players before being rugby tackled by Obiajulu who I could never get past. On the one occasion I shimmied left and feinted right, sending him sprawling to the ground and tackling air, you had already returned to the classroom.

I apologise now for the lack of manifestation of my heart’s true intentions. The eight year old boy is poorly acquainted with grandiose displays of affection. In the event, you left school convinced that I hated you. I remember one incident where in a fit of overflowing, uncontrollable love, I threw a blackboard duster at you. Even as I knelt down outside as punishment for my transgression, I swear that I have never been more sure of my love for another person. If only I loved you older, my love would surely have exhibited itself as love and not cloaked itself in explicit abhorrence.

To Jackie:

Remember Ikoyi Club 1938? Men we haunted those grounds like the spirits of old lovers. I still remember that first wet, awkward kiss in the rotunda that tasted like suya and onions. You giigled and ran off to tell your girls. You had a secret nickname for me – MJ. You said I looked like a pre-pubescent, pre-cosmetically altered, pre-white Michael Jackson. In the 1980s, MJ was the epitome of fineness so it is a nickname I cherished. Remember Friday night movie club? Our wet kisses soon became the main feature.

Yours was the first love that hurt. It is a most traumatic day when you learn that love is bittersweet. In retrospect I should have spotted the signs. You were the older woman. You were at least a head taller than me. You already wore a bra. Those two small mounds on your chest sparked a carnal curiosity in me but it was one which I never dared to explore. Perhaps a sneaky hand during a rerun of Herbie goes bananas would have cemented our union.

I remember the day I saw you with Basil. At Ikoyi Club. In the Rotunda. On a Friday. My haunted soul fled from purgatory and descended into hell. It would be a while before I glimpsed heaven again.

To Farida:

The entirety of our love was spent in non communication. It was a crush of gargantuan proportions and I repressed it, coward that I was. My crush actually preceded our initial acquaintance by at least three years. The affair began on celluloid when you starred in that Ogbanje film I used to tease you about. What was it called again? Ah yes.....The Reign of Abiku. I think your name was Motara in it. That NTA Channel 5 production scared the bejesus out of me and I spent the majority of the time watching it from behind the couch, emerging only when you appeared on the screen. Years later I confessed this to you and my proclamation sent you in to alluring, melodic hysterics. By that time our relationship was firmly in the realms of Plato and I had long since crossed the dreaded threshold of “Too friendly to be a boyfriend”.

Even as you complained about the quality of boyfriends in the periods of plenty and lamented about a lack of them in the times of drought, I would playfully entertain thoughts of a time when I could call you my girl. It is not true what they say about lasting friendships not budding from early romance. You remain one of my best friends to this day.

To Tinuke:

My bow legged Lou. My queen of indescribable perfection. Our love was never meant to be. My best friend and blood brother was crazy about you and it is the unwritten code between men that “Thou shall not cock block thy best friend”. To further complicate matters, you had dated my other good friend and therein lay another rule in the code of men.

But we could not help the way we felt could we? I saw those covetous glances during Thursday lunchtime. I perceived the stolen looks as we passed each other in the hallways on the way to Chemistry. I ignored all these pleasing portents until that dream. It was not a wet dream o. No, it was far more innocent than that. We merely held hands and it was as if the cumulative tension of repressed desire congregated in such a simple act. I awoke from slumber in love with you.
But how could I betray my friend? It soon became obvious that your interests lay with me and not he but I could not jeopardise my friendship. We had our moments though. Remember after school that day when we made out behind the SS3 boys’ toilet? You allowed me to squeeze your breasts as we kissed and your hand explored some parts of my body. I have never had such a guilty erection in my life.

My emotional maturity had begun to develop and I eventually had to explain to you that because of the ongoing attentions of my friend, no good could ever come out of our feelings. I made the audacious offer of quietly cutting shows on the side without the ceremony of an open relationship. We called it UnderG in those days. You were a lady of honour and rejected such an arrangement.

To Monica:

My sister yellow with your skin like paw-paw in the wet season. I ignored your overtures for three years barely even throwing a careless word in your direction. And then one summer, school resumed and you had bloomed. It was too late, boys started taking notice, no longer were you the quiet hibiscus that resides in the corner of the garden; you had blossomed into the bold bougainvillea that sprawls with undeniable beauty beyond its limited confines. Even boys from Kings College, ISL and St Gregs were alerted to your beauty. They would travel from far and wide to gaze and to toast. However in spite of the newfound attention, you still retained some residue of emotion for a blind fool and I capitalised in those moments we had together sitting private SSCE.

Our love did not last because of my jealousy. I grew wary of the unwelcome gifts and the unsolicited telephone calls. I felt inferior because some of these toasters were richer and more attractive than me. My behaviour towards you became despicable and I grew aloof. You implored all my friends for an insight into the genesis of my mood change. I felt I was letting myself down easily for the inevitable moment when your head would be turned by some governor’s son. I should have had greater faith in your unwavering love.

Our love was tragically brief but was one that endured and I am grateful that we managed an encore performance in subsequent years. However distance intervened and served to fizzle out the promise of a lasting romance.

To Evie:

My Waffy girl. My amazon. Why was I so unfair to you when all you ever did was care about me? Was it because of Monica? Was I still getting over her? I was selfish and un-gentlemanly to you many times and yet you persevered. How many times did I call you? It is not that I did not care about you Evie. It was just that my heart had not yet been completely returned to me and the part that had was capable only of yielding a diminished output.

We had potential with your big brains and my big ideas. We worked so well together and your Waffy blood ensured that sexual relations were always very charged. I wasted too many years dithering and holding you back. By the time you ended it I had become a bitter person. I respectably befriended you on more favourable terms and I am pleased to call you a friend once more.

My darling Scholastica:

My brother has recently written you a very public note. And I will always remain sworn to secrecy. After all as they say - what happens in Warri stays in Warri. Let us leave it at that...........



Tuesday, 15 April 2008

On......NY inspirations, California frolicking and the Water theory

New York was merely a two day stopover and it was my intention to use the time to recover and save some money for the west coast jaunt that lay ahead. That was the objective until the moment Kollington, my party loving friend, arrived on the scene and said we had to rock on Friday. I dragged myself out of bed and cursed my easily susceptible self. We ended up at the Hudson and the night itself was a non-event and the only noteworthy episode involved my foolish dalliance with champagne – the one alcoholic drink that induces a hangover in me.
I did not need to wait long to regret my foolishness because I had to rouse myself at about 8am in order to return the rental car ahead of time. A word of warning – DO NOT EVER ATTEMPT TO USE A GPS NAVIGATION SYSTEM IN NEW YORK CITY. I attempted to plot what should be a 20 minute drive from Central Park West to 22nd street and it took me damn near an hour. The bloody GPS kept attempting to take me down one way streets and send me hurtling to my doom. The rental assistant had her hand on a stopwatch as I managed to drive the car in one minute before the deadline. There was an unmistakable look of disgust on her face for not being able to impose a late penalty charge plus one day rental cover plus taxes. I managed to walk back to the hotel – a journey which took me ten minutes -and there was Kollington’s grinning face waiting for me. He is one of those medical marvels who are somehow able to consume copious amounts of alcohol in one night and yet somehow retain the presence of mind to wake up in the morning with an unblemished clarity of thought. He and his brother were going for some gym training and did I want to come along? What the hell I thought. It turned out to be one of those boot camp type of things where the instructor physically abuses you for one hour. After the session I felt violated with my heart beating at a rate that it had not reached in many a year.

In the evening I somehow found the strength to meet up with an old friend who works as an actress in the city. She was late so we skipped dinner and headed towards Chelsea and a book reading by one time blogger Teju Cole (a pseudonym). He has recently published his first book Every Day is for the Thief which is a very promising debut. I was a huge fan of his as a blogger and I sense that there are great things to come from this author. A further rallying cry to you literally inclined bloggers out there – STOP SLEEPING. In less than 18 months Teju (picture below) has gone from updating his admittedly brilliant travel blog to becoming a fully fledged author. Make una wake up o!

The morning belonged to San Francisco and California dreaming. It is a city that I fell in love from the moment plane tyre touched tarmac. It is hard to describe this bay side city in words so feast your eyes a bit on the pictures above

California was unarguably the finest state I visited on this trip and has a strong claim to be regarded as a country in its own right. You will never savour a finer driving experience than the eight hours (broken up in chunks) that I spent on the Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco to Dana Point. I enjoyed it so much that I got clocked doing 104mph by the local sheriff in Salinas. He took one look at my license, decided that it was probably not worth prosecuting a foreigner and let me go after and making me promise to “ease up on the ol’ gas pedal”

LA was the endpoint of my California trip and in many ways it was an anti-climax to the preceding days of the serene, unspoilt beauty witnessed in Carmel-by-theSea, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo. In terms of adventure, however, LA was unrivalled. It is a city that reminded me greatly of Lagos, at once basking in the opulence of palm tree lined boulevards coupled with the very immediate squalor and hardships of so many tramps and layabouts. It is also the only other city I know where “shakara” and “effizy” are the order of the day, more important than any other thing of substance. Big shots and high rollers do not even look you in the eye when they address you. They are constantly looking past you, beyond you, trying to check out other people checking them out.

At the Sky bar on Sunset Boulevard, one Yahooze guy decided he was going to buy everyone drinks. I am not talking one sachet of pure water each o! This guy was popping champagne like say tomorrow no go come. I shack tire that day and even made friends with the guy sef. He said his name was Chad and that he was some producer or something. I lied that I was a screenwriter (everybody in LA na screenwriter). At the end of the night he invited me and the friends I was with back to his place. He said that there was going to be an after party with ample babes and that he had bountiful amounts of “Bolivian cocaine”. Which one be Bolivian cocaine again? Is that somehow different from your garden variety, buy-off-the street cocaine? He lived on Mulholland Drive and we promised to meet him there. We actually did roll there in the hope of witnessing a fully fledged LA orgy but when we reached, the place was looking kinda spooky with its long winding drive and unlit gates. We carefully reversed our car and sped away. No be me they go use do ritual!

LA was a trip and in the end I felt sad to leave but I was convinced that Vegas would provide even more delightful hedonism. I was disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, the self-indulgence is very much in place but it is of the manufactured kind. Everything is ingloriously over the top in Vegas – the buildings, the food, the clubs, the women. It is also full of bloody foreigners and you cannot move without hearing a hotchpotch of various accents and languages. Not a bad place but you could literally be anywhere in the world (there is even a mini New York and Paris for crissakes). It was just a little too touristy for my liking and in retrospect I would have knocked it off my list of destinations for this particular trip. The dusty drive through the old Route 66 was a great treat though but avoid doing it at night. I was a bit frazzled cos we spent a bit too long taking pictures and nightfall caught us on that old road with no streetlights.

I was not sad to leave Vegas a few days later and the early morning flight to Miami could not come soon enough. It was my first time in Miami and the first thing that you notice is the women. Even the women notice the women in sheer appreciation. They are of every hue, body size, ethnicity, inclination and sexual persuasion under the sun. I am not an ashewo but I am a lover of beautiful women and to my mind, Miami has a greater concentration of beautiful women per square foot than any other worldly place I know - apart from my village in Benue state of course where even the mammy water hides her face in shame anytime a female child is born. There is perhaps a link there – water. Are riverine men and women the finest? Think about the finest people you know. I bet they grew up near water. Or perhaps even just a very well dug-borehole. I will accept that. IS there something about the water that makes them very fresh? Surely worth further investigation no?
We spent most of our days in Miami in South Beach between Washington Avenue (clubs), Collins Avenue (shops) Lincoln Road (restaurants) and Ocean Drive (beach and people). Was sick of clubbing by the time we get to Miami and even sicker of the small-minded staff that inhabit the realm of their doorways. However I must give a big up to Opium on Collins Avenue. This was quite simple the best joint I went to on this trip. It is an open air concept that could only ever work in a temperate climate.

On the fourth day the skies opened and they wept. The trip was over and inside I joined in the celestial downpour. It was time to leave and I was satisfied that I had achieved many of the things I sought out to accomplish. I was well rested. I had made good headway on the story I was working on. I had met some fantastic characters. I had dined at some very fine establishments. Life was good.

Many thanks to my travel companion, Bournvi, who at various points of this trip reminded me of the true meaning of friendship. Many thanks to the DC cops who harassed me – e no go better for you. Much love to the understanding sheriff who took pity on me. Thank you to Sierra – you taught me a lot. Thank you Aloha – you saved me cheddar. Many thanks to all American ATMs that will never give you ten dollars when all you need is ten dollars. I will be back soon, perhaps, not wiser, but undoubtedly older.