Sunshine and Chinese

We’re seated underneath a shade umbrella as we await our order. It’s blue in colour, slightly faded, and does little to shelter us from the afternoon sun. It’s a cool yet sunny day, a true paradox of sorts. The kind of day with enough chill to tease your nipples, yet enough heat to baptize your nape with a good bucketful of sweat. Nonetheless, the sky is a perfect blue, with just enough strains of white in it to make it look like, well, a sky. Otherwise, it can pass for one hell of a blue sheet of light spread all across the horizon.

Right ahead of me is a green food stand, covered in pictures of pork chops, sloppy joes, pork belly steaks, and all manner of calorie-packed servings. A bouncing castle with bright and bubbly kids spreading their limbs all over it stands to my left. The air is pealing with euphonic sounds, sizzles and simmers and hisses of divine nature that plant longing kisses of desire upon your taste buds.

Occasionally, there comes the sound of a thud or a cry piercing through the carefully orchestrated serenity of this place. Be it by sheer coincidence or devious planning, the charm we’re exposed to is mirrored by a lack of heads to mouth away in noisy chatter. Quite the perfect setting if you’re looking to have a meal with little to no interruptions whatsoever.

The place is called Paradise Cafe. Located at Ridgeways Mall, along a somewhat busy stretch of Kiambu Road, it is nothing ordinary yet nothing overly spectacular. With a focus on Chinese cuisine, it really beats the odds of assumption one could ever have of it at first impression. Not only does its name say nothing about the menu that awaits you, the entire place has not been fashioned to look anywhere close to a Chinese restaurant.

Partly, you could say, is the fact that the shared seating arrangements within the establishment work against any private branding ambitions. Even so, the restaurant just next to it does a better job at selling itself than our hosts for the day do. The menu, here regarded as so in a very reticent manner, is but a couple of laminated sheets of printed text bound by saddle stitches. If that isn’t all there is to our small list of disappointments, it isn’t readily available on each table (something their next door friends are really taking advantage of).

Within five minutes of our order, a set of plates and bowls make way to our table, in tune to a hearty standing ovation from our four eyes. The colours, textures and smell make their presence felt in the most unpretentious way. Without much festivity or claim to pomposity.

To claim patience with the meal that was set before us would be a very horrible attempt at lying. So let’s stick to the bare truth, which is that no amount of sizzles and simmers dancing in the air just 5 feet from me would dare take my attention away from the plates burning under my gaze. Rice with cashew nuts, served with stir fried chicken in pineapple laced gravy; sweet and savoury, the right balance.

A cup of chilli does the work of assuring the Oriental roots of this meal, but still keeps a perfect distance away from the world of Hindu curry. This, however, shouldn’t be taken as lenience from the chef plying his trade here. We are informed that they do serve chilli hot enough to bring out hell and all its burning flames – but only upon request.

That said, I guess the good people at this establishment know that people like me do exist. People who, on any given day, would not want to look at their food through welling eyes, or with a dash of handkerchief on the side. People who appreciate spending time in the absence of noise, or crowds for that matter. People who would love to escape the confines of society and sit out an afternoon buried in a book, with a glass of banana smoothie by their table. People who wouldn’t want to wait for more than half an hour to get their order ready. And most importantly, people beginning a new chapter in their lives as bloggers.

Paradise Café is not as good as to draw you in completely, but not as bad as to ruin your afternoon’s binge-eating plans. So if you’re looking for someplace with intimate surroundings, pleasant ambiance and a little cherry over the edges of your experience, it wouldn’t be the most ideal candidate. Be that as it may, the service, timeliness and prices are decent enough to draw a tip out of you.

Just stay away from the inside parlour.

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3 More Reasons to Visit Nairobi

Its a cold, rainy day. A promised lapse of 24 hours filled with dire and hellish gloom. Every living thing I see is muzzled in woolen, wintry clothes, heavy leather jackets are a dime a dozen, and not forgetting the many scarves flying about. The roads are wet, the pavements slick with grime, the air foggy, and the rain unyielding in its soddy torment.

Its just the kind of weather that Nairobians abhor. Absolutely. We’re sort of used to it, but don’t enjoy it one bit. Ask us to walk over flaming coals and most will gladly oblige. Anything but this weather. What with its uncanny ability to draw madness out of people, especially drivers, and the blasted traffic that is the result of this madness. It’s just not our cup of tea, or our bowl of porridge either.

As I write this, I’m stuck in a 2 kilometre convoy of cars driven by deranged drivers. Most seem to be possessed Continue reading

Men On The Run

np #PattiLabelle – Take The Night Off

For the past month, it has been in my schedule to spare 5 hours a week for no-one, and nothing, but myself. A time spent secluded in a realm of hushed conversations shared between my consciousness and this blue-skied world. Religiously reflective moments, when I let go of my inner-self, and let the world bathe me in the rarely acknowledged essence of its relentless stride towards eternity. Reflect on what? Well, nothing worth half a rhinestone really. Yet in the time that is, and that which was, the constant is that these hours never fully elapse without me getting the unruly urge to put my thoughts in writing. Like today…

In breaking news this morning, my thought-waves happen to have taken multiple detours during their unguided travels of the dust-filled alleyways inside my brain. It would seem, that after aimless wandering about and dipping of toeless feet into shallow pools of curiosity, they have finally found their way into ‘my mind’s mind’ – the brains behind all my silly wisdom, the holy grail of all my alphabetical nonsense, the Taj Mahal of my disturbed creativity, and the Central-Kenya of my money-making spirit (one love Central-Kenya[ns]). Yet here I sit, both quiet and motionless. Neither squirming in my bed nor feeling any pressure to go ‘crai_zay’ because of how bad things may turn out. I trust my thoughts, and respect the need for them to want validation as to where all their juice comes from. So in that light, I’ll jot down, in entirety, exactly what is passed on to my frontal lobe throughout this experience.

Only recently did I get to watch the first episode of Mad Men’s sixth season. It was, in true fashion, nothing of what I had expected. Blows to the chest and (repeated) bangs to the head are what I had to endure, as the entire length of the episode danced around the width of my computer’s screen. In all these, it came to me that everything in that episode seemed to have a deeper connotation apart from that which was implied on the surface. For instance: “People will do anything to alleviate their anxiety,” said Dr. Arnold Rosen, just as the entire run was about to end. As far as this statement’s truth is concerned, there is still so much more revealed (to me) than the mere context of ‘people’ at large. Hence my reason for spending this week’s five hours embarking on a short trip into the minds of men.

In a world of successes and failures, it should be noted that women deal better with failure than men do. Whereas men, the ever-driven to success species, look at failure from a (near-constant, brain-damaging) mental perspective, women look at it from an emotional angle, where some tears and boxes of tissue paper are almost sure to do the magic, no matter how bad the situation is. So allow me to air dry my reasons behind this notion, of men and failure, for you.

Case A: Charles, a promising banker with an illustrious portfolio, is seated in his black Toyota Allion as he heads off to work one wet, and grey-clouded, Monday morning. The journey to the office is nothing short of drama, something most men are never able to deal with, and as a constant rule, there was traffic throughout his journey across Nairobi, loads of it. Having spent nearly two hours getting from Valley Arcade to his workplace along Mombasa Road, he arrives slightly late, some twenty eight minutes past the official arrival time. He curses at the skies, venting out at how the earth is right rolly taking a piss on his enthusiasm for the week. Yet in spite of this unappetizing start to the day, things are about to take a darker tinge of grey for one successful Charles.

You see, most men are blinded by this thing called success. It’s like a cloak that we wear every time things seem to look up and the world takes on the colours of the Vegas nights. We feel invisible when kisses from Lady Luck are all we wake up to. We are, by all intents and purposes, slaves to success. Whether it be by circumstance or by design, I dare not discuss. But two questions beg address, not today, or soon – but someday: Are we still men when not successful? If we aren’t, then what are we?

Back to Charles: He approaches his office only to see three human frames inside his glass-walled corner office. Two are male, and by the looks of it, one is female. His mind double-checks on any appointments he might have overlooked, or any meetings he might be late for. Nothing registers. So he slowly opens the door and enters a room bubbling with the unknown. Forty-five minutes later, exit Charles, and in flies a heavily dejected human soul. Eyes stuck in a time long gone and forgotten, with a face that seems worn by the hands of time, he drags his forlorn state out of the building and into his car. Where he goes on to spend an eternity mulling over how it is that he got to this point, what went wrong, at what point, and whether there’s anywhere to go from here. His world seems to be crushing, with the storms closing in fast. We last get a glimpse of him as he unbuttons his coat and rests his head on the steering wheel. Time of snapshot: 0934 HRS, GMT+3.

In the darkness of night, O2OO HRS, Mrs. Charles receives a phone-call from a number she doesn’t know. It has an ominous ring to it, different from any of the calls she would receive during normal hours, like the caller is about to spell doom on her life. The caller’s message is that her husband is beyond his liquor and needs to be picked up. As faithful, caring and dutiful a wife as she is, she gets out of bed and dresses in the first thing she can get her recently manicured hands on. She immediately calls her brother, who lives in the nearby Oasis Apartments, Mbaazi Drive, asking him to pick her up and drive her to the CBD to pick up her drunk matrimonial partner.

Charles is found passed out on a sofa at Tribeka’s ground floor. Seated next to him is the club’s manager, who personally saw to it that the man now sleeping next to him would get home in one piece. Having declined to let the man drive out on his own, he had the bouncers seat his induced existence in a corner, where he asked this man, this promising banker with an illustrious portfolio, for his wife’s number. Seemingly, that was the last clearly audible thing he was able to utter before taking a trip to the other side of the froth. After all parties share their thoughts and their stories, none the wiser as to what took this man to the brinks of public shame, brother and sister take the man into their custody. The trio is then seen walking out of the club with an unconscious man, held up by his arms between them, doing something close to the moon walk before being dumped in the backseat of a midnight blue Nissan Navara. Time of snapshot: 0246 HRS.

What this is, is a classic case of a man dealing with his darkest fears the best way he knows how. Fears that revolve around his weaknesses and deepest insecurities. Moments when life pounds at you with all that it possibly can, and turns those Vegas lights that previously adorned your ego into even brighter beams of despair. When your own name is the only thing left between yourself and poverty. Times when hopelessness becomes your best friend. Why this grim description? This is because of the fact that when a man loses everything he has, is broke, or doesn’t have a clue about how he’ll provide for himself or his family – life makes no sense to him, no sense at all.

Because the reality is that the core of most men’s happiness is tied to their ability to provide themselves, and their loved ones, with a livelihood. Contrary to popular belief, first thought lies not with their girlfriends, wives or children, but in the very existence of some financial means at their disposal. Very few, and I can boldly shout that to the world, can claim to be content with their lack of money, or stable income. Unlike the love-sick chap, ‘Marius’, in the musical Les Misérables, wailing his heart out at how much the love for the beautiful ‘Cosette’ was the only thing that would give him happiness, delight in life for most of us, men, only happens when our pockets have a little something between them.

All in all, the reality is this; most men have no clue about how to deal with either loss, or failure. We don’t seem to be the strongest of cats in the darkest of times. As men, the experience of getting absolutely rumbled when trying our arm at making a life for ourselves is enough to take any of us over the edge. The thought of ‘I have nothing left’ is a catalyst for self-destruction which most men take ever so willingly. Hence the reason why men in despair seem to be the single-most dedicated patrons at any and every bar you will ever walk into. Whether it be a financial crisis, marital problems, loss of a job, a bust relationship, divorce, or any other sort of life-problem, indulgence in the vices of the world seems to be our only remedy to irresolvable issues. Very few are able to hold onto the railings of hope for a better day and allow life to hit and just keep on hitting; or sit back and leave resolution of our weakest moments to The Almighty.

Why else would men run away from their pregnant girlfriends, leaving single mothers to raise their kids – kids it took two to make? Or fathers stay out till late hours of the night when they know they haven’t a cent in their wallets, and didn’t leave their families with any food? Even Cain tried to run away from his guilt, but it wasn’t that easy for him because God was on his case. I feel that all this escape from reality is because we always have and might always be men on the run, running from our anxieties and our problems. Hoping the escape remedies the hopelessness, praying that our absence cures the despair. Wishing we could undo whatever it is that took us to that point of despondency, or maybe even done things in a different way. Very few coming up with solutions to better their situations…

Through and through my deliberations on this matter, no moral reasoning could give my thoughts rest, nor give me reason to believe there is hope for change in every single man out there. Given that it would also be quite pointless for me to back my fellow men in this flight or flight take on reality, I thus make my bold claim in saying that: “Men will run from anything to alleviate their anxieties.”

np #MarvinGaye – You’re The Man (Alternate Version 1)

Bitter-Sweet Love (continued…)

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#np 213 – Brown Skin

(…) The kind of women that parade their sexuality with shameless abandon. The sort whose laughter can turn men’s inflated egos into shriveled portions of self-esteem. Those that are rarely approached by men, but make the moves themselves. The type that don’t giggle at any man’s jokes, they tell the jokes, as the men giggle away. Let it also be known that these women, Gee’s women, as well bred and clear eyed as the next woman is, share no amount of love-blinded sentimentality with the rest of their sisters. Yet it would seem that the few, whom my humble and shriveled-up portions of masculinity have been graced to meet, have a strange sense of affection for this cool-headed bloke, Gee.

Am I jealous of him? Hell yes. Do I wish my own level-headed personality could tame the wild ways of such women? Definitely. Yet as fate would have it, Gee seems to be the only chap, I know, with big enough ‘plums’ to sail the frosty waters of these ‘wild ones’. It would seem that the empyrean courts saw us, normal men, not worthy of the steel needed to maintain a decent level of courage in the face of raw and unvarnished femininity.

Nonetheless, there are no loud-mouthed wild ones to keep Gee warm tonight, and me to cower from. No cold corners for Gee to head off to as he hunts for prey, nor football matches for me to lose myself in. Just two young and virile men, in a two windowed room, in the company of a solitary, glass-topped, coffee table sitting between them. With cold beers in hand, we share few and far-fetched spasms of wisdom. Moments of unbridled reason and intellect rush to our mouths in eloquently formed words, only to be washed away by the barley flavoured water we drown ourselves in.

I think about the millions I would love to bank someday, even though today’s reality has me earning trifles. Gee, on the other hand, whiles his time away scrolling through his phone-book and making random calls, to loud-mouthed women with gold teeth caps I suppose. My bets are that the booze has started kicking in and he feels oh-so-randy. The kind of randiness that gives your plums a darker shade of red as you search for a late-night conquest. Fed up of his worry-free take on life, I bury myself in the memories of my past week. Memories so fresh they float effortlessly in my mind. Makes me think about how Pi and Richard Parker drifted ever so slowly over the endless sea.

Working for eighteen hours straight each day, in a law firm located in Nairobi’s Hurlingham, I must say it has been one heck of a week. I spent my days with my nose stuck inside tons of files and folders. Sifting through heap after heap of legal write-ups,  appending stamps and signatures where needed. Quite the eye-opener I must say, especially for a guy from an IT field. It paid well though, real well, and it was some real important job too – so somebody had to do it. Even so, a maroon carpet, old and worn, was the only source of comfort any of us at the office could afford.

On this carpet, I experienced sweet sleep, an hour at the most, before I headed home for another four hour bout of sleep. I had dreams of the same millions I think of now, few nightmares too, of one of Gee’s women tearing me apart. And as you squirm at how lifeless my sleep must have been, I have to note that I was quite the lucky one – landing on the carpet, that is. Files stacked over each other, to form beds, were the only other option for those not bold enough to fight for the coveted spots underneath the few tables available. The toilet seat too, if memory serves me right, was also an open consideration. Yes, the toilet seat. I remember seeing one timidly-built, and somewhat quiet, miss spend the night there someday.

Back to tonight…As I look at Gee talking into the phone, passing on sweet words laced with deceit, it comes to mind that perhaps I should learn something from him. Maybe I should take a sip from his stress-free beer-mug of life, and focus less on the worries and sorrows of the world. The most noble thing I can do tonight is be less envious of Gee’s manicured personality and rich background, because the more I keep up with this self-pity, the less I will focus on the main price of self-motivated effort.

Gee finally looks away from his phone, and directly at me. Apparently, the scumbag wasn’t just going through his phone-book mindlessly. He passes on some words of advice (which he might have just ‘Googled’). Anyway, he tells me this: “Even though life isn’t always beer and skittles for us, you can still find the answers to some of life’s problems at the bottom of a beer bottle.” Very deceitful words, don’t you say? Wisely put deceitful words. But I believe him, because those are the kind of words that I really need to hear right now. And seeing as our table is still furnished with a couple of mercenaries from the land of Dublin, they should hold just the card to magically swish my disheartening thoughts away.

So, this is where I turn off guys. I have four or five more battles left between me and sobriety, even though the kick is already setting in. My focus is getting hazy, I can’t stop swallowing my words, and numbness is quickly rushing to swathe me in its warmth. Yet here I drink on…yet here I prepare to valiantly face my five remaining adversaries. One 6.5 mm bullet in each of the guns they hold, that makes 32.5 mm worth of wrought iron left to go.

In the famous words of Arthur Guinness, aka Arthur ‘Gee’ – “I’ll take each roasted  chance as it comes.” Goodnight world.

#np Tupac – Life Goes On