Friday, August 29, 2008

Oh, The Flies You'll Kill...

As we speak, millions of US dollars are being poured into fighting one of nature's deadliest - if not peskiest - predators: the fly.

Scientists are not only using high-resolution, high-speed imaging technology to figure out how The Fly manages to outwit us all despite the obvious formidableness of our rolled-up newspapers: they hope to utilize groundbreaking methods in entomological psychology to figure out why that tiny Fly feels it's necessary to escape Death's scythe.

Keep reading "The perfect way to swat a fly"...

F**k the fly!

P.S. I especially like how these "scientists" claim that they are doing this research so people will appreciate the complexity of the fly's atomic-sized brain and double-think killing them...and then teach us the swiftest way to kill them. Nize!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

When Something Is Too Good to Keep to Yourself...


I might have suspected something was awry long before I stepped into the Red Lounge. We had, after all, seen the DJ walk out of the metro before we stopped him for the brief chat that led to an invitation and a promise to put our names on the guest list. Entry guaranteed. The DJ was wearing black leather, including thick, heavy boots with severe steel buckles that traveled from his ankles to his calves. A cigarette hung from the corner of his mouth and drooped over his shaggy brown beard; his eyes were red-rimmed and dark. They glared at the world from underneath a greasy mane of brown hair.

"And how do you know this person?" I asked, incredulously.

Said CB: "We work together at the restaurant. Remember the guy I told you about, that if I ever got him as a server, I'd ask to be moved to another section?"

I did remember: the dirty one, who clearly held exception to the use of soap and often showed up to work with days-old food smears encrusted on his clothes and lips. So he was a DJ on the side.

The information was well on its way to the part of my brain where statistical equations and birthdays are stored when CB's next words halted it in its tracks.

"I wanna go check him out."

Ohhhhh God! was my thought, but I'm trying out this new thing called being supportive. So instead I said: "Sure! Sounds good," and mentally checked my bank account to make sure I could afford to get well and truly blasted if necessary. Turns out: wasn't necessary.

The usual bouncer was standing at the door, looking bored. It was only 10:00. We walked up the stairs, where Old Mother Hubbard was waiting to check our names off the list and brand us with a green Sharpie: 'B'. 'B' for Bound, as announced to us by a single printed sheet at the door. I didn't make the connection at the time, too busy asking: why is this sweet little old lady sitting here, collecting money and guest names at this time of night? Has she no cats? Is she not tired? CB and I immediately decided that we were in the presence of freaks. And if we had not decided then, we would certainly have reached that same conclusion when, mere moments later, we noticed "Bob Barker" in Gothic-era clothing (complete with ruffled shirt, top hat and black-and-red cape) sitting at the bar.

Topless shadow dancers were projected onto the far wall, writhing and popping to beats that wasn't present in this club, which was playing electronica. As we sipped on our Absolut and cranberries, CB and I watched them absent-mindedly, keeping one eye on the people who were trickling through the doorway. The middle-aged man with the greasy comb-over whose eyes encased in fatty folds; the tall redhead with a tiny waist and big hair, dressed in a floor-length patent leather jacket, with a cylindrical patent leather backpack that contained a whip; the group who came in with 6 mysterious-looking metal suitcases; the obviously male cross-dresser in a school-marm's black dress and unconvincing wig; the bald stud in tight leather tank top and handcuffs clipped to his belt. No two looked the same. And despite their creative getups, they all looked eerily normal.

As they trooped in through the doorway, we sat closer and closer to the edge of our seats, prepared to make a quick getaway if necessary. CB and I kept making jokes about how we could shine the light from our cellphones on these vampire-esque creatures long enough to flee from what we were certain was going to be some kind of blood-fest.

But for some reason, we stayed. I went to the bar to get another drink: clearly, we were going to be here longer than I suspected. As I waited, Greasy Combover Guy walked up to me.

"Hi there."

I swear to God, if another unattractive - no, ugly - man comes up to me one more time, I'm going to kill myself. My self-esteem can only suffer so many blows.

I gave him a brief, withering glance and grunted. "Hm."

His stomach pushed behind a faded, black T-shirt. His black shoes were scruffy, old. Bless his heart: he was trying to fit in any which way.

"Waiting for somebody?"

Arrrrrgh!!! If he didn't look so grimy, I might have been tempted to slap him for being so presumptive. Is it because I'm black? Fair enough, the only other black person in there was this girl who was obviously working - but seriously, I was still in my work clothes!

I pointed at CB. He muttered something unintelligible and slinked off to the other end of the bar, behind the other black girl, who was working on "Bob" and a man with a long, curly ponytail and a whip.

I later found out that the guy's been coming to Bound for years and has a foot fetish. Ugh.

By this time, I had to pee. On my way to the bathroom, I discovered what all those metal suitcases were for. All along the walls of the back room, the felt-lined suitcases had been lined up and opened - they contained a vast assortment of tools and devices: scissors, steel rods, needle-like protrusions, wands, handcuffs, leather belts and other restraints, various-sized light bulbs, a crystal ball, whips, cotton balls, tissue, and an enormous black thing that was apparently supposed to fit into some kind of bodily crevice (which one could be large enough to take it, I don't know) - it had an electrical plug attached to it. Itching to get back and relay the news to CB, I rushed to the bathroom...and came face to face with a man in front of a urinal. Apparently, shutting the door at Bound is not allowed.

With freshly-emptied bladder and back in the safe haven of CB's presence, I told him about the suitcases. After a lengthy inspection, he came back to me and we decided we were definitely in for the long haul. This meant we needed to adopt persona that would enable us to fit in. CB decided he was Morpheus and put on his sunglasses. I looked up at my afro and down at my khakis and decided that I could only realistically be me. On the right day, that's enough to get me anywhere. At that moment, a short man wearing nothing but leather underpants walked past us, carrying a cocktail in one hand and one end of a chain in the other. The other end was attached to a leather collar, which in turn was attached to the neck of a very tall girl in a tiny plaid skirt.

After about an hour, during which I was pulled into a long and boring conversation with some guy just because I wanted to use his Glo-sticks, I was kinda over the whole experience. Yes, the short man had taken the leash off his bitch and put it on himself, then spent 15 minutes kneeling on the floor while she fed him his cocktail through a straw, but really, where was the action? So what if the tall lady in the pleather coat was now high on X and dancing madly on the floor all by herself? When were people going to start whipping each other and bleeding all around me? I had had it - I was going home. But first, I needed to pee.

I never quite made it to the bathroom. Apparently, while I was waiting for action to happen by the bar, I had forgotten that there was a back room. And there was a naked lady strapped to a wooden X in the back room, being shocked with electric wands by a man in a leather waistcoat. I pushed through the crowd to get a better view.

Her nipples were hidden from view by two tiny x's created from electrician's tape. I absently wondered how many yards of electrician's tape it would take to tuck my nipples out of sight. Ironically, this woman was the the only other person who had come in wearing street clothes. Based on the environment, I had suspected she might be the wackiest one, since she hadn't felt the need to advertise her sexual preferences like the others. Still, I hadn't expected her to strip first. The man was stroking her with a thin light-blue wand; she was writhing sensuously. I, for one, was intrigued. Could it really feel that good? I was about to ask him to test on my arm, when he stopped and switched to a fuchsia wand. She jumped when this one touched her stomach. I recoiled; I'd wait and see what happened first.

She whispered to him; he tightened the leather straps around her wrists, picked up the blue wand again and, alternating them, stroked her body, nipples, thighs and vagina. First blue. Then fuchsia. Fuchsia, then blue. Her eyes were closed as she swayed back and forth; she looked dreamy. But I wasn't still wasn't convinced. After about five minutes, he switched out the blue wand for some other vibrating machine that he held in a fist and that had some sort of brush attached to it. That, he used to massage her clit, while his other hand delivered electric jolts through her skin with the fuchsia wand.

Other members of the audience were getting a little frisky at this point; CB came looking for me because last he heard, I was going to the bathroom. He settled in behind me; I leaned against him. The technician, as I dubbed him, switched to a purple wand. This one was different. The smoothness of its shaft was disrupted by bulbous shapes, through which one could see the electricity being generated. When he touched it to her skin, numerous minute streaks of lighting jumped out and penetrated her; she tensed uncontrollably and sank with a movement akin to relief every time he drew the wand away. I was definitely no longer entranced; that shit looked painful as hell. Somewhere behind me, CB was getting an education on the pains and pleasures of this procedure from some bald guy in a red Chinese robe sewn in an ancient style and his wigged girlfriend, who wore a lace-front hat.

"You ready to go?" I asked.


We said good night, and descended down the stairs, squeezing past an extremely narrow-waisted man in fishnet stockings and a damask girdle who was just coming in from a cigarette break. Once out on the sidewalk, it was harder to recall the world we had just emerged from. Somehow, it no longer seemed real.

I wanted to stand and discuss, but CB hustled me away from the door because he didn't want to run into anybody he knew right then. So we went to the late-night pizza spot that blares Congolese music loudly all night, every night, and shared a cheese slice. Then we went home, where he built me a makeshift curtain shield so I could pretend I was a shadow dancer with small, pointy boobs and muscular thighs.

* I'm not blogging. I'm just tryna tell you a story ;-).

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Death of Kulutempa

In bold kimono, face washed clean with perfumed soap and cold, clear water, I sat atop my folded legs. My knees were bound together by red cloth, tight, so nothing could rip them apart but the hands of man, not even the rigorous shaking of Death. Outside, the air was still and quiet, the night poised with cocked head, waiting to hear a whispered secret. The light of the moon flashed like mystery on the blade of my kaiken, where it lay, flat, on my lap.

My eyes were closed. I was in deep contemplation, recalling the details of my life and preparing myself for the final chapter. The one I would write solely by my own hand, in sanguine, ruddy ink. I was calm, ready. There was nothing more to decide, and certainly nothing to grieve. I had waited until I was empty. Now, all that remained was for my heart to decide when the time was right. Breathe in...breathe out...breathe in...breathe out... I permitted myself to think of nothing else.

With my right hand, I lifted the blade; with my left, I traced the cold, sharp steel with the tips of my fingers, very lightly, and gently guided the tip to rest against my throat...

No. No. How about:

The weather man was right! Hell yeah! It's so sunny, babes, and it says the temperature's 75 degrees. Let's go sit in the park. You know, the one with the fountains and glorious magnolia trees?...Yeah, the one with the impressive statue of Dante in the southeast corner, with the piss and the used condoms. Remember that Magnum we saw last month? Gag! I don't know what's wrong with these fucking people...who the hell wants to fuck with a nose full of piss??...Homeless people do NOT fuck here!...Well...yeah, I guess there's nowhere else for them to go really, huh? Ok, well, let's go - but we'll stay by that pool, with the birds. Where that guy was sunbathing in the nude...assuming he hasn't decided to camp there for the summer...You wanna go? Yay! OK, I'm gonna go get ready. I'm coming! Lemme just put my shoes on. Shit, I gotta find my book; I'll meet you in the car. I'll be right there, negro! Start the car, dang!

Yo, what the hell are you doing?? Asshole! People can't fucking drive in this city! Calm down, baby, it's OK. Where's a cop when you need one, eh? Put on your seatbelt. Yay, it's so sunny! Shit, I forgot my sunglasses. Please,'re the awesomest, most sweetest, greatest boyfriend in the world, and I love you...thank you! Ha ha! Just turn around; you know you love it. What the...?! Man, what is it about this curve?? People just fly around here like it's not a blind spot, and a tight one at that. Fuckers.

OK, I'll be right back...see? That didn't take long. Yo, turn that up, that's my shit! We in the bed like the dance, do the dance...ha ha ha ha!! That's sooo not, it's not...yeah, I do...OK, show me then, you know so much...look at this fool, look how fast he's, watch out, watch out...JesusjesusJESUS!...

OK that was retarded, I know.
Doesn't really need to be that dramatic. Kulutempa is, after all, a virtual creation. So...

We'll try this.

The Death of Kulutempa


It's been an awesome ride.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

It Was Gross, But I Couldn't Look Away

I saw a homeless man's penis yesterday. Not because he had an exhibitionist streak - he is an old, black man who I often see perambulating the sidewalks in front of the restaurant where I "moonlight", and I doubt he would want the patrons he accosts to know him that intimately. And it wasn't quite an accident either. Ironically, he was getting robbed.

Now I know some of you are wondering who the hell tries to rob a homeless man, and so aggressively. Well, I'll tell you: a strapping black male in his late twenties, wearing a black cutoff T-shirt, shorts and Jordans. Obviously not homeless.

It was weird. There I was, walking back from seating yet another faceless couple with a fake and luminescent smile on my face, when I noticed our general manager streaking out of the restaurant in a panic. Right there on the corner, in front of the valet and in plain view of every last panoramic window we have, two black men seemed to be wrestling against a shiny black Cadillac. The younger was holding on to the old man's pants; the old man had a fistful of the former's T-shirt. They tussled for a brief eternity (oxymoron, I know), dragging each other this way and that while the valet looked on, befuddled. The sidewalk was amazingly clear the whole time, which is odd for a weekday evening in downtown DC. Not an onlooker was present...except all the people who pay for a fine dining experience, and were instead forced to behold this spectacle as they ate.

Before long, we noticed something curious. The old man's pants were sagging a bit too low; there was a little too much skin showing too. No underwear. I, for one, was transfixed. Could this be actually happening? Lord knows I didn't come to work expecting to see random men being stripped against their will, but if fate had a different plan for me, who was I to fight it?

The old man was surprisingly strong. We could see the rippling muscles of the young ox as he struggled to rip the man's wallet through his trouser pockets. With one hand, the old man was holding on to the boy's T-shirt; with the other, losing the battle to keep his privacy - and meager dignity - intact. It was awful, like watching a train run over a small child. So why was I laughing so uncontrollably?

I couldn't hold it together. Customers were lined up in front of me, presumably waiting for me to seat them but also captivated by the bizarre scene behind them. Idle servers rushed to shut the blinds, so they wouldn't have to spend the next few minutes cleaning vomit off the floor. Just in time: Young Guy succeeded in denuding Old Boy from the waist down within thirty seconds.

It was terrible. Ankles imprisoned by his waistband, the man was having trouble keeping his balance. He tipped backwards, rubbing his bare ass all over the black Cadillac, no doubt the property of one of our patrons. I hope s/he didn't notice. He tried to bend over to pick up his pants and hide his shame; at that moment, the younger man tried to bolt. Old Dude wasn't about to let him get away with this. He abandoned that task in order to get a firmer grip on the guy. They both fell on the car, jerking each other back and forth, smearing sweat and oil all over the body, the old man's flaccid penis flailing in the chilly night air.

Behind the host stand, I was agape and wide-eyed, my hand covering my mouth, choking on shock-induced laughter. Servers and patrons alike stood around, trading jokes and passing commentary on the spectacle. Our general manager swept back into the restaurant - he had gone round the corner to call the police; there is always at least one police car present in that area all day and all night. Seeing the flashing lights, the young man gave one last heave, ripped himself out of the old man's grip, and fled down the street. Someone - a bystander - followed in hot pursuit, while the old man finally re-dressed himself and tried to get his bearings.

The shame and pain in his bewildered eyes could be read from yards away. I felt bad for him. At the same time, I couldn't wait to spread his gist. The other servers who couldn't leave their stations to come and watch the happenings approached me to be updated. One by one, they came with expectant eyes and left shaking their heads in pity. Except one. My best mate MF. His reaction was priceless, to me.

"What happened?" he asked.

"Some guy tried to rob a homeless guy and ripped his pants off. His entire ass and penis were on display."

A slow smile spread across his face as he processed the information, and it transformed into a laugh filled with a wicked delight as he said, "That's. Awesome." He started to turn away, still laughing silently, then turned back to me and said, "What are the odds? You wake up in the morning, and it never crosses your mind is that this will happen to you at some point today. And yet." As he walked away, his wicked grin had transplanted itself on my face as we both laughed inwardly, not at the poor man's misfortune, but at this latest dose of surreality that the universe had served us on a slow Monday night at work.

The bystander caught the would-be thief, by the way. By then, four cop cars, a pig on a bike and a police van had shown up at the scene, every last one flashing their lights. All that was missing was the Segway patrol. Ten policemen all tried to get in on the action, each one no doubt secretly hoping to be The One That Arrested The Black Guy. Three stood getting the old man's statement. The rest taunted the young one as he was hustled from street to cop car to street to police van and off to jail. When the old man was finished telling his story, he was dismissed and he hobbled off to nowhere, still homeless, and immediately forgotten. The cops stuck around to have a party, complete with disco lights, their fat stomachs protruding off their gun belts. For thirty minutes, they stayed in front of the restaurant, discussing what, I don't know, while crime continued in the rest of DC, undetected by their fat, uninterested asses.

I got back to work, mentally composing this post for the rest of the night. No doubt I'll see the old man again tonight, but I won't ask him how he's doing or whether his assailant was given due treatment. I will look away, like I always do when I don't want him to ask me for money. But, unlike all those other times, now I will look away because every time I see him, I still won't see his face - I will see his limp penis and taut black ass flash in my mind as clearly as if he were on a stripper stage in front of me, and not standing on the sidewalk, holding a paper cup from McDonald's, asking me to spare some change, trying not to re-live his five minutes of shame. And I will never stop asking myself: Who the hell tries to rob a homeless guy?

Friday, April 11, 2008

Newspaper Man Update: **DEADLINE EXTENSION**

Newspaper Man has come to a conclusion: there is no point rushing good ideas. For those of you scrambling to produce something decent from what you already have; for those of you who would submit something but for the fact that the deadline is April 15: THE DEADLINE HAS BEEN EXTENDED TO APRIL 30.

Please send your finished product to

Click here to refresh your memory about what we're looking for.

Many thanks to those of you who have already submitted your pieces. You're ahead of the curve anyway, so don't hate us for doing this!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Nigeria Comedy 4

Crying funny...
Plus, I had to note that they shot this in Ghana, which would explain why the stage looked so well-done. When are we going to be able to achieve this in Nig??

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

I Ain't No Chef, But...

Green Curry Recipe
Warning: You better know how to cook before you start to follow this recipe, because I do not use measurements - my only guide is my tongue, aided by the eyes. You'll need to be able to gauge and guess-timate and tweak as necessary, based on your own experience with cooking, to get this tasting the way you want it. If you need more stringent guidelines, stop reading right now cuz I won't be able to help you. Sorry.

1 can of coconut milk (unsweetened)

1 small tin of green curry paste (in your local grocery's "ethnic food" section)
Meat of choice, cut into bite-sized pieces (I like chicken and I like salmon)
Long, green chillies, sliced (according to your level of tolerance - I use 3)
3 - 4 scallions, finely sliced
Garlic, minced
Thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger root, well-minced
1/4 onion, finely sliced
ground pepper OR minced habanero peppers (as much as you can handle)
salt + 2 Maggi cubes (not those enormous ones that come from Mexico, but the perfectly-sized ones we get in Nig - for those with no frame of reference, I apologize - again.)

Need: Pan + Wok (frying pan will work just as well, I guess)

1. If you're using chicken (or beef), stir-fry the meat with the garlic, ginger, onions and pepper first (and in a separate wok). Use just a splash of vegetable oil; you don't want this to be greasy. Add salt & 1 Maggi cube. Use medium-high heat and stir-fry until the chicken is just cooked, i.e. still a little pink in the middle. You'll have created some stock - it's cool. Let it be.

1b. If you're using fish, marinate the fish with a little bit of olive oil, the garlic, ginger, pepper, salt and some onion powder (or chop the 1/4 onion instead - whatever) for 15 - 30 minutes.

2. Pour the coconut milk into the pan and bring to boil; once it's boiled, turn heat down and let it simmer. DO NOT COVER THE PAN. Add the meat/fish (with stock), scallions, chillies and HALF the tin of green curry paste. You can use less or more; it's really going to depend on how you want it to taste. Play with the amount. Experiment. Live a little.

3. Let it simmer, leaving the flavors to cling and entwine, one to the other, like lovers under satin sheets. Taste it, you might need salt/the other Maggi cube.

All told, this shouldn't take more than 20 - 30 minutes, from setting up the cutting board to yummy-yummy-in-my-tummy. So simple, so delic. I like it with jasmine or basmati; their sweetness complements the heat from the chillies nicely. Lemme know if you like it!

(Fried rice recipe another day.)

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Janet Jackson - Again (1993)

I blame Janet Jackson and this video for my inability to find satisfaction in love. Being that this was my introduction to the "art" of lovemaking, in my mind, if love does not look like this, I don't want it! Until the day I die, all I want to know is that the colors of love are white and light-blue denim; and the texture of love is cotton. Perhaps, subconsciously, this video is the reason I wear waist beads...

Friday, March 28, 2008

Go Ahead. Try It.

Last weekend, my brother came a-visiting with his wife and daughter. They stayed at my sister's posh two-bedroom flat, cuz I'm a loser and I live in a basement (albeit a cute and well-established basement). Seriously, though, it made more sense cuz I'm the baby of the house - which is a new experience arising from the family's recent disownment by my younger sister, the actual youngest member of the fam - and the baby of this family isn't expected to do shit. I'm loving my new position; it rocks! Anyway, like all good displaced Nigerians, my sister and I put my sister-in-law to work in the kitchen, as we do whenever she visits. "Make afang!" we demanded. "Make okro!" And she threw down, as always, much to our drooling delight. But she decided to first make a quick stew, which isn't the most exciting thing we could have smelled cooking, since we make that for ourselves all the time. Unfortunately, I had to leave before she even started making the stuff I cared about, since I had to work that night. I bade them a reluctant adieu, told them I'd be back the next day for my share of the grub, and they better make sure I had a nice-sized Tupperware container full of The Goodness.

The next day, I arrived following a brisk 30-minute walk from my house, hungry and ready to nosh on some eba, only to find the afang being thawed on the counter. What moron would freeze the shit overnight, knowing I was coming back to get mine?? The damn stew was nice and warm on the stove though, with a warm pot of freshly-cooked rice to go with it, and I was hungry as hell, so I got a bowl and went to work, my sister-in-law hovering smilingly over me. (What is it about women who cook - they always watch you sample their food with tender eyes.) So she's right there, watching, and I figure I should make some small talk, so I don't appear to be what I am: someone who is currently more interested in the food than the person who cooked it. This was her vacation after all; and we put her to work - it would have been awkward.

Food being the only thing on my mind at the time, the first thing I noticed was that the rice was extremely fluffy and round, almost like native rice. But it smelled sweet, and that threw me off, because I don't know any rices that smell so sweet, but look so round. So I'm genuinely curious and I ask the obvious question: "What kind of rice is this?" She has a blank look on her face, like "...err, white rice...?" I scramble to elaborate a little, to help jog her memory, or whatever. "Is it jasmine? It smells like jasmine."


I decided to just face my front and dish the rice, when she said, "Well, I don't know o. They [being my sister, who has long been written off as an oyinbo in family lore] said it's Indian rice. You know we, we don't know anything other than long grain."

"Oh ok, so it's basmati." I busied my mouth controlling the excessive salivation that was occurring at the time, and put the rest of the conversation on hold. My brain was still working though, because I noted that the basmati had been cooked until its distinctive slender form was so grossly bloated that it now resembled Uncle Ben's, which reinforced what I already know to be true: Nigerians only know how to cook one kind of rice.

At least, they were willing to eat it. I can only imagine with what dread they come to visit my sister and I, knowing that our refrigerators will be full of foods they haven't even read about; knowing also that one or both of us will be more than eager to make them try some. My sister is more guilty of this than I; I still crave ethnic flavors that more closely resemble standard Nigerian cuisine than that crap my sister eats. On more than one occasion, I've stumbled into her kitchen hungry, and left angry - who has nothing but rice milk and...and...olive dip in their fridge?! Even when the food is something I recognize, like raspberry jam, it's always the wrong kind. You know, the ones that were preserved and bottled on a random converted cottage somewhere in Maine, with hand-written calligraphy and a bow on the label, and huge globs of fruit that won't be spread evenly on the toast (which I've had to fashion out of a rock-hard baguette that doesn't even fit in the toaster properly and invariably pops out scorched).

But I digress. My point is: Nigerians are typically loathe to try foods they don't recognize, and quick to dismiss the food with screwed-up faces, no matter the taste, if it doesn't have a flavor they recognize either. Why??

What is it about us that stops us from trying something new with relish and excitement? What hinders us from exploring the varying tastes and textures of foods foreign to our palate, using spices that aren't thyme and curry to change the way our food tastes, making sauces without tomatoes and/or meat? (Eggplant, anyone?) It doesn't matter how long we've been overseas; the majority of us just refuse to venture further away from our standard 3 or 4 dishes than the occassional chicken salad sandwich!

I'm not the world's greatest food connoisseur; indeed, I may not always have food at my house (to which many of my visitors can attest). But when I do cook, you can always be rest assured to find in my fridge some kind of salad, maybe a casserole, tons of fruit and veggies and one or two sauces to eat over rice. I love rice - I make no apologies for being able to eat rice all day, every day. Jasmine, basmati, brown, wild, dirty - love 'em all! I started switching up my cuisine one day last year, when I got sick and tired of Nigerian stew. "There has to be more!!" I screamed in my kitchen one evening, as I nuked the last bowl of chicken stew and rice that I was going to eat for months. And I was pleased to discover: there is! So now I make curries of all kinds, green being my favorite and the most popular with CB; this spicy goat+spinach blend that he also can't get enough of; and stir-fry galore. But my new predilection for culinary exploration doesn't go down well with some of my Naija folk.

Last year, I offered to help a friend make fried rice for a beach party, so she could focus on other things. I forgot to mention that I cannot stand Nigerian-style fried rice, and have my own style, which consists of red and green bell peppers, onions, garlic, ginger, chicken strips and MAYBE some carrots stir-fried with delicious jasmine rice. You won't find peas, liver or curry in my fried rice, no sir! And it's different, but it's still fried rice and it's still delicious. I made two trays of the stuff, lugged them over to the party site...and there they sat, steaming, as the jollof rice disappeared. The more adventurous menfolk who ate my rice said, "What is this? This isn't fried rice. Who made it?" I was called forth to give the back-story, after which they said, "Ahh! I for say: it's nice, but it ain't fried rice!" They did spirit the trays home, which I was pleasantly surprised to discover when I couldn't find them at the end of the day, but I was still frustrated. Y'all can eat Naija fried rice every day of the week if you want to (and probably do) - how often does anyone get to eat this fried rice? Expand your palate horizons, people!

I nearly got into a fight with someone over green curry last month. I used the promise of yam and corned beef stew to bribe her over to my crib; CB was visiting too and he expressly requested chicken green curry. So I frantically made both at the same time, which is no easy feat in my tiny phone booth of a "kitchen". My friend was really hungry and the green curry was ready first, so I asked her if she wouldn't just try a little to hold belle until the red stew was done. She said no, which would have been fine in and of itself if she had ever tasted green curry before and just decided she didn't like it. But no: she refused because I said the word "green" in describing the curry.

"Abeg o, me ah no sabi any green curry! See as you describe the food sef - how you go talk say the thing green then you wan make ah chop am??"

I was too stunned to point out that half of the soups we cook in Nigeria are also green-colored. Instead, I tried to convince her that it was not only NOT green per se, but it was perfectly safe to eat...and goddamn it, it was delicious! (Yes, I have no problem tooting my own horn in the kitchen - I throws down!) She adamantly refused to even look at my curry. So then it turned to war.

"Look at it, dammit! It's not even green!"


"This babe, look am na! You no dey hear the smell? No be you say e be like say the thing go sweet as e dey smell so, so whosai you dey sef?"

"Ah don tell you say ah no wan chop de ting. Na by force?? You know I don't like trying anything new - I know what I know and I stick to it! So stop trying to force me, cuz I'm not gonna to eat it!"

Therein lay the problem! But she had unleashed the foneh, so I knew she was serious. And I could feel myself growing really angry, so I figured it'd be best to just leave it so the visit wouldn't leave us both with a bitter taste in our mouths. If I had a more volatile temper, I would have force-fed her a spoonful of the curry, just to satisfy my own sensibilities. But I didn't. I suffered instead, asking myself the one question she wouldn't answer and I certainly couldn't: why??

Are we scared? Are Nigerians naturally fearful people? Fela would have us believe that we "fear too much", both the things we can see and the things we can't. His contention cannot be disputed to this day. But food, too? Seriously??

Maybe the problem is that we are too narrow-minded, stunted in our vision and lacking in personal growth. Makes sense when one is talking about the lack of continuity in state and federal development projects, or vocational options (does everyone have to be a doctor, lawyer, banker, or engineer?). Makes sense when you think about how people would rather blame deviant social behavior on the Devil rather than explore their own psychoses. But food, too?? Really??

I still can't explain it, and it drives me mad. Am I really one to talk, especially if I still can't bring myself to drink rice milk? Maybe not. But I'm still the only Nigerian I know (besides my sister) who relishes sashimi of any kind (yes, fish and beef), and I'm not loathe to eat the odd exotic (read: stinky) cheese spread as all gathered fart ourselves into fetid oblivion. Y'all would do well to get on board - how can you spend a lifetime eating nothing but stew and egusi, rice and poundo?? When I think of all the spices Indians have learned to cook with - cloves and nutmeg and turmeric and licorice powder - and how fragrant their dishes smell, not to talk of how they make the tastebuds dance with excitement on the tongue - when I think of this and compare it to our blind dumping of salt, curry and thyme in EVERYTHING, I want to weep for our blandness and inability to explore.

So I implore you: the next time someone comes up to you with something you've never seen before, maybe have barely heard about, go ahead - try it. You just might like it. And if you don't, you'll at least be able to say why. Think of it this way: whole generations have probably been raised on it, and it didn't kill them, so why would it kill you?

You pluck termites from the sky and eat them, for God's sake!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Newspaper Man updates: HELP HAS ARRIVED!

OK, I know some of you have been struggling with the concept of this project and so I've written up a little something that will hopefully clear up the confusion and leave room for your creative juices to flow! What do y'all think: helpful? not helpful?

Newspaper Man options:

There are two broad ways to tackle this subject: explore the media as a controlling force OR explore an individual’s/society’s manner of dealing with what it observes in the media

journalism bias

o telling only one side of the story

o manipulating the story to get people to believe *something*, whether truthful or accurate or not

o avoiding telling certain stories in place of others that will sell more papers/attract more viewers

§ why would a media outlet do that?

human shortcoming/wiles

o exaggerating stories as they are retold – word-of-mouth errors

o distorting the truth

§ for personal gain

§ to establish control over a segment or all of society

§ for no damn reason (is there really such a thing, though?)

o dismissing fact for fanciful notions

§ because it’s more dramatic/entertaining

§ [insert other reason here]

Within these two streams, there are numerous ways to tackle the issues listed – and unlisted – creatively. This is where your creative license comes in – so feel free to exercise your intellectual freedom here! Be witty, be cynical, be funny, be desolate – be anything you want to be, and do a great job of it!

In other news: the mid-March "deadline" is upon us! Don't forget to send your brief synopses to ASAP! The sooner the better - it'll help you sort out your own thoughts before you start writing as well, and give us more "meat" when we start talking to publishers. Cheers!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Coke and Cheerleaders II

I became a staunch supporter of drugs and those who do them last Tuesday. The night job's been pretty good - tips plus decent salary has equaled rapid payments on my pudgy credit card bill. But you know, you can only earn so much doing shit like that and I, for one, was getting tired of seeing poverty in my financial forecast. How many more weeks of austerity can I truly, realistically, expect to handle, I'd ask myself, chin resting on my despair-filled fists. Credit card companies are brutally unfair - they deceive you with the colorful, fun-filled commercials. They send you correspondence with cheery language and smiley faces - they make you think they are your friend. And just when you start to get comfortable, just when you start to trust that they are on your side and that you can entrust your credit score to them, they fuck you. Hard. My interest rate went up 7 points within six months of having a balance on my bill, despite my constant payments (above the minimum), despite being a responsible customer for years. Fuming aside, it's all I've been able to think about since the year started: making enough of a dent in the damn thing so I can LIVE MY LIFE!!

I got my opportunity on Tuesday.

It was a slow night. D, the new Asian hostess we hired, was starting that day. She's a self-proclaimed lush and party girl. At 22, she's already addicted to weed, X, alcohol, and Xanex. She does a couple of lines of blow a month "for fun". She tends bar at a family establishment in MD and got this job at my restaurant "for fun" - she doesn't have to work. I pity her Korean parents. Anyway, it was her introduction to the bizarre world that I have come to know and love three nights a week. I felt sorry for her because it was a Tuesday - nothing ever happens on Tuesdays. We spent a couple of hours chatting - small talk - and yawning. Around 9:15, I said, "You know, you can go. I'm sure you've been trained enough for one night." She agreed, the manager agreed. I started splitting our meager tips - $30 each, silently cursing her for showing up at all and halving what could have equaled a major CC payment for me. Just before she put on her coat, we noticed two couples...well, we noticed one man amid two couples. He was wearing a tan suit and whirling like a dervish, or a tornado. Along the sidewalk, through the double doors, all the way up to the host stand, bald head glistening pale under the streetlights. Just before he slammed his groin against the stand, he stopped, with a flourish and grinned at us through his rimless glasses.

"Well, hello." He didn't so much speak the words as let them slide down his tongue and out of his mouth, like so much oily residue. D perked up instantly - she hadn't been this excited since the evening started. I instinctively recoiled. I guess it's true what they say: birds of a feather, it takes one to know one....

The other three in his party had caught up. Two ladies - one short blonde, one tall brunette - and another short man in a leather jacket. The brunette was laughing loudly about nothing and hung on to the man in the tan suit like he would escape in another whirl. They were chattering loudly - just in from their hockey game, sorry about being 30 minutes late for their dinner reservation. Tall man was especially impressed that D guessed their name right - wasn't hard, seeing as they were the last reservation for the night. But, like an intoxicated magician, with a flick of his wrist, he made a $100 bill appear from his pocket and placed it in D's subconsciously outstretched hand.

Having seen my fair share of drunken idiots with money to spend, I was intrigued but not particularly fazed by the appearance of Mr. Franklin at our "party". But D was bouncing off the walls. "He gave us A HUNDRED DOLLARS!" she whispered loudly in my ear as I hung their coats and baseball caps - memorabilia from the game. "I know - seat them, we'll congratulate ourselves later!" I said.

She sat them, I started searching for a way to break the $100. Mere annoyance turned to quiet rage, as I started calculating how much money I'd "lost" that night as a result of her presence. She bounded out the door later, as happy as Pooh's Tigger - I could barely even smile as I hugged her "good night" - my new best friend, as she told me she was. But she was gone at least, and there were at least 20 more coats. Any other wandering dollar bills would be mine and only mine.

Meanwhile, the restaurant was agog with excitement over those four diners. They were rambunctious, ordering bottles of wine and champagne that cost in the hundreds. Servers were falling over themselves, trying to decide who would be the lucky bastard that got their table. The winner wasn't disappointed - within the hour, they had spent over $2400 on alcohol and didn't eat a bite of food. My favorite servers paid intermittent visits to the host stand and we made bets about how much of a tip they were going to leave, and cracked jokes about how many eight-balls were resting in the console of their Escalade limo. The general manager stopped by as well to try and convince us to get them out of there before they started causing trouble - he didn't even think they could afford to pay. And he was right to worry - they never asked how much anything cost before they picked it off the menu, and they didn't really care what they were ordering. But every five minutes, like clockwork, they would stand up - one by one - and head for the bathrooms. Didn't take us long to figure out that they were snorting cocaine up their noses off the toilet seat covers and bathroom shelves.

I was intrigued. Very intrigued. To be perfectly honest, I could have gone home long before they did, but I was hoping, waiting, praying. Some good was definitely going to come out of this night for me, I just knew it. As they drank, I bade other customers a good night, collected their dollar bills and five-dollar bills with the same humility and gratitude I always display. But I was watching the eightball crew - they would come to me eventually, and I'd be ready.

My time came. Tan-Suit Man walked up to me - he didn't look any worse for wear from a distance. But when he tried to say hello and his jaw became misaligned, it was very obvious that we were in a situation. For my own amusement, I asked him how he enjoyed his dinner.

"I'wash...i'wash...." His mouth just would not, could not, form the words. He slapped himself twice, slaps that would have sent a grown mare galloping over a field, bruised the cheek of a small child, or set my ears ringing. He didn't feel a thing. "Was grea'." He smiled - or tried to. He looked eerily blissful - I would have envied him his euphoria, but I was busy.

"Can I help you with your coat?" Smiling sweetly.

He was staring directly into my eyes, like they were magnets and he was powerless in my gaze. I didn't blink. He tried to speak again, and the words were heavy on his tongue, thick and slurred like he was trying to talk through a mouthful of toffee.

"How d' d'you feel 'bout y'parentsh?"

"I don't have any parents." I'm sometimes grateful that I can claim orphanhood - this was one of those times.

"Oh." He was still staring at me. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed him pulling out his money clip - a thick, gold band straining to hold together a bundle of hundred dollar bills. My eyes flashed.

Pay dirt.

We were still locked into each other's stares. His posse was scrambling to their feet at their table. There wasn't much time. I willed him to pay me. I willed him to pay me now.

"Am real...really shorry to hear that." He released one Benjamin from captivity and waved it in front of me. I only let it taste freedom briefly before I gently, but firmly, extricated it from his pasty fingers and placed it in my right pocket.

"Thank you." I smiled coyly. And stared through his glasses, persuading all the mammywater spirits that have laid claim to my heritage to shine through in that moment.

"I wan' you ta...ta think 'bout two things." His hands were still fumbling with that money clip. I maintained my gaze, fully convinced of its hypnotic power by this point. "I wan' you t'think 'bout your future..." At this, he yanked another $100 bill from the clip. "...and how you're underutilized."

I took the money and put it with its brother in my pocket. "Thank you."

We were still staring directly at each other. I don't know what he was thinking, but I myself was full of hidden encouragement: "You can do it! One more...just one more...." I was aiming for another hundred, a total of $400 on coat check, $300 of which I wouldn't have to share.

No such luck. The posse had finally made its crooked way over to the host stand, and the brunette found her way to his arm and held on tight. Guess she didn't want him to finish all his money on me - she still had to be paid for her services that night, and it wouldn't do to fall short cuz of this Negro hostess.

Still, I couldn't complain. I handed them their stuff, and waltzed all the way to the time clock, where I punched out on cloud nine - which wasn't easy, as weighted down as I was with more money than I'd seen in weeks. Free owo is not something to laugh at, but I laughed my ass off all the way home and through Wednesday night. Who said money can't buy you happiness?

Since then, earnings have seriously dried up at the host stand. I've been praying for the return of the Ghost Dusters, while at the same time feeling eternally grateful to them for paying Target, Inc. on my behalf - they have no idea what they did for me that night. I hope they didn't o.d. I sincerely hope they come back. But in the meantime, I replay the memories over and over, smiling and giggling uncontrollably - I had an unforgettable experience and I didn't even have to leave my comfort zone. How about that.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Coke and Cheerleaders

Last week was deliciously bizarre, and exceedingly profitable. I got off work after midnight, after having made a little over my usual $50 in tips - I'd already decided it was a pretty good night. My ride had informed me hours earlier that we were going to do something "interesting". I'd spend the last hour bracing myself, because he told me I had to be "ready". I couldn't care less why; it was all I could do to contain my excitement, knowing I wasn't going straight home from work for the first time in three months. Austerity can be painful; self-imposed austerity carries the added sting of mental anguish. I needed the relief.

He picked me up wearing a tie and slacks. I looked like a bum in my wrap sweater. Figures - the one day I decide I'm too disillusioned to "look the part", he decides to do something that requires me to look at least halfway decent. But he's sweet - he said I looked good anyway. I might have suspected his motives - where we were going, the more clothes you have on, the less susceptible you are to harassment. Presumably. We left.

Somewhere near the corner of 14 & U, there's a bar with a blue-white neon sign. The light gleamed off the head of our enormous black bouncer (is there any other kind?). He asked for our IDs, told us it was a $20 cover. He must have noticed me hesitate - that was 30% of the free money I'd made that night; did he realize how many coats I have to hang up then drape over various-sized shoulders for $20?? He must have, because he saw fit to make sure I knew what I was paying for:

"You know what's going on here tonight, right?"

I thought, well, it's a club - drinking and dancing, no? But clearly he knew something I didn't know, so I just shook my head. No.

He didn't speak. Just handed me a flyer with a naked white woman draped in jewelry that sort of, but didn't really, hide her privates. On the back, there was a list of Saturdays in February, followed by such descriptive names as Cheerleader Romp and Naughty Nurse Swing. My first instinct at any surprise is to laugh; that night was no exception. In the seeming distance, I heard the bouncer say "It's a swinger's party," echoing the thought ringing in my head. Still laughing and shaking my head, I looked up at CB; he seemed a little worried. Maybe he'd overstepped his boundaries. "Do you want to leave?" In response, I handed over my $20. We entered Gomorrah - Sodom was upstairs; we were going to tackle that later.

Tonight was Sexy Schoolgirl night. I saw a few "schoolgirls" downstairs, but mostly we were surrounded by unattractive people caught in that drunken euphoria that looks exceedingly silly to those who are sober. I asked for my usual shot of Cuervo; if I had to be there, I certainly didn't want to be annoyed. CB followed suit. The bartender said, "That'll be $23." I felt $11.50 burning down my throat and wondered, For what?? At that moment, I noticed an ape-ish looking man with a pot belly and gold teeth burning lust into my chest. The night wasn't shaping up to be much good; if we didn't leave this dungeon of social rejects, I was about to seriously regret taking CB up on this outing. He wasn't too pleased, either - for $23, we could have bought a couple of bottles of Cuervo and gotten wet before we left the house. We decided to go to Sodom, where earlier I had noticed a girl on a barstool with her ass in the air, humping a fat guy. It promised to be good people-watching.

We weren't disappointed. We settled into a corner by the mini-bar, leaned against the wall. The people up here seemed a little...friskier than the folks downstairs. Right beside us, an older Asian woman (not cute) was being manhandled by a little rat-faced man in glasses (even less cute). I was about to make a comment about how there's someone for everyone, when the little man dropped to the ground, and started fumbling at the hem of this woman's dress. Like a flash, his head disappeared under her skirt, and before long her face crumpled in that way that usually signals pain but sometimes means pleasure. While he explored, she used her hand to steady herself against whatever ecstasy he was giving her in there. She looked over at me a couple of times. I couldn't stop staring. Part of me was searching for shame in her eyes, but mostly I was distracted by the several thoughts racing through my head.

Was this actually happening?
What did that bartender put in my tequila?
Is that why it cost $11.50?
Where is my wallet? These people clearly have no scruples.

CB turned my head away - apparently, it's OK to give and receive head on a dance floor, but it is tres gauche to stare. We visually explored the rabbit hole we'd fallen into - it was CB's first time there as well, and I don't think he really knew what to expect either. The head section, as I christened it, was the official dance floor - mini-bar in the corner, so people didn't have to wander too far away from the action for their liquor. There was a stripper pole in the middle, of course, and female guests took turns shining it, solo or in pairs. Like five-year-old children at Christmas, their partners and escorts crowded around them, whooping and clapping. One Rasta-looking dude was literally jumping up and down, near tears, as his hot girlfriend (probably the only person in there that was worth watching) performed to "Feedback" with a pimply-faced potato sack bursting out of her Catholic school girl outfit.

Down the stairs to the left of the floor was the official bar, which stretched partway along a long wall. Sectional couches lined the rest of the walls - on these, people attempted to finish what they had started on the dance floor and stripper poles. Couples lay, sat and slouched in various positions on the couches, doing...stuff. I will say, though, that I was surprised to see very little actual nudity. DC is a conservative city, though - I suppose even our swingers are no exception.

CB and I decided to brave the bar one more time, tiptoeing our way through the jungle, trying not to arouse any of the wildlife. I got another shot of JC, he got a vodka cranberry: $16. Things were improving. We quietly made our way back to our spot against the wall, with me thanking Providence the whole time that I wore what I wore, because these people really were touching one another with reckless abandon, and I didn't want to have to be get kicked out for fighting anyone who dared to put their sleazy fingers on me. I was wearing a white sweater, which shone like a halogen lamp in the black light, but I was invisible in that place, thank the Universe.

By the time we got back to the wall, the second shot was working its way through my system - I was in that place where everything is warm and nice, where laughter sparks freely and you believe that only good things can happen to you from here on out. My self-imposed "jollity restrictions" have turned me into a lightweight - what six shots of JC used to do before, I only needed two to achieve this night. If I weren't already tipsy, I'd have been sad.

There was a woman on the pole now. I think she was going for the naughty librarian look - frumpy skirt suit with more than enough Spandex, curly bob, glasses, red spiky heels. She was having a good time - a crowd of six had gathered beneath her, cheering her on. She slid her back down the pole, biting her index finger playfully. They clapped. She raised herself up slowly, looking at them over the top of her thick frames. They whistled. She hung from the pole, shaking her hair as she signaled that she was about to do a spin. They whooped. She started to swing around the pole. I turned to steal a sip of CB's drink, when I heard GBA-GA-GRA-GBA-GA!! I whipped around just in time to see Naughty Librarian hit the floor, one spiked heel still on the stage. Some people were trying to help her up; another went across the room to pick up her glasses from where they flew and landed. I collapsed into convulsive laughter, so much so that I lost control of my legs and CB had to hold me up - a difficult feat, seeing as he was also weak from the laughter he could not control. There is now a permanent red smear on my sweater from the vodka cranberry I dribbled onto myself. I call it my badge, an honor I bestow upon myself having survived that night.

And what a night it was, particularly when one considers that we only got there about an hour before they closed. In less than forty-five minutes, I had seen ugly people having oral sex in public, other ugly people engaged in various humping rituals against walls and on couches, and a would-be stripper bust her head on tile. When I finally recovered from laughing, I was too weak to keep standing, so I moved over to sit on one of the speakers; CB followed. We'd both just gotten off work, he a few hours before me; it'd been a long day. Another woman in her late 30's or early 40's came up to us to chat - apparently, she was drawn by CB's outfit and wanted us to know how cute we looked. Liar - I know how I looked. Turns out, she's the co-host of the party - her partner, some bald Polish guy in a black muscle shirt who makes women's jewelry, was across the room. She's a lobbyist and he's in commercial real estate, and on the weekend, they host "alternative lifestyle" parties. Freaks.

While she was talking to us, the pimply potato sack had meandered over to sit beside CB and I on the speakers (he was in-between us). Before long, I felt her fingers traveling over my arm. He said she was rubbing her face on his shoulder and neck. It was time to go.

We thanked the lady freak for her hospitality and gave her fake email addresses for her guest list. And I thought I'd seen it all, but then I wasn't expecting what happened on Tuesday, this time on my home turf.

to be continued...

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Newspaper Man Updates

New developments:

* We recently received a question from a group member asking about graphic submissions - he's an artist, not a writer, but a storyteller nonetheless. In his case, he would submit something akin to Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis novels, which are fantastic graphic accounts of her life story. The general consensus among the editors is that this could be 1) a powerful addition to our collection, being something unique and heretofore unseen in an anthology of this sort, or 2) a major deterrent to publication, assuming the publishers are unwilling to break with the norm. That being said, we're going for it. So if you also would like to enter this sort of submission, your contribution will be warmly accepted, with great interest.

* We had an overwhelming response to the Facebook group in a short amount of time - our guess is we have a few trigger-happy mouse clickers, who just love joining groups for its own sake! Nonetheless, it is a large group of people and we would like to get a better idea of who is really serious about contributing to the collection, and who's just along for the ride. This number will also be useful when we are ready to approach potential publishers.

For these reasons, we are asking writers to e-mail a BRIEF synopsis (no more than one page) to by mid-March, keeping in mind that the deadline for final submission is April 15. Details not necessary - we'd just like to get a general sense of where you're going with your short.

Remember: if you have any questions, comments or suggestions, feel free to email me. I'll get back to you as soon as I can.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Newspaper Man: A Collection of Short Stories

Newspaper Man is the brainchild of a young and prolific writer seeking to understand the role of the media in shaping modern-day ideals and standards of human behavior. It is a writing project based on a simple premise, one that will compile the most profound, exploratory works of creative short story writers who wish to explore the notion of media mind-control, and question a society's capacity to withstand it.

All authors involved in this project will be willing and able to answer such questions as: do the actions of man determine what appears in our media forms; or does the mainstream dictate our reactions to what we read/see/observe?

Through this collection of short stories, we - the writers - reclaim the power of the written word, using the force of our combined creativity to show that neither we nor our thoughts will be controlled by the contorted reality of sensationalist journalism. Likewise, we will imaginatively describe the possibilities that exist for people who cannot escape this social mire.

We invite and encourage all interested writers to put pen to paper and engage in this process with us. Use whichever literary voice suits you best - satire, macabre, noir/thriller, science fiction...whatever. We recognize the negative effects that accompany restrictions on personal creativity. The pride of this collection is the opportunity we have provided to let the writer's voice shine through his/her work, unrestricted by genre limitation, so that you can speak to your audience the best way you know how.

The endpoint of this project is publication. Once we compile the submissions that speak most closely to our directive, the editors will seek to have our stories published, and we hope to do so before the end of this year. All entries must be submitted to by April 15. No entries will be considered that are submitted after that date. Stories should be 2500 - 3500 words.

Look for our group on Facebook if you've got an account. Once you join, please check back often and share your news and ideas with the rest of the group - no input is without value. If you're not on Facebook...well, tough beans! Feel free to email me, though; I'll do my best to keep you abreast of all group discussions. Thank you for our interest and participation in this project. We look forward to working with you!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Romance is for the Rich

I'm in love with 2008. 2007 was full of disappointment, demands I couldn't keep up with (both self-imposed and otherwise), an ego that was cracking and bringing everything around it crashing down, too - it was a bad year. The final lowlight was the unceremonious end to an unceremonious relationship that I had spent nearly two years trying to tell myself was the best thing that had ever happened to me. Several weeks later, sparkly-eyed and energetic, I can look back on that dark, dark place and figure out exactly what I need to do to keep from going back there again. Don't get me wrong: I'm going to miss dancing to Steely Dan on his coffee table; making brown-sugar oatmeal in his kitchen wearing my fluffy pink robe and his size-14 blue sneakers because he doesn't own a pair of slippers; plotting numerous trips to Costco because he just can't get enough super-sized boxes of legal pads - I'll miss all of that. But the co-dependency and depressive cycles - those can go to hell where they belong. We (well, mostly he) spent a lot of money chasing thrills that proved empty and uninspiring in the end. Currency was to our emotional problems what Band-Aids are to exit wounds from a double-barrel shotgun. But the dollar bills kept on raining down and turning to pulp all around us, and still - it wasn't enough. What he wanted was eternal days of my undying devotion; what I needed was time to find myself, just the way (he thought) he had found himself.

But that is now the past. In 2008, I have a new love - me. This isn't your average love story: it is a whirlwind affair, to be sure, but not because I am taking me halfway across the world for a Parisian weekend in Bordeaux. Actually, for the first time in a long time, there are no maps involved. We are excited to be embarking on a new, uncharted journey alone (or together, however you choose to look at it). We have two new jobs we love in two new spheres that challenge us, and instead of over-analyzing every little step we take before we take it, we say "yes" to everything first then figure out the details later. We write more in our handmade Turkish leather book, wearing silver rings and large hoop earrings to match our wanna-be hippie spirit. We cook more couscous than rice; we eat more apples than chicken (sacre bleu!). And we're learning how to grow together, relying on our positive energy and smiling so much more every day to create a positive imbalance to the frowns and tears of yesteryear. We're very busy, but we wear our swollen, sleep-deprived eyes with pride.

I don't recall a time in my life when I have been so productive, and through my own efforts, guided by my own momentum. A more self-confident kulu never existed, that much I know. And I actually think it's making me a better person, the kind of person other people genuinely want to be around because they think I'm cool, even though I've never been and will never be the type to bounce off the walls telling giddy stories with equal parts of humor and intrigue.

I can see this reflected in the manner and eyes of my new friends, and one in particular. It's nothing serious - I wouldn't want to interrupt my private love affair with moi. But he's enjoying my company and I find myself, against all the odds, enjoying his. We watch political news and debate the pros and cons of a Clinton administration over an Obama one (the bitch is making it very hard for me to continue lending support to her cause). We talk about his nascent nonprofit organization, and he actually seeks my advice because he thinks I'm "so smart" despite my practical inexperience. We're both extremely busy - he more so than I, the poor thing - but somehow, we find the time to see each other nearly every day - whether we simply fall asleep within moments of hugging hello; or agree to meet at a cafe midway between our homes to work on proposals (me) or character education programs (him). And every day, we laugh until our ribs are sore.

Not for us the poetic, dramatic romance of Bronte and Alcott. Only rich people have the sort of time to devote whole days and hours to each other and each other alone. Me and dude, we've got bills to pay. Rather, it's a quiet sort of, casual sort of, friendly sort of "romance", fashioned around the reality of our lives, rather than the idealism of our dreams. We're broke and/or saving, so we don't go out to candlelight dinners. The one time our schedules permitted a trip to the movies, we got busted trying to sneak in on Child tickets (one full minute of embarrassment, three minutes and counting of glorious, gut-busting laughter). Now we watch one movie over a three-night span at home (where we can learn all the words to the "Saying Grace" scene in Talledega Nights in peace).

Best of all, we are ourselves. Saying, "I'm kinda comfortable on my couch right now; I'll see you tomorrow," doesn't mean "I find you boring and have decided to have a secret affair with someone else," and we're both very secure in that knowledge. There's no need to create a more plausible story or explain myself to death when the simple truth is: I really just don't feel like having a marathon phone conversation right now.

I'm...comfortable. That's the perfect word to describe this feeling. And comfort makes me smile. I'm re-discovering that other kind of wealth that accompanies happiness (pardon the cheesy expression - I'm a full-fledged, starry-eyed, bleeding-heart optimist in January 2008), which is an enormous blessing given my 2007 state of mind. As I continue on my quest for inner peace, a goal that finally seems attainable, I'll keep counting my pennies, secure in the knowledge that my pot of gold, spiritually and financially, is but a few steps away and I'll get to it when I get to it, positivity in tow.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Matter of Nigerian Sexuality

Nigerians don’t talk about sex. There are 140 million of us, so we know that we’re having it (and superfluously so), but nobody talks about it. Oh, we’ll hash out the gritty, raw details within the relative “privacy” of our neighborhoods, the juicy gossip flitting furtively from family compound to beer parlor and back. But as far as public discourse is concerned, we might as well all be eunuchs. It was clear to me from a very young age that Nigerians constitute a fairly randy population, but I’ve often wondered why we ostensibly prefer to blindfold ourselves to our own promiscuity. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” seems to be the policy generally accepted in society, at the expense of our collective health and even our culture. Gone are the days when sex and intimacy went hand in hand. Nowadays, in a land that has become increasingly commercial, sex is just another commodity to be haggled over and sold on the open market.

In recent years, I’ve heard increasing numbers of our young women refer to their sexuality as a tool with which they can “make ends meet”, as though they lack other legitimate resources to achieve these ends. Their perspective, however, reflects a large-scale transformation in the national psyche. If I remember correctly, it wasn’t too long ago that such women were aggressively eschewed and derided for utilizing their bodies in the pursuit of monetary gain. But now, things have changed. It was a gradual shift, barely perceptible to me until I realized, with mild shock, that we as a nation have embraced a casual sort of prostitution and simply called it by another name. As women, we are no longer sleeping around for money; we’re simply “making ends meet”, because that, somehow, sounds nobler than admitting the truth. What I find most shocking, however, is how the society at large has merely adjusted itself, so that it is now molded around this new mentality, rather than rejecting it with the same defiance and force with which it sets suspected thieves ablaze in the street.

I’m not arguing for the quick and fiery death of young women who don’t know what better to do with their talents. The promiscuity itself may not be inherently bad. I just want to understand what has happened to our values over the past decade or so, and why we were so willing to let them go. We certainly work very hard to create the illusion of sexual propriety; so who exactly are we trying to deceive?

If you will, picture a time in our history when female virginity was lauded as a symbol of virtuosity and purity, when the virgin represented of all that was good about womankind. Men desired her, women admired her. Her entire community respected her chastity and upheld her honor. We maintain this reverential attitude in our consciousness today, to a degree. Young women, particularly of the Christian faith, still think virgins are more virtuous than non-virgins and our young men still find at least the concept of virginity appealing. And who can blame them? Imagine being the only measure of competence, the first and perhaps sole provider of another’s intimate pleasure. And as for the virgins themselves, what a massage to the ego to be viewed as a divine beacon shining through the growing swarm of sexually active (read: tainted) youth. For both, male and female, the appeal alone would be enough to create waves of orgasmic gratification.

Nevertheless, these same young men are simultaneously turned off by the definitive inexperience of a virgin because, though “pure”, she’s boring. And, honestly, when a man can walk into the boudoir of a femme fatale, who always knows just the right buttons to push, kiss and tickle, why would he allow himself to be distracted by the divine?

It would seem therefore that those of us who still believe that female virginity and all it entails is still a central component of our culture, only say so by force of habit. Clearly, modern Nigerian life does not adhere to this principle. We say we do but few, if any, are actually interested in having relationships with virgins. It simply doesn’t matter to us anymore. On the contrary, people nowadays are all about looking and behaving sexier, in mimicry of popular Western culture, and it is this attitude that is all the rage among young women.

Today’s Nigerian women see their sex lives as being just as important to their personal development as any other component of individual growth. You’ll be hard pressed to find a woman who is naïve or inexperienced in other aspects of life, so why would she restrict herself to being sexually naïve? The freedom to choose, rather than prolonged innocence, is the key to making her sexual experiences memorable and most claim that they enjoy sex too much to ever want to be virgins again. If they could reclaim their virginity, they’d only want to lose it to someone more experienced. So sex is important, whether it occurs in a long-term monogamous relationship or during impassioned short-term couplings.

I can accept this truth, which is why, as I previously implied, I do not subscribe to the ideology that having casual sex reflects negatively on one’s character. Turning casual sex into a money-grabbing exercise, however—not so good. In economically-turbulent Nigeria, the individual’s quest for financial independence has managed to supersede the value systems which once upheld sexual integrity and which could have guided us to a natural, healthy acceptance of being a sexually active society. But our dubious actions in the naked pursuit of money have instead turned (some) Nigerian parents into pimps and reduced their children to game pieces on the giant Monopoly board that is our country.

Faced with the reality that Nigeria is now just one huge brothel, now is the time to publicly—unabashedly—address this culture of silence that enshrouds the topic of sexuality. We can no longer afford to take it for granted that our children and peers are either 1) not having sex at all or 2) being responsible when they do. Somehow, I doubt the young girl or boy who rubs on Chief’s rounded belly and recondite nether regions for a few thousand Naira is in a position to make demands about how his or her body will be used that evening. And if we don’t acknowledge that they are in Chief’s bed in the first place, then how can we even begin to protect them from the plethora of life- and lifestyle-threatening diseases out there?

Some might argue that this is a private matter for the family to deal with. I say the folks at home have failed in their duty and someone else needs to take over the discourse. The media, the government, the private sector – anybody that will facilitate an open, wide-scale debate on how we Nigerians feel, think and act when it comes to sex. Without it, we are in danger of inadvertently teaching generations of new Nigerians that the sex act is naught but a tool to be used in the acquisition of material possessions. Gone will be the reverence we should have for our most intimate selves, and we will have lost the opportunity to see our culture evolve into something more honorable than its current semblance. But the full tragedy will be the abuse we will have caused and endured, to the detriment of our complete human integrity – sexual and otherwise.

Monday, January 07, 2008

She Misses Him

She is young, in her mid-twenties. At any given moment on any given day, she is desperate for love, to feel love. But not just any kind. It is not enough to hug a friend; the kindness of a heartfelt word is incomplete. She has spent her whole life searching for something, that elusive something, that will make her feel like she's...home.

She looks to prose and poetry, to sea and sky, to birds and trees. She primps, she preens. She buys, she steals. She cries and she grins and she howls and throws things in passionate, reckless arguments with no point. No point, but a purpose: she wants to feel something. Anything. Long ago, she decided pleasant conversation was empty and boring; there is no point opening your mouth unless you have something clever, witty, incendiary to say. If you're just going to talk about the weather, you might as well be dead. Sadly, though, she already feels dead, and nothing touches her that isn't white-hot, or spicy-red, or dry and uncomfortable. Not for her the saccharine sweetness of endless "I love yous", though that is what she craves. Say "I love you" but accompany it with a blow of some kind. Draw blood, if you can - it lubricates love's true path. A sanguinary love that repels her body, but captivates her soul...

She found true love some time ago. He rode in on an unlikely vessel, but attracted her nonetheless. Possibly because she wasn't interested in what he had to offer. Not at first. But eventually, soon, she came to see him differently. His eyes weren't brown; they were blue. The hair on his chest was soft, not coarse and itchy. He loved her, unexpectedly. And she couldn't understand why. But she did know this: don't let him go. That is when she was reborn. And with her, the demon spawn. The troubled child.

The seed of Agramon is seven and has been crying for several years. She did not know love and so doesn't feel it. She knows only pain and craves it like a babe craves its mother's breast. The gentle breeze of peace stirs her. It rouses her from sleep, makes her restless. Because it threatens her, she seeks to destroy it. But she destroys me. She destroyed us.

You showed me one truth, and it was beautiful. Like the turquoise eye of the sea, it awed and frightened me at once. I would give anything to stare at it, without blinking, no trepidation, no quivering, no shame. To walk towards it, surefooted as the mountain lion, not certain but trusting that the next step would not send me hurtling miles below to my untimely death.

If I only knew how.

I would show you the world through my eyes, and seek peace by your side. I would climb to the highest heights of passion with you, and feel safe in your arms, holding your hand (whether you like to or not). I would let you discover me - leg to leg, cheek to cheek, we would walk the path of me and you, of pure and true, of brown and blue, heart to mind to you. No secrets, you would know me through and through. I think I could be happy with someone like you.

But I need more time, and you don't have it. So you've gone. And so I sit, missing you. And Agramon's child, with a smile on her face, sleeps once more.