Friday, 10 August 2018

Thought Picnic: Damn, I was so into you

Like you used to do
The thought started with, ‘Like you used to do’, the sad reality of loves that I once had and have lost for reasons I have not fully understood. I reflect and wonder at what could have been, yet we never really got to explore that unity of mind, of soul and of life.
The moments are collected as memories, each reminder a cut to the heart as the search of real and true love continues in a resignation to fate rather than a determined yearning for it, even though the latter is a deeper feeling than the former.
My life appears to be crowded out with exes, lovers who became dear friends, lovers who passed on, lovers who became fleeting acquaintances, lovers, long forgotten with the pain that they brought and the baggage they refused to shed.
I’m ready, you’re not
However, what is most striking is what I was ready to invest and what they were not ready to put much faith in. It is no doubt that I bring a challenge to certain lives and with that optimism that upsets the sedentary with new possibility. Elements of my personality, though introvert can provoke either the positive or the negative.
Reactions to it also can inspire or tire me out as the balance and stability I seek is in finding refuge in person, place and situations. Arms to embrace, shoulders to lean and the absence of inhibition to be free with each other.
Writing about this does not make it easier, for I have been blessed with means and ability well beyond those of partners that there was rarely any thought given to sharing of that abundance in everyday life, the pursuit of happiness and the pleasure to be derived from it. Just like you do.
Damn, I was into you
I have had those fears before, that where you could have taken then leap but hesitated, vacillated and procrastinated until time and tide took away all the options and left you with regret. Anticipation is also another thing on the part of both partners, I have plans and I have dreams, they can neither be executed nor fulfilled in an instant.
There is a process of growing and knowing, flowing and glowing, sowing and owing to the point where the stars are aligned and destiny takes the wheel.
For all that the heart wants to do, the head must review and assess, lest, in the end, we become as fools. For the few, I really could say, ‘Damn I was into you’, I can only wonder when did it go astray.

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Young men need to calm down

Kicking the bus in the balls
He was shouting and probably remonstrating about something when he got off the bus and without catching his breath, still in a tirade, he proceeded to kick the bus. The bus winched and groaned at being kicked straight in the balls.
Not exactly. Whatever might have started the altercation, he was really ejected from the bus, in his anger and petulance, he began kicking the bus to make a point. Meanwhile, the bus rolled away from the bus stop and he was left there to kick a bin and then the bus stand.
It is not the end of the world
Young men need to learn to calm down. Take control of their emotion and exercise a bit of self-control. Whilst, a lot can so easily escalate, that same situation can be tempered down to irrelevance. It all depends on how a person decides to react.
He missed a bus journey he probably could have enjoyed and had to wait probably another 15 minutes before another bus came by. It is quite likely, he would have simmered down by then, rather than have fire, smoke and steam coming out of his mouth, nostrils and ears in that order.
As I pondered on this matter walking back to my hotel, at another bus stop, someone asked me a question in French that I did not understand. Before I could explain myself, he began swearing and cursing at me, he also kicking the bus stand. I was exasperated, saying nothing, I kept walking along, now wondering about the many angry young men who lose out just because they cannot calm down a bit.
Maintain composure and perspective
This brings me to an event in the news a few weeks ago. This about two young men who by my reckoning could easily pass for my son, if I had by happenstance had issue. They were fledgeling models building a profile in their professions when the one said to the other than he had slept with the other’s girlfriend. [BBCNews]
By the time you knew what was happening, they had met up for a fight, one side armed with dumbbells and the other armed with three knives including a machete, over an unsubstantiated claim of one having slept with another’s girlfriend. The young man who took umbrage at having his girlfriend in the arms of a rival got stabbed and he died.
What needless, senseless and careless loss of life over what by terms should be a trivial matter. Egos and personalities without capacity or inclination to contemplate consequence. A gross lack of apprehension for the future, by living only in the present and now. Respect has become a precious commodity, linked with a feigned sense of honour and dignity that everything is sacrificed to maintain that status after which all is lost.
What if they decided to reflect for once and step back from careering down the road to perdition? A silent voice that spoke into the consciousness of one that suggesting, backing down does not mean a loss of face, defeat or person.
Calling me chicken doesn’t make me one
I know the number of times I have been called a chicken, in the desire of that person to get me to do what I have decided not to do. A chance encounter could define an entire future, but that encounter alone when veering towards the negative is probably the best sign to disengage.
Walking into a park one sunny afternoon and seeing a friend, I went to offer greetings and pleasantries as one of his acquaintances urged me to sit on the grass. I had no intention of sitting on the grass, so I stated, I would rather sit on a bench. At which point he called me a pretentious git and asked if I thought I was better than those sitting on the grass.
I responded, everyone has made their choice to sit where they want to, I have decided, I prefer to sit on the bench and I don’t care for whether he accepts my decision or not. We parted company, not in the friendliest of terms, but I knew that only that circumstance would have put us in the same space. There was every likelihood, there would be no other encounter between us.
Take a time out and take it easy
I take a laidback approach to things, I hate to be in a rush, I make time for activities I have planned, I would step out of the way of those to whom time has become the most expensive commodity. I can take offence yet refuse to be offended or slighted. This all comes with a keen sense of self and the ability to brush it off.
The quest for respect is not a goal, it grows out of conduct, comportment, demeanour and stature. There are cases where respect needs to be demanded, it is never with brawn. We have reached a level of civilisation where conversation, ideas, knowledge and wisdom should suffice in settling issues. We can agree to disagree without becoming disagreeable as we aspire to a greater level of gentlemanliness.
I do hope that young men begin to realise there is more to life beyond that momentary hot-headed where the absolutely regrettable becomes an ever-present possibility. There is more respect, honour, dignity and integrity to be had in the future if you can walk away from a volatile situation now.

Saturday, 4 August 2018

Paris: Boulevard de l'Unpretty - Revisited.

Talking hair is not cheap
Hair is politics, or should I say political. It is also commercial, it is big business. Yet, it is quite personal, the choice of expression with or without hair is interesting and sometimes just left to the observation.
Then, you come to the real issue, the one of hair for black women. I was walking down the road on Boulevard de Strasbourg, just after the Saint Laurent Catholic Church on the left, before the street changes to Boulevard de Sebastopol and I observed something I had not seen before.
There were men stood in front of shops accosting women and doing everything to persuade them to come into the shops, black women that is, and these shops had dangling from every window and hook as you peered in from the shop windows and the doors, hair of every dark shade, ready to be used as augmentation of natural hair.
How long has this been going on?
Now, I have seen architectural works of the hair that I cannot fathom how much skill and time it has taken to put those creations on the heads of the wearers and they do not come cheap by any stretch of the imagination.
I have written of this section of Paris before, both sides of the street teeming like an African ghetto that even I feel too much of an outsider to be able to relate. Literally, every shop sells hair and cosmetics, and as they are all selling the same things, you do wonder about what makes each shop unique as competition is brisk, if not cutthroat, you probably need men to literally muscle in the customer off the street.
Travelled the world and the seven hairs
The hair, however, is a different story, having travelled off the shorn heads of poor people from the hinterland of Brazil and India, the hair has become the travelled dream of people who probably would never see miles beyond their locality for a lifetime.
The profits from these lengths of follicular fancy would hardly get to them. That is absorbed somewhere in the value chain by people who have probably become billionaires in the purveyance of this fleeting enhancement to beauty.
I would not know if there is a fair-trade hair construct that ensures a bit more of the profits of this arbitrage goes back to the source communities of the hair. That is another element of the opacity of capitalism.
Where’s the shampoo?
I guess for me, the only hair product I use is a razor and shaving gel if that counts as hair products. I shave my head just while I shave my beard, or whatever those itchy bristles are. It was funny and cheeky when my friend as he was using the shower ventured then declined. He then said he could not ask me for something I basically could not have. Shampoo!
That is another story. The trade in hair is about to get nasty and it is in the pulling of customers rather than of their hair.
Like TLC does say, “You can buy your hair if it won’t grow.”

Friday, 3 August 2018

Thought Picnic: Remembering the day you were told, you smell like a toilet

In juvenile detention
I left the office early today at the end of a 2-week working visit to Berlin to be able to beat the rush-hour traffic to the airport. Even that did not mean we were not caught up in traffic until my taxi cab driver used his smarts to cut a detour that took probably 20 minutes out of our journey time.
Down one of the byroads, I noticed high fences and barbed wire on top of the walls. Military, I thought until I saw the sign in German for young offender’s institution. The taxi cab driver said it was a place for pickpockets.
I thought about the parents of the kids in that institution and how they might have helped or failed their kids. Maybe there was nothing they could do about the situation.
The threat of detention
Just then, my thoughts wandered to the many instances where in my father’s displeasure, he threatened to have me locked up in a police cell, for no other reason than the breakdown of communication and the thought that the experience might just toughen me up and make me probably more amenable to the thinking and the respectful subservience to his obstinate will.
Whilst the threat was never carried out because others intervened, and I was to humble and humiliate myself at his feet to placate him, the thought that he would threaten this police cell idea remained a lasting blot to what could have developed into a more rewarding father-son relationship.
It is no stretch of the imagination that I was at times a difficult and unruly child, in some ways the rebelliousness was seeking a way of independent expression, some of which might well have landed me in a young offender’s institution.
When to them you smell
Things finally came to an irredeemable schism when on failing my course he decided I would be more useful on his failing farm. It was conceptually a gulag neither I nor my mother was keen on the idea. I guess on the running of my luck, I had become more of a mother’s child than a father’s child. The morning we were to go to the farm, my sister gave me some money and I left my home for good.
However, I find myself writing this blog because I just read reports of an excerpt from Lisa Brennan-Jobs’ book called Small Fry in which she talks of the difficult and sometimes strained relationship she had with her father, the legendary Steve Jobs. [The Telegraph]
She visited him just before he died and sprayed on an expensive rose facial which she found in one of her father’s bathrooms and his acknowledgement? “You smell like a toilet.” This after hugging her.
A destructive streak
It is sometimes difficult to write about the complicated relationship between a parent and a child. The joy in your being born could soon dissipate into condescension, obloquy, disparagement and condemnation. “You smell like a toilet”, is a paraphrase that means many things from disappointment, disillusion and anger on the part of the parent.
You’re not measuring up, in the many ways you by osmosis were supposed to not just to meet the standard but exceed it, whatever that unspoken standard was. The times I was not fast enough, I was not man enough, I was not athletic enough, my teeth were rotten, my mouth was smelly, I was stupid, blind, dumb, an altogether a sense of shame that I could ever have been their offspring. When nothing else worked the ultimate putdown was, you were not responsible.
Take heed what you say
There is a coming of age to this whole process though, from the earnest desire to please and receive praise, through the fear of offending locking you into a state of stupefying stunted lack of agency, the need for acceptance then tires you out to the point of seething resentment, by which time indifference leads you to live your own life the best way you can regardless. You shrug it all off.
I cannot remember when the desire to please my father lost its drive, it was before I was 20 and I had already failed at simple and difficult things. I became the ward of another who allowed me to explore possibilities in ways that gave me a sense of direction.
In some ways, I have a good relationship with my father now, in others, flippant statements in the tone and intent of “You smell like a toilet” have a way of sticking in the recesses of your memory for a lifetime. They are never forgotten. You always remember those things, for they cut deep, stab you in the heart and recovering from the blow is almost impossible, maybe only time can heal the pain.
Take heed what you say to a child.

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Thought Picnic: On life giving us another chance

Grindr for an update
Passing through Amsterdam Schiphol Airport a few weeks ago, I had a few hours to spare. Whilst Grindr will not offer opportunity, it still remains fascinating as people publish their presence in search of liaison and probably more.
One glance at proximity talent revealed a young man I had known and met a long time ago. At the age of 23, he was diagnosed HIV positive and we just happened to be chatting online when he revealed he was fed up with life, he was suicidal, unsure of what to do and apparently had no discernible career path.
My disposition has been never to run out of hope, regardless of the circumstances one is in. Times that I have comforted myself with the thoughts and spoken words that the storms will pass, the calm will come and the sun will shine again.
Giving life another chance
It was just about the time that I embarked on a post-graduate course, I was doing new things rather than considering my situation terminal. As we talked, I began to put ideas in his head about possibilities and opportunities. More so, I stressed the fact that an HIV diagnosis was an opportunity to give life another chance rather than end it.
What I said might have been a seed of hope, I do not know. A year after he was working as a shop attendant at the airport, a number of times, I passed through the airport and I always sought him out to say hello.
Living the life of happiness
In other forums, I found he fell in love, then got married, went on holidays and soon, I left the Netherlands. For almost 8 years, I did not encounter him anywhere. The few times I had passed through Amsterdam, especially with the reconfiguration of the airport, I thought he had moved on to other things.
So, my surprise to see him on Grindr at the airport that I sent him a message that I was in the lounge and asked if he would want to meet up. He responded and said he would come round to my side of the airport.
For the telling of better stories
Our very first conversation was 14 years ago. He looked happy, healthy, thriving and satisfied with his job where he had been promoted with additional responsibilities. He was still married too and he said he could not be happier as he hinted at the original conversation we had.
I defaulted to the refrain, that we are all stories, that we may get times to tell better stories of ourselves, the things we had been through and how they have become part of a distant past.
More pertinently, having given life another chance, or was is life that gave us another chance to revise our stories for a better narrative? We are full of gratitude and we cannot deny that singular fact, above all else. For now, we are still here and we are thankful for that.