I remember my first bachelor hole; a bed-sit. A two-seater couch. Baby Meko. A “fridgerette” that didn’t go above my knees. A bed. A small Samsung TV set. A worn doormat. Outside the window, maize plants craned their necks into my meagre living room. You can guess my landlady was Kuyu because most Kuyus hate to see an empty garden in their compounds; they just have to plant something on it. But to her credit she was a lovely lady, always sending her son (never her daughter) to bring me fresh tomatoes and sometimes food. I don’t know, but I think she felt a little sorry for me.
Rent was a killer because the neighbourhood was leafy. I was earning 20K and hurling 9K of it on rent. Mom thought I was mad. I didn’t mind. Apart from loving my comfort, I believe that your environment should challenge you. I always said that I wasn’t ever going to squat in a hovel to save money and then have to deal with drunken neighbours coming home at odd hours and stopping outside my door to pee on it while singing Makarena. I sure wasn’t going to live in a place where my padlock was bigger than my ego because I was “starting out.” No, sir.
But what that neighbourhood did was that it always reminded me how far down I was in the food chain. To get a mat I had to walk for twenty minutes through the estate before I reached the road. Rain or sun. Yellow school buses passed me by. Massive juggernauts with tinted windows growled past me, with fat utopic kids perhaps asking their folks, ‘Dad, why is that guy walking?’ Back from jobo, I would run into chaps walking dogs – pure pedigrees- whose meals were more expensive than mine. Large dogs that were washed with shampoo that costed more than my electricity bill. Man, those dogs smelled better than most people I knew, dogs that had personal doctors (vets) while I self medicated over the counter. And that neighbourhood made me hungry to be better. So I didn’t mind the rent because I wasn’t just paying rent I was paying for aspiration.
Goodness, see how I digress if not checked?
Back to the digo. We all remember your first digs. When it was just you and the world. When you were at the beginning of the road, nay, there wasn’t even a road, it was just you and an open jungle and you had to beat your path through this jungle as you find your truth north. Dreams lived in that house. The ambitions that were churned up in that small space.
You also remember dating (if you can call it that) in that first digs. You remember the rotating door of birds who passed through; the pious ones, the dull ones who were only there on merit of their big asses, the funny ones with average faces, the ones with knock-out faces but who couldn’t get a joke if it snapped their bra-bands, the ones who laughed so loudly the neighbours dogs would start barking, the hot ones who opened your fridge saw only tomatoes and eggs and failed to hide their sneer, the ones who came in short things and said “let’s just talk”, the ones who walked in like they were going to receive the sacrament and left as complete freaks, the drunks and teetotallers, the ones who only agreed to come over when they were on their menses (oh and don’t forget the ones who you suspected lied about those menses), the ones who were abstaining because Jesus disapproves of premarital sex (roll eyes) and then the ones who couldn’t spell “abstain” after two glasses of wine.
Which brings me to the thrust (ahem) of this post; wine.
There is something about wine and seduction. Nobody ever seduced a woman with Gilbey’s gin. (No offense Gilbey). It’s always wine. There is something both lofty and pretentious about wine. It’s the cork. It’s the way she sits on that seat watching you bashfully as you fiddle with the cork, releasing it with a resounding pop, in one smooth motion, like you went to school in bloody France. It’s how you pour that wine in her glass, twisting the bottle in the process and releasing the last drop from the lips of the bottle. It’s how you bring the glass to your nose, the one that is used to smelling nyam chom at Dago’ most weekends, but not today, today you are Mr. Pseudo-Suave. And you swirl your drink and sniff it, your eyes pompously closed, like you are the connoisseur from Stellenbosch, and you raise your glass at her and you all take a cautious sip it as you stare at her smiling back at you while she thinks to herself “this guy is so not getting laid today.”
You are the guy who says stuff like “bouquet” in reference to the smell of the wine, and “tears” to mean those dregs that remain on the side of the glass. You are the same chap who declares the wine to be “full bodied” as you seductively stare at her full-hips (and lips) that now that black dress now clings to like a bat on a tree.
But very few of us understand wine. Tons think they do – Blankets and Wine chaps. I personally don’t drink wine. That shit makes me feel like I have been anesthetized for an operation. I just don’t understand it. I guess I’m not cultured enough. But if you are a wine enthusiast and don’t know enough about wine but would like to, because you are that guy who invites a mama over for the whole wine and cheese thing, then Geoffrey is your man.
I’m sorry, you don’t know Geoffrey? Please. Allow me.
Last year I wrote about 26,000 words on just bars alone for my bar column in the Business Daily. That’s about 1,152 doubles of whisky and some 192 litres of bottled water on the job. In all the years I have reviewed bars, I have never met an African sommelier. Forget that South African sommelier at the Capital Club, I mean a miro Sommelier in a bar open to the watus. None. Zip.
Then I met Geoffrey of the Wine Bar and Café, the one just below Brew Bistro? Small intimate place with about 150 types of wine from nine countries. Geoffrey is the guy who you will need to talk to about wines. He will hold your hand. So be it that you want to get a nice bottle for that chick who has finally agreed to come over, or a birthday present for your female boss because, yes, you are kissing ass, or you are going to a house party and you need to walk in with a bottle for the host, this place will make you look good.
Geoff will also tell you what cheese to carry with the one. How about that? Imagine she comes over and finds a decent bottle of wine bearing a name you are afraid to pronounce and a board of cheese you don’t even eat! The only person who can screw up that evening from then on is you, my man.
When you go to the Wine Shop ask for a Nabilo. Easy to pronounce and even to spell. (In jang that actually means, “I tasted”, and you will if you play it cool). It’s a Sauvignon Blanc. You have to say it in a phony French accent if you have to say it at all. Sauvignon Blanc. If you can’t, don’t even dare. In fact if you are Kao there is a danger you might call it something embarrassing and ruin a great evening for nothing, so please don’t, Muthama. It’s a 2012 bottle.
This bottle is a bottle that knows your agenda. It’s your wing-man. It’s from New Zealand. Geoff told me that in New Zealand the grapes are exposed to more sunlight, which makes the grapes bigger and juicer. Imagine her sipping this bad boy, her face lighting up, gushing her approval and you – phony sneaky you – casually throwing in the line, “ It’s amazing what sunlight can do to grapes.” But you say it with such nonchalance, almost flippantly, that she will tilt her head and look at you curiously, thoughtfully, like she has come to the realization that she really misread you from the start. Then you know you are 40% in.
The evening might end with her saying; “I had such a great time, see you again soon?” Don’t panic. It’s not all in vain. Don’t make the mistakes we all made in our bed-sits, by pushing the envelope when all we had to do is align ourselves to the direction the wind was blowing. Say sure, most definitely. But that wine will have been like a seed in her veins, and it will grow.
Today I celebrate all the young chaps starting out their lives in SQs all over this beautiful city (including Rongai). It’s a beautiful and enviable point to be in your lives. You can bloody take your lives anywhere you want. The slate is clean. You are yet to fuck-up and hopefully learn from that. Don’t waste your life being in a job, get a career now. Save up money, oh boy you will be grateful you learnt how to save early. Exercise, always exercise, eat right, stay healthy and strong because it will make you feel good about yourself, keep diseases at bay and also helps with your libido. Use a condom. Most importantly, manage your alcohol, it will always be there and it will always get better. And lastly don’t be crude. Be nice to people. And some animals. OK, all animals. It’s only if you treat people with respect that they will respect you back. But by Jove, enjoy these years before life –crazed eyed – comes rushing at you.