Life gets clearer through the bottom of a whiskey glass.

Saturday night was the closest thing to a religious holiday that I have on my calendar.  No really, the night of the Champions League final has been, for the last decade or so, like Christmas for me.  It’s the night when I surrender my soul to the gods of football, happy to lose myself to the brilliance of 22 plus men and a ball.  Aaaaahhhh…  Absolute bliss!  I can see you frowning at the screen right now, upset that I have the audacity to talk about football after going MIA on you last week.  Don’t worry, this isn’t another post about my beloved men in shorts, this one is about friendship.

Today’s soundtrack is a song that will forever remind me of my (former) local.  Back in the day when it was just a hole in the wall, we were repeatedly subjected to Mkubwa’s limited music collection, at 35 songs of it.  Yaani, after spending a week in that bar, you knew all the songs and what order they were in.  This song was number kendo 24.  For those of you old enough to remember, Marques Houston was one of the little boys in Immature.  As tends to happen, he grew up, and grew into a half decent musician, and a better actor (just saying…).  Whenever ‘Clubbin’ would come on in the bar, me and mine would lean back and sip on our drinks like we were macelebs in a music video, all head nodding and such like nonsense, because we were so damn cool.  Perhaps not, considering most of us had no clue what the bugger was saying, or didn’t particularly care.  Just as well though, because the lyrics are in fact quite useless, as befitting a track done specifically for the club…

You know we be,
Up in the club,
Where we do things like,
Throw our hands up,
All kinds of drinks are,
Off in the cups,
All of my thugs,
Honies show me love,
DJ playing the cuts… 

It used to be that every once in a while I’d catch up with a group of old friends for a loose drink on Saturday, the routine being to sit down and eat/drink while we discuss the days past, work, biashara, family, politics, fashion, sports, love lives, sex lives, imaginary sex lives… we would sit in the local from 4.00 in the afternoon till Ben the barman kicked us out at midnight, and then if they were up to it (I could never last long enough to continue, but only because I was usually the idiot imbibing a spirit when they were sipping on frothy liquids), proceed to go uptown, or downtown, in search of pleasant distraction in the form of scantily clad females.  I used to call those sessions dunia wiki hii (this was before the blog and my occasional rants about the idiot politicians, and press) and I absolutely loved them, because they’d give me a peek into other people’s lives, an absolute treat for a voyeur like myself.  Plus the strange tales I’d often hear would confirm what I’ve always believed, that we’re all a bit fucked up.  Those were simpler times.  Problem is, these days we’re all so busy no one has time to sit down any more.  Some have families that demand their time, others have shops to run.  Some have gout, others have diabetes.  Some of us work all night and sleep all day, and others don’t work at all.  Somehow, there’s always something keeping us from getting together.

One of the casualties of this life we live is that we don’t get to see our friends as often as we’d like to, or nearly as often as we should.  I regret the fact that my strange working hours and hermit-like tendencies keep me from catching up with the fellas more, these days it seems I only see them once a quarter, on a good quarter.  But the one day that is, and probably always will be, reserved for them is this day.  May kendo 26th is reserved for this bunch of men who are obsessed with the game, and I’m not talking about that bunch of idiots who know nothing other than Premier League, these buggers are the chaps who gush over old matches from the 70’s on ESPN Classic.  They have been known to watch women’s Under 21 football.  Wait, that doesn’t help their case, does it?  These men are sports junkies like no others I know, and bless them they are kind enough to let me weigh in after half a season of no shows on my part.  They patiently bring me up to speed on what I’ve missed, not laughing at my occasional ignorance, reciting all manner of unnecessary stats, because they know I love a good useless statistic.  See, not only do they entertain me, they educate my ass in the process, and its brilliant.  Which is why this one night of the year is all theirs, bila question.

Saturday night we gathered at what used to be the local, before the yuppies showed up and desecrated it with their too tight clothing and loud disco music.  It was the wrong time to be meeting up for a drink up, what with the fellas in the midst of organising one guy’s wedding, and by organising I mean devoting all available resources to planning the stag night next week.  For some of us it wasn’t pay day yet, and the wallets were disconcertingly empty.  Some of us were working Sunday.  Some of us had drama going on at home.  But all of us still felt the need to sit down on this one sacred night, to enjoy what is almost always good football, in the company of good friends.  Last night did not disappoint.  I was only with them for three hours, but in those three hours I remembered just why I like spending time with the fellas.  Thing is, I like the woman I am when I’m around them, and not just because that woman is more relaxed and generally merrier.  That woman is much more like the happy go lucky girl I used to be many years ago, before life and love took their toll, before I started thinking way too hard about things I couldn’t control, before I stopped making new friends at the drop of a hat, before I started looking at strangers with suspicion and calling everyone an idiot.

For all their foolishness, and those men can be quite foolish when they put their minds to it (which happens pretty often, just for the record), these men remind me that there’s more to my life than work, and that I’m not as lonely as I sometimes feel, sitting in my house by myself, watching Statham and Co.  Old friends remind me who I am, who I’ve always been.  They look past the superficial changes made every so often, instead preferring to see the unchanging core.  My old friends know that despite whatever issues I may be going through, that girl they’ve known and loved for many years is somewhere buried underneath all the layers of bullshit I feel the need to cover myself with from time to time, in my attempt to fashion myself into the ever elusive ‘better woman’.  All they need to do is pull her back out into the sun (LED lighting in this case), force her to laugh at her own foolishness, stick a few drinks into her and she’s good as new.  My old friends keep me grounded, they keep me from losing sight of what matters, and all that matters is knowing who you are and what is truly important, to you.

I keep saying I go to the bar to lose myself, often creating a more relaxed alter ego to match my carefree persona, a persona that makes it easier to get away from my life, if only for a couple of hours.  This week I realised that what I thought was an alter ego is not as much of an act as I thought it was.  That ‘loose like a langa’ mama is the mama I used to be.  My alter ego is ‘Champions League final night (not) Alex’, and after last night I’ve decided she needs to make an appearance throughout, and not just when I go out to destress, once in a long while.  This year, I’m going to spend a bit more time with old friends whose company I have sorely missed, because those lovely idiots know how to make me see life more clearly.  Admittedly through the bottom of a whiskey glass, but hey, that’s what friends are for, no?