Oh Kenchic, Where at Thou?
One day our kids will be teenagers and they will live in a world without lions. Because there will only be about five left. Five lions, two black rhinos and about 30 million baboons. You want baboons to get shot, but where is the fun in that? Apparently nobody wants to shoot baboons because they look like us. But lions? Oh, theyâre fair game. You can shoot a lion twice, and as it staggers you can stalk it and shoot it again. Then when itâs felled and is breathing its last, you can put one more piece of lead into its skull just to be sure. Then you go out to lunch.
So yes, because itâs such fun to shoot and kill lions we will continue killing them until we are left with only five, and you will have to pay 3K to see them at the animal orphanage (if we donât build another high-rise on that as well). But thatâs not even the fun part. The fun part is that our kids wonât give two shits about going to see those lions or rhinos, they will be far more concerned with having racy hairstyles and amassing more virtual friends and being liked by strangers online. They will spend all their time online, finding face to face conversations strange and human interaction alien and so 2016. Lions will therefore not be something they will be dying to see, especially those five listless things that will spend the whole day inside a meshed perimeter getting ogled and photographed. They wonât even be lions – they will be shadows of lions, caged and lurking in that predatory aura.
You know what else our kids will never know? Kenchic. I donât think we have eulogised Kenchic enough. We just moved on, man. We are always moving on. But some of us only knew Kenchic. When Kenchic started we didnât know about yoga. We hadnât started quoting Eat Pray Love. We ate. Carbs were cool. Doctors had not started scaring us with lifestyle diseases. Nobody was selling vegetable smoothies online. Or offline for that matter. Fitness apps were not a thing. Fitbits? Wharathose? We lived. We ate.
Kenchic particularly was the answer for anybody who went drinking and craved something meaty at 1am. It helped that there was no Alcoblow then, which meant that you could fearlessly drive to your Kenchic whilst envisioning the greasy offering you were about to devour. Talking of which, did I tell you that they caught up with me once, those Alcoblow guys? Right at that bypass between Riverside Drive and the Westlands Roundabout. 1am.
Iâm driving along, five doubles in, happy as a lark, feeling rather invincible. When you are tipsy you never quite think bad things can happen to you. You feel like God loves you more than he loves everybody else. You feel like Jesus specifically died for you on that cross. You seek solace in the fact that you are a lost sheep and that God sent someone with a long staff and a robe to look for you and until they find you very little is going to happen to you. You wallow in this foolish delirium until you take a bend on that road and right there after that ka-bridge you see hazard signs, a police roadblock and cars pulled over on the side of the road and – chillingly -a police van. You sober up instantly with the thought – shit, 30K! You think quickly: should I switch off my headlights and stop and reverse the hell out of there? What if they think Iâm a thug and they give chase and shoot at me because they donât know I am just a lost sheep?
So I said, you know what, this is my day. God wanted it to happen this way. I canât help it. So I drove towards the roadblock and I hoped and prayed that I didnât have a tipsy face. I hoped they would wave me through. I told God, âGod if you let these guys wave me through, I will not touch a tot of whisky for a whole week!â But then this cop raised his hand and I thought âHere we go, a night in the coolerâŠwho should I call first?â
I pull over onto the shoulder of the road.
I was told that cops can tell you have been drinking when you canât just shut up. The less you say the better. But there is always an urge to talk a lot when you have had a few. You always feel like the world is dying to hear your opinion. That your voice will reverse climate change. You want to tell the cop, âOfficer, wewe ungefanya nini ungeona simba anatembea hapo Westlands, ikielekea hapo Oilibya? Eh? Simba mwenyewe, sio mbwa, simba, Officer? Risasi ama kuku? Sema Officer, risasi ama kuku?â Of course if you start talking shit like that he will know you are drunk because risasi ama kuku doesnât even make sense to you.
So I rolled down the window and said in my calmest tone, âHabari, Officer?â He said, âKila kitu iko sawa?â I nodded vigorously like a madman. He asked me to roll down my back window and he lit the backseat with a torch, looking, perhaps to see if Iâm involved in human trafficking or something and Iâm carrying a few Kisiis in the backseat. He then asked if I had been drinking and I shook my head and said I was from a long funeral meeting. Thankfully, he didnât ask who died because I would have killed someone close to me right there and then. He said, âPoleâ and waved me through. I couldnât believe it! I wanted to climb out of the car and hug him and tell him that he is a good man and that God was seeing the good work he was doing to rid the roads of drunks, and that he would be rewarded handsomely once the man in a long staff finds him and he will never have to stand in the cold again sticking plastic into anyoneâs mouth.
If you are over 30-years and you donât live in Runda or Muthaiga, which I suspect you donât if you havenât stopped reading by now, you probably ate quite a bit at a Kenchic in the hey days. Kenchic was intimate. It was like going home. My two favourite Kenchics were the one in Hurlingham, at the petrol station and the Westlands one next to The Mall. I preferred the Westlands one because it was on my way home and after a night on the tiles it was only natural that you stop by there and satisfy the beast in you that craved meat. The trick was to eat there while it was still sizzling but also carry some home as a peace token because you were very late. Kenchic will never know how many female hearts it softened. Hehe. Itâs so hard to scream at a tipsy man who has offered you chicken as a peace token -even if it is 4am and he has woken you up with his stumbling and cursing and sometimes singing.
There was a chap who served at the Kenchic Westlands, he was near the door, to your right as you entered. He hardly spoke. Always so sullen. He didnât have any sunshine left in him. He used this pitch fork to spear your chicken and then proceeded to mutilate it with a sharp knife. My routine was to park, walk in and before paying tell him, âKausha half kabisa alafu half ingine ni ya kubeba.â He would barely acknowledge me. Then Iâd walk inside and pay through the cage: full chicken, one chips and two sachets of tomato sauce. You were handed a slip which you presented to another counter to get your chips and then your chicken from the sour guy. It came wrapped in a paper. You perched yourself precariously on the tall seats and spread open your kuku. I loved my chicken very dry and crispy and at 2am when you are tipsy, there is NOTHING that could match the taste of that chicken. I flooded my chips with vinegar, which they had in these plastic tubs. Then I ate.
At this time of the night there was never one sober patron in Kenchic. The place got jaywalkers from Electric Avenue, stumbling in with wide-eyed women in small clothes clinging onto their arms. The hubbub was upbeat. There was always some mad conversations going on down the long counter. Everybody was always so friendly, which made me wonder what would happen if they introduced alcohol in Parliament. Would they all hug each other and call each other brother and sister?
Couples would eat from the same paper wrapper. Men would eat fries from the same paper wrapper. There was never anyone eating salad. I hate when people order salad. I canât particularly trust men who eat salads. Itâs not like they look happy as they munch down their leaves, even though they might look trimmer. I donât think life has gotten to a point where we need to eat salads. When we get to a point in life where we are eating and enjoying salads then I will know that maybe my time here is up.
You went to Kenchic because there was never a leaf of lettuce to be found. Or olives. Or cheese. Every table had something greasy and delicious and unhealthy and nobody looked sad or guilty eating it. Everybody had made peace with their choices in life.
The point of this post is an ode to someone I met at Kenchic. It was at Kenchic Westlands, shortly before 1am, mid 2012. I had parked right outside, right on the pavement because the watchman had told me it was OK. Plus I wasnât going to be long. It was a cold grey night. Westlands was what Westlands has always been at that time; a city within a city but at the brink of decay. I ate my chicken and coming out what do I find, some cat had parked his automobile right behind mine, successfully curtailing my exit.
It was a white Subaru WRX with chrome rims. I was sure it belonged to some much younger chap on his first job, maybe in IT. I asked the watchman where the chap was and he said he wasnât there when he was parking. âAko tu hapa mahali,â he said and I figured, though he was a Subaru driver, he was smart enough to know he had blocked someone and he wouldnât be a minute. So I waited. And waited. Then a bee started buzzing under my bonnet and the skin under my collar started getting hot and I started getting really pissed because he was getting me in more trouble at home for being even more late! Did you know that there is a huge difference, say getting home at 5:03am and getting home at 4:49am? When you go home at 5:03am you went home in morning. Thatâs what the charge sheet will read.
Anyway, after like 15 minutes, this guy ambles out with a chic.
And thatâs how I met Chrispine Ndirangu. He was chubby back then. Hehe. He had cheeks you wanted to pinch. They came out of Kenchic laughing at something he had said or something the girl had said. She had on a blue dress and no bra. I know because her nipples had made two dangerous holes in her dress.
My meeting with Chrispine did not start on a good note, right there outside Kenchic. I was tipsy. He was tipsy. Working against me was that he had a woman on his arm, which meant he had more to prove. Good sense would have dictated that I let it slide but at that time of the night good sense already went to bed hours ago, so when I told him that he was completely insensitive for blocking me he asked that I âcool itâ. Iâm not making this up, I swear. âCool it, boss.â Thatâs what he said. Like he was a member of Cool and the freakinâ Gang. Or a drummer for the Jackson Five. Cool it. Who says, âCool it?â
I must have said that how can I cool it when my ass is out here freezing while heâs inside stuffing his face? We exchanged a few words that werenât too strong but also werenât too light. Like I said I was destined to lose this confrontation because he was with a woman, who all this while had slipped into the front seat and was watching us listlessly through the windscreen. She kept sticking her head out the window and calling Ndirangu by a pet name I canât remember now (and he wonât tell me because of a reason you will find out in a bit) telling him that to âachanaâ with me, that they ought to get going.
And here is what changed that mood. When the chick said âaah, [insert nickname here] letâs goâ I told him. âListen to her, if she asks one more time you wonât get laid tonight.â The mood shifted right there. He laughed and said, âOh I definitely am getting laid tonightâŠâ Then he said he was sorry and gave me this hands-around-someone-hug. [I swear I didnât hold him]. Then we spoke for a bit and I donât know how we exchanged numbers but we did. Months passed, like six months and one day he SMSs and says, âI havenât seen you at Kenchic againâ and just like that we became pals. We met for drinks once in a while until he relocated to Moshi, TZ for work.
I sent him a message the other day, telling him that I was writing about Kenchic and I was going to mention how we met. He asked me not to write that he was with a chic that night. I asked why? He said because he is getting married in a few months. *rolls eyes*
âOh, I get it. You gave her the impression that you have been a very centered chap, huh?â I asked. âYou probably told her you have have always been a long-term relationship kind of guy?â
âHaha. No. Itâs just that she will read it and it might upset her, you know how chicks are? She might ask me many questions about that girl. In fact, I might be asked about that girl for ten years!â
âHaha. True. By the way, what happened to her? I remember her blue dress.â
âHaha. It was nothing, guy. You even remember what she was wearing?â
âWell, itâs not the only thing I remember, but yeah.â (He didnât get that joke. Sigh.)
Eventually I convinced him that my writing about that night and that girl is part of the story and that it is completely harmless because really, he was 29-years old and had a 29-year old lifestyle. Besides she hadnât met his fiancĂ© by then and when he did he turned him into a different man. [Grin].
He made me promise that I wouldnât âscandalizeâ him in this post, make him look like a drunk who roamed the night with women. âBra-less women, you forgot that part,â I told him.
So Ndirangu is what I leave Kenchic with apart from many small moments with their chicken. Like I said, I donât think we have eulogized Kenchic enough and itâs amazing how fast we move on and let go. I bet by end of the week nobody will be talking about Chase Bank either – it might be sooner if a politician happens to be pontificating whilst a podium crashes around him.
What was your Kenchic and what is your Kenchic moment? Iâm curious.
Ps. To Ndirangu and Esther, I wish you well in your union. Esther, we havenât met yet, but I will tell you this much: only chicken could make that guy happy. Then you came along.