Do you have 12mins to waste? If you do, then don’t waste it reading this article. It’s a ramble.
“Can I waste your time?” Asks Dr Sally Wanjohi. Do you remember her? That doctor from AAR who examines prostates (among other things) that I once wrote about here many moons and harvests ago? Well, she left AAR and hung out her shingle; Sante Reva Clinic is the name of her new business. It’s in Lavington. Don’t even pretend you know what that means. Sante, apparently, is French for Health and Reva is Latin for revitalise.
It is 2PM and I am in the office watching Stephen Colbert’s monologue on “The Mooch” after his firing from the White House. I am surprised she has called because it has only been a day since I ate two apples. A doctor calling me so soon after goes against the adage of an apple a day…
I tell her she can waste my time.
She asks what Dusty Rags, the title of the story I wrote before elections, means. I tell her I stole it from Bett (masterclass admin) who, at lunch one day, told me about a new website she is working on – www.craftit.co.ke where she talks to people making interesting things. She named one of the sections Dusty Rags and I remember sitting there, so envious of that phrase, wishing it was mine. And I thought about it the next day and the next and when the time came to write the header of my next blogpost, it just popped up, so I used it. Later Bett sent me a whatsapp with an angry emoji; “The f****?” It read.
“I really like it,” Dr Sally Wanjohi says of the phrase Dusty Rags. “To me, it sounds like a bar. A really nice bar.”
“Yeah. Dusty Rags Bar, it has that spiciness to it, no?”
“Yeah. Even in a sentence; ‘I leave jobo at 5pm today, si we meet at The Rags.’” I say.
“Exactly!” She squeals. “Yesterday I ran into your friend Paula at The Rags, does she still write for that rag?”
I guffaw. “Nice one. Very crusty on the outside.”
She continues. “ I think we should open a bar like that one day; you and I.”
“It would be a riot.”
“It would serve some killer cocktails. Can I be the one in charge of coming up with the cocktails?”
“Of course.” I say. “Knock yourself out.”
“There would be a drink called Ragged May, which sounds like something with a lot of gin in it. And then there would be one called Needle and Thread, something with a dash of Kahlua.”
“Favourite of the ladies?” I ask.
“Oh yeah, and some men with nice eyelashes,” she chimes, and I laugh. “ There would be another cocktail called Torn To Pieces, which has lots of scotch in it, basically flooded with scotch. People would be torn by it. A drink you have on a day you know you are not going to work the following day. There would also be another cocktail called A Red Moon which you can’t drink too fast because the fable goes that you can’t drink it too fast but nobody knows why, so nobody ever drinks it too fast.”
“What kind of folks would frequent this bar?” I ask.
“Folks like us! The middle-class but with a subtext to it; no Subaru guys,” she laughs. “Because they will overhype the bar and tell everyone online that it’s “going down tonight at The Rags.” And we don’t want that.”
“No we don’t.”
“Because we are low key. We don’t go, “ she puts on a bimbo voice ‘‘Oh My Gaad, we are drinking at The Rags, their fries are to die for.’
“But chicks who talk like that don’t do fries!” I say.
“Oh they do, on cheat days.”
“Aaaah, yes. The music will be something Bebop, yeah?”
“What kind of music is that?” she asks.
“Oh never mind, it’s pretentious. I’ve always wanted to use that genre in conversation just to show that I read far and wide.”
“Ha!” She scoffs. “The music should be so good that when you are seated at your desk at 3:34pm the next day you will tell your colleagues that last night was a very good night. You will not say, ‘you guy last night was a dope night.’”
“So our clientele will never be caught dead using phrases like ‘you guy” and “dope night.”
“Not in any sequence whatsoever.”
“Gotcha.” I say. Fred walks into the office. He has new brown tan shoes and an expensive looking dress shirt under a fitting blazer. Fred has been been cleaning up really good lately. His shirts are getting more cotton-y and less polyester-y. You should see his socks.
“What’s that you said?” Doctor Sally asks.
“I was saying hi to my partner over here.”
“Who, Fred? How is he?”
“He has new shoes.”
She laughs. “He’s welcome to come to our bar in those shoes.”
“Yes, he is. Fred is a fresh guy.” I say. “Listen, I don’t think we should advertise this bar on Facebook because we are different, we are bohemian, we are minimalist and secure and self maintained.”
“I agree.” She says gravely. “Remember we don’t want everybody there. It’s going to be strictly word of mouth. We want like-minded people who are also quite diverse. Lawyers, doctors, journalists, architects, surveyors, fashion designers; but not people with chips on their shoulders who will sit there feeling important and going, “Look at us, we are lawyers…”
“Also, nobody who wears yellow pants.”
“Unless you are a chic and you like yellow as a colour and you happen to be rocking those yellow pants so it doesn’t look like you are rocking yellow pants as a fashion statement,” she says. I lean back in my chair and stare out at the southern bypass beyond (I am on the fourth floor). It looks so cold and overcast.
“The bartender should have one of those beards girls want to touch,” I remark. “He’s probably dark and spends some time in the gym curling dumbbells…he can’t speak very good English but who cares, we will tell him not to speak too much and just focus on bartending. He will be the barman who knows everyone’s drink, silently sets it on a coaster and nods at you to enjoy it then moves off to the far corner of the bar to polish a glass or clean a surface or slice a lemon. When girls talk about him they will say he’s so mysterious and has the best fingers ever.”
Daktari chuckles silently.
“Our chicken wings have to be the shit,” she adds.
“What’s a great bar without the best chicken wings?” I say insightfully.
“Do you remember when Slims bar was Slims bar?” She asks.
“Oh yeah. Everybody does.”
“Anytime you mentioned Slims you’d think of their chicken wings,” she says. I can picture her dreamily staring at the wall of her office. “Even when you gave Slims a miss for months, when you went back you always found the same tasty chicken wings you remembered. The Rags will be known for that. It will be our mettle.”
“Mettle” I repeat. “Wonderful word, it sounds like a word with beautiful toes.”
“And one that favours a green nail polish,” she says. “ Did we forget the deejay?”
“I think you should be the one to hire the deejay,” I offer. “Don’t tell me who you will hire. I want it to be a surprise. I trust your melodious intuition.”
“Oh yeah?” She says with a sprinkle of sarcasm. “How kind, Biko.”
“I mean, you used the word mettle. You deserve the honor.”
My phone beeps with an incoming call. I stare at it. It’s some chap called Cosmas Butunyi a PR hawk. Cosmas can wait, I’m sure he doesn’t need a kidney urgently. I have a bar to create here.
“What kind of men do you see sitting on the stools of this bar?” I asked.
She makes a sound; a half thinking, half chewing sound. Like she’s relishing the profile of Rags.
“Men in their late 30s to early 40s majorly,” she says.
“Men who have done their prostate exams.” I offer and she laughs and asks, “By the way, have y0u done yours?”
“I’m not 40 yet.”
“You are as good as 40, do the preliminary blood works.”
“I will.” I said. “Do we have ample parking at The Rags?”
“Yes, and we have a real awesome watchman. I don’t know his name but I know he’s got a gap in his front lower teeth. He’s the kind of guy that won’t get all gossipy and give you the side-eye if you show up with someone who isn’t your chic…”
“Is he from Webuye?”
She laughs, a sharp but very brief crack of laughter, like a hesitant thunder.
“He could be. Nobody knows where he’s from. But he’s very very fatherly so once you have parked he will ask you out of the earshot of the ratchet chic, “How is Madam?” and that will make you feel so guilty the whole night you will never bring another mama to The Rags.”
“So this chic will sit there the whole night wondering why you are so distracted.”
“You will say it’s work.” She says.
“It’s always work.”
“Then she will make eye contact with our barman with the beard and sexy fingers.”
“And when you turn to look at the base of her neck, that pool between those two fragile looking nodes of bones, you will see how her pulse has quickened at looking at our barman.”
“But you can’t fire the bar man,” she points out.
“No. He can have her. The Rags is bigger than any man or woman.”
Fred packs his laptop, probably off to impress a client with his new shoes. He flashes me a thumbs up and he is gone, his head bobbing down the winding steel staircase.
“What’s the colour of the wall?” I ask. “Do you have a colour in mind?”
She sighs as if she now has to come up with the colour of the wall in addition to hiring the deejay. I feel slightly sorry for her because I am not pulling my weight in this partnership.
“One thing I know is that there will be a lot of wood paneling in The Rag,” she says.
“I like wood.”
“I love wood but not the pretentious wood,” she is quick to set the record straight. “ It’s not that kind of wood that goes ‘oh I’m gorgeous wood, I’m mahogany.”
“Mahogany is stupid wood.” I say.
“Our wood would look like it came from some furniture before it ended up in our bar. It’s an experienced wood because it had been one or even two things before it landed on our bar. It’s wood with background, wood with range. And it has a ton of stories to tell as a result. It understands what it is to be classy and you can tell it’s not trying too hard to be classy.”
“I hate wood that is always trying to be what it isn’t,” I remark, “like the kind of wood that tries to look aged when we all know it’s still soft in the middle.”
“Yes. Take new wood for example,” she continues, “New wood is always going ‘I’m wood! I’m wood! I’m wood! See me!’ It’s excited that it’s wood not knowing that there have been many woods before; better wood, wood that had scope. Old wood is like old money, it just gets respected without having to shout from our beams and walls. Old wood had an interesting childhood, it’s wood like us. We played outside in the rain.”
I laugh, impressed and quite envious of that monologue.
“What’s the colour of the walls, Biko?” She asks. “What colour do you see The Rag sporting.”
“What I know is that it should not be painted in any colour that a zebra has.” I say. “Not that I have anything against zebra, on the contrary, I think zebra have such great asses…have you seen a zebra’s ass, doc?”
“No, I’m afraid I haven’t been taken by that curiosity,” she chuckles.
“What I know about the colour of The Rags is that it should not take away from the mystique of the barman’s beard or the legend of our cocktails. Oh, and whatever colour we settle on, we can’t use pretentious names like fuchsia.”
“Yeah yeah, we aren’t those guys,” she says. “Can I talk about the ladies room, for a minute?”
“Sure, even two minutes given that I will never see it,” I mutter.
“It’s really nice, I love good bathrooms that are spacious and clean and have great scents that always change. As in you never know what scent you will find when you visit it. Each time you go you find a different scent.”
“Can we have the scents from gerbera flowers on Fridays?” I ask hopefully.
“Yes, I’m on board.” She concedes. “The bathrooms will also have beautiful expensive mirrors that you will find in fine dining restaurants.”
“Won’t people steal them?” I ask in a panic.
“No,” she assures me, “remember the profile of the people coming to The Rags. These are people who have left the petty lifting behind them. They stole coasters and salt shakers in their USIU, UoN,med school days; it’s over and done. No more stealing.”
“No more stealing.”
“The Rags will be the place for hook- ups also. A bar you can actually meet nice people. Nice people, Biko. Do you know how hard it is to actually meet nice people in this city?”
“No, I’m not currently looking to meet anyone nice.”
“It’s hard. The Rags is where nice people go. Not ratchet women and random guys who suddenly want to spend a whole night in the bathroom because the bill came. Nice people who believe in something, who know what a carbon footprint is.” She stops for a bit. “We will need a soft launch.”
“Let me tell you a quick story,” I say. “Some organiser called me and said, ‘we will be laoonching this product on Friday’ and I asked, ‘what?’ And she repeated, laoonching. Haha. People have such diverse struggles, some people are eking life on a dollar a day while others struggle to pronounce launch.”
“Those people are not allowed in The Rags.” She said.
“We will make the laoonch unique. We will send out 135 pigeons with messages strapped on their feet…”
“Why don’t we do ravens instead? We have to do this old school.”
I want to say ravens are dark, shiny and spooky but I am trying to be manly. So I say ravens are perfect. We will send out 135 ravens with messages strapped to their feet, and they will land on window sills of offices in Upper-hill and Westlands, in CBD and on the balconies of men and women who work at home creating things with their beautiful minds and hands, bearing invites to the 135 people selected to be a part of the Rag.
“So then shall I have my people call your people and lock this down?” she asks.
“You do that.” I say.
“Dusty Rags,” she says.
“Dusty Rags,” I say.
Then she hangs up, off to save the world from gout, UTIs and things that are scared of antibiotics.
Listen, tell us what you want in this bar; a specific cocktails, the size of the windows, seat colours, a particular waitress/ waiter, a specific drink, size of the paintings on the wall, a particular view, ….we can even plant a tree at the front if you want.
Ps: Registration of the Writing Masterclass is ongoing. To register email firstname.lastname@example.org. Only ten slots left.