Tuesday, May 23, 2023

The Lobby

It's one thing to avert the eye and go for benign neglect
It's another when the chairman of the board is affected
I recall that when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait
A furious response was simply not up for debate

With Kuwaiti elites, whether oligarchs or royal family, over a barrel
These major stockholders, the world over, were in mortal peril
Forget matters of sovereignty, it didn't need to be said
That it wouldn't be good for business, let alone US interests

Even today, western media, who would not normally exercise restraint about strangers
Suddenly become coy and sensitive about their coverage, and hew to their better angels
As India became a new epicenter, they initially started showing makeshift crematoriums
And the telegenic, albeit burning, funeral pyres; the utter collapse and dysfunction

But the tone quickly changed, even as things were getting worse
The reality is that Indians hold the power of the purse
It really comes down, in these things, to who pays the piper
Who has the loudest voice when it comes to the diaspora

For when, say, Google's CEO's close and extended family is affected,
You'd best believe there'll be outrage, and an almighty scramble
Suddenly those who would never otherwise spare a thought
Are seen to be urging solidarity for this catastrophe

And so I've been thinking about the power of the lobby
I wonder who, in extremis, would ever be coming for me
I have long studied the successful ones even if I disapprove of their sleaze
The Israeli, the Saudi and those others; smooth operators, well versed at advocacy

For when my countrymen were stranded in Libya, Lebanon, or what have you
Or even those unfortunate souls who were being trained by Nicolae Ceaușescu
When calamity struck, the lesson they quickly learned was rather sobering
Namely that not a scintilla of help was on the way, no one was coming

In the past, to hold a Ghana passport was to be a down-on-your-luck kind of person
Radioactive really, the kind of thing that attracts the worst sort of attention
The immigration agent would break out a broad smile as you made your arrival
Your ovaries or gonads, foreseeing their inspection, would start to shrivel

We always wished for a different passport, Liechtenstein, or, say, Luxembourg
Let's be frank here, of a Luxembourgian held for hostage, I have never heard
But it stands to reason, there is something quite apt, even if it's inequitable
To read a headline: "White contractors airlifted to safety before local Black people"

There is a great sorting hat at work, perhaps the gods have always played favorites
But it is rather tiresome for those of us who have to content ourselves with miseries
"The fellow with the fufu usually moves over to the man with the soup,
Never the other way around", goes that saying, and well known Nigerian truth

And so as I write my own stories, I realize that I too need a posse
That I need to build bridges, and help those on the lower rungs than me
In this liminal life in the glue layer, making connections is what matters
The head nod of appreciation, building up the lobby for my fellow travelers

ghana must go mission

The Loud Minority, a playlist

A soundtrack for this note, meditating on a lobby (spotify version)

Timing is everything
Observers are worried

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Writing log: May 14, 2021

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Onomatopoeia, a Playlist

I give you a playlist full of vocal incantations. With poetic license, I've named it onomatopoeia rather than vocable which arguably better captures the sound effects I have in mind, the la las, the ding dongs and the sho-be-doos. We hum, we sing and we chant; the words are immaterial, it is the sound that enthralls. Listen without prejudice

Onomatopoeia, a playlist (spotify)



I leave you singing Doobie Doobie Do

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Writing log: July 7, 2022

Tuesday, May 09, 2023

Such Is My Asylum (Soul Insurance)

I turned to the economics of whimsy in humanity's curriculum
To summon the poetry of cultural memory, for such is my asylum

To wit: belly laughs are most exhilarating when it is darkest
Bound, as I was, by a mandate to bear witness

Contra despair, the searcher readies a comfort suite
Charting a new narrative, protection by way of a stare

Soul insurance then as a safe harbor
A balm for the spirit's rhythm of loss

hutton-mills sunlit hut palm trees 1998

See previously: Such is my Asylum

Such is my Asylum, a playlist

A soundtrack for this note. Angie Stone adds soul insurance to the poetry playlist. ...

The book is done.

This note concludes concludes another collection of toli, my third collection of poems, written in a fever in five weeks in spring 2021. Hopefully it will escape hypertext into physical form sometime soon... It all started with a covidious folktale; I call it Soul Insurance.


This note is part of a series: In a covidious time.

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Writing log. May 1, 2021

Tuesday, May 02, 2023

In the Vein of Whimsy

After chasing a phantom thread of dislocation,
It's safe to say that I needed a palate cleanser
Thus, it was in the vein of whimsy,
That I came to the claims adjuster

What with a surfeit of grim reality and daily grief
I needed a berth, soul insurance was my port of relief
The tale of the lost stories, I would write further chapters
Now that I had in mind the requisite political actors

Render unto Caesar and all that, to quote the son of man,
Thus I'm not one to begrudge humanity's tax collector
Moreover I pay my dues promptly, and keep current on all accounts
Treating any lingering debt as if it was a test of character

For my family's history is so replete with close encounters
That adversity has almost become a confidant or family member
The second cousin who acts as a companion when fortune calls
And stiffens the spine, giving support when regret is all

Internal displacement is the lot of exiled souls
Prone to leading liminal lives in the torrid zone
Maroons roaming the borderlands and interstitials
Strays that walk alone, consigned to internal exile

I crave connection, made, in this life, in the glue layer
My networks meshed with the irreverence of the soothsayer
Solace is to be found in the search for community
And lasting insight comes in the vein of whimsy

kagyah drummer

In the Vein of Whimsy, a playlist

soundtrack for this note. (spotify version)
See previously: The Economics of Whimsy and The Joy of Small Things.

Yours irreverently, chief toli monger

Consider this a coda to my covidious folktale: Soul Insurance

This note is part of a series: In a covidious time.

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Writing log. April 28, 2021

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

The First Time

The first time I stepped on a plane, it took a bag of candy
The first time I stepped off a plane, my stomach learned what my mother held, namely that I shouldn't be greedy

The first time I made to kiss
The first time, I do believe, I missed

The first time wasn't the greatest
The first time was about togetherness

The first time the blow came towards me on the playground
The first time I beheld that turning the other cheek, as a practical philosophy, stood on shaky ground

The first time I held someone back, and said cool down your temper
The first time I myself exercised restraint, that one I remember

The first time I practiced what I preached
The first time I was well and truly deceived

The first time I made a lasting friend
The first time, as god is my witness, I realized there would be no end

The first time I had no shame
The first time I played that game

The first time I heard you sigh
The first time I made you cry

The first time I swallowed my pride, and tried to conjure a smile
The first time something small inside me irrevocably died

The first time I bore the strength of my convictions
The first time I betrayed my heart, it was confounding

The first time the car flipped and I pulled my cousin as he tried to leap out of the window
The first time I saw someone die, and learned that no one is promised tomorrow

The first time the dam broke, unbidden, and out poured the torrent of tears
The first time I remembered the feeling and cried harder, even after all those years

The first time I revealed something of myself, I felt as if I was nude
The first time I broke the veil was really just a prelude

The first time I heard my daughter's cry
The first time my son broke that mischievous smile

The first time the customary pay raise to beat inflation was summarily denied
The first time they called it a resource action, the coinage letting me know that I was fired

The first time I trafficked in fictions
The first time I mastered the art of misdirection

The first time the soldiers came to the house, I was nine years old
The first time exile beckoned that dawn in the Amsterdam airport, good Lord, it was cold

The first time that class of five year olds burst into laughter at how I pronounced pipe in French
The first time, months later, this 9 year old skipped four grades, and exacted a kind of revenge

The first time I was lampposted I thought it was quite rude
The first time I lampposted someone, it was I that was being cruel

The first time I was plagiarized I was outraged and furious
The first time Ghana beat the USA at the World Cup I was delirious

The first time I laughed so hard I couldn't believe the extent to which I was amused
The first time the full weight of human malevolence left me feeling abused

The first time I faced overt racism I was quite confused
The first time I faced microaggressions I was rather bemused

The first time I visited a zoo was in London, 1980, the special exhibit was a white man in a cage
The first time I was taunted about my race, I retorted that "You, yes you, are the ignorant savage"

The first time I run unthinking towards the burglar coming up the stairs I couldn't believe
The first time I rushed my son to the emergency room, like him I could hardly breathe

The first time I failed, there was a mountain of regret
The first time I made a conscious decision to forget

The first time a reader said thanks for what you're doing
The first time my dad said my poetic gestures were improving

The first time I grew something successfully from seed
The first time I wrote a poem that I thought I could keep

don't mind your wife chop bar at the local market

The First Time, a playlist

A soundtrack for this note (spotify version) Timing is everything
Observers are worried

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Writing log: May 8, 2021

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Talk True

First the slap, then the heavy blows
"Talk. Talk true."

Then, well... that was your welcome
"Talk. Talk true."

They did warn you
"Talk. Talk true."

But it seemed like a verbal tic
"Talk. Talk true."

The blows came so fast
"Talk. Talk true."

You never had time to respond
"Talk. Talk true."

You just made to protect your head
"Talk. Talk true."

But they were indiscriminate
"Talk. Talk true."

About where the blows were inflicted
"Talk, Talk true"

The punishment was evenly distributed
"Talk. Talk true."

Dad chuckled after recounting their mantra
"Talk. Talk true."

But it wasn't with glee but irony. It was macabre
"Talk. Talk true."

He had borne the brunt of the soldiers' blows
"Talk. Talk true."

When they'd picked him up after the coup
"Talk. Talk true."

The human rights lawyer
"Talk. Talk true."

The august law professor
"Talk. Talk true."

The head of Special Branch
"Talk. Talk true."

Then, later, it was the turn of the police
"Talk. Talk true."

Before the trial
"Talk. Talk true."

During the trial
"Talk. Talk true."

And then death row
"Talk. Talk true."

Those years in limbo
"Talk. Talk true."

He never talks about it
"Talk. Talk true."

Well, would you?
"Talk. Talk true."

Some things are best left unsaid
"Talk. Talk true."

The only hint he's ever given
"Talk. Talk true."

These three words
"Talk. Talk true."

Mind you, his pedagogy stressed the importance of human rights
"Talk. Talk true."

He spent his life trying to redeem the security services
"Talk. Talk true."

But knew, full well, the kind of treatment meted out on a daily basis
"Talk. Talk true."

His mandate was reform
"Talk. Talk true."

It's hard to say that the battle was won.
"Talk. Talk true."

Even after all these years
"Talk. Talk true."

Brutality. The trail of tears
"Talk. Talk true."

It's hard to change institutions
"Talk. Talk true."

Human beings have the most perverse traditions
"Talk. Talk true."

Rituals and initiations
"Talk. Talk true."

Even today they all join in
"Talk. Talk true."

No questions asked
"Talk. Talk true."

It's an automatic reflex
"Talk. Talk true."

That's all you need to hear
"Talk. Talk true."

Bonding. Esprit de corps
"Talk. Talk true."

You're duty bound to join in
"Talk. Talk true."

Sure the poor sod might lodge a complaint
"Talk. Talk true."

But in the moment, he needs to be taught a lesson
"Talk. Talk true."

About truth and reconciliation
"Talk. Talk true."

And so God help you if you're ever facing an African prison
"Talk. Talk true."

For even in the most enlightened police station
"Talk. Talk true."

You'll get no sympathy
"Talk. Talk true."

Your station in life doesn't matter
"Talk. Talk true."

Big man. Small man. This is the police station
"Talk. Talk true."

Friday night, when the burglar is brought in
"Talk. Talk true."

Whether thief or completely innocent
"Talk. Talk true."

Having a bad day, mental health issues
"Talk. Talk true."

Caught in a dragnet. Arbitrary. Mistaken identity
"Talk. Talk true."

Failed to pay the bribe, argued with the officer
"Talk. Talk true."

You're wasting police time
"Talk. Talk true."

Police everywhere
"Talk. Talk true."

It's not a matter of bad apples
"Talk. Talk true."

You'll take the blows
"Talk. Talk true."

If you know what's good for you
"Talk. Talk true."

Eventually they'll lose interest
"Talk. Talk true."

But in the interim you'll have to bear witness
"Talk. Talk true."

An education of sorts
"Talk. Talk true."

You'll learn about time dilation
"Talk. Talk true."

The laws of physics
"Talk. Talk true."

Colliding bodies
"Talk. Talk true."

The uncertainties of biology
"Talk. Talk true."

Anatomy lessons
"Talk. Talk true."

Material science
"Talk. Talk true."

Fluid dynamics
"Talk. Talk true."

Human factors
"Talk. Talk true."

"Talk. Talk true."

"Talk. Talk true."

"Talk. Talk true."

The limits of religion
"Talk. Talk true."

The pain of loss
"Talk. Talk true."

Buyer's remorse
"Talk. Talk true."

"Talk. Talk true."

"Talk. Talk true."

"Talk. Talk true."

"Talk. Talk true."

"Talk. Talk true."

No one is coming
"Talk. Talk true."

"Talk. Talk true."

The thin blue line
"Talk. Talk true."

"Talk. Talk true."

And then finally you'll talk, and talk true.

police called in to student riots at legon

Talk True, a playlist

A playlist to soften the blows of providence. The watchword is reform. (spotify version)
digable planets


Poetry as soul insurance, for such is my asylum.

I nominate this internal displacement for the Things Fall Apart series under the banner of The Rough Beast.

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Writing log: April 16, 2021

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

The Weight of Ideas

They talk about a density of ideas
As if this is a thing that has weight

Well we don't suffer from a lack of such
Nor is there a dearth of pungent metaphors

For even in the darkness we hold on tight
And carry the load like the porters of old

Uncomplaining, contemplating recent history
Those lost decades consigned to collective amnesia

The density of our thought
Manifestations of ingenuity

The weight of our ideas
A concentrate of deft potency

We were never on the wrong side of history
It is only that our timeframe extends past your event horizon


Bartering for hours it seems, at the bend down market
The old man quietly observes the proceedings
Then gestures, as if to say,
"Be patient, just wait a minute"
Then he brings it out from the back
He knew what you needed


Heavyweight thought is our concision
Sublimation, our purifying distillation

Not a word more, a sublime concentrate
Deny that brevity is for the weak

Future markets priced by the ounce of reflection
Ideas as intellectual projectiles in conception

Mining our fields of thought
Weaponized extractive industries

Cross the technical support of trending interest
A paucity, the bitterness of imperfection


Such is the half-life, ultimately, of our navigation
That we traffic in concealment and revelation

From social interplay we gain direction
For we hold that markets are conversations

The process of consensus
The patience of conversation

The virtue of listening And truth and reconciliation

Our ideas weigh a ton
And are integral to our identity

The weight of ideas, the nuts and bolts
Such is the cement of society

Fishing Home by Kofi Nduro Donkor


After Jon Elster


Timing is everything
Observers are worried

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Writing log. Concept: February 2, 2019; May 7, 2021

Tuesday, April 04, 2023

Soul Insurance (Part 12 The Die is Cast)

Global narrative collapse... Part 12 of Soul Insurance (see previously)

XII. The Die is Cast

The hymn of the big wheel played as the review board gathered south of the river
Asase Yaa, finally fed up, had appealed to the ombudsman to take up the matter
For even the claims adjuster had limits to his authority: enter the Regulators.
A decision was made to allow in-flight enforcement actions to proceed, but no further

Still, the claims adjuster, practiced at these things,
   made a typically forceful presentation
He bypassed the import of Ananse the Spider and Sika's ploy of the indemnity provision
Leaving the three tribes bereft, they could only offer up suffering as their submission
Thus the regulatory review proceeded
   with its own cadence and inexorable deliberation

The claim was upheld on the narrowest of grounds,
   the ledger line of inequality
The claims adjuster had argued, with some success,
   about humanity's lack of probity
As Nyame's representative,
   the through line of his position had cut through
A closing ceremony of grief would surely ensue,
   at this point, premiums were due

The costs incurred applied even to the least of us
   as collateral damage
Albeit deliberate intent among many
   reduced the benefits of coverage
For want of a bolt,
   humanity had been forced to confront uncertainty
Such are the catastrophic wages of living without integrity

The die was cast, Dear Reader,
   and humanity was found wanting
The judgment read:
   "Soul insurance does not guarantee you'll avoid liability
It merely protects the bearer
   from the worst effects of life's adversity"
Quoth Ananse the spider,
   "It's a business, and I'm certainly not a charity"

vaccinate for victory


For the past twenty years, the phrase soul insurance has been percolating in my mindscape. I had a different interpretation than Angie Stone's original formulation, and the variations started to show up in my writings. Elliptical, I circled around it as the conception proved elusive. Eventually, while going back to basics, a throwaway sentence unlocked an approach to tackle it, the folktales I've embarked on.

This was the one that got away, 150 stanzas and 8,000 odd words later, the quick ditty that a stray phrase evoked became a recasting of sprawling world. The muse will what she wants and I dared not question her, for, indeed, the two weeks of fevered writing were an escape, a palate cleanser that I hope you've enjoyed. My self-imposed constraints mean that publication is often delayed and, in this case, it is an article of faith to expect that these tales would still resound well twenty months after they were conceived, and without the interactive feedback that they seemed to demand. Yet I adhere to Garcia Marquez's maxim that "Any idea which couldn't withstand a few decades of neglect is not worth anything". I have to trust that delayed gratification will not blunt my words, and that we can abide by the global pause.

As I write, Brazil, and now India, are having their turn as new epicenters of our covidious predicament. I'd rather be wrong, but it rather seems that the die is cast: global narrative collapse, the tale of the lost stories. I'll lay my cards on the table, I can only offer soul insurance as the way forward.

April 27, 2021

claims adjuster

I have just booked a trip to England. My ostensible purpose is to get a stamp in my passport that will keep my notional residency in Her Majesty's lands legitimate. I am hedging my bets against this American episode; the stamp is my soul insurance if you will. Refugees all, we in Africa are no strangers to dislocation, in many ways it is our close friend. As the song goes, wherever I lay my hat, that's my home.

Bags and Stamps
One cannot but stare at the trainwreck when it comes. But how does one equip oneself to face the abyss? Where does one buy soul insurance? In a dark time, perhaps social living is the best.

Of No Fixed Abode
Wist presents an opportunity for resolve, it is a brief respite in that moment as you gather yourself up for the next task, the next struggle. Wist is a flight to quality, a premium bond for these subprime times. Wist is soul insurance that actually pays you back when you file your later claims.

We can afford the taxes due on dividends in kind
For love is the defined benefit of soul insurance

Structural Adjustments
Nyame's claims adjuster resolves the matter with soul insurance

Nuts and Bolts

The Die is Cast, a playlist

A soundtrack for this note. (spotify version)

Soul Insurance (Index)

A covidious folktale
  1. Ananse and the Chief's Scribe
  2. Enter the Claims Adjuster
  3. An Audience with the Linguist
  4. Pity the Mink
  5. Short Sale
  6. Excessive Liabilities
  7. Premiums Due
  8. Soul Insurance, a playlist
  9. Indemnity Provisions
  10. Full Circle
  11. Enforcement Actions
  12. The Die is Cast

This cautionary tale is part of a series: In a covidious time.

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Writing log: Parts 1-8 March 21 - 28, 2021; Parts 9-12 April 7-10, 2021

Saturday, April 01, 2023

Threat to Reality

"There is also the threat that Trump poses to reality."
Hyperbole much? Some turns of phrase that aim for the poetic
Instead land in the valley of the absurd as merely splenetic
"There is also the threat that Trump poses to reality."
Even within the context, and knowing what was likely meant,
I don't think reality was ever worried about Trump. They'd never met.
"There is also the threat that Trump poses to reality."
Reality has never been, nor will ever likely be
Threatened by a human being. Absurdity.
"There is also the threat that Trump poses to reality."
As I read old magazines written on the cusp of the last U.S. election
I found many Cassandras calling, and far too much inartful hand wringing
"There is also the threat that Trump poses to reality."
Hatchet jobs by their intention and nature should be precise
With biting satire, the target should feel the sting of a sharp bite
"There is also the threat that Trump poses to reality."
And even if the intent is not satirical but merely that a savaging is due
Your entire argument, by this kind of rhetorical overreach, can incur a fatal wound
"There is also the threat that Trump poses to reality."
A threat to reality is a bridge too far, one should be mindful of such
Lest entire essays be easily dismissed with just two words: Hyperbole much?

making a big success in marriage


Timing is everything
Observers are worried

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Writing log: May 6, 2021

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Arms on Ghana Plane

I came across this clipping from the spy swap issue in Talking Drums magazine, published in December 1985 when Ghana and the US swapped spies. It's almost an afterthought from the rest of the issue but the story ticks off all my buttons.

The headline, tucked in the back pages, reads Arms on Ghana Plane. You would likely miss it if you focused on the cover story which was full of spy intrigue.

The plane that was found at Dublin airport last week with arms on board has been confirmed as a Ghana-registered plane owned by a Viennese company.

Irish police had been baffled about why equipment similar to that used by the IRA should be on a Ghana plane...

The Boeing 707... is owned by an import-export company called Penetex owned in turn by a Viennese conservative councillor Peter Neuman and registered in Ghana. He is said to have acquired the plane three years ago as payment of a debt.

The plane is said to be regularly used by the Libyan international show jumping team and had just returned from Libya. Police fear that Libya had started supplying arms to the IRA again.
Now, now, now. What do we have here? A small tale of strange bedfellows, arms dealers, rogues, terrorists, Ghanaian coup makers, Austrian politicians, the IRA, British and Irish police, and, of course, He of the Little Green Book

There's surely a novel or script to be written about the escapades of the Libyan show jumping team and their travels in the 1980s, John Le Carre had a surfeit of material to draw on and a cast of characters that couldn't be beaten.

Or perhaps consider this as a James Bond joint, for the mechanics of the affair are piquant. You can imagine the tradecraft at work, the setup of the shell company, the cutouts, the forged documentation and the vaguely plausible backstory. Throw in say Viktor Bout in the mix to heighten the tension. The background of a showjumping or polo competition would be highlighted, the thoroughbreds at work, the elites and the monied, the crates with hidden bottoms and so forth. Great heists have been made out of lesser material.

Ghanaians like to think they are at the periphery of world affairs and keep a low profile - we tend to go for opacity culturally, but the Rawlings-Tsikata crew were neck deep in all manner of dodgy dealings, being convinced ideologues and unafraid of blood. You can find their bloody fingerprints all over the continent. The most explicit was the support for Thomas Sankara's coup in Burkina Faso but elsewhere they were allies with many unsavoury regimes notably the Congo-Brazzaville lot, the Angola heavyweights and so forth. Here though, Ghana was featuring (and being used as a front) in the big leagues; Gaddafi and the IRA are about as high profile in infamy as one can get. The Semtex especially that wasn't intercepted by the British during this period - when Libyan assistance was at it most munificent, made a tangible difference to the terrrorists, and many paid the price with their lives in the ensuing years. Living in exile in London as I did at the time, I can testify to the baleful effect of the emboldened Irish terrorists.

For the longest time in the 1980s, the Ghana government made a quite lucrative trade in end-user certificates. Planes from Eastern Europe carrying weapons destined for hotspots like Angola would fly in to Ghana and briefly pause to satisfy the fraudulent paperwork and turn around to fly to their ultimate destination a few hours later. Episodes like this discovery on the Ghana plane would bring great scrutiny from the great powers.

Sidenote: if Ghanaian planes were used by Libyans to supply the IRA with weapons in 1985, we shouldn't be too shocked to learn that one of the Al Qaeda plotters passed through Ghana on his way to the 1998 US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, and stayed overnight in a government safehouse. Once you entertain the company of rogues, indeed if you actively court their shenanigans, you open the door to deviousness that you can't control. The prospect of being a scapegoat or collateral damage in other people's wars is not something that most would seek out.

Anyway, I've been here before: He of the Little Green Book
Thus, ever since the Flight Lieutenant's arrival
We'd had to develop a new philosophy of survival

At markets, we would fight over corned beef and sardine tins
Throughout I kept asking myself: why are these men laughing?
I suppose this in keeping with the Excellent Discussions they were having.

The moral of course is be careful with the company you keep. Rawlings and company simply failed to heed the Ewe proverb, the goat does not pass the leopard's door.

talking drums 1985-12-02 The spy swap Sousoudis for 8 Ghanaians and families



In the cutthroat world of elite sports
Many go to great lengths to seek out advantages
A few grams shaved off here and there
Aerodynamic styling in Formula One cars
The steroidal cocktails - liquid gold at that,
That underlay the nutrition of East German athletes
Designer drugs, custom feeding regimens
All is fair to avoid defeat

He of the Little Green Book, for his part,
Hearkened all the way back to Buda's wagon
For he was quite minded for revenge
Plastic explosives would be his secret weapon
The show jumping team entered the competition
They would show the world that Libya was best
Albeit with the hidden cargo on the Ghana plane
They also delivered a load of Semtex

Arms on Ghana Plane, a playlist

A soundtrack for this note (spotify version) Bonus beats: You Dropped a Bomb on Me by Gap Band


Timing is everything
Observers are worried

(We'll get to the spy swap in due course, that's another story ...)

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Writing log: May 30, 2021

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Coyote Point

It was a brief encounter, a coyote sighting in the urban jungle
Just the other day on our walk, it was quite exciting
It brought to mind a time of my life that I'd blocked from my memory
A time, long uninterrogated, that I've thought best left forgotten

But once the beast darted out, I could hardly help myself
The memories of those 18 months at Coyote Point returned
The whims of memory lead one to arbitrary endpoints
And so let me try to recall the tale of Coyote Point...

There's a long line of hotel-like establishments
In the mile stretch that leads to Coyote Point
They range from the upscale Holiday Inn hotel
To the lowest of the low, the by-the-hour motel

As to the motels, suffice to say, there were gradations
I guess you could call it a full spectrum of cockroaches
Thankfully providence lifted me out of the worst situations
I eventually settled on the Best Western Plus

A correction, the high end was a Holiday Inn and Suites
Let me not, on this point, Dear Reader, mislead
I lost my driver's license at one of them,
   was it the San Mateo SFO Airport Hotel?
Or rather America's Best Value Inn,
   where the pimps had so many stories to tell?

The Best Western Plus was quite swank in reality
But the first time I arrived, my eyes were rather bleary
The Nigerian hotel receptionist took one look at me
And assigned me to room 419. Well played, young lady

The Plus in the name makes quite a bit of difference
As our now 9 year old observed, a couple of years ago
We made the mistake, one weekend, in San Antonio
Of staying at a vanilla Best Western. Lesson learned

Those 18 months were trying, it was hard to understand
I was dealing with the whims of a Never Never Man
Who seemed to sabotage my every want and desire
And enjoyed raising the specter of me getting fired

He wanted me, he was adamant, to work in person
Said he absolutely needed me in the office
Yet I was working with people in India and Boston
Why couldn't I go with the remote option?

It was a strange kind of life if you ask me
But you make your own bed, your own destiny
I'd run headlong into an immovable object
And all I could do was protect my neck

Tuesday morning before dawn I'd get on the SuperShuttle
And head to Austin Bergstrom airport before the morning bustle
Four hours on the plane, find a rental car, drive to the office
Then, to add insult to injury, mostly attend teleconferences

I'd call it a day getting to five,
   and make my way to my provisional home
It was always a gamble,
   for I could never remember which was this week's abode
I hadn't expected this to be a permanent situation,
   I didn't plan this contingency
Nevertheless, living on a week by week basis,
   I kept pushing on grudgingly

What is there to say about those 100 days of dismay?
The traveling salesman life I lead, groundhog day
Leaving The Wife with infant and toddler in a new town
33 trips, I counted, before finally I threw in the towel

But back to Coyote Point, I only observed the place after work
After checking in, I'd find the Chinese restaurant
   where I got my roast duck
Because the motel food was little to non-existent
   and, quite frankly, sucked
Some rooms had a fridge, and a microwave for reheating,
   at others I was out of luck

The Mother-in-Law visited once,
   when she was passing through the Bay Area
Checking in on her wayward charge,
   seeing how I was dealing with this hysteria
That week I'd missed a booking,
   and was staying at a rather low rent joint
She might have been less alarmed
   if I'd shown her the best of Coyote Point

Ah right, the lost license, I shouldn't leave that dangling
It's another sad story that doesn't bear remembering
Ever walked up confidently to the TSA counter and opened your wallet
To pick out your license only to realize that it's lost.
   Woe is me, instant regret

Was it in the rental car? Or at the motel?
   Which one? Or was it at the office?
I checked my bags and pockets ten times,
   goddamn, I must have dropped it
The panicked calls to the rental company and the low rent motel
No time to get back to the rental and no ID even then. Well, hell

I'm still surprised that they let me get on that Thursday evening flight
With barely any identifying document, save my company badge,
   what a fright
It must have been the doctor's note that I carried, and my insurance card
Or was it that I looked so broken by that stage, man, times were hard

True they did give me the full TSA treatment
Examined me more closely than my wife after ten
Quadruple searched my bags, my clothes,
   and damn near every orifice
Yet I was so grateful this agent let me on the plane,
   I could have kissed him

Thankfully at the motel, America's Best Value Inn, the one with the pimps
They'd found my driver's license - phew I had escaped an identity crisis
But they were cheap, Mrs Singh and son, they were fixated on getting paid for its return
Man, I sweet talked her, gave a massive reward, paid for the Fedex courier, talk about heartburn

Oh, and after I totalled my car coming out of Walgreens
   in Hyde Park one night
I scrambled and managed to rent a Zipcar for the week
   to placate The Wife
And, at dawn the next day, it was back on the SuperShuttle
   to get on my flight
Praying that Never Never Man and the insurance company
   would do me right (He didn't)

With hindsight this was all plainly ridiculous, the kind of life I was leading
For the exiled soul and the immigrant, diffidence reigns,
   it's a self imposed precarity
Pride and vanity is all,
   we hold on to whatever scraps we hold of the American dream
There's none of the boldness of the American, born-and-raised,
   unafraid to cause a scene

I never once ventured to Coyote Point proper,
   my life was quite circumscribed
Now with Google Street View available,
   I can behold the luxuries I was denied
The motels were only a few blocks south from the edge of the golf course
Virtually browsing vicariously, I daresay I missed out on pleasant walks

It was all work and no play,
   the motels were the extent of my event horizon
Thus I missed out on a good location
   for aircraft spotting and birdwatching
But let me not continue in this vein, I assure you there was only trauma
A liminal life as a theater of the absurd piece,
   or something worthy of Kafka

For whatever reason, perhaps the poorly equipped minibar in those joints
I didn’t drown my sorrows. I remained equanimous, and never got drunk
The only photo I took in 18 months
   was in the hotel parking lot at Coyote Point
It was of a curious normally nocturnal visitor,
   I believe it was a civet, racoon or skunk

civet, skunk or racoon

No Time, a playlist

A soundtrack for a strange kind of life (spotify version) Bonus beats: I Left My Wallet in El Segundo by A Tribe Called Quest


Timing is everything
Observers are worried

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Writing log: May 6, 2021

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Proximate Cause

The proximate cause, the judgement noted, was a inherent flaw in humanity
And independent arbitration later confirmed the troubling lack of integrity
For the balance sheet of morality revealed a shortage of spines
Hence the application for blanket coverage was duly denied

Of course there was an immediate appeal, and call for a renewed appraisal
But what book value gives to the brave is but a fickle wind in their sail
That bears little resemblance, in the long run, to notional value
Leaving no protection even as incurred losses continue to accrue

The final auditor's report relied on the coordination of benefits
The surety bond's terms and conditions were adjusted on a valuation basis
Moral hazard observed on the rider raised the issue of contingent liability
The underwriters had stressed upfront this feature of the joint-life annuity

The proximate cause of the variety of perils, again, were those insatiable appetites
Statutory accounting noted negligence in the underlying interest on the surplus line
The risk profile belied the damage, this failure to protect the least of us
A lack of restraint and consideration; injurious exposure was the consensus

The force majeure clause was invoked due to the concurrent causation plainly evident
The claims adjuster rallied, and negotiated a structured settlement
The salvage agent came to terms on the matter of replacement cost
Quoth the soul insurance provider, "What paradise have we lost?"

observers are worried - red

Reasons, a playlist

A soundtrack for this note (spotify version) ...

Timing is everything
Observers are worried

See previously: Soul Insurance and Rhythm of Loss

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Writing log: May 5, 2021

Tuesday, March 07, 2023

Soul Insurance (Part 11 Enforcement Actions)

The view from the south... Part 11 of Soul Insurance (see previously)

XI. Enforcement Actions

The people of Agona in the torrid zone were the proverbial black sheep
Typically subject to regional blocks and forever last in the global heap
It was confounding, they were the cradle of mankind, they were that old
Yet always seemingly on the back foot,
   extractive industries pursued their black gold

In times past and present, they were sought after for their labor
Albeit the siren song of slavery was not sung by Mami Wata
No, the mantras of the carry trade and manifest destiny
   came from so-called explorers
Don Diego de Azambuja, for one,
   started a chapter not too far from Elmina

Gold, God and Glory
   - (backed by guns, if you want to be diplomatic)
Peonage in the Middle Passage,
   many were buried mid-Atlantic
But they'd made their peace with it,
   and had solidarity with some of the Ushers
Who faced some of the same legacies in Bloodbath, South Carolina

They'd seen what had happened in minor onslaughts
   at other erstwhile epicenters
And knew that, even if prepared,
   they didn't have the capacity to face the claims adjuster
They wanted to negotiate a settlement,
   for their brand was conversation
And draw on the defined benefit
   of Asase Yaa's excessive liability protection

But it was hard to follow the gospel of germs
   and keep the soul clean
All that washing of hands, that duty of care,
   let alone communal hygiene
Prone to take a few shortcuts,
   their societies loved funerals for whatever reason
They kept playing with fire,
   it takes just one superspreader to bring on grief season

Tedros of Who negotiated some leftover supplies,
   they could wait, they were young
It was a marshmallow test of character,
   of their ability to overcome
To stay the course,
   for restraint doesn't come easily to the human condition
The reverse of the coin however
   is to become subject to a severe enforcement action

prove jesus alive ministry at Dome/Atomic

Long experience dealing with cheerful rogues
   and their deceptions
They had the playlists ready:
   the corruption tango and an awoof conception
This is your daily bread, your reality, when you lack all infrastructure
You know that you are quite vulnerable indeed to the scheming trickster

Rogues of all sorts show up at your door
   to pitch all manner of dubious propositions
Gremlins and parasites will take their pound of flesh
   while peddling potions
Quack cures and get rich schemes are wont to proliferate in abundance
Not for those interlocutors, the safety of something like soul insurance

Unfortunately, the real issue was that
   it was hard to present a united front
The Ushers, prime among the three tribes,
   would never admit that they were wrong
Unlike the keen pragmatism of the Wan,
   and the abject survivalism of the Agonists
It normally took ten bites, rather than the one,
   before they heeded a cease and desist

Thus the dwellers of the torrid zone readied themselves for the Ushers to disappoint
A lion throwing a tantrum doesn't change anything from the antelope's viewpoint
If anything, the usual wariness of the latter turns to resignation
A poor man's son does not brag, they came to terms with the situation

this land not for sale

Enforcement Actions, a playlist

A soundtrack for this tall tale. (spotify version)

Soul Insurance (Index)

A covidious folktale
  1. Ananse and the Chief's Scribe
  2. Enter the Claims Adjuster
  3. An Audience with the Linguist
  4. Pity the Mink
  5. Short Sale
  6. Excessive Liabilities
  7. Premiums Due
  8. Soul Insurance, a playlist
  9. Indemnity Provisions
  10. Full Circle
  11. Enforcement Actions
  12. The Die is Cast

This cautionary tale is part of a series: In a covidious time.

Next: The Die is Cast

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Writing log: Part 11 April 9, 2021