Token yank. I arrived in Kenya at the beginning of August 1966. I was used to the US three month summer vacation, but Kenya followed the British school calendar; June and most of July you were still in summer term and August was summer hols. I had a lot of fun that August. I hung out at the YMCA swimming pool with a rowdy international mostly white bunch that included no yanks; I was their token one. Lots of Brits, some Danes, Italians, Germans, Turks, Indians. For the first time I wanted to play in the water. Kenya did it to me. The magic of the place called on me and I responded. I was still alive and feeling something new in this new country; the drugs had not yet begun to shut me down.
My gang. For the first time ever I was one of the guys, down at the Y. I finally found a gang who accepted me, who weren't suspicious intolerant southern hicks. We didn't have room for intolerance. We were all not Black people in a brand new very Black republic. Suddenly joining a racial minority is an eye opener. It was a little scary. We swam, chased each other around the pool, cannonballed each other off the high dive, shot snooker in the game room, and smoked. Everyone smoked. Hey man, can I bum a fag? Sportsman, Embassy, B&H, State Express 555s, Balkan Sobranies. In Asheville cigarettes were 25¢ a pack, and I started smoking early. Mom smoked, and I would collect her butts. After a party there were lots of butts. I tore them open and put the tobacco into a pipe I bought in a pawn shop, probably the same one where my dad got my sax. That was awful; fresh cigs were better. In Kenya they were fags, faggots, i.e. burning sticks. The common British slang. I'd never even heard the other use of the word fag at the time. In Asheville I got called a homo because I was an unathletic wuss, so I did know that one.
Sunburn. I was the thin-skinned son of a ginger dad out in the equatorial sun, but I did OK with sunburn; grin and bear it. But halfway through the month I replaced my baggy US swim trunks with a proper swimming cozzie like the other blokes were wearing, something closer to speedos. That meant that about three inches of thigh formerly covered was suddenly bare. Did I ever burn and blister. Then I broke all the blisters doing a can opener to splash my chums, and I burned the raw new skin under the blisters. I had scars on my thighs but I survived.
Gambling. I had a scary brush with addiction in those early days in Kenya. There were electric slot machines everywhere; I never paid any attention to them; it seemed stupid. I was hanging out in coffee bar with some of the guys one day and on a whim I put a coin in one of the machines. As bad luck would have it, I hit a little jackpot, 8 or 10 to 1. Suddenly I was riveted. I lost all my winnings and quite a bit more; several dollars worth, which was a lot in my budget. And I had this horrible sick feeling in my gut. Now I can see that was Leela warning me off by letting me feel the sickness of gambling addiction full on after my one little exposure. That was enough, thank you wisdom. I've blown maybe twenty bucks on lottery tickets in my life but nothing else. I got off real easy
Duka. In September I entered Duka, aka the Duke of York School, a British boarding school now known as Lenana School. Duka is next to the village of Karen, named for Karen Blixen, who wrote Out of Africa using the pen name Isak Dinesen. The village used to be her farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills.
Crispin. I didn't board, I was a day bug. There was no school busing. Dad had to drive me there and back every day. It was bewildering. I was first form instead of tenth grade. Instead of six classes I was taking thirteen. Everything you'd take in high school all at once. My English master, Bung-Eye, mocked the Kenyan boys savagely. A sweet-faced Luo boy named Crispin was his favorite target of abuse. How old are you, Crispin? Thahteen, sah. Yes, Thahteen. Can't you pronounce an r, Crispin? Or Good King Wenceslas looked out on the Feast of Stephen. When the snow lay all about, deep and Crispin even. What is that, Crispin? A pun, sah. Indeed, a pun on thee. The what, sah? Thee, idiot. Yes sah.
RK. RK (religious knowledge) was just once a week. It was Anglican catechism class. I was fascinated. southern Methodism is a far cry from High Church. When I heard about the Four Marks of the Church, I got so intrigued I snuck into Chapel and stole my own copy of the Book of Common Prayer to study at leisure.
PT. PT is physical training, Duka's version of Phys Ed. We did calisthenics and played football (soccer), rugby, and cricket. But mostly footy. I was abysmal in all, but nobody expected the new yank day bug to be any good and they were all good sports about it. I was a good sport too. I was struggling with the strangeness of it, and bewildered, but I was diving in and getting a lot out of it.
Custard sauce. There were things I really liked about the Duke of York, like the food. As a day bug I only ate lunch there, but it was a delicious substantial meal. The prefect ruled the table, but he was a kind and generous ruler, just passing things and letting us serve ourselves. Dessert was my favorite, and my favorite desserts came with custard sauce. Custard sauce came in a pitcher to be poured over a pastry dessert and I was crazy about it. That recipe is the real thing. I'm pretty sure what I ate at Duka was an instant version. I base that opinion on experimentation. I made real custard sauce using a similar recipe, and also made up some instant cornstarch based custard sauce and the instant kind won. There was also chocolate custard sauce, for chocolate pastry desserts.
I was doing some of my early experimentation with booze that fall, but it hadn't shut me down yet; I hadn't started my detour. That didn't happen until later, when pot entered the picture. So even though it was stressful, I was also having a good time exploring the strange new world of British academics. But a new school opened that fall, the US Community School. It sounded so appealing to go back to a more familiar kind of school. I started wheedling my parents about it a bit. They were not that hard to convince; my dad was really tired of all the driving. So events conspired to cut short my stay at the Duke of York. I probably would've settled in by the end of my second term and done just fine, but other adventures awaited. I was about to be given a motorcycle.