Home » The winding Road. » This Man Charlie…Exited Stage Right!

This Man Charlie…Exited Stage Right!

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When on a road trip, you look for certain landmarks that tell you where you are. You might also look for the same in order to get back on track. Charlie was a landmark and more recently a GPS for me and I am sure to many other people. Lately, if you visited Kisumu, you needed to stop at “Your Choice”. For me it was not just to get a drink and jollificate and a walk down memory lane with Charlie and his buddies, but more to check the old landmark out and see that I was still on track and my friend Charlie and his friends there provided for that excellently. Charlie had established a landmark out of himself that captured his character and personality of warmth, friendship, kindness, empathy, love of the good in life and people, satisfaction and comfort. Charlie and his place served all those in equal measure to all who stopped by to visit.

First time I walked into his place in Kisumu was 2010, it had been a while since we had last met in Nairobi at the theater. There he was. seated on a lounge armchair at the entrance to his joint, dressed in this big mumu shirt and sandals on his feet, surrounded by a posse of very interesting fellas enjoying their sun-downer and banter galore on every topic under the sun. Wenge BCBG was booming from the speakers and it brought back memories of our Alabama at Kenyatta Market! I found my North and felt at home instantly.

Charlie let out a whoop when he saw me from a distance and he got up to meet me and I prepped myself for what was a crushing bear hug. Needless to say there was a lull in activity and everybody paused to check out who this was that merited that kind of welcome. Hehehe! He brought me back to the gang and they all rose to shake hands as I was introduced. Some instantly remembered me from our college days. Needless to say, we had a most exhilarating time and in the course of the evening I was inducted as a fellow into the “Institute of Chartered Drinkers” by one hilarious fellow!

I first met Charlie in Mombasa at the Little Theater Club and our friendship was instant. We did so much stuff together including being members of the Mombasa Memorial Cathedral choir led by the super soprano Rosebud Mubiru. Others from LTC and also in the choir were Esther Kassimu (RIP), Catherine Ngaracu and Judy Kudwoli nee Akech. I know!…Surprise yeah! Yes Charlie was a church goer and was there religiously seated in the church choir pew along with the other basses ready for the service to begin. Many times after church we congregated at his house in Buxton for that famous oven broiled mbuzi (goat meat) and warus (potatoes) and of course the “baridi”!

Charlie’s wedding to Maria, and at which I was a bridesmaid, was held at the Catholic cathedral…a testament to Charlie’s versatility in his matters of faith and God. His wife was Catholic and Charlie consented to a wedding at the Catholic church and not his regular Protestant one. The reception was naturally held at the LTC where moja baridi and stories and taunting of Salim the waiter would go on until the wee hours. This is also where we also meet the other side of Charlie. The artist, the organizer and producer / director.

Charlie’s magnetic personality drew people to him like water is to parched earth. He liked to share anything interesting he found with those around him. He paradoxically had a shy personality and sometimes seemed not to be aware of the effect he had on people. So one day when I visited him at his house, he asked me to listen to the album Ipi Tombi and then he mumbled something about a stage play based on the same as he lit that inevitable mozo. I was blown out of my listening reverie and said to him…”That is huuuuge!”….He gave me this poker look face which meant he was serious and so I just asked him where and when he wanted to start. Then the big smile and he says…”You would know! You’re the actor! You would have to produce / direct because I couldn’t do it on my own!”

I got my first ever chance to produce and direct for LTC. And assisted by other LTC mavericks like Patrick Obath, Wangoi Kanyonyo, Jean Koch, Tom Muchura…and a tremendous cast we pulled off one of the best ever African theater musical performance to ever be seen on the LTC stage and possibly Kenya! It was great and suddenly Charlie was the go-to guy if you wanted to stage an African script here. The jinx on African theater was broken! He had opened the floodgates and shown the possibilities and soon more African plays tumbled onto the stage.

Charlie was like comfort food. He and that jolly rotund belly of his which he comported so well unlike other big belly people I have seen, and which he joked about incessantly, made you feel at home and like you were in the company of jolly Santa. He was light of foot despite his burly self and emanated tons of energy when he set out to do something. Every time was like Christmas with Charlie. He was hurly burly and had a joke for every situation. His laughter was liquid sunshine and it melted ones heart.

I talked to sis Eddy and hubby Olu and Charlie’s sister Grace this morning during which time they broke the news to me and we exchanged condolences. I said to Eddy…”You know…Glad we got our chance for one more time with Charlie in December last year!” Eddy said “Yeah! We sure did!”

And so this man Charlie performed his last and exited stage right. Charlie-Boy is gone but memories of him are powerful…The music he loved, the friends he made, the gardening he did in his backyard, the many fish tanks he built, the cooking and sharing, the hand in business and entertainment, the jokes, the laughter. This man Charlie has taken his road trip…but the landmarks of himself and the good friend he was to so many of us, will remain…Forever chiseled in the landscape of our memories.

So long buddy. So long Charlie.

©njeriOsaak is a trained Journalist, Public Relations Professional and a College Speech Communication Teacher / Consultant, currently based in the United States.

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15 thoughts on “This Man Charlie…Exited Stage Right!

  1. I felt like you were taking me through the Kenyan Theatre and people i have heard about never met maybe, but feel like i know them already, Njeri, Charlie must be chuckling… Beautiful tribute.

  2. Reading of uncle Charlie’s death and this piece at 6 am brought back memories of LTC where I would always get a hug from Uncle Charlie to encourage me when down.RIP uncle charlie you left a mark in my life

  3. A beautiful tribute you described him so well may his soul rest in peace condolences from Susan Athanasius and girls

  4. WOW! Njeri, this is such a beautifil tribute to Charlie! He was indeed a landmark. He will be missed terribly. Fare thee well Charlie, fare thee well!

  5. I remember him from LTC in Mombasa, he was always smiling, happy and very friendly…some faces you do not forget and Charlie was one of them…Rest in peace Charlie!

  6. I don’t know Njeri, but the tribute you have written about Charlie makes you a friend. You captured the spirit.

  7. This is an awesome tribute to a large man with a big heart . I can still hear his hearty laugh. Rest In Peace Uncle Charlie. You will forever be remembered, cherished and loved.

  8. Sis those words that you have penned so beautifully capture our friend our brother charlie throug your words i can see charlie i can hear him laughing see him smilling that smile that would always light up a crowd..i cans see through the mist charlie watching ipi tombi from the wings..yeah i can see the big man with a big warm heart…yes sis i thank God fo that wonderful december 2012 when we sat with charlie at his ka charlie your choice joint in kisumu…the songs we sang in the dead of the night…the jokes we laughed about…but now i can only hear the soind of silence…our charlie is way beyond the deep heavenly blue….will miss charlie…curtains down lights out…bye charlie……………………………………………………………

  9. Your words bring him right back… lovely, happy memories.. Reminds me of one of our camping trips in the chyulu Hills. We were having a sing-song, Greg Pragassa on his guitar, around the huge fire after a great meal (seasoned with whatever may have fallen in!!!) We sang in the call response style: Muchura-chura: chura, Muchura-chura: chura, chura, chura, chura, chura!!! He was so tickled!

  10. I did not know Charlie but I enjoyed reading your tribute to him. The article brought back memories of the places and people I knew back in Mombasa. I knew Esther Kassimu, Catherine Ngaracu and Judy Kudwoli. I now reside in the US.

  11. We lived together on top of “Your Choice Pub” You were like a dad to me.
    Still I can’t believe you are gone.
    I remember the educative bill board we put together at the balcony of the house ;“Real Men Don’t Rape Women”.
    I remember salary bargain principles you taught me: ” Always ask the employer. What am I taking home after all the deductions on the pay slip….what additional benefits am I getting?”

    I miss the Beer sessions (Daily sessions) we always had at “Your Choice Pub” while discussing African music, Origin of Benga Music, the best way to prepare Ngege. Rest In Peace Sweet Charlie

    I still cherish the secret recipe you left me with- Boling Meat with Neem tree (Muarubaini).

    Rest In Peace Sweet Charlie.

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