Yours truly is in this sleepy little town called Entebbe for a couple of weeks – on assignment.
That means that he doesn’t get to go home as regularly as he used to, so it is not at all a bad thing that I am staying where the “assignment” is.
There is just one problem; Entebbe is a collection of little villages and mostly colonial-style dwellings on the shores of Lake Victoria that could have been picturesque had Ugandans known how to create paradise by the lake which they don’t. The rents in Entebbe nonetheless go for anything over $800 a month, thanks in large measure to the massive United Nations (UN) contingency that has settled here. To put the ridiculous rental prices in perspective, I rented a nice 2-bedroom, two and a half bath apartment in a respectable part of Kampala, Uganda’s capital, for years until two months ago at $350 a month.
Everyone who learned what I was paying screamed in horror because it was on the higher end of the scale Kampala’s blue-collar rentals go for. In Entebbe $350 might get you a one-room in a shared house in a bland neighborhood with questionable security – if you search high and low. The best places have all been taken up … by the UN for their staff.
But it is not about a place to live that one’s medulla oblongata is being exercised. No, my gripe with Entebbe is all together of a different albeit related nature – what to do with oneself once the sun sets.
There is absolutely nothing to do in Entebbe other than to go out to the few bars, most of which cater to … yes, you guessed it … UN [read mostly white people] types.
So, the bars serve up very expensive tipple, the food is equally ridiculously priced and any remotely respectable watering hole comes complete with a disproportionate share of female prostitutes, all of whom quickly ingratiate themselves on you, breathing down your neck while, all the while, trying to figure out how to pilfer your drink if they can’t sink their grubby talons into your wallet which most of them haven’t the class or guile to manage.
Don’t get me wrong, if a girl wishes to make money off her belonging, all power to her. It’s just that in our day money girls (women?) spoke in soft, sultry, cultured tones, seemed effortlessly ageless, held their heads regally high, and carried themselves in a way that, to quote from Absolutely Fabulous’ Patsy Stone, gave their business a whole air of respectability. Yet they could seduce the Pope faster than he could say “Holy Father” and many of them amassed cars, properties and children that didn’t resemble each other which was usually the giveaway about their shady sexual activities. But it was all mostly done quietly, with dignity.
The whores of yonder years also knew how to keep their mouths shut about the tricks they were turning and we still talk about their exploits in amazement without, however, knowing exactly how they managed to juggle so many women’s husbands at a time when everyone literally knew everyone else and it would have been nigh on impossible for so many men to have been ensnared into these women’s bosoms without it becoming the talk of the town, let alone agreeing to part with tracts of land, businesses and upkeep for bastard children they thought were theirs but were usually not.
Today’s whores are diseased-looking, hungry floosies with terrible weaves, incompetently applied make-up, knock-off shoes that are too high for their spindly legs, and with barely-there-frocks that reveal too much nether stuff that makes you struggle to keep your lunch down. They are trashy, cantankerous harridans who get into ugly confrontations with potential customers and with themselves at the drop of a hat. But they are as ubiquitous in Entebbe’s bars as lake flies, thanks in part to … the UN factor.
A drowning man grasps at straws so yours truly has over the past few days been visiting this bar that seems reasonably popular with both local and UN types, a mixed crowd you could call it. The whores here, on top of being all the other nasty things already mentioned, try too hard to speak English, making you cringe in embarrassment at their risible efforts. Even when you try to save them from biting themselves as they try to fashion a coherent sentence, they muscle you back into English, perhaps on the assumption that if you don’t speak English you don’t have what it takes to pay their way.
That is another difference between the whores of yonder years and those of today; the madams of the 70s and 80s said little, no doubt relying on their womanly wiles and deep understanding of men. The night madams of our time were no doubt an all together better raised lot than today’s hustling hussies, of that you can be sure.
But this was really supposed to be about the stifling ennui that threatens to engulf and suffocate me in this drowsy place called Entebbe that someone recently referred to, rather too flatteringly if you ask me, as the gateway to Uganda.
Surely there must be a place where the locals [read black people] go to for their evening tipple and social well-being! But maybe this was indeed about whores after all and I just got muddled in trying to decide whether Entebbe is dull despite the ghetto-fabulous trollops or because of them.
Even as I prepare to leave this place, hoping not to return to live too quickly, it’s safe to say that unless you are a retiree or geriatric ready to exit this existence mentally, physically or both, Entebbe is best taken in very light doses – quickly – in what the Americans dubbed the ‘whistle-stop tour’ during Harry Truman’s time.
Then you leave as quickly as possible to go and find a world that still has a pulse.