Pure Madness

My thoughts on the "behind the scenes" of life. You will find inspiration here. Share it generously


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#MakeItHappen

It’s International Women’s Day on Sunday 8th March. Women in Kenya have come a long way. Growing up, there are so many things that a boy child will get away with that a girl won’t. While boys are out taking risks, breaking bones, playing in the mud, falling off trees, rolling inside tyres, skinny dipping, getting home after dark and leaving early the next day before sunrise for more adventure, the girl is at home. “Safe.”

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Where is the girl, when the boy is creating, destroying and rebuilding stuff? Where is the girl when the boy is learning how it feels to be celebrated when he scores for his team?  Where is the girl when the boy is learning to trust himself as he learns to ride his friends’ bike? Where is the girl when the boy is learning to take risks? She is at home. “Safe”.

Behave like a girl. So they say. A girl is clean and tidy. A girl does not climb on trees or ride bikes. A girl does not sit like that or talk like that. Don’t slouch walk upright, like a girl. What kind of a girl comes home “looking like a boy?” A girl does not play with boys. No, they are not to be trusted. They are always up to no good those boys.

Go wash the dishes and when you are done, please tidy up your brother’s room. You know how irresponsible he is (as if cleaning his room for him will somehow make him more responsible.) Set the table, clear it and make your father some tea, you know how he likes it before he goes to bed. It’s almost dark go call your brother (and he better not touch anything before he showers am sure he looks like a squirrel.)That marks the life of a girl’s childhood.

Sadly, even after spending a lot of time around her mother, the next phase of her life catches them both by surprise.Periods, cramps, mood swings and major body adjustments. No one prepares her for the changes. She eventually learns the hard way; on her own. Meanwhile the boy will only get a few pimples here and there, break their voices and just like the girls, hair may appear in “unlikely places.”

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Soon after, the girl,now a lady leaves her parents’ home gets a job, gets married, becomes a wife and shortly after, a mother. This means more changes to her name, her body (her skin, her weight, her nails, her hair) her health (blood pressure, dizziness, fainting) her moods, her emotions, her lifestyle and her responsibilities. A few more years and she is the one yelling, “Act like a girl!”

You would be forgiven to think that’s all the woman goes through. Another change happens – Menopause. Hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, increased irritability, insomnia (and not because the husband sleeps so well that he snores), depression, decreased libido, weight gain among other changes. All these changes take place while life demands that she still fulfills her other responsibilities as a wife, mother, daughter, employer/employee, sister, friend, citizen not forgetting herself and the things she likes.

That’s not all that most women go through. Most women will be robbed the opportunity to get a good education, make an informed decision about their career, family planning and civic responsibilities like voting. Girls will undergo Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM-C), while others will be married off at early age. Their chance for a better future will be traded for a few goats. They will walk miles and miles to fetch us water, lack adequate maternal healthcare, work tirelessly in our farms, sleep late and wake up early to make sure everyone else is ready and has what they need for their day.

Every man will tell you; say what you want about my father or anyone else but if you mention my mother, be sure blood will be spilt. Every man is overprotective of his wife, sisters and daughters. But our country is still not safe for our women. Why is a society that is nurtured and brought up predominantly by women, still so insecure and a threat to the same women to the point of causing them harm?

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We can never bear the responsibilities that women do but surely, we can support them and champion them to greatness. It’s our turn as husbands, fathers, brothers and sons to encourage the women to step up and step out. To pursue their dreams as we did ours. It’s our turn to give back.

You can buy her a mansion and employ subordinate staff for her so that she never has to move a muscle. You can take her for a holiday around the world. That’s not even a privilege in comparison to what mothers sacrifice for their children. We can never give back what they have given. But there is something we can do. There must be. We can empower them.

The greatest myth buster is for us men to fight for equal opportunities for women. To judge them based on skill and ability as opposed to gender. If we can entrust them with a family, we can entrust them with a community. If we can entrust them with a community we can entrust them with a country. What else should women do to prove that they can lead? Yet we let them down year in, year out.

Men, it’s our turn to #MakeItHappen for our women. Our actions, more than our voices, need to be heard now more than ever. FGM would be a thing of the past if men said so, early marriages, teenage pregnancies and girls dropping out of school would be a tale if men wanted it to be. Crimes against women including rape and violence against women would be unheard of if men chose to stand up for women.

Surely the time has come. It’s our turn to nurture and support the women. There is nothing weak or cowardly about that. On the contrary, it’s a sign of strength and courage to stand up for someone else. Giving women the opportunity to be great is more than a right or a privilege. It is an honor! We can start the change and form a new culture for generations after us.

You and I can #MakeItHappen. Have an inspired International Women’s Day.

Edited by: Wanjiku Kimaru

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Don’t Fall Any Further, Father

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I had a good father. Actually, I have very fond memories of him. Unfortunately, they are just two. One of them he came with a left handed Land Cruiser, and the other with truck. I remember these two times because they made an impression and gave me the chance to brag about my absent father to my ever present friends.

When I was growing up, family was the heart of everything. Respect was not negotiable. Our small community (neighbors) was made up of my mum’s colleagues. Everyone else in that community saw and interacted with their fathers daily while my dad came once in a while. (If I can remember well, a long while)

Luckily, my community knew I had a father. The only problem, they had only seen him once. So as kids, when we started talking about our fathers and the super powers they possessed, you can imagine how left out I used to feel. I however learnt to compensate. I refused to have a simple dad working far away from home and so I made up one that came late in the night and left very early in the morning.

Since none of my friends families had a car, I maximized on that weakness. Most of them had seen truck that my father came with that was so huge that he had to park it at the police station (Also because that was what the Red Cross protocol dictated). I remember my dad once carried us with that truck to Kitale. I have never felt more powerful. I have no idea how my mother agreed to that arrangement. They must have fought all night or my dad kidnapped us and since there were no mobile phones then, there was nothing she could do. The truck (I think it was either a Volvo or a Mercedes) was so high that I had to be lifted to get the steps. Maybe the fact that I was small also made the truck seem bigger but hey, I still reserve bragging rights.

Since that trip, none of my friends would rob me of the chance to connect any conversation with that day. Whatever we talked about, if my friends said something about their fathers that I did not have a comeback, I would turn the story back to that day and they needed a comeback and often they did not have. That’s how pathological liars are bred.

I don’t know what I would have without those two memories. They took me through my childhood but sadly they were not sufficient for my teenage. My teenage was filled with a deeper pain because my father had passed on, and I had squeezed the juice out of the truck story. Now, I needed answers not tales. Honestly if it were up to me, no child would have to grow up without a father. I would rather there was “father for hire” services to walk with kids through their teenage years. It is very lonely. Most of us will never admit it but our world is much heavier, much colder and much darker growing up without a father figure.

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Speaking of father figures, recently over 3000 women in Kajiado came together to ask the government to allow them to undergo Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Yes I said 3000. When I saw that story, I was shocked, my heart raced and I had mixed feelings. To date, I still don’t know what to make of that event. I have a few concerns about the “meeting”.

First, most of the women who spoke and addressed the crowd were all elderly women. I couldn’t help but wonder if they had already “undergone the procedure” and if they had, why did they want it to be legalized? Why did we not see or hear the voices of young girls who had not “had the procedure”? I felt played.

 I thought the Anti-FGM bill that was passed in September 2011 was supposed to protect these communities and especially the women. But here were 3000 women saying they wanted the practice, voluntarily to the point that the County Commissioner (the government) had to consult the elders before addressing the women. The story is the same in Baringo County where even the elite still undergo “the procedure”. Friends, I think we urgently need that national dialogue with members of these communities. There must be something we are missing. Otherwise, we risk having the practice being done in secrecy and hence increasing the risks of death and other infections. I say we dialogue! Soon.

This brings me to my last concern; As the Kajiado women spoke, the men watched from a distance. One of them who was later interviewed about “the meeting” and he said in part …”It is their choice (women). It’s what they want…” At this point I felt like I had swallowed my heart. My stomach churned. I will tell you why. The fact that the men were watching from a distance in my view, was the loudest statement they made. Whatever their opinion on the matter was, the sidelines are never the right places to make a statement. Sidelines are for cowards. The unsure, doubtful and the fearful.

If this was an issue for women, aren’t they are your women? Stand with them, don’t watch from a distance as though you are herding. That was the wrong stand. Secondly, we never heard what the men want. We only heard what the women wanted. Who knows if the men dragged them there and that’s why they were watching from a distance?

 What impact would the men’s voice add to the situation? It doesn’t matter. We would have known what they think. We would have known if they were willing to marry a woman who has not undergone “the procedure”? We would have known if they support “the meeting “or not. We needed to hear their voice! FGM is not just another cultural practice.

Whatever decision these women made that day, it will affect generations to come. Silence on the sidelines was a weak statement I dare say. This is not about whether to perform the procedure or not. (We will talk about that as well) but about the man’s voice and his authority in this delicate situation. Had the 3000 men; fathers, brothers and husbands to these women said something, the government and the entire nation would have listened and we would possibly have an obvious way forward.

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But these men are not alone. As men our voice has been growing weaker and weaker. The only place that this voice seems to be loudest is in politics. But even there, our voice is rarely about real issues. We don’t talk as heads of families and communities. We talk as individuals. We only represent our interests.

What will happen ten years from now? What will become of us fathers, brothers, husbands uncles, and nephews – Men. What are we saying by not saying anything? What are we saying by not speaking up for the right causes?

 

What a great responsibility we have. Our voice in the family and in the community is critical. How can we dare keep quiet? It’s Fathers Day, no need to fall any further.

Here is a link to the FGM Act 2011:

http://www.law.georgetown.edu/rossrights/chapters/documents/ProhibitionofFemaleGenitalMutilationAct2011.pdf

 And a Video coverage of one of “the meetings”

http://mtaani.com/videochannel/32721/dpp-warns-maasai-women-against-supporting-fgm/


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Its time for the Heart-Run!

Last weekend was The Mater Heart Run and apart from the madness that is traffic on such days, it is a noble event. I wish more publicity was done around the lives you touch when you participate and with the funds you raise.

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Last week however, I  was involved in a different kind “heart run”.  I decided to run away from my heart. We broke up and went our different ways. I couldn’t take it anymore. I can’t say I am heartbroken but I have definitely lost heart.

You should too if you haven’t. How many times have you trusted your heart and it let you down? How many times have you followed your heart and ended up lost? How many times have you given “with all your heart” only to get nothing but a heartache in return?

When it comes to heart issues, we are all so gullible. We get irrational. Think about it. How many songs have been sang about this component of our lives called the heart? One artist actually sang “Unbreak my heart” and the song became a hit.

Really, unbreak-my-heart? First there is no such word as “Unbreak”. But we’ll let that pass. Why would such a song become a hit? We might as well sing the song “rebreak” my heart!

What is it with our hearts? I remember my mum used to say that she loves me (with all her heart) but she hates the sin in my heart. She always made it clear that the beating I was about to partake was to remove the sin from my heart. But she never punished the heart. Every other part of the body felt the pain (for a couple days) while my heart went on to covet the same thing I had been punished for.

I have never understood the heart and honestly, I gave up trying. Relationships are the most ridiculous exhibitions of places the heart can take you. You have everything working for you and you are happy with where you are and what you have.

Then another person comes along and tells that “he/she loves you with all their heart. What do you do?  You start dating and maybe eventually get married. All because someone told you that they loved you with all their heart? Hasn’t your own heart mislead you before? Now you want to trust someone else’s heart while you don’t trust your own?

The shocking bit is that we invest so much in going to school to learn how to make good choices (to use our heads) only to go out and do very “strange” things in the name of the heart. You know (with your head) the kind of guy you should date and you have well laid out reasons. A few giggles later, coffee then lunch then a heartache.

Ever wondered where the brain goes in moments when you are “thinking with your heart”? How come it’s only after the heartache that we “can see clearly”? How powerful is this heart that it throws out all reason and the things we have painfully learnt to over the years only to land us in trouble and pain over and over again?

If you are willing to spend your life trying to understand the ways of your heart you will be seriously disappointed. To be more explicit, you have got to be out of your mind (otherwise referred to as mad or insane) to embark on a journey to know your heart. You will fail. Every time. I would know.

What will take for you to stop trusting your heart that much? What will it take for you to turn and stop following your heart? Into how many pieces must your heart break for you to stop listening to it? What makes your heart better than any other part of your body? I wish you trusted your legs more because they can run. I wish you trusted your eyes more because they can see. But trusting your heart over everything else? Are you out of your mind!

I have found a remedy. It’s very simple. Run! Let everyday that you are alive be a heart –run day. Unlike the brain, the heart is very deceitful; it will desire what it knows it shouldn’t have and want it knows it can’t get. You can never quench its thirst or satisfy its appetite. Run I say. The mind has never offered to pump blood yet heart often offers to think. Why? Why won’t the heart mind its own business?

Well my friends today you and I feast from the same table. None of us (mad or otherwise) can out run our hearts. But I sure do try and you should too. The heart is deceitful. One day it will lead you in an exceptional memorable journey the next day drag you in the dungeons of pain, shame and regret. One day it will bring with it success and glory, the next day failure and loss. Why would you trust such an erratic formula? It sounds like a pyramid scheme!

 Truth be told. Your heart is your greatest investment. You chose whether to invest it in high risk or low risk returns. One thing is guaranteed. It will yield returns but just like every worthwhile investment; not without a few loses.

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Every human being mad or sane, young or old woman or man, you are not exempt from the battles of the heart; the battle FOR the heart, the battle FROM the heart and the battle OF the heart.

Enjoy your heart-run.

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HbC5j_L9MuY&feature=kp

 


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I Regret Not Regretting

There are certain things that even madness cant shield you from; pain, regret and in most cases, both. 

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I laugh when I hear “normal” people talk about living a life without regrets. That’s madness. Why would you want to live a life without regret? As long as you have choices, you will have regret. Maybe your understanding of regret is different from mine. I am a Mad Man but allow me to share my insanity for sanity’s sake.

My mother like most mums from her time, had very “crude” methods of “rewarding” bad choices. If I, using the power vested in me to make decisions made a bad choice like going to play after showering or playing (read skiing) in a puddle of mud, she would ask me one question; “My son, (affirmation first because what she was about to do would make me doubt that status) did you have a good time playing in the mud?”

Now, if your mum went to the same school as my mum, torturing the victim before “the kill” was a crucial element of the discipline process. If I said I enjoyed myself, she would tell me to prepare to enjoy a beating as well. If I said I did not enjoy myself, she would ask me why I did not stop doing the wrong thing when my seemingly functional brain told me I was doing the wrong thing. Punishment for the second response was doubled. 

That wasn’t the torture bit. My own mother (not one for hire) would then behave as if she has forgiven me and forgotten. ( The torture begins) I, in return would also behave as if I have been forgiven and would try to forget what I thought was coming. I would shower thoroughly and in record time, (this is a tough task for any boy child) pick a story book and read (trust me that was enough self affliction). I ignored the lures of the demon in front of me (TV) no matter what the show was; The Rich Also Cry, No One But You, Dunia Wiki Hii, Professional View, KBL Festival of Darts -The best family show of my time, you name it, I would ignore it.

After dinner, which always seemed to me as “The last supper”, especially because I prayed fervently that the lord would take away the cup of suffering that awaited me, I would proceed to tell my mum goodnight hoping that her response would be something like “Go your way and sin no more” or better yet “let him who has no sin cast the first stone”.

My mother being the diplomatic leader of the house would ask me; “Do you know what your mistake is?” A question that only incited one response. “Yes”. The woman (formerly known as my mum) would then proceed to beat (hit, strike thrash, bang, hammer, pound, punch, thesaurus – I did not know that this word was a synonym of “beat” but it does come close to what that woman would do i.e. Thesaurus me!)

This silly heart would wake up the following morning having forgotten what happened previous evening! It would even succumb to my mothers “bribery” of great pancakes before heading out to do the same thing that made me go to sleep cursing myself and swearing never again. Oh foolish heart, I wonder from whence thee came?

This unfortunately is the story of many of us.  A father who loses his temper and hits his wife is tormented by his action and swears that he will never do it again. After a few drinks, he heads home. Enough said.

A young lady in love defies her parents pleas and moves in with the man of her dreams. A year later she is back home with a son, shattered dreams, a broken heart and a broken arm. She swears “Men are beasts! Catch me dead with another man”. That was then. Her mother recently passed on from high blood pressure but she still wont stop “seeing” that violent married man. “He apologized” She says.

After aborting once in high school, she said she would never have sex again leave alone unprotected sex. She was only 14. A few years later, I met her at the clinic. Her fourth abortion cost her her uterus. She will never know the joy holding her own baby in her arms. She is contemplating suicide. 

It was his first time. He was tired of being teased about being a virgin by his friends. It started as an itch that wont go away then a pimple. He went to the clinic and they did a test. Then another, and another. He is starting his ARV dose today. The one time that he did it, that one time that the house girl agreed to do it with him will forever remain in his mind.

What about you, yes I saw you too. With that woman you swore to your wife if she gives you a second chance, you would never (ever) talk to her. (emphasis yours) It was you. Wasn’t it? You were deleting your texts clearing your browsing history, taking mints after a smoke, taking just one more drink. Yes. it was you coming out of that hotel ten minutes after he had left just as you agreed.

After what it almost cost you, after the pain and the heart break? After losing everything, your job your family, your money? After you swore “Never again”.. Here you are. Wait, here she is, There they are. Here we are! Again?. 

Live a life without regret so they said. They were wrong!

I say live a life full of regret (be sorry, be apologetic, be repentant, be unhappy, lament, thesaurus – there is that word again…yes do even that).  Why wouldn’t you want to be sorry, apologetic, repentant or unhappy about your mistakes? What other treatment would you prescribe to a mistake if not regret?

So go ahead; regret every mistake. I said regret not repeat. Regret.

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But what do I know, am just a Mad Man who regrets talking to people who have no regrets.


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The Exit Strategy

I am often surprised at how attached we get to “our things”. 

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Even mad people, and trust me I would know, have their own level of attachment to their things, Try and grab anything a mad man is holding. You try. 

If you are a parent you know “this madness” starts quite early in life. Your own kids will pull tantrums for you if you take away a toy that you bought them. Try withdrawing certain privileges that you have given them and see their reaction. Utter Madness! Who gave them that right? Its your money. You chose to buy the toy for them without asking them and here they are now, owning it.

I tell you madness is in the heart of every child! My mother possessed a different kind of madness; if you disobeyed her because of something she bought you, she would take it, break it and then “break” you. I would never allow my mother to chose a wife for me. Never! Am I mad? No really, am I mad? 

So lets talk about this “ownership madness” disease that infects every child and refuses to respond to any sensible medication including growing up. Sadly, no vaccine has been developed so far that can prevent you form getting infected by this disease. In fact it gets worse as you grow older. I have evidence.

Lets take it from the top or rather from the beginning. Unless in very rare situations, you are born with nothing, naked. They slap your behind maybe to punish you for bringing yourself into this world. They should anyway. You should have known better! That notwithstanding, you begin your journey. 

Somehow this “ownership disease” manages to convince you that the world revolves around you. So you cry when you feel like, poop immediately your diaper has been changed, wake everyone up because you cant sleep, make grown ups stoop as low as to forsake their language to talk to you in strange sounds ( a goo goo goo goo) just to see you smile. One would think that sun wont rise if you don’t smile. Despite all these efforts, you still cry.

It gets worse, you become a teenager. You think you are the first of your kind to exist. You think the rest of us were born adults. Everything now is dependent on how you feel. And you often don’t feel like a lot of things most of the time. When asked why you did or did not do something, your well thought out answer is… “I don’t feel like” Oh and you think “Just” is a complete statement worth giving as a response. Let me break it down a little so that you can see how deeply this condition runs in you.

Mum: (your mother who carried you around for a good 9 months) Davie, why dint you take out the trash? (I have to admit even as a mad man that at times she means why you (the trash) did not leave the house and not why you did not empty the trash bin, trust me – a mad man – they will never admit it).

Davie: (Feeling as if that’s the hardest most intrusive question anyone could ever ask especially as you watch your parents TV seated comfortably on their couch): Just!

I rest my case.

You think the disease wouldn’t affect the grown ups right? Wrong. Its worse. Our toys are different. Salaries, accomplishments and image take over. Your toys; bigger cars, newest gadgets and the prettiest ladies. Nothing wrong with that? I agree. But lets take a closer look for a moment.

You take a loan to buy a car so that you can be like the rest of your friends while your family struggles to make ends meet. You leave your husband and kids for another man because  “You think you made a mistake”. You live a lie, to fit in! You want what everyone else has at whatever cost and you are ready to compromise anything to get it. You cant see what you already have because you want what you don’t have!

You get ulcers, you get high blood pressure, you get a stroke and your heart finally stops. It cant take it any more. We who are left, behind talk of the amazing toys you left behind. While you, you wonder if it was worth it after all. All moments you missed chasing after the next “new thing”. All the energy you spent gathering and protecting what “you owned” none of that matters anymore.

And there, as you lie there. It finally occurs to you. This is the same way you came. With nothing. There is nothing you can do. None of your toys can be traded for more time or more life. Nothing. Your kids say good bye to the stranger who lived in their house for a really long time and was kind enough to buy them a couple of good things. All you can take with you in exceeding measure is “what ifs”. 

That,s not the end of the disease. Far from it. The rest of us go back to our toys and soon enough we are back on the fast lane. Looking out for number one. Acquiring the news gadget at the expense of the real deal; family, friends, societal impact. (Yeah that’s  so 1912 right?)

What is madness I ask. You see it everyday. I do too. But what do I know anyway? I am just a Mad Man right?


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Changing Time

If foxes have holes, surely even a mad man can find a home somewhere, anywhere on the streets of Nairobi to lay his head right? Well I have to admit it must be the mad people peak season because competition is high nowadays. Street families have take over every comfortable corner of this town. 

Yes a mad man does need his comfort as well. Its not comfort the way you normal people know it, but we too need a place to lay our heads. A stone and a worn out carton have often provided this much needed comfort but that comfort has in the last few days been threatened. I wonder if the devil of (in) devolution wants homeless people homeless. Quite profound if you think about it (don’t think about it).

Well, back to matters sanity, so yes, I did eventually find a nice well lit place on Kenyatta Avenue next to a night club. Kudos to the Chinese for the new bright lights they have mounted near junctions. Those traffic lights weren’t bright enough. Anyway, as I organized my house for the night, I noticed something very odd. I know I’m a mad man but I too see things that I find off, from my already off point of view.

How can a decent, very well dressed lady (from my judgement and standards) undress in front of the whole world only to wear something extremely indecent from anyone’s perception mad or otherwise! I sat up not to enjoy the view, well I can not quantify that but I still couldn’t believe my eyes. To make it worse, its wasn’t just one lady they were quorum!(The better for normal people I think)

Its very hard for mad man to multi task because I ended up staying up for quite a while observing (no longer seeing or watching) these seemingly normal people undress only dress up as if they are still undressed! One after another one lady after another. So I ended up doing the unthinkable, I thought!

Growing up as a normal child ( I must have been) every woman was a holy being including baby girls. The world had certain expectations of them; how they dressed, how they sat, how they walked, who they were seen with. I can actually remember, vaguely, my sisters literally running so that my mum wouldn’t catch them talking to a normal looking boy!

So pardon me if I see it as abnormal for ladies to undress in the middle of town. But imagine with me, you and the other people in my head, what could have happened to a lady to make her so cold and so blind that she looses her intricate delicate demeanour? (I’m mad!)  

What would make a lady loose herself so much that she cant see anything wrong or strange with undressing in public? I, we us (the not normal fraternity) don’t undress in public! Its not and never feels normal for us to do that.  I have a few thoughts though (literally just a few). One,these ladies have seen it all. The things they have done or have let others do to and with them, cant compare to undressing in public. 

Maybe they never thought they would ever get to that point either but here they are now, doing it. They are naked and not ashamed. They have probably given away so much of themselves that what you see is just a shell of the who they once were. The cover is still the same but that’s the only thing that has remained. The cover.

My other thought is maybe I saw my own things. It wouldn’t be the first time that has happened. Maybe my mind or lack of it, was playing tricks on me. No lady would do that right?

Here is my conclusion though, do you see that girl? As a father, do you see that daughter? As a husband, do you see that wife? As a brother, do you that sister? As a man, do you see that woman? I don’t mean look. I said see! Well if you don’t see her then she will find someone else who will see her and probably ask for a better view. 

If you do see her, then let her know that you do. I might be a mad man but I know the value of being seen. I see how everyone looks at me like I am a mad man. But I too see mad people everyday and if you have a woman in your life that you look at everyday and cant see her, you need to find your own corner. This one is taken.

But what do I know, am just a mad man right?