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31 ounces of alomo bitters


My thriving, long-term relationship with maquis – cheap outdoor bars with plastic tables and chairs, tunes playing, brochettes grilling, cold beer – began in Ghana at a small neighborhood bar in the Labone neighborhood of Accra.

The bartender there introduced me to Alomo Bitters. On its own, Alomo Bitters tastes like fermented tree bark, which I believe is actually one of the ingredients. But if you mix it with a bit of gin and lime, kind of like a gimlet, you can drink it until the sun comes up.

I am in Ohio right now. I will be heading back to Mali in 6 days. I was sitting here thinking about that alomo bitters cocktail. And I wanted one. But Alomo Bitters can only be purchased in Ghana and Nigeria.

No worries. I can improvise almost unconsciously (West Africa has provided me with this skill), so I sub in Angostura bitters, and I am enjoying sips of this highly drinkable cocktail between keystrokes.

Why am I dusting off the blog? Mostly because I have a bit of free time while I shelter in place until the Republican National Convention gets out of town. I didn’t plan on writing anything. I don’t have any organized thoughts to share. But I just turned 31. So here comes 31 bullet points of whatever is on my mind.

1. A lot of people ask me if I get culture shock when I come back to the US. In general, I don’t. But I also don’t typically come home when the Republican National Convention is taking place twenty minutes down the road. This circus would be great entertainment if it were fictional, but it’s real and it’s terrifying.

Steve King is an elected member of congress.

2. At some point, my wife and I may very well come to the United States to live. Or maybe we won’t. How do I explain this shit to her? To my child?

3. I am also experiencing another little morsel of culture shock. I am finding it hard to come to terms with the fact that we live in a period of time where it’s possible to be poisoned by your municipal water supply, while it’s also possible to catch fucking pokemons in augmented reality. Don’t these two things belong in separate eras? Separate centuries?

4. The current state of Malian politics is worrying in its own way. A flat-footed, corrupt administration repeating the mistakes of years past after squandering unprecedented political capital following the 2013 election. Most of the opposition is washed up and recycled former politicians, many of whom have also been accused of corruption. At least these politicians are not preaching racism and xenophobia.

5. I am listening to this Ramata Diakite song right now. She may be my favorite singer from Wassoulou. Died too young after a long fight with Hep A. RIP Ramata.

5. Remember when Mali signed that peace accord? It’s really not going well. In fact, it has been a disaster. RIP to the soldiers that died in this attack. Let’s hope that no civilians are caught up in reprisals.

7. Rose the Champion Dancer as a baby.


That made me feel better

8. I really don’t think Trump will win, but… I don’t think he can win because of demographics and the sheer incompetence and disorganization of his campaign. That said, I have had conversations with Trump supporters since I’ve been back home, and their allegiance is frightening.

Many of these conversations remind me of something said by Michael Gove, the former education ministry of Britain who campaigned for the UK to leave the EU:

“I think people in this country,” declared Vote Leave’s Michael Gove, “have had enough of experts.” His fellow Brexiteers were quick to back him up. “There is only one expert that matters,” said Labour MP Gisela Stuart, also of Vote Leave, “and that’s you, the voter.”

Trump supporters run into an inconvenient piece of information, and they deny it, or ignore it, or just shout about illegals and Muslims and change the subject. They have succeeded in blocking out the real world. That’s not unusual. Lots of people are politically close minded and refuse to have a level discussion. What’s astonishing is the number of people that are going to bat for all of the nonsense this man has said. For this group of people, Trump can say whatever he wants. He can weather any scandal. As he himself said, he could shoot someone on 5th avenue and it wouldn’t affect his support. Even if Trump loses, these people aren’t going away.

9. I follow Siddhartha Mitter for commentary that keeps me sane and grounded :

I said I was going to write 31 bullet points. I lied. I’m not used to all of this political ruminating. It’s exhausting, and it’s giving me anxiety. Je suis fatigué.

K’an kelen kelen wuli (may we wake up one by one in Bamanankan)

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{ 3 comments… add one }

  • Jeff July 20, 2016, 4:46 am

    Phil, you should write more but that will mean you have less time for us mortals.

    Enjoy your holiday and have save travels. See you soon.

  • Benjamin July 20, 2016, 12:54 pm

    Dammit Phil! I want my other 22 bullet points! I guess I’ll just have to get them this weekend. I miss reading your posts dude.

    Point number 2 is a tough one man. I’m wrestling with that one myself. My mom was a monthly subscriber to Teaching Tolerance. http://www.tolerance.org/. There was always a stack of these lying around every corner of our house growing up. Some good content in there.

    It’s an impossible time to not be ruminating on everything that is happening politically and socially. It is exhausting. And frustrating. And baffling. It’s also important.

    From KG’s facebook post a few months back:

    “Ask the Spaniard who’s unemployed. Ask the North Korean who’s starving. Ask the senior American who’s eating dog food. Ask the Palestinian who’s waiting for a little peace. Or the Israeli. Ask the small business owners all over the world who’d like the chance to make a living for their families. Ask the indigenous people who are forced off their ancestral land. Ask the homeless and penniless Syrian. Ask the mother whose kids have been permanently poisoned by the water in Flint, Michigan. Does “politics” matter? You bet.”

  • Janet Gluck July 20, 2016, 2:11 pm

    Phil, I love your blogs! I too wish you could write more.
    Your #3 point (pokeman/poisoned water) was my favorite – you captured the insanity of the US perfectly.

    best regards,

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