Wednesday, 15 July 2015

'Diamond Dave'

Dave smiled at the group, adjusted his ponytail, "I've only been shot down twice," he said, "in a helicopter." Silence.

Graham Greene said on a visit back to Sierra Leone in 1968, "Freetown a home from home for men who had not encountered success at any turn of the long road and who no longer expected it…”. I thought of Dave...

I've written previously of the 3 M's typically found in Africa amongst the expats. Mercenaries, Missionaries & Misfits. Dave is most certainly the latter.

A true character. He's real. He currently lives somewhere near Freetown. He's been around West Africa more than 30 years. He's a Canadian. From Toronto. He's nowhere left to go. He's stayed too long. He's recently entered his 8th decade. His girlfriend, a much earlier decade. He dreams of the 'big one'. He's running out of time...

He's made money. He's lost money. He's survived plenty of scrapes. He's had plenty of adventure. If a third of his stories are close to truth then he's lived at least two lives.

A tale of woe. Double dealing partners. Flakey investors. Misfortune. Treachery. Conspiracies. If only they'd believed. He wouldn't now be stuck in some West African backwater.

He's drank plenty, not now. He chases women, not so much now. He talks of menace and violence against those who've betrayed him. If only he could raise $10k for his latest venture, his life would take off. He's mostly bald on top. Has a ponytail, sometimes worn in a tight bob. He wears mostly black...

Diamond Dave has enjoyed previous incarnations. Coltan Dave, Gold Dave, Iron Dave, and more. For some reason enduring success has never visited. Unlikely now, but you never know... You do, but you don't...

That's the background. Here's the tale. A funny one...

First met Diamond Dave in 2012 at a private dinner. The second time, a few months later, a beach restaurant out of town. He joined the group I was with. Normal expat fare on a Sunday afternoon. Long lazy lunch of lobster, prawns, crab, barracuda, and a few bottles of wine. Dave only knew me. We'd met only briefly. He pulled up a chair and sat down.

Go around the table and tell 2 stories about yourself. One should be true, the other bull sh*t. I was worried about Diamond Dave, he'd already delivered a few tall stories. One involved a chimpanzee. Would he understand the concept. Dave was the last storyteller. Mood was excellent. Lots of laughing and banter.

Diamond Dave began his first story. He told of being a carpenter in the 1970s. A sort of handyman to the stars in Hollywood. Barbra Streisand would call him up and he'd fix her kitchen. Kris Kristofferson needed a door hanging. Rod Steiger, and so on... stunned silence.

Following a pause, Dave proceeded with his second story. This one was about a number of scrapes he'd been caught up in during various African conflicts. Resulted in him being shot down 3 times in a helicopter. More silence...

Everyone had to guess which story was true and which one was bull sh*t...

No good Dave, you'll have to tell us. He explained he'd been a sort of carpenter / handy man for a period of time in LA. And... wait for it... he'd only, in fact, been shot down twice. More wine anyone... deadpan delivery. You had to love this fellow.

I once asked him what he'd do if his boat finally came in. Just suppose his latest project / dream actually played out? A million bucks. What would he do? The reply was sad, but also strangely uplifting. Without missing a beat, he told me he'd open a nightclub on a Greek island. He'd invite me to the opening night.

I closed my eyes for a moment. I could imagine it. I really could. Dave would be stood there with a young lady on each arm, a sharp tuxedo, tanned, his remaining hair tight to his head in a neat ponytail, surveying with satisfaction a long line of patrons waiting to come into his club. The club would be called... 'Diamonds'.

I put the chances somewhere between being struck by lightning on a Monday afternoon on the 18th hole following an eagle putt, then surviving a shark attack Tuesday morning, then winning the lottery rollover Wednesday, and finally, and really stretching the odds, meeting a charming fragrant Frenchman for breakfast Thursday...

Diamond Dave, I wish you all the luck in the world. If a future post on this blog is flagged for a Greek island... his boat came in. I wanted to ask Dave if knew the capital of Greece. Of course we all know the answer to this one. About 27 Euros...

Something quite different in this post, introducing characters still around in these parts. Perhaps the secret is to get out while you can. Don't stay too long. Diamond Dave a loser? No, not all. Not in my book. I sit with him, I laugh. I always feel better for having sat with him. He's no loser.

The next post will be more regular fare. Tomorrow is the last delivery with the remaining funds from the Food Basket Appeal. It'll feature some characters from the past and also wrap up the appeal.

Eggs

When you've worked in Africa a long time you take pride in not being scammed as much as the greenhorns. I've been seen off so many times I've lost count.

Walking down Lumley Beach 2 Fridays ago with 'Our Man in Port Loko', we came across a 'sad sight'. A woman on all fours trying to scoop broken eggs back on to trays. She was crying and wailing with some bystander trying to console her.

Seemingly all the trays balanced on her head had fallen. A pitiful sight. I reached into my pocket and gave her Le 20,000 ($4). We walked on, the wailing intensified. 'Our Man in Port Loko' gave her a further Le 50,000 ($10). The lady was grateful and mentioned the Good Lord.

Turns out, when retelling this story, we were not the first to encounter the 'egg dropper'. Ingenuity. A pleasure to be seen off.... yet again... In the local argot, 'ow fo do...' (what can you do). Just like Dave, brings a smile. Feels better to have met her...

Please follow on Twitter, like 456 others (no records here) for updates and photos: @roadrunnertns

OK, small numbers. But, I do have a celebrity follower. Surely not everyone has? My celebrity follower? Someone from LA in the 1970s? Better. Standby... here you go, the voice of Siri. Susan S. I know... pretty impressive...