Last month, Kip Ole Polos arrived in New York for a month of fund-raising on behalf of his tribe, the Il Ngwesi Maasai, which is trying to reintroduce the black rhinoceros on its lands, in northern Kenya. Ole Polos, a safari guide and a former Maasai warrior, is the chairman of the council that governs the Il Ngwesi community and its conservancy; he is leading efforts to protect wildlife, link up with other neighboring preserves, and integrate women into Il Ngwesi political life.
体育投注平台On October 30th, after a quick visit to Vermont, he was a featured speaker at a gala at the Metropolitan Club, hosted by the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, which borders the Il Ngwesi land. The m.c. was Alex Beard, an artist who lives in New Orleans and who sits on Lewa’s U.S. board. On a whim, Beard invited Ole Polos to join him the following evening, at a rock concert at Madison Square Garden. Ole Polos had never been to a rock concert, or to a place like the Garden. Beard bought him a ticket on his phone.
The next night was Halloween. Beard and his son, fourteen, fetched Ole Polos at the Yale Club, where Lewa had put him up. Ole Polos, head shaved, arms bare, wore a red shuka—the traditional plaid cotton shift of the Maasai—a checked shuka blanket over one shoulder, and Teva sandals, with an array of shanga jewelry crisscrossing his torso like bandoliers. “This is me at home,” he said. He had never heard of Halloween, and he couldn’t really tell, as they struck out into the rush-hour bustle, who was in costume and who wasn’t.
Beard asked Ole Polos, “Have you ever heard of Jerry Garcia?”
体育投注平台“No,” he replied. “What is it?”
Beard attempted to explain what they were going to see, a band called Dead and Company, comprising several surviving members of the Grateful Dead and, as a fill-in for Jerry Garcia, who died long ago, a pop star named John Mayer. “This whole thing could really end any day, even tonight,” Beard said. “So we keep going, until that day that it does.”
体育投注平台“I hope it continues,” Ole Polos said.
“You might not say so, after a few hours.”
As they neared the Garden, the ratio of Deadheads体育投注平台 to regular citizens began to increase.
“You will see a lot of banghi being smoked,” Beard said, using the Kenyan term for marijuana.
体育投注平台“Let them do their thing,” Ole Polos said. “In Kenya, it is absolutely illegal. But it is allowed in Vermont.”
体育投注平台Their tickets were general admission. They found a spot on the floor of the arena—mid-court. Bill Walton, the retired basketball star and Dead mascot, was nearby. Beard introduced him to Ole Polos.
“Welcome to the center of the universe,” Walton said. When the band came onstage, Walton, almost seven feet tall, held his arms high in the air. Ole Polos observed that Walton was being considerate of his fellow-enthusiasts. “He realizes that if he danced like the others he would hurt people,” he said. “So he dances with his hands.”
体育投注平台The tempo of the music picked up—a little bit, anyway—and Ole Polos began to dance. People offered him joints (he declined), stepped on his bare toes, and moved in for selfies, some of them assuming he was in costume. A woman asked Ole Polos what his sign was. He didn’t understand. She meant his astrological sign. “I don’t know.”
体育投注平台“When were you born?”
“I don’t know.” (Earlier, he’d said, “I think I’m forty-six, but I’m not sure. Every holiday, my mother tells me, ‘This is the day you were born,’ so I do know I was born on a holiday.”) When the show was over, he marvelled at the number of people pouring out through the tunnels of the Garden. He wondered, “Where do they all go?” Outside, it seemed to him that they’d vanished: “They just melted.”
A few days later, after watching his fellow-Kenyans dominate the marathon, he reflected on his night at the Garden.
“It was fabulous, man!” he said. “People take the music very seriously, and it’s clear that it means a lot to Americans. I didn’t know any of the songs. It started like a slow music, and then it got better.”
Had he found it at all silly, as many Americans do?
“In a way,” he said, with some care. “I come from a culture—for example, when someone is dancing, there is a way everyone moves. They dance the same way. Here, everybody knows every song, and yet everybody is dancing in their own way. Some old dudes seemed to take this as a golden opportunity to do some exercises. They weren’t dancing. They were doing exercises.”
体育投注平台He was heartened to have seen young people there: “There are things I do because my grandpa did them. The fact that the old people enjoyed it makes the young people want to do it. It also seemed that it doesn’t matter what class you are from socially. I could tell there were some very wealthy guys and also some people who probably didn’t have a home. And they were enjoying the same thing. That’s culture. At home, we do believe that the white community lost its culture long ago. Now I know it hasn’t gone away.” ♦