mob scene

Well the last three days has been quite an experience. For some reason, our mild-mannered "everything nice" thumbs-up Paco turned into a rabid frothing monster at Casino nightclub and caused us both to be thrown out by the scruff of our necks - literally. (Too much whisky on his part). At one point I was restraining Paco against a car as he tried to hurl himself at the 7-foot bouncer and reenter the nightclub. In my best French screaming "arrête!" and him screaming pleadingly in his high-pitched English with tears running down his cheeks and pounding the dust road with "but I've paid my money!". I had to admire his fury. I've never seen such tempers that flare at the slightest provocation, and then subside just as quickly. It didn't take long to ebb -- the aggrieved raising their arms in despair and retreating, and we were admitted back onto the dancefloor.

St. Louis ended for me in as much turbulence as I could imagine. We visited the remaining nightclub, Saraba, and again, I was with Paco, Lamin and about three of our other friends. We had managed to get through an evening of petty-bickering, mostly spoken in Wollof that I could not understand. But I think the gist of the argument had been that Mahatar had not brought back any change from the 10 quid that I'd given for a bottle of whisky. Anyway, back to the club, a fairly hot and seedy joint down by the river which gets going at about 1am on a monday night. Paco had taken the camera from me and was busy photographing some of the dancers and some of the djembe drum performance. Perhaps 15 photos in all. At 4am we decided to leave, and by the time I had reached the door there was an argument. For a while I was completely confused by what was happening, but the crowd was getting larger and clearly the voices more and more agitated. It was dark, and as we emerged onto the quai, all the people outside also began to take part and take sides. Some shuffling ensued and I realized that they were demanding money for the photos that Paco had taken and were trying to seize the camera. By now, about 30 or 40 people had gotten into the fray and it had become physical. Totally neurotic about losing my digital camera, I pried it out of Lamins grasp and stuffed it into my back pocket -- this of course attracted the attention of the crowd and I soon found myself lifted off my feet, with my back across a car bonnet and about three people trying to get me to give up the camera. Everyone was getting involved and the whole quai had erupted into a mob scene. Despite the fact that this enormous bouncer was tugging at my arm, and lunging at me from time to time, I held onto the camera and Lamin finally managed to pull me off the car and stuff me into the nearest open taxi. You would not believe our exit -- screaming at the taxi driver to leave (who himself was in a total state of confusion) the car was now surrounded by about 60 people. In the end, can you imagine us tearing out of there with people banging on the roof of the car, with doors open, legs dangling out and arms reaching in and trying to grab hold of us. I was simply too amazed to be scared. That temper tidal wave had just come from nowhere, surged, crested and smashed upon us.

The taxi driver, ignoring our wishes just to go home, sped to a tiny sleepy police station (I think he'd promised this to the mob) where Paco recounted the whole story and a report was reluctantly logged. It was quite convenient that the police station was next to the other major nightclub where we went to get a drink and calm down. Finally we walked home at about 5am, and just as we were near my hotel, a taxi pulled around a corner, screeched to a halt and out tumbled a mini-mob of screaming familiar faces. They immediately surrounded us and grabbed my blue armani shirt by the neck. More screaming, more pulling, more hanging onto the camera for dear life, and somehow we wheeled around the corner to the entrance to my hotel where the security guard (in military outfit) intervened and I escaped into the hotel. So that was my final night in St. Louis -- the city that everyone said in Senegal was the complete opposite to the noisy, dangerous Dakar. The next morning I left for the country, quite relieved to be escaping!