Monday, June 30, 2008


You know the saying those who forget history are doomed to repeat it? This weekend I found a book by the wife of a former British Embassy staffer who'd been posted to Trinidad in the early '80's. It was extremely instructive that little walk down memory lane and in the spirit of learning; I have three questions for you fellow Trinis.

What was the topic on the front page of the newspaper?
What public utilities failed to provide consistent service?
What exactly was missing from shelves?

The answers in a little bit. Ms Keenan actually enjoyed her time in Trinidad though she was troubled by various misfortunes during her family's time here. She managed to catch the spirit of our island, though originally living in a gated enclave in North Trinidad, her children attending St. Andrew's School, she eventually moved to a less cloistered atmosphere and really got down to the business of living in Trinidad. In her memoir she speaks of the warmth of the people and the general excitement that always buzzed; her descriptions of life here would actually hold up today. Hmm, is that good or bad?

In 1982, Penguin sang, ' A deputy essential, to keep your livin' vital. " Bring back memories anyone? Remember this was the "Big 80's". The clothes were oversized, new wave music was what teenagers listened to, break dancing was still a happening thing and we girls knew tons of fella's who belonged to groups like "Warp Crew". Madonna was HUGE. I was already in high school at the time and my life was characterised by having to get up at 6:00 am to leave home to get to school due to the horrendous traffic jams. Later on it would be 5:30 am and out of the house by 6:00 to catch the bus otherwise you'd be late. What's changed in twenty-six years? Now you have to leave home at 4:30 am to get anywhere on time in many part of Trinidad. Ah, the cost of progress!

My mother would be ripping her hair out trying to keep us in food and clothing due to constantly rising prices of everything. After the excesses of the oil boom "70's where "money was no problem', we found out how much a problem it was when we didn't have any. The country was held in thrall by the IMF and World Bank, colossal loans that we could barely repay, huge building schemes came to a grinding halt and people were handing their house keys over to the bank and walking away. In the '80's we had the negative list, monetary controls where you had to apply to the Central Bank to get your Travel Allowance which was only given once a year. I cannot tell you how many "gifts" I sent to various children of my parents friends and even employer during this period since that was also a once per year "external gift allowance".

I remember too the shortages, at any given time you could not get onions, garlic, cheese and powdered milk on the grocery shelves. In some places if you were a valued customer the MANAGER would go into the back storeroom and graciously bestow upon you a six-inch block of cheese as though conferring a Knighthood. Apples, grapes and pears, hah! Let them eat oranges, grapefruits and mangoes became the cry. Mixed peel for your fruitcake, try made out of green papaya. Is any of this sounding familiar?

What about "Telco Poops"? To answer the questions posed above, CRIME was the number one story, surprise, surprise. On any given day the water and/or electricity would be turned off and your phone, should you be one of the fortunate to actually have one, would be dead. Ms Keenan alluded to the potholes in the road that took months to fix, hmm, like the four that we brave to get home every evening? You learn to be really cautious after it rains, if you fall in you'll probably drown! In the years since Ms Keenan and her family have moved on from Trinidad we seemed to have learnt little.

Last week while trying to eke out my limited grocery dollar, I was circling the shelves in HiLo like Jaws looking for a victim with my list. There were no onions save the manky, oozing, foul smelling bulbs curled up to die in a corner of the veg aisle. Lots of expensive foreign, whoops, local fruit and veg though. Imagine ELEVEN dollars for THREE little starch mangoes, WTF. The milk shelf was almost completely bare and I overheard one pretty young thing entreating a "bag boy" to have a look round the back for her. Ah, the good old days have returned people! Cheese is now a whopping $20 bucks for a tiny block. There were a lot of empty shelves, was it actual shortage or profiteering since rumour had it that prices of rice and flour were going up again the next day? I don't know but I do know that when I got home with my loot, I found that the power had gone AGAIN that day, there was no water, but that's not unusual, it gets turned off three times a week, when it rains, more. I no longer have a landline but b-Mobile required three tries to get a call through because, " all circuits are busy now". Eh?

What's the other old chestnut - the more things change, the more things stay the same.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The lure of the chocolate chip cookie

I love chocolate chip cookies. Not the hard, crunchy type mass produced in some factory somewhere, full of preservatives, tasting faintly of packaging, overly sweet and not a whole lot else. The ideal chocolate chip cookie starts with good chocolate, roughly chopped, added to the butter, flour, sugar mix. The oven must be pre-heated to prevent too much spreading thereby canceling out the chocolate to cookie ratio and leading to a overcooked, tough cookie.

Once you've mixed up a batch, drop by rounded tablespoonfuls on to a lightly greased cookie sheet, flatten a little and slide into the pre-heated oven. Cookies should be crisp around the edges and slightly gooey in the middle, the chocolate will be molten when bitten into. There is nothing more homey and welcoming than the smell of cookies baking leading to an immediate sense of well being. Cookie making is an ideal way to bond with children. There are very few kids that can resist the lure to make a mess in the kitchen with you if they know it will result in an entirely yummy outcome. They learn life-skills, you have "quality" time and best of all, cookies! How can you beat that?

For years, whenever I was down I would bake. Lots of things, cakes, bread, brownies, cookies and pies. I've made cream puffs by the hundred. Do I like to bake? Nope, not especially. I just like the end results and think that mine are mostly better than store bought. You'd have to ask my staff if is this is true because conversely, I don't eat a lot of what I make, they do. It's the making that I find satisfying....except for the damn chocolate chip cookies. Which I make with real chocolate, BUTTER, sugar and all those things that the food police are always disparaging. Those are reluctantly shared on the odd occasion when I make them and boy, they are good. Biting into one of them brings instant happiness, at least to me and that's important.

Friday, June 27, 2008


A lot of my friends are gay. Angry African started a post this way a couple of weeks back after the California ruling, I smiled and read on. Glad to know someone else shared my views because, a lot of my friends are gay and I could understand his take on the subject. I didn't set out to only make friends within the gay/lesbian community, it just sort of happened that way. For me, they are my friends, why should their sexual orientation be an issue?

For all the bigots who claim that it is a lifestyle choice let me tell you, bugger off. You can no more "chose" to be gay than I can choose to be short. For years I have watched my friends in pain from the slings and barbs of people; it can get really nasty. Needless to say, I'm very intolerant of bigotry, I have no time for bigots and small mindedness and say so very publicly.

This weekend there will be a series of Gay Pride Activities in Toronto, Canada, Pride has become one of Canada's biggest cultural events. Good for the Canadians!

This morning's thought...

if strangers meet - by ee cummings

if strangers meet
life begins-
not poor not rich
(only aware)
kind neither
nor cruel
(only complete)
i not not you
not possible;
only truthful
if strangers(who
deep our most are

(and so to dark)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


A new security blanket. As a kid I had a security blanket, it was blue, red and white striped, fuzzy, warm and cuddly. It was dragged everywhere and I drove my mother nuts because blankie and me were inseparable . She used to have to wait until I was asleep to wash it and then I would be unbearable until I got it back. I know now how bad my need for security was as a kid that the blankie played a role for so long.

There are days when I wish that everything could so easily be solved, a fuzzy blanket to ward off the demons, to help me sleep at night when my thoughts go round and round my head until I want to scream. Sometimes when the world seems a particularly cruel place; when I get e-mail forwards about starving children, human rights atrocities, cruelty to animals or read about the slaughter of innocents and wildlife, I want to shut it all out and not think. When people I know die suddenly from stress related diseases or some spectacular piece of stupidity obtains undoing months of hard work, necessitating huge amounts of time, I wonder, is it all worth the struggle? And then I wish for my blankie. It seemed to solve so much!

Fortunately I've learnt to not accept the pain-body as my cross to bear at all times. What is the pain-body? Eckhart Tolle in his book, Awakening Earth explains, it is the collection of past emotions, hurts and wrongs that we cling to, "it is the remnants of pain left behind by every strong negative emotion that is not fully faced, accepted and let go of"- these join together to form an energy field that lives within you. Sounds like hokey? Think about it, the more painful something is the more we can use it to evoke negative emotions in ourselves.

So how do we let go? "When you no longer identify with the pain-body it can no longer control your thinking and so cannot renew itself anymore by feeding on your thoughts". The more you disconnect from it, the less power it will have over you until you cease to be clouded by past emotions and perceptions. These days instead of running for a security blanket when I have a particularly trying day, I try to leave it at the front door when I get home. I go inside, greet my ecstatic animal, take him out walkies and at some stage we lie around together. He happily submits to being petted, his thick fur is reassuring to the touch and me, I know I'm okay.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Count yourself lucky.

South African photographer Kevin Carter took this picture of a sudanese child being stalked by a vulture. It was the real face of starvation. He chased the vulture away after taking the photograph which shocked and outraged people worldwide. Kevin Carter committed suicide three months later, he suffered from depression.

Today a friend sent one of those forwards. You find yourself sickened by the images of starving children, children whose skin is cracked from malnutrition, children who bathe in cow piss because it is liquid, children who are all bones with skin stretched tight.


Know your country

This was a programme produced by the late Dale Kolasingh back in the day before we got all sophisticated and only watched foreign programming. The cameraman and a tech journeyed to all parts of Trinidad and came back with all these gems. Banyan, before they were Gayelle TV also did a similar thing. Trinis got to see themselves up close and personal. I cannot count how many hours I wandered with various crews around the backwoods of Trinidad discovering places like the First and Last Cafe where the best stewed chicken and hops could be had for the princely sum of $2.50. There were the pools in the Pitch Lake, the water warm and slightly sulfurous smelling. If it were hot you sank a little with every step. Myriad Orisha and Hindu festivals; a jovert covered in mud but still working; ballroom dancing at SWWTU Hall with all the ladies in their shiny dresses, huge coiffed hair and high heels daintily stepping around the room; life on a fishing pirougue; crab racing in Tobago. I think I'm really lucky to have seen all of this and more.

My family had a tradition of these country excursions and I've shot miles of footage on festivals, villages, customs, weddings, people, all manner of things. In ten years of writing for TIDCO's tourism website I learned a lot more about Trinidad and Tobago and the things that make us so unique. My time in the Conservation movement (of which I'm still a member though not as active as I should be) has only added to the experience. There are lots of things to be proud of and yet, we cannot see it.

As we build more buildings around the waterfront, none of which reflect a Caribbean ethic, these could be buildings anywhere really, we deny our people the right to our waterfront. Where is the boardwalk and the local restaurants? We often scoff at the Magnificent Seven around the Queen's Park Savannah, elegant, beautiful buildings left to moulder. But did you know that the limestone bricks used in Killarney, aka Stollmeyer's Castle, were quarried in Laventille, hand-cut by stonemasons who were allowed to choose the pattern they were placed in. Before anyone starts going on about oppression and slavery, know your history, the Seven were built at the turn of the twentieth century long after the abolition of slavery and it was a badge of honour for local craftsmen to showcase their work which is world class. The workmen were also paid. The beauty of these buildings have stood the test of time in a way that the blue glass monster across the road from QRC never will.

One day all these things that set us apart will have disappeared under our current culture of neglect and small mindedness. No wonder our children behave the way they do, we've not given them any reason to have pride in us because we tear down the very things that were made by local hands in favour of some elusive ideal that is not reflective of us.

Monday, June 23, 2008

If music be the food....

It's 11:30 p.m., the driveway next door is crammed with cars, as is ours. Who are all these people? I have no idea, they're all here for the party taking place two doors down. Hmm. The TV is just managing to compete with the DJ.

12:30 am - "Oh what a night. Late December back in '63, what a very special time for me, what a lady what a night!" Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons is all very well when pumping away on the elliptical but not so good after all long day and not enough sleep four nights running.

1:00 am - 'Yes people's, it's DJ Whomever, de hottest ting in tong! Go bwoy, go bwoy!" Hmm, erudite soul isn't he?

1:30 am - " I could bring it in a bottle, I could bring it in a glass - ah whant mih rum in de mornin', ah whant, mih rum in de evenin" - Look you could have it any damn way you please just don't feel that you have to bloody share.

1:45 am Hound barking hysterically at unknown person raiding the pile of possessions on the sidewalk from my recently dispossessed ganja smoking neighbours. I'm going to miss them, at least they were quiet after midnight.

2:00 am - Ah, moment of blessed quiet, can it be that they're making speeches. By Golly they are! And Happy Birthday to you too!

2:15 am- Head under pillow making whimpering noises, Hound disgusted draped across feet. Miscellaneous soca 2008 blasted at window shaking decibels. Where are the EMA when you need them?

Not being able to sleep in the wee hours gives you a lot of time to think about nothing in particular. Between the songs that I recognised blaring from the party, there were quite a few I could sing along to, none of them local. Not that I wanted to mind you, I just wanted to go to sleep.

I never cease to be amazed by the inanity of soca lyrics. A former avid mas player, I got tired of chasing obnoxious music trucks all over Port of Spain as I tired of behaving like a demented person to the pace of the music and gave up mas. These days soca reminds me of trance music, repetitive beat, nonsense lyrics, something to be listened with pleasure to only under the influence of drugs like X. That's why it works so well in foreign dance clubs. When I hear people asking why Sean Paul, Rihanna and other sundry Caribbean artists are so famous why not Trini, well it's pretty obvious. Even the most inane pop song does have some lyrics and while I may knock it, rap is about the human condition, bling and all.

When you compare today's soca songs, all a blur running one into the other without much difference, to the songs of yesterday, cleverly crafted gems, you have to wonder. Think Sparrow with Jean and Dinah or Congo Man, David Rudder's classic Calypso Music or even BLue Boy's Ethel. No I haven't lost my edge, but I'm tired of being told to wine, wine, chook, chook, chook or wave something. C'mon people, surely we can do better than that.

It's one thing to sing in the vernacular but unless your music or your themes touch someone else they won't be listening to you. I can't understand a word that Nusrat Fateh Ali Kahn or Fela Kuti were saying but their music was brilliant. So don't be upset that I will not buy your CD, ask yourself why however, I will still shell out for Amy Winehouse, U2, Pat Metheney or any of the many artists I do listen to. Ask yourself why, when Marcia Miranda or Denyse Plummer do sets at events they always include some of those so called golden oldies and why people still get up and dance. Are we going to be hopping around to yours in fifty years. Maybe not, wining and chooking not exactly good practice when you're in a walker!


Saturday, June 21, 2008

Is the glass half full or half empty?

I am free to marry whom I want.

I can get in my car, drive to the supermarket and buy food.

I have a roof over my head, my bed is warm and dry.

The hound patiently waits each day until I come through the door and then lavishes love on me.

I have access to books, movies, clothes.

My washing machine broke down a while aback and I have yet to get it repaired, I'm usually at work when the repairman can come you see. But it's given me a further insight into how life might not be so great for some. Several friends extended access to their washing facilities but there's a limit on how much you should abuse the generosity of friends. As a result I got a taste of how tough my grandma had it. She used to have to fetch water from the river to cook, clean, bathe and wash clothes when she first married my grandad. She did it for years. Do you know how hard it is to wash sheets by hand? Backbreaking. I admire her endurance, I threw my shoulder out washing a batch of sheets a couple of days ago.

No 'fridge ensured that she had to cook fresh meals every day from produce harvested from the garden or bought in the market. Thousands of women around the world still exist in these circumstances where they must fetch water for every need. Access to medical treatment or even a roof over their head a constant struggle. Their right to decide their future non-existent, they are often the property of their fathers before being passed on to a husband who pretty much owns them.

While I may rail at the crap that happens here, I'm still pretty thankful for the things that I mentioned at the beginning of this piece. And yes Angie, it's up to us to keep up the good fight. Since I started this blog I've been amazed at how many kindred spirits I've come across and taken heart from it. So even though there are days when I want to say " beam me up Scotty, there's no intelligent life on this planet", there's still hope for the human race.

Friday, June 20, 2008


You see this place, I've had it! Several years ago I was fortunate enough to write a feature on the re-introduction of Blue and Gold Macaws into the wild. This project, funded from international sources was the baby of a Trinidadian living in the US. I spent a couple of afternoons hanging out with her and saw the birds. It had been a painstaking process over three years in the making. A year later, I saw her again when she came for the follow up. The birds seem to have taken root and several more breeding pairs were introduced into Nariva Swamp. Finally, a wildlife success story.

Until this morning's paper. Wildlife Rangers report that they're being relentlessly poached, nests are being raided and destroyed. After years of supporting a host of environmental and social causes I'm ready to call it quits. After all, I have neither chick nor child to leave anything too and my siblings all live outside of Trinidad. Makes me sick but I'm really just fed up of giving my all for nothing.

You know, I gave up watching the news because I couldn't take all the negative stories about who killed who and other such, it made me too depressed. I am obligated to read the newspapers for my job so it's hard to totally escape. Every day we face some or other horrible thing, so much that we have become hardened, we talk about it but we don't really DO anything, we are content in our complacency that it is someone else's problem to solve.

Gandhi said, "the greatness of nation can be judged by the way they treat their animals".
It is no secret that I love my dog, he is my constant companion and if someone hurt him I would be devastated. When I look at the treatment of animals here I am always appalled, it is no wonder that we are in such a bad way. We lack compassion, sensibility and even good sense. We Trinis are callous in the treatment of our country, we think not of tomorrow, only now, only ourselves. We slaughter our wildlife for wild meat limes, we cut and burn our hillsides even though it will flood when the rains come, we kill dolphins though they hurt no one. But then, we kill our children too, collateral damage right. Every so often you see some concerned people trying to do something, but these are the few, not the many.

We seem only to be concerned when it hits our wallets. It's like the alleged food crisis, regardless of what is said, we here aren't really experiencing a true food crisis, if we were, we wouldn't see hordes of people every day in restaurants and fast food joints. You can go into supermarkets, roadside stands, shops and parlours and buy pretty much whatever you want, true it may cost you more but what do we really need. We have forgotten the lessons of our past, remember "eat little, live long" that used to be inculcated within us a few generations ago. Cast adrift on a sea of relentless consumerism, upsized meals and greed, we adopt foreign desires to our detriment. Globalism be dammed, this is where I live, by choice, not some pumped up so-called first world nation. Trini, it is time to put up or shut up.

So go ahead with your need to be seen in the hot bars in the latest threads every night. Go ahead with your reckless, inconsiderate driving, your lack of manners in businesses and offices. Go ahead and spend every penny you earn on consumer goods. Go ahead and kill every last wild animal, clear every bit of green space and pour concrete. Go ahead and ruin everything that is beautiful about this land and when you wake up and find yourselves in a wasteland that resembles an apocalyptic nightmare ask yourselves who is was that dunnit.

I Done.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Creating the Coffeewallah

In addition to a rampant need to further bankrupt myself by buying, of all things, books, I'm also a self confessed coffee addict. I love coffee, I love the way I feel on coffee, the smell, the full bodied taste on my tongue, bouncing off the walls after the sixth or seventh cup. Yes, I drink way too much coffee but say what, it could be worse. But really, what I want is to share this love with other people. You see, it all started like this....

Coffeewallah has been my alternate persona for close to twenty years. She's a capable, strong woman with opinions who strides around wearing worn jeans, t-shirts and combat boots, flaming red hair. I'm sure you've seen her somewhere and I confess, there are days when I like her much more than the me that looks back from the mirror. Tempting as it might be to claim schizophrenia, no such luck, Coffeewallah is really me without the carefully cultivated "costume" of my current life.

For almost my entire adult life the communications lark has been my game. Television dogsbody cum director/producer/sometimes talent, turned event manager, turned copy writer/editor, turned feature writer, turned account executive, turned communications manager, yup, it's been a long road. But secretly, I've harboured a dream to move to my other love, coffee...and by extension food. My wish is to own a bistro where my arty friends could come and sit, drink lots of coffee and while away their time talking about whatever caught their fancy. Where the ladies who lunch could have a chat without screaming over loud music, secure in knowing they would enjoy what they eat and not break the bank. A place where writers could write, who knows, the next JK Rowling could be waiting for me. I can see myself strapping on my apron, Global knives laid out, Garland Grill and fryer, five burner stove top and industrial oven, my uniform of jeans, whites and boots (I hate clogs).

I have it pictured down to the little details, the colour of the sofas, the shape of table runners, vases, the weight of cutlery, size of plates, each day's menu handwritten from each carefully constructed recipe. Lists of equipment, schedules, ochre walls with carved dividing screens, fabric panelling, the sound of water from Boutros' water feature, the multi coloured bouganvillea riotously spilling along the walkway...and yes, I know what the building should look like. And then two nights ago I saw it. My building or should I say the building that I would like to have, though it's not for sale and even if it were I couldn't afford it. There it was, sitting innocuously on a Woodbrook side street waiting for me. Standing on the pavement I knew that I had to make it happen. That someday, somehow it would be mine or at least the dream would be. And maybe too, some of you would find your way there and recognise a kindred spirit. The coffee will always be freshly ground and brewed and the conversation will always be good.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Love Affair

It's raining.
I love it when it rains,
I wish to be curled up at home,
in my bed, wrapped up with my book
And dog at my feet, shaggy fur tickling the soles.

Rain, falling heavily outside,
Glancing blows on the galvanised iron roof.
Scattering down where there is not guttering,
the leaves of the tree outside my window.
drooping with the weight of water.

I love the rain.
Quiet evenings lounging with popcorn,
hot cocoa to sip, movies to watch.
Solitude even as it pours outside.
Snug and secure in my little cocoon.

Monday, June 16, 2008

In Laws and Out Laws

Unaccustomed to walking around Port of Spain in flat shoes given that the habitual wear is four inch stilts, I almost walked straight into an ex-in-law while stumbling around Maraj & Sons. It's always a pleasure to see R. and his wife, this time he was on his own buying her an anniversary present. Eighteen years! God, I remember when he met her, his mother was so excited, she badly wanted them to get married which they did after a really long courtship.

Some people might think it funny, but I get along well with most of my ex-in-laws, at least the one's I still see from time to time. Why not, I've known a lot of them for most of my life. My former husband and his immediate family no longer reside here, there's not been a lot of contact since he left. Imagine my surprise when a card arrived via Granny's house around my last birthday. I've been walking around with it trying to process how I feel. My mother in law had sent it, yes, she's still my mother in law even though I've been divorced for almost ten years. Strange how you fall in when faced with the familiar. As my marriage had degenerated we'd not been on the best of terms, we managed to patch things up several years after, but only after I'd cut off contact for a while. I needed to find out who I was.

In the ensuing years I've become a different person. I don't know what it all means but the journey is what's important, not the destination. Regrets? Nope.

Fear of Friday?

"The Christian Tradition
The fear of Friday the 13th stems from two separate fears -- the fear of the number 13 and the fear of Fridays. Both fears have deep roots in Western culture, most notably in Christian theology.
Thirteen is significant to Christians because it is the number of people who were present at the Last Supper (Jesus and his 12 apostles). Judas, the apostle who betrayed Jesus, was the 13th member of the party to arrive.

Christians have traditionally been wary of Fridays because Jesus was crucified on a Friday. Additionally, some theologians hold that Adam and Eve ate from the forbidden fruit on a Friday, and that the Great Flood began on a Friday. In the past, many Christians would never begin any new project or trip on a Friday, fearing they would be doomed from the start."

This according to "HowStuffWorks". Black Friday or Friday the 13th has long been held as a day that bad things happen. You know how it happens, if you anticipate bad things, they will happen. The more negative you are, the more negative things become etc. I had cause to reflect on the whole black friday thing this weekend. I got married on Friday 13th December, it seemed a good idea at the time. We laughed in the face of superstition all the while calling our marriage a black deal, kowtowing as we were to convention. Goodness knows the two of us were anything but conventional, in hindsight, it was no wonder it didn't work. Not because of the whole superstition thing, we started off resentful, how could it not go downhill despite that we did actually love each other for a time. That was then.

This last Friday gave me pause, I had to reassess things. The date never occurred to me until the next day. I've had my own battles but should I give up and let life get the better of me. The answer my friend, is blowing in the wind. So one moment at a time, little things to make me laugh, good friends to shove me along - I know it's cliched, he who fight and run away, live to fight another day.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The mating habits of Homo Caribbeanus

Yesterday evening I was caught out while doing my Savannah run. The rain had been threatening, but I'd figured that it might hold off until I was through. No such luck, the torrential downpour hit in front of QRC, the car was nowhere close so I kept going, though the huge droplets were coming down so heavily you couldn't see the buildings. Water ran from my hair into my eyes, clothes soaked, clinging in the fashion of a wet Tshirt contest. Though I love playing in the rain, this was past that, squelching, oozing water everywhere I trotted through the middle of the Savannah and countless football/rugby games being played to make it back to the car. To a man, the Trini male rose to the occasion.

They are terribly observant you know; "girl, you real wet", " you should get out of the rain, yuh getting wet", "hmm, those pants clinging to you for dear life", "oh, I see you might be cold". These and other stellar gems of wisdom imparted every three steps, charming. One wit, swigging from his Gatorade bottle though I very much doubt he required it, exchanged what he considered some excellent repartee while speaking to my crotch, I couldn't really hear on account of my ears being much higher up. That will certainly teach me to go running in the rain. I have to wonder you know, do men really think that women are turned on by this?

My cousin asked me when last I went out with a non-gay man. Hmm, in this century? Understand, I don't discriminate or choose my friends on the basis of sexual orientation, how much money they have, how hip they are, or stuff like that. Generally my friends are intelligent, can hold up their end of a conversation, fun, you know, normal people. But those are my friends and yes, I do spend a some of my free time with them, male and female.

Women here are always complaining about men, what he did and did not do and why can't he be more whatever. But what's our yardstick? A bunch of foreign movies, tv shows and novels which all depict man/woman relationships very differently to how they are really conducted here. Okay, I might be considered cynical but really, while we all waiting for the prince to come along, we have these unrealistic expectations of what he should be. Trini men all have lyrics, they all look, they all have some story, yes, even the nice ones. Once you can accept that, you're ready to go, if you're expecting the hearts and flowers routine go find some nice European man.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Too much Sex

Gotcha there didn't I. Sorry if you thought this was going to be a down and dirty look into the inner workings of bedroom Coffeewallah, nothing so exciting. After several friends insisted that I Must See Sex and the City, on the spur of the moment I departed early, for me anyway, and lined up with a couple hundred other people at the doors of Movietowne.

I hate going to Movietowne when there is a "must see" movie on; there are lines at the box office, lines at the concession stand, lines to get in to the movie theatre. And then the real annoyance starts, all those irritating people with bags, boxes of popcorn, sweaters, bits of things draped across rows of seats, holding for friends who come five minutes before the movie starts creating as much disturbance as possible. Understand something, if your damned friend could not get off their ass like the rest of us, and get there in time to secure for themselves an acceptable seat TOUGH SHIT! It's one thing to save A seat, it's another thing to take up a whole row for people who are nowhere close to the cinema at the expense of those who are actually in situ.

What about the movie? Well, what an ode to conspicuous consumerism, I felt like I'd paid to sit in a long ad for Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Manolo and every other designer or company who had paid for product placement. Was it so different from the series you ask? At least each episode had a story of some sort. Think about it, each episode started with Carrie writing her column starting with a question which she then answered describing the antics of herself and friends, this was the premise on which the entire series was based, sadly lacking in the movie. Yes, there was a nice little bit at the beginning to bring everyone into the loop; yes, there were some very funny moments during; yes, there were lots of clothes, shoes, bags, sunglasses etc; yes to the gratuitous sex - lots of thrusting male behinds and hot female bodies but what else?

Hats off to Sarah Jessica Parker, ironically she's not exactly a typical looking star type, she's managed to parlay this role into being a style icon despite wearing some truly awful clothes, that takes talent. Face it girls, some of dem dress and shoes downright ugly, if it didn't have somebody name stitch on it NOBODY would look twice. Listen, I like shoes, clothes and thing but just how much time do I want to devote to that stuff.... The story took a back seat to the product placement. Poor Chris Noth, how could he compete with Vivienne Westwood, it's no wonder the poor man got cold feet and froze. As much as I enjoyed the series I found that it got a trifle tired after a while and a whole movie, hmm. But movies have been made of lesser things so why not right.

Actually it was kind of sad. There were these forty some women, exercised, toned, tanned, accessorised and dressed to within an inch of their lives and you had to wonder. For seemingly successful women they couldn't get past the shallowness of their youth, clinging to the same tired themes, didn't they grow up at all? God how tiresome it must be to be so self involved all the time. There is nothing wrong with wanting to look good but now there are is another generation of conspicuous consumers determined to mortgage their souls and clean out their bank accounts to look like Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda.

Repeat to yourselves, it's only a movie, it's only a movie, it's only a movie.

Monday, June 9, 2008


Hello, my name is Coffee and I am a bookaholic. This is obvious through the lengths to which I will go to ensure that I always have reading material littering every room in my house. I question my priorities all the time; for example, my washing machine has not functioned since April. I have lugged my clothes to the homes of various understanding friends, switching before they all got tired of me. Or the fridge that desperately needs painting or the shower, that is now a waterfall instead of a drip, requiring a plumber urgently so that Hound is not swept away when trying to drink out of the bucket artfully placed to catch the downfall. These are just a few examples of Things That Need To Get Done. What did I do?

Well, on Saturday the call was too strong to resist, whipping into Chris' bookshop, lurking around furtively pulling books off the shelf into a pile at my feet, dumping my bag on the ground next to the armchair in preparation for delving into the selected tomes. Fresh paper, uncracked spines, fingers drifting across the newness, all delicious, sinking further into that chair, reading backs, first pages, trying to decide. Agonising over who would go home with me. Would it be Camara Laye talking about his childhood in Africa; homage to my youth with PG Wodehouse, or maybe a little Native American tales with Louise Erdich. It was too much. I knew I was in trouble and yet couldn't get enough, didn't want to put anything back. Knowing, even as I held on that I could ill afford to splurge on these.

Oh the bills have been paid, my landlord has gotten his fix as has the car finance people. Between HiLo and sundry other merchants I'd been pretty much relieved of any extraneous cash that might have been left but still, there was a tiny margin on the credit card. Imagine how my hands were shaking having narrowed my selection to two with great difficulty and fled to the counter before I could change my mind. Think positive, it will go through, and then, low and behold, it did.

Okay, for what the two books cost I could probably not have done any of the things listed above but I could have at least made a start. But I just didn't care anymore. I couldn't wait to get home and hunker down in my bed, book in hand, to crack the virgin spine and devour the words on the page. It's true that I could have spent my weekend tackling the work that came home in the bag, but my books were much more pleasurable. And for the pleasure that they gave me they were well worth the cost. Again.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Heaven is as heaven does

My fave celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain in his book, No Reservations, said that his idea of a little heaven was sitting on a beach in St. Maarten, sand in his flip flops, drinking a cold CARIB(!) beer and every so often heading off to a shack on the beach to eat something nice with his fingers. Man, he sure knows how to live. Though I've not travelled nearly as widely as Mr. Bourdain there are a few spots that stand out.

That stretch of road between Manzanilla and Mayaro along the east coast of Trinidad is very special. The Cocal, as it is called by natives, used to contain coconut estates and is still, thankfully, not polluted by large holiday homes every where. While I am quite sure that we will find a way to despoil even this lovely space it is still one of my most favourite places. You literally come upon the endless stretch of beach and coconut trees after a winding drive from the outskirts of Sangre Grande. It pops out, an endless sea of blue, the clean smell of sea through the open car windows. Mayaro has been the holiday destination of my family forever. August vacations meant piling into the car, Granny, Pappy, my mother, brothers, aunts, uncles and cousins and heading off for the mandatory week or two by the sea.

We spent equal time in Toco, the home of my great uncle, the fisherman who would pack us all into his pirogue and head for the open ocean. I still remember the sharp smell of diesel competing with the brine for prominence as we chugged over the swells with water swilling around our feet in the bottom of the boat. While Toco meant fish, bathing in the sea with a view of Tobago in the background it is Mayaro that has always captured my imagination.

Once it was my goal to acquire a house out there so that on weekends I could drive down and swing lazily in a hammock while watching the sea. The beach is extremely wide, you have to walk out twenty feet before you get to the water in some places though it is not really suitable for bathing. The rolling waves and undertow make it rather treacherous to the unwary and we all quickly learnt to wallow in the shallows having a "sand bath". But it is the drive through the Cocal that made me want to go there. The narrow ribbon of tarmac winding through the graceful coconut trees arching above the road. Pillocky green ground giving way to sea vines, sand and the endless stretch of beach, muddy waves washing against the shore in an endless cycle. From there the journey to the horizon is literally endless, the next land mass being the African continent hundreds of miles away.

The Mayaro of my childhood is gone, development has reared its ugly head in the form of unplanned housing developments, ugly concrete monstrosities masquerading as guest houses but the lady Cocal perseveres. The magic is still there when early on Sunday morning, the car wends through the trunks, the breeze blowing through the open windows and the music of the waves the only back ground soundtrack required.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Swimming against the tide

You may have noticed, sometimes three or four blogs may appear in quick succession and then, I get quiet. It's not that I'm all written out or have nothing to say. There is nothing to say in that moment. I've been trying to write beautiful things to counteract all the ugliness around me. The death and destruction that are gratuitously featured each day on the air and in the press. Some days more successfully than others. I plumb my memories though there aren't as many happy times as you might think there should be.

Always, there is something else. Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to see some work done by a very good friend, who sensing my disquieted soul, allowed me to barge into his space with very little notice. I am hugely grateful, in those moments up in the cocoa, all quiet, dark but not disturbing, I had a moment of peace, where I was happy.

The work was breathtaking. Literally. Each piece making your mouth water for more. I marveled at the infinitesimal attention to detail, each figure beautifully drawn, drawing you in to each story unfolding. It was not for the art dilettante but for the true lover of art who could appreciate the depth and breadth of the pieces. I knew my friend was talented, but I was reminded of how, extremely talented he is and how lucky I felt to be there.

On the ride back into town, the silence in the car lasted for quite a while, until a whoosh of breath. M. who was driving and I could not get the words out fast enough. This is what true art is, the ability to move, stun, question, anger, engender all manner of emotion. I thank my friend, for not giving in to the tide of commercialism that dictates that his work be less "popular" than the sofa art that passes here. And, I thank him for allowing me, to also swim against the tide.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Sleep walking

The past few weeks have found me waking up at intervals during the wee hours of the morning. I'm not getting nearly enough sleep and as a result, have probably been walking in my sleep during the day. At 4:00 am there is not much to do but stare at the shadows in the bedroom. If you turn on the lights to read it is an admission that you have given up on the idea of sleeping. Watching tv is out, though is the idiot box is a well known sleep aid to thousands who fall off during the soporific programming, scientists say that this is not restful sleep. Maybe it as my former boss says, an absence of a heavy, hairy thigh thrown across, whatever, it's not unusual, I've been here before.

Giving up the ghost at around 5:30 the dog found himself being fed and walked. The sky is light, not quite blue, with streaky white cirrus clouds dotting here and there, and though the sun must be up, it has yet to put in an appearance over here, the heat absent for now. In the gap between the houses, the parched, grizzled swath that runs all along the ridge and down the sides of the facing hills is a baleful reminder of the bush fires, set by some uncaring human hand and re-lit after the fire engines have disappeared. Even the birds are still asleep, just the resident corbeaux, lazily circling, his version of a morning stretch.

There is a part of me that wants to crawl back into the sheets and I marvel at my grandmother and uncles who, when I was a child, used to get up at quarter to five every morning to collect the bread from the bakery and take in the newspapers in readiness for the forestry workers who would appear on our doorstep at 5:30 am on their way to work. Bread and cheese, maybe a cake left over from last night's sales, sweet tea or even at that hour, a Big Red to prepare them for their day's labour. A little later the first morning shift of nurses would also be heading up the hill. Cheerful women in white, they too would pass through, newspapers or something forgotten in the rush of leaving home. Later still, as some of us began getting ready for school, those going off to work, all clamoring for bathroom and our slice of breakfast, made in-between the crowds, we too operated our own shift system. Off we'd disappear leaving Granny and her help to run things until we got back.

The quiet outside is lovely, very few people are up yet; my neighbour appears at his back door, he, like me in night clothes, a casual wave as Sandy, his boisterous puppy, happily snarfs down her brekkies. Hound whines piteously, he really wants to play but he knows, Sunday morning is for sleeping not yapping with her. The dark green leaves of the avocado tree obscures him from view but I know he is smiling at my happy robe, it is so unlike me you see. Yanking on the leash, hound is retrieved, maybe I can hunker down for another few hours. The sun is climbing now, the reflection bouncing off the condo windows facing the front porch. From up here, I can barely see the sea over the clay tiled or aluzinc roofs. It is enough though, that little piece of horizon. No coffee this morning, not yet anyway. I still have not given up on the idea that I may snatch a few winks.

I briefly contemplate opening up the front doors and sitting on the porch while it is cool and private enough to do so. This is an old house, the porch wraps across the whole front but alas, it barely used because of the proximity to the road. Usually, the heat, dust and exhaust fumes are off putting, but truly, when the breeze blows and the shadows get long enough to hide in, it a a nice place to sit and contemplate your toes. Hound loves it, out there he is master of all he surveys. Too late, the downstairs neighbour is out puttering around his car. A sure sign that I should attempt bed again.

Wish me luck.