Friday, November 28, 2008


Something a little strange happened over the last two days. Payday falls within this week, earlier for normal folks, yesterday for public servants. So you'd expect, Christmas coming the whole of Trinidad would be jam packed right. Except, the traffic into work yesterday wasn't there. Sure you had some stop and go but not the usual, this morning, it took me twenty minutes, something that only happens on a weekend. HiLo WestMall was empty last night, there weren't that many cars in the carpark which is usually crammed, the lines weren't as long, relatively speaking of course. Now I'm not complaining, heck this could be really good, but why this phenomenon?

You had to wonder, what was going on and why did no one share the secret with me? You see the only conclusion I could come to was that a lot of Trinidadians went to the States for Thanksgiving. Mainly for the sales not the turkey, it reminds me of the seventies when Trinis used to go to Miami for the weekend as though they were going to Mayaro Beach (on the east coast of Trinidad for you foreigners). Considering all the recent cries for austerity and belt tightening it's kind of weird but what do I know. Have to admit, it does underline the ridiculousness of the Minister of Legal Affairs crusade against doubles vendors. Okay, so they've raised their prices, a lot, in the last year. Sure the price of flour and oil went down, but the price of gas and electricity went up, they still have to cover their costs. Look, if people have a beef with the price, then just don't buy the bloody thing okay.

As much as we're all in denial, I wonder how many people truly realise that things aren't so rosy here anymore. One friend called to talk about how awful his day was, he'd had to let some of his staff go. It's never easy to fire someone under any circumstances but it's even harder when it's economic. He talked about people in the construction industry who've been sending workers home since last month. There by the grace go we.

Last night Tans sent me a text message about the happenings in India. This time last year she was there, staying at the Oberoi, it was sobering and she was feeling creeped out. You just never know what might happen and the situation you might find yourself in. For a long time I wanted to go to India, just to see for myself but the possibility of going is getting smaller. The randomness of the events make you realise how little control you have over life. You owe it to yourself to live in the now.

This morning standing the early morning grey, the air was cool, a light breeze blowing making me want to crawl back into bed and sleep some more. Waiting for the hound to have his constitutional I noticed a flock of birds alighting on the next door mango tree, foreign birds, not locals. They're here for the winter months. Another year gone and you're still here, say thanks.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

On the next day of Christmas

While we're on the subject; in today's newspaper there was an article about what it was going to cost Trinis to "enjoy" their traditional Christmas feasts. It was instructive to say the least. When we were growing up, Christmas lunch was a special meal, something different from what we had every day. That was it. When we took to sharing Christmas lunch with the neighbours, it was a little more lavish, they actually used to do a turkey AND a ham, but there were quite a few people to feed and the leftovers were shared. However, there was nothing that we HAD TO HAVE.

And that's the thing. Why do we have to have anything? One of the best Christmas meals I ever had was a bake and shark on Maracas Beach, shared with Zeus. It was one of those days that could have gone all wrong, but somehow, it worked out all right. I'd woken up at the crack of dawn, to cut a long story short, I ended up on my own and decided that I wanted to be near water. The dog was thrown into the car and we headed off to the beach.

It was a crisp day, the sun barely warming up the air after a chilly night. The sky was clear, so blue that it seemed to go on forever. Parking the car in the almost deserted lot, hauling out dog and baggage while inhaling lungfuls of salt air. Heavenly. We plunked down on the un-raked sand. Zeus digging his usual hole to China, settling in on the edge of my blanket, sand everywhere, stuck to his fur, my hair, under my toes. The beach was mostly an empty expanse, a few corbeaus strutting around, ownership guaranteed. Zeus taking exception. The few other people, yes even at 7:30 am on Christmas morning there were a few diehards on the beach, scattered randomly, a nod, a smile and the odd Merry Christmas. The only real sound, the splish splash of waves on the shore. As I lay there soaking up the sun, sparing a moment to call my brother and best friend to wish them a happy day, it was truly peaceful. Sometime later an Indian family showed up for what seemed to be their carefully planned Christmas lime. They weren't loud but they were happy, sharing food and drink while the rest of us stood in line at the shark and bake people. The sharp smell of frying fish, the hot of the stove bake wrapped in greasy paper, slathered in garlic and shandon beni sauce. Sitting on the mat, propped up on dog, he with his own comestible, after all, it was Christmas, I felt very lucky.

It's easy to get bogged down in what you don't have but truthfully, we have so much. I'm not going to lecture anyone here. You get to choose what is important to you, but ask yourself if it's worth being miserable over. Is not having a bunch of things going to make your life worse or are you going to chose to be happy.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

On the first day of Christmas

Well not quite. This morning, in one of those weird feel good moods the Christmas tree went up. Previously denial had been the order of the day. Since there are no young'uns anxiously awaiting the arrival of St. Nick, other than sentimentality or tradition, a Christmas tree and decorations serve little purpose, other than to give the dog further distractions. It is more trouble than it is worth, like making Christmas cakes or pastelles. Why bother?

J9 reminded me that it was almost the start of Advent, so if there was any "Christmassing" to be done, this was the time to get it together. So over the first freshly brewed cup, the hound and I explored the nether regions of the spare room cupboards and dug out the tree in it's Carib case, decorations from shoeboxes and washed Ma Wallah's crystal punch bowl. The side board upon which the tree resides was given the requisite application of lemon polish. This is as close as it ever gets to the manic Trini custom "nicening" up the house for the season. For you foreigners, Trinis go through an orgy of window washing, rug beating, carpet shampooing, floor polishing, painting etc BEFORE putting up Christmas decorations, lights, new curtains and changing out cushion covers. This is our version of spring cleaning and believe me, it is something all Trini children dread because they know, for the weeks starting in mid-November to almost Christmas Eve, the insanity will prevail.

That said, I admit that it's something that I've never really subscribed to; when I had husband and household, we didn't put up curtains, nor did we ever do anything around the house than maybe some artsy fartsy Christmas decorations. One year we had a nine foot live Christmas tree that we hewed down from the forest, illegally, stuffed into the back of our sub-compact and drove home with tree on the gear shift, all the seats and just about filling the whole car. For months after we kept finding pine needles and a permeating resinous smell. The neighbours would peer through our glass sliding doors, sans curtains, to view the monster and it became somewhat of a neighbourhood tourist attraction. You never knew who you were going to come face to face with pressed up against the glass when you came down the stairs.

Another year, the artist, the real one not me, made a wooden tree with electric twinkle lights stapled on so that after dark you saw the outline of a tree. Then there was the year of the papier mache, banana Christmas tree, that one was mine, which stayed up until Carnival because it took so long to make that we didn't have the heart to take it down. The year of the "stained glass" doors,when we painted a large poinsettia and candles on the sliding doors was a particular favourite, the neighbours couldn't see in for a change. Our only other real Christmas tradition, other than the artist not remembering to buy his wife a present, was the pre-Christmas ham, baked in our toaster oven because we didn't acquire a stove until nearly four years after we moved in. The ham was usually bought in Tru Valu Valpark around the last week in November and baked by the first. One year we had to saw it in half to get it to fit and then cook it in stages. Hilarious, we stayed up late, the all pervading smell of baking ham making our mouths water, puttering around until it was done and then breaking out the rolls. Of course by the second week we were loath to see a ham far less to have anymore. Is it any surprise that last, acrimonious, relative filled Christmas I balked and produced a large beef roast.

My first experience of real trini garlic pork came from my first post divorce landlord. Of Portugese descent, he, and his Columbian wife introduced me to new things, but the garlic pork was out of this world that first Christmas morning when my fellow tenants and I joined the family for breakfast. Fried crisp with lashings of scrambled eggs, smoked ham on the side, Consuelo's arepas, queso blanco and freshly brewed sorrel, it was my new start. And though there was no tree in the living room that year, life was good.

Christmas is a time for family, for coming together, for forgiving, so many things to so many people. It is also one of those times with the highest suicide rate and known for provoking depressive bouts. One year, in the midst of event managing what felt like hundreds of Christmas parties, here was little inclination to do anything for my own house. Having fluffed three hundred and fifty bows there was no way I was going to do anymore. The boys on my crew gifted me with a bag containing a couple dozen beautifully made bows for my house and Rans, my boss, gave me a Christmas present that I can never thank him enough for. It makes you realise that what's important, it's not the price of the gift, the amount of food or how big the show, you know what's important to you.

This year, my little three foot Christmas tree, bought in a pit of pique three years ago when I decided rather arbitrarily one day that a tree was going to go up, looks like Helen Bhagwansingh's Christmas shop exploded on it. It is gaudy, obnoxious and would probably give Martha Stewart hives, at least there are only two colours, red and gold to go with the green. But it is a happy little thing, out of reach of Zeus who would roll the decorations around with great relish, a beacon of cheer in a rather sombre space. But it's there, despite my Christmas grinch spirit, because really, it seemed like the right thing to do at the time. The dozen pastelles and fruit cake have been ordered, they'll be packed into my suitcase and taken to my brother, this is as close as he gets to celebrating Christmas too. And for a change I'm not so worried about the world, to borrow from one of my favourites, "throw your arms around the world at Christmas time".

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Corset diaries

Some of you know me in my other incarnation, the one that I don't talk about here, much. So you can understand why I've been forbearing to talk about the economic situation in the country/world etc. Too much like work really. Let me tell you, it's been hard keeping my big mouth shut, but really, as a good ****** ****** I follow instructions well, most of the time. As a result I've been belt tightening for months, trying to be prudent, only buy what was necessary, though admittedly, I can justify that $40 pint of Ben and Jerry's any day. FYI, it's cheaper than a month's worth of depression meds and tastes a whole lot better; the fat content guarantees that you immediately feel better; depression meds take a whole month to kick in.

Anyway, of late that belt has begun to feel like more a victorian whalebone corset, cutting off circulation, making it difficult to breath, harder to move freely, constricting. You know what I mean, you're doing the same. Sure in the last few days the price of a few food items went down. Rice and wheat, things that I buy only a couple of times a year, when you have only yourself and a large dog to feed on a regular basis you tend to buy things that don't require a lot of fuss, that will teach me eh. I'm not in a traditional arrangement where I come home to make dinner for the family etc, the X-man eats whatever is on hand when he's around. Like most folk, I succumb to the temptations of a muffin, doubles or eating out, though not as often as one might think. Keep in mind, most days I eat on the fly a lot averaging two meals but it usually works out to one and a half along with the requisite gallon of coffee that it takes for me to function.

Right. Like most women I live by budget, it's carefully constructed in an excel spreadsheet, after all, technology is there to be used. At a glance I can see what bills are outstanding, how much leverage I have in between the sum that hits my bank account and what goes right back out. Lately that number is getting smaller and smaller until a couple of months ago I noticed something quite alarming. There wasn't any difference. You heard me. Now you might wonder, has my lifestyle become more extravagant, have I taken to throwing the old dollar around? The sad reality is that it's quite the reverse. Whereas I used to be able to go out for the odd meal or drinks with friends, maybe a pedicure, that's been cut back to the point of non-existence.

I tend to do my laundry on a Saturday morning while attempting to whip Casa Coffeewallah back into shape, it's usually a few loads through the washer and dryer. That is until the bloody electricity bill arrived! It was bad enough when the dry cleaning bill cost more than the utilities but now I can't win either way. Hanging it out on the line is not a viable option all the time. You can't leave the washing hanging out in my neighbourhood and expect to come back and find it every time. And then there's the rain so the old dryer gets a work out even though I follow all the green rules and optimise loads, clear out the lint collector etc. Sure I make more home cooked meals, but the raw materials don't just fall from heaven and then there is a lack of a twenty pound cannister of gas, they're in short supply around here. If anyone knows where one can be had in the Diego Martin and environs I'd be hugely appreciative of the hook up.

The other day, driven the point of total exasperation by the day, traffic, people etc, heading home my car turned into Movietowne, it's like Stephen King's Christine, it sometimes has a mind of its own. Screw it, I treated myself to Quantum of Solace and something to eat. Close to a hundred dollars in one shot for a movie, hot dog and some fries. That will teach me. I'd like to do the right thing and not buy pirated movies but you know, fifiteen bucks for the movie and another four for popcorn is a lot more palatable than forty-five and thirteen. I'll absorb the electricity cost thanks. I don't begrudge business owners you know, they have to make a living too but I suspect things are going to be a little hairy for them too.

The fact is, like most people I know, Father Christmas is going to be whizzing past my house this year. Sorry friends, those home baked treats that have been known to come out of my kitchen as presents, enjoy the memory, some day they will make a return. Ditto for the Christmas calls, cards and visits. Don't worry, I have no expectations either, we're all tightening up those belts. Of course I also believe in leading by example, so it's my hope that all those people advocating the tightened belt, are doing the same. We'll all be watching.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Message from the ark

Yes, I'm still here. So, I've been thinking, a lot, about a lot things. Mostly though, I'm looking at the world, and trying to find some space in it for me. Thanks to a couple of really good friends, Siggy Crom and Charms, I was re-introduced to the teachings of Eckhart Tolle about two years ago. At the time, I'd been questioning my life and a reluctance to resort to meds to get me through the depression that comes on from time to time. My cognitive therapist had taught me a number of coping mechanisms and also how to more easily recognise the signs and mitigate in the situation. I felt that I was doing better but something was still missing.

Tolle filled that void. For the past two years I've been trying, with varying degrees of success to embrace the teachings and maybe, to live in the now. A week ago something happened that rocked my world and caused me to question, albeit briefly. Then, three days ago, in all the rain and the accompanying chaos, I discovered something. The truth, it's all a learning curve and you have to understand that you will not always be in a good place, but that's where you are, deal with it.

Watching the rain fall, it didn't seem like the weather was so different from any other day. Rain in Port of Spain, then the news started coming in from all over the country. Sequestered at the dockside Hyatt it all seemed remote; bridge washed out, collapsed trees, roads awash, traffic gridlocked, people stuck trying to get transport home, chaos. But rain in one place may mean floods somewhere else or worse, a life metaphor. One seemingly insignificant situation can bring about life changes and something that appears disastrous may become a blessing in disguise. So to borrow, instead of "I am ruined", face facts, "I have twenty dollars in my bank account until payday". How do I deal with this. When you cease to allow your thoughts to rule you, it all goes away.

One of the symptoms of depression are racing thoughts in your head and an inability to wind down making you irritable, leading to insomnia or the other extreme, not wanting to get up. Watching the not moving traffic the other night I wondered how many people felt that that was their life. Stuck in a lane not moving.

So to face facts, I don't know who I am anymore, but it's not important. What's important is to just be. Instead of railing about all the things that we cannot change, change one thing possible. Instead of beating myself up and trying always to walk the balance beam, live with honesty, no matter how painful. Do the best you can under the circumstances. Most of all, as exasperating as it is to sit in endless traffic jams and to watch the same mistakes being made over and over, understand that those situations may be part of someone else's learning curve.

And lastly, there is ALWAYS COFFEE

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Mourning has broken

No, I didn't have a spelling boo-boo, it's deliberate. This morning, as I walked up Coronation Street in St. James to the usual coffee pit stop, I had the distasteful experience of having to step over a human being lying like so much detritus on the pavement. It was distasteful on so many levels; that a man could be reduced to less than my dog, that as a nation stumbling towards what we call development, we still have not found a way to treat with our dispossessed. That this man, lying on the pavement, being studiously avoided by pedestrians disgusted by his scent or by his disheveled self; had lost his humanity. I thought he was dead, he didn't seem to be breathing, other people were parking their cars, averting their eyes and hurrying into the coffee shop. I stopped to check if he was breathing, hoping that I would not have to make the call to someone to say there was a dead man on the pavement. After what seemed like an age, his ribcage moved and so did I though I wanted to turn back and head for my car.

Walking up Coronation Street is like navigating a minefield many mornings, the outcroppings of human waste lying wait for the unwary pedestrian. If, like me you have permanent nasal drip and a resulting impaired sense of smell, the sharp odourous ammonia and shit smell clears it up like nothing else. I walk with my head down, looking at where my feet go, not where I am going. Hanging my head in shame that this is what we must resort to maybe.

Do I feel guilty paying for my almost twenty dollar cup of coffee and sometimes a bagel while my fellow man lives on the pavement? It is not guilt, more an abiding sense of weariness, that for all the talk, we as a country still do not get it right. The guilt is not because I buy expensive coffee, I have few other real vices and work hard for my money, I don't have to justify to anyone how I spend it; it is that I feel powerless when confronted with the reality of the dispossessed and wonder what more I can do. What I do to assist the dispossessed is no one else's business, it matters not how much of MY time or money is directed there, I do what I can.

When someone takes Government office, they enter into a social contract with the people, to look after the country's resources on their behalf and to provide services to them. It is not a paternal relationship but one based on an ideal of social responsibility. The definition of a developed nation is one that has regular supplies of water, electricity, adequate roads, schools and hospitals, social services to those in need, care of the aged and those incapable of caring for themselves. This is why we pay taxes, this is what Government revenue is supposed to do. And yet....

The proliferation of vagrants in St. James is not unusual, there are several who are "regular's known to businessmen and householders in the area. That they have been allowed to persist for so long is in itself mind boggling. Downtown Port of Spain has it's own problems, it hurts to see the homeless sitting on the pavement outside Greyfriars Church of Scotland, the sheen from their unwashed bodies staining the grey wall black. You avert your eyes though you cannot escape the smell. It is bad that when I walk from the carpark every morning, I must brave the uneven, broken sidewalks or that I am fearful when I return in the evening, the desolation and creepiness of the poorly lit floors, non-working elevators, fleeing up to the seventh floor to my car, afraid that I will be mugged by the young punk who's stared me in the face, calculating how easy a mark I might be. Dodging the piles of garbage waiting to be picked up and avoiding the homeless has become an added layer.

You find that in order to survive and not be constantly wracked by blind despair, despite yourself, you become inured and find yourself learning to turn a blind eye, but despising yourself for it because this is not who you want to become. Someone who does not care. And that is when you know.....

Monday, November 10, 2008

Notes from the edge of memory

Yesterday was the first Sunday in a while that I didn't take in the quiet of the morning to write a blog. Generally, I write most Sundays because there is time to think but there are days when there are so many things buzzing my head that I have trouble picking one. And then I don't write, mostly I read. Several people had emailed me after the last blog, Slacker had found the link to my old career guidance officer and everybody wanted to know if I was going to get in touch with her.

To go back to the early part of this year; I'd found two of the three girls that made up my high school Limers Quartet. It was lovely talking to those girls again and for a brief moment we reconnected and then the contact petered out due to the pressures of our respective lives. I still think about them and know that they will always be a part of the landscape of my life and the experiences that make me, well,me. The moment has passed; these people had been a huge part of my life for a season and reason, I found them again at a time when I was questioning myself. It was as though they had come back to remind me of things that I needed to be reminded of and then moved on again.

And that's the point really, sometimes the memory is all you need. To acknowledge the place people had and the role the played. So AA, to answer your question, I like returning to the experience of Claire and Hillary from time to time, but I won't be reaching out across the miles. Some things are better left to memory.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Can anybody find me.....

In High School, I had a guidance counselor called Claire though we addressed her as Ms Sham Choy. She was a wonderful young woman, fresh out from an American university, one of a new breed in the high school system. Incredibly glamorous, she wore these beautiful natural blend fabric clothes made by a designer called Claudia Pegus who, at the time, was just beginning to make a name for herself and dizzying high heels. She was an exotic bird in a cage full of mostly chickens. Claire gave our french teacher, herself exquisite looking, with her tight pencil skirts and four inch stilettos, a petite woman with long red-brown hair,a run for her money.

These two women were different from our usual teachers who were usually anything but glamorous or even interesting. Looking back now, some of those women would have been in their mid to late twenties or early thirties but that seemed so old because they seemed so lacking in personal style. In comparison to the two bright birds who brought a vivacity to classes, most of our other female teachers seemed to lack in imagination or was it just that they weren't our ideal of what was hot.

Claire was the one who found out for me how to become a UN Volunteer, join the Peace Corps and a number of other interesting alternatives while I was in sixth form. She worked in the school for a couple of years before she was transferred elsewhere but I always remember her, an elegant, slim half chinese, with tight curly hair and a rosebud mouth, who told us we could be anything. I spent many hours talking to her, slightly envious that she'd been able to leave Trinidad to go to university, that she could dress like that, she seemed so independent. She also made me feel less bad about myself.

Recently a friend sent me one of those forwards, you know the type, some schmaltzy, sentimental thing about people coming in to your life for a reason etc. I'm not so sure why now, because I'd shut away so many memories, how I managed to think of Claire and the French Teacher though they'd had such a profound influence on my life and I'm sure I was not alone. Those women taught me more than they were paid to do though I confess, I might have given Hillary, aka the French Teacher, some bad moments.

A lot of times we don't understand the significance of someone in our lives until after they have left the stage or we don't recognise the part we play in other people's lives. It's like my friend Charms, talking to her first thing in the morning is better than wheaties, she always has such a positive outlook that you cannot help but feel better. Many times we choose to surround ourselves with people who add nothing to our lives other than to stroke our egos that we know so many people, or we're being "seen" with the "right" people or places. I have fewer "friends" now than I did maybe ten years ago but the people who surround me add to my life and are here by choice, mine and theirs.

Makes you wonder doesn't it.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Two words

Barack Obama

For the last two years the world has heard the words; when the United States of America sneezes, the world catches a cold. So last night the world was watching, with bated breath to see what would happen. At one minute past eleven, all the major networks were predicting a landslide victory for Barack Obama. The Beeb showed pictures from Kenya, his father's country, people huddled around a radio, people dancing the joy evident in the movement of their bodies. What a night.

I cast a thought to Alan, my consultant who'd gone home to Florida on Friday so that he could be part of the waning hours of the campaign, to assist in getting people out to vote. I know he was having a drink somewhere, as were the many Americans living in Trinidad, basking in the satisfaction, really history. Mr. Obama's election night speech is going to be one of those moments; most of us will remember what we were doing, where we were doing it and who we were with.

The world changed last night, an infinitesimal shift, those tiny ripples are going to get bigger as the weeks go by, because despite the political game, there is now someone whose office holds so much world significance, whose thinking seems to be radically different from business as usual.

Good luck to you Mr. President.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Dancing with myself...again

It was bound to happen. Actually, it's been happening for several years but I figured if I didn't play, it would go away. What is it?

Unequivocally, I dislike plagiarism, it's at best laziness and worse, sheer thievery. Ladies and gentlemen, plagiarism as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary- the practice of taking someone else's work or ideas and passing them off as one's own. In my line of work it is not unusual for this to happen; consultants do it to us, colleagues etc, it's a cutthroat world. I've always looked at it and figured, I have lots of ideas, you stealing one of mine isn't going to kill me, it just shows how limited you are. Until it happens, then you get mad. Depending on what the situation is, it can really burn.

So now you know. But this is really just a segue, what's happening is that I've started to "borrow" from myself. All writers do it to some degree, we store up ideas or pieces of work that we've created, sometimes they re-appear in different formats. It happens. From the mid-nineties up until about three years ago, I wrote extensively for publications, websites and corporate clients. It was sort of like being back in television when I'd churn out five to seven live spots a night in addition to producing business features, documentaries and occasionally, promos. A little bit of a lot of genres.

Mostly though, I wrote Tourism type articles for glossy magazines and the Tourism website. One carnival, I wrote 250 pieces for TIDCO, it was wild, it was mad and it was hard to keep up but I loved every minute of it despite my bitching otherwise. Of course at the time I was also running a Mas Camp and doing some event management on the side so a little madness was in order. Over the years I've become somewhat of a homegrown go-to person for all things Carnival and many things Trinidad. I'm proud of my body of work, it's taken me places and taught me a lot, about my country and about life.

What pissed me off? Several years ago while surfing the net looking for information on some or other thing, I came across another website, the information looked suspiciously familiar. I read it once and then again and a particular phrase struck a chord. I dug through my file of articles and sure enough, there it was. Not only had the owner of site used my work wholesale, down to the last comma, they'd not bothered to credit the information. I sent them an e-mail, the short version of the story, they took down the piece, eventually. But I started noticing work that I'd done being used all over the place, sometimes credited to me and sometimes not. This is plagiarism and it sucks.

Of course there are times when it gets funny too. A magazine that I write for once called me to ask who they should talk to about re-printing an article they'd found on the internet. They liked the style and thought, because I wrote for a lot of sites, I might know how to get in touch with the publisher. I fell over laughing, it had been written by me, I was the person they'd have had to ask anyway since I generally license my work. This is also not unusual, a piece written as a magazine article was used by the subject as their official biography in an art catalogue. Eventually, it found it's way back to me from another magazine who asked the artist if they could use an updated version, they volunteered to send a writer and gave him my name. He burst out laughing and said, "she doesn't have to come and see me, she wrote the original and I'm sure she can do the update from the information she knows". Nice to know.

It's been fun on some levels to do this work. At one stage my e-mail address was included on the tourism work and I used to get e-mail queries from all over the world, people looking for information, people curious about something I'd said or people who wanted to nit-pick or disagree. At the same time however, it is work that I did, like my colleagues in the business, we'd like to remind you, imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery but we'd really prefer if you credited us when you "borrow" our work.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Today in History

Every time I hear about history in the making or this is a historical event I laugh. Every day is history, or should I say, every yesterday becomes history. Some events have more significance than others which make certain dates stand out, most people can remember what they were doing or where they were on 9/11; there are people who still remember the day Kennedy was shot or man landed on the moon. Every day is history in the making.

For the American people, tomorrow will be one of those "red-letter" days. So far, other than the few posts written about racism in politics I've avoided talking about the American election. I figure it's consuming enough energy world-wide. But I couldn't resist a little time travel: this day in 1953, 1st live colour telecast coast to coast in NYC. The USSR launched Sputnik 2 with Laika the dog on board; Carol Mosely Braun, first black woman to be elected to the Senate in the US, BIll Clinton defeats George Bush to become the President of the USA.

Whatever happens in tomorrow's US election, there will a first, either first Black American President or first Woman Vice President. Around the world people are crossing their fingers in the hope that history will repeat itself and you have the first Black and a Democrat in the body of Barack Obama win the US election. This race has held the interest of the world for any number of reasons. I wonder at the American people who constantly cannot understand why the rest of the world "does not like us", we've seen up close and personal what you really think. Those of us that are a different colour have no illusions at all, as we say in the Caribbean, "your business in the road". I hope that Barack Obama wins, decisively. What a message that's going to send America.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Downtown, where everything is waiting for you!

I love Woodford Square, you meet such characters in there. To think, we almost didn't have the Square to escape to in the middle of Port of Spain, thank you Governor Woodford for having the presence of mind to include this in the re-building of Port of Spain. If it had happened today, the Square would have been sacrificed in favour of some large concrete buildings. This week, my office moved from one end of town to the other. Alas, we're no longer a stone's throw from the Savannah, now we're back in the midst of the mayhem, coping with traffic, downtown vagrants and general chaos. In the almost three years that we occupied the "temporary" office we'd forgotten what it's like to be downtown.

When you're alone and life is making you lonely
You can always go - downtown
When you've got worries, all the noise and the hurry
Seems to help, I know - downtown
Just listen to the music of the traffic in the city
Linger on the sidewalk where the neon signs are pretty
How can you lose?......

If you remember this old chestnut, incidentally released before I was born, you're part of the generation that grew up on Sesame Street with Cookie Monster who loved COOKIE, Big Bird, Ernie and Bert, Susan, Gordon, Bob, Mr. Hooper, Maria and Luis; this is vintage TV. Your parents probably took you to "town" to "shop" and at Christmas time the streets bustling, stores were all filled with imported goodies, new curtains and toys, wonderous decorations and strains of Bing Crosby's White Christmas and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.

So I've had to face facts, I'm officially middled aged. The first sign of trouble came when sentences started with, " when I wasa child..", don't pretend you don't know what I mean, you do. The next thing was the advent of bi-focals, let's not talk about that. They're black, they're funky and they don't LOOK like split frames, right. Going back downtown has provided a new horror. The dreaded, "comfortable shoe"! God, I wasn't ready for this one, I'm the erk, woman, who stalks around in four to five inch heels every day. Okay I've had bad knees for years but you suck it up and make sacrifices in the name of fashion. being there also means that I spend more time on my feet running up and down between floors and around the building. The first sign of real trouble is now I have to get up and walk around during the day to make sure my joints don't "seize". WTF! Can anyone say WD-40 required!

Look I was traumatised enough when my friends with little kids were critical of Sesame Street, c'mon, you guys grew up on this stuff too, we didn't turn out so bad. Cookie Monster is supposed to eat Cookies, not vegetables, this is taking political correctness too damn far. People get over yourselves, fyi, I smugly reiterate that my generation has better manners than the current one and surely a lot more respect, clearly all this PC stuff is not bloody working. Realising that you're getting older isn't so bad, it's the thought that I have to wear "comfortable shoes" to make the walk to and from the car park, I know it's shallow but it really sucks.

Walking through Woodford Square the other day I had a moment in the aforementioned four inch heels, unbidden, the sound of Petula Clark filled my head, I smiled to myself and admit with shame, I was humming "Downtown", that feel good, camp number. Must have made me walk taller because an older gentleman enjoying the morning air with two ladies, average age about 65, looked over at me and commented to his companions, "what a beautiful specimen, they don't make them like that anymore, perfect", before calling out to me, 'you're such a nice looking lady, don't change anything." Wow, a compliment, the morning grew brighter, the sun peeping through the leaves of the trees, a light breeze blowing. You meet all kinds of characters in the Square, in itself a character. From the people expounding on everything under the sun over at the "University of Woodford Square", the bandstand that comes alive with music at Christmas and Carnival, the Jehovah Witnesses handing out tracts, the Square is a little microcosm of the City. Makes you want to throw back your head and belt out...

The lights are much brighter there
You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares
So go downtown, things'll be great when you're
Downtown - no finer place, for sure
Downtown - everything's waiting for you

Don't hang around and let your problems surround you
There are movie shows - downtown
Maybe you know some little places to go to
Where they never close - downtown
Just listen to the rhythm of a gentle bossa nova
You'll be dancing with him too before the night is over
Happy again

Video Killed the radio star

You gotta love YouTube; a person could spend a lot of time trawling through thousands of videos of anything under the sun. Whether or not this is a good thing will be left up to history, for all we know it could be one of those things, like the hole in the ozone layer, which causes mankind to re-evaluate itself or not as the case might be. In the not so many years since You Tube has become a mainstay of the internet, fighting a close battle for popularity with Google, Wikepedia and social networks, it has introduced to anyone with access to a computer, miles of performances that would otherwise have been left moldering in an archive somewhere.

“Video killed the radio star”, these words were to prove prophetic as this first video screened by MTV when the station went on the air in August 1981. The launch of MTV, then only broadcast to about a thousand televisions in New Jersey, was to revolutionise the music industry, just as radio had several generations before. Now you didn’t only need a good voice or song to have mass appeal, you had to have a whole marketing department who would create the appropriate image that would appeal visually. There are many singers and bands around today that would never have made it if their success were to be based on people just hearing them as opposed to seeing them complete with dance routine or hot video.

Over the years MTV and its sister station VH1 have become diluted with talk, reality shows, pretty much everything but music videos and You Tube in a way has filled the void, the difference is, anyone with a video camera, or these days with a mobile phone can post things on-line through the magic of the internet. Sometimes things that have no place being out in the public domain but apparently for all our progress we’ve also lost our social controls and our ability to understand boundaries. Privacy and decency it seems have become those words you have to look up in a dictionary but not all of it is bad and some gems that might otherwise never be seen again, have made their way into cyberspace.

In the last few weeks I’ve found myself, rediscovering a lot of the music and music videos and finding new things via You Tube. That’s what really fuelled all those retrospective blogs that I’ve been writing. Well, not only that, I’ve been going to a lot of funerals of late and wondering when I became a spectator not so much an active participant of life. Finding the videos of those huge events of my youth brought back a bunch of memories. If you’ve ever experienced real depression, as opposed to the kind where applications of chocolate and sitting around in front of the TV work, you’ll understand how much you want to slap someone when they tell you to “snap out of it”. And so it is with memories that you lock away deep, so that they don’t have any power over you anymore, that’s what this has been all about. If my experiences can help someone else over the hump then so much the better.