Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year

Here we are. Another year. Wow. Where did 2011 go? Guess it's true, as you get older, time blurs and you lose track.  It was a strange year, wrapped in a miasma of hopelessness, ill health, and yet, there were some standout moments that gave me an inkling of what was lurking not too far below the surface. Middle age is not so different from any other age, you just have more experience is all. 

In deference to my counsellor who always made me name some good things, here goes:

my very good friends
phone calls from my brother
realising that people think I can do ANYTHING (even when I'm winging it!)
understanding my value, as a friend, family member, employee
learning to let go (again)

The purpose of my story? None really, only to say, don't be afraid to explore, to find your passion, to get rid of the clutter in your life. It's not about money, or fame, or position, life is more than that. Stop re-reading that last chapter, picking away at the mistakes, get on and write the next chapter and the next. It's your story, feel free to edit as you will. Sure you may never get that 21" waistline back, or fit into a size 6, so what? It's not the end of the world. Love yourself, don't let some ad agency copy define you. It's not worth it to spend your time agonising on what isn't, focus on what is. Because all that time you wasted, you'll never get back. Was it really worth the agony? I doubt it. 

So here's to 2012, going forward with hope, with a promise to myself. Happy New Year everybody!

Friday, December 30, 2011

The day before the day before

It's the eve of New year's eve, the hustle is on  to do last minute things for tomorrow night; preparations for parties, or grander scale balls, things to resolve, resolutions to be made. End of Year is a time when people re-examine themselves and make decisions to greet the new. In the midst of the madding crowds, stop and ask yourself, is this where I want to be? 

Seen on Facebook, how do you move on to the next chapter in your life if you continue to re-read the last one. On this the almost last day of the year, I know with certainty that my own life is about to change. And that change is a good thing. 

So to you out there in the world, Happy New Year. Don't operate from a position of fear, don't stay in a rut because it is comfortable or easy. Be who and what you want to be, because life is precious and time waits for no one. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Thanks for the innovations

This blog, since inception has always been written on an Apple computer, starting with a Powerbook and then moving to a succession on MacBook Pro's. Every computer I have ever owned has been a Mac, somehow, I've never been a PC type of girl. Despite his oft made fun of black turtlenecks and control freak demeanor the world has much to thank Steven P. Jobs for, several generations of people have been allowed to "Think Different" through his genius.

Tonight, there will be many superlatives written, analyses on how his thinking and products changed the world.  "Steve's brilliance, passion and energy were the source of countless innovations that enrich and improve all of our lives," Apple said in a statement. "The world is immeasurably better because of Steve." Yes, despite whether you liked him or not, used his products etc, we have lost a visionary make  no mistake.  Since the second coming of Jobs at Apple the company has consistently pushed the envelope to create products that capture the imagination and by so doing, changed the face of world.

Apple has inspired many to continue to reach, to up their game, Tim Cook has large shoes to fill. And in truth, Apple may continue on brilliantly, but it will never be the same. Because in his drive to always top his game, Jobs has left a long legacy. And by golly Steve, we'll miss you unveiling the next Apple product.

Thanks for the innovation.

Sunday, October 2, 2011


My brothers don't hate the two X-men who were part of my life the least not for the reasons you might think. They would have weathered physical abuse reasonably well. It would have given them a tangible target for them to get angry, they could have pinpointed that thing; the thing that they could say, leave. And then, how do you tell you big sister, the one who's held your hand through all those moments, that her life is shit, because she's allowing someone to do that to her? Or that many years after the fact it's still colouring her life because she won't let anyone get past the barriers.

My brothers, all of them, whether by blood or by choice, were angry because I let someone make me feel like crap, treat me like crap and most of all, I took it. So they were angry with me too. Don't let anyone tell you that mental abuse is preferable to physical abuse. Neither is better or worse, they just are, they are about control. About having someone manipulate you and take away your self respect. 

And here's the thing.  You either fight your way back or you spend the rest of your life second guessing yourself, questioning your choices, being afraid of taking risks. Having written about this again and again,    it sounds like a broken record. Therapists encourage you to practice introspection in these situations. To look inside yourself, because that's all you can do. This is what I found out...introspection, not a bad thing. But, you can do it so much that you lose yourself to it and end up doing exactly what you said you wouldn't. You analyse everything to death, stop trusting your gut, have complex explanations why you are unhappy. As opposed to: this is a shit situation. This is not for me or whatever the situation warrants. And though the cause has virtually disappeared from my life, there remains the effects of those years and so, always there despite intellectually knowing that it is shit. 

Funny how it works, I am the one everyone calls when there is a problem or needing assistance. But I rarely give anyone an opportunity to do the same for me, because if you have no expectations, you cannot be disappointed. My brothers and friends are spoilt by me.... why then am I so surprised that it was them who broke the wall.

Oddly enough, it was a gay man sitting over a dinner table, in a lovely restaurant. Having given up his evening, because I called, because I was crying, to do something nice for me. Over dinner, my wonderful friend said to me, all those things you want a man to tell you...and in that moment, you know that someone loves you. And it does not matter that we will never be more than platonic friends,  we have love.  And the next day, two gay women, lovely, lovely people, saying, come on over, talking, drinking wine, exploring the fridge, dancing in the living room as I DJed via iPad. And as they hugged me and sang Bruno Mars, Just the Way You Are to me, in that moment, life was good.  

Thanks guys. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


It is almost October, the year is mostly over bar the hectic rush that is Christmas. Hard to believe the millennium is already into its second decade. Soon we will observe the rituals that have survived virtually intact for centuries, in a way that is reassuring because the world changes these days at fever pitch.

Fall had always been my favourite season when staying in colder climates. The crisp bite in the air, sharp, smelling green. Birds flying south for winter, knowing that summer was over. And the leaves turning shades of red, bronze and gold, whole stretches of hedges looking as though someone had passed with cans of spray paint and coloured them in. If spring is the time of renewal and new things, fall is the time to say goodbye.

In the tropics, ten degrees north of the Equator the changes are less dramatic but no less noticeable. Here the evenings get cooler, the scorching heat of the day banished by colder air descending. In the early hours of the morning condensate drips off the eaves of roofs, a patch of wetness denoting the footprint of the house. It still rains, that heavy torrential downpour that leads to hot cocoa, evenings curled up under the blanket with a good book or these days, an e-Reader. The snowbirds are here, arriving in numbers daily. Inhabiting the neighbourhood fruit trees, their songs are different from the native birds. If you take the time to listen and the noise of the traffic quiet enough, their music accompanies morning coffee.

These cooler mornings are harder to get out of bed. The nights are longer, the days shorter, dawn takes its time to arrive and this is the time when sleeping with someone can be a languorous pleasure. The sticky, sweat filled August nights giving way to a time cool enough for cuddling in a tangle of pillows, sheets and bodies. Who could not like this?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Growing up without a father after 9/11

Growing up without a father after 9/11

This story sad, no denying that. The reporter well captures the poignancy of children waiting for a father that never comes home, the recurring nightmare of a parent who has to cope with the loss of a spouse and deal with kids and an event that is so large that it is a constant reminder of loss. For the world, 9/11 is still the news story of the century, it touched so many lives and changed the way we thought of so many things that were previously commonplace. Ask anyone over the age of twenty where they were on that day and they can tell you. For those moments that it took for the towers to come down, the world stood still, watched in horror and then watched again and again as the events were endlessly replayed by the world media. It was a truly sad day for mankind because it was caused by man, not some random act of nature.
And yet, this story has another resonance for those Trinidadians reading it. In reality, it is the story of many Trinidadians who leave here to go and live in "America". It is their version of the American dream. Many immigrants work at low paying jobs to ensure that they have a roof over their family's head while they continue in their quest for better. For some, it means a house, car and decent schools for the kids. Others study and get better jobs and create their own version of the dream. But for this family it turned out to be a messy, somewhat sordid end that left them perhaps questioning the memory of the person. The underlying story line is familiar to us, it happens here all the time. We recognise Vishnoo, from sneaking into a movie, to the way he interacts with his children. But he was also a still married man, living with another woman, having children leaving another family behind. It is a quintessentially Trinidadian tale in many ways, it's the stuff of so email forwards: only a Trini would decide to go up into a building to get a better view of a disaster, to the quotation from the wife of ""The way he go, it's like the earth opened and just take him away from them." Life is messy, you never know what will happen.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Been through the desert on a horse with no name.

Oftentimes the greatest revelations come to you in the wee hours of the morning as you toss and turn hoping for blessed sleep. In the darkest hours of night problems seem more dire somehow, urgent, unsurmountable. Things, that by day, have smaller significance when pitted against the more urgent imperatives: getting a job done, going somewhere on time, and all the cares of modern living. It is therefore little surprise when seemingly startling answers to all those puzzles that you push to the back of your mind, reveal themselves in detail when there is little to otherwise occupy you. However, depending on your state of mind, they are perhaps, not the solutions you should be looking at.

It is hard to face the realisation that increasingly, values that were once held close, have over several generations been eroded, leaving behind a global culture that more and more, worships the vapid, self promoting cockiness that stems less from true ability and relies more on being “with it”. You Tube has provided a platform to promote your every moment, documented in often excruciating detail for mass consumption. More and more electronic media gives rise to the adage that everyone is a writer/photographer/designer/chef or whatever is today's trend. Even blogs, like this one, are really one person's musings put out for opinion. In fact, the constant magnifying glass has removed any need for standards, after all, anyone can do it, no matter how good or bad. Is this a good thing? You get to muse about that when you can't sleep, I don't have an answer.

When you consider that public figures these days are mostly famous for being famous, the result of a “sex tape” or having some scandal attached to their names is it wonder that we seem to be raising children with little morals and ethics. Things that ten or even five years ago would have been unacceptable have now passed into being commonplace.

It is okay to be a lout. Starting sentences with, “in my day”, is a surefire way to have eyes rolling and to be typed as a dinosaur, probably past your usefulness. And in truth, who's to say they're wrong. After all, they are the ones inheriting the earth, never mind that the majority seem to have passing acquaintance with grammar, manners or common sense. No, my generation is not perfect, far from it, we raised you lot so that should tell you something.

But it is interesting, we are told that age is a number. Advertisements for cosmetics, educational opportunities etc tout that we can be forever young even as our ageing bodies let us down by developing joint problems from all those spin classes and immobile botoxed grimaces that pass for a smile. We endlessly the pursue the fountain of youth, competing though we should know better. You see age is more than a number, it signals that we have had some life experience, or it should. That we have a wider perspective than someone just starting out because of those experiences and that we are unashamed of being who we are. Sadly, that is not the case. We struggle to keep pace, even as we conversely say that we are proud to be older. One of the best ads on TV is for the Toyota Venza. Hats off to the ad agency who came up with that one. You'll have to google it – see, we can learn new things that are relevant.

These musings in the wee hours of the morning are not about vilifying young people or the way of the world. It is the calm acceptance that perhaps my time has passed, my relevance eclipsed by younger, brighter stars, and that's as it should be. It is wondering, in my fourth decade, what is the next chapter. And no, forty is not the new thirty, it is what it is. 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Too much time on my hands

Times flies when you're having fun, everyone knows this adage, we hear it often enough. In reality time goes by at the same rate, it only seems to drag if you are bored and wish for it to go quickly. So far it has been easy to not write about the state of affairs in Trinidad (and Tobago). It is the usual drama that accompanies most things here and it will all be over soon enough, forgotten except to say, remember (insert curfew story here), back to normal. The state of emergency and accompanying curfew declared by the Government of the day have not much changed the way most Trinidadians live. Most of us have self imposed curfews and our rights are usually being infringed by certain elements, now they have legitimacy. For the record, this blog is not about the SOE so you can stop reading here if you were looking for SOE commentary.

Now that I can't venture out past 9 p.m. there is lots of time to do “stuff”. After all, there is only so much Criminal Minds and educational TV one can watch. And so, got to thinking, always dangerous I know, about the difference between HAVING character and BEING a character, because yes, there is a difference. It all started with an email forward sent by a like minded friend. For a long time I've pondered in this space that I'm not like the average Trini and for the most part those things that other trinis consider to be the hallmarks of being a TRINI continue to elude me. Thanks to my friend, I've discovered that in fact, I am Bajan (or Barbadian to you non Caribbean people). Why you might wonder, would someone born, raised and living for most of their lives in one Caribbean island, have so many characteristics of another despite not having spent more than a few days at a time there.

Consider the evidence at hand:

I read, I buy books – like the average Bajan.

The Bajan does not throw KFC boxes out of moving cars but what is more, if they see someone exhibiting classless behaviour, they tend to open their mouths and articulate their discomfort.

The Bajan does not care to elect people who SHOUT on platforms. They don't care for politicians who have soup kitchens and rum and roti. Their politicians speak in a normal tone of voice and the female ones are not trying to be beauty queens. Their media does not care to follow “important people” around and generally focus on issues rather than diatribe.

The Bajan does not have to tell the world, every minute, how dey “love up dey country”. They demonstrate that by educating their families, coexisting peacefully in neighbourhoods, protecting their environment and raising the type of citizen that will not disappoint them at election time.

In the event that a police report is made, the police will actually manage to come. And the police have email addresses that a citizen can use to communicate with a relevant officer.

The above are all characteristics of my non-Trininess and more examples can be found at If you have character, all those things above are not alien, you will in reality, find them to be normal every day living. Trinidadians on the one hand take pride in the fact that “we is characters” and yet complain about everything. Sadly, we often mix up reality TV, with real life and unless there is some drama and bacchanal associated we think that order is boring. We love our country so much that we condone illegal vendors on the streets, squatters in the hills, poor and illiterate driving, garbage everywhere, vagrants in our capital city etc. The list is endless. We have blithely accepted that we needed a state of emergency to get the police to do what they should have been doing in the normal course of their work. Because apparently, without the impetus of a false sense of urgency, the majority of our police force would not get the job done.

For some reason we, the general populace, have a sense that it is okay for us to be lawless, rude and inconsiderate because we are not criminals, those are the people with guns living in “hot spots”. We are just “characters”. And so fail to see the correlation, that crime is crime and you don't need a state of emergency to fix that. What you need is to have more character; i.e. backbone, forward innovative thinking, hard working, having a sense of humour without having to reduce everything to humour and less tolerance of those things that we perhaps attribute to “being characters” instead of seeing them for what they really are, a lack of responsibility and real character. Our problems as a nation are not going to be fixed in a day, or in three months even with the suspension of the constitution. First we will have to grow up and accept that 49 years into our independence we have as yet to live up to the late Dr. Eric Williams' Independence Speech :

“What use will you make of your independence? What will you transmit to your children five years from today? Other countries ceased to exist in that period. Some, in much less time, have become totally disorganised, a prey to anarchy and civil war.
The first responsibility that devolves upon you is the protection and promotion of your democracy. Democracy means more, much more, than the right to vote and one vote for every man and every woman of the prescribed age. Democracy means recognition of the rights of others. Democracy means equality of opportunity for all in education, in the public service, and in private employment--I repeat, and in private employment. Democracy means the production of the weak against the strong.”
Or a definition of independence, “ The capacity to manage one's own affairs, make one's own judgement and provide for oneself”.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

A long road

It's like being wrung out, nothing more inside, nothing more to say, or even if there were, not wanting to say it because what would it matter. Stepping away from writing is the most difficult thing,  it is the skill that has defined my being for most of my life. Writing is intensely personal, you do it alone, you and the blinking cursor, blank page that you fill with words, sometimes enthusiastically, sometimes painstakingly. Longing for the creative outlet and perhaps reaching an audience. That's what having a blog is about, writing about something and sharing it with people who may or may not have similar likes and dislikes.

But looking back at the last few years, it was as if the writing had become more and more bitter, less and less about what creativity. More about the situations that unfolded and the discomfort of dealing with things that had very little chance of being resolved. It was about venting rather than exploding with the weight of responsibility.  Understanding that it would require radical changes to reach a new place and perhaps it was time to do just that without second guessing. It is also about understanding how much the world has changed. This is how people must have felt in the 60's when man went to the moon, it was so radically different to everything that came before and then the rapid changes due to technology that turned everything on its head. Pedestrian by today's standards to be sure, those changes triggered an even bigger explosion hurtling us towards a very different, unexpected outcome to what our parents planned for  those of us born in that hopeful time.

After nearly a year of not writing it feels like trying to ride a bicycle that hasn't been oiled in a  long time. Or the inability to do a forward bend after a long lay off from yoga. Creaky, lumbering, not graceful or even interesting, but what else to do.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Today's thoughts

This week a friend had thieves break in to her home. We live in the same building, it was traumatic on two levels. One, for my friend and her family who lost many treasured memories and important papers, and then, for myself knowing that there by the grace, it could be me. Fortunately for her, she missed confronting the perpetrators though the police surmise that they were still in the house when she got home. That in itself was nerve wracking and a lot of prayers were said that night. We found out later that another neighbour had been hit as well. The police were surprisingly helpful, at least the fingerprint guys, but we know, unless there is some fluke, the possibility that my friend will get her things back are slim. 

For her, this incident was the last straw in a long line of circumstances that have forced her to re-think her decision to live in Trinidad. It's been an on-going conversation between us for several years, we ponder our inability to own a home, the ever rising cost of living and the very real fear of being victims of crime. This country that we have given so much to that gives so little back.  In a way, this incident has been a catalyst for making decisions that we have been putting off. 

In the meantime, it is distressing to read the news. The situations first New Zealand and then  Japan have caused the world once again to look at the power of nature and understand that even with the best planning, it can still all go horribly wrong. The stoicism of the Japanese people is amazing, even in the face of such great adversity they are still seen to be behaving in a disciplined manner. They help each other, follow rules and advisories, you might think that there would be a huge break-down in society but so far, they have gone about trying to survive as best as possible under the circumstances without resorting to anarchy. It is an object lesson that collectively we should be carefully observing, there by the grace, it could have been us. 

One thing that becomes clearer each day is that the nuclear crisis has huge long term implications for the future use of nuclear power world-wide. How much more evidence do we need that perhaps we should have moved away from this as a source of power and invested in more sustainable, earth friendly sources? Germany and Venezuela have already re-thought their positions and we shall see how long this thinking lasts. Meanwhile, forgive the pun, we will all face the fall out in some way. 

In the face of these crisies, and other natural disasters occurring in the world, the unfolding events in the middle East that started in Egypt and have spread to Tunisia, Libya etc, you may be forgiven for thinking the prophets of doom and gloom who have taken to embracing the idea that the world will end in 2012, as per the Mayan calendar, are on to something.  Whether or not that is the case, we'll find out to be sure, but in the meantime, it's our planet and we have to live here.  

Sunday, March 13, 2011

I am woman re-visited

Though it may seem hokey to today's young woman, Helen Reddy's " I am woman" defined a generation of women. As the world commemorated International Women's Day on March 8th, there were thousands of women who had no idea of the significance of the day . They are lucky enough to take for granted the ability to work outside the home, to choose whatever career they wish, to not be limited in their activities by the fact of their gender. Because as those of us who are a little older know, it has not always been that way.

It was as a small child in the 70's that I first heard Ms Reddy's song, it was played over and over on the only station we had TTT. The station has come and gone like many of the pioneers of women's empowerment. They are much to numerous to list here but thanks to the magic of the Internet, they are out there for a whole new generation to experience. The song "I am woman" is simple, it does not speak only about being equal, it talks about empowering yourself and that you have the power over your life. Wow. For a kid who only knew that women were teachers, or nurses or other "womanly" type pursuits it was powerful. For the first time I really knew that I could choose to be whatever I wanted.  Unlike my great grandmother, grandmother and even my mother.  Eventually, I was the first of my branch of the family to go to university, male or female. In my mother's generation she had cousins who went to university, they were considered to be unusual, remember, it was the 70's.  Twenty years later, it was me walking around campus without a doubt that I had the right to be there.

For generations women have fought for the right to work and receive equal pay, to join any profession and be respected not reviled, to wear whatever they choose, to vote, to run a country, to manage their own money. There are still places in the world where this is not possible due to fundamentalism, or parochial societies. In several countries in the Middle East a woman cannot drive a car, go out in public without a male escort etc., perhaps someday too they will have the same rights that women have fought for in other parts of the world. I hope so.

That is why it is so disturbing, the latest trend in female performers, to debase themselves or perform lyrics that are denigrating to women, reality TV which magnifies the worst qualities possible. That women's empowerment is taken to mean that we can behave as badly as possible and then excuse it as "freeing up".  Too many women fought too hard and for too long. Gender equality does not mean that we are better than men or that we should take the place of men, it means that we are evolved enough to value ourselves and to act that way.

Meanwhile, I am woman, hear me roar, in numbers too big to ignore.........
I am woman Helen Reddy

Thursday, March 3, 2011

For the Slacker

This one is for my ¨pardner¨, fellow Trini, Slacker.

Slacker has a gift that I could only hope to play catch up with, he is a much better writer than I, his prose often spare, with well chosen words that flow one after the other making sure you want to read. Where I am a journeyman, Slacker is an artist. For a long while he disappeared, we had that in common. We both went away to different places, perhaps to find that core within  that made us want to write, and to write well.  It happens.

As Winston Churchill used to allude to his depression as the  black dog that rode his back, so too have we our black dogs. If I were to describe mine in very literal terms, he would be a hellhound, with red eyes that shine in the dark and is the stuff of which nightmares are made, my own personal Cerebus, guarding or keeping me in? What is it for you Slacker? What is it that keeps you away from the empty page?

Ah yes, us arty farty folk who use any excuse not to do "honest" work! But the so called honest work has been responsible for sucking the very soul and lifeblood of the thing that makes us stand apart; that quality or talent that defines who we really are when we slip the bonds of the suit and tie, impossible high heels and faceful of makeup. The self we hide behind because we must survive, must eat and put a roof over our heads.  Yes, we are excessive, we feel too much, want too much, love too hard and then we do it again and again. Not because we have not learnt from our experiences, we are far more wily than that. Instead, we cast ourselves against the sea of normalcy because we cannot do otherwise. Not the best curse of action, but so be it.

Slacker, I am glad you have come wherever you went to bide your time. And I look forward to the challenge of keeping up with you again. Selah

Sunday, February 27, 2011


Most people take their computer keyboard for granted, if you use it enough it gets familiar enough that you can find the keys without having to hunt and peck. Having learnt to type on a regular typewriter long before I ever laid fingers on a computer keyboard, I can type at many words per minute. As a matter of course using a computer to construct most of my work has become second nature. Like most familiar things I take this skill for granted, until that is, my computer stayed at home this trip and my friend John graciously lent me his laptop. It is a Mac, since I am PC unfriendly, they tend not to like ,e and behave badly. So far so good. Mine is the more heavy duty MacBook Pro, a four year old workhorse, this is a cuter MacBook. Still for me, a blessing. 

Except for one slight problem, John uses a french keyboard which means that the keys are not where I am used to them.  It is taking me forever to find the right keys. For the first time in almost thirty years, I learnt to type quite young okay, I am having to look at the keys while I type which slows me down. I cannot get it through my head that M is now a comma/question mark. Needless to say frustration is getting the better of me. Do you know how many times you use M and A in English? Lots, that's how many! And while I speak some French, I don't write it so there are lots of mistakes.

And it got me to thinking about all those times when we think we know, or get stuck in a rut because it's familiar. We cling to certain things, people or personality types because we are too afraid or too complacent to try to do something different. Because it is hard, because we are afraid to be alone or we prefer to make the same mistakes because it is easy and breaking out requires work.  All of this from trying to get my brain to accept a keyboard. So yes, there will be mistakes but in the end I will have created a new blog post and perhaps, mastered instinct. 

Thursday, February 24, 2011


Is it right to utilise taxpayer funds to fund a popularity contest? Stupid question right, it’s going to happen anyway and it’s no less stupid than all the other frivolous crap that the taxpayers’ money is spent on. This is the on-going burning question engaging Trinidad and Tobago, oops, no, that’s not quite right. The question is whether Ravi B’s behaviour was not acceptable and it has been the source of police investigation, politician’s attention, just about everybody has added their two cents.  While his behaviour was reprehensible and was up there in the category of sore loser, it is not unusual, and the question remains; should the performer be the target of all this attention?

A small explanation; this year the Chutney Soca Monarch Competition, one of those interminable Carnival related competitions based on popularity more than on content or substance was given two million taxpayer dollars as a first prize.  Ostensibly this was encouraged by the Government as a means of raising the standard of the competition. Perhaps the question that should have been asked by John and Mary Taxpayer, how exactly was this to be accomplished by handing over money without setting some goals or standards? 

Chutney music grew out of the rather bawdy songs that Hindu women sang at their version of a bachelorette party, over the years. With the changing role of East Indian music in Carnival prompted by Drupati Ramgoonai in the 80’s, chutney evolved into its own art form. However, in the last ten or so years what were cleverly constructed songs on a variety of tropics have been eclipsed by misogynistic ethnic stereotyping in  the form and prevalence of  “rum” songs. That is, songs that glorify drunkenness or love of alcohol as an excuse for not being a good husband, for beating your wife, for being unfaithful etc.

And this is where the problem starts. Should the taxpayer be funding an event that glorifies alcoholism in a country that has a problem with alcoholism? Are these the values we wish to be imparting to our youth?  This trend has not been limited to Chutney Soca, indeed while calypso has always been risqué, critical of government and lifestyles there has been a downward spiral into songs that are about mimicking sex. The lyrics a mishmash of random soca buzzwords like “wine”, “jam”, “wave”, “party”, “grind” etc thrown together around a central idea usually involving what one will do with a woman in a fete. You are encouraged to be “wotless”(worthless), to “wine on a tong ting”. Makes you wonder why we are so surprised that there is little respect for women in our society, why youth are so free and loose with themselves and we have so many unplanned pregnancies.

And yet, we all talk about raising the bar, becoming a first world nation, having values. Forgive me but how are these competitions funded at the taxpayers expense doing that?  The quality of the offerings are banal at best, mostly puerile aimed at the lowest common denominator.  People should always have choices, if this is what you choose to listen to, well that’s your decision, should it be state sponsored, that’s another discussion. The widening disparity in popular Carnival music is a good indicator of the level that our society operates. We are supposed to be an educated, progressive, thinking lot, and yet scatological, sexual or alcoholic references are what have the most resonance. Trinidadians are losing their clever way with words and degenerating into a crude, witless, anomalous mass. Sad from the nation that promoted the Mighty Sparrow, Lord Kitchener, Earl Lovelace, Vidia Naipaul, Super Blue, Geraldine Connor and a host of other talented folk.

Back to the earlier issue, at the root of the Ravi B ‘controversy was that the competition was decided by people texting in their favourite. That means this competition was not judged on merit but on how popular your persona was. It also means that it was probably decided before a note was sung. While the performers were aware of the rules up front and should abide by them it must be very disappointing to put out the effort to be put down on the basis of popularity over performance.  Then there is the disparity in prize money, two million first prize, and one hundred thousand dollars second prize? This makes sense how?

It may be a novel idea to some, but instead of investigating Ravi B the powers that be should be questioning their use of the taxpayers dollar at a time when they are also moaning about the state of the treasury.  Because when Carnival is over we might all remember those things that need fixing. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Marvel at the crowd

It is 12:26 on Wednesday and the windows of my office building are shaking in time to the music coming from Woodford Square. We are close and high up enough to experience the full blast of “B Square”, a series of free concerts put on by a mobile provider every lunchtime this week for office workers. Every day features another hot “star” of the Trinidad Soca scene. Today it is the King of  Soca Machel Montano, from early droves of workers filed up the road to the Square. Trinidadians routinely call in sick etc when it rains, they can’t come to work. Despite the overcast skies with intermittent rain, armed with their umbrellas they’re all out there.

It is a testament to Mr. Montano’s popularity that he can command the numbers that throng the Square today. More power to him and his crew.  A visiting foreigner could be forgiven for thinking that we had a civil protest given the proximity to the Parliament Building and Hall of Justice.  But no, it is not. Even while we see the news images of the protests in the Middle East, the dismantling of dictator states, the ending of 30 years of a state of emergency in Egypt and 19 years in Tunisia; even as we commiserate with our fellow man in New Zealand, and even as we rail against the vicissitudes of crime, pay issues etc here at home, it is apparent, nothing will stop the Carnival.

It is instructive that Trinidadians were putting up black squares on their Facebook and BBM profiles in mourning for Daniel Guerra, the eight year old who was abducted on his way home from the shop, were every news outlet, social networking site etc was filled with outraged comments from persons from all walks of life and yet, the hot story was the Ravi B, a soca chutney performer, was a “sore loser” after his behaviour at the Chutney Soca Monarch Competition.  While one thing has very little to do with the other, our sense of proportion is unbelievably lacking.  Yes, his behaviour was egregious, but it is sign of how farcical most of these so-called competitions are, is it warranting the level of attention, you can judge.

While I have nothing against the concerts in the Square, I was once a participant, it just underlines what our priorities are and it certainly is that we can party hearty! We would never have a situation like that in Egypt, Trini would grumble, get vex and then hit a rum shop/bar/pub or wherever else and say, “later for dat”.  I almost hope that the Ministry of Arts and Multiculturalism holds fast to his promise to tax imported Carnival costumes just to see whether all those people who vex now going to refuse the inflated prices next year; my guess, not at all. The cost of fete tickets have been escalating every year, looking at the pictures, there does not seem to be any fall off in attendance and judging from the amount of calls from people looking for tickets, well, nuff said.

In two weeks this will all be over, the remnants of costumes swept up, the glitter packed away, the soca stars will go on to their next destination, the sheds around the Savannah dismantled and what will we be left with? 

Sunday, February 6, 2011


As my more erudite colleague Paolo Kernahan stated in his column yesterday, I too had not considered adding my comments to the situation in Egypt. Frankly, as a Trinidadian, my experience with large groups standing up for anything is more likely to mean a few thousand people packed together in a makeshift party location with deafening music and few toilets than anything to do with principles. No wonder I am loath to comment.  

For twenty-nine years, the people of Egypt since the assassination of Anwar el Sadat, have had Hosni Mubarak, a former Head of the Air Force as their supremo ruler. Mr. Mubarak has survived six assassination attempts and has been re-elected on four occasions though this has less to do with popularity and more to lack of opponent due to a dodgy restriction in the Egyptian constitution which was of course, crafted by his party. Essentially, as in most Arab countries, Egypt has a passing acquaintance with Western style democracy; their elections are not based on a popularity contest where parties go out and campaign, throwing millions of dollars into advertising and who has the whitest smile. However, as with most of those Arab regimes, there has been unstinting support from the poster child of democracy, the US, for the incumbent.  As one commentator from the Middle East wryly pointed out, how can you expect ideals of democracy from someone who has basically ruled as a dictator for thirty years?

But all good things must come to an end and it would appear that Mr. Mubarak’s ride might well be over despite his last desperate attempts to cling to the status quo. It is reminiscent of the movement in East Germany, also driven by the economic imperatives that brought down to Berlin Wall. It would seem, that at some point, as a leader, you will be made to live up to your rhetoric; at least in some places. For the last three weeks, like everyone else in our shrinking global village, watching with awe as throngs of people show up everyday in Tahrir Square to support their cause I’ve remembered what having a cause means.  My view of the world is coloured by early formative memories of seeing other protests in first black and white and then the magic of colour TV and of course, even various coups etc here in the West Indies. People of my generation and earlier know what it is to have principles and to stand up for them and commit to a cause.  

Once again I’m taken back to the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, referred to in much of the world as "the Tiananmen Square massacre and in Chinese as the June Fourth Incident (in part to avoid confusion with two prior Tiananmen Square protests), were a series of demonstrations in and near Tiananmen Square in Beijing in the People's Republic of China (PRC) beginning on 14 April 1989. Led mainly by students and intellectuals, the protests occurred in a year that saw the collapse of a number of communist governments around the world."  The iconic images of tanks rolling over university students was particularly poignant as I too was a university student and questioned whether I would have the nerve to do as they did. Fortunately, like most people in my part of the world I’ve never had to find out but given my internal knowledge and past experience, my participation would be guaranteed.

And so, applying the example of principles to the current state, though there is no repressive government here, we enjoy the democratic popularity contest of free elections; our problems are caused more by lackadaisical attitudes and poor decision-making. Trinidadians complain all the time, about crime, about the aforementioned poor decision-making etc. And yet, our willingness to do more than complain is tempered by two choruses of “wine to the side” or “ I is a Trini” while being exhorted to move left or right while waving a hand in the air.  Social scientists have long posited that due to the Trinidadian propensity for treating lightly with important things and reducing all our references to the national festival Carnival, we escape the responsibility of taking an active role in addressing our problems. Take for example the crime issue. If crime were so serious and we felt so bad, perhaps we would consider giving up Carnival for two years while powers that be devote all the time energy and resources to making tangible inroads.

What you say? Is now you want Trini to riot! No all-inclusive fetes! No costume in Yuma or Tribe!  No banal, inane, barely literate entertainer exhorting you to do something faintly obscene while throwing in a few patriotic references to make you feel less ashamed. Before you think me a Carnival hater, it is quite the contrary, far from it.  Frankly, I used to love the energy, the constant activity, the innovativeness and wonder of design, the people watching.

However, our willingness to constantly find distractions instead of facing the hard decisions and preparing for the long haul is really driving me nuts. My ability to enjoy a fete is tempered by worrying about my car being broken into outside, whether I’ll be safe getting into my house, whether someone will get shot or robbed or whether some drunk person is driving down the highway with me. Lest you think I exaggerate, listen to the Parliament channel; the crime issue is constantly referenced there.  

Average spent on Carnival activities: $650 per person per fete, fete outfit -$450 (a top!), costume -$3,500 (regular section), gas money, “vex” money, etc. Add it up, people take loans to cover Carnival which by the way, happens every bloody year with the same parties, the same music, pretty much the same everything, heck, even the costumes look the same due to extreme laziness on the part of the so-called designers. But yet, we continue to shell out and then spend the rest of the year complaining about how bad it is.  Government resources are expended including those of the much-beleaguered police force. Is it really worth it? I suppose those who make their revenue off of Carnival would say yes.

It would be extremely poor of me to compare our situation with that of the people in Egypt. They have legitimate reasons to demand a change and have stood by the courage of their convictions. But is it so wrong for me to wish that people here would become a little more serious, grow a spine and approach our issues with the single-mindedness that they party?

(photo from the Huffington Post more images can be found at:

Monday, January 31, 2011

A gift

The strong outlines of the young man’s face are very appealing across from my usual seat at the dining room table. His lithe muscular figure is easy on the eye, he is always joyous; we’ve only been recently introduced by a friend and are “getting to know each other” so most mornings are a discovery, largely because mornings are the quiet time, lost in contemplation and meditating to mostly gird my loins against another day.

His apparent happiness is appealing, coming at a time when life perhaps is not so much, filled as it is with days that make me want to weep.  The temptation to return to the oblivion of SSRI’s or even Bupropion to counteract the entire appalling overload is tempered by knowing that feeling nothing is not the answer. It would be too easy to ignore the cause and to not address the real reason that every morning also brings the rising panic and nausea associated with anxiety.  An anxiety that is not caused by feelings of inadequacy or low self esteem but finally, knowing that each day is spent denying the truth and my own self worth.  That’s the magic of the little happy pills, an expensive luxury for not only do they take away the emotions, they also remove any responsibility for dealing with the root causes…well except for the physiological ones which are also present. While not denying that they have been and are still extremely useful, in this situation, they would be a sop, a refusal to face the truth, and live a lie I will not.

Coming at this time my new friend has made a difference, he gives me pleasure, to just look at him and what he represents. My friend, in giving him to me did not realise the magnitude of his gift or how much I would appreciate him. You see, in giving me my young man, my friend expressed his own love for me, it is something that to treasure because this friend, is someone that not only do I love, but I admire.  He has chosen to chart his own path through life, working at his art, though criticism, lack of understanding by a buying public and sometimes, difficult life situations do not necessarily make it easy.  Through the years he’s held my hand more times than I can count and his unwavering support has gotten me through many a bleak day though he does not always know it.  His experiences have given me perspective and has also helped me to understand that really, we aren’t normal, but that’s probably a good thing, because we were meant to be different, to be special.
The reality is, most of my friends are like this, the real people who surround me, love me and know me have given me leave to support myself, to honour the work that I do and more importantly, to accept me, whatever. It is the greatest gift that you can give to any friend.  The young man is a beautiful drawing, given to me by the artist, I take great pleasure in looking at him and appreciating what he really is; a sign of true affection and trust. And knowing that someone thought enough of me to consider what I might like and to give it to me; how lucky is that.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

It's a YouTube kinda day

Slash’s familiar opening guitar riff, the opening bars of Sweet Child of Mine fill the living room. Outside, it is a lovely but grey morning, the rain falling light as mist over the trees and rooftops visible through the porch door and windows. The sound of traffic is getting louder as the morning opens up to become day.  The heavy metal may not be the most obvious choice for a morning like this but The Monkees, “Daydream Believer” has already made an appearance as will Coldplay’s  “Clocks”. It’s an eclectic mix of music consistent with the ambivalence of my mood.

I know what this means, so do you if you’ve read this space for anytime. But we’ll leave that there. Last night standing in a tattoo shop on the Avenue with the insistent bang of the music truck sponsored by a snack company wending its way down the road was surreal. Like being in someone else’s movie, the puzzlement of the young man at the counter and the disdain of the groupies posing decoratively on the couch. You could see the question, what is this middle-aged woman in a dress doing here? Obviously getting another tattoo jackass. Except I’ve left it too late for the moment.  Off to the beach in another four weeks, nothing screws up a new tattoo like saltwater so perhaps the week after.

To quote Katy Perry in Firework:

Do you ever feel like a plastic bag
Drifting through the wind
Wanting to start again


Sunday, January 23, 2011

And it makes me wonder

It is an undeniable fact; if you live with a large, hairy German dog indoors, he will shed prolifically, clogging the vacuum cleaner, dryer etc.  It is also obvious that, if you like his type, Maroon 5's Adam Levine is one hot man. He is so smoldering hot that it's amazing his videos don't catch fire. What does one have to do with the other? Not a whole lot really but considering that I've spent most of this fine Sunday with a large dog instead of someone looking like Adam Levine makes me wonder at the choices we make.

The pros of dog; unconditional love, you always know where the dog is, you don't have to talk to the dog when you've had a shitty day, the dog will snuggle when you're depressed.

Cons - the dog does not have opposable thumbs and is therefore useless with a screwdriver or power tools, he cannot talk back, there are places he can't go with you.

Hot Man - he's a hot man, nice to look at, promise of sex, someone to talk to, can perhaps be trusted with power tools, if he's socialised-you can take him places.

Cons of hot man - other women want him, you have to talk to him even if you've had a shitty day, you have to talk to him when he's had a shitty day, he's useless with tools, and sometimes, he requires more than four cups of dog food a day.

This of course is simplifying the issues but these are the things you might contemplate while sipping a cool drink after lunch propped up in front of the computer with Adam Levine on YouTube and a German dog wanting his stomach scratched.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

After all this time

I've been gone for a while, my heart just wasn't in it anymore. It always happens when life goes a certain way, the urge to write becomes stymied by knowing that if it's out there in black and white I cannot fail to acknowledge what IT is. You can only hide for so long.

There are so many things that are waiting to be commented on:

The the company that is contracted to move prisoners to and from their court hearings drive so dangerously that "justice on time", their slogan, may well be "better dead than late".  If you work in downtown Port of Spain you know them. The officious grey and white vans in convoy with several police SUV's siren and horn blaring escort driving at high speed through the narrow streets, trying clear a way through the heavy traffic when there is nowhere to go for the average motorist. I wish the powers that be would spend some time walking about or being on the highway when they are coming down at full tilt and experience what it's like. It may well change your point of view or are you going  to wait until someone gets hurt or killed? Having nearly been rear-ended by one of these vans yesterday because the driver was tailgating at high speed on the highway and failed to notice that the traffic was slowing down for the traffic lights and then swerving at the last minute to avoid  my car (which was at a complete stop as were the three cars in front of me) into the next lane with an on-coming vehicle. Nerve wracking to say the least. By the way, the driver of the van failed to moderate his behaviour after this incident and proceeded in the same way once the light had changed.

Lack of driving courtesy on the whole.  Taking a trip out east at midday for the first time in months I remembered why I don't like to drive anymore. Trinidadians are generally are discourteous drivers. They will not budge even if someone else has the right of way, they will block intersections even when there is nowhere for them to go. Trying to get out of the gate in the morning is always an experience, it's a long time before anyone will let you join the line of traffic. We cut each other off, we tailgate, we are upset when the person in front of us does not run the red light because we plan to, the list is endless. Women are generally more rude than men, yes ladies, be ashamed.

Traffic police - do they even exist? Or are they only used to escort prisoners and VIP's, and to clear traffic for aforementioned? We used to see them on the highway but that disappeared some time ago never to re-appear. Suggestion for the COP, instead of sitting in your office over on Sackville Street, walk around Port of Spain in your civvies one day and see what your officers are doing. Take a drive up the highway. Bravo that you are trying to drag the Police into the 21st century but sometimes a little low tech is useful.

And speaking of the streets of Port of Spain. The Mayor was all for removing street people, well I really wish he would. My sympathy for the suffering is tempered by the large piles of human excrement that dot the pavements, the rank smell of unwashed bodies and the hands thrust into my face every time I'm stupid enough to go out of my building. Particularly bad, Queen Street, Chacon Street, actually the smell is so bad you gag. What are we paying 25% income tax for? VAT?  We say we want to encourage tourism, foreign investment etc, but our capital city is not what you expect from a modern progressive place despite the presence of large, faffy buildings.

Why oh why are we putting up that crap in the Queen's Park Savannah again? You mean after fifty  years of staging a Carnival parade we couldn't come up with a better solution. Actually, I'm pretty sure someone did but was totally ignored as per usual when anything innovative is put forward.

You know TALKING about innovation is not the same as BEING innovative right? It's pretty apparent that we think if we say we are going to be innovative it's the same thing. Wrong.

Day one headline - Missing piano. Day two headline - Where's the piano? Day three headline - Accuse ex-PM of misappropriating piano. Day four headline - Piano found right where it should be.  Is this for real?  Steupps

Surly service from store clerks etc. and the fact that business owners neither monitor their staff to see what type of service they are offering nor do they provide adequate training or empower their staff. that said,  big praise to the Security guard at the NP station on the Beetham who noticed my struggle to fill my car tank while trying to wrestle my hair and clothing into submission because of the wind and came over to assist. He didn't have to pump my gas but he did and was very pleasant too! Kudos also to the guys at Peakes they usually very helpful; the girls at Rituals Nicholas Towers and St. James. Good customer service is possible.

Are you beginning to get the idea of why I stopped writing? There are so many larger issues that are not mentioned here but the list is endless. What this has done is made me understand very clearly that years of my life have been wasted trying to achieve something worthwhile instead of very quietly living my life without guilt.  What's next? I suspect the other side of the world for me.