Archive for September, 2007

September 20, 2007

In the arms of Morpheus

Anyone who knows me is aware that I love sleep with a crazy passion. A bit odd as i am, in fact, a serious insomniac and without the help of pharmaceuticals or a few martinis, sleep is usually unattainable. This has been a problem for me most of my life since as far back as I can remember. I have a hyperactive mind so the moment my head hits the pillow I start thinking about any number of things ranging from what i forgot to do at work to esoteric musings about the nature of the universe or finite infinities. The latter is a a major problem for me as I can’t , as they say, get my head around it. It can apply to the universe but is easier seen in numbers. Picture, if you will, any series of numbers – let’s say 2-3-4-5. If we now add to that the idea of decimal points we can see a problem. between any two numbers there can be an infinite number of decimal gradations. we can , for example have 2.00000000000000000000000000000000000001 on our way to 3. But why stop there. I could just keep my finger on the zero key of my incredibly beautiful and sexy powerbook for the next 2 years and then press 1. So technically we have an infinite number of zeroes it seems..but then again not..because at some point we have to get to 3. Thus the conundrum. By now you have either fallen into a coma or can see why such things can keep me up at night. Okay, I will admit I may be a tad unusual in this regard.


Back to the point at hand. I love sleep for one reason alone and that is dreaming. I have exceptionally vivid dreams every single night. They are invariably interesting ( and given they are generated by my brain I suppose they should be), always in full colour, and in every way completely indistinguishable from real life. As someone who loves food I especially appreciate that my mind has the good taste to also include smell and taste in my dreams. I gather this is unusual for men who seldom even dream in colour but then again I guess I am not that typical. It is not unusual for me to dream of a fabulous meal or walking through a delightful garden and waking up with the complete sensory experience still in my mind trapped forever. While my normal life might seem interesting to some – to me it is ineffably dull. My dream life is spectacular and thus my attraction to sleep. What is even stranger is the fact I always have serial dreams. I can wake up and drag myself to work then return home and sleep and my dream continues where it left off. Happily this also works if I wake up to ..ahem…attend to certain natural needs…when I return to bed it is as if I was at a movie in the good old days of an intermission..the film continues.


My life belief is that I wake up and work only so I can pay for a comfortable place to sleep and  air-conditioning so I can live my real life…the one that happens when I sleep.


If I were, like Neo in the Matrix, offered the red pill or the blue pill I am not sure which I would take. Because, to be honest, I am not sure which existence is reality. I live in Trinidad so the choice is even more confusing.


Very tired now so I will try to address the nature of politics and the meaning of life tomorrow.

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September 19, 2007

Can someone please stop Rachel Ray?

When I started this wee blog a while ago I thought with luck i would update it every few days or perhaps every week but here I am with another daily entry. I find the process therapeutic and, practical person that I am, it is helping get me back into the Fodor’s mode which I will have to get into fairly soon.

I am a very tolerant person both in my work and home life. I sit quietly when surrounded by bad art, I have been known to listen to people’s views on self-help books for up to 7 minutes and I usually resist the urge to hack door to door missionaries into bite-sized pieces. It should be a lasting testimony to my stoicism in the face of extreme irritants that I have never..okay, hardly ever…threatened physical harm to staff at work as a deadline approaches. I will admit to having almost zero tolerance for two types of personalities. Show me a person who is slow, ponderous and with no ability to adapt quickly to change and I will show you someone who can raise my blood pressure faster than an anchovy and rock salt martini. The other sort of person is far, far, far more insidious. These sorts are the tinfoil covered chocolate on the cavity riddled tooth of normal people. This, fortunately rare, beast is the sort to “stop and smell the roses”…sadly never in the path of a speeding cement truck. They smile all the time, make idle chit chat, frequently take notes during Oprah and often break into song urging those around them to join in.

The most ostensible of this genetic mutation is the despicable and seemingly omnipresent rose coloured spectacle wearing Polyanna of the airwaves Ms Rachel Ray. That doyen of the Food Network has been a thorn in the side of millions of thinking viewers. I need only see her beaming visage on my screen for a heartbeat and I leap for the the remote to switch the channel. I have even switched to the Golf Channel in my desperate need to escape the horror of her chipper take on whatever banal subject she chooses to mangle. I will admit there was a time when I saw a couple of her programmes in their entirety…I regarded them in the same way I regarded the Teletubbies…an innocuous and silly diversion. Then, one day, it all snapped into place – it was far more evil than I had previously supposed. Ms Ray was, in fact, an evil plant placed there to turn adult minds to mush. A smiling and badly dressed version of crystal meth. Beneath her inane prattle, her complete lack of understanding about food, her willingness to say every damned meal she eats is “fabulous..can ya believe it?” and her idiotic use of the word “amazing” to describe any place she visits, was a devilishly designed master plan. She was placed on television to make her viewers addled consumers of bad food and poorly written scripts. Clearly, G.W. Bush is behind this! When it comes to stupidity he is always my chief suspect since our own government has such limited influence internationally.

So what can we do about this scourge on the airwaves? Physical violence is generally discouraged by the authorities which limits the preferable options. Thumbnails, clubs, bread knives…all nixed by some ill-conceived legal system. I suppose we could force her to eat her own food but even I would draw the line at such a cruel punishment. I just want, on behalf of all decent people, to remove her grinning face from our screens. The world is cruel, there is starvation, war, genocide and the possibility we will have to listen to Manning, Panday and Dookeran nattering for several months. Rachel Ray must be stopped!

Thanks to those who have sent me great ideas for future blogs ..I am talking to you “Artist formerly known as Sheppard”. And to those of you asking to read Peggy Mohan’s amazing book…It isn’t mine..I don’t control the manuscript…I am just a happy early lottery winner. It will be published soon.

And in other news..my boss…the amazing Anthony Maharaj is being named repeatedly in the current tribunal featuring the Chief Magistrate. I know it is no secret I admire him enormously but I can say with 100% impartiality I have seen all the documents related to the sale of land personally and it seems very straightforward..In my view he continues to be a man with no taint. The CM on the other hand ..hmmm…what does “ I told him yes but I really meant no” mean? That last in reference to the CM’s chat with the CJ…Vision 20/20? Maybe closer to 20/99.

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September 18, 2007

A la recherche du temps perdu

When I was in therapy a few years ago my psychologist ( bless her dear heart) said I have repressed many of my earliest memories. It is true. I am not sure how other people remember their lives and whether they do so as a continuum but i have huge gaps in my recollection of my life between the ages of 0-25. This is strange to me because I had no especially traumatic childhood experiences that might account for such a situation. What I remember are disparate events and experiences which I cobble together and call my life experience. I mention all this, not because it is terribly interesting, but because sometimes certain things can trigger another chunk of my earlier life to fall into place in my mind and such a thing happened today.


My dear cousin Peggy who now lives in New Delhi sent me a copy of the manuscript of her new book to pass on to a third party but with the provision that I could read it as well. I have just started  reading it but reference to her jaunts in the 1970s to research the death of Bhojpuri for her PhD thesis takes me back to those heady and confusing times. Peggy and I have always been fond of each other recognizing, despite our age difference, the fact we are kindred souls. Family outcasts of a sort destined to be different and live the life that naturally comes from thinking differently. She was always viewed as the genius in the family and she has proven it again and again. It is a bit intimidating to be related to someone who is as comfortable playing guitar and singing in Swahili as she is postulating on socio-linguistics and the nature of the universe. Despite her long lead on me on the genius highway we have never had uncomfortable moments –  a situation made possible by our shared sense of humour and decidedly wicked streaks.


I am excited about her soon to be published book not simply because it is a fascinating subject and is of great personal interest to me but also, and perhaps primarily, because it is well written. Anyone can have a great idea for a book but the key is in the execution. I look forward to reading the rest of her manuscript and I shall be first in line to get a copy once it is published. Thanks for making me proud Peggy.

Fruit, Toco

September 17, 2007

Living alone

We are all, as Lamming said, in the castle of our skin but some us are even more insulated. A solitary home life is a mixed blessing and one that I am eminently familiar with. Some may regard it as a lonely existence characterized by frequent weeping, watching television in the fetal position and constant refills of that Zoloft™ prescription but I can assure you such is not the case. I have lived most of my life alone and I am pretty sure I would have a hard time doing otherwise. I had a roommate ( my friend and workmate Steve) for a while earlier this year when he found he needed a place. I didn’t need the financial help but he is generally a great guy and, as they say, it seemed like a good idea at the time. It didn’t last long despite the fact he is extremely easy to get along with. I ended up having to utter those time worn words that end many a relationship “it’s not you…it’s me”.


I used to think it would be wonderful to find the perfect relationship and spend my days in halcyon bliss in a stone cottage complete with babbling brook and a fully stocked library (preferably in the Cotswolds). I realize now I still want that same fantasy but without the live-in companion. Living alone spoils you in so many ways after a while it makes it difficult to contemplate any other existence. I can come home and do whatever I feel like without having to justify it to anyone. The undeniable fact I am selfish and completely uptight makes being alone even more understandable. No need to have to worry someone will move my things two inches to the left or right or rearrange the cushions on the couch. So in the time honoured blogging tradition of lists that I bowed to yesterday I present a short list of the joys of living alone:


  1. I can put anchovies on everything.

  2. Lighting 50 candles, turning off all the lights and listening to YoYo Ma is perfectly acceptable.

  3. Taking up the whole couch is A-OK.

  4. I can watch vintage movies till I am ready for bed.

  5. I never have to see dishes in the sink.

  6. When you are schizophrenic you are never really alone.

  7. No need to explain how “my day” was in mind numbing detail.

  8. The kitchen is mine..all mine.

  9. No need to tolerate offensive behaviour such as looking at Rachel Ray or putting ketchup on food .

  10. No Windows OS in my place.


Is there anything better than a croissant sandwich filled with sliced parmesan, avocado,red onion,  olive oil and mayo? I think not..where is Anthony Bourdain when I need him? And Ursula…avoid the dreary and floury Haas variety… seek the Caribbean variety that is larger and much better for you. Haas is far too pedestrian and lacking in taste for your advanced palate.

Pelicans, Toco

 

September 16, 2007

Put the pedal to the metal baby

Yes, it was bound to happen, a rant on the driving habits of Trinis. Maybe it is just me, having suffered through the trenches of “Young Drivers of Canada” and being naturally completely anal – but locals drive like crazy people on adrenaline. Perhaps I have never experienced the true glory of Roman driving or Shanghai driving ( and given the PM’s predilection for Chinese labour, perhaps I should make a visit) but honestly driving on the roads here is like a giant grid version of Russian roulette. I drive a large car for the roads here and I observe the speed limit constantly, always use indicator lights ( even in my own driveway), I count 2 seconds between me and the car in front of me and I check my mirrors every 30 seconds. I am alone in these pursuits.


I have had occasion to make a few longer drives lately and I must say I am in a state of amazement that there isn’t more carnage on the roads than already exists. We are still awaiting breathalyser legislation to be implemented so, at present, drunk driving is not only happening – so is drinking while driving. I have even seen police officers holding a lager while behind the wheel. Add to this the fact that Vision 20/20 Trinidad & Tobago  ( developed country status by 2020) has no police radar to stop speeders and the fact that our police service doesn’t believe that anyone drives after 5pm and you have a recipe for disaster. If you can believe it speed traps here still involve a policeman parked by the side of the road with a stopwatch, another waiting further down the road with a stopwatch and a third intrepid soul further down waiting to jump into the roadway to flag over speed demons and you see the problem.


My recent jaunts have led me to conclude certain rules of the Trinidad road that I hereby place for your consideration:

  1. Indicator lights are optional equipment on cars sold here.

  2. In the event your car came with them you must activate them 2 nanoseconds before you actually turn.

  3. Changing lanes willy-nilly is fun and should be done at high speed.

  4. Nissan’s are all sports cars and should be driven at all times as if you are in the Indy 500.

  5. If you are over 70 you must drive in front of me at 8mph.

  6. If you are driving a 30 year old Datsun you must also drive in front of me at 7 mph.

  7. The white lines on T&T roads were put there as Easter decorations and can be safely ignored.

  8. If you are the Government you must pave the roads and put white lines no sooner than 6 weeks afterwards.

  9. Traffic lights are simply a general warning and may be observed at your discretion.

  10. People with cheap-ass cars should spend thousands on rims and loud exhausts. This is very important.

  11. Your car is a monorail train and you may feel free to use the lines on the road as your track.

  12. It is very important when driving at high speed that you should be close enough to the car in front of you to read the serial number on the rear window.

  13. It is essential that you speed up as you approach a red light with cars in front of you and then apply the brakes.

  14. If you drive a Royal Saloon taxi you must ensure it billows as much black smoke as possible.

  15. Overtaking must only be done when you actually see another car approaching.

  16. If you drive a Nissan and it, quite naturally, hits another car, you must stop in the middle of the road and engage in an animated discussion.

  17. The shoulder should really be called “ I am a waste of life and have no job but I must rush to get where I am going so I will use it” lane.

  18. And finally, if you park next to a dark blue Ford Mondeo ghia you must ensure you bump it, open your door into it or, at the very least, scratch it.


Maracas Beach, Trinidad

 

September 15, 2007

Speak softly love

I drove through the Lapeyrouse Cemetery today to connect with history a bit. Trinis as a group have an active and passionate aversion to cemeteries. This makes sense when one considers the undeniable fact that Trinis also have an aversion to history in general. Tearing down old buildings and replacing them with glassy facaded towers is usually met with applause and the practice has become something of a cause célèbre with our beloved Prime Minister. In fact, the dear man has just torn down the house in which the former “Father of the Nation” brought the country from colonialism to independence to build a multi-million pile that would give I.M. Pei a serious migraine.


Let us turn for a moment to the pile in question. It was “designed” by the Chinese and built by a Chinese construction firm using Chinese labour. What could be more Caribbean? The style has been described as “Moorish” though I prefer to refer to it as “Lange Park does Vegas” ( Lange Park being an area of Trinidad famous for egregiously OTT houses occupied by arrivistes with more money than taste).In a country with a long and interesting history and fine examples of a unique tropical style why would we build a PM’s residence and reception centre with no reference to our heritage? I will, for the moment, ignore the fact that the aesthetically troubling thing cost taxpayers $143 million when we have hospitals with no beds. We have to keep in mind this is a PM who says he has to move out of Whitehall to new digs because:”We are now preparing to move out of there because it is not proper for a Prime Minister to be housed in a place with the roof leaking when rain falls,” ( Trinidad Express). Ummm…FIX THE ROOF!!!!! It will be cheaper and you will be able to stay in a historically important building. The worst thing is I have to glimpse the hideous thing every day on my way to and from work.


Back to the cemetery now before my blood pressure causes me to pop a vessel. Lapeyrouse should be on the tourism company’s list of important sites. It is beautiful, historically interesting and a nice break from the hectic city. Mind you, the plethora of vagrants living in tombs and small fires being set would make a bodyguard advisable – but it is easy enough to drive all the way through and jump out occasionally for a quick snapshot. My favourite part of the jaunt was the lack of noise. T&T is a noisy place. The city is full of traffic noise, the population’s preferred pastime is attending noisy parties ( to hell with any neighbourhood residents), everyone seems to believe that playing your car or house music at full volume is a lovely way of sharing your personal tastes with the wider world and Trinis are incapable of having a discussion at a normal decibel level. I love quiet and Lapeyrouse with its many residents is now my favourite community in the country.


To those observant sorts – this also ties in with my previous post on not understanding the fuss about death.

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September 14, 2007

Thinking of food

I could talk about work and it was an especially good day today where everything came together and my gem-like staff functioned like a powerful news army but I choose not to. I want to talk about food; a subject near and dear to my heart. I love cooking with a passion I normally reserve only for work and books by Huysmans or Corvo. I am not sure why that is because I am not born of a cooking family. My dear Mother struggles with pork chops and my Father, though he had basic cooking skills,  is not exactly the the most important influence in my life. Cooking makes my pulse race and gives me tremendous satisfaction. I will also admit I am the master of the 30 minute gourmet dinner. People who don’t like cooking are afraid of their artistic side. Cooking is not like painting..it IS painting. The palette is different but the end result is the same.


I love walking through HiLo ( our version of Tesco/Safeway) and imagining what I could do with certain ingredients. It is a natural state for me – constantly planning meals. As a single person I will admit I don’t often get a chance to get creative with my food but I sometimes go all out and treat myself to a great dinner.Strangely, as much as we are supposed to gravitate towards friends who share similar interests I only have two friends ( Ursula and Naz) who love cooking. Perhaps the others are secret cooks and I just don’t know it. I doubt it though, Robin can’t cook anything that doesn’t have Swanson’s written on it, Peter Police thinks hot dogs are gourmet, Sheppard is challenged by anything that does not involve a casserole dish and Alvin sticks with the same classic Trinidad Indian dishes with no attempt at anything resembling presentation.


I mention all this because I had a moment this evening. After a long day at work I stopped at HiLo and bought a few things. My dinner this evening was large mushroom caps sauteed in beurre noir and filled with my version of guacamole ( sans tomatoes and avec culantro rather than the usual  cilantro) which made for a lovely amuse bouche. Then, bolstered with a clever Syrah from Argentina, I moved on to my main course. I decided on a bed of chinese cabbage sauteed with five spice powder, thai fish sauce and ginger upon which I placed a perfectly cooked kingfish fillet ( marinated in liquid smoke, green tea, ginger soy and garlic). My side was rotini served with a mushroom, pesto and cream sauce. Not content with this I added a balsamic reduction to the fish….it was perfection. I ended with Haagen Dazs tiramisu ice cream. Yes, I know it is an American company with a fake Scandinavian name…but for store bought ice cream it sure is good.


So for all you trepidatious cooks out there…just remember…no matter how bad your cooking here’s a trick. Heat a frying pan to high heat …grate some parmesan into the pan in a long splash and let it fry. When it turns brown ( and I suggest a non-stick pan) take the pan off the heat and remove the blob. I suggest shaping it in any way you want ( you have about 45 seconds) and then stick it in a vertical position into any monstrosity you may have created. Voila! Instant gourmet meal. Remember – presentation is everything. Welcome to the main trick of upscale restaurants everywhere.

Aruba butterfly

September 13, 2007

Strange days

Somehow I managed to squeeze 17 stories into today’s newscast and still had to drop 3…I guess that was a good day for news.  It was also a sad day for us at IE as our reporter Melissa William’s father died following an operation. I don’t handle grief well at all. I can handle death remarkably well but grieving leaves me flustered and at a loss for words. One of my staff told me I have to learn to empathise more which I suppose means I am cold and calculating. I am not really …but I accept the fact that in the midst of life we are in death. It is part of a cycle. I suppose being male doesn’t help. We are not hard-wired to break into tears over such things.


On a different note ( he said, adroitly changing topics) I was appalled to hear about the conditions at Scarborough General Hospital. If you are not familiar, SGH is the main hospital in Tobago, one half of the allegedly twin island republic. To be sure Tobago is much smaller than Trinidad in terms of population and sheer size but we are still dealing with citizens. I am dumbstruck that in a country  with a budget of 40 billion one of our hospitals has no oxygen, no sutures and patients put in the corridors. Is there something wrong with this picture or is it just me? We shall ignore for the moment the fact SGH is housed in a termite infested building built well over 100 years ago that is unsafe for  anyone to inhabit.  I realize I have a certain fondness for Tobago but even ignoring that..why is it that citizens of this country have to tolerate conditions that would be best suited to rural Uganda?


A country that is rolling in oil and gas wealth should take care of certain things…oh screw that…ANY government in ANY country  has a few basic things it has to focus on namely; water, electricity, health, safety and security. Those are basic. I am not political but if I look at the list we are only doing fairly well on one. Water in T&T is available regularly only to a selected few ( including myself thanks to pumps),health is a joke and  safety and security are highly questionable.


I will never run for office but I know one thing for damn sure I would ensure that half of the republic did not have to seek medical treatment in a cow shed with no supplies. Oh sure, I know there is a new hospital being constructed for Tobago…I believe for well over 7 years now…but thanks to thievery and ineptitude it still sits on a hill outside Scarborough as a monument to our stupidity and lack of concern about Tobago.


At the risk of not being funny…something has to be done by the Minister of Health and the Tobago House of Assembly. Lives are at risk. Take some responsibility

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September 12, 2007

This side of paradise

A busy day at work today. It was one of those days that started off looking “ok for news” and then stories started pouring in to the point I had to hatchet half the stories just before news time hoping that some of them have a bit of shelf life. There were also several major developments on the company side which i cannot disclose just yet. Let’s just say we are one of the least sophisticated stations right now but will be leapfrogging to first place soon in terms of technology. It is all rather exciting, for me at least, and I am very glad I chose well when I picked ieTV. It helps to have a leader with patience and vision. He may not be Steve Jobs but he also doesn’t have frequent meltdowns and only curses every now and then. I really wouldn’t want to work anywhere else and I mean that regardless of money offered.


I learnt a long time ago that loving what you do is much more important than making more money. It helps that I am only supporting myself. I often think about what would be running through my mind on my deathbed. I know I would not be happy thinking “ I made lots of money” but if I could think “I spent my life loving what I do and maybe making a small impact on what people think” I would die with a smile on my face. If I died now I would die with a smile on my face. Live your life with passion and you will go to your grave a happy person. Compromise and you are doomed to a life of regret.


I got my contracts from Random House today for my Southern Caribbean assignments including Fodor’s Caribbean and Fodor’s Ports of Call so having signed and faxed them back to new York  the process has started. Next is the usual arranging with tourist boards and PR agencies and then it is a lot of ungodly inter-Caribbean travel. As much as I hate airports and flight delays and connections and as much as I feel lonely when I travel there are worse jobs. The sheer beauty of the Southern Caribbean is almost indescribable and I actually live here. It amazes me that while I am almost sure 80% of Europe and North America would kill to live in the Caribbean; about 50% of Trinidad & Tobago ( and most likely many other islands) want to live in the Northern Hemisphere. I guess the grass really is always greener elsewhere. I think my favourite part of the Caribbean is the the combination of beautiful vistas and an amazing attitude towards life. As we say in Trinidad…Sunday could fall on Monday and nobody would care.


Further to follow as they say in the Toronto police.

 

September 11, 2007

OF CABBAGES AND KINGS

A number of things are running through my head today which is not surprising since there is so much room in there. I was pondering a couple of television pharmaceutical advertisement warnings. Let’s start with Cialis that 36 hours of frolic drug. Has there ever been a better way to get people with erectile dysfunction to buy your product than warning “call your doctor if you experience an erection that lasts more than four hours”. That is a bit like trying to sell  a fuel additive to a Yugo owner and warning them “check with your mechanic is your car suddenly does 0-60 in 4.2 seconds. My other favourite is for Requip meant to treat restless leg syndrome ( who knew?). Their rather puzzling warning includes ( and this is a cut and paste from their web site):”Also tell your doctor if you experience new or increased gambling, sexual, or other intense urges”. This completely confuses me. Can you imagine the phone call?


Hi Doc ..it’s Bob..my legs are great but I suddenly have the urge to fly to Vegas and pick up some skanks while I am there.


In other news. As I mentioned yesterday today is the anniversary of September 11, 2001, better known as 9-11..or in the rest of the world 11-9. I had to do a piece today on a memorial service held at the US embassy today which obviously involved lots of 2001 footage. Looking at the planes hitting the towers and the Pentagon I was struck my the ethereal nature of the footage. I remember living  in Toronto when it happened and watching the events unfolding thinking I was watching a really over-the-top Hollywood movie. It didn’t register as reality for quite some time. The scale of the thing was enormous which was what confused the brain. I lived in New York when I was at the UN and I know the size of the towers..it was startling. The unfolding of the events was also a bit strange. One doesn’t normally think of terrorist attacks on that scale. When the first plane hit the tower I thought of those stories of planes slamming into the Empire State building accidentally. It was only when the second plane slammed in at 9:02 that it became an obviously planned attack. The collapse of the towers was the final Hollywood moment that completely stunned the senses. The works of man brought down in a way that seemed almost like CGI. I read somewhere that there have only been three catastrophic collapses of steel frame buildings in history; all of them on September 11th, 2001.I don’t know if that is true but I can honestly say I have never seen anything like the collapse of the North tower, the South tower and WTC 7 before. There was also a chilling call to 911 in NYC from someone trapped in an upper floor that ended with “Oh God” as the building collapsed. It was a chilling choreography apparently masterminded by Bin Laden. The event has been  described as an extraordinary piece of “performance art”. In a sense I see what they mean but it is impossible to forget the thousands who lost their lives so the analogy loses all meaning.


I have also been thinking about the concept of love…but more on that in another blog.