February 9, 2008
It is now 1:09am Trinidad time and I have just sent the Aruba chapter of Fodors 2009 off to my wonderful editor Doug. This means I only have Curacao to complete and there is light at the end of the tunnel though Curacao is quite a handful. I love Curacao, though, because it is like a Dutch twin of Trinidad with all the ethnic diversity and the same odd mixture of smugness and insouciance. When walking the streets there it is hard not to think you are visiting some distant cousin of Trinidad with a clear genetic strain that makes itself felt.
With work facing me tomorrow ( oh the joys of working in television 7 days a week) at least I can see an end to coming home and having to pound away at the wretched iMac keyboard. Speaking of which my iMac has what was for years the standard Apple keyboard which i have always maintained was a travesty. It is spongy and the key travel is so annoying it is like walking in loose beach sand or snow. Peter Sheppard has kindly visited the Apple store in Las Vegas and bought me the new small apple chiclet keyboard that is now standard on the new iMac so I can look forward to that to make my Curacao typing less painful. I know this is of little interest to anyone but the best keyboard ever made for the Mac or any computer is undoubtedly the MacAlly IceKey. Mine has finally bitten the dust after several years of Fodors and much Instant Messaging but what a divine creature she was. Almost no key travel and a satisfying and reassuring click to let me know I actually hit the key. Sadly, that sticking “k” key which was resulting in far too many “KKK” entries in my typing spelt her demise. I loved you MacAlly IceKey…may you rest in peace. You earned me many thousands of dollars and I will place you in my closet to find eternal peace.
I am happy to report that I found the dark cloud over my head lifting slightly today which was a wonderful feeling. I don’t know how my brain chemistry works but I am happy to feel a tad better after 3 weeks of wanting to fly off a cliff at great speed. Preferably onto the head of the preternaturally chirpy Ms. Ray. No point ending my own life without helping the world right?News today started off dismally but then Parliament came along to save the day. We have not had a murder here in at least 24 hours and I was beginning to long for one if only to fill a minute or two of news. What we ended up with was a typical Trinidad story of government stupidity…scratch that…several stories of government shamelessly wasting money. How they do it and stand up in parliament without showing any shame I will never know.
We learnt today that our useless blimps…inexplicably purchased to fight crime are costing a lot of money. The imbecile National Security Minister stood up in the house and happily informed the population that the first one we leased for ..I think 4 million dollars..was ..and I quote “unsuitable for our atmospheric conditions”. Ahem. So I guess we never asked when we leased it? Also, I wasn’t aware that our hellish “atmospheric conditions” in the halcyon Caribbean were so much worse that the US that we leased it from where they have things like winter and tornadoes. Then we leased a second one that has since broken down and is costing..I kid you not …millions…even though it is still grounded. I love the second one because that particular crime fighting behemoth is painted bright red. Maybe it is just me but if you are trying to sneak up on criminals for surveillance with an object that makes an ungodly racket and is huge doesn’t painting it red make it a bit more obvious? To make matters even worse we learned from the Minister that the last one we actually purchased for $15 million costs well over $1 million a MONTH to maintain. So apparently this giant insult to taxpayers costs $17 million a year to maintain…well over the cost price of buying it. As far as i know a Caribbean Airlines jet which makes money and gets serious use costs a lot less than that to maintain a year. How the fool stands in parliament and says these things without prefacing it with “I am so sorry” I will never know. But wait, dear reader, there is more. The Attorney General stood up and said..without a hint of irony..that the Chaguanas Court is a mess so 3 years ago the government rented a building to move them into as an interim measure. It seems after spending $4 million they have not moved in yet. The reason? Apparently the building was not suitable. Umm…then why did we rent it? But all is ok…the government is spending 8 million on the rented property to make it suitable. So let’s see. We are spending $12 million on an interim measure that isn’t ready after 3 years. I am pretty sure that we could have built something in that time. Apparently incompetence is alive and well and accountability is dead and buried here in T&T. It would not be so bad if there were not other things that are screaming for attention and yet the money has been happily flushed. Once again I feel I should ask our brain dead Minister of National Security “what other crime riddled place uses a blimp”? The answer is nowhere…as if he would listen to common sense.
Ah well, thankfully I finished the chapter though I know the queries will be pouring in soon. There was some idle talk of liming tonight from Alvie and Binky but Binky’s comatose collapse in Cunupia ended that plan and Grommit’s plan seems to have failed too. I guess they are all paying the price for partying through carnival. I know one thing. After my interview with Band of the Year winner Brian MacFarlane today I will be playing MacFarlane Mas come next year. He is such an wonderful person and I am so happy for him. So the plan is..next carnival Vern will be fully clothed in a fabulous costume and making a statement on the streets of Port of Spain. I eagerly await MacFarlane 2k9.
February 7, 2008
Today broke a brand new day ( as they all tend to do) and despite my throbbing head and a really bad cough I was able to hit the living room and greet Alvin ( he and Binky stayed over in the guest room after Carnival) with what amounts to civility for me. After I sent them packing i was able to head to work and enjoy all that Ash Wednesday has to offer; a complete lack of traffic, no noise, no speaker trucks and no vile beaded bikinis. Mind you when i got there there was no power and it took forever to come back as we sat in Stygian gloom and heat trying to follow up on stories.
We managed to get everything done in time although it involved me shouting at the video editors for protracted periods. The good news today is that despite my cynical view of the judging of Carnival Brian MacFarlane’s band Earth: Cries of Despair, Wings of Hope won band of the year. Earth was the sort of thing that made Peter Minshall justifiably celebrated. A narrative on the destruction of the earth told through the Mas it clearly blew every other band out of the water. Brian and I get along quite well nowadays, though we had a rocky stretch many years ago, so i am thrilled beyond belief that he deservedly won. His King costume also won King of Carnival which it richly deserved. What I don’t understand is how the local media including The Guardian kept referring to it as a “jellyfish”. The costume was called “Pandemic Rage” and the band is about the destruction of the earth. The moko jumbie player all in black clearly had a double helix floating in front of him which, given the name, should have told all and sundry it was a virus but apparently the brilliant media folk decided it was a jellyfish.
To me the main thing to celebrate is that Brian won with a costume that was not supported by wheels and did not require 10 people to push it onto the stage. It was not something that should properly belong on the back of a truck being driven through the streets..it was a human dancing a costume across the stage..the way a Carnival King is meant to be not the travesty that Eustace wheels out every year.
Congratulations to Brian for another amazing presentation and I am glad he is there to provide an opton for people like me and my more sensible friends who want to be in a band that is art and not merely an all-inclusive moving fete. I pity my other friends who chose to play with the bikini and short pants Mas that is Tribe…but then again…it is a rapidly dwindling number. Would I pay $3000 for a few beads and an open bar…nope. Would I pay for a beautiful costume that would give me memories of creating art on the streets of Port of Spain for decades to come….hell yes! Well…but without the noise.
February 3, 2008
Noise, noise and more noise would be an accurate description of work today. There were speaker boxes every few feet on Tragarete and the constant thumping came right through our building. All day I had that familiar Carnival Sunday feeling that something awful was impending…that feeling of being in a house during the blitz and hearing the whistle of falling bombs not knowing if they are falling towards you.
As I write this Dimanche Gras is underway and then the traffic lights will be off and anything goes. Work tomorrow will consist of trying to get there in the first place with all of Port of Spain’s streets under lockdown and then enduring non-stop wall rattling noise until I try and weave my way back home. I am hoping we have enough to create a well rounded newscast but if tradition continues there should be a multitude of stabbings and woundings to report.
I was ecstatically happy to come home to lovely quiet Cascade this evening after reading the news. It felt strange at first and I was wondering what was different until I realized it was the lack of noise. Alvin and Binky partied every night this weekend and today they went to the TASA fete and have now returned home to rest for a few hours and then heading out to J’ouvert and then hours of non stop revelry. God help them…I would be dead…or want to be. Omar has just plain disappeared which is probably best for the sanity of all involved.
Off to sleep now…my headache begins anew tomorrow.
January 24, 2008
When I started this little online diary a few months ago I said I would try to put up the occasional blog entry. Having become almost addicted to a near daily update I seldom even think that anyone even reads what i write. Having created this mirror site ( which is rapidly becoming my entry point to the blog because it is more convenient) I now have access to all the site stats that WordPress provides. It amazes me how many hits this site actually gets. Between the two sites over 2000 pages have been read and as of yesterday the .Mac site crossed 1000 hits and the WordPress figure, which started much much later is already in excess of that and climbing rapidly. The fact that so many people read amazes me but WordPress also allows me to see what pages people read and how they came to the site..which is even more interesting. Google started indexing my pages a while back and quite a large percentage of my readers apparently find the site through Google. It is interesting to see whaat they search for as well. People search for the names of some of my interview subjects, for the names of ieTV staff members, for Carnival related subjects and my favourite…someone who searched for “being hogtied “. I also notice that the tags I place on the entries can make a real difference to the number of page reads. When I did one of my entries on the diversity of my friends and used the word “gay” as a tag the hits skyrocketed. I guess there are a number of people out there who actively search out specific themes and want to know about regional developments in that area of interest. Given that there are any number of things I could write about I suppose it sometimes affects what I choose when I realize that readers prefer certain subjects. I am happy to oblige. Other than that I stayed home today as the flu still has me feverish though given my previously stated belief that it is similar to sex..I should take what I can get. I used the time to do laundry, work on Fodors and ponder the uselessness of existence…all the while feeling guilty that I was actually not at ieTV. I took a break to go to HiLo to get medication and to give Omar a lift from downtown to the Cascadia Hotel where is currently working with a Carnival Mas Camp…why they would pick such a oddly located distribution point I will never know. After that brief expedition and a rather puzzling call and hangup from a good friend I came back home and went back to Fodors till my back could take no more at the keyboard. Whatever guilt I may have felt about taking a day off ( so I only worked 6 days this week) was quickly dismissed when Vashtee called from work to say that her sister was diagnosed with a medical problem in the States and she had to fly out on Friday to be with her. Vash has been off for various reasons in the past and it means that I have to fill the gap and produce the weekday and weekend news in addition to my One on One interviews and whatever special projects Tony Maharaj needs done. I love work..but after doing that for almost 3 months non-stop last year i ended up getting nosebleeds from the strain on my body. I hope it will be of a shorter duration this time..thank heavens for a great crew. My new work schedule starts tomorrow so wish me luck. I will update the .Mac site tomorrow.
January 15, 2008
It was an interesting day at work and afterwards today. I went to work do an interview with someone from the Schools Soca Monarch competition. It was one of those interviews that you just know will be painful to stretch to 1/2 hour but such is the nature of our programme. Predictably, it was painful and it took all I could muster to stretch it to 26 minutes. After work I was thrilled to head out to meet Reshma at the Crowne Plaza. We haven’t seen each other in about 7 years as she now lives in London and has a big job with BG. When she arrived it was as if we had never been separated. In our heyday we were as thick as thieves and I often think we are twins separated at birth. She reminded me that we could have had the best looking kids on the planet but I ignored the window of opportunity. In short..she was the Reshma of old. She says she has mellowed but I think I saw several glimmers of the old Reshma. She is still as determined about her life plan and career as ever and it was really great to see someone who knows exactly where they want to be at each stage of their life. I guess five degrees doesn’t hurt. Thinking about it, we would have had great looking kids but we are so selfish neither of us would want to deal with them. I also reminded her that I don’t think Demerol is allowed from day one to nine months but if she wanted I could arrange a FedEx package to London. I will tackle the Aruba chapter tomorrow as it is already largely done. I have never been this late with a writing assignment before…but then again…I have never had so many other things going on. Tomorrow I will deal with Aruba and then head out to a birthday party for my pal Bunny who I haven’t seen in almost a year. Maureen called and said we are to meet for his surprise party at 8:30 in South and then we will head to his new club…Space – La Nouba for the party. God help me. Past the lighthouse again. Bunny’s new club is really quite amazing though and the interior was designed by Brian MacFarlane so I am interested to see it. I was supposed to be the manager but ieTV came in between and that is my true love. I guess I better arrange someone to go with me tomorrow…I hate driving alone. Where the hell did a social life come from? I haven’t had one in years. And good news Jameer says I may have the Mondeo back very soon.
January 11, 2008
It has now become an inescapable reality which even the most jaded cannot deny – Carnival is around the corner. It manifests itself in many ways; the sounds of pan being played in the pan yards, Loud soca music blaring from every second car, Omar getting a twinkle in his eyes and Astrid having to attend a million fetes in skimpy clothing dispensing alcoholic beverages to the eager. Already the fetes are piling up with several happening on the same night.People are looking at their already depleted pocketbooks with dismay as they shell out hundreds of dollars for a chance to see and be seen at one ( or more likely dozens) of the more fashionable all-inclusives. People are eagerly awaiting their costumes so they can don 6 inches of lame they paid up to $4000 for months ago. Well, some does not include Omar who, up to this evening was musing about whether he should play with Tribe or Harts – never mind that both are already sold out. I gather I will be making some begging calls to at least one mas camp.
At work today I had two interviews, one with the Minister of Energy Conrad Enill who I have always quite liked. I think I first started liking him when I did my first interview with him in his previous portfolio in the Finance Ministry and we chatted about fiscal policy and the WTO for an hour after the interview was done. Most Ministers are either too self-important to want to chat with journalists off camera or know little about their Ministry and thus want to limit their discussions. Not Enill…he knows his stuff…even if I often disagree with government policy. My other interview was with Wrenwrick Brown ( and which hat did his parents pull that name out of?) of the National Carnival Bands Association. He is an interesting man. He is Secretary of the organization and also a Mas designer himself so it was not surprising his passion was evident. We ended up chatting for quite a while after the interview as well. Like many, including myself, he is concerned that the so-called skimpy mas as exemplified by Harts/Tribe/Island People are taking away the true point of Carnival and also making the festival a Westmoorings event rather than a true people event. The skimpy mas bands are run like businesses and their clientele truly believe less is more – the expected costumes are bikinis with beads for the women and skimpy trunks with a sash for the men. They give their fans what they want and run laughing to the bank after Carnival. The fact that a costume from this year’s band is indistinguishable from last year’s or the year before is immaterial. They have different names. This year’s bikini is called “Emerald Dreams” and last year’s was called “ Forest Ficus” ..I mean really…they are different. I tend to agree with him. If I am playing in a band..as I have…I want to be part of a theatrical spectacle that makes a statement. I want the crowds to be waiting for my band to appear and to talk about it for the next week. This is why I have only played with Minshall in past years and if I played now it would be with MacFarlane without a question. These are bands that show thought and whose costumes are true reflections of their theme. It is interesting to note that this year MacFarlane..ok..he is a friend…Brian’s band is partnered with the UN as it portrays Earth: Cries of Despair. Wings of Hope. You can see the band by clicking here.
That being said my friends are split into rival camps. Alvin, Binky, Sheppard, Naz and, I assume Johnny and Amado are MacFarlane sorts while Omar and Astrid seem to think they would die if they had to wear more than a foot of fabric anywhere on their bodies. I suppose as i said in a previous blog – diversity is good.
In good news…and yes there is plenty in this twin island republic…Omar is back in North and it seems I may see my elusive Astrid/Iggy this weekend and possibly even have a drink or 10 of frozen Stoli with her…note to self..buy Sevruga. Amusing news of the year – Grommit wants to fade back to normal colour so he can get dark again on Carnival. Where do I live again? Oh right.