Tuesday, May 10, 2016
the afternoon air is familiar
rain and humidity bring me back to my first and last time in London
I begin my journey from the airport on the Paddington Express..a 16 minute ride to the central London
my taxi is prompt and familiar....rather chatty for a cab driver
I arrive at my hotel to find the 'lift' broken and my apt on the 4th floor....various trips back and
forth down the stairs to shop for food and staples makes the day pass
i now have the key elements- bacon, croissants, a prepared/package curry dish, bananas, plumbs, humas, 'crisps' and a bottle of wine.
the BBC 2 is playing in the background providing interesting landscape and cultural perspective
I am contented for the moment....will sleep and realize that my body thinks it is 8 hours behind the time that I am in.....a mind fuck!
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Sunday, August 21, 2011
August 21, 2011
Today I attended another party with many of the familiar faces from last week’s party….in the charming neighborhood a short walk from the crystal palace overhead train stop, resides Natasha and Rita…our host for the backyard BBQ…..complete with grilled ribs, chicken sausages, fish and vegetarian fare…..that killer peppa sauce reared it’s spicey head and I was all ovah it……a pinch on my peleau is all I need….I am serious bout this yall….it is some hot stuff…my plate full with food, beer in hand, music in the background and good cheer amongst the crowd…today I spoke about with ________________, I __________
believe that people in education and the arts face global issues that are more common then we imagine….we all want to be appreciated for our contributions as well as respected for contributing….some of us engage in the pursuit of nurturing the next generation….and often find ourselves in similar situations…. the challenges of reaching , inspiring and motivating the next generation….some could say the same thing about my generation 25 years ago……I just wonder, are we simple manifestation of our the previous generation or repeat offenders?
learned that a racial perspective can often time precede who you are…….giving that the color does not seems to be a focal point of what it means to be Trinidadian…
.the island is a melting pot….it blends of indigenous, and transplanted ethnicities allow for a varied view of race….i am still wrapping my head around the ‘articulation’ of this ….but I appreciate that the definition of who you are begins with Trinidadian….where I am often charged with “what are you mixed with?”……is it the common ‘tongue’…..shared verbal articulation….familiar rhythm in speech…..but the same can be said for me as well…I sound like most Americans…..( at least I believe I do)…..but that is not it…….not it at all……I can not put my finger on it properly….i just know that it is quite special when I hear trinis speak with one another……
realized that my research of what I think I am beginning to understand becomes influenced more and more as I begin to meet more and more people during this ‘carnival’ time….personal perspectives of what carnival in Trinidad means to them and what the Notting Hill Carnival represents….for it can not replace or even substitute the pre Lenten season ritual. Although the seasonal reference makes for good times and share interests…..exchange of ideas and thoughts…. It is preservation of a cultural tradition and the retention of ways often times forgotten…. defining the true essence of humanity….and the continuing cycle of life….i am fortunate and blessed to share and witness the ritual.
Listened…. again to the notion that the sound can not be forgotten….or misunderstood…the history of the steel pan….the drum….the sound it makes……different from the sound of wood and skin….the result of opportunity and in essence a recycled moment…..the spoils of a war turned into opportunity…..born is the steel band….. I am looking into the story of how the prevention of music at a point in history resulted from old oil barrels being turned into the ‘drum’, creating a different and specifically identifiable music development characterized by the Trinidadian…I like this story…….more later….
felt welcomed and at ease…..happy and spirited…..engaged and heard……full with food and satisfied with thought…….it was a good day….
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
August 16, 2011
My journey home from the Sunshine International Arts mas camp was none other than eventful. I concluded my day of painting a 5ft high and 5 ft wide African mask and bird with multicolored paints, all the while enjoying the soca music and lively conversation with Ray….my recorder button was not on play so I have to re record the interview he graciously allowed me to do…..in any effort….I was impressed with my work…and I believe he was as well……I just realized I still have my Jamaican beef patty waiting for me….I am in the middle of cooking bangers and mash……( really I am roasting sausages and white potatoes in the god forsaken awful oven they call a cooker)….that sucka takes for evah to heat up and I am never absolutely sure of what temperature I have set it…..Celsius…..what the hell is that…..didn’t we abandon that metric system notion in the third grade?....anyway….I ramble because it is the only way to get out the many thoughts permiating in my head…..I saw various wonders today…including a little girl in a hot pink sweat shirt dancing mindlessly without a care in the world on her balcony as I rode the overhead train…..I notice two African women in western clothing chatting as if somebody had done somebody wrong……a big ole English bloke sneeze into his hand and wipe it on his pants…..a traveler from the middle east wheeling a ‘target’ shaped storage bin wrapped in gaff tape atop her rolling suitcase….a couple of British ladies sipping wine and eating cheese in the corridor of the St. Pancras international train station….mind you that is where I finally arrived after falling asleep in the train from Brixton…..my adventures may seem strange to some…..out of the ordinary to others….unconscionable to many…but to me….it is just another day in my life as I wonder through the streets, alleyways, train stations and roads of London…..I find myself almost comfortable with myself in this environment……I of course have not the luxury of my own home….I miss my bed and pillows……but I find that I can rest at times……find moments to reflect…..greet strangers with the knowledge that they too may be living a routine that at some point presents them with the random encounter of a foreigner…..me a foreigner…..it sounds funny….but I have accepted that notion…for I am not a brit…I do not speak with my vowels open….I close the sound of my ‘r’ and often have to turn my head ever so slightly to the left or right to symbolically tell my counterpart that I do not know what the heck they are saying……after a brief smile and a widening eyed glance they figure it out and repeat themselves….allowing me the opportunity to readjust my hearing and focus…..it has been an endearing experience…again……the language…geesh…I must sound pretty strange to them….but not strange enough because Tiana, the 14 year old student working in the mas camp since she was 9 years old, upon realizing that I was from California, wanted to know if I knew anybody famous… now who was I gonna mention that she would recognize….to her curious delight…I told her I knew Jill Scot and her eyes widen brightly……I smiled and settled back into the painting job we had begun a few hours ago…..she is a good listener and takes directon well……I can see the true benefit of this camps message……catch em young…..talk to then while they want to listen and provide them with a little bit of hope and knowledge that the world is bigger than the six blocks that make up their neighborhood and you have a recipe for giving a young person a bowl of hope mixed with the spices of life…….
Monday, August 15, 2011
August 15, 2011
Today was a heavy heart felt day at the Mahogany mas camp. Today people cried, hugged and shared memories at the mas camp. Today people remembered the life of Mr. Mike Caribon, a well-respected and valued family member of the camp. Mike made his transition from this world last evening from a long illness. Out of pure respect and fond memories of meeting Mike on previous visits, I found this picture to represent the feeling of the day…reflections of days gone by…images of past parades, carnival events, special projects and various design assignments that the studio has created over its many years as a preeminent Carnival Design studio. Mike was the valued shopper of the camp. His valuable contribution as a securer of goods, networking of the manufacturing of specific product vendors and the locals…deliverers and maintenance of such items is an intricate part of the mas camps operation… hundreds of yards of fabric, barrels of beads and sequins, tons and rolls of foam, cases of adhesives, mountains of various sundries….all the source of the creative booty that keep the studio alive… His services, talents and pure love for the people of the camp will truly be missed. I had the wonderful pleasure of always speaking with him for moments at a time when I was last here. I remember fondly laughing and sharing a grand conversation about the upcoming United State Presidential election…..he was tickled to no end that a black man was running for office…..I could sense from his interest and attention to our conversation, that he, being an elder having seen the devastation , upheaval and ultimately sacrifices of the civil rights movement was truly moved by this revelation…..a black man as the President of the United States…… go figure…..I am sorry that I was not able to get the chance to share a welcoming hug with Mike and commensurate that conversation with the reality of “yes Virginia….there is a Santa Claus!”
Today I cut hundreds of little metallic lame pieces that will decorate the yellow/gold headress for a section of the Berkely Band......tomorrow I am to clime a 15 foot ladder to apply sequin beaded trim onto a 'puppet structure like performance thingy"......more later.....
Sunday, August 14, 2011
It is mid afternoon as I shake the cob webs from my "lockless" head......I am reminded of how my I miss my locks......when I travel with Conrad. We ventured to the borough of Tottenham....yes...the place where all the recent upheaval began. His good friend Franca, a local BBC employee ( I think) and his friend from the island, invited us to the a "Back in da Day" fete she is hosting. As we ride the tube to our destination......mind you I had dropped my phone and the SIM card was not working and could not call to say I was on my way, suffice to say, meeting up with conrad at the Euston train station was a bit overwhelming...but hey....how can you miss a partially bald headed black man with a keen sense of fashion and 2 feet locks extending from the nape of his head.....once we connected and chatted over a coffee, we began our nativigation to the unknown world of Tottenham.....oooohhhhhh the suspense was building.....heheheh....no really.......it was really not that deep.....we arrived at the tottenham hale station to take the connecting overhead train to a few stops to the neighbor of the party. With trusty iphone gps at the ready we stride with confidence, cause yeah know we's in da hood now!.....and clearly that was played out as we walked past our intended destination, following the music of a 'carribbean' sort all to end up at the WRONG house party......a party in full swing off the beaten path, a party with outdoor grills, music, garage doors open, fold out chairs, babies running around in diapers, gold teeth smiling Negros looking quite curious as to who da heck are we. yah know we were dressed right?....and so conspicious.......OMG.....after a few inquiries as to the where abouts of Frana, Conrad made the realization that we were NOT at the right place......spinning on our heels with a quickness and deliberate exit....we punched up outta there.......now phoning Franca to be told that we were on the block past her block....whew!!!!!!!!...that was funny!!!!!!!.....i am silly giggling about it....
So, now we are climbing the stairs to the flat hosting the Back in da Day party. We are greeting warmly, and in the only way trinis do....whin up on ya!... they swirl their bottoms/pelvic region rhythmically against you and or anything they can whenever they can as a greeting.....it is quite the scene when one becomes comfortable and receives the invitation to whin, only given by the female.... if accepted.....she proceeds to move/whin with her rear or front approaching your front pelvis region....( this can also be done back to back, front to front, front to wall, back to wall, car bumper to back....the list goes on....)-thus inviting you to join the dance......eye contact is made and a silent agreement reached....the music is intoxicating and the beat alive.....you have nothing else to do but move to the beat of the drum....while holding your drink in your hand.....you whin and smile all along knowing that although the image is sexual, it is not always intended as such....it is the trinidadian way of greeting you and making contact.....( for all those trinis reading....please correct me if I have made an error in this explaination.)
Drink is plenty, food is fantastically abundant, including the traditional fete fare of the island...corn soup and pilau complete with homemade pepper sauce....( which kicked my ass!!!!)...as the belly becomes full, the spirit high, the laughter contagious....the party is in full swing....the door opens and another wave of distinctive tongue invades the space, allowing for necks to swivel to see who has 'reached' the party......the small balcony become crowded with the cool breeze seekers looking for fag break......the music is a combination of late 70's and 80's favorites from the Caribbean and R&B.....Cameo, Dougie Fresh.......LL Cool Jay.....Stevie Wonder and a few one hit wonders just to name a few......we partied baby!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! till 5 o'clock in the morning......YES.......I am serious........it was absolutely grand.......to feel such inclusion and acceptance....to see that the community of Tottenham full of people just like you and me.....tryin to stay alive and party......party in the sense that we all must remember to share and live within the village....knowing that our common expression as a group will reflect who we are, comfort us when needed and provide the space for us to be!
August 13, 2011
I call myself being cute today- I took the bus in the wrong direction…I’m thinking…. I remember this journey…oh yeah…. that is the landmark of the old school house I found the other day…yes…. that’s the spot where I should go get a haircut…hmmmm and there is the place where the African women are speaking in that high staccato voice with reverence the make you think you are listening to a race…
Then it hits me…..I am on the other side of the road….the damn bus is going in the opposite direction of where I need to be……dammit!!!!!!!!.....and I thought I was coolio yo!!!!!....here I am now crossing the street hoping nobody recognizes that I am just going to stand opposite of the spot where I debarked…..silly rabbit….
As I finally approach my dorm, I giggle at myself and chalk it up to one more day of adventure…..that began with a overtrain ride to Brixton…..another ethnically mixed and culturally diverse ‘world’ where the look of the inhabitants remind me regular people moving through the day…they just sound different…..and boy do I mean different…..i am the one with the accent and they do not let me forget it….but I just smile and move on…..I actually have to pronounce thing twice before they understand that I really want to know where the bus stop is located….As I exit the tube station, I encounter various shops and places of commerce. ….the H & M store is on the corner….the PFC chicken joint to my right…(yes….I mean P not K.)……and the bank is to my left…..I cross the street to read the bus sign and am on going the correct direction……as I ride, I notice the beauty of the town….old buildings clearly once the resident of established gentry, roads winding in curves making you a bit dizzy as you hold onto to your coffee……and people dressed in various garb… from the middle eastern ‘salwar kameez, the Ghanaian buba, the Indian sari , the Indian male sherwani and the American demin jacket….sometimes all worn authentically as intended or mixed with an element from the English/European fashion world. The best part was seeing a little boy wearing an Addidas jacket and Nike shoes with his traditional Middle East silhouette of tunic and trousers…
I entered the mas camp of of Sunshine International Arts. The groups Artistic Director, Ray Mahabir is a close friend of Conrads and has agreed to allow me to visit and work. His main role in the company is to design, working along side culturally diverse artists to achieve high quality projects. Thematically based, his project use textiles as a base medium. One project in particular is SIA Youth Carnival Club. This project allows young people to be involved in a carnival arts education projects engaging in different culture and community groups from other parts of the United Kingdom. The focal point of Sunshine International Arts is to use art and craft based activities as teaching tool in education the community youth.
I arrive from the Northeast area of Hackeny to be greeted) by my friend Conrad, Ray and his associates working with the wire frames and sewing. I was swiftly taken to the sewing area once they realized who I was and what my research entails…..I am given a pair of scissors, a box of pins and placed in front of an old Singer sewing machine with a pile of fabric….turning the beautiful ‘silk’ like permanent pleated fabric into voluminous multicolored capes…..an easy enough task……then the next pile arrives and I constructed ‘lace’ chaps ( for lack of a better word)….the silhouette will fan out at the sides as the mas performers parade and take to the streets in this camps version of street performance ( I almost see it a a grand gesture of civil disobedience and reclaiming the streets for their own, in light of the current and daily borage of the media coverage of the past weeks upheaval.) …. I speak briefly to my colleagues of the recent events to be informed of basically the same thing that the papers hold as evidence…the looting and riots were senseless expressions of frustrated and the misguide youth…..and moment of spontaneity turned into violence……a time of being caught up in the ‘rapture’ and not realizing where you are at the moment…..a time of unbridles expressions and behavior……not caring of the consequences for the price that has already been paid is not enough…..the pound is too week to compare to the value of a voice not heard……a voice misunderstood and a voice often times too loud to actually hear…….what is heard is the timber and the dissonance….losing the meaning through the battle of a cacophony too difficult to bear…..
The mas designer is a new colleague, one that I look forward to getting to know….he is from Trinidad and from my brief discussion has worked with Peter Minshell, the carnival designer I visited in 1999 and 2000. He knows many of my colleagues from the island. I am looking forward to interviewing him to understand more of his mission……using the arts as an educational tool …..Manifesting itself in a four year project that culminates to a carnival performance…..his studio is the primary focus where the community comes to build, create and invest in the art/building of the costumes and props……a time for school age children and parents to work together in making their costumes and providing the platform for community development, aesthetic appreciation and a darn good time with soca music in the background. More on his studio later….
Amongst the morning rain, I traveled the distance from Hackney central to the northwest neighborhood of Harlesden…a mixture of ethnicities coupled with the urban flare of a “hood”…. I love it…I find the mix of people, shops and eye candy intoxicating…I look at everything…. smell all and wonder…the people…they are just your average folk grooving to the beat of their drum while inviting you (not knowinginly) to partake in the party…I walk with a certain swagger that has become a dance of mine while I travel…. tortoiseshell shades on…. scarf draped deliberately around my neck and coffee cup in hand…as I punch through the hood, I feel at ease because I have been here before…I notice and remember the way…….it just came naturally……I entered the mas camp in the midst of a light drizzle shaking off the dew before I begin my hugs of familiarity with the camp workers….I greet the designer, Clary Salandy with a big hug and laugh with hugs from all the workers that remember me….the young ones have grown a few years since last I visited but they remember me and welcome me with open arms….I am at home in a sense…feeling the love and generosity of what a mas camp can be……I begin the ritual with another cup of coffee and change into a painting apron…..I am off with a brush, gold paint and a foam headdress……I relax into the moment….all the while knowing that I am just another clog in the matrix of the dynamic and every surprising creative development of the carnival art…..this years theme centers around the design of world renowned mas designer Wayne Berkely, who just recently past on June 9th,….Clary was a dear friend and colleague of Mr. Berkeley and holds his work in high esteem. I had the opportunity to briefly meet in him while on a travel fellowship to Trinidad in 1999. Her designs for this years carnival reflect a nod to his creativity and brilliance as a designer while giving her aesthetic and work with foam and new and different relevance. She has incorporated the sense of what we have come to know as Trinidadian carnival-complete with gold beads, sequins and flair coupled with the flexibility and creative essence of her work in foam, scale and puppetry. It is a fantastic combination of old and new…familiar with the unknown and a wonderfully respectful nod to a great mass designer and friend…I am sure Mr. Berkley would approve of the designs. I am looking forward to what becomes of the whole picture, for I have only gotten a glimpse of what is to come…I am sure the results will capture the essence of Trinidad, invite conversation to continue the cultural tradition and most of all include the community to invest and become one…a so needed presence during this unnerving time in London.
12/08/2011 or 08/12/2011….what ever floats your boat…..
I arrive in London on Tuesday at 6.05 am their time…my body telling me it was clearly earlier…to be precise…five hours earlier…
After a 7 hour flight, full with the in-flight dining services and my trusty tube map of London, I ventured off into the chaos that awaited me…. well the chaos assumed by the news of the night before…from the US broadcasts…the aftermath of the riots and looting that began on Saturday had yet to reach me….it was not until I landed on the tube and grabbed the metro newspaper when I realized the neighborhood in which I was to live for the my month stay in London was directly situated near the neighborhood allegedly responsible for the ignition of the riots, looting and thievery that rampaged the streets of London the previous evening.
I rode in silence…. shit…I did not know anyone on the damn train anyway…. but the silence was of a different sort…a silence that speaks volumes when you are scared…a silence that penetrates the deaf and allow dogs to hear…. a silence that only you can describe…and only describe to yourself…
After much needed rest from jet lag…the trek from Heathrow airport via the tube and bus ride…I woke with a weary feeling…. what the hell was I doing here…. I ask myself that question often when I travel to unchartered lands…but this was different…I had been here before…. not in another life as you may assume…but literally have been here…celebrating my friendship with Conrad…(more on him later), making new friends while celebrating the Notting Hill Carnival and most of all learning about myself…realizing that I make a difference…. not just to those I teach but to those I encounter along the way…not to say that I am the official negro from America…not even to say that I am a designer of theatre working in the industry as a guest artist……or to say that I know anything of worth that would interest the regular person on the street…..I make a difference to me…..I am learning about me, my abilities to survive and explore….my need to search for interesting ideas, thought provoking nuances and the random silliness that prevails in all societies…….I am growing into the man that my family and kindred spirits have nurtured…..I am becoming me……just that simple……