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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Mykel's Caribbean Blog Chapter THREE: Trinidad to Guyana

by Mykel Board
October 3, 2013- October 10, 2013

Recap: From the start, it didn't look good for this trip. Everything went right... a bad sign. Nothing portends disaster more than everything going right.

Easy subletter in New York, smooth flight to Miami, promises of “meet you at the airport/seaport” for the whole trip. $10 a night accommodations in Guyana, the rest free.

Uh oh! Too good. The better the news, the bigger the fall later. And things get worse. (Better) The plan is to stay at the Hollywood (FLA not LA) home of my long-term friend and sometimes partner in crime Sharon I. (Now Sharon G, as she's been ringed!)

After I leaving the plane in Miami, I rent a car for a day and drive to her gated place. The trip there is smooth as Charmin. A bit of rain, but life-threatening, hair-loss causing, money-eating tragedies – not one.

Then on to Trinidad, where annoyingly enough, things go so smoothly I could break an ankle. Randy meets me at the airport, within an hour I'm limin' on the street with a Stag (beer).

For the next few days I stay with Randy... at his parents' house... in the guest room. You heard right... A whole room to myself, my own bed, shower, toilet, and AIR CONDITIONING. A private room... enough space for me, my computer, and private viewings of

I wake up, S-S-S, have coffee upstairs, Randy's mom makes a little something for breakfast, Randy drives me into town... I explore my old haunts from years before.

Somehow the country seems more serious than 5 years ago, or whenever it was I was there. The shop-keepers, the cops, strangers on the street don't seem as ready to get drunk with you as they were in the middle of last decade. Maybe even Trinidad can get caught up in the world economic malaise.

It's a minor complaint. My friends here are still MY FRIENDS. Every night is DRINK NIGHT. Rum and beer... and limin' a-plenty. On Saturday, we visit a couple of amazing Hindu sites. Doin' tourist stuff I missed last visit.

According to Wikipedia, the religious breakdown of Trinidad is: 29.6% Roman Catholic, 34.3% Protestant, 25.6% Hindu, and 6.6% Muslim. A small number of individuals subscribe to traditional Caribbean religions with African roots, such as the Spiritual Baptists (sometimes called Shouter Baptists); and the Orisha, 0.1 percent. The smaller groups are Jehovah's Witnesses (1.8 percent) and unaffiliated (2.2 percent). There is also a small, but active, Jewish community on the island.

I never saw another Jew... I don't think. But you never know. There are certainly no synagogues. Officially there are several dozen of us.
For me, it's the Hindus who are the most interesting. Most of my friends here came from an Indian background. Many are still practicing Hinduism. You'd think they'd have it down by now.

One of the many things I like about the Hindus is that they have a shitload of Gods... one main one, Om, but thousands of sub Gods. You choose the one you like best. Or take two, they're free.

One cool one is Hanuman. His name sounds like a Hanukah superhero. He's part human, part monkey, all god. Trinidad has the largest statue of him in the West... maybe in the world. It was an adventure to see it, in the middle of nowhere... someplace near Waterloo... that's the town name. I shit you not. (It's actually in Carapichaima and the Temple in the Sea is in Waterloo. I found out late.)

The statue is huge. You can see that I don't even come up to the lotus pedestal.

More colorful than Ms Liberty, I'd love to see this guy in the middle of Times Square. It'd be a ton more interesting that the stupid former Times building. (On new year, they could drop the ball from Hanuman's head.

Besides the statue, we go to THE TEMPLE IN THE SEA. (No, the sea does not part. It's not THAT kind of temple.) This one is really in Waterloo.

The story I heard from Cutter's father-- more on him later-- is that the temple was build entirely by one man. Every day, he'd ride his bicycle with a bag of cement and some wood. He'd go to the sea, do as much work as he could with the materials, then ride back and do it again the next day.
Here it is:
In the ocean shallows, around the sea, are colored flags. One of the things I learned on this trip is that you can tell a Hindu house... or Hindu temple... by the bunch of colored (red, black, blue, a spectrum... one color to a flag) flags stuck in the ground around it. Each flag is a symbol for one of the gods.

After the temple, it's time for THE GLORY HOLE. Yeah I know, but that's the name of the new hangout in town... actually at someone's house/apartment. Free food and drinks. Alan is making pizza for everyone... including a cheese-free pizza for the only vegan I met in Trinidad. (His wife's Canadian, he tells me.)

The booze, food, and conversation flow like the water at the Temple in the Sea. When we get there, a rasta-looking guy is playing with his young son. People drink and listen to VERY LOW-VOLUME music (mostly punk, or alternative... or heavy metal... all ROCK) on the computer.
I ask the rastaman to pose with a just-poured beer. After all, this is THE GLORY HOLE, people should be able to see good head.

Here he is with the beer.

A problem: I'm having trouble following the conversations. The combination of island patois and the aural effects of 30 years of punk rock make it difficult to understand speech. (This is a constant problem. So listen kids, EAR CONDOMS PREVENT HEARING AIDS! I know they look dorky on stage, but wear 'em in the clubs.)

Alan and this cool guy with a little goatee (I forget his name) trade stories. Something about being chased by a dog, climbing a fence, falling, body injuries, alcohol, and the spices that do not belong in pizza.

Cut! Scene change!

As you can imagine, I'm a bit too much for some people. And worse, for some people's parents. In Guyana, I wanted to stay with my e-friend Gavin from Keep Your Day Job, the only punkband in the country. His parents weren't too keen on the idea.

Hah,” I tell Randy, “they probably think that I'm some kid Gavin's age (22). So they don't want me to stay there and cause trouble. Little do they know I'm older than they are.”

Mykel,” says Randy, “they don't want you to stay there BECAUSE they know you're older than they are. What you gonna do with their 22 year old son?”

Ya think so?
 The next day I'm off to San Fernando in THE SOUTH, staying with Cutter. His real name is Yadav, but everybody calls him Cutter because of some superhero he liked when he was a kid. His nickname came from a comic book.

My accommodations in San Fernando are a bit more primitive than at Randy's. I'm on a mattress on Cutter's floor. Cutter has a double bed and his brother (who looks like Adam Sandler) is in the attached room. No AC, but a pretty decent fan.

On my first night there, Cutter's “former girlfriend” falls asleep in his bed and spends the night. They didn't do anything to wake me up.

Cutter also lives with his parents and grandmother. They're all Hindus, and there's a picture of their guru Sai Baba (He's called something else-- not a guru-- though. I forget what.) on the wall. The guy wears orange robes and has an Afro.

Cutter's mom is a school teacher. She's very friendly, but rather shy socially. She says hello, talks a bit, but stays proper. I have a great conversation with Grandma (yes, she's older than I am) about her stay in India (lots of Trinidadian Hindus have made the pilgrimage to their ancestral homeland.)

In a typical dose of ugly Americanism I hear (from Mom or Grandma, I forget which) about how American hippy tourists use the Ashram like a free hotel. There wasn't enough room for the actual devotees. Fortunately, the guru put a stop to that and limited the Americans to a 3 day stay. I think THAT was too generous.

(Of course, I expect the action was called racist-- like countries that charge white people more than natives. Yeah for them, I say. I'm not rich, but I make in a week what they make in a month. I SHOULD pay more.)

Cutter's dad is a character. Funny, full of stories. He actually saw the man who built the Temple in The Sea bicycling to and from. We talk religion over a great curry dinner... cooked by Dad.

(This will be the first of several home-cooked dinners in San Fernando. Another will be by Cassie's mom. Cassie is the girlfriend of Bryan, singer of ANTI-EVERYTHING. She's also a friend of mine.

Mykel,” says Cutter, “you need to be on your best behavior with Cassie's mom. She's Christian and conservative. Nice, but, you know. Please don't act like Mykel Board around her.”

We get along famously.)

Back at Cutter's:

So,” says Cutter's father, “you're Christian, I guess.”

No,” I tell him, “I'm a Jew.”

Really,” he says, “Indians are a lot like Jews, you know. Value education, good with money, you know.”

I nod.

We've both got a lot of us outside the homeland,” he continues, “if you know what I mean.”

That night, Cutter, his former girlfriend and I struggle to find an open bar. We do. The next day is a trip to the Wildfowl reservation. It's there that I meet the amazing Kai Leigh. A photographress, student, interested in Iceland, smart, funny. My Trini friends tell me she's not a goddess... She's an Empress. You can see our day with the fowl here. Just click on the picture to see 'em all:

Here are me, Cutter and Kai Leigh enjoying a late beer after the birds. Looks like a Benetton ad, doesn't it?

I return to Randy's for my last day before Guyana. Randy's home, check. Randy's brother Reeaz can drive me to the airport, check. Royal Castle at the airport, check. Plane leaves on time, check.

One thing after another, clicking into place. It's sort of like a Bingo game in reverse. Only when you do NOT get the blocks in a row can you call BINGO. If things click in a row, one after the other, vertically, horizontally, diagonally, that's normal. That's losing. When things DON'T click, when they don't work out. That's BINGO.

I leave for Guyana the next day. My facebook friends from KEEP YOUR DAY JOB will meet me at the airport. From there, we go to Kareem's place (not his real name, but I've changed it for legal reasons... you'll see why later.) This is the only time I'll be paying for a place to sleep this trip. 15 days for $150US. Not bad. I'll have my own room and cool company.

The plane leaves on time. Customs to leave Trinidad is a breeze. We take off and land at the small airport in Georgetown. I'm one of the first to get off the plane, but I'm having a bit of difficulty organizing my few bags. A few people pass me as I make my way to the immigration line. There are three lines: GUYANESE CITIZENS, CARIBBEAN NATIONALS, OTHER VISITORS. I get on the line for OTHER VISITORS... BINGO!

[You can read previous travel blog entries below.
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You might also want to check the blog of Mykel's columns here.

WARNING: The column blog is not PG. It might make you mad, or disgusted. The thin-skinned, politically correct, and easily sickened should probably stay away. You have been warned.]

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