Wednesday, February 24, 2010

J’Ouvert Confessions 2010

8:00a.m. Nature's Plan

J’Ouvert Confessions 2010
…with Caribs RFC “Crapauds”

Since the dawn of Trini-time on Carnival Monday, we ready for the road…

J’Ouvert is a wet, messy dream. Sometimes it’s a cold, borderline dangerous affair warmed only by canned beers and rum from a sack dangling round the neck…but more importantly, it’s hard to wash off.
In childhood days I was advised against my now favourite Carnival ritual: “People get stabbed and robbed. Pickpockets, two-bit gansta-wannabes, deceptive transvestites and other real-life “devils” come out to play….j’ouvert is for the jammet!” So why do I like it so much? Of course after playing at my 5th episode, I am no J’ouvert virgin anymore, yet I am far from jaded by the event. To me J’ouvert is the purest form of Trinidad ‘mas there is, right up there with ole ‘mas and the long, oft drawn out pre-soca calypso from the tents. Grown men aren’t afraid to wear negligees, even senior citizens are in this commesse, some throwing Ammen’s powder on you when you least expect it.

4:02a.m. On time this time
We’re downing our first scotch at the club when, surprisingly, a Caribs RFC pack leader calls us to take to the street where Silver Stars is impatiently tapping their feet. Some years ago it was us J’ourevellers complaining 4:30 had reached and we hadn’t embarked to the savannah yet because our pan side was tardy. But Silver Stars won this and last year’s competition and we glad for their sudden attention to time.

4:30 Pan is not a minor
This small band of JOuvert rugby boys started over a decade ago with less than 100 members has since burgeoned to 700+ Big numbers for a band with only one steelband truck. Would we even want a DJ then? I don’t know but there’s just something very honest about strictly-come-chipping to pan music at J’Ouvert.
An architecture lover myself with a penchant for old colonial styles, I take pleasure in admiring them as we swan through St. Clair. Every now we pass a derelict one with crumbling yet gorgeous fretwork still visible. It would be disrespect to put our painted handprints on the outer walls these historic and replica buildings, so we stamp the guys bare backs and busted up t-shirts instead.

5:00 Trouble in the dance
The vampires are out. We’ve taken an unfortunate turn onto Ariapita where we clash with Coco Devils and some smaller bands and another pan side—in the old days this could have turned ugly, but that isn’t as worrying as the young gansta vamp girls and rasta boys who slide into our band and bully “Ay boy, ah wanta beer!” or would actually grab them out of your hand. A tourist up to mischief squirts her supersoaker gun full of muddy water at a woman on the sidelines who’s less than impressed—there could be bacchanal. My husband is more than worried about the crowd we’re seeing and sits me on a drinks cart and follows it til we turn off the bloodthirsty avenue.

5:30 Rum til we cry
Like schoolchildren, we’ve reached the point of chasing each other with mud, club soda and aaagh someone splash rum in my eye which stuns me for a few seconds…normally I’d be pissed off but this morning we all agree that “Rum in Mih Eye” will be next year’s calypso. Whoever had on bandanas threw them on the road (this is one time I don’t mind littering—hey, Cepep depends on it). Whoever had cares about their looks, kicked them to the curb. It is this surrender to the ugliness, uncouthness, the utter baseness of behaving like a street urchin for a few hours (with drinks on call) that I love.

7:00 Silver Starboy
Feet growing weary and alcohol levels high, a grown man standing on the Silver Stars pan section truck shoves down a mud-dipped woman. Seconds before, caught up in the spirit of merriment, Mudwoman affectionately pelted a handful o’ mud at him. Might I add Silver Starboy was not playing pan and moreover standing right in front of the ceremonial mud-bath (which is Carib’s trademark)? Her offender’s push is double-handed and tough, but Mudwoman manages a graceful fall just missing the porcelain bath and some men nearby help her up. Now I try to contain my upset as no man offers to beat or even cuss Starboy who now feels justified for his wajang actions.
This is another of the two times tonight I wouldn’t have minded seeing a man get good and proper beaten…but Starboy would have deserved it more than the vagrant camera thief who was to come, in my opinion. Alas, I’m not the right gender to confront the belligerent Starboy, but wish I could put an itchy hex on him from now til the end of Lent.

7:30 Heavy-structure gyals
J’Ouvert Jammets hauling heavy-T ‘bumpers’ come into the light wearing sliced-up stretch-marked black tights and lace brassieres. These women will surely cuss you like a sailor if you venture even one free touch. The J’Ouvert jammet is ubiquitous now the sun is up, but methinks the heavily painted, crystal tattooed face of Tuesday’s ‘mas, is the same jammet, but with a gym membership and better diet. If pretty ‘mas represents the commercial and the shallow (though ever evolving) topsoil of Carnival then J’ouvert is the deeply embedded razor grass that even a heavy dose of gramaxone just can’t kill.

7:45 Round 2
This rounds I should know what to expect but I am still always thrown when I witness a fight. This time as I did 3 other times I played with Caribs RFC which is a relatively “safe” band due to the sheer brawn of its members and their friends; the band’s mostly male to boot. We recognize a smart-man right away…he’s been slinking around the band too close to the drinks cart, he just isn’t scrubbed up right and bears a slight smell of being 3 days shy of a bath and he’s trying to put his arm around any woman looking lost. We tolerated him since he joined the jaunt about 5a.m. but right now he’s chosen to snatch a camera out of Miss Tourist’s t-shirt pocket. A scuffle ensues with a few guys and one of our friends joins the fray. Camera salvaged.

8:00 Nature’s plan
Risking tetanus and impropriety two girls scale the broken gate of an empty lot to relieve a hot wee-wee. The overall indignity of J’Ouvert assures me it’s still a primitive custom. Now we spot an Aussie tourist with a digital camera and beg for a portrait of us in our terrible beauty. When I see the email from him I realize the jokey sign in the background: “Dumping of Rubbish”. Ah, and the irony when we get back to the SUV to realize our friend has made a garbage bag dress for her husband not to stain the car upholstery! Thank badness we don’t have a photo to prove that.

9:00 Cleanse us of our skins!
Encrusted mud on our skins is iitchyyee! We hoping that somebody remembered to buy Dettol soap and put it in the shower. Hmm, the condition we in now, I think the garden house is the yard is the best option—maybe even the power washer. WASA forgive us; we will heed the water ration tomorrow. Wait…isn’t it tomorrow already?

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