Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Only in Jamaica...

This is Part 1 of what I have dubbed my "Only in Jamaica" series... where I will highlight little bits and snippets from everyday Jamaican life, and argue why these things can only happen in Jamaica (or to Jamaicans). This first episode can be considered the pilot. Thus, it will be short. Feedback would be greatly appreciated (like, should I do this in a new blog entirely called 'only in Jamaica'?)

In the Taxi
Male 1: 18 years, 18 years, 18 years then he found out it wasn't his
Rb: But it was his. By naturalisation.

*all the dudes in the taxi give Rb the look of death*

Rb: No... come on, what I mean is, he fathered the child for 18 years... after all that time, that child is definitely his! He was the real father!

*all the dudes in the car shake their heads vigorously*

Male 2: Nope. That child wasn't carrying his genes!
Male 1: Alright, look at it this way... how would you like your husband to come home with a kid and tell you that it's yours... *he leans closer to Rb* by naturalisation??
Rb: But that is not the same thing!

*dudes in the car laugh and shake their heads even more vigourously*

Male 2: But that's what it's like!
Rb: Well, for women, it's easier... we definitely know when a kid isn't ours!
Male 2 (somewhat sadly): I'm convinced that all women are tailors.
Rb (puzzled): What?
Male 2 (repeats): All women are tailors... they know how to sew good jackets!

P.S. This one is from a Rasta: Swine flu ting? Them always say pig fly. Now them flu!!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Dying Friendship

The voice has changed
The tone, the look
Disinterest
I can smell it...

Conversation becomes
Burdensome obligation
Terse, insincere laughs
Tell it...

Looks of longing
At everything else
Everywhere else
But me...

Hasty flight
Quick departure
A perpetual need
To leave...

Always in a hurry
Hurtfully impolite...

Countless conversations
Cut short in spite...

Telling signs.
Telling times...

You don't have time for me,
I ain't got time for you...

*And so the friendship dies. (This last line is not a part of the poem).

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Boycott Jamaica?

There is a growing wholesale attempt to sink my beloved Jamaica! The boycott-Jamaica website is the latest.

I've heard of boycotts of certain events where anti-gay music is played, and of performers who support and promote violence against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals (LGBTs)... but the whole country?? Wow.

I guess I should hurry up and get my migrate on like my friend Destiny. Cause I certainly won't relish being part of the innocent many that are made to suffer for the guilty few. Or the innocent few that are made to suffer for the guilty many. Why are the innocent always the unwilling sacrificial lambs?

No to Red Stripe & Myers Beer & Blue Mountain Coffee & Jamaica as a tourist destination?

It's happened so many times before in history: we don't like your look, so we're just going to make all your people suffer till you do what WE want you to do... diplomatic bullying! I mean, hey, it's cheaper to go wholesale and just label the whole island. Because they're all LGBT haters. And they all deserve to die! They're anti-us. So let's be anti-them. That's a perfectly reasonable approach, right?? Right? Let's make Jamaica the next Cuba! Or Iraq! Or holocausted Jews!

Too brilliant.

Slaughter leftist Jamaica in mainstream media. Declare war on Jamaica for its undemocratic stance. Land a bomb and sink the island to get rid of all the LGBT haters. No. Wait. That sounds barbaric. Can they do that? Have they done that? Are they doing that?

So if I were to think based on this premise, I'd say, let's boycott the boycott-Jamaica website. I mean, hey, we have good reason. Our welfare and the welfare of our children may very well depend on it. Cause let's face it, they're trying kill us. Let's get them first and keep the cycle going!! It's our obligation! And our right!

I hope they fly out all our LGBTs before their awesome plan sweeps our island; or else I hope they realise that they'll be making our LGBTs suffer too. Or are Jamaican LGBTs earmarked to be the martyrs of the cause (especially considering they're Jamaican and therefore highly likely to possess that genetic strand of violence and anti-LGBT-ness)?

I should stop talking before somebody calls me a paranoid conspiracy theorist and throws me into prison for being subversive...

PS I will never support violence against LGBTs, or anyone else, for that matter. I believe in respect and equal rights for all. I just don't agree with 'punishing' Jamaica into a response. I'd gladly support an education and awareness campaign/website any day. In fact, I suggest more energy be channeled in that direction, instead of this anti-Jamaica campaign.

For more on this issue (cause balance is important) check the Axoriak, Towleroad, The Washington Blade report, The Gleaner report

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Cough-ter that Reverberates

I sat beside a girl the other day with a big, dry, hacking cough. The sound of that cough was just awful, and the frequency was much more than most average personal comforts would tolerate. I felt sorry for her, and sympathised but I had to get up and move! Not because of the cough - she had a rag and was doing all the socially correct things to ensure that the air remained sterile (or as sterile as could be expected under the circumstances). My problem was the cough's disturbing effect on my insides.

You could hear the grating at the back of her throat, and the resultant shaking in the room, and my midriff, was horribly, horrendously wrong. That was the first time in my life I ever heard someone cough so strongly that it vibrated up and down a room and actually reverberated like an echo on my tummy. It feels as nasty as it sounds.

I wondered what kind of pain that poor girl must have been in, with that shaking actually coming from inside her... I wondered if the girl sitting directly beside her didn't feel like she was experiencing the tremors of a mini-earthquake... After looking around the room and seeing everyone else absorbed in their laptops and apparently undisturbed, I wondered if it was just me with a sensitive tummy (some people are weird like that- like women whose wombs 'glow' when they see pregnant women). Then I stopped wondering, packed up, and left.

I usually hear of laughter that reverberates, whether it be booming, powerful guffaws, or echoing peals that bounce around a room and envelope everyone. That day, it was a different experience: who knew 'cough-ter' reverberates? I wish I had been spared the discovery...

Friday, April 10, 2009

My Print Class's God-Sent Song

I think everybody has a God-sent song: that song that just captures exactly what you're feeling and thinking, that paints a portrait of you so perfectly, in such unbelievably, undeniably, meticulously correct words, music, tone, pace, pitch -and everything else!- that you swear this tune was written straight from your life!

I am unwritten
Can't read my mind
I'm undefined...

My Print Class had one!! It was our anthem! We couldn't hear it anywhere without doing little jigs, bobbing our heads, humming along, smiling, and sometimes doing crazy group dances that made people look at us like we were weird. But who cared? We couldn't help it. The song just had that effect... it got us (as a group) anywhere, any day, everytime!

I'm just beginning
The pen's in my hand
Ending unplanned...

Natasha Bedingfield (and her co-writers) must have gotten special inspiration from God when she penned the words for 'Unwritten'. Either that, or she stole a chapter from our class, because that song was just sooo us!! Our class co-ordinator told us that we were the craziest group she had ever seen, and when I think about it, we did some very radical things (including getting a lecturer removed from office) while we were there.

I break tradition
Sometimes my tries
Are outside the lines...

What I remember most, though, is when we were in the Print Lab during our final semester. We would close the doors, max up the speakers on our computers, and go crazy belting out different songs together. 'Unwritten' became our class theme song. We sang it almost every day up till our last class together, because it just verbalised so very well, how we all felt going through our courses.

We've been conditioned
To not make mistakes
But I can't live that way...

It's fun screaming "release your inhibitions!!" at the top of your lungs with your friends... and then doing funky dances around the classroom, goading each other on; then the mad dash to sit in your seat and look dignified when your favourite Trini teacher comes in to ask, "what a pound??" (because, according to him, we sounded like market-people, lol), and the panting, sweating, and feeling absolutely exhilirated after getting a good work-up, eyeing each other and mimicking the funniest-looking dancers, and bursting out laughing (for no reason the teacher could think of... poor man, he had to put up with a lot, but we loved him to pieces... fun times!)We really believed in the exciting possibilities of the great unknown...

Staring at the blank page before you
Open up the dirty window
Let the sun illuminate the words
That you cannot find
Reaching for something in the distance
So close you can almost taste it
Release your inhibitions (!!!)

It's been a full year now. We recently had our first official 'class reunion'. Looking at everybody reminiscing and laughing, I couldn't help but wonder: now that some of us are still in school, others are working, and some unemployed, what will happen to us? Where will we end up 10/20 years from now, and will we still be 'releasing our inhibitions' with enthusiasm and excitement? I can't wait till our next reunion, to see where our lives go. Until then, I dedicate this post to my crazy print class, and to our favourite God-sent song:

Feel the rain on your skin
No one else can feel it for you
Only you can let it in
No one else, no one else
Can speak the words on your lips
Drench yourself in words unspoken
Live your life with arms wide open
Today is where your book begins
The rest is still unwritten

The rest is still unwritten....

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Love Affair With Langston Hughes

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

-Dream Deferred by Langston Hughes

One day I'll write a poem, or an essay -a book probably- on how profound this poem is. But for now, I want to talk about the man who wrote it, and when I met him, and why I've been in love with him ever since.

I'm weird. I sometimes fall in love with dead people: authors, poets, singers, songwriters, activists, artists... maybe it's safer to love them dead than alive. I especially love African-American history. MoTown music (late 1950s onward). Martin Luther and friends (1960s). Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad (1859). Rosa Parks and her indispensible 'but' (1955, pun intended). The Harlem Renaissance (1920s-60s). And especially Langston Hughes.

It was sixth form literature. We studied the Harlem Renaissance, one of the most profound periods in Afro-American history, a precursor to what would soon happen in the Caribbean when we started to develop our own (recognised) intellectual traditions (1960s-70s-now?). I always think it must have been awesome to live in a period when black people were defining their own identities (not that I'd ever trade places with anyone from that time. I'm fine here and now, thank you.)

The first poem we studied was Dream Deferred. And that day, Mr. Hughes won my heart. I marvelled at the simplicity of his language: the raw potent explosiveness behind his carefully measured words. Mesmerised, I started to research his life beyond class requirements. I began to read his poems with more fervency and passion, to feel reverence for this amazing man whose words helped to transform an entire nation. I wrote a whole book of (amateur) poems just feeding off the energy from his words alone. That was the same year I came third in the country for CAPE Lit. Langston really turned me on, I tell you! (no pun intended; and I studied Ayi Kwei Armah's 'The Beautyful Ones' that year as well - another absolutely powerful piece of work!)

One thing I've learnt is that history really makes literature come alive. Whenever I get the historical context for a piece of writing, my appreciation for it multiplies hundredfold. Reading about Langston's rise from Joplin, Missouri to Harlem, New York made him real to me. If writers who are able to articulate the feelings and hopes of an entire nation/race are dangerous, then Langston Hughes was lethal. He effectively captured the frustration and depression that afflicted African-Americans in 1950.

I felt his every word, and in my mind's eye, I could see him walking on desecrated black streets, passing dilapidated shops, looking into the faces of desperate people: broken men, women and children; reading the hurt in their eyes, and wondering... "what happens to a people who have lost the will to live? What happens to a dream deferred?"

I hope to grow up soon. And when I do, I hope to be a lethal writer too. Not like Langston Hughes. Like me. But with the same kind of intensity that makes the world turn on its axis, or that makes a little girl studying in high school many generations later sit up straighter in class, and start to really pay attention... and maybe even become inspired to write a legacy of her own...

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Phallus, Phallic, Phallocentric... Fallacious

The phallus is the axis around which the world revolves...

That was the scintillating topic of one of my classmates' tutorial presentations... and his presentation was every bit as juicy as expected: just dripping with references to how the 'phallus' and 'phallic' symbols pervade every aspect of our 'phallocentric' society...

I was traumatised. By the end of his presentation, I was literally numb and just plain tired of hearing the words phallus, phallocentric, phallic... I asked him to use the word penis sometimes instead, and the whole class roared. I didn't get it.

Did you know that the idea of tubed lipstick/products came from ancient Greek goddess Diana? Touching the penis to the lips was seen as a way of appeasing the fertility gods... little tubs of lip gloss/stick were later innovations, and even then, the dipping of the finger into the tub before applying it to the lips can be seen as the ritualistic dipping of the phallus into the challis...

The pen is also a phallic symbol. And toothpaste. And all your antifungal creams. Just think about it: liquid secreted from the tip of a tubular object... But that's not all. The knives and forks with which you consume your daily meals are also phallic symbols: consider the elongated, cylindrical contours, and the dipping of this phallic implement into the metaphoric 'challis', the plate. Cars, ancient historical monuments, Egyptian pyramids, obelisks, the World Trade Centers, bullets. spears, guns, Catholic candle-lighting rituals (dipping one long candle into some short, tubby ones) and even our cutesie toes and fingers, can all be regarded as phallic symbols...

Yes, I know. It certainly disturbs me too. And that is exactly what I said when his presentation was over. I suggested that maybe he looked a leetle too hard for phallic symbols in everyday society... even though his research proved that established, learned and intelligent scholars supported his claim (they thought of it first!).

At the end of the class, my summation was that his extensions of this phallocentric (or rather, phallo-eccentric) thought, was very, very disturbing, and also quite "fallacious"...

And nope. The class didn't get it.