New Yorkers and Trinis

 

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Category: Trinidad Society Date: 08 Dec 03

 

You can tell how fiercely New Yorkers love their city – a recent Time Out New York which lists the thousands of ways you can entertain yourself weekly and where asks: “Are you a true New Yorker? Readers identified 118 essential NYC activities attributes and attitudes.” I thought well, if there’s one thing we have in common with our crazy paced friends in New York it is passion for our well, Trinidad’s as big as a City init?

Here are some good ones to which I have made up our own version of “Are you a True Trini?” (we’ll handle Tobago another time – The Tobagonians identity is so unique it cannot be sullied by a Trinis Psyche.)

 

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The New Yorker: “Say to somebody, without irony, “waddayagonnado?” – this is our version of “I feel your pain”. In the Midwest, they say, “What can you do? But that seems a little passive to us. We like to think we can control things. Asking what someone is going to do implies we have the power to change the situation – although at the same time were saying, “Hey, we’re not actually going to get involved with your problems.”

 

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The Trini: we have two responses to people’s pain depending on whether or not we like them. If we like them we attack the source of their problems immediately even if we’ve never met them – (be it a straying spouse, a manager who gives you a hard time at work, a car dealer who is ripping you off) – “He is an Ass” with emphasis on Ass. Your friendship is so great that their enemy is your enemy. That’s the Trini Way. If you don’t like them you bound over to them, barely containing your smiles “I hear you get horned/fired/bankrupt/kidnapped. Is true?” Just to let them know you know they’re down and out and you’re glad. And the best way to bring yourself up, feel good about yourself, is to drag someone down to your level. That’s also the Trini way.

 

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 The New Yorker: Give a car a good kick after it nearly runs you down at a busy intersection. New York’s pedestrians deserve respect: We don’t pollute the atmosphere and we aren’t plastered in faux patriotic deals. So when that cab or obnoxious Chevy Tahoe impatiently noses into our path on a right-hand turn and risks reducing us to crosswalk road kill, its our solemn right to give him the glare of death and maybe issue forth with a hearty kick to the right fender. He’s piloting a three-ton carnage machine, we’re wearing Keds- this walk signal is our moment to shine.

 

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The Trini: The pedestrian is all powerful, and deserves respect because we are so bad minded that we would rather die and get you in trouble for man-slaughter than cross when the light is red. We lock eyes with car thieves, murderous looking maxi taxi drivers who otherwise own the streets and know no traffic law. We take out all our rage on drivers of vehicles. Our mantra is “Bounce me Na”.

 

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The New Yorker: Walk your parents through the Gay Pride Parade without mentioning anything out of the ordinary is happening. While a man wearing a giant chicken head and hot pants giddily waves a sign that says “I love C--k, you point out the lovely summer foliage of a West Village rooftop garden. As Dykes on Bikes roar past you suggest that perhaps Dad might enjoy an ice cream. Gay Pride. Why, is it that time of year already?

 

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The Trini: When it comes to Gays and Lesbians our policy is to will them into a state of non-existence, and when we do come across them or hear about them our men will guffaw and call them Bull--- crack bawdy and crude jokes to reduce every gay and lesbian to a laughing stock, a drag queen, a fruitcake, a woman who cant get a man, (or hasn’t met the right man) a wimp and a ninny. Naturally all the time calling attention to their own powerful masculinity and potential sexual prowess, Of course point out to the Trini man that the statistics show that almost every man has at some point in his life has been attracted to a man and he will turn openly hostile and want to fight you. Still, it makes you wonder, if all this latent sexuality is repressed, what do all those sports where men fall upon one another in a panting sweaty frenzy over a football really mean? Is that where the spillage is?

 

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The New Yorker: A tiger could be loose in Harlem, Long Island could have floated out to sea, a blackout could have just engulfed the city – but you go to a party and talk about nothing but apartment rents.

 

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The Trini: A coup could be taking place, insurgents holding a gun to the Prime Ministers mouth, people could be felled, murdered, kidnapped around us, the illiterate, the poor swarm around us, with no hope, but every time we get together we will talk about the next party we are going to, the carnival that’s coming, always the carnival that is coming.

 

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The New Yorker: Feel a great sense of relief when your plane flies into JFK or La Guardia. Take us off our turn for more than, say a week and we start to Jones for the urban homestead. So when your return flight begins its descent and you catch a glimpse of that familiar skyline through the airplane window, a wave of relief washes over.

 

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The Trini: Turns into a poet at the sight of the Northern Range, the savannah, the Caroni river, as the plane swoops across the ocean and prepares to land. For a brief moment the Trini is overpowered with the sweetness of a deep longing that is about to be fulfilled whether he has been away a day or 20 years - the doubles vendor, the leaves glistening with rain, the carpet of poui, pilao, curried crab, diving under a strong salty wave, the Savannah decorated by coconut vendors, the oval, the secret dialect we all share with its wry wit and warmth and boldless. It crushes together like the rarest of perfumes and like those drunk with love we raise our eyes to the hills, and thank God for whatever bits of paradise still intact on these islands.

 

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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur