By QUEEN MACOOMEH
Is all I have. From de time I step off dat Air Canada flight back when Orvil an Wilbur was still making plane from two plywood an glue, it was all I had to help me keep from going loco. I was a chile, yes, an only allow to watch, but even still, I know it was mines.
It wasn no big ting. Crowd control wasn no real problem. We use to chip dong University Avenue an people would stan up on de pavement to watch. De mose trouble you would get is if someone pee on de U.S. Embassy building or leave a empty bottle on Toronto General Hospital front yard.
If you see somebody you know, you jump een de band, take a small wine an den go back on de pavement. It had no barrication, five pohlice an one ambalance in case anyting happen. No drama, plenty music; it had more people dan costume but it was nice.
Yes, de commess was growin underneat but as a masquerader or player, I din feel de tension at all. Nobody en dead, nobody get stab or shoot. I had no doubt whatsoever dat Caribana was mines an as such, I had to care it.
Today is a horse of a diff’rent colour. Today Jack not only want he jacket, he want Jim boots an looking to snatch Ursula washicong. Today, I not sure Caribana still mines. Today Caribana fullin meh heart, but gardez la, it breakin it too.
Unless you put some serious hours in a mas camp, you would never really know de wuk an dedication dat Caribana demand from people. Unless you in a panyard whole night every night, you would never really know what Pan Alive demand from people. Unless you wuk a Caribana as a volunteer, you would never really know de cost. I not talkin bout money, eh? Dais a whole nex udda ro-ro. I talkin about de culture, de love, de way de mas an pan jumbie does hole yuh tight like a jealous lover. On de night of de competitions, yuh come, yuh clap, when it done you go yuh way. Yuh din have to unmantle de costume an pack back de truck or store de pans or tidy up. Most people doh even stay to hear de results, dem gorn as soon as de las King cross de stage or de las ban play. Some jes come to be seen.
I does watch dem. People who I never see before come to give verdick on tings. De VIP section gettin big. Half of dem not even watchin de mas. Dey come to glance at “the pretty floats” or hear de “jungle music”. Dey doh know. Inside dat pretty mas is a man or woman who nabel string bury in de ting. Is not two fedders an piece-ah glitter. Is hours, days, weeks, monts of sweat, ole talk, an sprain hand. I pass een mas camp an see people sleepin, prop up over de glue gun, a strong cuppa Tim Horton cawfee wid nuff Vat in it to keep dey knee from givin away. Dey inhaling all kinda chemical to build dat costume. Dat mas camp is we Sistine Chapel. Dem is we Michelangelo in de mas camp. De Louvre en have nuttin over some of dem artist.
Bach could learn one or two tings bout syncopation from some of we pan arrangers. Mozart bong to be fascinate to see a man ramazhay on a tenor. Dais hundreds of steel Steinways line up in Lamport. So when dey tell me prize money fuh de winning band is two tousand dollars ah does jes stop wid meh mout open.
On parade day, walk troo de marshallin area an you would feel a feelin dat yuh cah describe. It lacing de air, tick an sweet. Papayo! People of all age, colour, creed an class, moving as one to de beat – except fuh dem who en have no timing but dais a nex tory.
Hear nuh. Dem decision makers need to get out from under de white tent an come to see, hear an feel why my culture should never get treat slight. Not one of dem masqueraders dere fuh de money. Dey dere fuh de love. Yes, ah know yuh cah love widdout money but while dem decision makers counting de donzai, my culture gettin damage bad, bad, bad. What de overseers fail to understan is dat when we have a love fuh someting, money does take a side. Dais we blessin an we curse, expressly up here where money satans does rule de roost.
Dem who playin gawd over my festival doh know bout dat. Dem Johnny come lately who reach to make big decision about my culture in Icebox Land, doh know how it reach here. Dem hearin CAH CHING while I palancin. Dem feel dey could manhandle my business. Dem hotel an restaurant gladly acceptin my $400 million dollars but doh like my head. If dey could colleck my dollar an close de door in my face dey would be happy.
An what does make my picky head even more tie up is when I see dem on TV talkin as doh dey know my ting. Learn de blasted words if yuh want to talk so loud! Learn de difference between a section leader, a individual, a king an a queen. Understan what a blue devil or a ole mas represent. Know what is j’ouvert an moko-jumbie. Is not call a kiss-meh-arse metal drum, is a steelpan.
Is somebody else game we playin on somebody else field wid somebody else rules. We cah win. Dis is a TV series call Desperate House Immigrants. An if it wasn because of de fact dat I would get arress, I would haul up my Sunday frock an go an planass every man Jack in dat group who had my business to look after an was so busy playin de arse an allowin people to too-too on my culture so dat outsiders could come easy an haul everyting away in a donkey cart.
I want my Caribana back. Is all I have. You promising me money den takin it back. Yuh not fraid yuh get cattaboil? Stop assuming you know how my culture does wuk. Hush yuh mout an come in de gayelle an talk to de troo stick fighters. We go learn you. We like people. We like to share. You could never ever go in a Caribbean house an see de pot cover dong. We does give away ting. What you doin is teefin. You makin bad skylark.
But is we fault. Doh make dat mistake. Is we who leave we ting on de road. So we cah really be surprise dat we getting bull pistle in we pweffen. Is years I saying we go lorse it to Disney or Mervish. I din see de City easing up behine de fowlcoob, dress like a Midday Robber.
I shame, vex an sad all in one. Meh heart aching. I pass by Holiday Inn, Royal York, Continental, Ramada an watch dem hustling to park car an check een guests while we scrambling to fine money to pay de King and Queen of Caribana. Dem snackette full, line long and we have to beg for a lil cahcahdah to pay de pan men. Taxi, rickshaw, bus, Go Train pack an yet we owing rent for mas camp warehouse. Is all I have an I watching it disappear from me.
I need to fine dat corbeau who pee on we an curry he rass.