On Any Given Saturday…

… I would hope to have as nice a day as I’m having today.

Alarm:  not set.

Reading:  early in the morning, in bed.

Wearing:

Old Navy owl tank (same as Baby Bel's!), Marks and Sparks skinnified jeans, graffiti Converse from Kohl's ($10 star find), wire fox terrier from Montreal (priceless), dangling coconut from my backyard

Eating for breakfast:

Banana oatmeal blinged with coconut, grapefruit, coffee in tacky beloved Lady Di cup, placemats unironed (if I don't iron shirts, I'm not about to care about the wrinkliness of tableware)

Things bought from man in a truck:  2 pounds of shrimp, 1 pound of salmon.  He was using his megaphone to announce his catch in a particularly melodious way today, what can I say?

Things bought from garden supply store:  some pots, a huge watering can to  lawfully comply with the hose ban (dry season water rationing is in force), and a couple of basil plants who did not run from me as they should have (I am a serial basil killer).  I saw plenty of pots and hope to own enough plants someday to fill them all up:

We then headed to Port of Spain for some homework-doings–I wanted to find some good shots for my submission to a Flickr group project called La Vuelta al Mundo (this month’s submission theme: red) and hit paydirt, I think:

I also had fun doing my own paparazzi ting:

After dragging my location scout and photo crew (OK, it’s all one and the same person) around half of Port of Spain and sniffing dramatically anywhere that might have been graced with our carnival presence, I had a hot lunch date with Pollo Tropical, that mecca of Cuban/Rican yumminess:

Cuban black beans, quarter chicken, white rice--no words...

I dismissed my photo crew for the day and returned him to his Saturday British football extravaganza while I went off and had a correspondingly gender-stereotypical extravaganza of my own at the fabric shop.  Fabric was salivated over and bought, shop ladies were duly amused that this girl sews (everyone here has a personal seamstress, so I’m a very declasse freak as far as they are concerned), and something may have already been made!  Make that almost made–a hemming and neck lining are in order, but nothing like a trip to Puerto Rico in two weeks to put the heat on my lazy seamstress ways.  One MUST always dress to impress (and I have a lot of VERY stylish female relatives to impress).

The dinner urge hasn’t yet hit, but I am unashamed to say that, when it does, the rest of that Pollo Tropical will be revisited because it was THAT good, I am THAT Puerto Rican, and I’m having THAT much wine tonight…

Ta, all!

Carnival Days: Carnival Tuesday on de Road!

Finally the big day!  Get yourself settled and ensure all children or offendables are put away (lots of people in very skimpy clothing coming up…)

I jumped out of bed at 4:30, gave myself a tentative shake, and breathed a sigh of relief at being able to move everything painlessly after yesterday’s crazy dancing and jumping exertions.  I set the coffee machine, showered, and started on the makeup (like Monday’s, but more jewels and more layers of color and sunblock).  I tried to apply some false eyelashes, like all the cool girls wear, but the glue started to sting and burn on my lashline so I had to wipe it all off and forgo the falsies for big mascara.  Lesson:  Do not attempt to play with serious chemicals near your eyes on Carnival Tuesday (at least practice withstanding the burn).

After I did myself up, we rushed to take a couple of pre-party, pristine costume shots:

Then we jumped in the car and headed off to pick up a friend and meet the band.  Did I mention we left the house at 6:30 am??  Rise and shine, peeps, rise and shine…

Once we arrived in Port of Spain, we found parking near what we assumed would be the end of the band’s parade route and quickly found the band, who were out in full glory and enjoying breakfast to the sounds of some sweet pan:

Pan band providing musical love for the band during breakfast

Nothing like feathers in the 7 am Port of Spain sun

The Ruby of Mumbai prepared by hitting up the breakfast truck for some doubles:

Breakfast doubles truck man, how I heart thee

Look mami! No tamarind sauce on my costume!

After breakfast (at around 8:00 am) they started to line us up in our sections, by costume, to await the crossing of the Savannah “stage”/judging point:

Rubies forming an orderly line

Rubies in a less orderly formation, in full sun

At this point we got all excited, and waited, and got more excited, and waited, and inched our way up the road, and waited, and waited some more:

Rubies rehearsing their best stage-crossing moves

At around 10:30, we finally reached the Savannah “stage”, which is not really a stage but rather a spot on the Savannah where bleachers are set up and judges look at costumes and evaluate the band’s portrayal of their theme and general enthusiasm/craziness.  I was thirsty as could be (and it was definitely beer o’clock with no drinks truck nearby) but the energy of the 2,500-strong band, the crowd, the cameras, and the setting were enough to get the adrenaline pumping and get me jumping, dancing, and waving myself all across the stage, and boy did I have myself a time for those brief five minutes!

There were TV and media cameras EVERYWHERE and you best believe this girl got as much camera action as she could snag, waving her feathers (both the literal and figurative) with pretty wining for all and sundry to record.  It was BEYOND fun, especially when tourists and spectators would ask for pictures with us in our glory (I think half of China may have had their picture taken with me).

Of course I was too busy doing my thang to take snaps as I went along, but I did catch some of the aftermath:

Rubies getting some air and recapping stage-crossing glory stories

After which we mobbed the drinks truck for some refreshment before continuing on our merry way along the Savannah for an hour or two:

Thirsty masqueraders mobbing the drinks truck

Savannah public/onlookers

Greece, the costume Little A would have worn had she come for Carnival, sniff...

And a friendly masquerader in Merchants of Venice, the costume I ALMOST picked, had it not been for the suspect placement of green feathers down below...

And wound our way to the lunch spot for the day.

Because I was so damn intent on getting my picture taken in front of Pollo Tropical, the tasty Puerto Rican food chain that just opened on the Savannah:

Do they have REAL Cuban black beans? Must find out... but didn't on Tuesday

And stopped to get near the cooler zone (where they whoosh cold air around you) and to remove an big errant bra bead that somehow landed inside my boot, we got caught in the lunch mob trying to file into the QRC grounds and it took a while to get lunch and find seats on the bleachers (which were definitely not as nice as Monday’s seats).  I had just enough time to get lunch, give my feet an airing, take my headpiece off for a bit (oooh, relief), hit the bathroom and reapply sunblock before we headed out again.

Once we did, it was around 1 pm, and the streets were blazing hot, but the drinks truck kept my water and beer flowing and the party REALLY kicked off:

Need to stop traffic and cross the road? Just wait till people start wining on a car and then go!

Doing my civic duty and wining on a car (for the sake of traffic, of course)

Flags and booties waving--real island representin'

Maybe Mr. Laura can be convinced to wear THIS mas costume next year?

Just before reaching Ariapita Ave. (where there would be masses of spectators and my favorite part of the route) the band staff gave us some much needed energy popsicles to gear us up.  Duly sugared, we hit Ariapita, feathers a-wavin’ and tails a-shakin’:

Enthusiastic winer "throwing waist"

These two looked fresh and happy ALL day long, representing the Adulis/Africa band section

There were tons of spectators and picture-snappers, so I pranced and posed my heart out with all the other divas on the road:

A male Greece individual costume graced me with a pose--I'm in awe of him!

Ladies looking lovely in the China costume

And did the generous diva thing by giving away bracelets and one of the feathered armbands I made to the cheering and admiring little girls/future-divas-to-be:

After that we headed back to downtown for more carousing and the final part of the route.  More drinks, more crazy dancing, plus a snack of aloo pies to keep us happy and energized:

Police SVU weaving through the mob of dancing peeps

I may have wined on the drinks truck....

And I may have wined on the King of Carnival (big platform contraption thing)

As the day wore on, lots of headpieces came off as they succumbed to wind and wining.  Still, some of us managed to hang in there:

China section member representin' after dark

I am happy to report that my headpiece stayed on for the whole route, and that this girl danced from the second lunch ended until the day was done.  I might be a Ruby of Mumbai, but I’m also an Energizer Booty!

I took a bit of a fall at the end, when a girl in costume rushed past me and knocked me over, but thankfully I just got a few light scrapes and bruising–and the snacks truck delivered a final snack of Doritos to me right after and that was enough to distract me.

As we marched back to the car (which was really close this time–kudos to Mr. Laura for a stellar parking job!), I started to feel a bit teary-eyed at the thought of it ending.  I have looked forward to this ALL YEAR, and even since before last Carnival.  However, it confirms the fact that I am a Carnival addict, and like all the other addicts I will patiently wait for the madness to start up again for Carnival 2011.

Yesterday, I tallied up the damage to the costume and counted my lucky stars that I had not worn any of it on Monday, given the state of it after Tuesday’s fun-having.  Here is the bra before:

And after:

Dangling beads, broken chain, plenty dirt and grime

The belt before:

And after:

Dangling and missing chains, torn-off beads, raggedy fabric

Boots before:

And after:

Boots, dirty and chain-dangling and beads missing

The headpiece, before:

And after:

Feathers flopping in the wind (because they came unglued in the back)

I also tallied up the bruises and scratches on me, which were at their worst on my wrists and neck (where the sweat and sunblock reacted with the cheap scratchy jewelry to give me some nasty-looking cuts and burns):

Cuts and abrasions, yuck

Oh yeah–and I can barely walk from all the dancing.  I don’t think I have any hip flexors left.

But was it worth it?  Absolutely.

I am not being hyperbolic or facetious in saying that Carnival really changed me.  I never thought I’d have so much fun in the short span of two days, that I had so much energy and adrenaline in me, or that I’d have the confidence to wear next to nothing for all and sundry to see while dancing in ways I never thought I would and taking part in  what must surely be the largest street party on earth.  I will eat spaghetti and cans of tuna to afford this next year.  Because there is a next year, and a year after, and every year after that, as long as I can shake it and there are flights to Trinidad.