I Survived Soca Monarch!

It needs to be said and bears repeating:  me (and my camera) survived Soca Monarch.

Soca Monarch is one of the so-called “fetes of the people,” since prices are on the low side of the fete ticket range ($200 TT=about $30 US, in comparison to more chichi, non-all inclusive fetes that start in the 350 TT range or even all-inclusive–food and drink, that is–fetes that go from 400 TT to 800 TT).  Add to that the fact that this one is held at the HUGE Queen’s Park Oval stadium in Port of Spain, and multiply that by the fact that all the main soca performers will be there doing there big hit songs, and you can see how this translates into a less affluent, younger kind of crowd.  Plus, when the performers big up the crowd by calling out for some noise “if you’re from San Juan/Arima/etc” and the biggest crowd response comes from Laventille, Morvant and Belmont (the most dangerous, favela-like neighborhoods), you know you’re not in Kansas anymore.

In other words, I was warned not to go by coworkers and was requested to email them that I got back safely–exagerated precautions, maybe, but only just barely exagerated.

So I headed out witha  tiny purse carrying contact lens solution, hand sanitizer and lipgloss, and nothing else.  When we arrived in Port of Spain we caught up with some friends, took in the sight of ladies in spandex and tiny shorts (shortpants, as they call them here) and young guys in polos, jeans, and all kinds of bandanna, and went through security:

After getting VERY well frisked, we were handed rags to wave and glowsticks :

And found a spot front and center in the standing-room-only, silver (aka cheapest) area.  I had every intention of taking a few pictures at this point, but sadly, the only one I got to take was of the massive police presence in our section–bullet-proof gear on, helmets propped, fingers on automatics at the ready:

That was the last time it felt safe to take pictures, so away went the camera.  Sorry, peeps–I’d love to have given you a better view, but I just didn’t want to lose the camera or worse.

The show was great–intense, loud music and some very good stage acts.  Shurwayne Winchester, a soca artist who looks shockingly like Marlo on The Wire, did a great act for his entry song “Murder” that started with him getting carried off screen in a gurney, then going “rewind” and showing how exactly he got, well, dead.  It was a wining murder, apparently–a lady of large proportions came out and wined so violently on him that she killed him with her moves and big behind, oh my.  It was a shocking display of un-PCness but hey, at least the crowd cheered at the wining murderess in her tiny lingerie set as she wined Shurwayne to death.

There was also a very witty video intro for Shal Marshall and Screw’s “Police,” in which they did a Law and Order: Soca Victims Unit sketch as part of the musical act.  And, of course, there were all sorts of acrobatic wining feats by big-bootied ladies featured throughout, busting the kind of moves that made me think long and hard on what would be the necessary proportion of fat to muscle to be able to swing your asscheeks in opposite directions, while turning in circles, in unison to the song (stil haven’t figured it out).

Faye-Ann Lyons, reigning Soca Monarch, came out and did two great numbers that would have put Miss Beyonce, much as I love her, to shame, showing off her incredible singing skills (and physique–I didn’t think ladies could have such six-packs and toned curves, much less after having a baby less than a year ago).  Towards the end of the night, as the crowd was getting more riled up and rougher, the song “Palance” (whose title is taken from Jamaican slang for hanging out and having a good time with friends) came on, and the dance craze it’s created (going left to right with your arms to each side while wining crazily) kicked off.  I have been in some mean moshpits in my day, but NOTHING like this–I got caught in the middle of two groups who were palancing in different directions and kept getting crushed.  Eventually (because the song was dragged out to fifteen minutes for maximum crowd frenzy) they got their directions in synch, so I was ok as long as I went along with it (which I happily did) and didn’t mind getting lifted off my feet in the crush of people (which I didn’t mind).

After that, the crowd started to thin out and the more dodgy elements were left, with plenty of drunk aggressive serial winers (they come up to you and wine close and don’t take a hint unless you actually walk off fast) and those looking to eyeball some stealables or a fight.  That was it for us, and once the live acts ended and the DJ came on to await Soca Monarch results, we were out.  Time of departure: 3:45ish.  Despite the dodgery at the end, though, we did have a great time, and it was a great wining warm-up for me–it takes a fete or two for me to get used to wining again (kinda like base-building with running

Needless to say, today has involved a lot of sleeping.  I slept till 10:30, woke up, drank some water, read for a bit, and fell back to sleep till 12:30. Then we got up, had breakfast (I didn’t take pictures of the eggs in a hole because they were TOO ugly, but see here for my last, prettier, rendition), and slept some more until around 5, when we made a go of having part of a day and got woken up by a very loud puja (Hindu prayer ceremony) going on in our neighborhood.

Being half-asleep all day made me pretty listless and undecided about what to make, and I changed my mind about a million times before settling on Indian sweet potato hash:

I really wanted to make the Most Fabulous S’s Sri Lankan sweet potatoes, but when I realized I wouldn’t even come close I veered off into more familiar Indian ground, with cumin, coriander, chili, fenugreek, and other spices in a sweet potato and spinach mix.  Served with tomatoes and onions and some rice (white because there’s no getting brown rice around here for love or money lately), it definitely hit the spot.

I will try my hardest to stay awake until my usual bedtime because I need a good night of sleep tonight!  I’m going to a daytime fete tomorrow and can’t wait to cut loose in my self-made fete dress–tune in for the big reveal….

Costume Prep, Part 1,257

Last night I set about making the last big item for my carnival costume.  I had been planning on whipping up a satin pouch for my sunscreen, safety pins, extra glitter, vex money (emergency cash, in Trinispeak), and lip balm, plus a few ibuprofen and a teeny bottle of eyelash glue.  Some people carry mini backpacks on Carnival, and the band actually provides a small and sweet swag bag for this, but no way am I letting anything ruin the look of the outfit.  Hence the idea of the little pack, which I designed with elastic that could be pinned or looped onto my belt–unobtrosive, hands-free, matching.

The finished bag:

The bag I will actually use:  The Man Purse (aka Mr. Laura and his capacious costume pockets).

After stitching and gloating, I went to try it on with my costume.  Major fail.  The decorated chains and beads would tangle up on the bag if I had it hanging from my hip, and there is NO SPACE to hide it or attach it anywhere else.  Bag decoration operation was aborted, and Husband was wheedled into pinning the bag and its contents to his shorts (in addition to stuffing his costume pockets with more stuff, like tiny hand sanitizer and sunblock bottles.)

There’s a saying about playing mas that goes “don’t bring sand to the beach”–or, don’t play mas with your significant other because there will be plenty other people to dance and party with.  Personally, I want to bring a BUCKET of sand to the beach because I want to minimize any unwanted wining upon my person.  And, not only will said bucket of sand (e.g. The Man) provide excellent bodyguard services, it will also serve to carry my necessary goods.

Speaking of which, he’s got a mighty spiffy costume too! Check for yourself. Nice, huh?  Because a Ruby of Mumbai should always have her own personal maharajah at hand.


I feel a bit of a throat itch coming on, so I stayed away from the pool.  I’m not taking any chances on being sick in the next few days.  If that means no running tomorrow, then so be it (though if I do run tomorrow, I might do it with a feather in my headband, just to get in the spirit of things).  My attitude to this potential possible sickness?

Apart from taking vitamin C, I also fought off any possible impending sniffles with bright clothes and shoes:

Scrambled eggs and guava toast:

Mediterranean chickpea salad and broccoli soup for lunch:

And pasta with tomato sauce and grilled garlicky eggplant:

A good night’s sleep is in order because my Carnival officially starts tomorrow night at 10 pm–I’m going to a little fete called International Soca Monarch, which is only the biggest fete of the season because all the soca acts play their top songs and compete for awards.  Come four am I hope to be getting down with Faye-Ann Lyons as she hopefully retains her Power Soca, Groovy Soca, and International Soca Monarch titles–all of which this goddess of groove won and performed for last year one week before having a baby. BIG ups.  I can only aspire…

Night y’all!

Working the Brevity Tip

Work, work, more work… I. AM. WIPED.  It’s hard to beam any kind of positive energy or love towards the world at the moment because all I want are my SVU marathon, a cup of tea, and a big pillow for sleeping on. (Oh, yeah, and to become independently wealthy so I don’t have to go to work unless I want to, but I’ll settle for the previous three wishes).

Worn today:

Holding a coconut that plopped out of my tree

I love this top (from Dorothy Perkins in the UK–it was under 15 pounds, so reasonable in my book) and those shoes (from Spain–they were 15 euros, I think, and I’ve gotten every last cent out of them). I wore the top and shoes to work with a straight black skirt, but I changed before I went to run an errand in Port of Spain after work (hence the jeans).

Running my errand involved exchanging some carnival paperwork for a friend and replacing my cell phone (after finding half of the keys stopped working!).  The drive to Port of Spain was totally justified, though, when I rocked up to MovieTowne Plaza to the sight of this:

It’s Socacize!  Apparently, Soca aerobics are held in the MovieTowne parking lot every Tuesday and Thursday in January and February before carnival.  Behold the sight of people getting down in the surreal parking lot/mountain scenery…  As the cell phone salesgirl quipped, “Bless them–it’s a bit late to start now.”  True–but it’s still a quirky sight to see.

Eaten today:

I had a bit of time in the morning, so I made some French toast with pineapple on top:

For lunch, I whipped up tuna salad on top of a big leafy green salad (with tomatoes, carrots, scallion, and green peppers–not that you can see any of that under the mess of lettuce):

And dinner saw the appearance of a Spanish-influenced lentil soup with potatoes, carrots, spinach, smoked paprika, and a touch of cumin:

Bootiliciousness worked today:

I went for a swim (and felt surprisingly un-sore after yesterday’s fast run–miracle of miracles!) and took it easy, given that the last thing I want is an injury before Carnival next week.  Twenty-five slow and easy laps, plus an extra one done fast and furious just to prove to myself that I could.

My zonked self is going to commune with the SVU team on TV now.  I promise I’ll be back to my happy chatty self tomorrow….