Tuesday, November 1, 2011


I was driving home from Sangre Grande this evening and noticed how lonely the trip was. The Aripo Savannah to the West and the Valencia side ( opposite) was hidden by tall, looming trees.

Then there was the silence that fell as the hand of darkness encroached on the road.

It was one of those empty silences. The dangerous kind that leaves room for your thoughts to drift away into a dream about the barrenness of human existence. This is not an abstract here. It's a cold hard look at how lonely we are. You go to work every day, you come home...an occasional escapade over the weekend and you're back to trudge it through the week again.

Human contact fills the in-between, but do they really know you? Are you comfortable enough to trust them with your fears and anxieties? Will someone whom you've told a dark secret throw it in your face later in a verbal/psychological skirmish?

I know some people who told their spouses things that hurt them, made them so vulnerable and fragile to the very fabric of their being and when the battle lines were drawn, all boundaries were erased. That secret which took them eleven years sometimes to build the courage to share is spewed out like a boiling venom to score cheap points.

The betrayal feels palpable. You're left stunned, enraged and most of all, wasted. You feel physically weakened.

So whom are you going to trust? Another cold-hearted person seeming to be your friend? How do you know?

This familiar to you?

And then I leave Valencia and make my way on the Eastern Main Road to Arima. The only silent and scenic section of the EMR is that stretch of road. The mountains to your right silent watchers escorting you home.

I think of home...

And then? I hear this!

(COPY THE LINK below and place it in another tab. DO NOT CLICK ON IT. Don't look at the video. Just listen.)


Don't ask me how it came into my head. I don't know myself. It makes you want to cry doesn't it?

But listen closer.

I remember now...I went on a looooong walk with my uncle to Grand Tacarib in 1989. Remember standing on top of a hill on the coast and watching water from the sea just washing a rocky shore. I couldn't hear it from that distance but the constant incoming motion of the waves gave me an incredible sense of silence and how beautiful it really is. The sea breezes swaying every branch in a slow, elegant dance.

There is always a place and time in life when you can actually hear yourself think. A moment that feels like fresh rain falling on you while you're outside laughing without a care in the world!

That was my place...

You can fill silence with sounds and scenes like this. You can fill it with memories...like the very kind uncle that called me out of my usual teenaged Saturday morning slumber to half kill me on an eleven mile trek with 50 pounds of load on my back. And I mean it. He is truly one the kindest persons I've ever met.

The memory of that scene is still so alive and vibrant that I have never forgotten the person that took me there and never will.

And I have developed a friendship with him that knows no boundaries. I trusted him with some of my most profoundly painful memories and he has never in the 22 years  betrayed that trust. If you know me well enough, you will know that I almost NEVER let people know me that well. My uncle is no saint! We mockingly call him a Jammette. ( a rather loose woman. In his case...you know what I mean. ) But he is, in the truest Christian sense, what we call a real man.

So whom do you trust? It took me 22 years to trust someone that much.

But it takes time to build trust. Chances are if that person has no faults that make him/her human...you need to run like hell.

The silence today taught me that you can trust someone. It takes time, patience. We all have burdens that we must ask someone else to help us bear. Hurts that need expression to begin the healing. We all need a trusted person on whom we can rely to make us feel we are worth something, even to one person. But patiently that person comes like a guardian angel: unsought and sometimes obviously right there.
This looming guardian (The Northern Range) was singing directly to my soul: That loneliness and desolation can be healed. Take away the anger from hurt and tell me what you have left. You can now move on can you?

That life throws some strange things at you and you have the ability to play well.

And I noticed another fascinating thing about us. Well, I've been noting this a long time now. But today it was so overwhelmingly clear, in the silence I mean: when words lose their power to express, when our body is overwhelmed by the astounding power of what our souls would like to express, we create music. Hence the strange and sudden epiphany of music.

I'm sure all these thoughts are quite common. We all share the same common makeup. But with the music playing they take on another meaning. They become words of compassion and penetrating glimpses into the soul. That's the epiphany for me.

Well, the silence ended as I approached Arima and the buzz there.

Now, after reading this, listen to the music again and tell me what the silence brings to you.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Summer of 69

Copy the above link and paste it in another tab. Listen to it while you read this. 

In school, when I was fifteen, this song came out with a bang and took us all by storm. It was the purest musical expression of the convoluted stream of indescribable gut wrenching emotions of loneliness, joy, infatuation and whatever else fell into the soup that informed my sensibilities.

Right! The same confused feeling you just got from reading that!

The things we wanted for ourselves were the dreams that either propelled us or were decimated by those who showed us the grim realities. The one thing you hold on to even till the end of your days are those dreams and your sense of regret for not having fulfilled them. Those dreams are never so strong; those emotions are never so fatal or powerful as when we were young.

This song always pushes me near tears...I know these words even in my sleep. We all sang this in the rain, in the dark at a house party once when there was no electrcity...What I wanted then and the reality now..." you told me it would last forever..."

I admit it! There was a girl I really thought I would love till the end of my life. I would dream of her endlessly. You know the feeling. She, of course was totally oblivious to this. Skinny little guy with no car or job, still in school with a half baked male voice. What could I give her? What would I say to her if she ever spoke to me? I didn't have a clue. Ignorance is not bliss. It's torture!

Often, I'd fantasize about where I would take her once I get my car, what parties we would go and what I'd do to make her fall ever so deeply in love with me. I actually learned to surf among other things to impress. (Colin got me some nice deals on used boards which Richard taught me to pay for by  cutting people's lawns for money)

I'd marry her some day.

And then, when John Charles went up to her to tell her I wanted to say something to her...Boy did I freeze! I'm sure you know that feeling too. 

I'm being honest here. I love my life and entertain no regrets. But there's an imperishable flame that  gets hidden and only comes out and disturbs the very fabric of my being once I hear this song. You think you have composure until something comes and resets you back to ZERO. The ghosts of " could have and should have " still haunt these walls. What if I actually spoke to her?

When you're 15, according to Taylor Swift, you give up everything for someone who has changed their minds...or something like that. The pain is excruciating.

" Cause when you're 15, somebody tells you they love you
You're gonna believe them"

When you tell yourself you're in love with someone, you're going to believe it and fall real hard.

That was one of the most frightening feelings I ever experienced - To mindlessly hand over your emotions to someone. I feared that with my life! and yet, I was reckless enough to let it all happen. Many heartaches later...

Back then you show that you're invincible and go home every day to secretly cry your heart out after having endured another day of callous emotional beatings from those you think should know better. But guess what! They were just as vulnerable as you were then and didn't have a clue that they might have caused you pain.
I wish someone told me that back then. It would hurt less. 

Back to the song. I guess nothing lasts forever.

" ... when I look back now
The Summer seemed to last forever,
And if I had the choice
Yeah - I'd always wanna be there
Those were the best days of my life. "

And to think about it, they really were. I mean, we were allowed to say anything, do anything and it would be passed off as the folly of youth.We partied like hell! We loved without end. Our friendships from that time were eternal and still are. 

With time of course, you hoped you'd outgrow those desires and dreams. But they still come back to haunt and unsettle me every time. I don't think I've ever let them disappear into the dark halls of distant, faded  memory.I can't. 

Those were the best days of my life...

The song also reminds me of one very important thing. That I know how to love unconditionally.

There was a reckless daring about us all that would give us the stones to throw everything in the ring. That's why we end up in so much fights, why we defend each other to the hilt, why we fell in love so heedlessly.  Loyalty was paramount. You picked your friends and stand by them for life I suppose.

So many embarrassing memories, so many triumphant moments that you'd never give up. But you come through all of it with a few important life lessons.

If I only knew what some of them were! Just joking.

Looking back now at that "summer" that seemed to last forever and I know now that I'm always there; that my recklessness in giving myself over to someone else will always be a part of me, that my deep seated capacity to love unconditionally still burns bright; that there will always be the impulse to keep on dreaming, that I love my guys ( no gay moment here!) without being afraid to say it, that I yearn to see them nearly all the time because they were my home when I'm not at home. That's what your buddies are. 

The first time I recognised that emotion is so strong that it overthrows your mind was when I heard this music. Bryan Adams knew how to tap into my hidden secrets. He will be forever my favourite musician and singer. But that's not the importance of the Summer of 69. 

Nope! It's the yearning you have for a return to your most carefree moments. A desire that never dies. It propels you into the flame without care. Wisdom comes with age? Bullshit! I'm still on uncontrollable fire. 

Maybe now I know that time is a healer of heartbreak, of betrayals...that's the wisdom that comes with experience. But pain is pain and heartache is as palpable as it was then. 

This time however, with age, I'm not so afraid. I'd go headlong into the abyss in a heartbeat.

I'd give it up for nothing. 

Those were the best days of my life...

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Cruz de Mayo, 2011

Dear Friends,

It occurred to me that even after the explication of the May Cross in detail I still didn't tell you why you should come to the celebration.

I think I figured out the best answer today.

You see, a film crew came today to do some footage of Lopinot and a few interviews. That didn't really capture my attention. I took my two year old son behind the Historical Complex down to the river. As any child would , he insisted on going in. By the time I was soaking wet, I got a message that someone from the crew wanted to speak with me.
She was fascinated by the fact that Parang music was emanating from a building on the site of the Complex just like that! In the Middle of May. ( incidentally, it's the Jailhouse ) What really made the cut for her was that the performers were not really Parranderos at all. They were just members of an ordinary family paying a visit to the site. The museum's long standing curator inveigled them into joining him in a Parang and that was it. It took off quite naturally.

And then there it was! I figured it out.

The Parang took off quite naturally. This IS the reason YOU should come. The music belongs here. It is at home in Lopinot. Even someone with next to no musical talent falls in NATURALLY. That's the astonishimg thing that exists nowhere else but here.
I often wondered why so many Parranderos pay homage to the area in the first place. It is because Lopinot IS Parang.

There is no other explanation. YOU can come here and sing to your heart's delight and no matter what, it just feels right! That's extraordinary.

Los Alumnos de San Juan- 8 times National Parang Champs, The legendary San Jose Serenaders, Maracas Serenaders, La Bendicion and many more bands will be there. Not for the money, not for the fame, but simply because it's Lopinot.

Any place that can have that kind of drawing power is simply magical. I know, I was drawn there today.

You can find out too. Come to May Cross on the 29th May.
You will never forget Lopinot after that.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Lalaja Falls and the Third Soul

I once had a strange visit from two chieftains I lived with In South America.

Every time I visit Venezuela, I find my soul drawn to the Canaima Region where Angel Falls
( Kerepakupai vena ) is situated.

Finally, I had the courage to brave that unknown world and organise to spend my three weeks there among the tribal peoples.

They were strange yet familiar in an odd kind of way. Needless to say, we only had cellphones - two of which I acquired from a friend in Guirria - to keep us in touch with the outside world. Here, Time stood perfectly still as we often traversed the Carrao River deep in the Heart of the Universe.

The Salto Angel I would fly by just by chance as t an Australian couple had paid for an entire aircraft which had an extra pair of seats. Lucky me. The pilot was nuts. My camera and nearly everything I had at the time were lost during some rather insane acrobatics with a small, fragile aircraft.

Anyway, having spent time with these chieftains as my guardians...YUP...GUARDIANS! They would protect me from the spirit of Canaimo, a mythical spirit that takes the shape of nothing ever seen on Earth. It consumes the flesh of the dead for sustenance but can inflict painful death to the unprotected like me...I guess that's what they were telling me.

So, I lived to tell the stories. We could spend a night on an overnight camp talking about this when I would unfold the wonders of creation to you.

Two years ago, I got a call from someone in Trinidad explaining to me that he had two visitors from South America. They had a vision to visit a waterfall in Trinidad. He described their vision to me and it rather struck me how clearly and accurately they were describing Lalaja Falls.

We immediately made arrangements to take them there and behold, it was the right one. More interestingly, it was the two tribal heads I stayed with in Venezuela.

What about the third soul?
According to them, they are a people that each possessed three spirits.
The first was for them to talk to the gods, the second, I could never remember ( maybe to power their bodies ) and the third was the one to communicate with the spirit world. The thing with the third soul is that they must take it to a sacred source of water or the spirits will not justify them in the presence of the gods.

Lalaja was chosen as that sacred source. My Lalaja Falls that I've been going to since I was 18.
Imagine how delicately I treat with that place now, how often I speak of it with reverence and mystery. A sacred water source! Man, that has got to blow me away.

So you're going there, hopefully with the knowledge of something miraculous.
What will you do when you do get there?

You'll really be going through some of the most untouched forest in the island. There are routes, surely, and well kept> but time stays his hand in Lalaja. As you pass the circular route - and it does take effort - you'll be amazed to know that this ghostly place was once a thriving Cocoa Estate village.

Funny thing these trips. You step back in time and feel the isolation. But this divine silence is not appreciated until you leave. Then you miss it.

Follow the link

Go there and renew your spirit.

When you return, post comments on the blog. Let us know about the trip.
We're waiting to hear from YOU

Monday, January 31, 2011

Chorro Habio - A Miracle of the Rain

The rain was relentless that morning as we assembled to prepare ourselves for the pre-hike debriefing that warned us of any impending threats or what to avoid. We were also told that at any given moment, the hike leaders could call it off if they deem the trip to be unsafe. This sounded serious.

Nevertheless, everyone seemed prepped and eager to go... to Rincon Falls.

We were going to make that long, arduous trip over the El Tucuche base ridge and into the Las Cuevas area via the Acono Route. That was a long journey that only the very best would attempt. No surprise then, we had soldiers and coast guardsmen among our regulars showing up for the challenge.

The rain kept us at bay most of the journey, yet no one was daunted by the task of trudging through it all.

I don't remember the last time I killed a Priest, but I must have razed a convent to the ground or something. This trip was punishment on my legs.
Yet I don't remember noticing it. Only when I got home late that night did I realize I was covered in mud and properly well bruised.

Ever noticed though how rain brings colours to life? Have you experienced a walk deep in the forest when it rains? Nothing could be more divine. This was what they spoke of when they prayed over water.

Reaching Rincon was almost a blur...the rain had something to do with it. The verdure was alive, the forest was singing to me. For real. I'm not quoting from Tolkein here. I'm talking about an experience that defies logic and the limitations of words.

I was alive like never before and could not help but burst out in song. Anything I could remember. We all love music and think we can remember every detail in our favourite songs until we try singing them without the CD. But, I didn't care.

Now I'm no tree hugger or any big conservator of the forest. But here, you understand the meaning of the psalm that says all creation bless the Lord. It was alive and it was talking back in praises to the Creator. I was there to hear it. I'm serious. No angels, no apparitions, just the rain and the forest making music.
I will NEVER forget it!

Back to the hike!

We arrived at Rincon Falls just as planned and pondered whether it would be safe to return via the road we came or to continue to Las Cuevas and arrange transport from there. Remember, the rain did not stop.
We opted to brave the conditions. These were experienced and brave men.

On our return, we crossed a stream, now swelling into a river, just like we've done before. But something was drawing us up that stream. Nobody could tell me why or how, but it was inevitable.
Was it an instinct bred into us from the day we were born?
I'm no biologist, so I can't tell you.

But when the valley opened up before us, we finally understood what was taking place all the time. The Forest was singing to us about the waterfall. It had to make sense. There was no explanation for this incredible, silent impulse to just go upstream for no reason. The music must have been about the waterfall.

What do we name it? Does it have a name? What was it? Does it have the same meaning as that incredible forest song? All confusing questions at the time. It was right there all this time and we never bothered to look.

The Rain was singing to us. And we responded in awe!

I'm not sure if you're going to be washed of your fatigue by any rain, that your spirits will be cleansed of those heavy emotions that drag you to the depths of banality. Hell, I'm not sure what YOU will experience.
But I assure you of one thing: if it's your first time there, you'll understand what I'm going on about for the last three minutes. Go deeper than you've gone before. Look out for El Tucuche looming like a monolithic guardian of the forest and be inspired.

When you go home and tell them you spoke with the forest, they'll tell you you're nuts. But that's our little secret. I know what you saw. I know what you feel.

We both know they can NEVER understand the song until they listen for themselves.

Maybe Habio means " Miracle of the Rain " maybe not. But that's my story.

Go there and come back with yours.

See you Sunday.