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Let’s go down memory lane, Carnival that is
I feel like being a bit nostalgic today, even though the only thing that remains constant is change. But here I am at 65, reminiscing on those early days of my Carnival in San Juan, the Croisee to be exact, when I was about eight years old in 1955, and believe me there was so much more action, of course of a different kind, than what obtains today.
My very first brush with the Carnival you would never believe, was not the actual mas itself but there was this broad table where pennies were thrown under the watchful eyes of my now dearly departed adopted mother. In those days a penny was a relatively handsome sum and yours truly at one stage had won nine of them, but this thing called greed got the better of me and I subsequently lost every single one.
I learnt the salient point, which is to quit while you are on top, and I was never a gambler in the true sense of the word; even up to today I would gamble nothing more than $1, eh Gonzo? My second early memory of the Carnival that same morning was when a police horse threw off its rider and ran through the crowd. You can imagine how I ran like hell because I wasn’t sure what direction the animal was taking as it was definitely out of control.
I grabbed on to my adopted mother’s legs and felt safe and secure that she was there to protect me. Would you believe that even up to now whenever I see the Mounted Branch in the road I keep a wide birth away from these animals. I still have nightmares of this horse running up and down the road in the Croisee.
My third and I dare say first real glimpse of the horrible blood sport called Jab Molassie was where fighters came in various gangs from different districts to battle each other, most of them wearing protective wire masks. Their trademark was the ominous cracking of long whips where they would encircle each other in a sadistic kind of dance and on reaching closer they pepper each other with the whips, plastering them all over their bodies.
It was wise for the spectators to keep well clear of the combatants because the whips reached wide and far and some unlucky spectator could pass in the rain of blows. The same facial mask did not protect one player whose face was bathed in blood and he later left for home. About one hour later he was back in the fray taking on all comers, with his head properly well bandaged.
I can truly say I saw my first authentic costume when this elderly gentleman was dancing the dragon with this young lad trying to bring the animal, thick scales and all, under control; it was rolling on its side, back, belly, slowly crawling, mouth wide open and food being thrown into its abdomen. I cannot remember ever seeing such an excellent dragon dance ever again in my life.
Things must change and I am glad to know that some efforts are being made to have some of our old time characters be brought back to our mas. It is also good to see people like Brian MacFarlane going back to the days when costumes were costumes and not this two pieces of strings that most of our women are wearing.
While the mas must move on we have to preserve what is worth preserving and please remember we have to cater to all segments of our mas loving people. Play mas and keep the peace.
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