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When we were kings, queens, dragons and snakes too!
Happy New Year! Again! This time for the Chinese! This is the “Year of the Snake!” Given those reptiles have had such a bad rap, we must also note that “water,” that absolutely most vital combination of elements; chemical compound H2O; is also fully associated with these celebrations.
Happy Carnival 2013, too. These celebrations have much in common, surrounded by great enjoyment. Born in Guyana’s countryside, having travelled everywhere in the “Dear Land’s” vast hinterland, with massive rivers and plains, I know much about real snakes; labaria, bush-master, fer-de-lance, etc.
A bite from these can make you seriously dead! Yet the worst crawling pit vipers that I have ever met in 60 years of life, world-wide, were actually standing up, talking with severely forked tongues. Quick story, told by one who knew his animal serpents, who was home when I first met my male parent.
Bush-masters are king pairs. If you killed one, the other of that duo would remove the dead snake, then superimpose itself in the other’s place, to strike the human killer when he re-passed that area! Ouch!
My first association with Chinese New Year came while attending Central High School in Smyth Street, Georgetown, which was in quite near proximity to the Chinese Association’s Hall in Brickdam. While not understanding its significance then, dragon dances always stimulated much comment and mega fun.
With that most infectious and invigorating celebration of everything before Lent—Carnival—moving to its great crescendo this weekend in T&T, and bandleaders, champions all, like “Big” Mike Antoine and supposedly retiring Brian Mac Farlane, honing last-minute skills, costumes and productions, that energetic concept of dragon dances, and festive, colorful masses of personnel, easily come to mind.
My initial involvement in T&T’s carnival came in 1975, while studying navigation in the calypso country. Back then, calypso kings Slinger Francisco—Mighty Sparrow—with the dragon dance and The Hustle, Aldwyn Roberts—Lord Kitchener—with Soul Train and Tribute to Spree Simon, made all dance wildly, like real-life, if seemingly drunk, dragons. Then, everyone were road kings and queens!
Even those two could not stop another party king, Winston Bailey’s—Shadow—1974’s all-time hit, Bass-man, from still being played in 1975, even as he also contributed The King from Hell that year. Oh yeah, it was not until I saw stupendous dragon dance depictions, in Sydney’s China-town, in Australia, my first tour there, 1978/9, for Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket, that I understood it better.
That brings us to West Indies now playing in Australia. Oh, for when we were one-day kings, back then. FYI, When we were kings is Leon Gast’s magnificent award-winning documentary of The Rumble in the Jungle, that true, almost unbelievable boxing extravaganza, when champion boxers were kings. That bout, between real monarchs of the boxing world, in any age and time—Muhammad Ali (Cassius Clay) and “Big” George Foreman—which was staged in Zaire, now known as Democratic Republic of Congo, was as real, as dangerous, and as exciting as any before or since. What really sweet pain.
No boxing match, perhaps no sporting event ever, with the possible exception of 1970’s Soccer World Cup Final, Mexico City, between still unparalleled Brazil, led by soccer “Kings” Pele and Jairzinho, and Italy, could have generated such interest as “The Rumble in the Jungle.” Seeing those kings at it again, recently, brought new chills. Like Ali and Foreman, West Indies were unlimited kings of one-day cricket in 1970’s and 1980’s. 1975 and 1979 World Cup victories, finalists in 1983, painfully losing to India, made us all kings then.
I toured Australia three times in four consecutive years—1978/9, 1979/80, 1981/2—so popular were we there and then, even if Australia always knew that they could not have beaten us at all. Those were the days when the host cricket authorities; Australian Cricket Board—Cricket Australia—had to try to make money from touring teams. Hence, our so regular visits, since we were always guaranteed to play to full houses—oh, when West Indies one-day cricketers were really kings.
Not so nowadays, even as reigning World T-20 Champions. The new dispensation seems to be to highlight any rare success these days; that magnificent hundred by Keiron Pollard, ODI No 4; while, somehow, seemingly forgetting that West Indies are facing the proverbial 5-0 white-wash figuratively and practically, after losing four in a row. What the hell is wrong with this picture anyway? Where have all of our cricketing kings gone? In Australia, we look king-less! Meanwhile, Merissa Aguilleira and our cricketing Queens continue to revel excitedly in ICC Ladies World Cup 2013, qualifying for Super Sixes, thence immediately beating South Africa. What great queenship.
I may be wrong here, referring to when West Indies men were conquering kings. We must instead regale our always magnificent queens; Carnival—Alison—Miss Universes and Miss Worlds—Penny, Wendy, Giselle—or otherwise, those at home too, with the waiting pilua—Gail and Marcia—for Carnival 2013, and our more successful West Indies Ladies in India. Enjoy!
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