edge

Starr Trek Discover We

Photographs by Mark Lyndersay

Picture courtesy Mark LyndersayMy name is Christopher K Starr and you mustn’t mistake me for an expatriate. I’m an immigrant.

These islands are now my homeland. I was already past 40 when I came. And I came to stay. For the last 20 years, I have lived in Obronikrom, my house up the Caura Valley.

Much as I love my late parents, they really dropped the onomastic ball on my given names. My father was Francis, his father was Francis and so on, back through the generations. As firstborn, I should have been Francis, but they tagged my little brother, Andrew Francis. So, when my boy came along, I made damn sure to name him Francis Andrew.

All but one of my ex-wives are still with us. I have had one white Canadian wife, one brown Philippine wife and one black Trinidadian wife. I guess that makes me an equal-opportunity heterosexual. I am presently between wives, if you see what I mean.

The second Mrs Starr & I produced SuperNova Yerakina Starr in 1987 and Francis Andrew Starr in 1990, [but no] grandchildren, to my great annoyance. Most of my old classmates have. It's not right. I would also like to have a hot flash. Just once. To see what it's like.

I was conceived in what is now Pakistan. My relief-worker parents were supposed to transfer to southern China, but the Communists sealed the border. So I was born north of Toronto in August 1949. It was a monstrous misdirection, for which I do not forgive.

With an entomology PhD (Georgia, 1981), I have lived and worked in Canada, the USA, the Philippines, Taiwan and now Trinidad & Tobago. Depending on how you look at it, this means either that a) I have a rich and varied background, or b) I have difficulty holding down a job.

I am fluent in French, German and Spanish and can get by in Chinese, Russian and a couple of Philippine languages. That makes me an incurable semantic, something about which many have complained.

I characterise myself as a secular or ethnic Quaker, like Sigmund Freud, who didn’t practise Judaism but did not deny his Jewishness. Virtually no one in my extended family is a practising believer, yet we retain signs of the ethnicity. It manifests itself most prominently in [my]

serious attitude toward language.

If God is looking after us, why do horrible things to happen to good people? Probably more people have abandoned religion due to this classic “problem of evil” than any other cause. I didn't. I just realised I didn't need it anymore. The standard response to the problem of evil is God works in mysterious ways, a flagrant abdication of serious thought.

When we die, it really is the end of our personal existence. [But] I understand many lack the nerve to face [that] terrible thing, one’s own non-existence.

Other than blue jeans and the blues, which I very much appreciate, I have an almost visceral aversion to the colour blue.

What is my ideal weekend? Let's just say I am a healthy heterosexual and leave it at that.

At one time my favourite writer was Henry Miller, whose Tropic of Cancer knocked me out when I was 19. Since then it is André Breton, each of whose several books I regard as a tour de force. Next in line would be Frantz Fanon.

I cannot let a day go by without listening to music. I regard the blues, and its outgrowth, jazz, as the highest musical forms ever devised. However, lately I have been listening to a lot of operatic sopranos. I am especially fond of Brother Resistance and Shadow. How one would have loved to hear Ella Andall do a duet with Miriam Makeba.

I love the cinema experience, especially in Trinidad. Audience participation really adds something.

If your enjoyment of a movie depends on knowing what is going on, stay away from spaghetti westerns and anything by Fellini or Buñuel. The spaghettiest of all Spaghetti Westerns is High Plains Drifter. We don't know the guy's name, his motivation, even whether he is someone they lynched.

[Asked about one’s] favourite director, one is tempted to name Ingmar Bergman. But who would believe it? It could be Sergio Leone, the team of James Ivory & Ismail Merchant, Akira Kurosawa, David Lynch. I would love to see all of Horace Ové's movies.

Picture courtesy Mark LyndersayPeople say, "We love sweet potato. We had some on Thanksgiving and we just can't wait for next Thanksgiving, so that we can have sweet potato again." Parang is like that. People love it so much that they can't wait until next Christmas, to hear parang again. Are there parang records in the music stores? Do you think there might be a reason for that?

Two things disposed me to like T&T [before arriving here]: 1. the prospect of hearing [everybody] talking the fine, musical form of English spoken by the few Trinidadians I had met; and, 2. the very juicy biodata. In all of eastern North America north of Florida there is exactly one species of hummingbird. In Trinidad, I get several species coming to the feeders by my porch every day. In the entire Dominion of Canada, the second largest country in the world, there are 19 species of social wasps (Jack Spaniards and maribons). In these two little dinky islands there are twice that many. This suits me very well.

I felt accepted right from the beginning. I came with the intention of being part of the society, and I expect it showed. People who their original [don’t become] part of their new land always struck me as rather pathetic and certainly ridiculous.

I am about equally fond of the two islands, Trinidad and Tobago, although not in the same ways. They are distinct from each other. And I hope it stays that way.

When I first went to Tobago almost 30 years ago, it took about a day-and-a-half in a particular town to become a local. In a little store in Charlotteville, I mentioned I was going to the post office. The proprietor said "Could you post these letters for me?" The government’s wrong-headed “Sandals” tourist model [will make] locals come to see visitors, not as a welcome addition to the community, but as marks to be fleeced. It’s already happening in a small way in Charlotteville.

It's hard to say when I became a Trinidadian (not a Tobagonian) in some sense. When I’ve tried to play the dumb foreigner to get out of some dilemma, the response, even from people who don't know me personally, has sometimes been "Knock it off. You's a local."

The one thing I cannot do as a non-citizen is run for Parliament. I had thought of the National Joint Action Committee banner, but then I figured, "They a bit too tame for me!” Where am I going to find a sufficiently radical party [to permit] my Woodford Square campaign speech on the theme "Black Power, Now and Forever!” Ending with a fist in the air and a cry of "Woe to the down-pressor!” That should get their attention.

Doubles are analogous to Quebec's poutine, lovely stuff. I wish they weren't fried, which is why I don't eat them very often, but they are positively my second-favourite street food. Number one was some kick-ass tacos I had in a city park in Mexico long ago. When the UWI support staffers went on strike some years ago I presented 50 of those delectable collations in a big paper bag to a meeting of the strikers. That kind of demonstrative solidarity helps to put backbone into the cause.

Cricket is a laughable game, far inferior to baseball. The steel pan is a ridiculous tinkling instrument. Carnival is terribly over-rated, really just a great big disco party where people trudge in the road wearing a lot of fabric where they would normally wear none and not much where they would normally have a lot. Chutney music is the worst noise in the world, even worse than an Australian talking. And why would anyone ever fly BWIA if you have the option of a grown-up professional airline? This paragraph should be a crowd-pleaser.

If I take care of myself, I will live about another 15 years. And I don't see how the world can possibly get by without me. I am such an arrogant bastard. Good luck, world.

Every now and then I get really horny for the temperate-zone fruits and vegetables of my youth. Parsnips, chokecherries, things like that. One of the first things I do when I visit the northern latitudes is to satisfy any such craving. The next time I go, I gotta have some rhubarb.

As it happens, I did something rather similar to this Trini to D Bone series as a project in my graduate Cultural Studies course, a short film comprising interviews with four other UWI staff immigrants from various places. In the film, they relate how they came to Trinidad & Tobago and why they decided to remain. The title was Having Eaten the Cascadoo, which I thought nicely summarised what it was all about. If they had been joining a church I could have titled it After Drinking the Kool-Aid.

A Canadian scientist [guest] remarked that Tobagonians seemed less friendly than Trinidadians. I quickly corrected her. Tobagonians are more reserved. One still has a perfect right to speak with anyone in Tobago, but she/he will hold back more than will a Trinidadian. Lovely, welcoming people, but less given to the spontaneous humour that to Trinidadians is like breathing.

Humour plays a very large role in everyday life and Trinidadians crack wise at a great rate, often in quite sophist ways. You must first proffer a greeting but you have a God-given/constitutional right to talk with anyone. Derek Walcott likened Trinidad to [classical] Athens, people discussing things all the time in all places. And [art gallery director] Geoffrey MacLean characterised Trinidad & Tobago as the most interesting territory in the hemisphere due to its demographic makeup. I think [this all] lies close to the heart of what it means to be Trinidadian.

What Trinidad & Tobago means to me was explained to me once. But I have forgotten. I take it to mean "Jah & I as one indivisible.”







Starr Trek Discover We

Photographs by Mark Lyndersay

Picture courtesy Mark LyndersayMy name is Christopher K Starr and you mustn’t mistake me for an expatriate. I’m an immigrant.

These islands are now my homeland. I was already past 40 when I came. And I came to stay. For the last 20 years, I have lived in Obronikrom, my house up the Caura Valley.

Much as I love my late parents, they really dropped the onomastic ball on my given names. My father was Francis, his father was Francis and so on, back through the generations. As firstborn, I should have been Francis, but they tagged my little brother, Andrew Francis. So, when my boy came along, I made damn sure to name him Francis Andrew.

All but one of my ex-wives are still with us. I have had one white Canadian wife, one brown Philippine wife and one black Trinidadian wife. I guess that makes me an equal-opportunity heterosexual. I am presently between wives, if you see what I mean.

The second Mrs Starr & I produced SuperNova Yerakina Starr in 1987 and Francis Andrew Starr in 1990, [but no] grandchildren, to my great annoyance. Most of my old classmates have. It's not right. I would also like to have a hot flash. Just once. To see what it's like.

I was conceived in what is now Pakistan. My relief-worker parents were supposed to transfer to southern China, but the Communists sealed the border. So I was born north of Toronto in August 1949. It was a monstrous misdirection, for which I do not forgive.

With an entomology PhD (Georgia, 1981), I have lived and worked in Canada, the USA, the Philippines, Taiwan and now Trinidad & Tobago. Depending on how you look at it, this means either that a) I have a rich and varied background, or b) I have difficulty holding down a job.

I am fluent in French, German and Spanish and can get by in Chinese, Russian and a couple of Philippine languages. That makes me an incurable semantic, something about which many have complained.

I characterise myself as a secular or ethnic Quaker, like Sigmund Freud, who didn’t practise Judaism but did not deny his Jewishness. Virtually no one in my extended family is a practising believer, yet we retain signs of the ethnicity. It manifests itself most prominently in [my]

serious attitude toward language.

If God is looking after us, why do horrible things to happen to good people? Probably more people have abandoned religion due to this classic “problem of evil” than any other cause. I didn't. I just realised I didn't need it anymore. The standard response to the problem of evil is God works in mysterious ways, a flagrant abdication of serious thought.

When we die, it really is the end of our personal existence. [But] I understand many lack the nerve to face [that] terrible thing, one’s own non-existence.

Other than blue jeans and the blues, which I very much appreciate, I have an almost visceral aversion to the colour blue.

What is my ideal weekend? Let's just say I am a healthy heterosexual and leave it at that.

At one time my favourite writer was Henry Miller, whose Tropic of Cancer knocked me out when I was 19. Since then it is André Breton, each of whose several books I regard as a tour de force. Next in line would be Frantz Fanon.

I cannot let a day go by without listening to music. I regard the blues, and its outgrowth, jazz, as the highest musical forms ever devised. However, lately I have been listening to a lot of operatic sopranos. I am especially fond of Brother Resistance and Shadow. How one would have loved to hear Ella Andall do a duet with Miriam Makeba.

I love the cinema experience, especially in Trinidad. Audience participation really adds something.

If your enjoyment of a movie depends on knowing what is going on, stay away from spaghetti westerns and anything by Fellini or Buñuel. The spaghettiest of all Spaghetti Westerns is High Plains Drifter. We don't know the guy's name, his motivation, even whether he is someone they lynched.

[Asked about one’s] favourite director, one is tempted to name Ingmar Bergman. But who would believe it? It could be Sergio Leone, the team of James Ivory & Ismail Merchant, Akira Kurosawa, David Lynch. I would love to see all of Horace Ové's movies.

Picture courtesy Mark LyndersayPeople say, "We love sweet potato. We had some on Thanksgiving and we just can't wait for next Thanksgiving, so that we can have sweet potato again." Parang is like that. People love it so much that they can't wait until next Christmas, to hear parang again. Are there parang records in the music stores? Do you think there might be a reason for that?

Two things disposed me to like T&T [before arriving here]: 1. the prospect of hearing [everybody] talking the fine, musical form of English spoken by the few Trinidadians I had met; and, 2. the very juicy biodata. In all of eastern North America north of Florida there is exactly one species of hummingbird. In Trinidad, I get several species coming to the feeders by my porch every day. In the entire Dominion of Canada, the second largest country in the world, there are 19 species of social wasps (Jack Spaniards and maribons). In these two little dinky islands there are twice that many. This suits me very well.

I felt accepted right from the beginning. I came with the intention of being part of the society, and I expect it showed. People who their original [don’t become] part of their new land always struck me as rather pathetic and certainly ridiculous.

I am about equally fond of the two islands, Trinidad and Tobago, although not in the same ways. They are distinct from each other. And I hope it stays that way.

When I first went to Tobago almost 30 years ago, it took about a day-and-a-half in a particular town to become a local. In a little store in Charlotteville, I mentioned I was going to the post office. The proprietor said "Could you post these letters for me?" The government’s wrong-headed “Sandals” tourist model [will make] locals come to see visitors, not as a welcome addition to the community, but as marks to be fleeced. It’s already happening in a small way in Charlotteville.

It's hard to say when I became a Trinidadian (not a Tobagonian) in some sense. When I’ve tried to play the dumb foreigner to get out of some dilemma, the response, even from people who don't know me personally, has sometimes been "Knock it off. You's a local."

The one thing I cannot do as a non-citizen is run for Parliament. I had thought of the National Joint Action Committee banner, but then I figured, "They a bit too tame for me!” Where am I going to find a sufficiently radical party [to permit] my Woodford Square campaign speech on the theme "Black Power, Now and Forever!” Ending with a fist in the air and a cry of "Woe to the down-pressor!” That should get their attention.

Doubles are analogous to Quebec's poutine, lovely stuff. I wish they weren't fried, which is why I don't eat them very often, but they are positively my second-favourite street food. Number one was some kick-ass tacos I had in a city park in Mexico long ago. When the UWI support staffers went on strike some years ago I presented 50 of those delectable collations in a big paper bag to a meeting of the strikers. That kind of demonstrative solidarity helps to put backbone into the cause.

Cricket is a laughable game, far inferior to baseball. The steel pan is a ridiculous tinkling instrument. Carnival is terribly over-rated, really just a great big disco party where people trudge in the road wearing a lot of fabric where they would normally wear none and not much where they would normally have a lot. Chutney music is the worst noise in the world, even worse than an Australian talking. And why would anyone ever fly BWIA if you have the option of a grown-up professional airline? This paragraph should be a crowd-pleaser.

If I take care of myself, I will live about another 15 years. And I don't see how the world can possibly get by without me. I am such an arrogant bastard. Good luck, world.

Every now and then I get really horny for the temperate-zone fruits and vegetables of my youth. Parsnips, chokecherries, things like that. One of the first things I do when I visit the northern latitudes is to satisfy any such craving. The next time I go, I gotta have some rhubarb.

As it happens, I did something rather similar to this Trini to D Bone series as a project in my graduate Cultural Studies course, a short film comprising interviews with four other UWI staff immigrants from various places. In the film, they relate how they came to Trinidad & Tobago and why they decided to remain. The title was Having Eaten the Cascadoo, which I thought nicely summarised what it was all about. If they had been joining a church I could have titled it After Drinking the Kool-Aid.

A Canadian scientist [guest] remarked that Tobagonians seemed less friendly than Trinidadians. I quickly corrected her. Tobagonians are more reserved. One still has a perfect right to speak with anyone in Tobago, but she/he will hold back more than will a Trinidadian. Lovely, welcoming people, but less given to the spontaneous humour that to Trinidadians is like breathing.

Humour plays a very large role in everyday life and Trinidadians crack wise at a great rate, often in quite sophist ways. You must first proffer a greeting but you have a God-given/constitutional right to talk with anyone. Derek Walcott likened Trinidad to [classical] Athens, people discussing things all the time in all places. And [art gallery director] Geoffrey MacLean characterised Trinidad & Tobago as the most interesting territory in the hemisphere due to its demographic makeup. I think [this all] lies close to the heart of what it means to be Trinidadian.

What Trinidad & Tobago means to me was explained to me once. But I have forgotten. I take it to mean "Jah & I as one indivisible.”