Wednesday, May 30, 2007

$27.25 (in approx. 45 minutes)!

Today there was an amplified band performing on Dundas Square (they were quite loud and would have drowned us out ... so instead of drum-busking there as planned, Nancy and I moved further up the street to the corner near "The World's Biggest Bookstore". It was a good spot. In approximately 45 minutes (from 6:45 - about 7:30 p.m.), we drummed up $27.25 for the Asian Elephants. One Asian girl and her mother even stopped and asked if we were thirsty and gave us bottles of water.
I had purchased some sidewalk chalk for the event and wrote out the information, drew an elephant mascot and a lucky flower around the hat. We placed Elephant cards (with information about the benefit concert we attended later tonight) around the hat with the money. Various interested people stopped and took cards, promising to come to the concert. Some stopped and read the chalk signs and dropped money. Some dropped money without knowing what it was all about. Some did not drop money, but did little shuffling dances as they walked past. Some laughed and smiled. Some stopped to listen. Some walked by without a glance. One woman blocked her ears and muttered: "Stop making so much noise."
The plight of the elephants is a sad one. At the jazz concert we were given 3-page booklets with information and stories about the elephants that have been rescued ... or not, as the case may be. There are parts of the booklet that we just could not read because the facts were so horrific and cruel. I won't bother to go into details ... but suffice it to say ... it is estimated that within 2 decades, these beautiful creatures could be extinct if things keep going the way they are.

If you haven't already, check out the website, learn more and donate to a worthy cause if you can. Every drop counts.

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Saving Asian Elephants one drum at a time (edited with more info on benefit concert)

(Canada Chronicles continued ...)

Last night when I met up with two friends to go here, one of them, Nancy told me about a jazz concert a friend of hers has organised (for tonight) to raise funds on behalf of the Asian Elephants. We are going to the concert ... but we've decided that prior to that we will have a little concert of our own.

Weeks ago when we all first met, we had planned to go drum-busking in front of The Big Carrot. But last night we decided we would drum-busk this evening, before we attend the benefit concert for the Elephants (Information here). Instead of doing it in front of the Carrot, we'll drum in the Dundas Square area, where there is a lot more pedestrian traffic. It may end up being just two of us, but we've decided that whatever money we make (hopefully more than $1.91), will go toward the Asian Elephant fund.

(Nelly the Elephant will be proud).

Very interesting that drumming encourages 'community'. I just looked up elephant as a power animal and it means something similar: community, love, commitment, etc. (Read the link if you have the time/are interested).

The drum-busking will take place in the Dundas Square area starting at 6:00 p.m. Admission: free. Donations for the Elephants encouraged.

The jazz concert will take place at 720 Bathurst Street, South of Bloor, West side, downstairs. Admission: $20. (50% of proceeds go to the fund for the Elephants).

To find out more and donate online to the Asian Elephant fund, visit The Elephants' Umbrella Fund.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Picnic at Leslie Street Spit (with video)

Yesterday the weather was great: sunny and breezy. J and I walked seven hours (to and from) and had a picnic on the lakeside rocks at Leslie Street Spit. We were joined by several guests who also enjoyed the goodies.

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Monday, May 28, 2007

One last thing on the TTopic

Life is what you make it. Trinidad is a beautiful place if only you would let yourself see it.

What do we say, "the grass is always greener on the other side" until we live on the other side instead of holidaying on it.

(Anonymous, on this post).
I decided to respond here to this comment by Anonymous (which I understand and agree with), but ...

When I was venting about how I feel about TT a lot of the time now, I figured there would be opinions (stated or not) which reflected the sentiments of the above comment.

Yes, wherever we are, life is what we make it. I am well aware of that ... which is why, when I am in Trinidad (or anywhere else, for that matter), I try to make life as enjoyable or purposeful as possible for myself (and often others by extension).

And yes, Trinidad is a beautiful place and I do 'let' myself see it. Sometimes I've felt proud to be from TT ... and sometimes I just couldn't care less that I was born there. Perhaps because it is 'beautiful' I get angry about a lot that goes on and a lot that is being destroyed. There are efforts being made by people to do positive things in the country ... but, the negating aspects can become overwhelming on any give day(s). And then, even my own efforts and others' efforts to be positive and instigate change fall by the wayside and seem pointless. Then time passes, we gather new strength or determination (or whatever it is) and just get back up and keep going.

Yes, the 'grass' can seem greener on the other side when one is 'holidaying' as opposed to living, working and hustling there as the case may be. Each place has its pros and cons ... and we each choose (or end up in, for whatever reason) the location of the pros and cons we will live with daily. There are people who live abroad for years and never want to come back to their homeland. There are those who long to return and sometimes do. There are those who are in TT and long to leave ... for a number of reasons. There are those who would never dream of leaving and can't understand why anyone would want to. There are those who are not even from TT who come to TT, fall in love with it and end up staying or returning constantly. There is no one way or reason.

I don't imagine I am alone in feeling this whenever I do. If it sounds like I'm frustrated about the thought of aspects of TT right now, it's because I am.

Ordinary miracles today

(Canada Chronicles continued ...)

Even though I expressed this earlier this morning, I felt that it's not the post I want to leave up on my blog all day. In other words, it's not an ongoing feeling ... and not one I want to linger.

Then just now on my way to the grocery, I noticed this heart nestled in a mossy crack between two paving stones on the path ...

Then I got into the grocery and this song was playing. And I thought: These are the things I'll leave up.


(Sarah McLachlan)

It’s not that usual when everything is beautiful
It’s just another ordinary miracle today

The sky knows when its time to snow
You don’t need to teach a seed to grow
It’s just another ordinary miracle today

Life is like a gift they say
Wrapped up for you everyday
Open up and find a way
To give some of your own

Isn’t it remarkable?
Like every time a raindrop falls
It’s just another ordinary miracle today

Birds in winter have their fling
And always make it home by spring
It’s just another ordinary miracle today

When you wake up everyday
Please don’t throw your dreams away
Hold them close to your heart
Cause we are all a part
Of the ordinary miracle

Ordinary miracle
Do you want to see a miracle?

Its seems so exceptional
Things just work out after all
It’s just another ordinary miracle today

The sun comes up and shines so bright
It disappears again at night
It’s just another ordinary miracle today

It’s just another ordinary miracle today

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Ten, nine, eight, seven ...

(Canada Chronicles continued ...)

I can't believe today is the 28th of May. Starting from today and counting down, I have ten more days here in Canada. I am technically leaving on the seventh, but because the flight is early in the morning, I have to be in the airport on the night of the sixth.

A few mornings ago, the first thought on my mind as I woke up was: "Thank you, Canada." I lay there feeling happy and very grateful for the whole experience of this trip. It is just a little drop in the ocean of Life, but I must say ... it was simple and full ... and it is the first time I can remember, in a long time, every single day of life having been a fantastic day ... waking up and my first thought being: "Wow, what's ahead?" ... or "Great! X is happening today!" ... or going home at evening/night on the subway with a smile bursting out of nowhere, thinking "Wow, what a great day that was." No matter how simple, something wonderful happened. Maybe it was the way I looked at it. Maybe it was just the way it was. (Or 'both', as someone said).

Yesterday, however, I woke up feeling angry and tense. It felt strange because I realised I had not felt anger or frustration in weeks. I mentioned later to my cousin that I was feeling angry and she said: "Is it because you are going back to Trinidad?" (She also told me she had heard me screaming and groaning in my sleep). I realised that anger and frustration (or anger as a result of frustration) are feelings that I experience daily when in Trinidad. Anger and frustration at the unfairness of many things that happen there (or don't). Even when one gets 'numb', as many people are, it doesn't mean those feelings aren't there. (This post is beginning to sound like a replica of this one).

The other day when liming with Kelly, she asked me what I would miss most about TT if I were to leave and live elsewhere (apart from loved ones). I thought for about ten seconds and said: "Nothing." Then I thought again (concerned that I could think of nothing other than loved ones) and said: "I guess I would miss nature and the landscape - trees, mountains, rivers, birds, etc." Then I thought again and realised that I don't have to be away from Trinidad to miss those things. Daily they are being destroyed before us.

Nowhere and nothing is perfect.
We (all) make it what it is.


Sunday, May 27, 2007

Hunting for treasure with Kelly and Nelly (with P.S.)

(P.S. 28-05-07 You can read Kikipotamus's version of our adventure here, with photos.)

As I write this, it is 9:59 a.m. ... late for me to get out of bed! Normally I am up and about by 6:00 or 6:30 a.m., regardless of the time I go to sleep. But after yesterday's ten hours of fun (eight of which were spent walking!) I knew I would sleep well ... and I did.

Yesterday was the first time I met up with fellow blogger, Kikipotamus the Hobo (Kelly), who came to Toronto by bus from Waterloo to spend the day. She is the one who sent me these great gifts the other day for being one of the winners of the treasure hunt on her blog.

Ironic, as our day turned out to be one big treasure hunt in itself! Kelly/Kikipotamus is one of those people who's willing to spontaneously do and enjoy anything.

In keeping with the labyrinth book she had sent me, we started the day by walking the labyrinth. This 'full circle' turned out to be one of the major themes of the day ... as every place in the city kept leading back to itself ... each time revealing something new.

After leaving the labyrinth, in trying to decide where to go next, I asked Kelly to suggest a random 'clue' which we could follow, to lead us to our next destination. She chose the colour purple ... which led us into the nearby church (maybe it should have led us to Alice Walker) which had the colour purple recurring within it. There was a little booklet with a treasure hunt featured on it ... leading us to search the church to find the objects depicted as clues on the pages. That was the beginning of the 'treasure hunt' theme of the day.

As we left the church, I created the next clue by choosing two elements: the number seven and the direction East. So ... we headed East and instinctively got onto a street car, not knowing where it would take us. We ended up in Kensington Market. There, as we stepped onto the beginning of the street (to enter the Market) we were met by a small art gallery type place whose name reflected the numerical part of the clue ... The Collective 7! (So heading East had led us to #7).

After exploring some more and stopping for something to eat at Temptations, we went looking for Contact photography exhibitions. Every location we found was closed ... so eventually, we practically gave up, realising that Contact just was not 'making contact' with us that day.

Time for another clue ... and it was Kikipotamus's turn to choose one. She said: "The number three" ... and I added a part two: "Fruit."

We instinctively headed in another direction, walking and talking. All of a sudden I saw one of the pink rectangular CONTACT signs stuck on the window of an antique shop which was actually open. We went in and found the exhibition. Lo and behold ... the first thing we saw at the entrance was ... three fruit! (Three apples). That one blew us away, as it was the strongest example so far of the clues 'working'!

For the final clue, I spun around in the street with my eyes closed and took a random shot which I showed to Kelly. Whatever she selected in the image would be the next clue. She chose a small dot in the upper left corner, which looked like a bird.

In keeping with the saying: "it's a bird, it's a plane ..." I then said that the next part of the clue would not be 'plane', but a word rhyming with plane. Some of the overhead wires in the shot had reminded me of train tracks ... so the clue became 'bird' and 'train'. I looked at my TTC subway map to see if there was a subway station with the name of a bird. And there was ... Finch! Did this mean we were to go to Finch?

In the end, as we had been walking for eight hours, we decided to not go to Finch, but to find somewhere to sit, rest our weary bodies and have a meal. As we sat and ate at a small outdoor cafe in Mirvish Village, three pigeons and some little birds came pecking nearby. It was then that Kikipotamus pointed out that these small birds are known in some parts as Finches! So that final clue turned out to be not Finch the station, but Finch the bird.

In all, there were many interesting treasures discovered throughout our adventure ... but it's hard to capture the full experience of such a fun, spontaneous day in words and explanations. The above only gives a basic outline.

Thanks for being such fantastic company for a fun day, Kikipotamus. It was great meeting up! May Nelly the Elephant* always guide you and yours along the path of great things in life.

* Toward the early night, as we grew tired, we had to rely on Nelly the Elephant to get us where we were going. Since childhood, Nelly the Elephant Squirts Water has been my way of remembering the cardinal points: N, E, S, W.

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Saturday, May 26, 2007

An idle moment

The result of an idle moment yesterday morning, playing around with the different functions on Satya's built-in video & sound programmes.
Press play to view.

Voice: recorded through Garage Band using built in laptop mike and Garage Band effects
Video: recorded using iSight camera built into laptop
Jellybeans: courtesy a late night trip to Dominions to satisfy snack cravings

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Friday, May 25, 2007


Death (murder, car accidents, on-the-job mishaps, medical foul ups - especially with children and babies), the Government's overspending, rising prices, poor public utilities, political confusion, corruption, judicial chaos, a botched up health system ... the list goes on. I have checked in with the TT online papers twice since being here ... and then a third time, just now.

Nothing has changed.

When I read the story today about the young dentist who was fatally shot by a bandit (who had entered his office and had his receptionist at gunpoint), my stomach churned and I started to feel sick and sad. Looking at the headlines alone, I felt parts of my body (which have been relaxed for the past few weeks) stiffen back up into a kind of subsonscious, defensive stress mode. Back in TT do people realise how tense they are (for whatever reason)? From fear of crime (indoors and outdoors), being stuck in traffic for a large part of your day, rising prices, horrible customer service, lack of utilities (no water, phones not being fixed, etc.), frustration over Patrick Manning and his Government ... etc. When I am in TT I don't feel that I am tense because I am numb and accustomed to the feeling ... but when I go away and that tension dissipates, I feel the change.

One friend, commenting on this, basically said: Spec, It is wonderful to see you out there living and breathing on the streets like real people. Here I feel we fear the streets. Opportunities are limited and people live in fear! Be free while you may.

We should not have to think twice about the simple aspects of living. A lot of valuable energy is wasted this way. E.g. If I want to go peacefully with my drum and play it wherever I want, I should not have to consider the possibility of (at worst) being held up (and my drum stolen), raped, kidnapped and/or killed. Or ... perhaps someone will just come along and start asking questions: "Yuh drumming? What yuh playiiiiing? Why yuh doing daaaaaat? Yuh ent fraid somebody go harrass yuuuuuh? Why yuh ent playing a calypso riddim? Gimme a dullah. Psssssst! Daaaahlin, yuh lookin sweeeeet! Why yuh sittin here by yuhself? Ah could join yuh?" Or ... someone could just as easily come along and join in and start singing and dancing or adding to the rhythm with a bottle and spoon. Any number of things could happen.

I won't go into my range of thoughts on TT right now ... although the thoughts are involuntarily rising because I have to return in a short while. My family and friends will most likely say they missed me and they're glad to have me back. My cat Jasper and the dogs will be glad to see me. Jasper will probably have some dismembered offering waiting for me on my bed.

And then what?



(Canada Chronicles continued ...)

The other day I was strolling through Trinity Bellwood Park and I noticed a whole set of puzzle pieces scattered all over the ground. They raised a few questions. Who had tossed them there and why? Or were they dropped in haste as the person ran to catch a tram? Had I seen this in Trinidad I would have assumed that the person had dropped the pieces as they fleed from an assailant. Was it an installation piece placed there by an artist who wanted members of the public to piece it together and form an image that s/he had created? And what is the image that's formed when all the pieces are put together?

Below is a puzzle I made from a photo I took of a flyer I saw on a lamp post. Try it out and see what it says:


Thursday, May 24, 2007


I saw you in the park becoming enlightened.



Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Come Together (with video)

A friend of mine asked me to play a special prayer for her on my new drum. So today I went to a nearby field (full of dandelions, which I love) and stood among them to play the prayer. I put my digital camera on the ground under me and the drum, to record the prayer to send to her. No sooner had I started playing than I heard enthusiastic, excited little giggles behind me. It turned out to be two Chinese children ("Hannah", about 7 or 8 and "Kevin", about 6) who had left their mother and run across the field when they heard the drum. Lucky thing my camera was on, so I ended up recording what they started to do ...

Afterwards, I was putting the drum back into its backpack. The two children stood staring at me with fascination. Then Hannah proudly said: "We speak Chinese."

Me: So can you teach me to say something in Chinese?

Kevin: (says something in rapid Chinese)

Hannah: He says he doesn't want you to go.

Me: What does he want me to do?

Kevin: (says something in rapid Chinese)

Hannah: He says he wants you to stay.

Me: Stay and do what?

Kevin: (says something in rapid Chinese)

Hannah: He says he wants you to play your drum.

Me: Okay.

(I pull back out the drum and start to play and they start to dance. Less than one minute into the drumming/dancing ...).

Kevin: (says something in rapid Chinese)

Hannah: He says you can go home now.

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Come Together (with video)

Oops. Hold on. Where's the video? testing ...

Drumming in The Cave

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Detail of one of the paintings on the wall at The Dance Cave

Last night I met Eyad and Traci, two of the three new friends I'd met at the drumming class (Nancy is away for the week so she couldn't join us). Last Tuesday we had planned to meet and go drumming outdoors with the drum circle, but due to rain and thunder, plans were aborted. This week (warm and bright weather) it was indoors at The Dance Cave.

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Before it all begins ... chairs being set up in a circle for the drummers.

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At one point I stopped and placed my camera on my drum head to keep it still for this shot with a very slow shutter speed (since the room was dark). Hence the people dancing in the centre are blurred to the point that they can't be seen.

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Now you can see them, with use of the flash.

It was fun. The drumming sounded great at points and at other times, like a mass of noise. At one point it got so loud I couldn't hear myself think, much less drum. E, who goes all the time, had walked with ear plugs. T had forgotten hers. By the end of the night, after about two hours of drumming, my hands looked like a small bunch of ripe figs.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Drum busking duo takes Toronto by storm (includes video)

(Canada Chronicles continued ...)

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Inspired by Muhtadi, working on the drumming documentary with Leda Serene Films (explore their website) and the various classes and drum circles/jams I've been experiencing, I couldn't resist purchasing my 'gift' of a new drum at Saikou's drum shop.

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J gets a rhythm going

Yesterday was a public holiday (Vctoria Day). J and I went drumming high up on the steps leading to Casa Loma. It was a scenic, quiet spot (so that we would not disturb residential dwellers). The first person to give us audience was an old jazz drummer from New Orleans with a name I have since forgotten. He sat and watched as we drummed, took a picture of us and told us that he knew Saikou (where our drums are from), Muhtadi and also Bill Trotman from Trinidad. After he left, several tourists on their way up to the landmark paused and took in our renditions.

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Our first 'donation' of $1 from an Oriental fan

Luckily I had my hat with me. I put it on the ground before us as we drummed. Several tourists (mainly enthusiastic Chinese? Japanese? people with cameras) stopped and took photos near to us or posing directly with us. We were like a tourism spectacle.

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We gave thanks to our contributors with drum rolls.

Within one and a half hours of impressing new fans with varied drum patterns, we made $1.91 CAD (The equivalent of a little over $10TT). Not much in the grand scheme of things, but the excitement of getting any money at all in the hat was enough to make our day. We're saving that money to put in the hat next time we go drum-busking (in a busier area this time). When money is in the hat other people will be more encouraged to add to our 'busking bank'.

(Below: short video clip of the experience)

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Abracadabra Moosey Habra!

Photo by J

(Canada Chronicles continued ...)

Yesterday I went walking in High Park with J and her dog Dusty. As soon as we found a place to settle in the grass ... voila! (Abracadabra Moosey Habra!) J pulled an amazing surprise picnic out of her bag: sliced Julie mango, Havarti herbal cheese, crackers, mixed salad, wholewheat pita, two dips for the vegetables (celery, carrots and cauliflower) ... and a matching set of plates, knives, forks and napkins. Dessert was pink wota and magic bubblegum with two flavours which gave us the power of laughter and the unique ability to communicate with llamas, bison, spotted deer and peacocks.

The weather station on TV says it is 6 degrees celsius today. Apparently that's cold for this time of year ... but at least it's sunny and clear. Today will definitely be another Abracadabra Moosey Habra day ... especially with my new 'gift' coming out to play!

When we were small, whenever we were doing magic (mainly me and my sister Kathryn. Can't recall if Vanessa used to do it with us) ... we would wave our hands in the air and exclaim: "Abracadabra Moosey Habraaaaaaaaaa!" to make the magic work. I don't know where we got the Moosey Habra from (I guess we made it up because it rhymed) ... but I think it gives magic a whole other dimension, from the power of childhood.

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Sunday, May 20, 2007


Thanks for a whole set of fun ...


Enter or Exit?


Saturday, May 19, 2007

May 19: Happy Birthday

(Canada Chronicles continued ...)

Today is my deceased maternal grandfather's birthday (if I remember correctly? Yes, I think it is), my first girlfriend's birthday and my dancing, hammock-swinging-under-the-mango-tree-cook-up-specialist-friend Makeda's birthday.
And it also feels like my birthday ... since I got myself a special gift today.

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Treasure Hunt (the clues that led me)

(Canada Chronicles continued ...)

Simply walking down the road is like going on a treasure hunt. Inevitably there is always something to catch my eye and take me in. These are like clues, leading me from one point to the next.

First clue
Yesterday morning, riding the tram to the office, I saw a large red heart with the word 'YOU' under it, painted on a wall. I decided to return and take a closer look at it later. Upon leaving work in the afternoon, it was chilly and perfect for wandering on foot ... so I headed off in the direction of the heart.

Second Clue
Beyond the heart, I encountered a little reminder of the Soul Window on the sidewalk ...

Third Clue
A little further on, I noticed a small doorway with a steep, narrow staircase leading into a little art gallery. I crossed the road and went in. The photo exhibit in the upper room featured vibrant images from around the world. One in particular, taken in Cuba, caught my eye. It was the close up of a silver winged hood ornament on the front of an old car. Passing by, somewhat muted but obvious in the dark background, was a young woman, hunched deep in thought. Her slightly bent form, seen so close to the hood ornament, reflected its curved shape ... so much so that I instantly got the impression that she also had wings and was an angel, caught unaware. The photographer was in the gallery and when we were speaking, he asked me what I thought of the photos. I told him I especially was drawn to the Cuban photo with the girl who looks like the angel. He looked at the photo and agreed, saying that he had never seen it that way before. "That's photography," he said. "Sometimes it just captures what you wouldn't normally see."

Fourth Clue
The fourth clue was on me. The photographer, standing next to me talking about an image, suddenly stopped and said: "I have to ask you what that beautiful smell is. I followed it up the stairs and you were in here." I told him it was Patchouli. (I wear it all the time ... and I never smell it, but now and then someone will stop and ask me what it is).

Fifth Clue
Upon leaving the gallery, I followed the next clue, which was a loud noise. It sounded like a distant crowd of drummers. The rhythms were echoing, which made me feel that they were indoors practising or having a class. It sounded like the children we interviewed yesterday in the York drum class. This audio trail took me around a bend, along a back street, through a simple residential area and to the source of the noise ... not drummers, but a machine (like a small pile driver), pounding and breaking up the surface of the road on Dundas.

Sixth Clue
Small world. Looking up from the source of the noise, I noticed 'the sign' and entered the doorway. I met, was welcomed by and spent pleasant time with four lovely people. My companion was there.

Seventh Clue
I will return.

Summary of the clues:
1. Heart
2. Soul
3. Angel
4. Patchouli
5. Drums
6. Companion
7. Returning

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Thursday, May 17, 2007


(Muhtadi's hands)Amen.


Along the way

Yesterday I met these two 'hug' signs just about 5 minutes or less away from each other.


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Rainy rush hour

(Canada chronicles continued ...)

The woman on the weather channel has mentioned so many different kinds of weather within the past two or three minutes: "golf sized hail" in one part of Canada, 15 cm snow in another, bright 25 degree celsius sunshine in another and here, rain, dropped temperatures (13 C) and 'seasonal weather for the rest of the week.' I guess 'seasonal weather' means rain. Phew ... for my trusty army raincoat which I've had since 1990, my waterproof hiking sneakers and my Scarf a la J which has been keeping my potential sore throat warm.

This morning I'm heading out early ... leaving at 7 a.m. to get to the office for 9. I doubt it will take that long (normally takes 45 mins - 1 hour), but better safe that sorry. Never know what delays there could be: trains for some reason taking long to come, potential 'signal failures' resulting in aborted trains and incomprehensible messages over the TTC PA system telling us which bus to take instead, etc.

Today PD (camera), Jeff (production), Ayol (sound) and I (Dir) are going to interview Muhtadi at his home (we're due to arrive for 11 a.m.) and then, in the afternoon - evening, to film and interview at a youth class he teaches. Looking at the weather, it's a good thing all of this will be happening indoors.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Weather Report

Thundery nocturnal drums rolling over subway

(Canada Chronicles continued ...)


$2 and four hours well spent

(Canada Chronicles continued ...)

While walking with a friend on Sunday evening I noticed a building (which was closed) and wondered what was inside. Yesterday I went back to investigate and discovered it was the NFB (National Film Board of Canada).

When I asked the girl at the reception desk for information, she gave me a rundown of their offerings to the public. One of the things is a whole set of movies (in a range of genres) which are shown in a room with comfortable personal viewing stations. Pay $2 and you can watch your choice of movies all day long. When I heard that, I thought I would return the next day (today) and do a film-watching marathon ... but the woman offered me 15 free minutes to try it out ... and, after watching 2 short films, I thought "Why wait until tomorrow when I'm free now?"

So I paid $2 and stayed on for a few hours (they close at 7 p.m.), watching various experimental shorts, documentaries, animated shorts, etc. I will definitely be going back when I have time, as there are enough films to last for days (or possibly even weeks if you want to look at every single thing).

I saw quite a few good ones, but my three favourite were:

I'M SORRY (Director: MarkMcKinney)
(About 5 mins long) I found this one emotionally moving and thought provoking. "Is there anyone you owe an apology to?" Several people on the street were asked this question and subsequently described their 'incidents' and made their apologies to their loved ones on camera. It was simple and powerful. Apologies were made to an ex girlfriend, a grandmother, Jews/Blacks/the historically persecuted, parents, friends, etc. A great sense of release and closure seemed to come from each person through the camera/screen. The final one was a young girl who apologised to her mother for 'wrecking' their relationship, as they had once been the best of friends. When she was finished, the director (off camera) asked her:

"You think she'd accept the apology?"

Girl: Yes ...

Dir: You feel better saying it?

Girl: Yeah.

Dir: Good!

(I found that was good closure not only for the girl, but also for the other apologisers within the 5 min doc).


RYAN (13 mins 53 secs)
Dir: Chris Landreth
This was a very interestingly-done documentary on the animator Ryan Larkin. Rather than showing the real people talking, animated versions of them were used (the animation style eflecting the work of Larkin). This animation was mindblowing ... resulting in a quirkily beautiful yet tragic piece. Ryan Larkin was an Oscar nominee and one of the world's most celebrated animators. There came a time when he was living the results of gradual self-destruction and the worst nightmare of the artist ... losing the ability to create and provide for himself.


TWO SISTERS (1991, 10 min 26 sec)
Animated, experimental
This one was an intriguing story with simple, captivating animation. Two sisters, Viola Ge (accent on the 'e') and Marie are living in a dark house on an island. Viola writes novels in a dark room and her sister, Marie, fulfills her every need, whilst seemingly keeping her in an emotional prison. They are like recluses, living in a dark world of their own 'tenuous order'. One day a stranger (a man) swims over to the island, bursts into the house disrupting their 'tenuous order' and wants to see Viola Ge, as he has read every word of her books and is enthralled by her. Marie tries to dissuade him, but he eventually gets to Viola ... only to discover that she is disfigured ('a freak' according to the sister). To cut a short story short, he does not see her ugliness, she feels appreciated and autographs one of the novels for him: "To a stranger who sees me in sunlight ..." etc etc. In the end she tells him to leave, he swims off and she returns to her 'prison' with her sister.

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Monday, May 14, 2007



Sunday, May 13, 2007

A five star day

(Canada Chronicles continued ...)

Yesterday I left home early and embarked upon what turned out to be a fantastic day-into-night experience.

To briefly put things into context, the work I 'ended up' doing (as a result of the reflexology getting canceled) is with a small independent film company. I am working as assistant director on a documentary about the drummer, Muhtadi.

Since I have to go with the crew to interview/film him next week, I decided to introduce myself to him before hand and, better yet, to meet him and experience him/his work by going to his Saturday drum class. When I called, he told me that the Centre where the class is normally held would be closed, so the class would be held outdoors, on Hanlan's Point (on Toronto Islands) from 1 - 3 p.m. I was to meet him by the ferry around 10 a.m. and we would go across together.

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One of the women from the drum circle, her son and a friend were waiting for the ferry when we arrived and we all rode over together. Before the others came, we sat down chatting, had some wine and literally 'chilled out' (it was a freezing day .. so we built a fire in the barbecue pit to keep ourselves and the drums warm).

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My drum (borrowed from Muhtadi) is third from the left.

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Soloists come to the fore when called out during the session

We learnt a South African rhythm which is played to celebrate the marriage of two people. This will be performed by the class when a couple (can't remember their names) who met at the drum festival seven years ago will be having their wedding at this year's event in early June.

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Lying on 'the beach' ... from l. to r.: Nancy, Elyad, me, Karen, Traci (all members of the drum class)

The people in the drum class felt like kindred spirits and I connected easily with some in particular. When it was all over, we went walking around the island for a long while, talking, taking everything in and making plans for a few things we want to do next week. By the end of it all, as we all headed for the subway to go home (exhausted and happy), I felt as though I'd known them for ages.

I would give that day five out of five stars.

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Saturday, May 12, 2007

Second Chance

My ring in the centre of the labyrinth

If you ...
Then I ...
And we ...

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Opening the Soul Window

(Canada Chronicles continued ...)

Lately I have been remembering the Soul Window ... mainly because being here feels to me like it is a distinct journey for my Soul. I won't go into any lengthy explanations, but I feel the Soul is turning out to be the theme of this trip (internally and externally) in a number of ways.

(Chookooloonks, if you are reading this, have the missions been completed?)

The concept of a Soul Mate. Think of it as Soul Meet. Before I came here this time, I was talking with a group of people. I think it was members of the Raj Yoga I was talking with. The topic of souls came up and I said: "I feel I will meet a lot of great souls when I'm in Toronto." One of the people in the group said: "If you want to meet great souls, go to India." I disagreed, saying that great souls are not confined to India.

It's not easy or necessary to explain ... but this is what I am meeting on this trip. Great Souls, including my own.

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Liming late at Lula (revised, with a P.S.)

(Canada Chronicles continued ...)
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People Project performed first (at Lula Lounge), impressing the crowd with
their jazzy guitar styles, Sting-like vocals and vocal beat-box rhythms.
I'm blogging early today. My friends in Trinidad will be shocked to hear that I was out in a club last night and didn't get home until this morning. I myself am amazed that I made it past the 8 p.m. bedtime mark without falling asleep ... and I'm still wide awake at 1:58 a.m. The long daylight hours are tricking me into believing it's still 'early' ... and I find myself going to bed much later than I normally would.

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The innovative Kobo Town performed second, stirring the crowd with their fusions. A film crew from the office was there filming their performance, as they are one of the bands being featured in the documentary series on musicians.

It was refreshing being out at a nightspot and not choking on smoke fumes or going home smelling like a stale ashtray. Clubs in Toronto are smoke free. It was also refreshing not to have to consider any of the following on the way home:
(1) Is anyone strange following the car?
(2) Will a drunk driver flip the median or break a red light and slam into the car?
(3) Are bandits lurking nearby?
(4) Will I be kidnapped?

P.S. (6:43 a.m.)

When I woke up this morning (no matter how late I go to sleep I always wake up early), I thought about last night. I thought about how I'd ended off the blog post with the list of 1 - 4 potentially 'bad things about being out at night in TT'. Yes, they are unfortunate considerations ... and yes, unabashedly there are times when I think of TT and have no desire to go back ...

But ...

Last night I felt connected. Kobo Town has Trini members in it and they live in Toronto now. Last night as they played, their professionalism, talent, humility and joy at sharing their music was evident. It was not 'Trini' music, yet it was. I found it to be a fresh fusion of 'home' and other' influences. The crowd represented that fusion.

At one point as Kobo Town was playing, I got a strong sense of them in the moment: "This is what we love to do, it's what we are here to do and we are doing it the best we can." Something in my chest swelled up. Could have been pride, could have been tears, but was probably both.

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Contact Photo Fest 2007

I managed to see these exhibits today before heat and tiredness told me
to go home and rest.

(Canada Chronicles continued ...)

Today after the pre-production meeting I went looking for venues which were hosting Contact 2007 (Toronto Photography Festival; May 1 - 31). According to the little 'Contact' map which I picked up at Campbell House Museum, there are 202 photo exhibits/installations all over the city. I guess it's possible to see all in the month if you do about 7 a day, every day.

I'm no art critic, so here's my simple take on it.

At Campbell House Museum (#33 on map): Ooops. Can't remember the photographer's full name. Pat is his/her first name. These photos, mainly natural landscapes, did not grip me and make me say "Wow" ... but they were pleasing to the eye and seemed to come from an emotive place. The one that stood out for me was entitled: "Let the Water Rush In" ... a somewhat haunting, moody shot of seawater rushing through a dark arch of rock. It was beautiful yet overwhelming ... I suppose because, as I stood before it, I felt that the volumes of water were rushing into me ... or out.

At Prime Gallery: ILLUMINATIONS II (#146 on map): This exhibit featured a range of photo-based work. The series that grabbed me most had no signature on it. Simple, understated but direct and powerful. The images featured letters, made from ice, spelling phrases that spoke of a relationship that had ended. The fact that the ice sentiments were melting said a lot about the changing of form of 'a relationship':
IT'S OVER (can't remember where this phrase was positioned in the shot)
I NEVER LOVED YOU (these words melting into reddish brown bedsheets)
LET IT GO (I think this was on a white tile surface? Bathroom?)
I AM NOT MAD (I think these were melting near a window sill)
XXXXXX (can't remember that phrase, but it was melting on a table near to a yellow lemon and an empty glass. Maybe it was the LET IT GO one).
I found it interesting that there was no signature ... as though the photographer had distanced him/herself even from the work. Were the sentiments in ice what s/he had to say to the ex ... or vice versa?

At OCAD Student Gallery: HUMANIZE (#132 on map): Again, different photographic series by various photographers. Each series was provocative in its own way, but the one that stood out for me was Emily Meir's black & white documentation of social protests/marches re poverty. The pieces were horizontally long, with various protest images 'stitched' together - each montage incorporating a portion of a handwritten message (I assume written by different protesters) and a blurred image of a single individual, which I found brought the 'punctuation' of a specific individual to an otherwise 'crowd shot' type feel. The overall effect (to me) was simple, honest and emotive. I appreciated her work as a voice for the 'voiceless' and a message to an audience that may not otherwise have come into contact with this other reality.

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Known and unknown: Angels and Answers

(Canada Chronicles continued) ...Street sign at the corner of the road where the office is.

The 'known' part of today involves going into the office for a preproduction meeting on the documentary we are working on. On my way there I will stop off and walk the labyrinth, which I have generally been doing every day.

The 'unknown' part of the day will involve being open to angels. Long story, but this journey seems to be full of them.

Yesterday I was in a large bookstore looking for a particular book. After I found it, I was wandering around looking at other sections. In the New Age section a book called "The Soul's Answers" caught my eye. It was a thick blue book with different 'answers' (messages) written on each page. The idea is to use bibliomancy to find answers to your questions. I stood there flipping the book open at random, getting various answers - often cryptic. One page opened three times during my flipping. It said: Fall away from thought. I took that as my main message, not only because it was the only one that had repeated itself, but because it is applicable. I tend to overthink sometimes.

I then came upon a shelf of books on angels and read two short examples of women who asked their angels to make their presence known to them (so that they would trust certain directions in or aspects of their life). To cut the story short, the angels made themselves clear by sending particular signs indicating that they were at work and present.

I was ready to leave, so I put the book down and said: "Angels, give me signs that you are present and let your messages be clear to me." Something told me to open "The Soul's Answers" again before leaving ... and guess which page it promptly opened on.

Fall away from thought.

Later that afternoon I was riding on the subway with my cousin and I brought up the topic of angels, asking her if she believed in their presence as messengers, guides, etc. in our lives. I was saying that they 'speak' to us in different ways, but ... sometimes we're so busy going about with our own agenda and thinking what we want to think that we don't hear what they're saying or feel where they're guiding us. Call it angels, intuition or what ... we can also ignore it or get confused rather than simply trusting and listening.

About a minute after, a tall man in a black t-shirt came and leaned up against the see-through plastic partition near the door of the train. On the back of his t-shirt which was facing me directly, was a simple slogan written in white:

Are you listening?

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Chalk Angels and hot hugs

Wake up, Angel.

(Canada Chronicles continued ...)

Yesterday on my way to the office, I stopped in for my daily dose of the labyrinth. Someone had embellished the centre with chalk drawings of a bed, a sleeping figure in the angelic petal and a cow's head ... and there were two women sitting there having a picnic. When I got to the centre, one of them said: "Yaaaaay. You reached!" I sat with them in the middle amidst the chalk art and then, after about five minutes, I left.

On my way back to Dundas station, I stopped by a crowd of people who were watching 'The Chalkmaster' creating beautiful elaborate chalk artwork on the sidewalk. Around his sidewalk 'canvas', he had written several messages in chalk, basically asking for money in different ways. One way was through a wish list (which also asked for things other than $) ... and there were other donation requests (which I can't remember right now) that I found simple, clever and funny. The one I liked best though said: "Today's special! For $5 get a big Chalkmaster hug! ($2 if you're hot)."

That sign reminded me of the FREE HUGS video ... only in this case the hug wasn't 'free'. Nevertheless, I found it was a creative way to get people to put money into the buckets (he had two large buckets into which people were tossing coins). But no-one seemed to be going for the hug. Maybe because they thought:
(a) it was too costly
(b) it was a joke
(c) he was covered in chalk and looked a bit dirty
(d) all of the above

I stood there for a while at the edge of the crowd watching him draw and considered whether I was hot ($2) or not ($5). I decided "I'm hot",* walked over to him with $2 and said: "I've come for the $2 hug." He stood up, looking pleasantly shocked and said: "Ohhhhh! Wow." And we hugged each other.

As we parted, he said: "I hope I didn't get you dirty!" (I had on a sparkling white shirt). Surprisingly I didn't get 'dirty', but it wouldn't have mattered anyway.

Free hugs are always available, but something felt special about that $2 one.

* Something my mother says: If you don't think you're _____, who will? (fill in the blank with whatever word you need at the time)

E.g. Hot, smart, beautiful, talented, amazing, one-of-a-kind, etc.

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Small world

(Canada chronicles continued)

Yesterday I was going downtown. I was getting on the subway at Sheppard-Young and was about to enter one door when something told me to enter another door further down to the right. I got in and it was somewhat crowded. I was prepared to stand, but when I looked down, there was an empty seat. I looked at the woman sitting next to the empty seat and our eyes connected briefly.

As I sat, she leaned forward and said: "Excuse me, but don't I know you?"

I looked into her face properly and it's then that I recognised her (Bridgette) from Trinidad. I had met her in a Reiki class once, seen her a few times after that and she is also the good friend of one of my best friend's mothers. She has been living here for 6 years, as she married a Canadian. I had seen her face when I was first sitting ... and it looked familiar, but because I didn't expect someone I know to be sitting next to me, I did not connect the dots.

We spoke about what we are doing, chatted about Canada and about Trinidad and about what a small world it is. To make it even smaller ... she asked me where I was staying. When I told her, she said: "Oh, I'm living just around the corner from you! You must give me a call."

Later, I was in a store buying something. When I got to the counter, the salesgirl asked me for my phone number (for their database). I told her it doesn't make sense me giving it to her as I will not be at that phone number after a while. She said: "You're not from here? Funny. Today a lot of people who are visiting from other countries were in the store. Where are you from?"

I told her I was from Trinidad.

She said: "Oh! My dad's from there!"

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Monday, May 07, 2007

No words for now

Gulls at the corner of the street where the office is.


Sunday, May 06, 2007

When wrong is right

(Canada chronicles continued)

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My ring in the middle of the labyrinth

The other morning I was walking the Holy Trinity labyrinth. At first I was walking alone. Then a woman in 'work clothes' came. She stood for a while at the entrance then began walking very quickly ... in the 'wrong' direction. In other words, she didn't follow the open path, but crossed over the grey line (border) and confidently started taking the route that leads back out.

Along the way, as we came to each other, we both stopped to make way and she smiled and said: "At last! We meet!" I said "yes" and we continued ... with me walking slowly and the woman practically speed walking.

I wasn't paying attention to her, but I could not help but be aware of her hurrying along with determination. She struck me as a funny person (not funny peculiar, but funny ha ha). I found myself chuckling at her movements. At one point when we were on parallel paths, she stopped and my 'side eye' saw her pull out a cellular phone. "Messages! Messages!" she muttered ... and kept walking, irritatedly stuffing the phone back into her pocket.

When I was almost to the centre, I saw her stop and look confused. As I passed by her, she said to me: "Can you tell me what I've done wrong?"

I stopped and looked at the way she was facing ... to go back out. I explained to her that she had entered the 'wrong' way, but that no way is really 'wrong'. It was just the way for her and that's okay. (In fact, when I thought about it, to go the 'wrong' way in this labyrinth, you have to walk right ... and not left. The 'wrong' way is right). Maybe it was her first time, because she was still trying to understand what she had done (or not done) to get to where she was.

I told her she could turn around and go to the centre if she wanted.

"I'd love to! But another time. This is my exercise break from work and I've got to go back!" With that, she said goodbye and hurried off.

I got to the centre and sat there for a long while, quietly listening to the city humming around me. I thought of the woman again and laughed, remembering the way she had muttered "Messages! Messages!" ... maybe those that we had both brought to each other.

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Saturday, May 05, 2007


This week's Sunday Scribblings prompt is 'Ocean'

(Canada Chronicles continued)

Roaring subway.
Trains roll in,
Roll out again.
Rush hour tides ebb and flow.
No footprints left on
Sand-coloured sidewalks.
Clouds reflect in
Blue glass skyscrapers.
And we are driftwood.

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Know yourself

(Canada chronicles continued)

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To see
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To feel
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To know

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