"South America on $320" story # 17

Chaguaramas, Trinidad & Tobago           July 21, 2002

"Don't go!!!" Caracas shouted with a smile. The Venezuelans and I toasted to my despedida (going-away party).
     We'd come again to club Pier-One's Latin Night Thursday party. Here, the drinks are free with a miniscule paid entry, and the familiar faces of good-looking girls rarely say "no" to a salsa. Many of my best times in Trinidad were spent on this outdoor dance floor between the fancy, white Pier-One building and the sea. Swaying to the latin rhythms, for example, with cute, brace-faced Venezuelan Gabriella. But, the Trinidadians, too, who came to this magical place were friendly.
     And the friends who came left drunkly. David drank so many Stag and Carib beers he liked to fret, "I can't find my brain."
     On another occasion, I was discovered one Friday morning by David. Following a rum-and-merengue filled night, I oddly lay asleep on the living room sofa. A roll of toilet paper sat beneath the tv, and a dry goldfish from our landgay's aquarium was dead beneath me on the rug. I was heavily interrogated regarding the events which led to this scene, but they may forever be a thought-provoking mystery.
     Such as, "Why did Trinidad suck so much?"
     To help us understand this last enigma, I luckily have an always-handy, always-a wee bit-enlightening MODERN ODDYSEUS' TOP 5!!! to employ.

Firstly (because I have a lot to say), The Top 5 Worst Things About Trinidad!:

Being a person who respects himself, I look back on some of the ways people treated me while in Trinidad and can hardly believe it. If I were to make a list of the worst people I've met during my 22 years, the top of the list would feature many from this country. In less than three months, I encountered the following forgettable moments:
     I'll begin with the five Trinis I spent a great deal of time with and who I collectively refer to as "The Five Miserables."
     "Princess Misery" a.k.a. "'Kelly Low'sy" waited tables with me and was perhaps the worst. She was young and spoiled and Chinese, and people liked her because she had a nice body. However, she was numb to all joy besides sucking down her cigarrettes or getting boring, ugly, rich guys to take her out. She also got joy out of calling herself my "superior," and she told the boss on me one day because I drank two cups of coffee. She surpassed Pansyckas (rrrgh!) as the worst dancer I've ever met. Congratulations, Pansyckas!
     Richema a.k.a. "Bitchy Badger" a.k.a. "Dead Rat" was an Indian-Trinidadian co-worker. Her never-ending sneer suggested she lived in sulfur-stenched mud up to her neck. Her most infamous feat came when she practically threw a jug at me when I was bartending and said, "Fill this up!" with a particular dead rat sneer of hers which I shall remember as a classic. I said, "Please?" She snorted feelinglessly, "Please!" It was unacceptable. She said she'd fill it if there was a problem. She filled it. Later, she told "Princess Misery" about it, who looked in my direction and muttered, "Asshole!"
     "Pin-head Never-Smiles", for her part, was friendly with me a lot compared to the other two: a whole two times! Also an Indian, she complained about her relatively easy job so much you'd think she was a slave gold-miner sent down poisonous shafts. She got her joy out of sleeping with most of our co-workers. Her drive as an endless power struggle with her fellow employees with the ultimate goal of getting each other fired.
     "Uninvited Oaf" - like many Trinidadians who openly admitted to me of having no friends - was lonely. So, he tried to friend-rape the Venezuelans by stalking all of them into their houses and forcing his frustrated, interest-lacking speeches on them. My roommate, David, said of him, "He is like Droopy." David reminded me that in the cartoons, whenever someone wanted to avoid Droopy Dog, he couldn't, because everywhere he went Droopy would already be there, waiting, regardless of when and where Droopy had been seen last. Likewise, "Uninvited Oaf" seemed to hauntingly appear behind the refridgerator door of one Venezuelan friend, in the closet of another ...
     "Haggatha", the witch, in addition to all of her atrocities, jealously didn't pass on messages to David and I when they were left by females. Once, a Trini girl I especially liked called the house and was screamed at by "Haggatha," who later denied to me five times that the call had taken place. When I eventually learned of the call, I stood, blocking "Haggatha's" entrance to her own witch-house. I lectured her on her disgracefulness until she turned and fled. This felt absolutely great.
     Meanwhile, the afore-mentioned Trini girl I liked just plain sucked. I was kind of seeing her for a while. She lied to me about having a boyfriend, stood me up most of the time, and told me sweet somethings to keep me interested. I don't think she would've known sincerity if it punched her in her pretty, little face. When I called her to say good-bye, she regarded me as if I was a fruit peel she was throwing away and nothing more.
     The boss of my restaurant was an alcohol-huffing bear. When he said your name, fright chilled your bones and even fifty-year old bartenders jumped. When he looked at his workers, he appeared to be thinking, "I wish you were a bug in my hand, so I could squash you."
     Also, a bum tricked me into taking him to the beach one day. A driver and his full car struck me hard and didn't stop. A dark, distorted oompa-loompa robbed David and I one night with a two-foot machete, threatening, "Give me your wallet or I'll chop ya'!" And one taxi driver I rode with had posted a terrible sign on his roof reading, "My best friends are the ones who pay me IN CASH for the services I provide them."
     (See further #3 and #4 of The Top 5 Worst Things About Trinidad!) I don't know what passed in Trinidad to make people deny the fellow human-ness of others. The positive is that it makes you appreciate nice people more.

This was easily one of the most agitating things I've ever come across travelling. On the Port of Spain streets, a lot of houses cage guard-dogs behind their fences. These dogs bark at all who pass as if they'd like to tear the flesh from their bones. Just enough houses don't have dogs so that you let your guard down as you walk, meaning that the next snarling, foam-spewing beast who crashes against the mesh six inches from you very nearly gives you cardiac arrest. Rarely do you see anyone taking his dog for a walk.

Consumerism and power and race separation and alcohol define the love-of-life-lacking values of this country more than the United States.

The Port of Spain streets are full of people - usually blacks, and usually dirty, work-fearing rastafarians - who believe other people live to support them.
     When many Trinidadian blacks see a white person, they see green. Often, a black will act innocently friendly to you until he finds out you-re not going to contribute to his undeserving want. At which point, his smile disappears, he averts your worthless eyes, and maybe screams an insult.
     Trinidad is not as difficult of a country to survive in as they make it out to be.

Never did I hear a politician say anything good about himself. Always did I hear one accusing his adversary. Basically, the Indians fight the blacks for control of the country, wanting only to help their own race.
     Radio hosts and sports commentators pronounce as daintily as possible, with no balls or backbone, like a bowl of jelly in the wind. The news restricts itself almost totally to national news, and they say something entertaining about once every millenium.

     And now, time to cheer up with The Top 5 Best Things About Trinidad!

A lot of Venezuelans come to Trinidad to learn english and learn almost nothing. Ha, ha, those jerks! But, they sure know how to have fun, which, if you ask me, is the point of studying anyhow.
     Despite all of my complaining, I really did have a great time in Trinidad. Because, thankfully, there were people there not from Trinidad. Ha, ha! The Venezuelans - guys and girls - really impressed me.

2. ROTIS -
This curry wrap is one of the world's great foods.
     I also shan't fail to mention Indian "Doubles", vended on the streets. They're small folds of naan bread tucked with split peas and packed with powerful pepper. Mmm ...

This cuddly island has characteristics of paradise.


Dexter's mom took me to Tobago and several times Down the Islands on her boat. In addition, she concocted this amazing cracker dip with mangos and cream cheese which was delectable.
     A nice thing to take away from Trinidad would be how the rich, older generation stays young. Sandra and friends throw parties, go out on boats, and drink a lot and have a good time.

Gaining HONORABLE MENTION is the boring, but good sport CRICKET.
     Also, the working-class guys were very content with their lives and were thus friendly and helpful and interested.

As you can see from the last brief but solid half of the latest MODERN ODDYSEUS' TOP 5!!! I really did enjoy my time in Trinidad.
     But, Caracas was not going to get his former wish. I was going. Thank the good god, I was going. I made no Trinidadian friends there. And I'm a likeable guy, ain't I? When I'm not on one of my critical rampages, that is ... Ain't I!?
     On June 19, I departed Trinidad on a boat, also from Pier-One, that would drop me off on the South American mainland, in Venezuela.
     And so, as I leave, I say ...
     To David and my amigos, "Good luck!"
     To my all-peanut butter-diet, "I grew to tolerate you and I might even miss you."
     To "The Five Miserables" and gang, "Good riddance!"

On my way,
Modern Oddyseus

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