Aarti’s Grenada Getaway!

Sister Love n Waterfalls FeaturedYou forget beauty if it’s not staring you down sometimes. Just stark beauty. Beauty for spite.

Grenada is one such place.  Yet, I’ve never been, never quite seen until I stumbled upon the recent vacation pictures of my college friend and now full-fledged lawyer— Aarti Amrita Bridgelal, Esq. (Congratulations Lady!)

This was no commercial where the verdant green had to be dialed up or the turquoise water had to be turned on or adjusted.  This was snapshots of perfection on earth through the lens of someone with a simple agenda, which included the enjoyment of family in the setting of the gorgeous island of Grenada.

Grenada is the land of spices, exotic flowers and rare fruits. It encompasses the three island nation of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique and the gateway to the Grenadines.  It also represented for this island woman, the familiar emotional pull and weight of home, heritage and it was an explosion of culture.

I needed to live a bit vicariously through Aarti’s memories of her Grenada Getaway, and when I asked her if I could interview her and share a portion of her bliss with the world, she very graciously told me yes.

The following is Aarti in all her loveliness giving me the best of the Spice Isle through her eyes.

So what prompted this trip? Why Grenada?

We went to Grenada, or the Island of Spice—world-renowned for its cultivation of nutmeg, cinnamon, and cocoa.  My sister is finishing up medical school at St. George’s University in St. George, Grenada.  It is a New York-affiliated school, unlike the other medical schools in the Caribbean.   So my family and I decided to take a trip to see her as well as pack up all her things to bring back to New York, where she will be doing a residency program.

How long did you stay? Where did you stay?

We stayed for 12 days in Lance Aux Epines, at my sister’s house located on top of a small mountain not too far from the “downtown” area of the southern part of the island and close to St. George’s.

Describe your trip to Grenada in one word.


Let’s talk wardrobe. What were some of your vaca-style essentials?

Flowing dresses, shorts, tank tops and sandals certainly helped us tolerate the torrid days and nights.  The beautiful beaches of white, soft sand and green-blue waters called for festive bathing suits, and I happily donned my colorful wear to play in the water, lay on the sand, lull away in the shallow end or attempt a true swim.

What was your favorite activity?

All of the adventures we embarked on were delightful and illuminating: rambling up a rocky arduous hike leading to the breathtaking Seven Sisters waterfalls; meandering through remote fishing villages; wining to the rhythms of steel pan bands; cheering on cricket games; introducing our palette to nutmeg ice cream, sapadilla shakes, dasheen, and passion fruit juice; walking on dry cocoa beans laid on in the sun for roasting at the Belmont Estates cocoa plantation; spotting sharks swimming underneath us as we dined at a waterfront restaurant; reclining in hammocks that nearly touched the water gliding past us on a sunset catamaran cruise; talking to cheerful rainbow-feathered parrots; clambering to the 1,910 feet lookout point; bathing in the tepid and salty aquamarine waters of the Caribbean Sea; picking breadfruit, Governor’s plum, Julie mangoes and moko off of trees on the side of the road; and puzzling over how Grand Etang Lake can be the only bottomless lake in the world.  At the local market, we arrived at 6 am as the vendors were setting their fruits and vegetables out for display.   Women in head wraps, oversized t-shirts, calf-length skirts and jeans with bronzed and wind-torn hands offered their choice selections.  Men wielding cutlasses deftly cracked upon fresh coconuts.  It was as if the sun bared the reality of their lives for us.  With an inherited dignity, they let us partake in the proud harvests of their land.

Sisters Sun Fun n' BubblesWhat about favorite foods?

My favorite fruit, since I was a child growing up in Trinidad, is pomerac.  Since they are too perishable for import, I have not been able to bite into this juicy, sweet delicacy with its red skin and white soft pulp since my grandmother smuggled them into the U.S. 7 years ago.  I picked up a whole bag of ripe pomerac from the market and devoured it!

Did you venture touring?

The most enchanting experience of my life was arriving at Levera, at the very top of the island which took us 2 hours to reach by bus from the bottom of the island in St. George’s.   On a moonless night, we inched along rocky dirt paths to reach a clear pathway to the shore.  As my face turned upward, all I can explain is that I felt I was transported to another universe.  The tranquility of the gentle ocean waves, the light breeze rustling the palm leaves, cold white sand under our feet, and the thousands of incandescent and smudged stars bespeckling the inky sky combined to create a mesmerizing landscape that will forever last in my memories.  However, the real treasure did not exist in the heavens, but rather right down the beach.  Levera is one of the sites where female leatherback turtles habitually return to the shore where they were born, and in a timeless and inexplicable ritual every spring, feverishly burrow a hole 4 feet deep and begin to drop their eggs to safety.  Some of them will have yolk, while others will not; this is an evolutionary scheme developed to increase the chances of survival from sand crabs and other predators.   Only one of the dozens of baby turtles born from a single nest will make it to adulthood.  Currently, leatherback turtles are labeled as an endangered species due to severe poaching.  Some of the islanders still bring home turtle meat and boil the eggs for dinner.  And a turtle only fetches about $100 USD.  A few days before we arrived we heard stories of an old, heavy turtle dying from an arm being cut off and left to languish near her nest, with her eggs stolen.   St. George’s University houses a conservation group (and all of the funds from the tours go towards education and care) to stem these cruel practices.  Accordingly, leatherback turtles are fiercely protective.  I was wearing a white shawl in the dark of night, and just as the lumbering turtle set out to disappear into the ocean after covering her eggs, she spotted my white profile.  I can still feel her eyes radiating an alarm as she struggled to shoo me away from her precious progeny.  I stood in guilty awe, and only hope to one day share in her maternal instinct.

Any surprises?

I was surprised at the calmness of the nights.  The only entities stirring seemed to be the vexing mosquitoes and the cacophonous green crickets.   Despite a few bars and local hang out spots, this island seems to be cloaked in serenity, with little violence or corruption being reported.  During Easter weekend, all groceries and restaurants were closed and families were seen walking in their best suits to Church. There is a feeling of brotherhood here, an invisible but unshakable pact among Grenadians, to honor and protect the natural beauty of the land and of its people.

What did you bring back?

I was never a fan of the trinkets that souvenir shops dangle at tourists, so we went into town to the craft shops to meet local artists.  I found a beautiful pink hibiscus flower made from a recycled oil drum, a mother and child canvas artwork from an influential Grenadian painter, and a cracked but genuine conch shell sitting in the coral sands of BBC Beach.  Now if only I could figure out a way to export pomerac out of Grenada!

Doesn’t all this talk, but particularly those pictures make you want to book immediate passage on the next flight to the Spice Isle or any of her neighbors?

Thank you so much Aarti! DASHEEN loves your travel style 🙂

Are you planning a trip? Where to?




Meet Julia: The Thread Queen!

Three weeks is a long time in the life of brows.  Lets face it, three weeks is a lifetime.

So, when Julia of Julia’s Artistic Threading & Day Spa threaded my brows a little over 2 weeks ago, I wasn’t a real believer in three weeks of brow freedom, where there would be nary a worry line, much less the need for intermittent plucking. Her advice of “no touching” to my ears really meant, no touching because we’ve got work to do and you need to let me work on you.  Of course, what she actually meant was you won’t need to touch them because they will be just fine.

She was quite right.

There’s good reason she is called the Thread Queen or as her twitter handle would suggest @ThreadQueen1. For these here brows, and the many satisfied customers who request their Julia on the regular, she is the #1 Thread Queen and for me something of a Wonder Woman.



The Sweetest Love

Everyone should think of their Mommy as the best and sweetest!

The sweetest woman I know lives at #150 Estate Concordia, St. Croix Virgin Islands. I can testify to her sweetness because she is my Mommy. I can give out her address because she is so much more than some words on a hallmark card. Head over and see if you won’t be fed and kept.

Try her and see if she won’t wash your feet.

Just look at that face and that au naturel glow. CoverGirl’s Queen Collection Bronzer ain’t got nothing on her.  She’s wide open, and not even as a result of having it easy. She’s experienced some pain, and early, but she chooses love and compassion and smiles.

This little peek here is her being polite. My mother’s smile is big and toothy and lightsome!

She is the sweetest most blessed experience I’ve ever had on this earth, and of course, not only because she’s seen me at my absolute worst, but because she hurts when I hurt and cries when I won’t.

I have any number of occasions to miss my mom, to miss her care, to miss just her special way. I’m always filling up my time thinking about what we would do if she was here. You see, going home, it’s very easy to slip into that daughter role, so I am making my bid for her to come here (even without the all- important grandbaby) so I can explore more of this friend role we’ve been playing with over the phone.

Particularly on Mother’s Day, the missing becomes the stuff of dull aches and pains that refuse to move. No numbers of calls scattered throughout the day justifies the distance. Nothing quite satisfies. What does help is the many mothers who have adopted me, or I them, and who will be free with hugs and kisses and I love yous if I know them.  And thank God for mothers and mothering wherever you can them and it.

“Memories” was my mother’s graduation song from High School. There is a line there that says “the way we were.” The following is my wish list, and how I imagine we should and could be on Mother’s Day, but really everyday that we find grace and opportunity.

Breakfast @ T’s – I have this thing about cooking for my mom. It’s a serious Jones.  I don’t know if its because she’s never known me as such, but cooking is as much love as it is recipe whether from memory or off paper. When I cook, I think about the person and their needs.  For example, I make curry coconut shrimp because he likes it, nevermind that I am allergic and can’t taste the dish. I watch it and I tend to it like its my favorite meal. A breakfast of stewed Saltfish, salad, Johnny Cakes with a side of Chai tea and fresh passion fruit juice would be my 1st gift.

Shopping Spree –  This one goes without saying and has been a long time coming. There a lot to see and do. But TJMaxx, Marshalls, Target, WalMart, Ross and DSW are surely on the menu.

Spa Date – That sublime moment where it’s just you and a soak, or you and _________.  Just the permission to close your eyes and not think as a mom, or as anything but to become one with a pampering treatment that is relaxation underscored. Everyone deserves this, but particularly a mom, and my mother who’s about her business 24-7.  So I would take her to Julia’s Day Spa.

Without a doubt, the sweetest love for me is Mom love, and with that in mind and heart, I send out sweet love, hugs and kisses to all the mommas who perfume the world with their sweetness and inalienable uniqueness. However, of special note and the owner of this post is my dahling sweet mommy. It is because of you that I feel ever blessed to dream big and do my thing!

I love you!



[author] [author_image timthumb=’off’]http://dasheenmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Blowing-in-the-wind-Bio.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Hi there, I’m Tynisha C. Leon, writer, West Indian, mango-lover, founder and editor-in-chief of DASHEEN magazine — the online destination where culture feeds imagination. Join the culture conversations on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr! [/author_info] [/author]

Wanted: The (Perfect) White Dress

A Night of Elegance2There’s nothing like a BIG EVENT to inspire a dress hunt. In March, I had the opportunity to attend “A Night of Elegance.” Organized by my church’s very awesome and fashionable Women’s Auxiliary, the night quite lived up to its stylish appointment; and I was able to fuse my appreciation for 20’s fashion, Carmen Jones and the Harlem Renaissance.

Not bad for a ROSS purchase on a whim, which most definitely included the heels that hit all the right high notes.

The upcoming event spurring this post along is an ALL WHITE GALA on Saturday May 28th, this time organized by the equally stylish and audacious Pastor’s Aide Committee. Yes, and thank you very much, Temple of Faith has been in perpetual celebration mode of late. Whether its family, friends, our community or our leaders, it has been on!

I’ve never been to an all white anything. However, in my mind an ALL white anything certainly deserves and demands an all white fit, and my heart is set on the perfect, not-so-little white dress.

I’m a bonafide dress woman–through and through–the longer, the flowier, the more wash, shake and wear the fabric, the better. So, it works to my advantage that all the fashion world is much ado about the MAXI dress (and skirt). I’m in my element style-wise.

Still, a white dress is hard for this woman. Such a statement is even easier to understand if you imagine the beautiful ivory and gold lace number that stood proxy for another woman’s bone white wedding fantasy in my own version of weddedness. Now that dress was a dream dress! I felt the complete woman there, and isn’t that the way it should be.

I’ve encountered some clauses for pause in my hunt. The first is my deep, burgeoning and all-encompassing love for Green Clothing to include head-to-toe accessories. I should explain that in lieu of an official definition for green clothing, mine is all about the thrift and/or vintage buy/get. If you are a thrifter or vintage shopper, then you understand that it is the rarest of finds to discover a white anything, worth the trouble, or price of a wash or dry clean that may still not work to advantage in the wear department. You also understand that any thrifter or vintage shopper worth her weight in gold always goes in with an open mind and not too-much specifics in mind.

The white dress I see in my mind’s eye is all of the above stylish markers in a modern eyelet and/or lace combination. Yes, I am smiling as I write. My expectations are ever great. The final clause: my budget, which is all of $100 not just for this dress and accessories, but represents my allowance to myself for personal purchases in any given month.

I’ve come up empty on the local thrift front, but my online searches are exciting to say the least. Etsy is perpetually doing vintage right and so far this dress is a winner, if only in my mind and not so much for the venue or the specifics laid out. In fact I love it so much I am considering getting it just so I can wear it on picnic in the park.

Vintage 70s Maxi Halter

This Gayle Kilpatrick vintage white beauty, which is rightly way of budget range at $180, and deliciously shorter but with such personality that a woman can dream. Can’t she? I just love the daring touch of that perfect red and violet tassel.

Vintage White dress - Gail K

There is so much more to love and see. I’m virtually certain that I will find the perfect white dress, but I’ve also thought about that wedding day dress in all its ivory and gold-threaded lace and figure-flattering singular beauty. There will absolutely be no love lost either way.


[author] [author_image timthumb=’off’]http://dasheenmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Blowing-in-the-wind-Bio.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Hi there, I’m Tynisha C. Leon, writer, West Indian, mango-lover, founder and editor-in-chief of DASHEEN magazine — the online destination where culture feeds imagination. Join the culture conversations on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr! [/author_info] [/author]

R.O.O.T.S: People Pictures Poetry

The work is called ROOTS: PEOPLE PICTURES POETRY. Its mustard seeds sown in the footnotes of ‘Beautiful poetry… Beautiful pictures… Beautiful people… and Beautiful exhilarating spirituality.’

The 1st push: The realization of ROOTS as a coffee-table-style book/compilation that delves deep into CULTURE through the roots of dreads . locs . rasta.

After that, heaven only knows, but a journey across media to the universe is certainly not outside the vision.


Love in the key of Bob Marley

Nesta Robert “Bob” Marley is a universal legend! Some truths are just written into the scrolls and are indisputable.

Brother Bob was undoubtedly a man’s man, a woman’s man, his own man and certainly a man after God’s own heart.

Today, on the day that Bob, the man would have turned 66, I want to speak of Bob as a woman, not because of any intimate foreknowledge, but because I am a benefactor of the love. And in this month of self-imposed love, with every great expectation for most, it means something to this woman that any man would spend a too-short lifetime (36 years) preoccupied with capital L O V E i.e. Love of self, Love of fellowman, Love of woman, Love of Blackness and with much fervor love of JAH!


Ode to the Bay Leaf


Ode to Bay Leaf

Did I mention that I’m a good cook? I wish I knew how to underline that good right there, maybe even highlight it with a stylishly-bold double underline. You have to understand the nuffness is a matter of not being able to do much but scramble eggs and make Milo/Ovaltine/Bournvita/Bush tea prior to 4 years ago. So this good cook is a miracle!

My motivation in exploring my dormant culinary side—a husband. And some may say, so you starved before there was a man? Well, no. I grew up with large families on either side—big cousins, everyone your auntie and uncle—no difference between the teacher/neighbor/mother- or father-on-duty who had all rights to the lash. As Beenie sang, ‘memories don’t leave like people do.’

Whenever I found myself in a kitchen, it was always to contemplate stealing/taking/procuring, whichever sounds better something from a pot that was already prepared. I was too far down the grandchildren train to be tasked with much except staying out of the way.

So we come to this Ode.

Bay Leaf is not my favorite herb. Thyme or Rosemary or Basil gets those honors, but they are more romantic notions. The first because if I was any kind of woman, I would want to be a version of my momma turning a pot, and she loves her thyme, the second because I have read one too many cookbooks (yes some people read Encyclopedias I read cookbooks) and the last the fact that sweet basil is my most favorite of bush teas, so the transference of energies here is easy.

So, why am I waxing poetic about Bay Leaf? Well it is the one that makes itself the most available in my well-stocked herb kitchen, and it is the one that is most vigilant among my memories. So powerful was the image of Bay Leaf as herbal-condiment that it found its way into the following section of some future, future work:

I watched him as he removed the fragrant bay leaf that broke the surface, wiped it clean of all traces of the porridge inside his mouth and replaced it on the side of the saucer used to contain the heat of china. After which, there came deep-bellied spoonfuls toward my mouth, heaped with coagulated milk, grain, almond essence and chinks of cinnamon bark. (Copyright (c) Tynisha C Leon)

Now, I feel the need to confess. I have dreams about having a herb garden. Full on, potted dreams where my herbs grow because I am the one tending, and because there is a window in the kitchen through which the sun smiles. Never mind my lack of gardening skills or a kitchen window. There are also dreams of milk baths scattered with Bay Leafs in lieu of rose petals, an image I imagine, which will eventually find its own in another future, future, future work. 🙂

Currently, I am simply a dry herb-hoarder. I have every dry herb known to man and woman, several of which like marjoram and saffron gets little love as I have no clue what to do with them. Don’t worry, I am monitoring their shelf life and have plans for 2011. But oh the Bay Leaf, which I use in my Jerk everything (chicken, pork, fish), my stew everything (chicken, oxtail, lamb) my cook-up or pelau, and as indicated above in my porridge.

I love the strength in Bay Leaf. How it refuses to break down or disintegrate. I love how I can overdue and still not end up with something bitter or off.

Bay Leaf is simple goodness, and while it may not have a point to prove, it wins the battle every time without much ado.

What’s your favorite herb?




Mane Attraction: Healthy Hair Challenge Meets Kinky Twist – 1 Month Update

Well its been one solid month since I started my Healthy Hair Challenge which incorporates the protective styling of kinky twists. By way of an update I am still here as Jill Scott would sing. I honestly can only lay claim to two bumps on the journey and both were overcome.

This is what my hair looked like as of Monday, January 24th 2011:

kinky twist -1 month

You see that fuzziness in the above (with flash) and below (without flash) photo–I love it! I think it adds character to the do and indicates the growth that I am nurturing. So why fight the fuzz! 🙂

1 month kinky twist - 1/24/2011 update 2

Remember those little bumps,well one of them had everything to do with boredom. I admit it, I have hair style commitment issues, and that is even with the versatility of kinky twists.

So my concession: At week 3, I went red or burgundy, depending on the lighting just in the front and at the sides. It was quick work to remove small sections of kinky twists and rebraid with my new color. I did lay claim to the color spectrum of this particular style. What this color change has done is given me a new feeling of aliveness via my kinky twists.

What of the health of my hair?

Let’s get the second bump out of the way quickly. OMG I could not find my Dr. Miracle’s Braid Relief anywhere. I usually can count on Sally’s Beauty Supply. However, I stopped at 2 separate locations on the West and East side of Orlando and no luck. The one Beauty Supply that I knew might have it just never became a convenient run in the 1st week and so I ended up buying “the new and improved” African Pride Braid spray. From my experience over a good two-week period, this product does not love my hair (or kinky twists) and I do not love it. Suffice it to say, there was absolutely no shine, moisture or braid relief imparted. Nuff said!

Two-Week Hair:
2 week mark kinky twists

What worked well, as I knew it would would, was my oil (jojoba/grape seed/coconut) and water mix which I applied to my scalp nightly. My method in lieu of my favorite rosewater and glycerin product which I ended up not buying was: dampening my fingers, straight from the tap and moistening my scalp (this can also be achieved by spritzing the hair directly with water also) and then using a bottle with a tip (much like the ones used in coloring hair) to lightly apply to the scalp and then I would massage (not rub) it into my scalp for about 5 minutes. I also would dampen the strands of kinky twists down to where my actual hair ended, and sort of squeezed in a light application of oil to keep my own ends happy.

A Good Reminder

    : There is always a tendency to forget how important the ends of our hair follicles are. They might be the oldest part of the hair, but they are important if healthy hair for you means being able to measure and retain length. *my learning curve here 🙂

The ever important silk scarf ensured that I retained my moisture and my style (and sides) stayed neat.

Oh and I finally got my hands on the elusive Dr. Miracle Braid Relief Spray on a random run to buy my red kinks. Dr. Miracle, whoever you are, with this particular product, I salute you. I say ahh every time. (review to some soon)

Two more weeks to go before full takedown! Yay! If I do anything drastic before then, I will be sure to share.

Are you on a healthy (hair) journey this year? How are you faring? Wherever you’re at, please don’t give up!

[author] [author_image timthumb=’off’]http://dasheenmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Blowing-in-the-wind-Bio.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Hi there, I’m Tynisha C. Leon, writer, West Indian, mango-lover, founder and editor-in-chief of DASHEEN magazine — the online destination where culture feeds imagination. Join the culture conversations on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr! [/author_info] [/author]




The Perfect Caribbean Woman

The Perfect Caribbean Woman Feature

By: Dr. Garfield Alexander

At university I remember wishing I was mad scientist like Dr. Frankenstein, so I could construct my very own woman, to my specifications and needs. Well, come to think of it, they weren’t really needs but fantasies. Now am a little older and wiser, and also a little more focused on needs, so instead of being a Dr. Frankenstein, I’ll be a chef and cook up the perfect Caribbean Woman.



The Almighty Swank


Swank for the purposes of this post is a drink, not a company or a Hilary or a hustle. Although there is something to be said for Urban Dictionary’s take.

Altogether, Swank–the drink rises above all else to defy definition.

Food Enthusiast Cynthia Nelson did a rather succinct piece on Caribbean-style Lemonade, which is as she rightly stated, perhaps the best substitute for what I know and love as Swank, but she also referred to as Lime Water, and Wash.

Not sounding too appealing to the uninitiated. Well, Swank is neither comedy nor tragedy. It is delicacy–easy, lip-smacking debauchery. If you have high brow tendencies, turn away now.

Swank feels like so much accidental overdose of sugar and water. In fact some call it sugar water to sometimes denigrate it, but mostly that was what it was.

Swank is a lot memory. I don’t know when last I have had the pleasure. Maybe when my brother lived with me, and that was an accident too, because the boy just had a tendency to make his tea, and my drink long as we would say back home. And of course, anything on the watered-down side was always lovingly called Swank in our house.

I couldn’t shame him though, because just like any true Swank he was making the best out of his skill set and the ingredients.

Swank is a “refreshing” liquid combination that have brought many back from the brink. Consider the memories of Roy J, my co-worker hailing from Guyana, who you met here:

 “After a hard day’s labor under the sun, you’d come home and this drink, swank–it would be kept in earthen jars back in the day you know–it was just the most refreshing thing. This was before folks like my grandparents had refrigerators. And it could be lime and water where they would add a little essence for a special flavor, or it could have been just the sugar water, but it was always just what the doctor ordered.”

Swank is preparation. Whether it’s a sour orange, or some other hybrid mixed to taste with water and plenty sugar, or a Quench Aid (Kool-Aid) mix, or even the sugar water basics, you have to learn to work with what you got.

So bear with it, but whatever you do, please don’t knock it until you try it.

Have you ever had swank? What does your version of swank taste like? How do you mix it up?





Delayed Gratification

Delayed Gratification

I’ve been splurging, splurging! Splurging on books!

Splurging an already tight sheath on books

Forging racks for deeper overstanding.

Priceless, priceless! This new commitment is

Laughably so, if only for your dare:

“You need to read more baby…” devour books

In the way that I would have you do me.

Just once, just once, just once more: a quickie.

As I sit here, tall, a tease, perched for you

I polish off this chapter, based solely

On the servile wonder of hands and knees

It is my homage to you! I assume

You read in the nude, I have followed suit.

Copyright (c) 2011, Tynisha C. Leon

[author] [author_image timthumb=’off’]http://dasheenmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Blowing-in-the-wind-Bio.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Hi there, I’m Tynisha C. Leon, writer, West Indian, mango-lover, founder and editor-in-chief of DASHEEN magazine — the online destination where culture feeds imagination. Join the culture conversations on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr! [/author_info] [/author]

Audio Books vs. Kindles/Nooks vs. Book Books

Hibiscus Book

It’s nothing if not an unfair match-up. Unprecedented even. The versus tag might be better left off, but so be it. Let’s begin at the reverse with ‘BOOK BOOKS’

I’m not a “book whore.” And that last is not my term. A terribly talented young lady, who I knew for the better part of my time at University of the Virgin Islands (UVI), declared that she was to a book club group I attended. No one batted an eyelash–not professors or students, and so I pretended I understood how someone got to be that way.

I’ve loved books for a lifetime, maybe even from the womb.  A personal marker: my Auntie D taking me to the library in New York to get my first library card.  After that, I was hemmed up like un-expectant mothers during their 6-week reprieve. Done in. Caught up again.
I am a hoarder of books. I have slept with books. Unlike the selfsame shoe habit, the former happens by accident, since I maintain a revolving stack of books by my bedside, all demanding attention before sleep claims me. I don’t happen to care whether there is a cover, or if there are pages that I have to attach and reattach again and again. The fact is: It’s love and I have already made the firm decision to treasure it.

Anaïs Nin might be mortified if she saw the state of A Spy in the House of Love. I’ve read and reread it too many times to count, but it was in awful shape when I got it and it remains well loved among the living and most treasured.

Which brings me to a point that I find strange: I do not love or enjoy the smell of books. There is nothing appealing about a new or old book smell.

I do not sniff my books. They serve a more tactile function. I like the feel of books.  As a child, I liked to read up-close and then drag my index finger under each line when the mood struck. I do this even now as an adult book lover. My smudged fingerprints here and there could probably tell their own story.

What of an aural buzz via audio books?

Bible TunesI’ve listened to one audio book in my life—Ladies Who Launch: Embracing Entrepreneurship & Creativity as a Lifestyle. I considered it an achievement, although it was not something I would necessarily revisit.

Having curled up and fallen asleep to music in my ears, I’m wondering what gives here. I don’t dislike audio books, but there is simply no love to be lost or found here. I would and have quickly passed that section in my local library and bookstore again and again. Even for the challenge and pleasure of listening to the whole KJV, I promise you there is still little to no appeal.

Honestly, I think it comes down to intertexuality or this idea of having an ongoing conversation with the author(s) and the words on the page–without the obvious filter of a third party voice.

Would my opinion be different if it were recorded in the author’s voice? Probably not, as he/she would still feel like an intrusion on that “imaginary” conversation or on any flights of fancy my imagination would like to take.

What of Kindles, Nooks et al…?

amazon-kindle2The Kindles and Nooks have come courting. And they’re good. Persistent. Can’t turn on my life, or a corner without being reminded about how accessible the wide world of publishing has become. And I pause here to give my due respect, because that last fact of access is much the same reason I appreciate the very existence of the paperback novel.

Someone even went to the trouble to make it more permissible and advantageous to enjoy your New Media without any loss of that (essential) book smell.

I won’t pretend at this point. Sometimes I want to jump into this New Media lovefest, head first, with my eyes wide shut. However, there is almost always the lingering friction of cost vs. emotional value vs. purist tendencies vs. whatever I please.

Right now I am reminding myself that one technological gain doesn’t necessarily create loss or premeditate loss. But it is so easy to forget.  Perhaps that is why even as I write I am longing for the Strand, or that bookstore off Strand Street, or even the guy with the foldaway table on 68th and Lex where I bought the mustiest (I didn’t have to smell it to know) Hemingway known to man or woman.

I am a book worm and even a bit (more) of a bibliophile.

Someone once said the words to me: ‘I need to feel your weight on me.’ Pregnable moment there. I like the implication of those words and they fit here. I need to feel the weight of words bound up in a book, and I need that weight to be felt through fingers, heart and hands.

Do you have a favorite medium or memory of reading?



Rebel Control Check: Soundsystem One!

Rebel Control PosterIt’s always a pleasure to hear from the boys of Rebel Control i.e. Andy Baron and Concrete Johnson (his musical partner in crime).

For a good and proper 2 months in 2010, this teaser post almost beat out the mango as one of my top reads. I vividly remember relaying this fact to lead singer Andy. His response: “Well to be truthful I think it’s a bit unfair of you to put us up against a mango, we stood no chance :)”

They are working on their new album Soundsystem One and it promises to be fiyah! Their first album played to a more traditional or rootsy, classic feel.  This was most apparent in the single “Hold onto Love”

Soundsystem One, as Andy explains is more up-tempo—a  mixture of party tunes.  Fans, new and old, don’t need to worry though, the boys haven’t strayed far from their roots as they continue to explore conscious lyrics on this one.

The following package, straight from the heart of a lion brought me back to those 1st conversations with Andy and the utter infectiousness of this band.


Oh Gosh Look… It’s Dora & Boots Guyanese-Style

When it comes to cross-cultural exposure among the pre-tween set, you’d be hard-pressed to find a young lady more impressive than Dora, and for those not in the know she’s an explorer.

I can just hear it now, ‘Mom, Dad, when I grow up I want to be an explorer!’ Not so much? OK then, maybe that is just my inner child needing attention 🙂

Dora, the Explorer is very much a thread in the fabric within the homes of Caribbean families both on island and abroad where children are present and impressionable. Most seem to demand their Dora, or some other form of entertainment way before their Ovaltine.

So, when Dasheen reader Victoria Theodille—who I’m stalking for a Mane Attraction feature as she has been doing her own healthy hair/growth journey with much success) sent me the following Youtube clip, I was instantly enamored. I’ve listened without watching it as I worked elsewhere at the very least about 12 times already since yesterday. I just love it!

My favorite line: “This thing right here I does use to pick up all the big people in the street when dey in the de way.  You not in my way, good.  You in my way, good.” LOL

Can’t you just imagine this in your own island speak?

Just another moment where I can say loud and proud, for all I’m worth, that I LOVE my heritage!

BTW: Do you hear Byron Lee’s (and the Dragonaires) Tiny Winey in the background. Don’t even ask, because I have no clue why, and I guess you just had to be there at the moment of conception.

A little history on this song: The first recording of “Tiney Winey,” [was] written by Arrow but set aside as second-rate, it was one of the huge hits of the Caribbean in 1985. Arrow went on to record the song in 1988.

Now you know I have to give it up to some classic Soca here.  Enjoy!



Brianna McCarthy’s Passion.Fruit

Brianna McCarthyI had to go slowly with Brianna McCarthy and not for the reasons she may think.

I’ve had my eye on her. She’s been gracing my work desktop, on and off for the better part of 2010. In fact, she is a very pregnant part of my vision board. If there wasn’t a mirror nearby, then I could look at Brianna McCarthy’s work, tiled as if she just knew the colors that would inspire me to life, love and laughter, and we just became fast friends.

She saw me first, and its one of those moments where you’re thinking, ‘Alright,  I have this magazine’ and you want people to say what they think and sometimes they do, but most times they don’t, and then out of the blue you get a simple “I dig your site.”

No preamble, no awkwardness, no long goodbye. Just a dig—and a good one. And it’s not a friend, it’s someone who doesn’t have to be sweet to you or on you.

So, of course you check out this person’s site, and then you see your desktop background that you first glimpsed on LeCoil and you have your OMG moment, and then you wait a week to respond, because you’re already crushing the artist too much to breathe.

So yeah, for as long as Brianna McCarthy’s been digging me, I’ve been digging her and then some and I wanted more. I needed to finesse my approach. You just have to understand this is the one you want to invite inside your living space and co-habitate. And yes, of course hang her art on your wall—mantle-worthy as it is.

The following is my open door. Allow me to introduce to some, and present to others as we say in church, Brianna McCarthy– artist extraordinaire, passion.fruit lover and my not so private girl crush out of Trinidad and Tobago.

1. What’s your (favorite) medium?

I enjoy watercolour. I remember when I didn’t. That wasn’t a long time ago, I’m 26, very few things were a long time ago for me, but I only worked in graphite then. I wouldn’t say I have a favourite medium – when I start I generally enjoy the thing for what it is. I always had a liking for paper and glue. In high school, I didn’t have the popular Trapper Keeper binders or the colourful Lisa Frank ones so I took my plain one and made a complicated collage of torn newspaper and magazine pages. I varnished it with white glue. The glue would dry to a low sheen and was relatively waterproof, although it would turn white if it got wet. Needless to say, I loved that binder and had it for years. I think I kept it even though it’s falling apart now and I made a couple more. Cheap and definitely my own – the big eyed Frank kittens couldn’t compete in my estimation!
I don’t work in newsprint or magazine pages anymore but the same idea is there – I tend to totally enjoy whatever medium I end up using.

2. Why women? And why so up-close and personal?

I think women, especially West Indian women, tend to be portrayed in the same way quite often. I would like to add a new face to that – what I see when I look at women. I also thrive on details – hence the intimate nature of my work. There’s something fantastic about eyes which is most of the reason I focus on faces – if it weren’t for faces I’d focus on hands I think. If I recall myself 10 years ago, I had the same fascination with hands as I do now. It’s a big part of what makes someone attractive to me – hands say so much about a person. I love a nice pair of hands as much as I like a nice face.
That being said, I think there’s so much to see and create when the subject is a woman or a girl. I love the extravagance that sometimes comes with femininity. It’s wonderful.

3. Do you ever draw/paint men?

I did for the sake of doing them. Probably twice! It’s good but I get more excited about creating women.

4. When and where did your love affair with your creative self begin?

Making dolly clothes, learning simple sewing from my sisters, reading books and being exposed to fashion magazines. Possibly, I was 9. I still have pages of illustrations and photospreads I tore out since that time. It was like having access to a different world through imagination. I spent a lot of time daydreaming to get away from things I didn’t necessarily want to be around – I still do at times. As such, I could really lose myself in books and visual material.

5. What are you currently working on? 

As always it’s about making a new thing somehow but also improving what’s there.

6. The arts community in T&T seems to be thriving, but I have a feeling it always has (I’m thinking here of memories of so many St. Kitts carnival events that wore out the talents of T&T costume designers). How has the arts community changed? Stayed the same?

Trinidad and Tobago is most definitely an incredibly creative society. It seems very rare to meet someone who isn’t artistically inclined and everybody it seems is brilliantly witty – across social, spatial and economic boundaries. I believe alot of the really good stuff going on is underground. It isn’t mainstream whether in terms of presentation or content. It’s just done and the lucky ones are the people who are around to see it happen.

7. Dealing with being Caribbean and being a creative so to speak myself, I often wondered how important that environment—being in that environment is to authenticity. Do you think you can pursue your craft anywhere? Work anywhere in the world? Have you lived and/or worked elsewhere?

I think about that sometimes and the answer would have to be yes. I make women people can recognise as West Indian or Caribbean as a celebration of créolité and négritude. My context gives some perspective and has certainly been the impetus for what I make but I would like my work to not only be a tribute to West Indian-ness but by inclusion celebrate Diasporic beauty. It can’t only be about Trinidad and Tobago or the Caribbean.

8. Dasheen really wants to promote this idea of culture feeding imagination and the fruits of that. So how has your Caribbean/West Indian roots ‘fed your imagination’?

The Caribbean, especially Trinidad and Tobago , is such a concentration of what is Diasporic. There is so much going on here culturally and ethnically – it’s probably the best place for me to have begun working. It’s possibly THE reason I began what I did. It’s alarmingly inspiring.

9. Who are you reading and listening to currently?

I’m listening to the radio these days – which never happens. Outside of that I’m enjoying a little Flying Lotus and some M.I.A. I just finished In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje and I’m in the middle of The Tattooed Woman by Marian Engel. Next week will be a different story.

10. And finally, for me it sometimes all really does come down to a mango. Does it come down to a passion fruit for you?

HAHA! It might! I’d choose passion fruit flavoured anything over mango anyday. Mangoes can be prettier but passion fruit are a lot more unassuming. I like that.
I grew up surrounded by mango trees – they were and still are ubiquitous. A passion fruit vine is something I rarely see. And when I do see one, I get excited. I recently stole a couple off a vine hanging over a wall. I went home and made juice. It was fantastic.
I’m not sure exactly why the sentiment is so strong, because I rarely stick with naming a thing, but I reason it has much to do with a hot night, a lover and the sensation of the most wonderful passion fruit lolly ever. It has become a jumble of memories but it’s basically having had every sense stimulated. So, yeah, a mango can’t do that for me!

You see how inviting. And would I switch sides to some passion fruit for her? YES! Haha. Thank God for the wide world of new media and her medium. God certainly has blessed the child and I hope she never EVER stops!