Sometimes life throws you a bone


Sorry about last week’s no-show. I know one of the right things I could do is to say nothing. But when I think about what I want to do every week – with very questionable degrees of success – I have decided to do something else.

There was no column because I couldn’t. I couldn’t do anything, really. Being unable to deliver is harder for me to admit than owning my anxiety, depression and the world of ills inherent therein.

Sometimes life throws you a bone. And sometimes life throws bones at you. Or rotten potatoes. Or two-week-old hops. Actually, the hops were not from life, but a friend at university. We had never seen two-week-old hops and after marvelling at the exciting new building material it had become, we decided to see what damage it could do. It chipped the paint off the wall. It knocked various objects off shelves. And it left bruises when it hit us.

Life has been throwing some old hops around lately. But when I’ve been able to lift my head out of giant cups of tea, I see I can still notice the genuinely relevant things in my life, and that is magnificently reassuring. Not least of all because it’s really hot inside these teacups and I’d like to get out.

A while ago, I started what we will generously call “tutoring” two young cousins. They’re great. Smarter than I’ll ever be, kinder and just good. In the weeks around Carnival, all their lessons were taken from this season’s music. Then came the terrible day when I was put in a place. (‘Twere a kind friend who said I was not put in “my place” but “a place.”)

The lesson is rolling on and Young Cousin One says: “For us, Bunji is like what Sparrow is to you.”

I give him a look that I usually reserve for squelching suppliers of fireworks or people who don’t understand how the QRC roundabout works.

But youth is so confoundingly resilient.

“OK, ok,” Young Cousin Two slides in for the save, “Your SuperBlue!”

I nod slowly, catly, to say the danger has passed.

And then I explain they are all mine, from Sparrow to Bunji.

I tell them how “from the time the first bamboo cut, and they drag it down from up in the St Ann’s hills. From the time the first chantuelle leave the band, the real jammin’ start,” (Rudder, Calypso Music, 1987). I resent that I have to reference this because it is not taught in schools.

My kind friend, trying to talk me down from a very high shelf, suggests that my talking about such days allows the youth to situate me beyond a mortal calendar.

I know how old I am. The cousins know how old I am.

But past a certain year o’clock, it’s all ancient history to them. Nothing wrong with being from Sparrow-time; I’m just not.

When Gordon Rohleher wrote My Whole Life is Calypso, his book on Sparrow, I had an interesting exchange with Machel Montano. For my review, I wanted musicians active in the now to talk about Sparrow. I asked them to talk about Sparrow in his time.

Machel was out of Trinidad. He was nursing a knee injury, in pain, and likely just wanted to lie on a cloud of painkillers and sleep. But he also wanted to answer the question. His mother took the questions, sent them to him, someone recorded voice notes of an exhausted-sounding Machel, and sent them back to me.

Then any guilt I felt vanished.

He said (I think of this often) “Sparrow in his time? It’s always his time. You could ask about Sparrow in his prime.”

Schooled, I was. Yes, that is what I should have been asking, because that is what younger artists were looking at as they modelled and shaped themselves as or against what had come before. They were looking at the legends in their prime.

Machel didn’t start school just this past year. The same can be said of many of the performers we hold to a high standard now. They’re savvy. They do their homework. Bunji, Fay-Ann, Nadia, Patrice, Ravi, Nailah, Kees and others. Never forget others.

Here I am, rattled by an innocent comment by a pair of schoolboys, then I’m reminded of lessons learned from Machel.

The world feels even less stable than usual. Or more. I’m not sure.

But I feel fewer hops flying though the air, because, out of the ordinary, the everyday, there was this brilliant moment that woke me up.

Remember to talk to your doctor or therapist if you want to know more about what you read here. In many cases, there’s no single solution or diagnosis to a mental health concern. Many people suffer from more than one condition.


"Sometimes life throws you a bone"

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