Now that it’s May, I can look back at my most recent birthday, which was in early March.
Allow me to explain.
My birthday is on the 3rd, which means my champagne birthday happened when I was 3 and barely knew what “birthday” meant. Womp. Other significant birthdays ranged from very good (Sweet 16) to verrrry stressful (Quarter-Century), and overall the birthday to beat was March 3rd, 2014 (spent living it up in Dubai, shopping and fly boarding and going up the tallest building in the world). For my reverse champagne birthday (someone else can think of a cool name for it) I decided to go all out, celebrating 3 decades of life in 3 different countries over a span of 3 months.
I already had my ticket for Trinidad Carnival, so I kicked off the celebrations there and you can read all about it in my last post. I came back home and danced the night away at a fete with a few of my girlfriends, then released the trailer for my new webseries-to-be and released a radio single. I celebrated my actual birthday by leaving work early to go to 2 auditions before taking myself shopping.
The birthday fell on a Thursday; that weekend I got to see the Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre perform with the added bonus of watching it with my little cousin. This was our first show together! And she’s the same age I was when our Grandma took me to my first concert, which I think is awesome. There was a family dinner after that, and then I went to my curlfriend Nicole Stamp’s place to learn how to work natural hair magic like she does. I’ve been in love with my hair ever since. I got to show off my curls the next day at a delicious and hilarious brunch with a bunch of friends and cousins.
The next weekend I was reshooting sections of my Digital Dossier, and then I had new headshots taken by Denise Grant. It did rain that day, which ruined my plans for my hair, but MUA Christine Cho waved her magic wand and the pictures look pretty damn good in my opinion
I almost ran out of time to squeeze in my third country, but in April I went to New York City (where I hadn’t been since 2012, and where I definitely need to be more often). Just looking at Manhattan, or walking up and down the streets there, feels like celebrating to me. Even better that I got to spend time with friends I hadn’t seen in years. And I got some good buys in on the way home, tee-hee!
So I did it: celebrated in 3 countries, between the beginning of February and the end of April, and the good times keep rolling. Other things have added to my birthday celebrations over the 3-month time period: I left my day job, auditions have picked up, I’ve booked a play in Peterborough and one in Toronto for this summer, and I’m leaving for Haiti in a week!
Happy Birthday to me, and Dirty Thirty is looking exquisite so far . . .
First things first: I don’t publish new blog posts here as often as I should. And this one probably should have been finished and shared sooner, but I was of two minds about whether to blog about the whole trip or just certain parts of it . . . and if only certain parts, which ones to leave out . . . and what was a reasonable amount of pictures to share . . . until finally I decided. Here’s one big chunky post about my 20 days in paradise, and (as always) you can read all, skip some, and/or visit my Instagram page for a super-quick photo recap if you’re short on time.
As some of you know, my father is Trinidadian by birth. This was actually only my second trip to the twin islands of Trinidad & Tobago, and although I’m an avid Caribana girl, this was my first Trinidad Carnival. I’ve spent years hearing about how T&T does it much better than we do here in Toronto, and of course I was excited to see for myself what it was like, stuff myself with delicious food, bake myself in the sun, and spend lots of time with family members I don’t see very often. I worked out a plan to budget for this escapade starting around the time of my last birthday (early March). This trip wasn’t cheap! It would’ve been easier if the Canadian dollar weren’t so dismal, or if this year’s Carnival season wasn’t so short (note: for 2017 it’s at the end of February instead of the beginning), and many friends and relatives who were originally planning to come decided not to, but I went for it anyway.
I basically spent my first few days sleeping in, sunning myself and eating my aunt’s delicious food, and my first nights being taken out by one or another of my local friends. Sidebar: I wish upon every person in the world a host as gracious and generous as my aunt and uncle, who gave me a room of my own, copied a set of keys for me, were always ready with advice and answers to my questions, and basically let me do as I please as long as I came back to the house to eat once in awhile. <3 <3 <3 <3 <3
My first big outing was Tuesday on the Rocks. I adore Kes the Band so I was determined to get to this show, even though it was far away and I had no for-sure way to get there or back and I was going alone. After many frustrating interactions with would-be drivers and would-be companions, I can look back and say it was one of the best nights I had in Trinidad. KTB and their many musical guests put on a great show, I made a friend or two, and I was able to eat some legit Montreal poutine too!
Next up was a boat ride. Getting to the Harbour Master by myself from Arouca was a bit of a challenge (the second maxi taxi ride was challenging), but the Scorch DDI boat ride was worth it. Found an old friend, made some new ones, jammed to some sweet music while sailing “down de islands” on a big-ass boat, wearing a bikini in early February . . . it was a good time even though we left and returned to the dock late, which almost messed up my family’s plans for the night. My aunt and uncle and their friend (who was visiting from Jamaica to take in her first Carnival too) and I went to see traditional mas, where masqueraders portray certain historical characters, competing for their titles before a panel of judges, and often incorporating some form of social commentary into their performances.
It was important for me to get a taste of the culture behind Carnival, instead of just back-to-back-to-back parties. This may be stating the obvious, but I also went to the beach (ahhhh Maracas, one of my favourite places in the world) and spent hours lounging in the sun and reading.
Plus I did some other random things, like trying a couple of hot yoga classes and visiting and ashram and the Temple in the Sea, going into the city for one of the Kiddie Carnival parades, and getting up before 4am to go see the street theatre re-enactment of the 1881 Canboulay Riots. (No pictures, because even though we got there around 5:15am, all the seats with views were already gone!)
But don’t worry, I partied plenty! My favourite event was Bess Lime, which I was so glad to have my Toronto friends Kerron and Tiffany come to with me.
This was a Sunday cooler fete on the water where 3 boats were filled, sailed separately down the islands a bit, then dropped anchor and linked up so you could switch boats with the DJ’s music synched. The sun went down, the vibe was wicked, there was a fireworks display before we sailed back to the dock separately — and for only $300 TT (about $63 Canadian, and this party included food plus chasers and ice) the value was amazing.
I did get a few hours of sleep after finally getting home from Bess Lime, and then it was J’ouvert. Tiff and Kerron and I got picked up at something like 2am (budget extra time because of all the roadblocks) and met up with our Yellow Devilz crew at 4am, then partied through the darkened streets of the city dashing paint and water around until 8 or 9am.
My awesome aunt Giselle brought me to her place to shower and change, then dropped me off so I could meet up with my band and do Monday mas.
Full disclosure – I found Monday mas kind of boring and disorganized.
It felt kind of like a practice run for Tuesday, except most people weren’t in costume, which made it basically a huge mobile street party . . . which is cool, I guess, but I was pretty unimpressed by the time I got home that evening.
But of course the excitement came back when I got up before 4 on Tuesday morning to put on my glorious costume, get picked up at 5:30 (my driver is the bomb, you guys) so I could be on time to meet my band (actually early, since I had such an interesting time finding them the day before when I arrived late). Tuesday mas was everything I’d hoped for.
This would be a good time to compare a few notes. You can believe the hype: Trinidad Carnival is, in most ways, superior to Toronto’s Caribana. You pay WAY more in Trinidad (even taking into account that you have two parade days instead of one) but far more is included *if* you’re with one of the well-organized bands (not just a gorgeous costume and great DJs and unlimited alcohol, but nuff staff and nuff security and 3 meals over the 2 days and shaded rest areas in the Savannah at lunchtime). You can play with a monstrously large band in Trinidad, if that’s your thing (like, 15,000 masqueraders), whereas in Toronto I think we tap out at about 3,000 masqueraders in a large band. Both have celebrity guests, life-giving music, DJs who tend to talk too damn much over the microphone, a super-high ratio of women to men, locals, tourists, first-timers, veterans, well-meaning stormers, and the feeling that you’re living it up in this very moment so every other moment is inconsequential. (Come on, I know I’m not the only one who feels like that when I’m playing mas; that’s why we’re called “revellers!” A lie?!)
There are things I prefer about Caribana though. I prefer to run into tons of people I know in addition to meeting lots of new sexy friends. I like knowing exactly what the parade route is, and knowing exactly what the order of the bands is. I like not having any bands who are so unmanageably huge that they go off somewhere else so as not to interfere with the other bands. I like having only one stage, at the beginning of the parade route (Toronto, can we please go back to that???), and I like being asked by tourists and press people and amateur photographers for photos all day long . . . it seemed like there was a lot less of that for Carnival since they all had exponentially more people to photograph than they would’ve at Caribana. (I like living within walking distance from the parade too, but that’s not Trinidad’s fault!)
Anyway, my heart was full by the time night fell and a new friend helped me through the mobs of people along the Avenue to meet up with my driver and Kerron and Tiff. The two of them had invited me on a hike excursion the following morning but I’d opted out, since I figured my feet would hurt or I’d be tired. On Ash Wednesday I actually woke up fresh as a daisy, but too late to join them, so after aborted plans to go to the beach and a pool party I napped and then stuffed myself at a dinner party my aunt and uncle and their friend were hosting. While everyone else was flying back home and/or getting back into their work routine, I spent a lot of time with family, including a chartered boat ride to Nelson Island for a great lunch event put on by the African Women’s Association.
Even after almost 3 weeks, I wasn’t ready to come home. Even after a week back at home, I’m picturing myself in Trinidad and planning to bring a bunch of friends with me next time.
Under 2000 words? Not bad . . . because I could literally fill books with my memories from this trip. But I hope you got a taste of it here on my little blog, and if you want to join me for pretty much any Carnival anywhere in the world (I’m now itching not only to do Trinidad Carnival regularly but to check out Notting Hill Carnival, Brazil Carnival, Bermuda Carnival, Jamaica Carnival, Hollywood Carnival . . . ), drop me a line!
So I’m back to the blog – and before I write anything else, let me alert you that this here post will make more sense if you’ve seen that there one first.
July seems like a crazy long time ago! But if you know me, you know I had to check back in on the aforementioned goals before closing out the year.
Remember, 2 out of my 10 goals for 2015 had already been completed by July 2nd: returning to Haïti with Third World Awareness for their 2015 trip, and being a model in the Carnival Nationz band launch.
1 out of the remaining 8 goals was already a Nope, since I did not make it to Las Vegas in May.
Now, what about the remaining 7?
I said I would book and complete at least 6 singing gigs this year; I’d done a handful by July 2nd, but 1 of them was unpaid; by now I’ve done 6 paid engagements.
Out of the 4 acting gigs I decided to book and complete this year, 1 was completed by the midway point . . . and although I’ve had auditions and callbacks since then, I haven’t actually booked any others. (Yet.)
How about those lofty financial goals? Will I celebrate my birthday by having zero remaining debt and playing mas in Trinidad Carnival? HELL YEAH!!! I’m officially debt-free, having eliminated more than $21,000 worth of debt in just under 3 years; I’ve already bought my plane ticket and I’m playing mas too! Stay tuned to my Instagram account for nufffff pictures…
My trip to New York? My friends bailed on me and I didn’t go.
My road trip? I didn’t organize anything in time; but there’s always next year.
My reintroduction into the world of dating? Well yeah, actually, that did happen. Next question =)
Re-qualifying for the first promotion of my network marketing business? Nope, I didn’t hit that goal. Keep nudging me for 2016, okay?
The final tally? 5 out of 10 of my 2015 goals were completed in 2015.
I’m not sure if that’s good or bad . . . if I got a 50% grade on any course I took I’d be furious about it . . . but then again, the point of personal goal-setting is to go big or go home. Right?
Anyway, time to take a look at the year ahead and figure out what I’ll be getting up to next.
… unless I manage to complete another one in the next 5 days … hey, anything’s possible!
July 2nd marks the midway point of a 365-day year.
I always have multiple achievements in progress, both long-term and short-term, in multiple areas of my life. This year I selected 10 specific ones to reach by year’s end and 10 more to achieve within the next 10 years, and since we’re halfway done 2015 I figured it was time for a quick check-in…
2 of my Goals for 2015 have been successfully completed.
7 of my Goals for 2015 are Works In Process. Specifically . . .
3 Goals are In Process – Stage 3 (the work has started, but isn’t complete yet):
I said I was going to book and complete at least 6 singing gigs this year; I’ve done 5.
I said I was going to book and complete at least 4 acting gigs; I’ve done 1.
I said I’m going to celebrate my next birthday by being debt-free and playing mas in T&T Carnival 2016; in terms of saving up money and securing accommodations, I’m on track and on schedule.
3 Goals are In Process – Stage 2 (the planning is underway):
I said I was going to take at least 1 trip to New York . . . it looks like it’ll happen in August.
I said I was going to take at least 1 road trip (probably to New York, if I’m being honest) . . . so if New York in August happens and I don’t fly there, that’ll be two goals crossed off with one stroke of the pen.
I said I was going to start dating again *gasp!* I decided it was time to reboot my non-platonic social life, and since I don’t want to jinx anything, let’s just say it’s looking like it’ll be a fun summer =)
1 Goal is In Process – Stage 1 (I need to get on it):
I said I was going to promote to the first level of management with my network marketing business . . .I’ll be re-qualifying this month!
Finally, there is one goal I set for this year that I know I’ve missed: an event in Las Vegas in April which I wanted to attend and ultimately chose not to, in keeping with the achievement of my next-birthday-related goal listed above.
And as for my next-ten-years list? More than half are already works in progress.
Sometimes, quotes that go viral are bang on. Like this one:
So, full disclosure, spoiler alert, be warned! For this, my final Top Ten Tuesday (maybe ever . . . maybe just for the year 2014), I am choosing to focus only on my highlight reel. I encourage you to do the same as you reflect on that year that’s ending and the new one coming up. Here are 10 of my favourite memories from 2014 . . . they started out in chronological order but you’ll see why that didn’t last long. Enjoy!
1. DUBAI, AKA THE FIRST 5 MONTHS OF THE YEAR
This is not a copout, you guys. If I tried to count and categorize my favourite individual moments from my stay in Jebel Ali, I would never ever ever finish writing this. I mean, really, which was more memorable: fly boarding, or ascending the Burj Khalifa? Swimming in salt water, or strutting in heels? Organizing photoshoots, or creating videos? Shopping for new clothes or chopping new men?
2. FAM JAMS
And when I did come back? Family reunions galore! A roti picnic on my mom’s birthday, my cousin Derek’s wedding in Ottawa, a Thanksgiving feast in London, ON (with STUFFING!!! WHY was that so hard to find in Dubai???), reunions with cousins I rarely see even when I am home.
3. MEETING 5 NEW BABY COUSINS
Reunions are one thing; meeting and holding a new baby for the first time is, like, next-level awesome. And I was blessed with 5 (yep, 5) new baby cousins this year. In birth order: Carter, Amaya, Quinton, Iyla, Adalia.
4. GETTING BACK INTO AUDITIONING
And not just because I booked one or two roles! But the whole process, which used to feel really stressful to me, is getting more and more fun.
Shoutouts to the people booking the roles I didn’t =)
5. FRIEND-LY REUNIONS
Every coffee date or breakfast date or jerk chicken date with a friend I hadn’t seen in months and months was a heartbeat for me. I’m especially grateful for the CAMO Cruise, my reintroduction to Toronto’s fête society, where I cruised across Lake Ontario with good people and good music and good drinks (and okay food, lol) and thought to myself, “Man, do I love this city.” (Thanks, Nish!!!)
Likewise, the day after the Caribana parade, some friends and I went to a day party that gave me so much life I’ve run out of words for it. Amazing music (shoutouts to hometown hero DJ Starting from Scratch and DJ Dany Neville, from Dubai, who I finally met here in Toronto!), pretty venue, awesome people, new and old friends, randomly running into my cousin Kari . . . vibes. Loved it. (Thanks, Lincoln!)
And let me not forget the wedding of my homegirl Allison, who I’ve known since tenth grade, to the ultra-cool Derwyn . . . I’ll just leave this picture here because with words, I literally can’t.
6. CREATING MY OWN ROUTINE
Overseas, my routine was determined by my work hours and the times that the buffet was open. Here at home, it took me awhile to settle back in, and there are still some days that get crazy, but at least I have control over the first hour or so after I wake up and the last few minutes before I go to bed. Carving out time every day to read and write and express gratitude, and even to YouTube sermons, has made a huge difference. It might be the least exciting thing on this list, but it’s for sure going to be one of the most beneficial, long-term.
7. RELAUNCHING MY SIDE HUSTLE
Spending the first chunk of the year overseas, in some ways it was like an extended vacation. But to be honest, there were times when it felt a bit like exile. This was especially true when it came to my beauty/health/wellness business, and it was a relief to jump back in with my colleagues and my appointment lists, and some sweet new products, when I got back.
8. REALIZING THE POWER OF VISION BOARDS
You can read all about it here, but from here on out I will be even more mindful of how powerful these things are, as material declarations. I mean, really. Wow.
9. SHOOTING THE AALIYAH BIOPIC
What an experience! Everything about this for me, from the audition process to the backlash, was important and I’m grateful for every second. But what makes it onto this list, for me, is actually being on set for this project.
The environment and the goal and the people, especially the people, had me really really wishing that somehow I could have stayed on set longer. As in, I would have gone on set every day just to watch and be a part of it from behind the scenes (I did, actually, on one day). Thanks to everyone involved; much love!
Ah, my baby. For those of you who don’t know, I’m developing a new TV show called unSCENE and this year it grew from just a pilot episode to a pilot, the finale, plus several other episodes written, numerous meetings and pitch sessions, and now (shhh, this is insider info) possibly a casting change that will turn everything I’ve already written on its head.
Frustrating as it’s been sometimes to take care of this finicky, fussy, slow-growing project, I love it and I’m looking forward to sharing it with more of you.
And that . . . is a wrap. I have this policy where every year should be better than the year that just passed, so if you’ll excuse me, I have some work to do in advance of 2015!
When it comes to the public transportation system of any big city or small town, it is way too easy to find fault with everything from the routes and the fares to the vehicles and the staff. As a downtown Torontonian and a hardcore commuter, I’ve complained about the TTC countless times. So today I decided to switch it up and give you ten things I honestly adore about our very own Toronto Transit Commission.
This is my favourite thing about taking public transit instead of driving: driving requires my full attention. Having some other person responsible for getting the vehicle from A to B, with the computer lady’s voice reminding me of what stop we’re coming up to, frees me up to do . . . anything I want? I’ve learned lines on the bus, applied makeup on the subway, changed my shoes while riding a streetcar. There is almost nothing I haven’t done in transit (get your minds out of the gutter), and usually it’s multiple things at one time. Like, eating a snack and responding to a text message while listening to music.
And let me not forget the amount of times I have used a TTC commute for . . .
Not every city can say that their transit system is safe enough for you to doze off, but I’ve done it at least 50 times in my life.
I rarely sleep to the point of missing my stop, it’s usually a light enough sleep that I wake up when I’m at or near my destination, and the couple of times I’ve knocked out for good, some kind stranger has woken me up at Finch Station. Thanks, fellow TTCers =)
3. EMPLOYEE EYE CANDY
Within the past 5 years, there has been an influx of hot drivers on streetcars and buses (it’s really hard to say whether the same applies to subway operators). Especially on downtown routes, and especially during daylight hours. Strategic hiring? Who knows. It works for me.
And if any of you reading this knows the Usher lookalike who was driving the 501 King streetcar at one point, please reach out and let me know if he’s single.
… downtown at least.
In the outskirts, I have a feeling it might be more annoying than reassuring to text your stop number to 898-882 and find out that the next bus won’t be along for another 20 minutes. In the heart of the city, though, I have come to rely on that text-for-next-arrival function so much it’s hard to believe I scoffed at the idea originally. All we need now is for the return text message to also include a photo of the driver who’s pulling up to your stop next. That’s not too much to ask, is it?
5. RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS
Call me a softie, but it makes me feel really good to see a child start interacting with a stranger across the aisle, or a teen give up their seat for an elderly person without being asked.
There are far more opportunities to witness these acts, and to participate in them, when you’re in a public place, like taking public transit, than when you’re alone in a car.
6. UNEXPECTED REUNIONS
Yeah, another thing about being alone in a car is that when you do have a surprise meet up with someone you know, it’s usually hella dangerous to have an actual conversation with them! Once, driving in York Region, I looked over to my left and recognized a former neighbour I hadn’t seen in years. It was super-awkward to try to “catch up” through the window.
I’ve watched my cousin Kari expertly chop a man through the driver’s side window while navigating some offramp in New York City, but I really don’t recommend this. No matter how fine he or she is, I am not okay with being hospitalized in a car accident just so one of my people can pick up a new out-of-towner.
Sometimes you end up talking to someone you don’t already know. Like the guy who sat next to me on the Scarborough RT and ended up becoming a business partner, or the young lady who was headed east on Queen St with me, where we were both on our way to crash a theatre audition. (And it was the first time crashing, for both of us — hooray for moral support! Will you end up being lifelong friends? Probably not. Then again, you’ll never know unless you smile and say hello.If you can tear your eyes away from the screen in front of you . . .
Maybe you and your new acquaintance will even get basic background info and exchange numbers. Shoutouts to Mauricio (511 streetcar.)
8. RIDING THE WAVE IN THE BENDY PART OF THE SUBWAY OR STREETCAR
9. THE METROPASS
I’m not in love with how much it costs now . . . I long for the days as a student when it was only like $88 . . . but most months, the convenience and flexibility is worth it for me.
10. AWESOME DRIVERS
Not all the drivers are awesome; some aren’t even nice on a basic level, but lots of them are really dope! Friendly, helpful, funny. Some are able to keep a whole crammed vehicle full of sweaty, late passengers laughing or at least smiling, and that’s a difficult task indeed.
Hats off to you folks, you know who you are.
So as long as I live in an area where the transit works, I’ll continue to work my Metropass. I honestly feel like the good outweighs the bad when it comes to the TTC
Now if only they could find that rude leprechaun guy, record someone dealing with his case and make that go viral. =)
I first played mas in the Caribana parade in 2005, so this was my tenth anniversary year, and the explosion of Caribana-themed #tbt pics on Instagram this summer (even though calling something a throwback when it’s from two weeks ago is my newest online pet peeve) inspired me to rank my costumes so far. I’ve worn more than 10 Caribana/Carnival costumes, when you factor in things like band launches and promo events, but these are costumes that are (or were) mine.
There was some stiff competition . . . so let’s start at the bottom . . .
1. 2005 — NAME UNKNOWN
I legit don’t remember the name of the first section I played in, and I didn’t even get any good pictures of me in costume that year. My section was super-disorganized, and there’s no need for me to name the band because karma.
2. 2007 — FIRE DANCER
Fortunately my less-than-stellar experience the first time around didn’t discourage me, and by 2007 I was not only still playing mas, I was even *gasp* picking my own costume!
This was the first year I got the costume I wanted the most, instead of going along with cousins who were also in the parade (they played Sexy Clown and Lion Tamer). Carnival Nationz had a circus theme this year, and my Fire Dancer outfit was kinda hot!
3. 2010 — NAME FORGOTTEN
The only year aside from 2005 in which I did not play with Nationz was 2010. I don’t remember the theme, and if I was forced to guess I’d say the name of my section was Harmony (?), but this was a smaller band and I realized that I really like the big-huge-band-here-we-come experience much better.
4. 2014 — COHIBA
Bum feathers would have pushed this costume a little higher up on the scale, but I definitely felt like a bronze goddess in it! This year’s costume, Cohiba, from Nationz’s “Havana” theme.
The bra was super-duper comfortable, which was a nice surprise; I wasn’t blown away by the belt, though. I did love the body chain, which I ordered from China while in Dubai because I was so excited that I’d be back home for jump-up. =) (Unfortunately, after two days of wearing said chain in summer weather, one strand broke, the colour rubbed off and my neck and underarms got bumpy and itchy. Please, folks, be careful what you order online.)
5. 2008 — SEXTANT HORIZON
My single most enduring memory of the 2008 Caribana parade is being pelted with the angriest rain I’ve ever felt in my life, just before and while we were crossing the stage to be judged. But as our section leader Shawna said, smiling through the rain, “You can’t stop the sun!”
The joke is, the sun came out just AFTER we crossed the stage, drenched and freezing and with pieces of costumes falling off. Maybe our theme, “Pirates,” had conjured up some kind of sea storm on land. The belt, one of my fave things about this costume (simple yet elegant and with coverage), remained unscathed.
6. 2006 — XBALANQUE (MEXICO)
This was my first time playing mas with Carnival Nationz, and their theme was “La Copa Mundial” (the World Cup), presumably since Trinidad & Tobago were competing and Caribbeans all around the world were extra excited for them.
I would’ve been happy wearing this or the Spain section, since both were unique and beautiful, but I had a ball in this. All day long people were stopping my cousins and I to ask us “who made that costume?” Denise Chang Kit, thank you very much =)
7. 2009 — BUTTERFLY
This was the year Nationz chose the theme “In Full Bloom,” and there were lots of beautiful costumes to choose from. I decided to be extra and chose one that didn’t even have a section.
This was a heartbreaker because my Butterfly costume was incomplete — I had no wings. The wings weren’t made, or the wings weren’t fixed, or the wings were left at the camp — whatever the reason, I was one unhappy loyalty masquerader. I ended up crossing the stage with the Water Lily section and endured many curious stares as people wondered whether I’d made my own costume at home and then tried to sneak in. It was really pretty, and I liked the one-piece, but . . . sigh . . .
8. 2012 — SHANG DYNASTY
Another Denise Chang Kit original. The theme this year was “Empires.” I’d never liked the idea of playing mas in black, but a wicked costume is a wicked costume! And the embellished piece between the bra and the panty was worth every penny at $20.
9. 2011 — MERMAID
The theme for Nationz this year was “Mythical Creatures.” This headpiece gave me life and it still does! Yes, the costume is pretty, and yes, I loved the cute little jingling noises it made — but really, we all went nuts over the oversized feather mohawk in aqua blue and deep purple.
Mind you it hurt . . . my girls and I wore Dr Scholls strips on our foreheads and even with that I had to wad up some toilet paper . . . I felt the dent in my head for the rest of the weekend. But COME ON! Definitely an all-time fave.
10. 2013 — MANDARIN FISH
There will always be a place in my heart for a bra which is bejewelled within an inch of its life, an unconventionally shaped headpiece, surprising pops of colour, and a set of style-em-yourself body chains. So this costume wins it all. Hands down.
I remember how excited I got when the 2013 theme was announced. “The Reef,” oh man! It’s like Finding Nemo with a soca soundtrack!! Of course the costumes were going to be breathtaking and gorgeous!!! And while I’m still not sure how we came in second place that year, this costume is absolutely my favourite one.
Will it be topped in 2015? I guess time will tell . . .
Caribana weekend has come and gone and I refuse to dedicate this month’s Top Ten Tuesday to the mess that was the Grand Parade . . . partially because everyone else is blogging about it right now . . . and partially because I’d rather focus on positives than negatives.
However, various events from this weekend have led me to spend some time thinking about the best and worst parties I’ve attended, many of them occurring on a jump-up weekend in the past, and what sets apart the great from the good, and the bad from the truly terrible. See if you agree with any/all of these.
1. WHO YOU’RE WITH
I mean really. You can have an amazing time in a condemned haunted house if the company you’re keeping is cool; yet if you’re invited as a VIP guest to some awesome soirée but you don’t like the crowd, you’ll probably be wishing you were somewhere else.
Everybody’s got those friends who they would go anywhere with. Keep them at the top of your invite list.
2. WHERE YOU ARE
Even with the important “who” detail out of the way, the “where” is still important. Some people love clubs, while some of us are getting really tired of them. Some people love pool parties, while some people don’t want to spend an entire afternoon being afraid of getting wet.
Know your preference.
3. YOUR PURPOSE
You left your place and got dressed up (maybe; see #5) for a reason; that reason has to be in line with the party you’re going to! Example: I’ll get excited to go to a fête, but not to a bar. I don’t particularly like drinking, but I love soca, so that choice is obvious for me.
One of the best parties I can remember being at was a 90s jam at the Ram in the Rye, back when I was a student at Ryerson. DJ Starting from Scratch cemented his status as my favourite DJ (and reaffirmed it in #7) by playing nothing but 90s music. If I’d gone out hoping to do anything BUT dance to all those old-school jams, I would’ve been in the corner with a sour face.
4. YOUR TRIP THERE AND BACK
Ever get to a party exhausted because it was such a struggle to find parking, or you got lost, or something like that? Instant loss of fun points. This is why I stick to downtown events where, worst comes to worst, I can probably take a taxi or a streetcar there and back again. If you do like drinking, you’ll probably prefer partying where you aren’t the DD.
For me personally, one of my favourite things about living near Bathurst and Lake Shore Blvd is that I’m walking distance from the Caribana parade. No waiting for anybody; when I’m ready to leave, bye!!!
5. YOUR CLOTHING
How are you gonna have fun if you’re constantly sucking in your stomach or snagging your shirt or sweating too much? Personally I like parties which don’t require much clothing at all (lol), because this minimizes the amount of time I have to spend considering all these variables.
Which brings us to . . .
6. YOUR ACCESSORIES
Every female reading this has, at some point, suffered due to an unfortunate choice of footwear at a party. Shoe manufacturers seem to have discovered a way to make certain pumps feel deceptively comfortable in the store and around the house and for maybe the first 90 minutes when you finally debut them, and then suddenly your feet are burning like hell fire. Every male reading this has, at some point, shaken his head and wondered (silently, if he’s smart) why a female would do that to herself. I have been literally carried back to the car (thanks Kerron!). I have spent most of the night dancing from the waist up only, because my friend and I knew full well that if we left our seats, the other footsore females who were circling would make sure we never got to sit down again (shoutouts to Dawn Dai!). And on numerous occasions I have brought a pair of flat shoes in my purse in case the pain from the heels got too intense.
Shoes are a biggie, but there are other accessories that can seriously kill your vibe too. Like earrings that are too heavy to let you really dance. And hairpieces that threaten to separate from your head if you dance too hard. So choose your ENTIRE wardrobe carefully.
7. THE DJ
If there is a DJ. Because sometimes you want to go to a party where you can have an actual conversation; and sometimes you’re okay just hearing your friend’s iTunes playlist in the background. But when the DJ is legit, he or she has tremendous influence on whether you’re smiling or screwfacing.
I attended “Summer Breeze” this Caribana Sunday, which was a daytime rooftop party, and the DJs (the main ones were Toronto’s own DJ Starting from Scratch and DJ Dany Neville from Dubai) were so proper. Great mixing, good pacing, a wicked soca set in the middle of the event, and — praise Jesus — there was zero talking over the music. If you are a DJ who thinks I came out to hear you talk, you are sadly mistaken. And I know plenty of girls who get irritated by repeated exhortations to walk roun if yuh pussy tun up, for example. Even dudes get salty if you interrupt the music one too many times — why should their bubble get cut short because you like the sound of your own voice so much? It’s like someone with a megaphone walking in on a couple in a baby-making zone. Stop it.
8. THE PRICE POINT
This is a dealbreaker for a lot of folks; hey, it’s a tough economy. And yes, I do realize that charging admission helps to keep out some of the riffraff, usually. But I am so much more likely to buy an early-bird ticket for an event, or choose just one expensive party every few months and stay on the cheaper side for the rest, because let’s face it: some of the best parties I’ve ever gone to (like the 90s jam in #3, and a few wedding receptions, and even some high school dances back in the day) didn’t cost me a thing to get inside.
With that in mind, when someone is sweet enough to cover your cover for you, you’re automatically more likely to have fun; like when my homegirl Nish bought me a ticket to the 2014 Camo boat ride to welcome me home to Toronto. Love you girl!!!
9. THOSE PEOPLE (NOT YOUR PEOPLE, THE OTHER ONES)
If your crowd is all fun and friendly and everyone else in the venue is stush, sure, you can just ignore everyone else in the venue. But it really is more fun when a whole bunch of like-minded people get together, and by the time you leave, some have gone from strangers to friends.
Yes, I obviously like meeting new guys when I go out; my roster can usually use new names and faces! But I’ve even made great new girlfriends out at events, or reconnected with old ones. It really is about people getting together and having a good time.
Strangely enough, even though I’ve just spent all this time listing external factors, it comes down to you and your mindset. When I decide to let go of my insecurities, I have a great time. When I decide to live in the moment like I might never get to go to a party ever again, I have a great time. When I remember to laugh about (or at) painful shoes, unfriendly people, annoying DJs, inflated prices, my bestie who’s not there, or how long the lineup was, I have a great time.
After all, it isn’t my job to control everything; and if it were, I’d never be able to have fun. Here’s hoping I can remember that more often. And here’s hoping I see you at another fête, day party, or house jam sometime soon!
June already! I’m almost back on Canadian soil (editing and posting this from inside an airport terminal actually), after spending half a year abroad. For this edition of Top Ten Tuesday, here are ten awesome memories and/or accomplishments from this stay in Dubai . . .
1. So much writing.
Beginning on Christmas Day 2013, I promised I would write every day. Even a single sentence, or a few words; some days this meant an entire song or three, and some days it meant several scenes of a TV episode. Sometime in April or May I got a little more strict with myself, so now I have to write a snippet or piece of a song, or a song idea, every day. Even on days when I’ve completed a song. Even on days when I’m totally focused on a script and don’t want to think about writing a song.
So, the final tally? 52 new songs and 3 new episodes of the series I’m working on. Plus, I’ve got about 11 pages of ideas to dip into the next time I think “now what can I write a song about?” Not bad at all.
2. So much sun.
What do you when it’s 50 degrees warmer where you are than it is back at home? You go to the beach.
3. So much singing.
Being onstage six nights a week and singing so many genres (pop, reggae, rock, country, soul, Motown, blues, calypso, jazz) is awesome training. Doing so without lyrics in front of you is great for your memorization skills. Doing so in heels has left my feet considerably uglier than they were six months ago . . . ah well, you can’t win em all.
Shoutouts to my incredible bandmates Jo (keys) and Julian (guitar), for allowing me to experience the awesomeness that is playing with live musicians — and alllllll the hilarity that goes along with it!
4. Friends from every corner of the globe.
Maybe not every single corner . . . but I now have people to welcome me in Italy, South Africa, Indonesia, Sweden, all over the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Russia, the Ukraine, Saudi Arabia, and of course here in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. And as eager as I am to get back home and hug all my people in Canada and the United States, it feels good to know that friendship transcends borders.
5. Fly boarding.
Hands-down the coolest single activity I’ve done since leaving home.
6. Loving on nature.
At home I can jog along Lake Ontario, and I’m frequently amused by the friendly (well, probably just hungry) squirrels in my neighbourhood, and there are some nice views of the sunset from my building before it’s hidden by condos. In Dubai, I’ve been bathing in the Gulf of Arabia, taking pictures of flowers and sandscapes and water views, and loving the sight (though not always the sound) of tons of birds — including obnoxious crows and shrill peacocks.
There are some really cool manmade wonders out there, obviously, but it’s also been really nice to just look at a seashell or a cliff and enjoy that.
I’ll do my best to explain this clearly and without offending anyone.
Opportunities are everywhere, and so are opportunity-seekers and opportunity-creators. But it seems to me that there is a greater sense of possibility in Dubai than at home; and it has nothing to do with money and everything to do with attitude. Both Toronto and Dubai are big, bustling cities with international populations and people at different socioeconomic levels . . . but they differ when it comes to the ratio of whiners to risk-takers. At home, I find a lot of people who feel that they’re stuck in a rut. In Dubai, I find a lot of people who are hustling, who are keeping it moving, who are creating some type of change instead of just complaining.
This is probably because roughly 80% of the people there are expats (not local to the area, they were born somewhere else), so they’ve already taken the step of leaving home, their physical comfort zone. Granted, many of the people I met were on vacation, but when I did meet someone who’a planning to stay for awhile I tended to notice a quiet confidence and certainty that they’ll be able to do what they came here to do. And if not then they can go somewhere else and try again. It’s all good.
8. Truly cherishing interaction with people from back home.
It will be such a treat to sit down and have a meal with family and friends again. Even if I don’t like the food, I have to sit on the floor, and no one says a single word for the duration of the meal.
I knew homesickness would be an issue for me; I’m glad that I came through without getting too emotional (for the most part), and I now fully understand what a musician friend of mine meant when he told me staying away for a month wasn’t enough; he wanted to be gone for long enough that he missed being home.
I’ll have to make sure I do this in Toronto/Ontario/Canada too! One of the best things about travelling is getting to know a new place. I don’t mean just the people and customs and laws, I mean the physical place. When you’re new to the UAE, you ask a lot of questions like “Why isn’t there any parking?” and “Can I take the Metro?” and some more unique ones too, like “Why isn’t there a street address?”
I’m very grateful to anyone who has ever printed and distributed a clearly marked map, and for numerous online forums where expats and travellers share tips. I’m also newly in love with Groupon (and similar sites like Kobonaty) for offering great deals in the area, making it that much easier to get out there and try a desert safari, or flyboarding, or a double-massage deal.
10. Discovering and developing new talents.
I’ve dusted off my photographer, videographer, and video editor hats, in addition to writing new episodes as mentioned above. I decided to share some of my insights in a 30-day art installation project via Instagram and Facebook/Twitter . . . (stay tuned to my YouTube channel for a video recap of that, plus a video recap of the whole Dubai trip) . . . and being genuinely touched and surprised by a bandmate’s comment that I’m “so visual,” I’ve been creating collages (as seen all over this blog) that are way better than those Instathings, and I even came up with my phoenix/mermaid photoshoot out of thin air.
Plus, I commissioned two newly designed dresses and had them made at a local tailor’s (and blogged all about it), and I’m really loving finding new ways to express myself visually!
So what’s next for me? A Top Ten Tuesday blog featuring the 10 best things about being back home?
Nah, too predictable.
See you next time