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Anthony Bourdain: Parts Uncut
TRINIDAD WENT WILD over the episode of CNN presenter Anthony Bourdain’s show, Parts Unknown, that revealed parts of Trinidad some of us would have preferred to have kept unknown – particularly the handful of Trini Syrian/Lebanese around Mario Sabga-Grey Goose’s dinner table with Bourdain for a Middle-Eastern meal in the West.
In three shameful minutes, two of the self-declared leaders of Trinidad’s Arab community scuttled and sank, with their loose lips, the entire Trini Syrian-Lebanese ship. The public reaction was so intense, the old Mario was forced to put down his Grey Goose-and-coconut water long enough to apologise for being drunk, rich and self-important – as if that description doesn’t apply perfectly to all of Trinidad’s ruling sector, regardless of ethnicity!
Indian and African Trinis felt deeply insulted by what fell from the lips of Super Mario and Peter Gorged-on-Power and it wasn’t the raw kibbie, but the raw sentiments.
But the most horrified Trinis of all were the 4,990-odd Syrian/Lebanese who were not invited to that dinner and don’t form part of Trinidad’s superrich one per cent (though most of ‘em are probably up in the top five or ten). Pity the poor Trini Syrians who play pan and sing kaiso and marry Hindu women and send their children to Holy Name Convent instead of the American school.
But it could have been even worse.
Trinis didn’t see the unedited version.
Luckily, for your amusement, I run the full transcript below. I’ve italicized the edited portions, which a basic knowledge of the law of defamation forces me to point out I made up myself – although nothing I’ve invented could be as damaging as what Super Mario and Peter Gorged-on-Power volunteered.
Anthony Bourdain: Parts Uncut of Trinidad.
Anthony Bourdain voiceover: …Arriving penniless [the Syrian/Lebanese] worked their way up as textile merchants and branched out to run businesses that sell everything from medical equipment to real estate and buying political parties and renting office space to ministries at ten times market value.
Bourdain gestures to the night view of Port of Spain.
Mario Grey Goose: “Isn’t it amazing?
Grey Goose: Yes, like Beirut. Except Christians or Muslims don’t get shot, in Port of Spain, unless they are also young black men.
Grey Goose: My drink of choice is Grey Goose and coconut water. Why have money if you can’t show it off?
AB: How large is the community now?
Peter Gorged-on-Power: A little under 5,000… Actually, we are the smallest ethnic group. And we at this table are the point one per cent at the top of the one per cent. Two o’ we here run half the economy.
Grey Goose: Smallest but most powerful. You want to see my wallet? It fat like your afro.
AB: Stop bragging! Is the Syrian/Lebanese merchant class generally seen as the elite?
GG: Yeah, but only because we really ent have any elite in Trinidad, just some who more ruthless. We come like the elite of the scum. I’m very big in the food industry and around the waist. I have 120 restaurant; like how McDonald’s or bara box is restaurant. They call me the Starbucks of the Caribbean. But, after this episode show, they will call me something else.
AB: How closely do people stay in contact with family back in Lebanon or Syria?
PG: Not very much. We only go back to find wives and husbands for our children. We don’t want them mixing with low-class George Street Syrians. I’m starting a SyrianWeddingBook, to save travel time.
Mrs Grey Goose: We are Trini-dade-ians, too. We used to be Trini-dad-ian but, as we move up in the world, we move up in accent, too.
Gorged-on-P: Life is very good here if you have more dollars than sense but there is a concern. We used to have a huge middle class, a sort of a security in conflict between the haves and the havenot, but now that’s eroding, and they getting poorer, so they’re starting to get angry. Don’t mind is we who erode the middle class. Our business model is, “A rich man will sell you the rope to hang him, if he could get a good enough price for it”. Watch me hang myself right now.
AB What do you think the biggest danger is right now?
G-on-P: Civil commotion. We have a crime problem and we could be targets now But, don’t worry, I starting a business installing bullet-proof glass.
AB: You don’t see any irony in not being able to spend your money safely?
G-on-P: Catch y’falling self! People lining up to buy my steak for $1,000!
AB: Couldn’t you put your wealth-generation prowess to eradicating poverty?
G-on-P: What the firetruck? Mario, you bring a communist in the penthouse? Next thing, he go talk ‘bout raising minimal wage and endanger jobs for sufferers. You and David Abdullah is friend? Mario, throw this Cuban out!
AB: Isn’t the minimum wage really a maximum wage, the most you will be forced to pay to exploit weaker economic operators?
G-on-P: Look here, we is job creator! Without us, it wouldn’t have anybody frying chicken or toting brick.
AB: Wouldn’t creating a more just society make you a true Trinidadian?
Mrs Grey Goose: I tell him already we is Trini-dade-ian, like Dadeland Mall.
AB: You wouldn’t like Trinidad to be a safe place to raise children?
G-on-P: Tell this puffy-hair fella we doing it so in for centuries. The only West Indian who count is the bosses.
AB: You’re not worried you’ll expose your community to shame and insult?
G-on-P: Which community? We only Arab at mealtime. We is Americans: US dollars! Dotish Trinis will spend the rest of the year attacking Syrians; and not see that the real problem is that too much wealth is in too few hands. Watch, we have two little descendant of Indian indentures writing in the papers how great it is to pay people too little.
Mario: Whey de firetrucking Grey Goose?
Mrs Mario: Oh, boy. Mario gone Trini-dad-ian now.
[Fade to…. olive]
BC Pires is well aware that the difference between Potogee and Syrian is the difference between rumshop and cloth-shop