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The Return of the Bone Trini

IT GIVES ME very great pleasure to say that, after a hiatus of a year-and-a-half or so, my feature, “Trini to the Bone” returns to the newspaper world in next Monday’s Newsday (and will, like Thank God It’s Friday, also appear online on my website, www.BCPires.com, subsequent to its appearance in the physical paper). Trini to the Bone will, I believe, lead off the paper’s features section and the only people who might be happier about it than me might be my editors and the Trinis to the Bone themselves.

For those who don’t know it, Trini to the Bone is a personality-led news feature, accompanied by a photograph – the new incarnation may have two photos – which I dreamed up almost 20 years ago, in London, England, but which did not see the light of publication in a Trinidadian newspaper until July 2010 – and then only because I had begun its precursor, “As Bajan as Flying Fish” a year-and-a-half before, from early 2009, in the Barbados Nation.

Now, there really is nothing new under the sun. Anything the new season of Game of Thrones does six months from now was done four centuries ago by William Shakespeare, except with quill pens and boys in wigs instead of CGI; and anything Shakespeare did in the 16th Century, Geoffrey Chaucer had done 200 years before; and you could go farther back until you got to nomads sitting around a fire – our species’ first experience of “entertainment” – and it would all be storytelling. It simply is not possible to invent something really new… but Trini to the Bone almost is… and I thought of Trini to the Bone ten years before its most similar feature, Humans of New York; indeed, my newspaper version of Trini to the Bone appeared in the Guardian in the first week of July, 2010, four months before Brandon Stanton’s far more well-known – and way more lucrative – version.

In a sense, newspapers have been doing Trini to the Bone-style features since they began, using drawings and paintings before the days of photography – but my idea of Trini to the Bone was different from most features because I conceived it as a feature that would put the most ordinary of newspaper readers into the paper itself: although Trini to the Bone could accommodate celebrities and public figures – recording artist David Rudder was the 19th subject, painter Che Lovelace, the 39th, rapso man Wendell Manwarren, the 64th, mas man Peter Minshall the 130th – I designed the feature to celebrate the most ordinary of lives. My personal banker, Stacey Lalla was the very first subject, my bara man, Captin Doubles, was the 69th and Tricia Ramnath, occupation, “bottle drinks girl in Town” appeared two weeks after former Miss World, Giselle La Ronde. The last two to appear were an apartment complex manager, Sophia Bacchus, and Ravi Sankar, who got into the feature because he did not play the sitar like his near-namesake, Ravi Shankar.

From its inception and conception alike, my only qualification for including someone was that they should think of themselves as “coming from” Trinidad & Tobago in one way or another. Trini to the Bone has featured many people who were not born here and some who have not seen either island for decades.

And yet they are…

When I first thought of the feature, I was living in London and I grew so excited about it that I thought I would begin it there, finding the initial subjects in the TT Diaspora. I was surprised and disappointed, though, when, one after the other, at two different newspapers, half-a-dozen of the best editors I’ve worked with over the last 30 years, flatly turned it down. Even the redoubtable Keith Smith himself, the most Trini of Bone Trinis (though clearly not a bony one), could not visualize it. “Is a Q&A?” he asked, puzzled. “No,” I replied, to them all, not just Keith, “but it’s based on an interview”. “Is a profile, then?” asked Keith. “No,” I replied, to all, “it’s like a one-sided conversation the subject is having with the reader, based on an interview”. Keith frowned: “So is a Q&A then!”

Trini to the Bone would not have appeared in TT papers without Anthony Wilson, who saw its possibilities at once (admittedly after being shown an As Bajan as Flying Fish). “Oh,” he said, “it’s an “as told to”!” My current editor-in-chief, an early and enthusiastic convert, is the main inspiration for its return.

So, get your Newsday next Monday morning – and a cup of coffee, you will see it fits particularly well – and join me in celebrating the return of one of my best ideas – and yourself, in the pages of your paper.

BC Pires is a Trini to the marrow. Read a longer version of this column and more of his writing at www.BCPires.com

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