Click on headline to Read More
Good Morning, Green Corner!
Friday, October 13, 2023 Filed in: Trini to d Bone
Photos courtesy Mark Lyndersay
My name is Jarrod Ricardo Butts and I feel like a tourist in the land of my own birth.
That might very well make me a reluctant Trinidadian, but a Trinidadian nonetheless. Maybe I’m a different kind of Trinidadian. The kind who says what he thinks and feels. And for some people that’s just too much to handle.
I’m a Catholic/Hindu with a little bit of agnosticism thrown in. My thing is, how is it that the most gifted artists are gone and the politicians are alive?
Trinidadians have an issue if, eg, you speak differently or talk with an accent. It’s not a question of self-hatred, it’s just asserting one’s right to be an individual. I respect the way the nuts man speaks, I could talk the same dialect. But I wouldn’t use that kind of language with someone from the corporate world.
Part of the problem is our educators don’t speak Standard English. The very culture itself is limiting as well as limited.
Growing up in the 70s, we looked outward. We didn’t have a problem trying to be citizens of the world. But now we’ve become insular, clannish. And the sole purpose of our existence is if we want to convert 1980 square miles of TT, the size of Delaware, to Little Africa or Little India. And I am not of that.
I am a Trinidadian man of mixed descent. And that is something I am uniquely proud of.
I was born in POS General Hospital and I grew up in Carenage, Pt Cumana, by the sea. Derek Walcott’s line, “I’m a red nigger who loves the sea,” is very relatable to me.
The sea was more than a metaphor for me. It literally meant going into the unknown and not being afraid. My grandfather and my uncle were like, “You have to swim, otherwise your ass is grass.”
I was raised by my grandfather Lyndon Butts and my uncle Thomas Butts. If I have any trace of the milk of human kindness in me it is because of them. All the nastiness, all the deviant sexual thoughts in my head, that’s mine. That’s all me. I lost my grandfather in June 1990 and my uncle in 2018.
Biology does not a family make. I was the product of lust not love. It’s highly likely my biological mother and father met in a fete in Jan of 1970 and nine months later I was the October surprise. My biological father bailed but we’re on good terms now. My mother married someone else and he did not want me around. She chose him over me.
Eartha Kitt said, if your own mother could reject you, then no one can love you. For a long time I felt that way. I’ve forgiven her but I don’t think we can reconnect.
I prefer the company of women. I like being with them, the way they smell and talk. Going to Fatima College, an all boys school, was a form of punishment.
One teacher, Maurice Brash at Fatima, had a profound influence on my life. Maurice had a Mick Jagger kinda vibe. He saw me, accepted me and knew what I was about. And said keep doing that.
I have no family myself. I would love to have kids, even at my age. If the fates allow I’m going to be 53 on October 15. I’m a Libra. But I don’t take much stock in astrology.
I didn’t have counselling. My way of dealing with it was having a sense of humour. Robin Williams made me realise I wasn’t alone in this world.
It was like Moses and the burning bush: it was a Thursday evening and an episode of Happy Days was showing but I wasn’t paying no attention. And then I heard this voice. I looked around and saw this guy playing Mork. It was like discovering God. A god. Not the god. I knew I had a purpose in life, to be myself.
Robin Williams said being alone was the last thing he ever wanted to be. I’ve had to deal with solitude. But, the more I talked about the pain, the more I could shake myself loose from it.
Good Morning Vietnam heavily influenced my radio programme. In a good way. But a lot of radio managers said that’s not the kind of things Trinidadians want to hear. To a certain extent, it’s true. But I always had a group of people who loved listening to me doing this crazy thing. People that wanted to express themselves but couldn’t. I like to think I played a major role in helping them embrace who they are.
I don’t see myself as revolutionary. I just wanted to tell people who I am. I just wanted to express my own native energy in the best way I knew how.
Old television shows like Sesame Street and The Electric Company helped me articulate my thoughts and feelings.
[Corporate Trinidad] didn’t like my radio show one bit. [Veteran radio man] David Elcock was an influence as well. Dave and I got along spectacularly because he knew where I was coming from. David was a professional and he would make fun of me and I would make fun of him. That’s how close we were we would always trade insults and he would mock me and I’d mock him back.
I owe a lot to Hazel Ward Redman. If not for her, I would not have had a career in radio. She didn’t train me but told one of the managers, “This boy here is talented. Do something with him before he goes legally insane.” They gave me a chance in 1991 when I was a fresh-faced 21-year-old kid from Carenage. I’m not on radio anymore. I’m working in advertising. I’m a ad writer.
Radio hosts don’t make any preparations whatsoever. They’ve never done. Their reason for being is to see if they can get as many callers as possible and they can engage in the bacchanal and the kyah-kyah-kyah.
Sprangalang [comedian and culture vulture Dennis Hall] was a national treasure. I don’t think we’re ever going to get anybody like that ever again.
I do believe in an afterlife, that our consciousness persists. We are all creatures of energy. And the energy that lives within us never dies, it is converted into something else. What that something else, is I don’t really know.
I don’t think there’s a vengeful mean God just sitting there judging us for the things we’ve done or said. I don’t think we’re supposed to be condemned to burn in hell for all eternity. Few people are that evil.
As someone who is part Catholic, part Hindu, the possibilty of reincarnation is very real. My grandmother died in 1962. She always said she wanted to come back as a man. Maybe I’m her.
Sometimes I feel I do not belong here. Sometimes I straddle both worlds.
I was looking at United States politics in 2016 and I thought to myself, “How dare you?” How dare you steal our brand of politics and transplant it into your country?
Donald Trump is the most Trinidadian of all US presidents. And there are Trinidadians who love him. I can never wrap my mind around that.
What kind of a future do you expect for your kids in the current political dispensation? If I have kids I do not want them to grow up here. I do not see us evolving. Changing our mindset, changing a mentality, it’s a lot more difficult than changing political parties. It takes a lot of hard work and we’re not into hard work.
We’re a Carnival country. We love to put on masks, we live lives of lies. And when the masks slips by accident and we see our real
reflection, the mirror is more like an abyss. Because it’s going to look back at us. And we’re not going to like what we see. I don’t think we are ready for the mask falling. We are in an existential crisis and don’t want to face up to that.
Calypso has devolved into nothing more than just a bitter polemic against a certain political party. It’s like something out of an assembly line there’s no variety there’s no nuance, nothing.
One hundred years from now, people will probably be singing Shadow’s Bassman. But I strongly doubt anybody is going to sing Machel Montano”s Soca Kingdom.
A Trinbagonian has no fear. They believe in themselves and are determined to make their place in this world.
Trinidad and Tobago could be one of the most liveable progressive places on the planet because we’ve got that potential – but we keep f***ing it up.
It could be heaven [but] of late it has to me become hell. Can paradise be regained? Only if we’re willing to fight for our real independence. As Lloyd Best said, “When the spotlight falls on you, you can’t rehearse.”