The High Cost of Living
My name is Robin Foster and I’ve found out that, to go about the business of living, you have to accept your own death.
If you look at my face good, you go see Pelham St and the Circular Road running right through it. I’m from the Belmont that David Rudder sang about.
Myself and Trevor and Steve, David’s younger brothers, were friends. David and I only became close when he got thrown into this other world, the kind of popularity he got, I was probably the only recognisable face on that side [of the social divide].
Belmont had characters. An old Indian man used to ride donkey-cart called “Riverbud”. One day his cow get away and bust through our pitch game. Mr Rush used to ride a bicycle with about a million bags. Everybody used to call him, “Bags!” And he would reply, “You black and stink!” Everybody was black and stink, except for Bruce Aanansen, who was “White dog!”
There’s a kind of ignorance I can’t deal with in Trinidad. You driving around the Savannah and a man give you a bad drive and you just politely tell him, “Oh, Gorm, Bro, what’s that?” And he let go with, “Haul yuh mother c---!” And his face screw up! My theory is that is why we have so much murders: because you can’t reason with certain people, you just have to shoot they arse!
I [trained as a sound engineer at] a place called, “ATS” – Announcer Training Studios or something – in New York City, in 42nd St, Times Square. They actually had a peep show downstairs. Run by an old Jewish guy. That was [Martin Scorsese movie] Taxi Driver New York. Somehow, New York was more fun in them days.
A few years ago, I started hiking and lost weight. I bounced up BC Pires. He said, “You exercising? Or you sick?” He told me he had once complimented a man who had lost weight and the man replied, “I have cancer, BC.” In March 2014, I did a whole-day sound thing and nothing was provided: no breakfast, lunch, nothing. At home, I didn’t eat but started to vomit. Once St Clair Medical found out I had health insurance, they did every test in the book [but found nothing conclusive. At Sloan Kettering Hospital] all the doctors’ jargon, I didn’t really understand, but, when the woman said, “These types of cancer,” I shake my head and say, “Boy, when BC find out this!”
I have a pancreatic neoendocryne tumour. Very non-aggressive, slow-growing, on the edge of my pancreas. They’re very rare. They put me on a drug specific to the type of tumour [and it] did shrink by a third.
Joe Brown, the record producer, told me, “It’s only when you accept your own death, you can now go about the business of living.” It’s only now that I can understand what it means. It didn’t mean nothing 20 years ago.
Every day, the tumour does cross my mind but I sleep good. In fact, I’s be real cheerful in St James [Cancer Centre]. I real respect Dr Maria Bartholemew. When Dr Dylan Narinesingh read the report that the tumour shrink and get up and hug me up… Boy, everybody down in that place so good!
If this thing shrinks to operable size… If this could be resolved, one way or the other, in the first half of 2016, that would be good. I don’t consider myself a courageous person. In fact, I’s one of the biggest coward I know! The worst thing that could happen is I could die in my sleep – and plenty people wish for that!
I’s be singing the song my friend Albert Laveau [recorded for] the [Derek Walcott and Galt Macdermot] musical, Steel: “I’m confronting Mr Basil”. “Before Growler die/ I tell you, I Sydney Phillips/ Being of sound mind/ but declining body/ confronting Mr Basil/ also known as Death/ coming to him with drunkard’s breath”. Any time I record a song, I know how to sing it, because I hear it so many times.
I believe God is too complex for man’s mind to calculate. So I might have a humanist or agnostic outlook. But, then, it don’t bother me if the family want to go to church. I would say the prayers. I not hard core in any of them things.
All my life, I was paranoid about needles. But the amount of needles I get jook with in the last year, I seeing how the heroin thing does work: they struggling to find vein!
They falling like flies all around me: Raf; Junior; Garth. While awaiting my diagnosis, Charmaine Chan Sing, Henson Bovell, Suzanne Salandy, Jerome Francique pass from cancer! I was actually at my cousin Cheryl’s funeral, who died from cancer, when the text come up on my phone, doctor saying come for the results.
The best part of getting the diagnosis I got was that it really made me embrace life. But that don’t mean I ent scared shitless while waiting for the doctors to call with results!
Being a Trini is grounding with the society, our own society. In the Sixties, I used to live among white people and they didn’t sound like us; they used to sound almost British. I had a French Creole pardner, Rene, in first form in QRC, he used to sound that way, British. But, by third form, he was sounding just like me. Another pardner formed a theory that, when white people in Trinidad started to travel, they realised they weren’t as white as they thought. So then they had to question themselves: what am I? And the only thing they could come up with was, “a Trini”. So they then had to figure out what was a Trini? What does “a Trini” do? The North Stand is a manifestation of that: a Trini goes in the North Stand – but, being white, they still had to colonise: this section is we own. A Creole woulda just go, have a good time, leave: “I could come back next time?” White folks have to own it.
You ever see the pride a white Trinidadian takes in eating doubles? “Boy, last night I hungry, I eat 30 doubles, yes!” I glad for white Trinis: you is somebody; eat your doubles! But I think I grew up in [what they now call] a “Trini” environment.
To me, Trinidad & Tobago means a good lime, with a good shit-talk, pot cooking, something to drink. Somebody pull out a cuatro. A bottle-and-spoon rhythm and is kaiso: good melody, witty lyrics. There is nothing I enjoy more than that. Nothing.