Crying Shame?

Picture courtesy Mark LyndersayMy name is Devin Quan King and I’m a Trini man who is not ashamed to have emotions.

I’m from Gulf View, La Romaine. We weren’t rolling in [money] but we didn’t suffer growing up. My dad, Cecil, was frugal and was able to afford the things he believed were important. Like a shelter in a safe neighbourhood, where there were other children and I could be socialized properly.

If people tell me I speak well, I tell them, “My mom, Sharon, is an English teacher, and a very good one, at that”. My mom and I are very close. When I am in San Fernando, I take mom to work every morning. She’s very loving. I think I took after her in my emotional upbringing.

My family is very kissy-huggy on my mom’s side. Dad wasn’t aloof but I think his love languages were acts of service. When I was younger, my love languages were quality time, physical touch. A hug really means something to me. But Dad wasn’t like that: Dad would get up early and make you lunch. It was alien to me that that could mean “love”. It seemed inconsequential. I wanted the hug; but, then, I wanted the sandwich, too! As I matured, and especially after he got sick and we started making that effort, we were able to reconnect in his last years. For him, “love” was cleaning the toilet bowl. When I was a child, though, he was very loving. As I came to adolescence, that changed a bit. He always said he was good with children and old people.

My dad’s way of showing emotions didn’t make him any more of a man or any less of a man. He will always be “the man” in my book: integrity; standing up for people; helping those around you; charity; making sure what you did was right and good. One day, I would like to live up to the stature of his legacy.

I was an only child but not a lonely child. My mom, being an English teacher, encouraged me to read from quite early. Reading was and still is one of the great joys of my life. I learned to develop my imagination and creativity through that. I attribute my creative qualities to my love for reading and the vast number of words I’ve put into my vocabulary.

Generally my favourite books have been classics, including modern American classics, like The Great Gatsby. Since I was 13 years old, my favourite book has been The Hobbit. And, yes, I think Peter Jackson massacred it in the movie!

A Brighter Sun is one of the great books, and not just in Caribbean literature: it deserves a place amongst the literary giants. Harper Lee died recently and that’s sad. But I think Samuel Selvon deserves a lot more recognition than he’s given. I like VS Naipaul’s early writing but, from what I know of him, I don’t like him. After his wife died, he got engaged to and married someone three weeks later; that did something to me. I have a highly developed sense of justice and loyalty and, at least for her family’s sake, give it some time, nuh. But I still love Miguel Street.

Creating a world around you from words is something I think I’m truly gifted with: I write songs. Lyrics. If I had to pick one line from all my songs “for the papers” it would be: Her intensity descends upon me/ A fire raging, never aging/ Enveloping but not consuming…

I went to Presentation College but that doesn’t make me Catholic – though everybody tells me I “look” Catholic. I don’t quite get that. I guess it’s the fair/Chinese mix with the Gaelic name. But I am Pentecostal.

I started playing the guitar at 16 and was quickly consumed by my passion for music. I played in rock bands for about ten years. Ascension, Lost Calvary and The Sky is Falling. A mix of rhythm, lead and bass. I wasn’t the primary songwriter for the first two but in The Sky is Falling wrote the music and lyrics for many of the songs.

I am not ashamed of my emotions. I sometimes do cry in movies, whether my girlfriend is next to me or not. I cried in Click [in which] a father dies – but that was more about my father than Adam Sandler’s filmmaking.

My emotions contribute to my personality projection. They help me to quickly establish an easy rapport with people.

Being a man with emotions is no drawback. Actually, being a man with emotions IS being a man!

My father told me, “We do not have enough space in this house for you to be sentimental”. So a lot of my favourite childhood books were given away.

Dad was diagnosed with multiple myeloma – long story short, cancer in the bone marrow – in October 2010 and deteriorated rapidly. We had a few fundraisers for him to go to Canada for a stem cell transplant on New Year’s Day 2011. Emotion is a double-edged sword. Sometimes you didn’t want to face reality and hurt. I regret I didn’t talk to him as much as I should have when he was abroad for that six months. It hurt too much. I became a workaholic because it was my escape.

I tried to work on my relationship with my dad, me being this emotional sentimentalist. It was difficult. I had a fear of rejection. I remember many instances of trying to show affection in my way and not having it reciprocated. But he didn’t realise that was my way of showing love.

Brother Michael, my principal at Presentation and another father figure, always used to say, “Love is a verb”. That was my father’s philosophy. I was a horse of a different colour: I could be poor and have love and be happy.

Especially as he deteriorated, in the last two years of his life, I started making the effort to bite my tongue. We parted on the best terms. There was no doubt in either of our minds that we loved one another. I still get emotional thinking about him. I still miss him.

Some things are just beyond your control. I would have loved to have given my father the joy of grandchildren.

Without my emotions, I wouldn’t be here. I don’t know who I would be without feeling the way I do. And expressing myself the way I do. That is who I am.

You don’t have to be gay to like fashion. I love fashion. Although you mightn’t be able to tell from looking at me today.

Being judgemental seems to be an in-built part of the vast majority of Trini people. I think Trinis are very skilled at not [appearing to be] judgemental.

A Trini is a multi-faceted creature but the most important facet is an ability to eat two doubles with slight [pepper] at the side of the road. No, the most important facet is the ability to enjoy yourself no matter what situation you find yourself in.

To me, Trinidad & Tobago means one of the top ten ecotourism destinations in the world. How could [former Trini to the Bone and ecological columnist] Marc De Verteuil not say that? Trinidad really is the Land of the Hummingbird!

Picture courtesy Mark Lyndersay