Tobago

Tobago
Horizon at Sandy Point

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Jean and Dinah B.F.F.

Sometime ago, my friend and I took to referring to ourselves as "Jean and Dinah." I am Jean and she's Dinah. Or is it she's Jean and I am Dinah - we were interchangeable when we first giggled over our pseudonyms. But now, for sure, she's Dinah, the one from country. And I, Jean in town. We are old enough to have gone past the Mighty Sparrow's salacious perception of "de girls in tong." Our "Jean and Dinah" catches at the spirit of friendships like "Thelma and Louise" or the immortal "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid."

In 1956, the "girls in town" came to the notice of a fresh-faced cheeky Sparrow who crowed in his chorus: Jean and Dinah ... round de corner posing! Bet your life is something they selling. And if you catch them broken, you can get it all for nothing. Don't make no row, the Yankees gone, Sparrow take over now! And in his legendary prize-winning calypso he captured indelibly and irrevocably, a moment in Trinidad's history. See Jean in the flush of youth, desired by stick fighter, kaisonian, panman and the occasional US Marine "on shore leave" from the naval station in Chaguaramas. To see Dinah would be to wonder what she was doing here - but the chance juxtaposition in Sparrow's song creates a bond that lasts longer than events in 1956. (Fifty-five years later, Cassi continues to ask in calypso, When last you take a wine on a town ting?)

Jean and Dinah could have stayed forever in that vignette - pick any two Trini girls, pumping behind or flag-waving in front any steelband; wining in any mas band; chipping behind the truck; on the road to las lap. Today, they texting and BBMing in the band!

But Sparrow's girls in town have had their lives. And Tony Hall's play (based on the improv work from Susan Sandiford and Rhoma Spencer with the actual old girls) reveals some of the circumstances. Jean's life is a calypso epic, looking for the man to be the man in her life, as different as Warlord and Ramon, different child fathers. Dinah's only seems more conventional - "dancer" waitress in a club, a home and five girl children. For 35 years, they have survived, hardened by the events and experiences of living.  Carnival, however, remains an annual awakening, re-kindling youthful urges -  pushing pan, playing sailor. On this particular Carnival Tuesday, there's more than the approaching sounds of steelband music, more than the infirmities and discomforts of lives lived hard and on the edge - the diametre - even to middle age. There's memory.  And in the jamette life - violently even savagely - lived, there is friendship as untarnished as in any epic. And redemption. Jean and Dinah, BFF.

(Work has already begun on the movie based on Hall's play.)

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