Category Archives: Various Musings

I’m beat.

When my buddies suggested I join them in Trinidad for Carnival this past weekend, I figured why not? I love the Caribbean vibes and felt I’d be at home for my first visit to the island. Also, since it’s difficult to find time to write during the week, I thought I’d have some time to relax and catch up during my vacation.


From the fetes (festival parties) that end after sunrise, to the thundering soca music that never stops, to the wet, sexual wildness of J’ouvert, there’s little time to relax. I had a lot of fun, but now I need a vacation from this vacation.

If you like the Carnival atmosphere, check out Trinidad’s version of it. Don’t think you’ll fly there, celebrate, and return to work a day or two later, unless you like walking into meetings looking like a sleep-deprived zombie. You’ll be putting in some work, and you’ll need time to physically recover from the partying and celebrating. I’ve met people who’ve experienced Mardi Gras in New Orleans and Carnival in Brazil, and they say nothing captures the spirit and energy of Trinidad.

If you want to party in Trinidad & Tobago, here are six things to keep in mind:

1) Start early

  • Plan your travel about 9-12 months in advance. Naturally, the prices get worse the closer you get. Hotels like Hyatt and Hilton will charge 3 to 4 times their normal price that week. And they still sell out fast.

2) Make the band

  • Some people reserve costumes and join bands for playing mas, where they dance along parade routes on Monday/Tuesday. Costumes range from $200 U.S. to well over $2,000, but this also includes food, alcohol, security, and access to parties. If you don’t reserve one, you can try waiting for a last-minute cancellation and grabbing an unclaimed costume at a discount, but you risk missing out completely. Or you can just watch and enjoy the crowd.

Me and a lovely Carnival participant






3) Dress for comfort

  • Most people wear shorts and t-shirts, with sandals or sneakers. It’s warm and humid and you’ll walk a lot. Trying to be cute with your shoes will only mean blisters and sore feet later. And people aren’t worrying about your shoes anyway. Not with all of the other sights to look at.



  • In fact, if you do J’ouvert (a giant street party), bring a t-shirt, shorts or pants, and shoes you don’t mind throwing away. J’ouvert starts at 4am on Monday, where thousands dance through streets to ear-shattering, bass-thumping soca music until 8am. Revelers toss and smear colorful paints, mud, water, and chocolate syrup on everyone (tip: eat a snack before the party and put your phone in a plastic bag so it won’t get wet).

The after-effects of J’ouvert

4) Wine and Dine

  • You won’t forget the dancing. Men and women will freak and grind on each other to the music (also called wining). They quickly move on to the next willing participant, usually a complete stranger. Inhibitions are definitely loosened (the free-flowing alcohol helps) and it is sexually charged. However, most people don’t wine; they’re content to walk along with the crowd and enjoy the music and drinks.
  • But if you do indulge in wining, please don’t fall in love with that sexy young lady because she thrust herself on you, or because that tall stranger with the accent lifted you in the air like some Adonis. It’s not that serious. They’ll wine like that all night. This isn’t a nightclub in the States, where that action could mean something else. In Trinidad, it’s dancing, not a commitment for sex. I didn’t see a single fight or drama, despite the plentiful supply of alcohol. So if you chase after that woman or dude because they wined you so well, you’ll come across as a stalker.

5) Stay near downtown Port-of-Spain (capital city)

  • Traffic can be as awful as Atlanta rush hour in a snowstorm (okay, it’s not THAT bad, but it’s bad). If you stay on the outskirts and go to a party, you may have to walk several miles back to your hotel at night (which I don’t recommend) or wait 1-3 hours for a cab to retrieve you. But if you do stay on the outskirts and don’t have a friend driving you…

6) Hire a designated driver

  • Finding a cab can be an adventure. Especially if you go to the fetes that end early in the morning and everyone leaves at the same time. You could be stuck there for what seems like days. Instead, pay your cabbie to wait for you or schedule him to pick you up before the party ends.
  • Just note that cabs there do not have standard markings, colors, or fleets. They look like any regular car or minivan. The only way to tell is to look at the plates; cab plates start with an ‘H’.

There are lots of other things to add, but that would put me over my self-imposed word limit for my posts, which I’ve already blown out of the water. However, I’ve only been to Trinidad once. I’m sure experienced veterans reading this could add more insight. If that’s you, please feel free to share!

Oprah, Oprah, where are thou?

Man, I love my friends, family, and readers. They are very supportive. Since I’m like every other author out there, struggling to build awareness, they think Oprah is the answer to all of my problems.

They feel I’m just one phone call away from stardom. One phone call from Oprah to highlight my book before I start signing movie deals and counting huge amounts of cash. When I tell them that there are a million books published each year, and other authors hear the same things, they pooh-pooh my realism and tell me to think positively.

But Oprah still hasn’t called yet. No invite to her show. No multimillion dollar contract. She hasn’t magically sensed my novel on the market and felt a strong compulsion to fulfill my dreams of fame and fortune. What’s her problem?

My friends and readers say “Send your book to her! She’ll read it. You never know!”

I try not to chuckle when I hear that. Oprah must have warehouses full of unrequested books that people throw her way. Besides, I’ve never known her to highlight my genre, which is murder mystery. If I’m putting all my hopes into a magical discovery that happens all of a sudden, I’ll probably be disappointed.

We live in a culture that highlights those who reach the pinnacle of success or luck. From the Powerball lottery winners to the young woman who wins American Idol, we’re inundated with these stories. Yet, they are just one in a million. Maybe one in several hundred million. However, people see these folks and believe that anyone can do it, too.

What we don’t see are the people who work hard and keep striving despite seeing any visible signs of progress. We don’t see the little things they have to stick to, day in and day out, to reach their goals. So we get lulled into that belief that we can get those miracle finishes without much difficulty.

Promoting a book certainly falls in the ‘difficult’ category, especially when I don’t have $3,000 a month to spend on promotion. Yes, several PR companies specializing in book promotion quoted a price of over three grand per month to promote my book. Maybe if I had that kind of money, I wouldn’t need to worry about promoting my book to increase sales. So when my optimistic friends and readers tell me to call Oprah, I smile, say ‘sure!’, and keep it moving. Like most authors out there, I have to do this the hard way.

That’s not to say I won’t break Olympic records running to my phone if Oprah’s name pops up on my caller ID. I just won’t expect it to be that easy. I need to keep things simple and start with easier tasks before I get that invite to Chicago. Like writing five or six bestsellers first. Easy enough, right?

Then I won’t have to worry about Oprah and get upset because she hasn’t called me yet…

(yes, borrowed from Dave Chappelle and Comedy Central)

We build them up, We tear them down

Social media is great. It gives a voice to millions who otherwise wouldn’t be heard. Unfortunately, it also gives a voice to mean, angry, and hypocritical people. And when they get going, the nastiness spreads like wildfire, usually for things that really aren’t that serious.

We adulate and hate our celebrities at the same time. We indulge in hero worship but God forbid they make a mistake or do something that reminds us they are human. Then we turn on them in a rabid fury.

The NFC Championship between the Seahawks and 49ers is a perfect example. Cornerback Richard Sherman, a Stanford graduate and intelligent guy, went Clubber Lang on Michael Crabtree. Sherman was so hyped in a postgame interview, he virtually unloaded on Crabtree, probably spraying some spittle on Erin Andrews, who didn’t know what the hell to do after that.

His outburst was uncalled for and unprofessional. Everyone saw that. But what got me is the reaction to it. People vilified him and called him a thug. On cue, racist trolls infested social media like roaches, pouncing on the opportunity to call someone the n-word behind the safety of anonymous screens. I presume it made them feel better about themselves for some reason, but their hypocrisy was hilarious. They were so upset because a mere football player, who does nothing to put food on their table or pay their mortgage, yelled and talked trash to an opponent? And the only way they could express themselves was to hurl nasty remarks and threats at a guy they accused of having no class or tact?  Clearly, self-reflection is in short supply these days.

Besides, isn’t that raw fire what NFL fans ask from the players, anyway? No one likes it when an athlete or coach like Bill Belichick talks to the media in boring sound bites and clichés. “Give us more,” people say. “We want to hear the raw stuff!” People love the ‘mic’d’ up segments, where we hear the trash talk from players. But when Richard Sherman fired off at the end of the game, while still overloaded on adrenaline, people ripped him. They got what they wanted and couldn’t handle it.

The media knows what it is doing. They seek these guys right after the game to get their raw emotions. And Sherman is already known as a fiery guy who talks trash. They knew they were going to get something juicy from him. They got what they wanted.

He definitely needed a timeout before he got within a mile of a microphone, and clearly, his display was unnecessary. Hell, his team had won. But he also did not bash the fans, the viewers, nor did he fill our living room with a stream of profanity. It was pretty tame, as far as outbursts go. And does anyone remember a guy named Muhammad Ali?  The Greatest is revered by everyone. But he ran his mouth just as much and said FAR WORSE in his prime. He made Joe Frazier’s life hell with a slew of nasty racial insults. Frazier hated him for years and only forgave him decades later.

I have a feeling Crabtree will get over this well before a few decades passes.

And I hope others can get over themselves and their indignation well before that.

Because it just isn’t that serious.

What do you think?