Paul Keens Douglas, the Caribbean humorist, insists that Curepe Junction on the Eastern Main Road and the Old Southern Main Road in Trinidad is the busiest junction in Trinidad and such is the constant confusion that characterizes the traffic “even plane ‘fraid to fly over Curepe Junction.”
At this juncture in Paul’s popular and extremely funny monologue, I am always tempted to nominate my Caribbean candidate for the honour of scariest junction in the entire Caribbean. From my first visit to Jamaica in 1981 until my most recent less than a year ago, Half-Way Tree Junction is my equivalent of Halloween. Pedestrians don’t have a ghost of a chance and it is always more trick than treat.
The drivers, especially the “robot” taxis or mini-buses are so tense and stressed out that Half-Way Tree is not so much a junction as a “cross-road”. I understand now why the Norman Manley airport is at Palisadoes. This way flights come in from the coast and avoid Kingston altogether. As one taxi-driver caught in the melee and maelstrom of Half-Way Tree said to me half-jokingly, “They call it ‘Alf Way Tree but there is no tree and if it is ‘Alf Way to anything it is ‘Ell.”
I should have thought it significant that even though the Vere Bird International Airport is very close to where I live in Antigua, I have never seen any plane overhead. This should have warned me. Strangely, it is only when I returned home for a few days earlier this week that it dawned on me the morning of my first day back. As soon as I opened the window I knew why.
The grass had grown several feet since I cut it on my last visit home just over three weeks ago. The LIAT planes, I am sure, are afraid of their propellers getting caught in the tendrils of the terrifying monsters that have colonized my yard and the jets that pass through are scared of going boeing boeing if they come too close.
What I know is that one look is either enough to terrify all those itinerant grass-cutters who pass-by. In this sense Curepe Junction “is joke”. Half-Way Tree is child’s play to manoeuvre. My yard is the graveyard of broken lawn mower blades and weed-whacker heads. Great physicists like Albert Einstein and Michio Kaku would tell you that the one place in the world where string theory does not apply is in my yard.
It is littered with bits of nylon string from the many whackers which have died in the valiant cause. I believe that whackers are temperamental. Mowers are more sedate, more settled in their ways. The more highly-strung a whacker is, the more likely it is to give up in sheer frustration in my yard. Every tuft of grass seems to want its own souvenir and each flaunts its trophies shamelessly so that blue, red, violet, purple, green and yellow bits of nylon are everywhere.
In the case of grass, being a cut above the rest is definitely not a plus. It is a cause for sadness and can make you downcast and for-lawn. I can remember in my innocent youth when “grass” was a synonym for hair and when my lustrous black locks, heavily brylcreemed and vaselined, were cause for boasting. “Good grass,” I would smile triumphantly running my hands through it greasily.
Ten years later uttering the words “Good grass” would have been as disastrous as seeing the Trinidad Minister of National Security, Jack Warner, at the airport, going up to him and calling him by his first name. “Hi Jack” would have the police out in droves. Now that my hair is dropping off faster than a robot-taxi disgorges its passengers, I keep asking why the Almighty decided on male pattern baldness for me but did not think of extending it to lawns and yards.
On the other hand given the rapidity of growth of the grass in my yard, I speculate that there is some kind of herbal equivalent of Rogaine in the soil that I might be able to duplicate and market. In any case, the only good grass is a cut grass and my yard needs a good cut grass.
All this idle speculation is just my way, well known to my wife, of putting off the inevitable. I have tried diesel and have learnt that there is no fuel like an old fuel. The grass camouflage themselves briefly in a dried brown veneer and then a few weeks later when my back is turned they change back to their regimental green sprouting a few extra epaulettes in the process – some kind of decoration I assume for bravery under the assault of chemical weapons.
I have tried gasoline and like diesel, the soil and the water table suffer but the grass grows on. Recently I was advised to use a weedicide called “Round Up” which seems to have got all the grass together in some kind of union so that instead of decreasing they have increased like the tribes of Israel or Abou Ben Adhem.
My last weed whacker, a Homelite, died valiantly in the field of battle and is awaiting interment with full military honours. The last valiant weed-man fled and no longer answers his phone. Another person passed a few days ago in response to a summons by the plumber who occasionally graces us with his august presence but one look at the yard prompted a message that we should call and discuss the cost with him. That means money “like bush” as Trinis say or like grass in Antigua.
I believe that a perfect day for me in Antigua is one when the sun is shining, the birds are singing and the lawn mower is broken. That way I can head for one of the (at least) 365 beaches of which Antiguans boast. Unfortunately, my wife keeps a close eye on me and wherever I am she homes in like one of those US drones in Pakistan. She knows that the mower and I have two things in common. We are difficult to get started and we only work half the time.
*Tony Deyal was last seen saying he needs some Hawaiian Hula dancers – they could put some grass on one hip and some more grass on the other hip and rotate his crops.
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