Monday, July 26, 2010

Veni Mange, Bars in Trinidad and Carnival

They reckon they like a good knees up in Brazil. A Carnival there too apparently, lots of dancing, loud music, dressing up in even louder outfits, that sort of thing. Been there, done that you might say.........and then you come to Trinidad......... and realise those samba groovy South Americans are only playing at having fun. Assuredly, no nation on earth likes to party more than the Trinidadian, “Trinis” to one and all.

An old journalist pal, a carouser, wit and night owl of international repute, now sadly departed, was embraced by strangers like a long lost friend when first encountering hospitality Port of Spain style. “I feel at home here”, he mused within the hour, and shortly afterwards I watched in awe as he brought the house down with an impromptu dance routine during an incendiary, full-on soca night where only foolhardy foreigners dared to tread. Oh yes, “Crash” Lander was a true Trinny in truth.

Any well laid plan for a night out with a Trinidadian is only ever a starter for ten though.....or a dozen..... or a score of other options. Just as you think everything’s fixed and you know what you’re doing, where and when, you’re propelled into a tangential scenario... with a totally different time frame. Zany, capricious and prone to flights of fancy, the Trinny reveller is dangerous to know and hard to categorise. The basic rule is then.... plan nothing. Go with the flow, and watch your step.

The city has spectacular mega clubs like Zen and 51 degrees with dress codes, VIP rope offs and all the trappings but the street culture is just as entertaining... and costs far less. For years, the myriad bars of the Western Main Road in St.James were the favoured haunts, culminating in raucous bonhomie at Smokey & Bunty’s bar around 4am, but now the scene has changed and the Avenue is the hipster’s boulevard of choice. Ariapita Avenue to be exact, home to Rosemary and Allyson’s legendary bar and eaterie, Veni Mange, and newcomers on the block like Coco’s, More Vino, Shakers and lots more.

A fortnight back, I was sat minding my own business, supping a Carib in this neck of the woods when I witnessed something you might only glimpse in Harlem or the Bronx, and possibly not even there nowadays---an extraordinary half hour demonstration of pavement gymnastics by a group of young blokes, who were not really showing off, and definitely weren’t drunk, as though engaged in some wildly exuberant private competition. Olympic coaches would have been proud, patrons in adjacent bars put aside their drinks and gazed in admiration, mesmerised. As did I. It was that good. Not even Lander could have pulled off some of those moves.

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