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Grenada. The One from the Reagan Years.

22 Apr

So this was my first entry on Write Around the World. I was on assignment for Skywritings, the former Air Jamaica’s in-flight magazine. Funny enough, this trip coincided with my leap of faith into a freelance writing career. I knew my job would never give me the two weeks off to take this imperative spa trip to Grenada (I mean, God forbid, passengers go without the latest Caribbean spa information), so in a move that had been coming anyway, I quit, gorged on gnocchi and fried snapper and chocolate on a tour around this sleepy Caribbean neighbour.
Ironically, my connection to Grenada is multi-faceted in a weird six degrees of separation kind-of-way. My father was part of the legal team that spent almost two years in Grenada representing the defendants in the Maurice Bishop murder trial. If you know your history, this led to a little blip in history called the Grenada Invasion. That break early in his legal career pretty much shaped my life. And St. Georges, the capital, and pretty much the entire island, looks just like Port Antonio, the town my family lived in when I was born. Visiting that place right after making such a huge spiritual and professional leap felt like a rebirth. I can’t imagine it had anything to do with how much fun I had.

The Itinerary:
La Luna – The “island haven” rooms, with their open showers, four-poster canopy beds and panorama vistas, the ensconced turquoise cove, plunge pools in each room, Giovanni Ribisi’s doppelgänger Chef Daniele, whose entrees make you want to lick your plate top to bottom, the bright blue and orange motif, the lush landscape, the on-site herb garden, the Balinese spa with matching masseuses…this is a hotel designed for sexy sex and hedonism. When you’re not in your room imitating bunnies, every sense has something to savour.

The trip involved a stay at the now closed La Source (sister to St. Lucia’s Le Sport), which was an experimentation in an adventure vacay. Archery, kayaking, yoga, snorkeling, javelin throwing, these were all on the table. La Source knew how to help you work off their all-inclusive calories. But alas, they closed, so if you’re heading to the Spice Isle, La Luna is the only hotel I recommend. It was the ultimate high before my crash back to my I’m-going-to-be-poor-for-a-while reality.

But I digress. On to the photographic evidence of the bliss that is possible.

 The horizon pool and La Luna restaurant by dusk (but really all I see is Daniele’s risotto).
Conch shell on La Luna beach.
Tanning options by the La Luna yoga pavilion. Ommmmmmmmmm……….
Oh, the deck at Mount Cinnamon. We passed through one day for lunch.
Yummy, fruit punch, courtesy of La Luna. Below, a handful of nutmeg and a lady in waiting. Hopefully not in vain. Actually, I was sitting in a restaurant across the street and she stood there the whole time. Not sure if she was actually waiting, or just hanging out, catching up on gossip. It’s a small town. That could be what she was up to. And continuing, the luminous bar of La Source, for nighttime drinks, a waterfall whose name I forget right now, and quaint St Georges. Good times.




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Like I said, a fitting high.

Till later…
-K

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Protest – by Air…and Hu Bing

1 May

After a day that started out very rainy and pajama-worthy, it seems Mother Nature decided to shed her dreary grey coat and welcome the NYC May Day protesters with sunshine and 60 degrees. Don’t quote me, but they marched from Bryant Park down fifth avenue to Union Square, with musicians leading, chanting “We are the 99 percent”, all as a part of worldwide marches in a call for better wages and more jobs, but don’t take my word for it. It was pretty hard to ignore the 1,000 to 3,000 marchers singing, shouting, banging and strumming their way through the flatiron area in an awesome – in the true sense of the word – display of anti-government sentiment. I have to say, there was a spry, feel-good vibe to the march (even from all the way up there), and yet there were arrests and the usual tyranny from the bullies-cum-police officers, but like I said, don’t quote me. I can only hope that the weather, and the change in tone are a sign that the protests, and their outcome, are taking an upward turn. But once again, I, like Fox News, should not be quoted.

And in Less Police-Brutality-Evoking Flatiron News

As a part of an art series in the Flatiron building, artist Hu Bing currently has a display up, “Shattered Debris Sheer Transformation”, with reimagined broken bottles and windshields draped and smashed, melted and remolded, and subsequently suspended in panty-hose .

As a fan of Dalí, I had to take in this exhibit. Bing has managed to mold glass to move like Dalí’s melting clocks. The best part is, the display is in the very tip of the Flatiron, ground floor on the street for all to see. All you have to do is walk by.

 
Shattered Debris
Sheer Transformation
by Hu Bing
Closes June 2nd
 

Go. Protest. Create.

-KH

Long Live the (Mc)Queen

11 Feb

“Beauty can come from the strangest of places, even the most disgusting places.”— Alexander McQueen

It’s February 11th, the 2-year anniversary of the death of Alexander ‘Lee’ McQueen. I was fortunate enough to be in New York at the time of his Savage Beauty exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the above is the only remnant of the pictures I tried to sneak, and has been the background pic on my phone ever since). I’ve never had the fortune to see an Alexander McQueen show, but I can only imagine how marvelous and visceral it must be. McQueen has said that he didn’t care if people liked his work, he just wanted them to leave his shows feeling something. I couldn’t leave the Savage Beauty exhibit not feeling something. As someone also in the arts (the creative writing grad programme at Hunter College), I do understand something about the process of inspiration and the subsequent translation of that inspiration into creation. It is arguable that no one, in fashion at least, did it better than McQueen.

Like all artists, he started with the autobiographical, the place that birthed him (Scotland) — but not so singularly that he forgot the place that raised him (England) — and then branched out into timeless muses: nature, other art (namely Literature), the cultures of the world, particularly their national dress. Yet, McQueen dove to dark depths with each collection and story, making clothes that told macabre tales of opposites, light and dark, tyrant and subject, destruction and redemption, the marginalized and the mainstream. That dark romanticism permeated all of the work produced in his epic 19-year career, and the exhibit at the Met was a journey through a fiercely driven and constantly-constructing creative mind. McQueen was an unyielding promoter of freedom of expression, and throughout the whole exhibit, there seemed to be a consistently underlying theme of struggle against the confines of what fashion can be.

Accessories like armour and bondage, rigid corsets, horns protruding from jackets, and who could ever forget the incredible “armadillo boots”; it’s as if McQueen was equipping his designs with the weaponry to fight against any attack. It should come as no surprise that he was inspired by Darwin, and the final collection in the exhibit, pieces from Plato’s Atlantis (spring/summer 2010), drew directly from On the Origin of the Species. It reflected McQueen’s thoughts on nature’s devolution with the prospect of the melting ice caps. It was a reptilian cornucopia, with scales (and who else but McQueen could channel that into armadillo boots!), kaleidoscopic prints, metallic textures, all while remaining true to the romantic ideal of the Sublime. After all, when you get swept up in a rushing hundreds-of-feet-high wave of hypothermic ice-cap water, I have to imagine that a certain calm will come over you as you are crushed in a muted death. But hey, that’s just me.

By the time the exhibit closed on August 7th, it was the most visited in the Met’s history. I waited in line for 2 hours, and of course it hurt my heart to have to spend that much time listening to some jock-infested family from the Midwest, or somewhere, with two 20-something boys, the father and the mother, with the latter being the only one who wanted to see the exhibit, though she didn’t know why. Assuredly, the men were going on about the wait and the only thing the mother could say was, “Everyone says it’s something to see.” And worse, they were in front of me! But I guess, if some knuckleheads can see such beauty and imagination and leave with more inspiration and knowledge than they had before, then I can let that one slide.

I’ll leave you with a quote by McQueen: “I think there is beauty in everything. What ‘normal’ people would perceive as ugly, I can usually see something of beauty in it.” I’m grateful he had that ability, as he gave the world a pure outpouring of all that he was, and it was truly beautiful.

To Beauty,

-KH

P.S. Check out a review of a Fall 2011 Alexander McQueen show from Paris Fashion Week that I did for Fashion Pulse Daily.

There’s a Fly in the Ointment

16 Jan

Reuben Santiago-Hudson (Joseph LeVay) and Tracie Thoms (Taylor)

Shortly after Christmas, I had the fortune to see Lydia R. Diamond’s Stick Fly, currently running at the Cort Theatre on West 48th St. The play centers around a vacation sojourn to the LeVay summer home on Martha’s Vineyard. Ruben Santiago-Hudson plays the LeVay patriarch, father to Kent/”Spoon” (Dulé Hill), and Flip (Mekhi Phifer), all strong personalities that are tested and revealed when thrown together with equally opinionated and feisty fiancés and girlfriends—Tracie Thoms (Taylor) and Rosie Benton (Kimber). The brood have gathered for the usual escape from the city, and all should go well except for a few twists: Cheryl (Condola Rashad), the housekeeper’s daughter, is filling in to attend to the family’s every whim, and  Mrs. LeVay is nowhere to be found. Furthermore, the arrival of newcomers should be no biggie, after all the LeVays are civilized middle class African-Americans who are used to socializing with a plethora of demographics.

The play, in a nutshell, accomplishes what Tyler Perry has been trying to do since the onset of his career and at which he has consistently failed. Now this may seem like an insult, considering that nature of Tyler Perry productions and the obvious assessment that a successful version of one may still not be much of anything at all. However, where Tyler Perry fails—lack of plausibility, a consistently obvious minstrel figure (or two), unrealistic dialogue/plot arc/action, an almost obsessive play on black stereotypes…should I go on?—Diamond echews and triumphs. Yes, some archetypes rear their heads: the angry black woman, the sassy ghetto-tongued teen—and that is not to say that these archetypes debase the art in which they appear—but they have to be done realistically, and with temperance, as in the case with Stick Fly. That will then serve as the gateway for humour and humanity.

The stage design was especially nifty in presenting the multifaceted nature of the interaction between the occupants of the house, with an almost split stage that allowed for simultaneous scenes between different character groups. It heightened the difference between the action behind the closed doors of the kitchen (not ironically Cheryl’s domain and primary base), and the wide expanse of the opulent living room. The patio, off the kitchen, served as a virtual Switzerland, a neutral zone where tension could be reconciled and the anger volumes could get turned down a bit.

The cast (L-R):- Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Condola Rashad (the show stealer for me personally), Mekhi Phifer, Rosie Burton, Tracie Thoms, and Dulé Hill

Diamond, like a Zora Neale Hurston or a Toni Morrison, hits the nail on the head of race relations, recognizing that they are not as extreme as Tyler Perry likes to imply, and they are also not as black and white (pun not intended) as the world would like to think. Black women are not divided into frigid rockets scientists, victims and big mammas, and black men are not just successful ballers (an upgrade from the pimp no less), UPS delivery men and jive-talking criminals. They are sometimes self-loathing (Taylor), creative (Kent/”Spoon”), intelligent on a number of levels (Joseph LeVay), have surprising and extensive interests and tastes (Flip/Cheryl), and don’t actually want to wallow in the burdensome sty of slavery’s legacy but sometimes just can’t help it (the entire cast, even Kimber).

Condola Rashad, as Cheryl

Light-skinned blacks vs dark-skinned blacks, middle vs working class, white-on-black charity vs black-on-black charity, single-mother parenting, affirmative action, dipping the pen in the family ink…Diamond covers all of it and more with grace, considerable humour, and just the right amount of pathos. To steal a concept from the 2006 film The Prestige, Diamond employs the three parts of a magic trick in the telling of the Stick Fly story. There’s “The Pledge”, the middle class black family with the domineering father, two Cane-and-Abel-esque figures for sons, one with a brainy, over-eager fiancé, and the other with a cool cucumber WASP who can give it as good as she gets it, and the second generation housekeeper with bigger plans. Classic Americana. In the second act, Diamond does “The Turn”, secrets are exposed, the white thread stitching together the black curtain is revealed (again, pun not intended), and things are not as cut and dry as they seemed in the beginning (again, Classic Americana). Diamond’s “Prestige” is that there is no resolution at the end, much like actual race relations. The parties involved just have to agree to disagree and recognize that the other isn’t going to budge, that rationale and principle as it relates to race are often never grounded in logic, but in buried shame, tradition, and revenge. Add to that a simple yet haunting original score by Alicia Keys, and Stick Fly is just about as good as Broadway gets: a real handling of real issues, uplifted by authentic comedy and a quiet genius.

Stick Fly

(Through to April 8, 2012)

CORT THEATER
138 West 48th Street
Between 6th and 7th Avenues

RUNNING TIME
2 hours and 15 minutes, including one intermission

NY metro area (212) 239-6200
Everywhere else (800) 432-7250

http://stickflybroadway.com/tickets

Happy Race Relating,

-K

They’re Walking on Wall Street

13 Oct

It didn’t even occur to me to venture down to Wall Street and catch the protesters in action, since I am in the pickle of it all and such. But after a long-anticipated sojourn to the Immigrant Museum on Ellis Island, I chose to stroll in the crisp winds from Battery Park in search of my favourite capitalist success, Starbucks. I thought it was very apropos then that I should hear, from my capitalist enclave, the sounds of protestors “taking back America”.

I caught a little video….

I didn’t stick around to see how it unfolded, but a news crew was on site, and lotsa cops…so something’s happening, and someone is being taken seriously. Go protesters!

Enjoy…

Happy Occupying Wall Street,

KH

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