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This Lil Vincy Went to Town – part 1 of 3



THIS ARTICLE is the third in a series that highlights peculiarities of the Vincentian culture. The first, “ Tek Yo mouth off Vincy Conductors”, conveys the experience of riding a minivan in SVG under the guardianship of local bus conductors. The second, “ The Spirit of Vincy Funerals”, depicts myriad stages of a stereotypical Vincentian funeral. In a more complex undertaking, this article portrays the experience of being in the capital, Kingstown, through confabulated conjures of my mind. It targets intellectuals that don’t mind having a giggle at our hilarities. The article may appear uncouth and distasteful in some instances, but nonetheless, is well intentioned. I trust that readers would be lightened enough to enjoy my foolishness. Without further ado, let us proceed.

Kingstown is known as the city of arches. It would be remiss of us if we don’t add stalls, tables and cart men to its categorization.

Names such as Hillsboro, Egmont, Granby and others that you will struggle to find in the phonebook are clearly demarcated on any map of the capital. We remember them well during our drivers’ tests, too. Who, though, are these people? That is a conundrum for which you may have to wake up one of the historians to unravel.

Consequently, Vincies are genetically hardwired to ignore street names. Vincies mark locations by landmarks, usually buildings.

Common land marks include Catholic Church, Old KFC, Market, Jax, Singer, Post Office, Ju-C, Complex, Tokyo and Gibsons. Now and again you would hear older Vincies say something like “next to Traders”. This is not because we didn’t get the name change memo, it’s just that we like to stay within our comfort zone.

When you hear a Vincy talk about Traders, Low Budget, Chippy Browne and Mc Connie Yammie, you know you have to show care to these folks. Some have been around since the Rock of Gibraltar was a breastfeeding pebble.

In spite of these predispositions, we easily adapt when we travel. In New York, we know Time Square, Columbus Circle or whatever shape the street comes in; East ninety this and East ninety that. In Toronto we know Jane, Keele, Finch, Mc Cowan, Eglinton and the rest of the posse. We can’t get lost in London either; we know St. Pancreas and all the other saints in the abdomen. We can even tell you about Rue de la Paix in Timbuktu. Notwithstanding, please don’t mention local street names to us.

That is when the senior moments kick in. To gain a greater perspective of our wonder city, let us take a journey as we meander these course ways as the rivers of Babylon. Take a deep breath as a plethora of architecture, history and bubbling characters beckons us to a higher level of consciousness.

First, we may need some cash to splash. Let’s go into the bank or a credit union to get some.

Financial institutions also play their part in augmenting the ‘in-town’ experience. It is always a pleasure visiting these institutions. I heard a fella say once that he sneezes before he goes into a bank, because they like to charge for everything. As ridiculously farfetched as it sounds, I find myself being mindful of every transaction/ transgression. Somehow, these two words seem to equate to the same thing, as financial statements may suggest. Deductions galore.

As the song says, “farther along we’ll know all about it.”

The real beauty of the banking experience come with the folks that we encounter in the queue.

Vincies love to stand in bank queues. We are fully aware of ATM and online banking services, but often opt for the worthwhile alternative of standing in the line. There, all sorts of characters can be found.

On a lucky day, you may find a sailor that came back with a Jamaican accent.

How about a person that, in all semblances of clarity, lustily yanks about foreign?

A few months later you may realize that the paper they came home to fix up never got sorted. In your kindness, you may want to take them to a nearby stationery and point them to the paper section.

In a contest of projecting relevance, there always seems to be someone in the line conveying their self-perceived status in society. These estimates often appear in stark contrast to the pervading reality. For instance, you may encounter an ideological show piece, babbling incessantly to himself, as ears are tuned elsewhere. Meanwhile, he or she glibly feigns intellectual excellence and adroitly inflate their national essentiality. Investigations, though, may reveal that their greatest contribution can be likened to disruptive flatulence on a public transport.

Alas! We have retrieved our cash. It’s time to head on the street. The type of characters that you encounter in Kingstown are replicated nowhere else on the planet. We have cartmen that would drive their contraptions along a one-way street, occupying a lane, while moving in the opposite direction. “Elo, tiko yo damage me cart!” or “watch wey y’ah go!” are common warnings to legitimate road users. For the sake of peace, as right-thinking persons, we have all come to accept that cartmen are always right. After all, one would not want to chance a litany of mother this and father that.

Stationary and Mobile Vendors

Similarly, vendors are ubiquitous throughout Kingstown, often in contumacious disregard to the silver fox and its kung fu. Sidewalks are crowded with merchants, defying this self-explanatory term, as your stroll can more fittingly be described as a detour through a flea market. Nonetheless, as Granny would always say, “Live and let your brother live.”

Foot vendors can also be found in town. Coming towards us in nicely framed glasses, neat dreadlocks, fitted shorts revealing long slender legs is a brother with bags of tomatoes in his hands. He has the look of a professor from Albion that came to our shores in subterfuge to escape the horrors of marking examination scripts. Perhaps he got bored and decided to sell tomatoes to us plebs.

Then again, maybe not.

“Eat dem while dey cheap”, says he, as he cautions consumers of impending inflation in the tomato market. This, however, seems to be a daily beckoning. Nonetheless, just in case tomato prices do escalate, we cannot say that the brother didn’t warn us.

I also admire foot vendors such as Jason who zips through crevices, moving from office to office and cubicle to cubicle with his box, containing, usually, grapes and bananas. With a pleasant grin, a tender voice, a mouth barely moving, similar to a ventriloquist, and in a Trinidadian accent, he mutters, “Potassium.. Vitamin C.. Seedless”. Vendors such as these add to the vivacity of our central business district.

“Ged your coconud wader” says another as he lures prospective buyers to his cooling apparatus. Surely, he has to be a candidate for national hero. With more dix that the Dixie Chicks, he overhauls the Queen’s restrictive English, enough to make the grammar policeman pull out his hair and retire, of course, only after draping himself with sackcloth and ashes.

Part 2 next week