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#40: Good times at the Caribbean Plaza in NY city
From: Guy Antoine <GuyAntoine@windowsonhaiti.com>
This is just a Corbett network-oriented social note that I think others
in Corbettland living in or visiting the New York area may benefit from.
First, as you know, there's NCHR's TGIT that always attracts a good
crowd from various reports, but I have unfortunately not been able to
attend yet. But there's always next Thursday, isn't that right, Johnny?
Last night, though, I responded to Jean Jean-Pierre's invitation (that
was sent to all of Corbettland earlier) to the Caribbean Plaza. You
may also have seen the invitation to all the visitors of Windows on
Haiti, from our "Happenings" Calendar. The Plaza is a recent
venture, and a rather unique concept. Jean is one of the investors,
and no doubt could present it much better than I, but here were my
The outside look of the Caribbean Plaza is tactful and quite under-
stated in comparison to the richness to be found once you venture
inside. Since the enclosure is part of a mall, the parking is well lit
and plentiful. Inside is small commerce and cultural Haiti, well, an
extrapolation of it, not unlike the experience you get when
"visiting countries" at Disney's Epcot Center. There you will find
nicely decorated boutiques, a hair braiding place, a Haitian Music
CD counter, where the price for all CD's was attractively set at
$11.99 each, with quite a good variety, and in addition to various
souvenirs with a Haiti motif to decorate your home or present as
gifts. Then you'll find a generous food counter, with typical Haitian
meals, fully prepared, and advertised all around the temptation to
quench your thirst with Korosol, the sweet juice from the distinctly
flavored "green on the outside, white on the inside" fruit of Haiti,
which is also called soursop in other Caribbean quarters ( I never
understood the use of the word sour to describe that tropical fruit ).
I looked for "ji grenadin", my favorite of all juices, but I don't know
if they offer that. I looked through the glass to observe the last
room, from all appearances a well-equipped Haitian grocery
store, but I could not enter of course due to the late hour. A good
thing too, since I was then called to my table, the entertainment
was about to start.
And entertaining it was indeed! To start with, I introduced myself
to the fellow sitting at the table next to mine, apologizing for perhaps
blocking his view. "Nan pwen pwoblèm", he said. He seemed
startled to hear my name. It turns out that this was Steven White,
who previously collaborated with me on the Photo section of
Windows on Haiti, but like so many electronic exchanges, there
never was an expectation that we would get to meet some day.
And there we were finally, sitting inches from each other. Steven
had generously sent me those pictures of Haitian djondjon, a Mapou
Tree, and that of a nice looking bird of Haiti I had never seen before,
certainly not in the woods of Dondon and Saint-Raphael, the Krabye
Minwit. This bird is now on "my most wanted list of birds" to observe
(take note, Corbett). You may remember as well the photo of a lady
in the uniquely fascinating act of "vannen pitimi". Well, that was
Steven's congenial wife also seated at the table.
It's a small world, isn't it? I conversed in Kreyol with Steven most
of the time (his Kreyol was quite good), and I found out a couple
of interesting things about him: that for a few years, he was Jean
Jean-Pierre's partner in a radio bilingual program, where Jean
did the English and Steve the Kreyol parts (well, perhaps, my leg
was being pulled here, but it sounded quite plausible), and that
Steve is a drummer hobbyist, who actually worked several years
with La Troupe Mackandal, and toured Haiti with it at one point.
Back to the entertainment. On stage was the incomparable
Boukman Eksperyans, and for those who have had the privilege
of seeing them perform before, you know all about the energy
that this leading rasin group can deliver. And if you haven't, my
words could not do it justice. Suffice to say that the pulsating
cadence was so contagious that the normally studious looking
director of NCHR, Johnny McCalla, was out there shaking his
"rather young" bones. Or was he simply trying to keep up with
his wife Gigi? Hard to say, but Gigi definitely outlasted him.
The entire floor was of course drawn into the act, after a rousing
impromptu by a young Haitian lady from the audience. The loa
never had it so good, and the Public Broadcasting System
should present a show of what Haitian women can do with their
bodies at the urgency of furious Haitian drumming rhythms.
Though it's perhaps not exclusively Haitian... I was reminded of
Caroline Anris's Challenges in the Dark, from the Life section
of Windows on Haiti, the most cinematic piece on Haitian-style
bodyrhythm dancing I have had the fortune to read anywhere.
Well, there it was LIVE, yet far away from Haiti's true Kanaval
or Rara sessions. I'll take it, anywhere, any time.
Our waitress then practically pulled my wife and me to the floor,
where everything was jumping. Well, being a man always
aware of my limitations, I quickly exited to Johnny's table, where
he must have been catching his breath. He greeted me with:
"Ha! that's where you come hang out instead of TGIT!" Well,
there's always next Thursday, Johnny! I hear that Ms. Higbie
will be demonstrating the art of making "Liqueur 44", and that's
44 good reasons to be there next Thursday. I quickly calculated
that the the 44th day of required fermentation prior to consumption
will occur on a Saturday. So naturally, Johnny will be obligated
to host a special "Thank God It's Saturday", 44 days hence.
Well, it was time to go but not before purchasing a Boukman
Eksperyans CD, and promising Jean Jean-Pierre to come by
the Caribbean Plaza again. My wife and I had a good time, and
I invite other Corbettists to stop by and join in the fun. It's a
venture well worth supporting, and its entertainment schedule
should be up on Windows on Haiti fairly soon. And who knows?
I would love having the pleasure of bumping into you.
Good luck and great success, Jean, with your new venture!