Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Clearing a path from Palo Seco to Toronto




Ray and Eve got married, bought a Volkswagon van and moved to their version of heaven near a the rural town of Palo Seco.

Home for my brothers and I is a clearing in the rain forest just enough for five family dwellings.

At the south entrance of the private Siparia Trinidad Oilfield Ltd. (STOL),  the Texaco staff camp is a mile or two through a narrow road in the deep south west on the island of Trinidad in the Caribbean.

There are no friends to play with. We ride tricycles, chase iguanas. I draw and paint, then draw some more.

Palo Seco Junior Public School is an "L' shaped schoolhouse with moveable wall dividers for classrooms, classmates without shoes and a truck that brings milk and cookies mid morning for selected children. This is the no-breakfast club.
Wilhelmina Waldrop is the girl everyone looks up to at school.

My parents work at the Texaco Oil Company. My grandfather ran the geological drafting office.

As a teenager, my mother begged and pleaded her way out of sewing and homemaking chores to a job as the first female in the field.
She marched during the Tubal Uriah "Buzz" Butler years to campaign for (OWTU) and the labour movement.

At home, there is always a drafting table, a LEROY lettering rule, a pot of jet black indian ink and Staedler colouring pencils. These early years are filled with drawing, colouring, daydreaming, creating stories. cutting out endless paper dolls with complete paper clothing collections that have little flaps to hook onto each doll.

On weekends, the family Volkswagen van is transformed into a roadie truck for my father's band. We make our way down to the beach at Los Iros with cheese paste sandwiches and hot tea.

The Peter Vin Courtney Orchestra is playing at the beachfront club, under a thatched-roof. A smooth concrete dance floor separates the two orchestras on either side.

My brother and I will eventually fall asleep in the backseat with the sound of calypso, Hugo Blanco and the Tijuana Brass.

I grew up thinking a Soucouyant may appear any day on my walk home from school and Santa Claus lived just up the hill from my house.
Years later I discover an abandoned guardhouse and checkpoint.

The road to self-discovery was more about what I didn't want to do with my life.
A young woman could find some level of respectability working as a bank clerk or with the airlines but the thought of spending my adult life in any kind of uniform was a definite tipping point for exploration beyond.

I spend every school day at St. Joseph's Convent in a school uniform. I did not want to spend my adult life at a place where women HAD to dress a certain way.

Television is an exciting graphic exploration with The Electric Company, The Brady Bunch, The Partridge Family and the Mod Squad.
I could think of no better job than to be a designer at Sesame Street

In High School, with an active imagination, powerful ambition, graphic design tools mastered, the encouragement of my art teacher, Sylvestina Gonzales and hours spent over College manuals at the local foreign embassies, it was time for this Oil Baby to pursue a life beyond the beach.