Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A J'ouvert Story

As I'm writing this, J'ouvert (pronounced J'ou-vay) warm-up is in progress in St. Thomas. J'ouvert, a pre-dawn dance through the streets of Charlotte Amalie will begin at 4:00 am and run approximately 5-6 hours.

There is something enchanting about thousands of people pouring into the dark, early morning streets waiting for the first flatbed truck loaded with bands, and humongous speakers to weave into view.

As the trucks roll slowly by, booming some of the best road march music imaginable, fans fall in behind and in front of the one carrying their favorite band, and begin their tramp (dance). The sun rises on thousands of people jamming with abandon to pounding Calypso music. Although it can get a little risque, it is fantastic fun.

Bands play at various locations around the island leading up to J'ouvert. The partying can actually last for a couple of days straight.

My first carnival, I was working on a pretty demanding job, but still trying to make ALL the canival events. Well, I was invited to J'ouvert by someone I had just begun dating. I was really excited because this was someone I really liked a lot, plus I was looking forward to this new carnival experience that I had heard so much about.

The day of J'ouvert, I was pretty tired, so I left work early, called my date and explained that I was running on low because of all the festivities, and wanted to change our plans. Since he had to work until early evening and I wanted to take a nap, I suggested we meet at the pre-J'ouvert warm-up later on. We agreed on the time and everything was set.

I got everything ready for later, set the alarm and laid down to take my nap.

I woke up with the sun in my eyes. It took me a few minutes to wonder why the sun was up. Then, it hit me. I jumped up like a scalded cat. I believe I actually screamed. I turned the alarm off, already understanding what had happened. I had set the clock for 9am not 9pm.

I hurriedly dialed my friend, but as expected, no answer. My heart sank. I couldn't believe this had happened. Tears of frustration rolled down my cheeks as I jumped into the outfit I had planned to wear the night before all the time wondering why he hadn't called. It was then that I noticed the bed room phone was off the hook.

Can you believe that? I couldn't.

I went looking for my friend. As I reached the downtown area, J'ouvert was winding down, and sleepy eyed revelers were passing me on their way to the beach (a tradition after the tramp), or to carnival Village.

I finally found my friend at a restaurant on waterfront. I calmly explained that I had fallen asleep, and unfortunately had set the clock wrong and overslept. I apologized profusely. I mean profusely. He was extremely quiet during my explanation. Finally, I understood why he was quiet. He hadn't believed a word I had said; he thought I had intentionally stood him up.

When I didn't show up, he had tried to call me, and after prolonged busy signals the operator had told him the telephone was apparently off the hook. He had figured something more interesting had come along and I had chosen to do that, rather than be with him. There was nothing I could say to get him to believe that I really had fallen asleep, set the clock wrong, and had knocked the phone off the hook. Actually, it was hard for me to believe, and I knew it was true. He finished his breakfast, said he'd catch me later, and walked out of the restaurant.

So, that's how I missed my first J'ouvert. A sad story, huh? I still think of it today. Needless to say, my friend and I never get together after that. No trust; on his part.

I finally accepted the crazy incident by understanding that everything happens for a reason. I may never understand what the reason was, and can only hope it was worth my missing everything ... and I do mean everything!

But, life goes on, and I never missed another J'ouvert.

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The adventures ... and misadventures of a city slicker turned mellow islander.