I'M late for almost everything. One of my claims to fame, if you can call it that, is that I was late for an interview with Trinidad and Tobago's first Miss Universe, Janelle "Penny" Commissiong, a few weeks after she returned home from winning the crown in Dominican Republic in July, 1977. The only man to stand up pretty Penny…and if I remember correctly I was fired not long after from my job as a cub reporter at the Sunday Punch for being tardy and a bit lazy.
Actually, I was also late in getting to Dominican Republic for the renowned beauty pageant, although that wasn't my fault. We were on a friend's recently-purchased boat, Lazy Cs, on its way from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to the T&T Yacht Club and one of our ports of call was Puerto Plata, on the northern coast of Dominican Republic.
As we pulled up to the dock that windy afternoon, a member of the Guardia Nacional, on seeing our flag, informed us in the Spanish equivalent of: "Your girl won last night!"
After a few questions from our onboard translator, we figured out that Trinidad and Tobago's representative had beaten all-comers—at the venue in Santo Domingo on the other side of Dominican Republic—to be crowned the most beautiful woman in the universe.
Of course, we raised a toast upon hearing that news and the Presidente Cerveza tasted extra good that night on shore in Puerto Plata. And back at work later that month, I had the opportunity to personally congratulate Penny, but by the time I arrived at her home, she had left for another appointment and I was too shamed to arrange another interview.
Writing this, I was also reminded that four of the souls among the seven-man crew aboard Lazy Cs have gone on to that great ocean in the sky and may they rest in peace.
But the point of admitting to my tardiness is that it was only approaching midnight on Friday August 31, 2012, that I regretted not participating in any activities to mark T&T's 50th anniversary of Independence.
Driving home from work the night before, I was tempted to head up to Woodford Square to see what was happening with the "multi-cultural extravaganza and re-enactment of the 1962 flag-raising ceremony", but a friend's extended birthday celebrations Wednesday night into Thursday morning and having to work on Independence Day kept my car on a straight course from Express House to Diego Martin.
It's really old age to blame but those other excuses sound good for now.
So I was left to follow proceedings on the radio heading home and switched on the TV when I got to my humble abode to see what I was missing...Boogsie Sharpe and Ray Holman alone were worth the effort to be among the audience in the square.
And then nearing midnight there was the appearance of the cast of characters portraying the principal players involved on that momentous occasion 50 years ago, as the Union Jack was lowered and the red, white and black was hoisted for the first time.
By the time that was completed it was way past my bedtime and I couldn't make it through the speech from our current PM. Sorry about that Kamla, who I was told didn't go on for too long, followed by President Max Richards, and then there was the grand finale from Soca Monarch Machel Montano.
And the next morning I was up in time to put on the TV for the military parade at the Queen's Park Savannah, highlighted by the exuberance of the crowd and the precision of the participants.
After missing all that, you would think that I would have found myself at the Queen's Park Oval for the free Journey to Jubilee concert that night, but instead I went to a family function for my nephew's birthday. And it was only when my sister drew my attention to a posting by my daughter on Facebook that I realised I had taken the whole thing for granted and should have been more appreciative of this golden jubilee.
Back in England for her second year at university, oldest daughter Shannon wrote: "Happy 50th Birthday my sweet T&T!!! We may just be a dot on the map, but our dynamic culture, rich history and growing legacy extend far beyond our shores. No matter where I go I'll be forever proud to belong to you."
I was right here on location yet only paid fleeting attention to all the razzmatazz, while Shannon must have been dying to be in attendance.
So while the PNM squabbles with the People's Partnership over what should have been included and what was left out of the 50th anniversary celebrations, I concluded rather belatedly that we should all appreciate what we have achieved despite the best efforts of those who run the country.
We are some of the sweetest people in the world, the most talented, hospitable and generous…and the life of every party— well not me with my two left feet and can't even tune a radio—and everyone loves to know us.
And we should never forget where we come from, because for some reason we have been blessed and we can overcome whatever adversity we are up against—bloodthirsty criminals or crooked politicians—and keep Trinidad and Tobago going strong for at least another 50 years.
Happy birthday T&T!
P.S. Sorry you couldn't be here Shannon.