Home > 1, Music > Book 1. We From UPSTREET Continued…and De Barracks Yad Bay and Beach Club

Book 1. We From UPSTREET Continued…and De Barracks Yad Bay and Beach Club

Book 1. We From UPSTREET Continued… and De Barracks Yad Bay and Beach Club

In the days before the present waterfront drive was built, the waterfront from The West India Dock, to Carenage (French Town), was beach front property. True the beach front in the Upstreet area known as “Barracks Yard” was what you could kindly call “muckity muck” or perhaps describe more accurately by saying that mud and night soil in equal measure, equals muckity muck, (night soil from the big “gut” that emptied into the sea there) still, when ever they felt like it, the people of Barracks Yard could and would walk right into the water to cool off and refresh themselves.

By the time Tony and Joe went away to Mandahl, they had taken me into Barracks Yard sufficient times for me to feel (if not completely welcome) welcome enough to come and go as I pleased. The truth is, few if any people from outside Barracks Yard were welcome there, the folks that lived there were perhaps one step below  destitute, and they were (as you would be) somewhat sensitive about it.

Apparently they recognized and accepted things about me that I was unaware of myself. They  saw that my shoes were long overdue for the dungheap, that my clothing was unkempt, my hair unbrushed and uncombed. They may also have noticed that I didn’t notice any of that and if I did, it didn’t bother me a bit.

I was completely unaware that I too, might have reason to be embarrassed about my circumstances, or any thing else. Looking back, my time as a denizen of (what I like to call) “De Barracks Yad Bay and Beach Club”, may have been the final beats of that kind of innocence for me.

Somehow in that seventh summer, far away from the poverty of the barracks yard, I felt the beginnings of what it was to burn with embarrassment and shame for my color and for what my family didn’t have.

But before we get to all of that sort of thing, here (in the language of my childhood, known as calypso) is a little spoken  piece with that exact title from “The Virgin Islands Songs”

 “De Barracks Yad Bay An Beach Club”

It jus so happen dat one day roun de bay dere by de Barracks yad a big truck come an dump out a truck load a san.

Wha! Yeh meboy, (I se to meself) now yu talking boy, lemme go lay doun in it.

 No sooner said dan done an I was de fus man dare. Boy, ah lay back an cross me leg an crass up me han dem behine me head like ah contemplating de clouds in de clear blue sky.

De nex second, ah jump up ana run back home to de head a pave street for me Muddah towel ana umbrella fo style, den ah grab up a can a sardine, two French bread ana red soda ana fly back to de beautiful new san at wha I kno gon soon be “De Barracks Yad Bay an Beach Club” Yeh meboy, ah se to meself now yu talking now yu talking.

 By de time ah reach back, three o fo touris had done fin de spot, but ah tro doun me self right in de middle ah dem, put an me shades ana open me sardine.

Jus den a big hard face man se “Hey Buckra, wha de hell yu tink yu doin, yu can’ see we come tu mix up concrete an cement?”

Ah se “wha? Yu crazy? Wha yu commin’ to de beach tu mix up concrete and cement” De man se “Is you is de one who crazy, who de hell tell you dis is a beach, we makin’ a watahfront fo  bigtruck cou pass here” Ah se “wha? Is YOU is de one who crazy, look de beautiful blue watah de, look de san here, look de people in de middle. We here in de Barracks Yad waitin’ bocoups an many years plus fo somebody to bring de san fo de beach. Man de people dem  been laydin doun in de mud full a crab hole an rock stone an badein’ in de watah  wha de bottom fulla broke shell an beer can. De chrirren dem billin san calsel outtah mud an don’ talk abou when de gut runnin and de nightsoil commin’ doun, den dey makin mud pie outta dat!

 No man, we waitin’ two hundred years an mo for dis san tu come (an fo somebody to plug up de gut) We ain’ wan no concrete and cement fo de beach, how de people dem gon lay doun on concrete and cement?, why yu wan tu have to jump up wid yu coal pot an yu fry fish and yu mabi an yu blanket an everyting, everytime some schupid muddah skunk ina bigtruck want tu pass. Yu crazy? No man, bring mo san!

Dis is de place right here me boy, in fac we should exten de beach all de way from Wes Indian dock to Cha Cha Ta…ah.. ah mean French Toun! Yu kno de beach belongs to de people dem and dat way every day will be like Christmas Mahnin fo de whole ah Charlotte Amalia me boy. Man sellin fraco an jumbi bead lef an right, woman sellin pate an benye by de poun. Touris frum all ovah de place commin to see de most beautiful town in de wurl, wid de bigges an de bes and de most beautiful beach in de wurl, rite in de middle ait. An de people dem will own de whole ting!. Man ah tell yu bring mo san! Bring mo san!..

 Back at the very beginning of the blook I said that, from time to time we would be talking about “so called race” in ways that most so called white folks were not accustomed to, (and for that matter many people of color might find novel).

Gale and I were  little white children in the West Indies, which (in those days) would automatically suggest that we were children of privilege and a certain social status…

Hmm, let me come at this in a different way… there are/ were shades of color all along a continuum from darkest to lightest from blue black to the paleest white and every incremental degree of brown, red, yellow and gold along the spectrum.

In the isolated island world of Euro/Afro/Caribbean society those families who were descendent of wealthy white plantation masters or masters of the mercantile, generally enjoyed the most favored status. This is not news to anyone; however a fine complication arose when white (and black) Americans entered the mix. Neither rich or poor white nor black Americans were programmed or inclined to kowtow to the self important “old families” at the top of the fairly rigid local hierarchy.

 This of course made those folks that were about to lose “most favored status” resentful and angry and their often spoiled children (who of course were not as even tempered as their often spoiled adults)  were too often surprisingly cruel. Alas for the guiless “poor yankee girl or boy” who comes pogo sticking into view, as unsuspecting and trusting as a tail-wagging puppy dog. Yaaiiiee! 

Of course if I knew then what I know now…

But even then I knew that most people all round the color wheel, were people of good heart and good will.

What I didn’t know was that among them, (us) often indistinguishable from the rest, lurked miseries who were mean, resentful and vindictive and chomping at the bit to act on it.  Not to lift their hands “mano a mano” to do battle (thereby running the risk of being exposed, embarrassing themselves, and getting the good “assing” they deserved) but to whisper, conspire to hurt, diminish, undermine and humiliate the object of their affliction. Permanently and forever, as often as possible. Tragically, these kinds of miserable poisonous wretches have succeeded many times in many places, many times more than once.

 These days we all know that the point of all that crazy action is to put you down or diminish you, in an effort to elevate or feel better about themselves, but what kid of any color comes into the picture armed with that information. What a different world it would be if kids were armed early on with that info. If the bad guys and bullys were immediately identified for what they really are and why they do what they do.

 Anyway, aside from having the seeds of shame planted by wacko shame propagator types, and unfortunately, having the idea that we were less than, and beyond pitiful somewhat watered and  reinforced  by the fact that all we had to eat at home was green pea soup for literally weeks at a time, We (Gale and I) had  the wildest, warmest,  and most wonderful fun while we lived UPSTREET. Tomorrow (Sunday Jan 31.) I will be doing a concert in the new Jarvis Museum the UPSTREET part of Charlotte Amalia…I am filled with emotion about the whole thing and I will sing like crazy. Yep. Continued…

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