A disruption in the nuts and bolts of our lives, apart from the irritation that comes with it, can sometimes also be instructive in showing us how much more efficient we are now in communicating or sourcing, in a variety of ways, compared to how we went about those things in the earlier, less complex, life pattern that many of us wish still applied.
I admit, going in, that I am like a turtle on land when it comes to embracing new technology. I was the last one in my family to get a cell phone, and that only came about after my previous wife presented me with one as a birthday gift. Similarly, in music, it took me years to come around to synthesized keyboards and electronic drum machines; I spent a long time complaining about their mechanical sound before being persuaded by the variety and portability that the new technology made possible.
This week, with the chilling “no internet access” arriving to upset my communication day, I found myself turning to my long list of cell phone numbers and ended up astonished at how efficient that part of my technological life had become. So many of our needs and pleasures are available in that hand-size piece of equipment out of sight in a jacket. Scrolling through it in search of a number for my doctor/friend Gansham Singh, it suddenly hit me what a treasure that piece of technology had become for mankind.
The list will take pages, but I cite some selections to make my point. One of the earliest numbers under “A” is the listing for Mike Machado, the air-conditioning wizard in a very modest building just off Hadfield Street, who has been a saviour to me solving the range of equipment that cools our vehicles in this often steamy Guyana. I have yet to find a problem in that field that Mike and his gang cannot solve; they’re invaluable on that list.
Up in my phone as well is my step-son Alex Arjoon, my wife’s son from her previous marriage, who has become a constant in my life, bringing his cheerful disposition and youthful view to counteract my sometimes more conservative stands. I can dial him up in seconds for assistance with one thing and another, and I get a similar bounce, farther down the phone list, with his sister Vicky, who is mostly away studying, but is a joy to be around during school breaks.
The cell phone in my pocket as I move about, even in a foreign country, is also an extended family link – for me, Canada, Grand Cayman, St. Lucia – with instant news about happenings, joyful or wrenching, and with people in countries where we once lived; as in my case, with Henry Muttoo, my arts pal in Grand Cayman, or with radio broadcaster Vic Fernandes in Barbados, one-time Tradewinds agent in that island, and a friend who is like a brother. Those two are in my phone, a push-button away. Imagine me communicating with them in the old days – probably two weeks by boat for my note to go and another two weeks for their reply to arrive. Similarly, I have frequent chats with Ian McDonald about writing or Caribbean life; I call him or he calls me, and we’re off.
Amar Bisram is in there. He lives in New York and is the boss of the popular Angels Caribbean Band and responsible for Tradewinds visits to the Big Apple over the years. Amar is like family. He was the guy behind that recent show in New York combining Sparrow, Calypso Rose, and myself, all backed by Amar’s band in a memorable night to Caribbean culture. I sometimes draw on this migrant Guyanese for certain things not readily available here, and Amar always manages, together with another resource, Kelvin Ambedkar, in Toronto, to find what I’m after. Amar and Kelvin, secured on my list. Under “B,” there is Oliver Basdeo, experienced keyboard player and music teacher, who is the hinge in “Dave Martins and Friends,” the group I perform with all over Guyana, including in the variety of performances in my Artist in Residence contract with the University of Guyana, just concluded. Oliver has scribbled notations for all my songs I’ve rehearsed with him (and bass man James Jacobs and drummer Colin Perreira), so he will comfortably launch into some song not on our prepared list. My phone recognizes those three gentlemen.
n the same “B” category, Burchmore Simon has become my recording guy after returning to live in Guyana. He is an accomplished musician with, more importantly for me, a wide understanding of musical styles and combinations, and while I can’t recall who introduced me to him I am grateful to that person. Burch makes recording sessions a joy.
The cell phone in my hand connects me with painter Merlene Ellis (I have her paintings up on the wall), and with Oasis on Carmichael Street with that singular saltfish-and-bake, with photography master Michael Lam for enlargements, and with physiotherapist Garry Fitzpatrick when my body aches, and with taxi whiz Rafael for airport trips. In there as well is the contact for Raymond Khalil of Container House on Lombard Street, a hardware store for the ages, and Rohan from Ridopest who helps to stop various pests in their tracks, along with Sohan Ramdeo a great source of who can fix what, from watch strap, to stereo amplifier, to rain-water cistern.
I have the number for my friend Terry Ferreira, famous for riding a bike from Kaieteur Falls all the way to mid-USA to highlight an Olympic Year; he’s building house now in Florida. I can be in touch immediately. And there is Trisha, at at Connections Travel in Georgetown, who smoothly arranges most of my overseas travel, so she’s a must on the list.
Most of us with cell phones have a similar compendium of vital information that informs and graces our lives almost every hour of the day. How did we ever live without this facility?