Charlie was a teenager in the late 60s and early 70s and, according to recent wisdom; it was the best time to be growing up – if you weren’t drafted into a questionable war, that is. It was the time of ‘peace and love’, getting high and great music. It was cool to drop out, tune in and turn on – and, as Crosby Stills, Nash and Young sang: “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.”
Nowadays the world is a harsher place; terrorism impacts our daily lives, AIDS makes casual sex more risky and time constraints limit our freedom. There’s tension between the haves and the have-nots and the gap between the rich and poor is greater than ever before.
Life in the Caribbean, though, is still relatively trouble free. There are less laws and less policing of laws, teenage sex and extra-marital sex is a booming pastime and the music scene is still as hot as ever. The laid back lifestyle often catches tourists by surprise especially when it comes to restaurant service, punctuality of ferries and taxis etc. Of course it doesn’t take long before ‘laidback’ becomes agreeable. To help uptight tourists get into the swing of Caribbean life Charlie sometimes plays his favorite Trinidadian calypso describing sexual transgression. It’s called Shame and Scandal in the Family and it’s a classic.
The story tells of a boy who wants to marry his sweetheart but his father, when asked for advice, forbids it saying the girl is his sister (unbeknown to his mother); thus ‘shame and scandal in the family.’ Months later, with another girl in tow, his daddy tells him the same thing.
The end of the calypso has the truly comical twist that has made this Caribbean classic so enduring. The boy goes to his mother and, rather embarrassed, explains his dilemma, only to be told, “Go man go! Your daddy ain’t your daddy but your daddy don’t know!”
There are times when Charlie looks back at the old days and smiles to himself. Then one day he received an E-mail from a young man asking if he knew the young man’s mother. He did and replied in the positive. More questions came, more and more inquisitive. Then a bombshell: “I believe you are my father.” Charlie thought back. The lady in question had been a crew on an inter-island freighter and Charlie had signed on for one voyage down island to bring fruit from Dominica to St Thomas. He remembered a night swinging gently at anchor under a moonlit sky, several rum drinks, the perfume of frangipani, lapping waves against the hull. Yes, romance had been in the air, yes, yes – well, was it possible? Well, yes it was.
To cut a long story short. After several questions and a blood test the result was negative. But that Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young song still resonates every time Charlie hears it. He still smiles but there’s no question he dodged a bullet that night.
Julian Putley is the author of ‘The Drinking Man’s Guide to the BVI’, ‘Sunfun Calypso’ and ‘Sunfun Gospel’.