Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 9th 2015 Contents B7
Thursday, April 9, 2015 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
It was 4 am on Carnival Tuesday. I had
long since retired to bed---which happened
to be the sofa in the living room of my
apartment in Cascade since my actual bed
was occupied by guests from England.
We had been up early for J Ouvert then
driven up to see the Blue Devils in Paramin
and then we completely flopped, exhausted,
and turned in for the night.
I had the huge French doors and all the
windows wide open onto the night garden
to let in occasional swirls of cooler air that
rustled the trees and blew bougainvillea petals
across the path.
A car pulled up and I heard inebriated
voices muttering outside. The engine stayed
running, the gate rattled, the phone in the
sitting room of my landlord s apartment next
door rang---its gentle tuneless bleep com-
peting with the opening tweets of the bur-
geoning dawn chorus.
"I know we re not being robbed," I said
"That s Jay s voice."
And indeed it was the voice of Everest
Telfer Jr, my 86-year-old landlord, arriving
home in a taxi from an eight-hour bar cruise
around St James and Ariapita Avenue where
he had evidently savoured what turned out
to be the last Carnival he was well enough to enjoy.
Like all great story tellers, the stories Jay told left
you wondering just how much of them were true.
Like the time Thelonius Monk saw him on the
dancefloor of a New York jazz club after Jay s shift
working as a busboy had ended and told him he moved
better than anyone he d ever seen. Like the casual
name drops of The Beatles, Miles Davis and Frank
Sinatra liming in the club he owned in West London.
Like the time he held up a tour manager with a pistol
in a hotel room in Tehran to extract the money his
band was owed, then fled to the airport in an open
top Ferrari and boarded the plane, clean forgetting the
sizable block of hashish in his suitcase which went,
ed.Until his dying day
he championed mar-
ijuana. Despite the
had damaged his
lungs he knew it
should be legalised
as a cultural and eco-
nomic product. For
a man born in
years after the Queen
and six years before
the war---it was an
sive stance for a man
of that generation.
For Jay, generations, years, ages meant nothing. He
remained exactly who he was regardless of the decade.
But he made sure to remain relevant---whether it was
eulogising about Beyonce s bum, encouraging a female
friend to track Machel Montano or standing up for
teenagers rights to rap the obscene lyrics of Lil Wayne;
teenagers like the children of his good friend, the tel-
evision journalist Felipe Noguera.
The Noguera children were an almost daily presence
at the Telfer household during my year in Trinidad.
"Uncle" Jay and his wife, "auntie" Ruth, were like a
second set of parents to them.
Other visitors to the Telfers included Black Stalin
and the British filmmaker John Akomfrah. One day,
during the European Film Festival I spotted Jay, immac-
ulately turbanned as ever, shuffling slowly into Movi-
eTowne with Peter Minshall. I thought about going
over to talk to them but decided instead to act as
voyeur. I sat in the back row of the auditorium, occa-
sionally peering into the gloom to make out the turban
As to that costume---the red turban, white shirt and
black trousers of the T&T flag---Jay, never one to shy
away from controversial statements, explained the
outfit to anyone who cared to listen by saying he wore
black on his lower half, "Because below the waist I m
It was a joke about his sexual prowess---Jay was a
ladies man until his dying day---but it contained an
underlying statement about his racial identity too. In
Trinidadian terms, Jay was a red man, in British or
American terms---and in his soul---he was black.
"Why do I want to read Naipaul?" he once said to
me (though in more expletive-laden terms) "Naipaul
says he don t like black people? F--- Naipaul!"
He was also a Hindu as well as a Catholic, a dancer
as well as a poet. And an art lover; his house was like
a miniature art gallery with Matisse-like drawings by
his brother Henry and paintings and prints by Boscoe
Holder. He was one of those people who couldn t ever
be defined by just one thing.
He leaves behind a son and daughter in England,
extended family and a loving wife in Trinidad.
A lot of love has come Ruth s way since Jay s passing.
It was an honour for me to share their house and the
love, protection and nature that surrounded it. Beyond
her grieving, I see a new and wonderful lease of life
emerging and thriving for Ruth. It s what Jay would
want, in whatever transcendent place he occupies
As for my abiding memory, I can hear him bidding
his usual goodnight, the way he always did after a
hazy evening on the veranda, "blessings, Josh."
Kind of Blue
For Jay, generations,
years, ages meant
nothing. He remained
exactly who he was
regardless of the decade.
But he made sure to
remain relevant --
whether it was eulogising
about Beyonce's bum,
encouraging a female
friend to track Machel
Montano or standing up
for teenagers' rights to
rap the obscene lyrics of
Lil Wayne; teenagers like
the children of his good
friend, the television
journalist Felipe Noguera.
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