De ole time days was mas in yuh brass: Frame upon frame of colour-plated pageantry, tinged with Van Goghian hues that captured images of hordes of revellers magically transforming National Geographic and the Encyclopedia Britannica into a mobile theatre of the Drag and the stage.
Here, the dance of the Cree of Canada; there, the mystery of the Relics of Egypt; Somewhere in New Guinea beckons; Saga of Merrie England titillates. To Hell and Back and Back to Africa; Primitive Man and Extracts of the Animal Kingdom; Imperial Rome; The Glory that was Greece; and a plethora of sailor bands putting on a show, their risqué and comedic acts mimed to the rawness of steel band music, the only nativity in the multiculture, blessed and cursed alike, just like the mas. And fancy sailors, too, Fascinators and Syncopators strutting, and peacocking headgear, such as clocks and cameras and elephants and crabs from the Mang, leaving Cito Valasquez up front to bogart attention with his Gulliverous Fruits and Flowers.
Not to forget the traditional mas like the dragon blowing his whistle, a polished wooden snake, marble for eyes, wrapped around – as if copulating – a piece of bois rubbed down with coconut oil, this once-upon-a-time stick fighter turned ballet dancer operating Behind the Bridge; or the venerable Bookman dissuading his teenage counterpart from crossing the canal on George Street without the necessary preparation (or else what?) and the caped-tongue man with the oversized wide-brim frill hat fobbing children off with scary stories, parents shooing him away with money for the coffin, er, his sow’s ear purse.
The mas was all over the place because it felt free to play yourself, not free up, or wine down like rats in the sewer. Ha! God knows the rodents wouldn’t have tolerated such slackness. Indeed, thousands of them, unnerved by the mere notion, haul they tail and scurried across to French Street to sign up with Rat Race, Minshall’s purview of the land and its lubbers.