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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Harts Review 2008 - finally!

written by squeezle:


Let me first explain why this review was such a long time coming. When I originally set out to write it, almost three weeks ago, I found myself with the mindset that in some way, I had to defend my choice to play with Harts. As a loyal Harts masquerader I am often asked why I would choose to remain in Harts with all the other hot, new, all-inclusive bands around. And as the days added up, so did my list of reasons why,after 18 years of being a Harts masquerader, I have absolutely nodesire or reason to leave them. So what has become of this list? I decided to delete it, partly because I wanted to write a review and not a testimonial, but mostly because I've decided that I really don't need to defend my decision, as I would never consider asking anyone else to defend theirs. My long history with this band speaks for itself. So without further ado, here's my take on "Lights, Camera, Action".

Presentation:
This year, Harts chose a theme that lent itself to a slightly more representative type of costume, so there was more of a departure from their usual abstract representations. However, it was nothing that couldn't be tackled without straying from the traditional bikini and beads formula. This year, I was quite delighted to see a marked reduction in the use of pastel colours, as well as fewer all-female sections. The men's costumes, usually superior to most bands, were downright exceptional this year, and this resulted in my having a lot more choices among the sections, as there were many more appealing options for both sexes. After much internal debate, I finally settled on 'Apocalypto - large headpiece option' because I found both the male and female versions to be very richly decorated (I don't see why my S.O. can't have a plume or a bead here and there). True to form, Harts also released a few late sections that had people in a frenzy. Even though these were quite lovely, I was very satisfied that I had made the right choice, and I had no regrets with my decision. In other words, I still think my section was DE BEST!

Costume ordering:
Once again, Harts was playing the fool with their on-line registration, but this time around, it was especially hard on the overseas masquerader because the band launching fete had been cancelled, so there was no on-line source of photographs until Saucy went to the mas' camp to get a few snaps for those of us chomping at the bit. And knowing how quickly the 'hot' sections sell out, I made it my business to fax my order to Harts way before the website launched. I followed up with a phone call, and received a confirmation e-mail a couple of days later.

Costume collection:
Although my section was among the first to be distributed, I was unable to make it to the mas' camp until a few days later. When we arrived, I found several lines at the windows, which were labeled with the section names. Of course, my line was the longest, what else is new! In spite of this, the entire process of collecting my costume and goody bag, having it checked by the staff and purchasing our wee-wee truck and drinks cart bracelets all took less than 45 minutes. Just as well, because I was practically twitching with excitement as I watched people walking away from the windows with those stunning headpieces balanced atop costume boxes. There was one notable change this year, and I wish I had been made aware of it beforehand. For the first time, there was a 'fast-track' window available for those who had already paid their balance in full. And although those folks were done in less than 10 minutes they had to endure a lot of cut-eye from those of us standing in line. For 2009, I will definitely be paying in full before I get to Trinidad, cut-eye or not!

Goody bags:
To be quite honest, I flung those things in a corner as soon as I walked in the door. When I eventually dumped the contents out onto my bed, the snacks and drugs were quickly snatched up and everything else went in the trash (yes, we are a couple of savages, and we are not ashamed). It was mostly the standard fare, plastic mug, sample sized shampoo, lotion, toothpaste, sanitary pads, really boring stuff, no surprise there.

Costume issues:
I very rarely have any problems with the fit or comfort of my costumes, and when I do, it's usually something that can be solved in 15 minutes with a needle and thread. Unfortunately, this time around, I ran in to a rather difficult situation. In recent years, I had found that my XL bikini bottom was somewhat on the large side, but having ordered a size L this time around, I found it to be too small. I could probably
have gotten away with it if I was prepared to be constantly monitoring my waistband. But when I ready to bus' a wine, I really don't study where my waistband is going, and I wasn't willing to take the chance that something would inadvertently spill over and cause unappealing bulges, especially when even the vagrants in the road have digital cameras these days. There are some things that should NEVER be caught on film.

Sadly, the folks at Harts were unable to help me out of this bind, but certainly not for lack of trying. I had four staff members, including Thais Hart, rummaging in the bowels of the mas' camp for an XL bikini what would suffice, but alas, they searched in vain. All I had to fall back on was my own emerald green bikini bottom, which didn't match the costume exactly, but which Thais assured me would be close enough that it wouldn't be a big deal. Just to cover all my options, I made the rounds of quite a few stores in Port of Spain but was unable to find a suitable match. In the end, the colour difference was negligible, and I noticed a few other women in the band who had chosen to wear their own bikini bottoms/shorts, most notably, Michelle Xavier of Imij & Co. who was in my section and was sporting a pair of boyshorts in a beautiful
shade of purple. There were just so many colours in the beading and braid that just about any bikini would have worked, so this turned out to be not such a bid deal after all. And, as is customary, the other components of my costume, as well as my boyfriend's, fit flawlessly.

As a side note here, I would like to commend the staff at Harts for being very helpful and professional. While waiting for my bikini dilemma to be resolved, I had the opportunity to witness their interactions with other clients, and they were always pleasant and eager to please, even when the customers were being unreasonable and/or rude - like the woman who cut her costume to pieces and then decided that she wanted to return it for a refund. That one had me rolling my eyes real hard!

On the road:
Monday departure 11:00 am - Having spent close to six hours on my feet during J'Ouvert, I was simply unable to will my body out of bed to make the 11 o'clock departure, but I did manage to get myself in gear a couple of hours later, and I met the band at the Savannah before they crossed the 'stage'. As was the case last year, it was mostly smooth sailing all the way through, with no delays to speak of. Drinks were flowing freely from the cart all day, and lunch was delicious - a large container of pelau with huge, juicy pieces of chicken and a small salad. I was glad that I had taken those extra two hours in bed, because it really made a difference to my energy level for the day, and I was able to keep up with the never-ending wining and jamming.

Tuesday departure 6:30 am - As the band was shutting down on Monday night, the DJ repeatedly made the announcement that the band would be taking off promptly at 6:00 am on Tuesday. This was a little perplexing to me, since I clearly remembered the flyer that came with my costume listing the departure time as 6:30. Had the time actually changed to 6:00 or was he just saying this to ensure that everybody got to the band on time? I wasn't taking any chances, so as the sun was barely peeking out over the horizon, my sweetie and I found ourselves on Tragarete road greeted by the sight of - NOBODY. However, way in the distance, we could see the headlights (yes it was still that dark out) of the lead music truck coming towards us. So we decided to use this 'quiet time' to take pictures ourselves while we were still fresh and totally put together. Within about 15 minutes the band had caught up to us and we were on our way, chipping happily towards the Savannah.

The first snag we encountered was at Green Corner. From what I could tell, the band was being delayed by the police, and I saw what appeared to be a heated conversation between Luis Hart and some police officer. Long-time Harts masqueraders will recognize this as a very common sight! There was a lot of back and forth going on for almost a half hour, but eventually we were allowed to proceed. I was wondering if we would be prevented from crossing the judging point, like we were last year, because the powers that be seem to have an agenda to make sure that Harts is never the first band to cross the stage, even if we are the first to arrive at the Savannah. As expected, when we neared the judging point, our band was cut off, with the help of the police, by Trini Revellers. So even with the majority of our masqueraders present, we were forced to wait yet again, for Revellers umpteen trucks to get on the road ahead of us, then for all their masqueraders to show up and get into sections, then for them to cross the so-called stage.

Now, speaking of the stage, it was painfully obvious from the TV coverage of every band that I saw, that officials have failed miserably in making it clear to masqueraders exactly where the stage begins and ends. The cameras caught most people after they had passed what they believed was the judging area, so the TV footage of all the bands I saw showed masqueraders posing for pictures, chatting with friends and even retrieving food and snacks from the drinks trucks. That part of the experience was rather anti-climatic, and left me wishing that we had been 'banned' from the stage again this year so that we could just go about our merry way and not wait around for 2 hours to jump in front of non-existent TV cameras. Do they seriously want us to treat that entire strip of Queens Park West as if it is a stage?

Fortunately, that was the last significant delay we encountered for the day and we proceeded to carry on like wild-people until long after the sun went to bed. My costume held up beautifully, as it always does. In fact, is looks like it could survive Carnival all over again. Which brings me to a very interesting observation : I happened to notice a woman in the band in a costume that was familiar, but definitely not from this year's presentation. It eventually dawned on me that she was
wearing LAST YEAR'S costume!!!! Another friend of mine also noticed her and confirmed this. Now we are speculating as to whether she played mas' in it last year. It's entirely possible, and while you might raise your eyebrows at the bold-facedness of this act, you can't deny the durability of a Harts costume. So nice, you can play mas' twice!

All in all, I have to say that yet again, I had a spectacular time playing mas' with Harts. Once they maintain their level of service, costume quality, and fun-loving vibe on the road, will most definitely be coming back for more.

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