Tony Deyal | More high mountains
At the age of 70, the biblical 'three score and ten', Benjamin Franklin helped to draft the American Declaration of Independence. The magnate, Cornelius Vanderbilt, began buying railroads. The tempestuous and temperamental French actress Sarah Bernhardt had a leg amputated but refused to abandon the stage. Justice John W. Sirica heard the Watergate case and was always very alert and, at times, witty.
Also at 70, Copernicus published his revolutionary theory that the Earth revolved around the sun, and Judy Brenner, who had recently run the Boston Marathon, chased a teenage shoplifter 100 feet and helped hold him until police arrived.
As I write this column for my readers in the Barbados Sun, Jamaica Gleaner, Kaieteur News, Trinidad Express, Facebook and beyond, the date is Wednesday, August 10, 2016. According to Wikipedia, "August 10 is the 222nd day of the year (223rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 143 days remaining until the end of the year. This date is slightly more likely to fall on a Monday, Wednesday or Friday (58 in 400 years each) than on Saturday or Sunday (57), and slightly less likely to occur on a Tuesday or Thursday (56).
The term 'the 10th of August' is widely used by historians as shorthand for the Storming of the Tuileries Palace on the 10th of August, 1792, the effective end of the French monarchy until it was restored in 1814."
Despite my appearance, I was not around when the palace was stormed, although given the frequency with which I got into the cinema, football games, parties and even public transport, I was an expert 'stormer' (a term used by Trinis to denote someone who does not pay the entrance fee for events but gets in nevertheless). They say that if you want to keep a French person from crashing, or storming, your party, you put up a sign saying, 'No Nudity'. I was not around either when the monarchy was restored, otherwise, I know, given their legendary hospitality, they would have treated me like a king and let me eat cake.
Up to midnight Tuesday night, I was 70. No teenage shoplifter challenged my athletic ability, but my having teenage children attests to it. I was 17 when Trinidad and Tobago became independent. I was in Ottawa, in 1974, in the final year of my Bachelor of Journalism programme, when Judge Sirica was the ringmaster of the Watergate and Nixon circus, and I found time, despite being a teaching assistant in two courses and doing my thesis, to follow the trial, see O.J. Simpson beat the rushing record, Hank Aaron set a new home run record, and Secretariat win racing's Triple Crown.
It was a year of many firsts for me, including hearing the classic comment by Nixon's chief of staff, H.R. Haldeman: "Once the toothpaste is out of the tube, it is hard to get it back in." In other words, Colgate as a metaphor for Watergate.
Needless to say, Copernicus is one of my heroes, and my universe has revolved around people like him - great minds who are always on the frontiers of learning, and by the time other people catch up with where they were, they have gone ahead like Star Trek, exploring new worlds and boldly going where nobody has gone before.
I remember telling someone that I was a 'futurist', and she held out her palm for me to read. But if I want to be like any of those people who at 70 achieved or begun so much, I choose Cornelius Vanderbilt, the railroad magnate.
The present government in Trinidad seemed all set to build a "rapid" rail system in Trinidad despite the recession. As quickly as you could say 'Cornelius', the people started calling it a 'racket' rail. While I am not into the racket part of it, I have already been railroaded and my career derailed by the Government, so I am a natural candidate for employment. Besides, my wife Indranie has me well trained.
My big problem, though, is that the politician whose brainchild the railway is supposed to be is said to have built a stadium in Grenada which collapsed. Seeing that I don't want my dreams of the future to suffer the same fate, I figure I should look at other options for my 71st year which, as you realised, started last night.
Israel's Yitzhak Rabin, after years of refusal to even meet with the PLO, signed an agreement with them. Puppet maker Laurent Mourquet started a puppet show that became the Grand Guignol horror play theatre. Einstein proposed a new version of the unified field theory, but other physicists considered it untenable. Casey Stengel began managing the New York Mets. Bob Hope played himself on an episode of 'The Odd Couple'. Bill Horning won first place in his division in the 2004 US Adult National Figure Skating Championships. Katsusuke Yanagisawa, a retired Japanese schoolteacher, became the oldest person to climb Mt Everest. Afterwards, he said, "No more high mountains."
I like that "No more high mountains" talk. But, even now, at 71, I cannot come down my own personal mountain, Never-Rest. Despite the occasional episodes of dog-nights of the soul, flotsams of depression and jetsams of false hope, I have never been stuck in the Sargasso Sea of despair or the Bermuda Triangle of surrender. Like Bob Hope, this comedian continues to play himself.
I wake each day with boundless hope, even on those that I expect to be dread, like the day last year when the chairman of the board of the Government Information Services Ltd (GISL), where I was a consultant and chairman, broke her agreement to meet with me and then sent two of my senior male staff and the corporate secretary to march me out of my office in plain sight of all the staff and visitors.
My wife Indranie, who is not Trinidadian, is aghast at the way I was treated. "But you do so much," she says. I don't mention Einstein. I am not in his league, but at 71, his colleagues rejected his ideas despite his track record. My response is always that Trinidad is a place you pay your dues every day, and once I am here, that will happen. But I am who I am, and I am as enterprising as Captain Kirk and his crew. As the Mark Holman song in Disney's Planes declares triumphantly, "Nothing can stop me now." And nobody.
- Tony Deyal was last seen repeating that one person with courage makes a majority.