It was something of a relief to discover so many readers feel the same as I do about the National House of Rats—commonly referred to as “the old Central Police Station.”
Many STAR readers offered their own recollections about the obtrusive eyesore on Jeremie Street, some belly-busting funny, some altogether disturbing to both psyche and viscera.
Others enquired why I’d not written about the other atrocity that is our main courthouse: on one side it’s gaudily painted and attractive in the way a big-city streetwalker might be. On the other, it reminds of the earlier mentioned horror around the corner that is home for every variety of rat. (The same might these days be said of the whole of our country . . . but that’s for another show.)
In all events God’s mansion stands but a few feet away, accessible to all who hunger and thirst after succor—if not forgiveness for all we’ve done, or allowed to be done, to the once innocent Helen, now a decrepit old whore, her once alluring attributes all gone to the dogs.
Wherever you might look these days are the undeniable reminders of our decay. Not of national development; not of national pride. And certainly not of national unity.
Take the mural that in 2007 suddenly had appeared, as if by magic, near what used to be a special cemetery at the Castries end of Hospital Road, now home to . . . well, let me not be too graphic. Suffice it to say, now home to people with few choices.
The mural was supposed to help us keep in mind the man many Saint Lucians still consider the father of our nation, and I’m not talking about that other father of our nation whose bronzed head stands near the entrance of the airstrip formerly known as Vigie Airport, within a policed enclosure. Not even the birds are permitted a close-up look, for fear of what they might leave behind.
Some might suggest the bust of George Charles would’ve been better placed at his presumably more often visited tomb site. But then who can say for certain what had inspired the choice of location? Doubtless the current gatekeeper had his unquestionable motives. After all, when you’ve determined on your own to rededicate an airport for whatever partisan reasons you should offer some depiction of your hero, just in case someone should care enough to ask what he looked like and precisely what he’d done to deserve such high honor!
Speaking of the Castries River bridge that Pat Brown had built or rebuilt: I should add, for the record, that several warring politicians had over the years conveniently drowned their allegedly deep-seated beliefs in the yucky diseased water under that bridge, the last two being our special advisor on affairs foreign and the man who had made him pay dearly for being so presumptuous as to imagine free speech was actually free. That hard-earned lesson had cost the advisor his ability to call a spade a spade; especially home-made spades!
As I say, the Hospital Road mural had made its surprise appearance some months after the passing of Sir John, bright and colorful, if not altogether flattering of his visage that had always reminded of Walcott—Tom, that is, not the still handsome Nobel laureate.
Only a few weeks ago the incumbent party was all over the media giving praise to his great name. John Compton, not Derek Walcott. It had occurred to me at the time that here again was palpable proof that Sir John’s departure had left the United Workers Party more than ever disunited.
I remember thinking what a shame it was that the yellowbirds had permitted the Red Zoners to get the jump on them with their posthumous cashing in on the UWP leader’s still widely revered reputation. Cynic that I am, I knew politics had everything to do with the surprise celebration of the deceased prime minister’s contributions to the nation. After all, you don’t dump shit all over someone beloved. That is, unless you are among those weirdo coprophiliacs that seem to inhabit nearly all of Henry Miller’s best known novels.
As debauched as the evidence suggests we’ve become, my faith insists that the majority of Saint Lucians would prefer, in the words of James Taylor, to shower the people you love with love—not with that other stuff!
It turns out the tax-funded, commissioned mural was painted by Alwyn St. Omer, talented son of decorated, therefore, conceivably appreciated, Dunstan St. Omer, as part of Richard Frederick’s city beautification project. Yes, yes, if you can believe that!
Five years later, it is impossible to recognize the suited-up, faceless guy with the dirty blue tie that brings to mind Constitution Park’s more deprived habitués; Derek Walcott’s “alphabet of the emaciated.”
The face that for some fifty years had been our nation’s most easily recognized is now a featureless blob of washed-out colors and grime, streaked with dirt. Then there are the barely-there reminders of his contributions: barely there banana trees laden with washed-out green gold; smiling dirt-covered young people in school uniform, indicative of his war on illiteracy and ignorance (at any rate as beheld by eyes capable of seeing past the mud!). And right in the middle of the mural, between the once beaming school children and the man in the now bizarre outfit, the proud flag of Saint Lucia.
At any rate, the once proud flag of Saint Lucia. The uninformed eye now gazes upon it without the slightest notion what it might be. A flint arrowhead minus its shaft, maybe?
The painting that was supposed at once to be uplifting and inspiring now reminds of nothing more than a poster for The Walking Dead or some such made-in-Hollywood nightmare. Not only is St. Omer’s paint now water under the bridge, what is left of the painter’s art is something of an abstract inviting all manner of interpretation.
Nevertheless, St. Omer’s mural remains a reminder to politicians who imagine themselves much more than they really are, including immortal. The mural also reminds us that today’s apparently adulated and worshipped could easily be tomorrow’s forgotten—even despised—dependent on the ruling rooster.
Perhaps most important, however, is that the Hospital Road blob serves as yet another indicator of how much we love the land that gave us birth, to say nothing of our love for ourselves “as a people.”
Nothing illustrates the truth about us louder than that desecrated arrow-shaped thing between Compton and the kids in school uniform—so representative of our, er, Independence!