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  • Tonight is Panorama Semi Finals in Trinidad. And I'm 1,800 miles away. I guess it's safe to say that I'm suffering from a pan tabanca; the Super Bowl only makes it worse.

    When I was a little girl, maybe about 10, my father took me to Panorama Semis. But we didn't slip into the over-priced stands; he never did, I would learn. We limed instead on the track leading up to the stage where pan sides wheeled their pans from the grassy waiting area and up onto the Queen's Park Savannah stage, under the lights, before the judges and the inebriated public, ready to get sweaty, to pound steel, to pour their souls into the sweet, sweet music they'd been practicing in their own panyards for months on end.

    There's a spirit on the track that's hard to describe. A kind of heady anticipation, a music drunkeness, an all-ah-we-is-one vibe. My father showed me how to cup my hands behind my ear to capture the sound. When the bands would reach on stage and the steel notes rang out, the melody would amplify and pour into my head.

    In the months before, my mother took us to each panyard and we would stand in the idle crowds, she sipping beer, me sipping atmosphere, and watch as the panside painstakingly perfected their tunes note by note. I remember one side practicing a crescendo over and over one night; it stuck in my head for a week, pounding away with imagined frantic energy even when I was in class.

    But when I heard that crescendo at Panorama with my father, it was flawless.

    One year on the track, I seized a pen from my father--he always carried one--and scrambled for a piece of paper. I settled for a receipt and stood there at the edge of the stage and the track, angling perfectly for what little light I could, writing poetry about what I was seeing and feeling.

    As I got older, I went with my friends and my bear of a boyfriend instead of with dad. But we always ran into each other on the track. And we'd stand off to the side as the steelbands rolled by, clinking our beers, remembering the years we helped push the pans on stage.


    The photo above is courtesy the National Carnival Commission of Trinidad & Tobago. Listen live until 10 p.m. ET tonight.
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