Archives – February, 2005
Some Jamaicans, or at least Jamaican boardies, take offence to “tourists” using these terms. I don’t understand it, but I guess it’s a Jamaican thing, I wouldn’t understand.
My very first posting to the “NEW Negril Message Board” (also posted here), I got a nasty email from either a regular poster or the board moderator, warning me not to use those kinds of words. At first it pissed me off, but maybe this guy doesn’t understand my feelings about his country. Nothing but respect!
Then this sweetheart named Brooke emailed me in response to one of my postings, she is headed to Negril soon and is completely psyched (and that is an understatement)!! Her note, and all the notes we’ve exchanged since, are flooded with these types of terms, but more importantly they were bursting with her unabashed love, longing and respect for Jamaica and all things Jamaican.
I don’t know what my point is, except that we love Negril and mean no harm, and not to take us so seriously.
February 27, 2005
5600 North Broad St.
Philadelphia, PA 19141
I don’t get to the Olney Transportation Center in Philadelphia too often, but had the occasion to be there twice in the last few weeks. The first time I noticed the White Castle was gone and there was a new place, The Golden Crust Caribbean Bakery and Grille. The second time I decided to check it out and boy was I impressed!!
For many years I ran restaurants at all levels from dishwasher to Grand Poo-Bah. Flawless operations are the main goal of most restaurateurs, but the thing lacking in most restaurants is heart. They assemble product instead of preparing meals.
I walked in to the small restaurant around 7:10PM, it was cold and there was snow on the ground, but I was suddenly transported to Montego Bay. Decorated with colorful tiles, the air thick with Caribbean spices and loud dancehall style Jamaican music bounced off the formica and stainless steel. The smiling faces behind the counter noticed my wow’d expression and let me take it all in before asking for my order.
I was pleasantly surprised by the Caribbean accent I encountered as I ordered a small Jerk Chicken meal for $6.99 and a bottle of Ting. The plate included a nice portion of Jerk Chicken, a good 12 ounces of rice and peas with cabbage and calloo, all of which was generously covered with a fantastic Jerk sauce.
My original plan was to take my meal home, but watching her fill my plate and the aroma in the air made me decide to have a taste before I left. That taste became non-stop wolfing down of the entire plate. I’ve eaten in many Caribbean restaurants and paid twice as much for food half as good! The chicken was spicy and juicy. The rice and peas were perfectly prepared, flavorful and not dry. I washed it all down with an ice cold Ting, a rare find here in the states. I even called my buddy Nick, also a seasoned Negril traveler, just to gloat about my fantastic meal.
I give it 4 out of 5 halos on my Heaven on a Plate Scale!
February 25, 2005
I bought a book of Hemingway’s short stories today. I was thinking, since I’m kind of writing short stories I should read some really good ones. Of course by contrast my stories really suck, but I enjoy the process and the apparent sucky-ness will hopefully either be short lived, or at least some un-sucky material will poke thru the drek from time to time.
I was struck by the preface written by old Ernie himself. It had a playful character to it. He even joked that his favorite stories are the ones teachers made their students study, and thus putting more coin in his pocket. It made the guy real to me, I understand being self-deprecating.
About a dozen years ago my brother Michael gave me “The Old Man and the Sea,” complete with two “Hemmingway” cigars. I remember the cigars more than the book. I could write two pages about those cigars right now, but other than an old guy, a boat, a kid and a fish, the smoke from the story is gone. It’s funny how things come to you at different times in your life. I’m going to dig up that little book and re-read it, if not for inspiration then to illustrate this point.
I do something called “Writing Practice.” It’s like journaling with a mission. For the last several years I’ve kept an irregular journal, irregular both for the frequency of my journaling and the strange thoughts and associations that come from my less than sane head. Writing Practice is committing to the daily practice of writing as a discipline.
It’s wide open writing, punctuation and neatness don’t count, and the only rule is to keep your hand moving. Sometimes it gets to the point where all I write are the words “keep your hand moving,” which when someone reads these notebooks years after I’m dead they will be assured I was just another nut-job writer.
I’ve been hot and cold with my new discipline, often I write absolute nothingness, but then I’ll get a good line I can use in a story and occasionally I’ll have a breakthrough. Sometimes I find myself writing the deep truths of my soul that all of the sudden just pour out onto the page. I can feel it coming through, I try to stay out of the way and keep going with it as long as I can before the “Editor” or “Thinking” part of me begins to look for sentence structure or proper word usage.
In Zen it is called Satori, gimpses of enlightenment, where you get out of your own way for a short time and become connected to what Alan Watts calls, that what-cha-ma-call-it of all what-cha-ma-call-its.
Hopefully I’ll be able to string enough of these together to make an impression.
– To be continued . . .
February 23, 2005
Procrastination is truly the thief of time
It takes Now and puts it off
To where? When?
But it is all a construct of mind
It Kills Now, takes it, wastes it
Takes without leaving anything behind
Empty waves in time
February 22, 2005
Wednesday in Negril
I woke Wednesday morning to realize I’d left my camera at Kuyaba so I got up and headed there to see if it was still around. To my pleasant surprise it was, I love Jamaica! Patty and her friend Lisa were already awake and eating breakfast, I visited for a while, then off they were for a day of shopping or some such adventure. The rest of the crew were going on the “Wild Thing” for a day of snorkeling somewhere up near Green Island. They invited me to join them, but I’m not the snorkeling type and I didn’t want to completely barge in on their vacation.
Since I was so close, I decided to walk over to Selina’s for breakfast. It was much quieter this today than it was on Sunday. I got a cup of coffee and turned to watch the morning street scene. I could have sat there all day. I’d already missed the free yoga class, and a low key day was on my menu.
Returning to the Yoga Center a jerk stand appeared right in front of the property. It hadn’t been there all week so I went over to check it out. It looked kind of like one of those dirty water hot dog stands you see in any big American city, but with distinctly Jamaican touches. Kenny the Jerk Cart Guy was busy getting his product ready for the lunchtime rush and had little time for my questions. I’d spent twenty years in the restaurant business and I was impressed with his skills. Not a wasted movement, the utility of every piece of equipment was orchestrated by years of practice. This wasn’t what Kenny did, this was who he was! I decided not to cause further distraction and promised to be out for lunch.
“Just follow your nose and your watering mouth!! I Jerk is the best in Negril!” he shouted as I entered the Yoga Center gates.
By now the yoga class was in full swing, again! So I went into my cottage to roll a spliff and do some cerebral yoga. I was about halfway through, and feeling pretty good, when I realized copious amounts of sweet ganja smoke were wafting out my window and directly into the yoga class.
“Busted, Dude!!” I giggled to myself as I skulked past the yoga pavilion. I guess ganja smoke isn’t very shocking in Jamaica because no one gave me a second glance. I cracked open a Ting, and sat sphincter eyed at the breakfast table while my friends joined me. We talked about our adventures here in Jamaica, who we were and about our lives in the real world, though Brenna was still being mysterious.
By noon the sweet smoky aroma from Kenny’s sizzling creations filled the air, and my stomach growled in turn. Kenny greeted me like an old friend as I walked the twenty yards from the gate to his roadside bistro. In the shade of the Yoga Center fence were two older women sitting on five gallon plastic buckets eating voraciously with their fingers moaning and groaning in a kind of culinary orgasm.
“I’ll have what they’re having!” I joked over Kenny’s head as he sadly reported he was all out of Jerk Chicken but had a few nice pieces of his special, best in town, Jerk Pork with rice, peas, and coco bread. I took a second look at the two bone sucking sexagenarians and ordered two portions, one for now and one for later.
HOOOO WEEEEE!, it was heaven on a plate! Well, actually it wasn’t even on a plate, it was ingeniously wrapped in tin foil in a way that kept everything separate and hot. I offered Yasmine my second platter but she was too concerned as to where he washed his hands. Fearing nothing I dug in with both hands and was soon heading towards my own peak of jerky spicy wonderfulness.
It’s hard to explain an authentic Jamaican Jerk meal. The spiciness and flavor of the meat builds as you eat more and more. It could overwhelm you, but then you take a mouthful of rice and peas, which is like the opposite of spicy, but still flavorful, straightens you right out. I have no idea what’s in coco bread, but it’s as addictive as cocaine. Add a frosty Red Stripe and you have the perfect meal.
Sated as ever, I took a post coital nap in the Hammock hut, I love Negril!
I missed another sunset, damn!
I rolled out to the breakfast table around eight o’clock to find Brenna and Alan all ready to go to Alfred’s Beach Party Extravaganza, Yasmine wasn’t feeling well so she stayed behind. The sign said the party started at eight-thirty so we hung out till about nine before taking the long walk up the beach.
I took the lead as we walked up the dark beach claiming to be the protector of our little crew which made Brenna laugh.
“I’ll do just fine,” Brenna said, “I’m trained to protect myself.”
“Professional Wrestler!” I shouted, “That’s what you do!! I knew it!!”
“If you must know, I’m a soldier in the Canadian Army.” She stated plainly, “Sometimes it freaks people out when I tell them that.”
“Hell! You protect us!” I said as I ran around behind her.
We all had a good laugh, and we talked the rest of the three quarter mile trip about all things military and Brenna’s love for and commitment to her role and her profession. Chicks in cammo with guns! That’s even sexier than the whole lesbian hay bailer thing!
Alfred’s Beach Party Extravaganza was a blast! Alan wasn’t much of a dancer, but he could sway with the best of them. Brenna danced with every guy in the place, it was a good time. There were local reggae bands playing with DJs playing in-between. Beers go down very easily when you’re reggae dancing.
Speaking of going down easily when you’re dancing, I was surprised to see the amount of Jamaican girls plying their trade in the bar. So much so that I figured I was probably just being a pervert, then while dancing with this one curvy young lady she whispered into my ear, “So you wanna fuk mi?”
“Like you wouldn’t believe!” I replied, not missing a beat, “But I can’t.”
She looked deeply into my eyes and said, “Am I too young? Are my boobies too small? Let me get my friend.”
“No, no, you’re perfect, beyond perfect even, but I just can’t,” I stammered.
Like a fisherman with a snapped line, she turned and disappeared into the crowd, only to repair and recast. I turned to see Brenna and Alan snickering at me. Brenna seemed glad that I declined, as I went into the whole, I have a daughter her age, and the respect for women thing. Dost thou protest too much? She kissed me on the forehead, in an “Awww, such a cute little old guy” way, and went to buy me a beer to cool the flames.
Soon the night was ending, Brenna headed off with some guy friends, and Alan and I walked back to the Yoga Center.
When we got back, we stalked through the garden seeking the elusive Negril Giant Crab. They were all over! They were huge, like really huge! I was simultaneously amazed and freaked out!
I projected back to Yasmine’s story of them running all over and I hastened back to the safety of my cottage. That night as I lay in bed I could hear them creeping and crawling outside! I had thought those sounds were the owner’s cat, but no, they were giant monster crabs!! Someone needs to call National Geographic!
February 5, 2005
It was becoming a routine for me, up before dawn, ganja with the sunrise. Since I missed two of the last four sunsets, I found myself falling in love with morning in Negril. Sitting quietly, eyes closed and senses tuned. I can hear distant waves gently washing the beach, a rooster is very serious about waking the entire neighborhood, another in the distance does the same. The sweetness of the garden calls to the Doctor Birds, like beautiful Jamaica herself called to sailors and pirates alike in centuries past.
The road gets busier as the sun rises. Cars race in and out of town, while voices sing their melodious patios. It’s going to rain today. Big fluffy clouds float in on the breeze, and the garden seems to raise it collective countenance skyward in way of acceptance.
How cool is it to be in Negril on 4/20. I realized this early and planned to make it a true 420 kind of day.
I began breakfast alone about 8AM, but by the time I was finished the breakfast table was full. We were becoming quite the happy little group. I tried to explain the concept of 420 to a Canadian, a French-Moroccan, and an aging non-conformist, agrarian tile artist, but to no avail. We moved to a discussion of doing something together one night. Alfred’s Beach Party Extravaganza looked like a lot of fun, so we decided to go there together Wednesday night. Teach everyone in Negril how the yoga-folk get down!
I had a brochure from some tour company promising fun and frivolity at Black River for about $60US. Yasmine liked the idea of a Black River trip and agreed to come along. She read my brochure then showed me her “Lonely Planet Guide to Jamaica”, which had a less organized way of visiting Black River, It sounded great! Take a route taxi from Negril to Savanna-La Mar, another to Black River, then find a guide to take us up river in a small fishing boat. Alan explained the way route taxis worked and about what it should cost us. I was way excited! The idea of traveling by route taxi fit with my idea for this trip, a more “authentic” Jamaican experience. Not to mention that I would be spending the day with the lovely Yasmine. I told her about Tedd’s Shroom Boom, she was non-committal, but I was hopeful, I’m always hopeful.
With my social calendar quickly filling up I figured it was a good time to hit the beach to get some photos. An original trip parameter was to get pictures of as many hotels and landmarks as possible, and I was falling woefully behind. Walking up the beach I was surprised to see the T-Water Beach Resort closed and abandoned. I snapped away with my camera and my mind raced to think up scenarios of how I could put a group together to buy this place. I’d call it “Vinny’s – One Particular Harbor,” and then I’d have to hire a roomful of lawyers to fight Jimmy Buffet when he sues me for copyright infringement.
I got an hour’s worth of good pitures and I landed a few doors down from Kuyaba. I’d told my friends there I’d stop by this morning to see what they had planned for the next few days. A feeling of trepidation came over me as I walked across the beach. I’d gotten pretty loose the other night, (ok, sloppy even) and I really hoped I didn’t step on any toes or worse, grab any asses!
No sooner did I enter the Kuyaba grounds did I see Patty and Erin sitting on their porch. They were surprised to see me. They actually thought they’d scared me off! HA! Scare me off? My trepidation dissipated.
The plan for the day was a trip to Rick’s about three-ish. Every trip to Negril seems to include a night at Rick’s, I know its touristy joint with all them All-Inclusive busses lined up in the yard, but I still like it. I consider it a Negrilian guilty pleasure.
The thunderheads that had been building all morning finally they let go, and the torrential downpour that ensued washed clean the thin veil of dust that seemed to cover everything. It was so tropical-y like, and stuff. I sat in the safety of Kuyaba’s cottage porch, as big fat raindrops pounded man and nature. About a Red Stripe later, the rain stopped and the ladies went off to do some shopping. I headed back to the Yoga Center.
After a nap in the after-rain cool I strolled into town to check my email. More to unclog my mailbox spam, than to communicate with the strange world to the north, but as I looked at eight hundred plus messages, It felt like a giant hand from the “Real World” was reaching out from the monitor to snatch my soul and drag it back to the land of schedules, appointments and phone calls. I logged off and almost ran out of the place.
Promptly at 3 o’clock I arrived at Kuyaba, and in true Jamaican fashion the taxi was soon come. This was fine because the others hadn’t returned and it gave us time for a round of Red Stripes. I tried to recruit them in my 420 concept too, they understood the meaning, but didn’t indulge in the action. The diver showed about 3:20 and we waited for the rest of the crew. After about ten minutes, Erin decided just to leave a note, but couldn’t find pen or paper so we just left our three empty Red Stripe bottles in front of Meg’s door as a clue. All the way to Ricks we devised a plan to bar hop all around the West End leaving only three Red Stripe bottles as clues to our whereabouts. We dubbed ourselves “The Three Red Stripe Crew,” but by the time we finished our first round our friends arrived foiling our plans.
Ricks was fun, isn’t it always? As the sun sank deeper in the western sky the crowd thickened, and the nightly party began. By the time “The Wild Thing” entered Rick’s tiny cove the party was in full swing. We drank, and drank some more, danced and danced some more. I had a feeling I should try diving from the highest cliff, so I sat down, had another beer and waited fot that feeling to go away. Again, as before with the Kuyaba Party Animals, the hours flew by and twenty blurry photos later, it was dark and we headed back to Kuyaba for dinner.
Kuyaba has a great bar, swinging hammock style bar stools that were only uncomfortable if you were sober, which if you sat very long, you wouldn’t be. Kuyaba also has a top-notch restaurant, a diverse menu with good prices. It’s situated right on the beach, open-aired, with an almost Polynesian flavor. About eight or ten of us sat at a large table and enjoyed each other’s company. We were being much more civilized than we had been a few days earlier, and a good time was had by all.
I returned to the Yoga Center around 11PM to find Alan and Yasmine still up and discussing some form of intellectual pursuit. I joined them and we began to talk about this morning’s rain storm. They told me how the holes throughout the garden filled with water and the giant crabs that lived in them came scampering out and were running all over the place.
“Sure, make fun of the drunken guy.” I laughed, not believing them. They laughed even more at my insistence they were putting me on. “They’re mongoose holes!” I declared, which made them laugh all the harder.
“The Yoga Center is like a sanctuary for giant crabs, no one hunts them here so they can grow very big.” Alan explained.
“Why would we lie to you?” Yasmine asked innocently.
“If I was sitting here minding my own business and giant crabs came running from everywhere? Oh my God! I’d climb up on the table and start screaming like a little girl!!” I must have said with a terrified look on my face because they both thought that was hilarious!
“I still refuse to believe you!” I pouted and retreated back to my cottage.
February 2, 2005