Archives – March, 2005

Banana Shout and Ivan in October ’04 – Part One

Part One – Pre-Trip Stress!

As the sun sets over the Negril cliffs, I lay in the hammock on my veranda over looking the sea. On the table sits my journal, a cold Red Stripe and a freshly rolled a Sunset Spliff. A gentle sea breeze washes over me, blowing in from the southeast, the same direction from which hurricane Ivans winds and waves crashed upon this point just three weeks ago.

The Caribbean Ocean completely fills my vision as if in a giant IMAX Theater, framed by the Lighthouse in the south, and in the north by the freshly painted post holding up the roof of my two-story mansion by the sea. I try to capture the scene with my camera, but I only succeed in knocking over my beer, thus scaring the bejeesus out of my tiny lizard friend with whom Ive been sharing this spot the past few days. Its probably not the same lizard each day, but until I see two of them at the same time, he’s my lizard dude, weve bonded.

Im thrilled to finally be here, it seems the entire universe tried to keep me away from Negril this trip. During the booking phase, hurricane Charley was making his way through the Caribbean. I guess I was being pretty selfish as I followed he storm, worrying more about my ten days of R&R then about the people actually in the storms path. Luckily for me and the people of Jamaica, ok, luckily for the people Jamaica and me, Charley did his damage elsewhere. The folks in Haiti werent so lucky. It seems they rarely are.

My buddy Nick is coming along on this trip, he and I go back a bit. We worked as restaurant managers together, then we were co-dependant housemates, and now finally, homeys. I owe my Negril initiation to Nick. His stories of a 1992 Negril trip were inspiring enough to get me to check it out in 1994, and the rest, as they say, is history. Over the intervening years we would each return to Negril several times, but never together.

We first discussed an October ’04 trip while I was planning my April ’04 trip. I was trying to get Nick to come along in April when he mentioned being in Negril for his October birthday. I was like, “Cool! I’ll go back in October!” Can one get too much of Negril?

Nick and I went back and forth on where to stay, and even if we would even go at all. Finally we decided to go and to go to Banana Shout, though from the beginning, destiny seemed to be leading us there.

I’d heard of the book Banana Shout written by Mark Conklin the owner of the resort Banana Shout, so I went to Amazon.com and ordered me a copy. A few days later I received an email from Irene Conklin, Marks wife, thanking me for the order. This personal touch went a long way with me.

The more I read the more I was hooked on Banana Shout. I mean theres a book about the place, how can you not want to go to a place someone wrote a book about? Well yeah, the guy who wrote it owns the place, but still, its like a famous landmark.

Really, the only reason we thought of other places at all, was there were two of us going in on the place, and Banana Shouts prices were so reasonable we shopped around for something more expensive! Unfortunately the more expensive places came with annoying things like phones and TVs that have no place on a Negril vacation. In the end we decided to book Seaside One a spacious two-story house on the cliffs and boy did we make a great choice!

In true “Luck of the Irish” fashion, when I plan a trip to the Caribbean at the tail end of hurricane season, its one of the most active hurricane seasons in twenty years. Charley, Danielle, Frances, Jeanne and of course Ivan, Ivan the Terrible!

I watched in horror as Ivan took his toll on the Caribbean passing just south of the Jamaican coast. The news blackout was maddening. I scoured every story I could get my eyes on like it was the Zapruder film. Looking for anything that would let me know how Negril really fared. The Negril board was down, as were most Jamaican websites, and the US newsies didn’t share my level of concern.

While not a direct hit, winds and waves caused fantastic devastation from Morant Bay to Negril. Negril’s cliffs did their job and shielded the beach from the worst of the storm, but the damage was severe throughout Negril. Gigantic waves from the southeast crashed over the high coral cliffs and washed inland well past West End Road, tearing apart all man and nature had placed there.

I waited two days after Ivan hit before I emailed Irene at Banana Shout. I knew I was being a pain, but my PNS (Pre-Negril Syndrome) was peaking, I was hearing anecdotal horror stories, and of course I didn’t purchase travel insurance.

Irene responded promptly to inform me they lost the two cottages closest to the cliff, most of the foliage, and a large portion of the seawall, but our Seaside One was still standing! She said Mark was Negril bound the following week to check out the damage first hand, and she would be in touch. It seemed Banana Shout would live on, but weather or not she could handle guests in only twenty five sleeps was the question on which our vacation teetered.

Now that was a long week. I wanted to email Irene the second Marks plane landed, but I held out for forty-eight excruciating hours, and again, a response within hours! Anyone who has tried to email Jamaica knows that the œsoon come concept extends to the cyber world also. Irene informed us that Seaside One was in good shape, and was getting a facelift. The rest of the place was being rebuilt and rejuvenated. Irene offered to refund if we wanted to postpone since there would be so much construction, but we knew the worst week in Negril is way better than any week in the real world. I told her as long as they could lash a hammock between a few trees with a tarp over it and a cooler of Red Stripe under it, wed be there!
More to come!!

Vinny


Seaside One on October 14, 2004

Leave a Comment March 17, 2005

Birth, Life and the Elephant in the Room

Aidan Ishaan Raman Bogan, son and heir to my brother Michael and his lovely wife Amrita.

I saw my brother only hours after the blessed event. Words cannot describe a father after the birth of a child. He is a tangle of contradictions, exploding with love, pride, satisfaction, and joy, while also imploding with decompression, relief, overwhelmth and awe. He was a wreck, it was truly a joy to see!

Listening to him go on and on was inspiring, thankfully he left out most of the actual birth details. He spoke of the stoic performance of his beloved wife during the process of labor, how she never broke character, and dealt squarely with her situation. The reverence with which he spoke of her filled the room with a warm glow, he spoke with gratefulness, a kind of, “How did I get so lucky to get to this place in my life.” I just looked on and smiled, it was obvious to everyone but him.

We spoke of all the aspects of Aidan’s new life, even how he’ll probably live to see the twenty second century, yeah, we had it all figured out. He will learn, grow, stumble, get back up and go on. With all this positive energy at his back how can he go wrong?

It makes one understand and acknowledge the presence of divinity on some unspoken level. Something that is bigger than us, yet is totally us. More totally us than we can really get our minds around. That’s why we don’t speak of it, we don’t know what “it” is, and least of all how wrap it up in words. Our religions can’t touch it, yet we all feel it, and deep in our bones we know it. It’s only in these rare moments that it bubbles up to the surface and asks us to come to terms with it.

Ganesh the Hindu Deity can be an example of this concept. He is the remover of obstacles, so remove the obstacles of jewels, the fancy hat, the clothing, the dogma, and you’re left with the Elephant in the room.

Leave a Comment March 9, 2005

My Stories – Complete (PDF format)

(To Download simply right click and select “Save Target As…”)

Banana Shout 10/04 – Post Ivan
A rollercoaster ride experience in Negril. Arriving just weeks after hurricane Ivan. Witnessing the rebuilding of Negril, and the infamous goat sacrifice!

The Road to Negril – Circa 1994
My First Experience in Jamaica. This is a story of my first impressions of Jamaica and how they moved me and addicted me.

Yoga Center Trip 4/04
An exciting vacation in April 2004 when I stayed at the Negril Yoga Center. I’d planned a week of deep thought and meditation, but I found a bunch of rowdy friends and maybe a little romance.

Leave a Comment March 7, 2005

Yoga Center Trip April 2004 – Final

Tedds with Yasmine

We returned to the bus/taxi lot to find a ride back to Sav-La-Mar. Being mid-afternoon, there weren’t many people headed to Sav so we had to wait for the taxi to fill. At only 150J a head, the taxis don’t leave till then, preferably not til over-full.

It had gotten really warm and we needed of some refreshment, so we walked over to a fruit cart and ordered a pineapple from the big scary looking vendor. If you never had a pineapple in Jamaica, you don’t know what you’re missing. The Pineapple Guy takes hold of said fruit by the leafy cactussy part, pulls out a gigantic machete and lops off the bottom half inch in one smooth motion. Expertly he carves off the rough skin, and with the speed of a Cuisinart he slices it into thin discs. The discs fall onto a shiny metal plate balanced precariously atop a rickety wooden fruit crate, and at about the time you’re getting over the shock of the menacing twenty four inch blade whipping about, he scoops the pieces into a clear plastic bag and hands it to you with a gold tooth accentuated smile. The entire process takes about forty seconds and only cost a dollar US. What a show!

Watching as he wiped the residual juice off the heavy knife, I nodded and thought to myself, “Theft must be rare from this cart!”

The Pineapple Guy nodded back as if to say “Your Damn Right!”

Back in the shade of the minivan I opened doors on both sides to make the best of the slight breeze blowing over from the town center. We sat quietly and enjoyed both the sweetness of our pineapple and the sweetness we seemed to be finding in each other.

By the time we were finished we were on Jamaica Route A2 headed back to Sav. There were only four other people in the minivan which the driver didn’t seem too happy about.

Yasmine put her feet up, leaned against my chest and closed her eyes for this leg of the trip. My arm was draped over her sleeping shoulder and my hand rested gently on her belly as it rose and fell with each breath. Not wanting to risk waking her, I looked out the opposing window and timed my breath with hers.

The entire time I fought with myself, trying to keep my demons at bay. The normal thing to do would be to fall asleep with her, but my brain would have none of that! “What if you wake her up with your snoring, or worse, with you drooling all over her head?!”

Luckily for my sanity, my innate negativity towards my romantic success was over shadowed by the intoxicating scent of her chocolate brown hair. I found a quiet place in my mind by thinking of a love song written by my daughter Kristine. Somehow her words turned my doubts into hope and gave me peace.

Yasmine woke just minutes before we reached the Sav-La-Mar Taxi Station. We arrived right in the middle of the Jamaican version of rush hour and in minutes we were in a Negril bound taxi. There would be no sleeping on this leg of the trip though, we were stuffed in the back of a small Japanese sub-compact, and between the driver’s exuberance and the Westmoreland roads we were on a rollercoaster ride.

Approaching Negril I remembered we’d talked about visiting Tedds Shroom Boom, I broached the subject with Yasmine and she was all for it!

“Woo Hoo!!” I thought, “There’ll be lovin’ in the hammock hut tonight!!”

I told the driver we needed to get out before the end of the route. I did it just in time because in what seemed like a minute later we were de-taxiing in front of Tedds colorful little yard.

It looked much like it did on my last visit about two years earlier, except this time the sign was inside the fence and I was concerned he may no longer be in business, but, to my relief, Garland came to the door as we approached the porch.

“Hi!!” I said with a big wave. Garland pretended to remember me, but his acting wasn’t all too convincing. Now, since my last trip I’d spoken to fellow Negrilista who told me to make sure I asked for “Double Strength Tea,” something I would soon regret, well sort of, in retrospect I don’t, but that day I did, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Anyone who’s tried mushroom tea knows it is about as tasty as bat shit. Bat shit, mixed with water and honey. Suffice to say it’s nasty. Yasmine had no idea what to expect, she thought we’d be sitting in a quaint little cafe sipping something more like a cross between Earl Grey and the broth they use in wonton soup. Boy was she surprised!

Garland brought us over our tea and I paid him the $20US he asked for. Yasmine thought I should have haggled but I knew it was a good price.

I can’t describe the look of shock and horror on her face as she took the first sip, but it was a lot like that of Brad and Janet when they realized what really happened to Eddie.

I thought she’d fold like a cheap camera, but, to her credit, she choked down the slimy psilocybin and honey concoction with the demure class with which she did most things.

We were having a really nice time, but I knew from experience we needed to get back to the Yoga Centre before this stuff really kicked in. We said out good-byes to Garland and his son, just as a group of six Hedo People took our place.

We walked out front and hailed a taxi. I knew this was an “In-Town” taxi and would cost whatever the market would bear, but I also knew we needed to get back because the waves of trippy shroomage were beginning to lap ever so gently on the shores of my scull!

By the time we got back to the Yoga Centre were giggling like characters in a Dr. Seuss book. OK, for a minute I thought we WERE characters in a Dr. Seuss book, but the calm was shattered when the driver asked us for $5US for the ride.

Yasmine’s flabber was ghasted, “We only paid 70J to Sav!!” She shrieked in her here-to-fore sexy French accent.

The driver looked at me with eyes that said, “I don’t want to deal with this.” I peeled off 200J (about $3.25US) and he seemed happy to get out of there. Yasmine seemed mad at me for giving in and I just laughed, trying to diffuse the situation and herded her into the Yoga Center gates. We split up and headed for showers in our respective cabins and planned to meet at the breakfast table afterwards.

The “Double Strength” hit hard!! It relentlessly toyed with my sanity as I tried to shower, brush my teeth, and roll a fatty. I tried to take a moment and record this awesome day in my journal, but when I grabbed my pen I was overtaken with the banality of expressing life is such a small, bourgeois, and utterly meaningless form as words or language! Yeah, I was out there!

Walking from my cabin, I came across Alan and the Kiwi couple. I dove right into conversation with them when, unfortunately, I realized the power of speech was well beyond my current mental state. I didn’t see Yasmine so I asked Alan to tell her where I was. At least that was my intent.

Some time later Alan joined me in the Hammock hut and the next thing I know I was knocking on Yasmine’s door. Now, I knew at some level that I was in the full clutches of the “Double-Strength Tea,” but I also knew I had a hundred pounds on poor Yasmine. Physically she seemed fine, but looking into her eyes told a different story. The lights were on and somebody was definitely still home, but they were about to go on holiday for the next eight to ten hours!

Realizing, fresh air, liquids and maybe some ganja would be the best thing to keep us afloat in the midst of these rising tides, she headed across the yard to the hammock hut, and I went to my cabin for supplies. I soon joined her and we shared a hammock. Being with Yasmine made me feel great, the testosterone bubbled up through the waters, but making any moves on a woman in this state would be quite sumbaggedly of me so we rock and rolled with the increasing waves, within the safety of our sturdy hammock.

I awoke some time later, Yasmine was gone, and Alan was there. I knew I had to move, Alan was talking but I was no longer of this planet. I rushed back to my cabin and guzzled several Red Stripes and somehow managed to roll two big sloppy slpiffs. After a cold shower I was stabilized enough to eat the sweet bun in my refrigerator and drink some water. I walked out side and sat at the breakfast table.

No sooner did I relax did it all come flooding back over me, it was still strong, maybe stronger than before, but I seemed able to control it. Maybe it becomes more cerebral and less physical as time wears on. As my vision seemed to melt anything I looked at for more than a few seconds, I felt like Neo in the Matrix. I began to realize this “reality” is nothing but subjective energy fields that on some level we “agree” to see in a certain way.

I began to fixate on a large flowery bush under the spotlight near the center of the yard. It was actually a close knit series of individual shoots all integrated under the surface. On some level we were aware of each other and I was acutely aware of all the energy ebbing and flowing all around me, it was cool. In that moment I gained and understanding of the essence of life, if not the meaning. I knew this was a fleeting moment, and in the morning, like a day in OZ, I would be back in Kansas, and everything would be in black and white.

Over the next hour or so, I was lost between these worlds, debating which was real, and if the “Double Strength Tea” was causing it, or was it opening my doors of perception and allowing me a see it. I guess that’s the big question.

After a night of fitful sleep, and really wild dreams, I was awoken by a knock on my door. It was Eddie my driver I’d hired to take me to the Airport. It was 7AM. I told him my flight wasn’t till 1PM and he said he’d be back at ten.

I was all kinds of confused. The tea had run its course, but there was a residual effect mixing with my hangover, I’d drunken eight beers from about six and midnight and I felt them. Stumbling into the shower, the cold water invigorated me. I must have drank a gallon of water the standing there. I knew the entire place slept till eight so I packed, the whole time very worried how Yasmine made it through the night.

I had a dream where she thought I’d poisoned her, and Alan and I ended up chasing her all over Negril ending up in the swamps behind the strip. I laughed as I recalled my wacky dream but found myself checking my sandals for swamp mud before I put them in my duffel just to be on the safe side.

I dressed in my travel clothes and made for the breakfast table. One of the security guys was high up in the mango tree shaking some fresh mangoes loose, Alan and Marie were standing below to catch the fruit before it hit the ground.

A few minutes later I was having a coffee and fresh mango breakfast. I apologized to Alan for my lack of coherence the previous evening and told him about Tedds, he smiled and took it in stride. I asked if he’d seen or heard from Yasmine. He said he ran into her a few times last night and though she was smiling, she didn’t say anything to him.

She never made it to breakfast and only moaned when I knocked on her door to say good-bye.

“She’s Pissed,” was my first thought, but somehow I knew she wasn’t. I joked to myself, “If she’s pissed it’s because she was denied my lovin’!”

What woman wouldn’t be?

I hopped into my taxi and headed north to Sangster International Airport.

Epilogue

Before I left Alan and I traded emails and I gave him a note for Yasmine. I’d have to wait to contact her since she was headed to Treasure Beach for the next week.

So, as I got back to my life, and made plans for another trip in the fall, I filled my journal with thoughts and memories of my wild week. A few weeks later I received an email from Yasmine, she regaled our day together and how Rasta George helped her find her place in Treasure Beach, and how she met a couple who went on the “Tourist” boat up Black River, but didn’t get to go to “Our” little cove. The funniest thing was while she was under the effects of the tea she thought she had been poisoned and spent some time in her cold shower as well.

As for Patty, Erin and the Kuyaba folks, we’ve kept in email touch.

I’m still a faithful boardie and get to as many webcasts as I can!

Peace :)

Vinny

Leave a Comment March 6, 2005

Yoga Trip 4/04 – Part 7 – Black River w/ Yasmine

This was my last full day in Jamaica. This week went by so fast! Next time Im staying at least ten days.

I dont know why but I was so nervous sitting there eating my morning vegetarian yummy-ness, when Yasmine appeared all packed and ready for our day on the road. I found myself apologizing for not being ready to go, I hate when I do that. Hell, it was only 8:15 in the damn morning and Im all, um uh, well, I, ah. She sat with me as I finished my coffee and Alan continued to give us last minute travel tips.

I went back to my cabin to get ready and to tweak my buzz. I did a few breathing exercises to clear my head and chill my angst. Soon my mellow returned and I let the excitement of the impending days adventure take over. I took the two perfectly rolled fatties from my secret place and put them in my pocket, did one last mental checklist and out the door I strode.

The sun and I were a bit higher in the sky now, and boy did Yasmine look great! Energy and excitement seemed to radiate from her. It mingled with mine and seemed to lessen the space between us.

We waved good-bye to our friends and headed to the Negril Bus Depot which is about a quarter mile past the roundabout on the road to Sav-La-Mar. Walking past the roundabout a gaggle of cabbies called to us in their special way, but as soon as Yasmines French accent called back, 70J to Sav? they stopped, just stopped, and pointed towards the bus depot.

In a few minutes we were walking through a sea of white Toyotas at the depot. Again a dozen drivers told us of the deals they had, but once again they heard that French accent they gave up and pointed to the next taxi headed to Sav-La-Mar. I guess the Jamaicans think Europeans are not as flahoolic with their money as we Americans. I didnt care, they thought we were French and it was saving me money.

Since Yasmine had that French thing going for her and seemed to enjoy haggling I let her do all the talking. When Im in Negril I have that Everyones my friend attitude. Yeah, maybe it attracts more sellers and scammers and maybe I dont always get the rock bottom price, but for me thats half of Negrils charm. You have some fun interacting and you pump a few bucks into the local economy.

We paid our 70J a piece for the ride to Sav, once there wed get another taxi to Black River. The driver sat me up front with him, and Yasmine sat in the back of the Corolla with three Jamaicans, a mother, her daughter, and a young man with a broken hand who somehow shoe horned in.

The driver drove like a sixteen year old kid trying to impress his friends, but as we headed out of town I let myself relax. Its one of those give in to the moment situations. The loud thumping reggae negated any ideas of chatting with Yasmine, so I sank into the seat and into the music.

Soon the excitement Id been feeling, the ganja Id been smoking and the energy that was flowing came together. I felt as if I was standing at the precipice of time, fully aware, leaning into the oncoming rush of the present. At that moment I wished Sav was a thousand miles away, I didn’t want it to end, but it was one of those rare mountaintop experiences that are so special because you only get a glimpse at any one time.

Sav was very different from Negril, its less colorful, there are fewer smiles, and the streets were not very crowded. I guess its where people lived and worked, not where they were trying to impress tourists. I hear it really bustles on market day, Im sure Ill be back through.

We unloaded in a small lot near the center of town. There were taxis lined up and a few food vendors with dull makeshift carts who half-heartedly advertised their wares. Yasmine walked over and got a jelly coconut from one of them, while I found taxi number two. This time the taxi was a mini-van, we climbed into what we thought was the two-seater up front as we sipped the delightfully strange coconut water with two straws. When the bus filled up a third person squoze in next to us, so much for the two-seater, Yasmine was a bit squished but at least she was squished against me. Thank Jah for Dentine.

The ride out of Savannah-La-Mar was fast and furious, there were fourteen people shoved in the van, and I felt like I was actually traveling in a foreign country. The people were warm and friendly, they seemed interested in us, where we were from and why we werent on a tour bus. I answered one older woman, how else was I gonna meet you! And they say Jamaicans are smooth.

It seems the entire tourism industry did everything it could to keep separation between tourists and normal Jamaicans, the ones not trained by years of working the tourist trade. Part of me knows that’s how they make thier money, by packaging Jamaica in a polished shell, but another part knows, that sadly, this is too close for most American and European tourists. Maybe, I can help spread the word.

Yasmine and I made chit chat, discussing philosophy, politics, and Paris (the city, not the heiress), it was wonderful. She was a strong, confident woman and yet so feminine. I admit the idea that these qualities are mutually exclusive is a defective mental construct made up of my past bad relationships, yet I could feel a manly confidence build as we sat close, touched and talked.

The terrain really changes as you leave Sav, the lush tropical feel gives way to grassy, almost desert-like conditions, which I guess why the Spanish named it, the savannah by the sea. Leaving Westmoreland Township and entering St. Elizabeth, the road immediately gets better, and the already racing driver picks up speed.

The taxi had all but emptied itself along the route. Most of the group getting out at the town of Bluefields, the boyhood home of Peter Tosh, the second most famous Jamaican reggae star, several more at Whitehouse, where they are building a huge new Sandals resort, more like a small city, really, than a resort. It stands out like a sore thumb, literally, because it is being built on a small peninsula, and figuratively because it breaks up the natural country charm of the area. At every cross road you see small rum shacks and markets, with small country inns sparsely dotting the roadside between. I guess in twenty years the south shore will look like the strip in Negril, hopefully Negril wont become like the over commercialized Hip Strip in Mobay. Old-timers say it already has.

Pulling into Black River, it looked a lot like Sav-La-Mar, though there was a bit more color and much more commerce. We each paid our 150J to the driver, and it struck me what a great trip it was, just over two hours and only about $3.50US.

In Jamaica, the bus depots are not in the tourist part of town, they are in the people part of town. We headed across a small bridge towards the docks along the river. To our right was the Black River Safari, it was the local tourist trap taking a bus load of people up river at a time in covered pontoon boats, complete with music, and sticky-sweet rum punch at the turn around point.

We turned left and headed to local docks along the river. There were a half dozen twelve foot multicolored fishing boats lined up complete with local guides looking for more adventurous travelers like us, just like Yasmines guide book said there would be.

This is where we met Rasta George. Rasta George was the real deal, he told us of an exciting, fun, educational, and romantic trip into the Black River Morass, and all this for only $2US more than the Corporate Tour. He had me at hello, but we haggled a bit anyway. He wouldn’t budge, which somehow was so strange in Jamaica that we said ok and forked over $40US. He told us to wait in a little cafe right there near the docks where we sipped icy Tings and excitedly waited for our odyssey to begin.

About fifteen minutes later we were climbing into a small fishing boat and headed up the river. It was only then when I realized Id given my camera to Yasmine to keep in her bag. As I began taking pictures I focused on an oncoming big tour boat, the people yelled and waved as they zoomed by, and I looked at Yasmine and we said in unison, This is so much better! Rasta George smiled and said that weve seen nothing yet, and for years wed be telling people to come see Rasta George in Black River. He was right.

Rasta George is a tall thin Rastaman, his dreads were tucked into a tam bearing the Rasta colors of green, yellow and red, he wore wire rimmed sunglasses and he bubbled with personality. He was a great guide explaining all about the morass, what rivers fed it and how they come together to form Black River, he knew all about the flora and fauna, and explained how the swamps eco-chain worked.

As if on cue the boat driver Brant, shouted something to Rasta George and pointed to another tour boat also headed up river and paused along the riverside with all its passengers pointing, ooh-ing and aah-ing. As we pulled close we could see that just beyond the rivers edge was a small lagoon with a supposed crocodile swimming around. The tour boat was stopped about ten yards out in the river, but we didnt even slow down as we approached.

Brace yourself! Called Rasta George as we crashed through the mangrove and slid into the small lagoon, and yes there was a crocodile in there with us. At first I was freaked out, more so from the tour boat folks screaming than from the three foot crocodile hastily swimming away from us.

Just a pickney, he whispered to Yasmine and me as we went back out to the river, but as we passed near the tour boat he shouted, No Mon! Can’t see dem giants from a da tour boat, his wink told us he was playing to the tour boat patrons. The tour boat guide gave us a dirty look and gunned the engines on the big boat, as we smugly waved goodbye, feeling pretty good about or decision to see the river with Rasta George.

Tourists, I said in a jokingly snobbish way, which made Yasmine laugh. I looked back a few seconds later and she was still laughing. What? I queried.

You look like more of a tourist than anyone else on the whole island! she said laughing with Rasta George and Brant joining in.

Looks can be and obviously are deceiving! I retorted, and we all laughed and Yasmine gave me an apologetic hug. Yeah, OK, I was wearing blue shorts, sandals, a loud Hawaiian shirt, a bright red Phillies baseball cap and I was furiously taking pictures, but looks are deceiving for I am Vinny, man of the world.

Now with my balls thoroughly broken we continued our trek up river. Soon we came up on a little bar where the tour boat from earlier was docked, the tourists were drinking thier punch and dancing to reggae from a boom box. They were having a grand ‘ol time. Just past the bar was low concrete bridge, far too low for the tour boats and that was obviously where we were headed.

Them tour boats cant come up here, this is why you come with us! Rasta George boasted and into the upper river we went. I’d never felt so separated from the real world as I did then, pulling away from the tourists I had flashbacks to all those movies where the scary part starts just like this. Anytime you go to Negril you know you’re not in Philly anymore, or Kansas, or, you know what I mean, but here, fifty miles from Negril and another ten miles up a jungle river, the feeling is stark.

Up here there are some serious crocodiles, six footers at least, which seem pretty damn big when youre close enough to reach out and touch them. I dont know how many times that day I thought to myself, Is this really happening? Am I really here? Little did I know the coolness meter was about to ratchet itself up another notch.

Around a small bend in the narrowing river was a rickety wooden dock at a tiny little cove. We docked at this little oasis in the mangrove. Yasmine and I just looked at each other. I was thinking this must be the romantic part of the trip Rasta George told us about back in town. I don’t know what she was thinking.

Climbing out of the boat we could see a small thatched hut in the clearing and we walked up to make our introductions. We all got Red Stripes and made small talk as we shared one of the spliffs I brought with me.

The bartender told us to take advantage of the afternoon sun and take a dip in the crocodile filled river. I thought he was crazy, but when Yasmine started back to the water I followed, and when she stripped down to her rather small bikini, I joined her in the water. Splashing around was fun until Yasmine asked if I thought splashing around attracts crocodiles like it does sharks.

Buzz Kill!

Theyre more afraid of you than you are of them! Rasta George shouted from shore.

Ya sure? I asked not expecting a real answer, but I got one.

If I let the crocs eat the people I go out of business quick, no? He answered, which in the moment, made perfect sense to me.

After a few pictures we got out of the water, had a second beer and sunned ourselves on the large rocks like our friends the crocodiles do. After about an hour at our little oasis, it was sadly time to go.

On the way back to town we drove a lot faster and Yasmine and I shared a bench on the boat this time and kind of snuggled as the spray from the water gently washed over our faces. Few words were spoken, we were now on the homebound part of our trip and I was leaving tomorrow early. I dont know about her, but I saw a very romantic evening ahead of us.

Back in Black River we went into the same little cafe and got some bottled water and french fries.

You guys did a great Job with these, I said, squirting some translucent Jamaican ketchup onto the plate.

Fries? she smirked.

French Fries!! I said teasing her.

We had nothing to do with them, she said dryly in that sultry French accent.

I love your accent, I said, immediately wishing I didnt use the word love.

What accent? Youre the one with the accent, she teased back. Americans think everyone has an accent, but them.

Go ahead, bash the ugly American I pouted.

Youre a very cute American, she purred as she leaned over and kissed me.

:)

Leave a Comment March 3, 2005


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