Archives – July, 2005
Yesterday was perfect, mid 80′s low humidity. I took a walk to the mall for some sun and some exercise, I also had a few things on my packing list I needed to pick-up. My Jamaica trip seemed so close!
Today sucks! Hot, muggy, cloudy, rainy, but not the refreshing kind of rainy, it’s that steamy gross kind that makes you feel as if you’re walking through a giant sponge.
I have a program on my computer called “Time Left” on some level it’s very cool, you put in an exact date and time and the thing counts down the exact “Time Left” down to the second. You can set it to show you any breakdown you want.
Currently I’m at 17 Days, 17 hours, 49 minutes, 4 seconds, which is much better than where it was on booking day. Sometimes I see it and say WOO HOO, Almost there! Other times it seems those seconds mock me as they tick by in slow motion.
I guess today is one of those slow motion days, or maybe I’m just jones’in for JA.
July 25, 2005
It’s still two weeks out, but only two. Two tomorrow to be exact, at 4:20AM tomorrow, it will be two weeks, that’s when I leave my house. Ok, the plane leaves at 7:15AM if that’s when the counting officially starts, so be it. Of course since its Air Jamaica I won’t be off the ground till at least 8AM, so by 8AM tomorrow it will be two weeks no matter how you slice it.
So at 11AM tomorrow it will be two weeks till I’m deplaning at Sangster International. I wonder if it will be stair truck or jet-way? I’m hoping for stair truck. Call me old fashioned.
Wow! That means by at least 1:30PM tomorrow it will be two weeks till I’m barefoot on the balcony of the Tower Room staring out to sea with a spliff in one hand and a Red Stripe in the other!
Lucky for me I’m such a seasoned traveler, otherwise I’d be acting all giddy and excited!
July 25, 2005
I’ve been looking forward to Saturday all week. I was going to hit the city (Philadelphia of course) to find a quiet, inspiring place to sit and write all day long.
I plan to do this all the time, but invariably something comes up. This day was no different. Yesterday a close friend of the family passed away and I knew I needed to carve out some “me time” to sort out thoughts, memories and feelings. I knew I’d write about it but I wasn’t sure in what form. Is it disrespectful to blog about a death? I thought about it and realized that it would be disrespectful not to.
Friday night I got in from work around 9PM. All the way home I planned out my Saturday, up by 7, breakfast by 7:30, haircut at 8, and catch the 8:32 train into Philly. I was asleep before the first episode of 24 (on DVD) was over. Don’t cha just love that Jack Bauer?
I dreamt I was a CTU agent keeping the homeland safe with my pal Jack Bauer, when all of the sudden we were in a sewage plant, then a pet store, thenâ€¦ I woke up!
It seems while I was snoozing “Rosie The Cat” got into my plate of Buffalo Wings and now she was doing the Butthole Slide on my living room carpet!
How could this much shit be in such a little cat? It was everywhere!
At first I was furious and started yelling at her, but she just looked at me like “Screw You, my asshole is on fire!!”
Knowing it was useless to berate my cat I got the cleaning stuff and went to work. Looking at the clock it was only 6:30 so I still had a chance to enjoy my day.
After a shower and a shave I headed off for breakfast. I sat at the counter of the diner a short walk from my house and also the train station. Usually my coffee stays full, my food is hot, the service is quick and friendly, and my tip is 40%. Probably because I was in a hurry, or maybe the hotty little waitress didn’t get the news that I’m El Tipper Grande, but she did the best to foil my plans.
First I sat at the counter while “Muffy” concluded a rather sordid tale of last night’s escapade. When she finally took my order she poured my coffee and disappeared. Tick, tick, tick, I could feel my day slipping away. Then after a good twenty minutes, my favorite waitress Danielle brought me my breakfast and apologized for Muffy’s incompetence.
I happily ate my meal. I’m not a complainer, after spending twenty years in restaurants I feel their pain, but I did only leave a 15% tip. Danielle usually gets 50%, not because she’s a gorgeous blonde, but because she’s a hard worker with smartass attitude. She kind of reminds me of my daughter Kris.
Now it’s almost 8 o’clock. No time to get home and get to the barber before my train leaves, but as I turned towards the train station I see the 55 Bus coming my way. Somehow I did the math and before I knew it I was paying my $2.00 fare and heading towards the barber shop which was close to the next train stop. I just might make it.
Pulling at the barbershop door, I see it’s locked! Can anything else get in my way today? Just then the familiar bald head of my Russian barber came into view and he unlocked the door. Yeah, I go to a bald barber. Even worse, his partner has a mullet! That was on my mind since I had been growing my hair in recent months, and with the impending wake and funeral, I thought I needed to shape it up. Fifteen minutes and fifteen bucks later, mullet averted, I hurried to the train station.
It was 8:35, either I’d missed the train or it was late, but I wasn’t the only person waiting so I asked an older couple when the train was coming.
“8:50 Mullet Boy.” OK, she didn’t really call me “Mullet Boy” but I was self conscious about my new doo.
I was in Philly by 9:30. And it started raining. At first I was worried, but it was just a sun shower, a light drizzle to get some of the humidity out of the ninety degree air. I ducked into the Independence Hall Visitor’s Center. In a few minutes the rain stopped and I headed off to South Street, a great place to people watch.
It was HOT and it was still so early. By the time I got to 2nd and South, I was drenched in sweat, so I went into the Cosi in Headhouse Square for some A/C and a cold drink. Since the entire Headhouse Square District is WIFI enabled I was able to fire up my computer, sit in the corner near the window and begin writing my personal eulogy for Joe Nolan.
After about an hour I noticed I was getting dirty looks from the staff and decided to take a walk on South Street and eventually end up at the Starbucks at 5th and South. It was even hotter now, but the wind kept the air moving as I checked out all the cool little shops. My day was looking up.
About noon I hit Starbucks, bought a big cold drink and went up to the empty second floor dining room and got a seat near the window where I could feel the sun see the people walking about. At first I hated the Starbucks on South Street, within a year of it opening the several other coffee shops on the strip closed and when you add that to the Gap and the Mickey D’s I feel the character of the place may be changing from a funky bohemian enclave to just another outdoor mall.
Sitting in my space, a burst of creativity came over me and I spent the afternoon dumping my thoughts and memories onto my blog. From where I sat it was a sunny and air conditioned day and it couldn’t have been better. All the tourists and wannabe suburban freaks paraded by adding a bit of color, and eves dropping on the conversations of the folks coming and going added some humor.
I got the 5:10 train back home. It was beginning to drizzle again as the train made its way north. Walking from the station I felt great, I felt like I accomplished something. It was hot and the misty drizzle cooled me off. As I neared York Road, the sky completely opened up. Within a minute the street was like a river and I was hiding under the eve of a small storefront.
Crossing the street I got completely soaked! So after a few minutes I decided to just walk the few hundred yards home in the massive thunderstorm. I knew my computer bag was waterproof do off I went. As soon as I got in the rain I felt great, like a kid walking, well, in a rain storm.
Rosie The Cat looked at me like I was crazy as I stripped off the soaking wet clothes in my tub and took a shower.
I guess a good day can have a bad start.
July 23, 2005
“That’s beaut-E-ful, Vinnie” he says on cue. Fighting heavy eyelids Joe watches the slideshow of “The Bogan Family’s” latest vacation in our darkened living room, as my dad, Vinny also, goes into painstaking detail on each of the hundreds of slides. It’s going on two hours, all the kids have snuck off to my sister’s room to listen to Bay City Roller records, and all the other adults have long since dozed off. Undeterred my dad continues the story of our trip, and good ol’ Joe Nolan loyally feigns rapt interest in the saga.
Joe Nolan was my Dad’s best friend. For more than thirty years, they’d shared life’s ups and downs. They had so much in common, both Teamsters, both Irishmen, and both family men with kids in the same age range. They’d seen communions, confirmations, graduations, marriages, ordinations, divorces and unfortunately even a funeral. Through it all, along with the wives, they stayed the closest of friends.
Joe was so proud of his boys, Brian a priest, and Brendan one of New York City’s Finest. He was no bragger, but he could tell a story with the best of them. He’d have the room in stitches telling of Brendan’s trials and tribulations as a New York City cop, and though his Brian stories were a bit toned down, they were no less enthusiastic.
Joe loved to laugh! My first job was as a dishwasher at a local Chinese restaurant and Joe thought it was just hilarious how they pronounced my name. He called me Winnie till I was forty! It was our thing, and it’s funny how sad it makes me to know, I’ll never hear him say it again.
“Essie and Joe”, you never say one without the other. I can barely remember when “The Nolans” weren’t a part of our lives. I was in the first grade when my mother told me the son of a woman she bowls with would be in my class. For the next thirty plus years “The Nolans” were and still are as close as family. For twenty years we shared Thanksgiving Dinners together, and Thanksgiving remains my favorite holiday.
Joe somehow made it through the sudden and untimely death of his only daughter Maureen, and it seemed to give the rest of the family comfort knowing they were together again. I’m sure he’ll love what she’s done with the place!
Brian, their oldest, and I went through St. Matthew’s Elementary School together, we even served as alter boys. Though my Catholicism waned in the intervening years, Brian’s grew stronger and I’m sure Joe beamed with pride as he looked down upon Father Brian Nolan stoically performing his funeral mass before the very large crowd.
Safe Home Joe
July 18, 2005
Saturday morning’s calm was punctured by Mark calling to a fisherman a few hundred yards off the cliff.
“Poglai?” He shouted, hose in hand.
“Ya Mon” Replied the fisherman.
Mark called Alex over and had him cut a deal with the fisherman for about 3 pounds of Poglai (It may have been Toglai).
Mark told us this tasty reef fish is only available in the fall and is a local delicacy! Your average Poglai/Toglai is about nine inches long and quite meaty. Ann Marie cooked them while we were out gallivanting and they were sitting in our refrigerator when we returned.
As with most fish in Negril they were cooked whole and looked like they were pan fried with some kind of spices. I don’t know how they tasted hot, but cold they were a real treat! As soon as we were done we sought out Mark and Ann Marie to thank them.
Hanging out this week at Banana Shout with Mark, Ann Marie and the rest of the crew added innumerable insights to Jamaica, Jamaican life, and the expatriate experience.
If I ever write a book of my travels it will be called “An American Expatriate in Negril A Week at a Time.” That’s the flavor of my experiences in Negril, an expatriate for a week. I try to drop into the Jamaican lifestyle as fast as possible and roll with it for the entire trip. I so envy friends who go native for extended periods, the freedom must be amazing!
Usually the worst time in Jamaica is the few moments you let yourself dwell on the impending trip back to the “so called” real world. To put that off for a month or more, wow! Now that’s a trip I am definately going to take! Someday.
On Sunday the boys went to town. We were going to get some breakfast, do our souvenir shopping and see where the day would take us.
Clive picked us up around 10AM and we headed to Selina’s for breakfast and the Sunday Brunch Webcast. It was Nick’s first time to the Selina’s for a webcast, but he realized he’d been to Selina’s before.
The joint was jumpin’! Cowboy and Dave were doing their thing while we stuffed ourselves with Big Roy’s Banana Pancakes. I ordered a few pounds of coffee and we hung around for about an hour meeting and greeting fellow boardies.
We made our way down the strip towards the Craft Market, meeting many disappointed higglers who found us full of ganja and heading out of town tomorrow. It was early afternoon by the time we got to the Craft Market and there were thunderclouds threatening.
The Craft Market had not bounced back from Ivan yet, more than half the shops were closed and almost all of the apparel had been soaked by the hurricane and had a sickly yellow tinge to them. Most of the carvings were the imported and painted crap first timers buy.
Several times the sellers frustrations of not selling, met our annoyance of being sold at! It was as stressful a time as I’ve ever had in Negril, and the now driving rain didn’t help much!
We knew exactly what we wanted, I resigned myself to getting my nieces and nephews t-shirts at the airport, but I was looking for a unique carving for my daughter and Nick was loosing faith that his week long search for a unique mushroom carving would be in vain.
Finally we met a guy who said he was the “Maker.” Unfortunately, though he was the maker, which was good, his stuff was not to our liking, which was bad. I bought a coral necklace from him anyway, for effort.
But this gave us the idea of asking for the “Maker!” Jah bless them, Jamaicans can twist, back pedal and obfuscate with the best of them, but they can’t lie very well when asked a direct question.
Finally we found one “Maker” who had just what I wanted for Kristine, my spirits soared! One down!
There was a guy that had been following us, pleading for us to come and look at his stuff, “Are you the “Maker?” we asked.
His reply hooked us. He said that if we didn’t like what we saw he would make us anything we wanted. That got Nick’s attention. We went into his small shop which was more workshop than storefront. We looked around and his stuff was cool, but all too big and no Magic Mushrooms carvings.
He asked Nick to describe in detail what he wanted. So, with his hands he sculpted the air into his ideal shape. “The Maker” pulled out a raw piece of mahogany about six inches square and twelve inches long. Nick took the piece of lumber and held it as “The Maker” explained exactly how he would free the mushroom carving trapped in the wooden block. Nick was sold!
Then the haggling began. Nick had planned on spending $30 to $40US for the carving, but “The Maker” started at $80. After several feigned walk outs the price was $40 now and $10 more on delivery. “The Maker” asked where we were staying and said he would drop it off at Banana Shout at 7PM.
Walking up to the corner in the now light drizzle of rain to wait for Clive, I told Nick, “You know you just lost forty bucks.”
Nick was philosophical, “Well at least I’ll have a story of how I “didn’t” get my mushroom carving!”
Standing at the corner waiting for Clive, every cab driver in Negril tried to get us to ride with him. At first it was funny, then annoying, and they just kept coming. I wish we would have counted. There were at least twenty five, if not thirty, no kidding!
Soon Clive appeared and we were back at “The Shout” in minutes.
After some herbal relaxation and showers we each took a late afternoon nap. I woke up and it was dark, Shit! I missed my last sunset!
“Last night dinner, you call it!” I shouted to Nick from downstairs where I was still half sleeping.
“3 Dives, Shit Butt!!” He eloquently replied.
As we were enjoying our pre 3 Dives hunger enhancing spliff, Alex came to our door saying some guy had been outside for an over an hour saying that he had something for us. Puzzled we walked out to the street behind Alex, and to both Nick and my astonishment “The Maker” was standing there holding a bag, beaming with pride.
He pulled his Fungi Masterpiece out of the bag and it was exactly what Nick had been describing to Negril’s crafty crowd all week! Nick gave him $20US, ten more than they’d agreed on and triumphantly marched it back to our house. He hid it in his stuff and off to 3 Dives we went!
This was my third 3 Dives dinner in ten days and it was delicious as always, it was dark and as crowded as we’d seen it all week. I guess some of the all inclusive folks were feeling daring!
We stayed up late that night smoking, reminiscing and writing in our respective journals. It was actually light when I got up.
A family of ants had found their way into my bag of sugar and I did my best to not add any to my morning coffee, but I’m sure I got a little extra protein.
I sat out on the porch of Seaside one with my coffee and stared off to the horizon, lost in my thoughts. Just then one of the cement mixing guys came up to the porch with a new looking gym bag.
He told me earlier in the week, he was a jewelry maker and planned to move to Negril and make his fortune. I told him to come by before we left and I’d be his first customer. He’d actually spent a few breaks this past week telling us of his plans, so I was happy he came back.
He opened his bag and there were a huge assortment of beautiful necklaces and bracelets. I needed a few birthday gifts so I picked three necklaces and asked how much. He was so excited to sell me something his haggling skills weren’t very sharp.
He told me each necklace was $10US, but when I offered him $10 for all three, he not only took it, but gave me another one! Then he thanked me, hugged me goodbye and gave me a woven friendship bracelet that I tied to my ankle (its still there).
Nick and I walked down to Sips and Bites for our fifth or sixth breakfast of the week. The place is awesome, as the week went on the portions grew, the bill shrank, and the tips more than doubled.
As we walked back to “The Shout” we knew it was time to say goodbye to our friends. We shook hands with Mark and Alex. Then we each hugged and got pictures with Ann Marie. All too soon Gary was there and we packed out bags into his car.
A sadness came over me that I’d never known when leaving Negril. This trip was more than just a week of partying. I’d met some really great people, and I had some truly unique experiences.
I promised myself that I would share these experiences, take the writings from my private journals and put them out there to see what happens.
Moving forward, I’d live a little free-er, take more chances, open my heart and share my art.
As Banana Shout disappeared around a corner, I knew that I’d finally found a place in Negril I will definitely come back to.
Thank’s for reading!
July 16, 2005
I was making a packing list for my next Negril trip and when I looked at it, I thought, “Am I weird, obsessive/compulsive or just a savvy world traveler?”
This is my actual packing list for my August ’05 trip, would love to hear comments. Every time I go to Negril my list seems to get longer and longer, so much so that I’ll actually be checking baggage. It’s only my new rolling duffel thats too big for the overhead compartments, but I’ve always carried on in the past.
Anyway here it is, please feel free to cut and paste for your own personal use
Clothes (Unless you’re going to Hedonism)
- 2 pairs – Swim Trunks
- 3 pairs – Shorts
- 3 pairs – Gym Shorts
- 10 Assorted T-Shirts
- 3 Polo/Golf Shirts
- 3 Hawaiian Shirts (For hot dates!)
- 1 pair – Jeans
- 5 pairs – Socks
- 12 pairs – Underwear (incl. Silk Boxers for above)
- Flip Flops
- Running Shoes (LOL, as if I’ll be running)
- Light Jacket/Windbreaker
- 2 Hats
- Laundry Bag
Health & First -Aid
- First-Aid Kit (Simple, Band Aids, alcohol wipes, tweezers)
- Neosporin (For creepy crawly bites)
- Aloe Vera Lotion
- Sun Block 15 SPF
- Sun Block Stick 30 SPF (For my nose)
- Chapstick w/ UV protection (Keeps lips kissable
- Bug Repellant w/ at least 30% Deet (Can’t use wimpy stuff in Jamaica)
- Pepto Bismol (Get individual serving packets, helps w/ humidity)
- Excedrin Extra Strength (Great for hangovers! Individual packets also)
- Vitamins (Which I buy in single serve packages anyway)
- Hand Sanitizer (Good when hand washing doesn’t permit itself)
- Wet-Ones (I put them in the fridge, Woo Hoo! Instant cooling!)
- Condoms (The size and amount are up to you)
- Nail Clippers
- Mouth Wash
- Disposable Razors
- Shaving Cream
- Hair Brush
- Hand Lotion (Udder Cream is my fave)
- Towels – Washcloth
- Digital Camera (getting a new one for this trip!)
- AAA Batteries – Energizer Max – 8 Pack
- Laptop Computer (I plan to blog this trip daily!)
- Laptop Stuff – Power Supply, Mouse, Wireless Card, Jump Drive
- DVD’s (Laptop has a DVD Player)
- Blank CD’s
- Disposable Flashlight (De power go black a lot)
- Smoker’s Candle (Keep the ganja smoke to myself)
- Disposable Rain Ponchos (for those afternoon storms)
- Disposable Lighters (Keep in checked baggage)
- Leatherman (8-in-1 All Purpose Tool)
- Travel Clock
- Cell Phone
- Breath Freshening Gum (Jerk Chicken is great, but
Mind and Body
- My Jamaica Journal – It’s a leather bound journal Kristine got me a few years ago that I only use in Jamaica.
- Books -This trip will be Bill Bryson and a Spiritual/Creativity Book given to me by a friend)
- An appropriate assortment of Meditation Crystals
- My Mini Smiling Buddha
- Assorted Incense
- Money some 20′s, and $100 in singles for tipping
- ID, ATM Card, Credit Card
- Travel Wallet
- Plane Tickets
- Printed Hotel Reservations
- Pens (for the customs forms on the plane. You’ll be a hero because no one has a damn pen)
- Airline headset from previous trips
- Lonely Planet Guide to Jamaica ’03 Edition
- Jamaican Road Map (Don’t ask me why)
- Candy for the Kids – Non-melting, individually packaged, and yummy!
Damn, looking at the full list, I’m kind of embarassed. Does this qualify me as a metrosexual?
July 11, 2005
The second story bedroom in Seaside One at Banana Shout is amazing for sleeping, Nick and I got to calling it “The Bamboo Lung.” Screened windows all around with wooden slats similar to those crank operated glass slat windows your grandmother had on her porch. This type of window is very common in Negril at least in the non-air conditioned part of town. Up here the slats were fixed three-quarters open, perfect for privacy and air flow while keeping the sunlight at bay. Add to this a very efficient ceiling fan, and even in the heat of the October afternoon, this room is a cool retreat.
It was Friday morning, early morning, I don’t know what time. I lay in my bed staring at the ceiling fan cutting the humid pre-dawn air, I was wide awake and I feeling great! Two and a half days of being sick were definitely in the rear view, and I felt all that Negril energy popping, calling me to begin my day. I couldn’t lay still any longer.
I stood in “The Bamboo Lung” looking out to the ocean, I was so happy to be back to normal that I decided not to waste a minute of my last three days in paradise. I quietly walked out onto the veranda. I looked at the hammock and then out to sea. I had a strong feeling that I needed to be out there. I tiptoed across the room and down the stairs. As I moved the feeling grew, some force was drawing me to the sleepy coral cliffs, I walked past the coffee maker, grabbed a half smoked spliff from the ash tray and before I knew it I was standing with my toes just inches from the cliff’s edge.
There was no moon this morning, the sky was crystal clear and a zillion stars peeked thru the firmament to greet me. The pitch black ocean was non-existent visually, yet I could feel its life force everywhere at once. Its gentle breeze flowed around and through me, energizing me as I stood at the precipice, lost in time and space, eyes open, fully aware, mind quiet.
I have no idea how long that moment lasted, just that like all such moments, not long enough, but probably just long enough. I walked down closer to the waters edge, either my eyes or my mind had focused to the situation, because I could see every detail of the limestone steps and below me and the coral cliff beside me. I sat on a tiny out cropping in the cliff with my feet resting in the water. I began to time my deep breaths with the rhythmic splashes of the tiny waves at my feet and again was lost in the quiet search for the center of things.
Part of me could see a fisherman about a hundred yards off shore, quietly checking his traps. Mark was stirring, I could hear the hose way off in the distance. The street was coming alive then finally the cock began to crow, morning was here for the rest of Negril, but for a few precious moments I had it all to myself. As I walked back to fire up the coffee pot I realized the half-smoked spliff was still in my pocket.
A cool shower and half a cup of coffee later Nick came trundling down the stairs immediately knowing I was back to normal.
“Weclome Back,” he said as he fumbled for a coffee mug.
“Thanks Man, I feel great!” And I did.
“What time is it, I’m starving!”
“Not sure exactly, but the sun is just coming up which means it’s five or five thirty-ish”
“Which means three hours-ish till Sips & Bites, didn’t you buy eggs?”
“Yeah and bread too, make some breakfast!” I said, all of the sudden feeling hungry.
“Two Mushroom Omelets, coming right up!!” Nick seemed wide awake as he flashed an evil grin and a baggie of mushrooms!
Sometime around mid morning, with our bellies and our heads full, and giggling like drunken girl scouts, we set out to find out where West End Road turned into Lighthouse road.
It was nice walking weather, not as oppressively hot as it had been all week and soon we were at the Negril Lighthouse. It’s funny, from Banana Shout it seems like it’s around the next bend, but it’s probably a good half a mile. Looking up at the impressive structure, I realized I had never visited it before nor did I know much about it. Generally I’m a wealth of worthless knowledge, but the Negril Lighthouse file was all but empty. I approached excitedly, hoping to fill this knowledge void, but alas it was closed due to Ivan damage. A big pile of stones blocked the entrance while a few mean looking and well armed guards gave us the hairy eyeball.
Part of me wanted to keep going and check-out “The Westender Inn” and on to Negril’s south shore, but the out of shape part of me won out so we headed back towards “The Shout.”
As we headed up the barely paved road, we began to hear music blaring from somewhere. The music added rhythm to our trudges the closer we got it became obvious that it was coming from a Jamaican guy rocking out with some kind of Karaoke machine. As we got closer I began to figure out the lyric.
“Hey boys come-a-over-ere
Da Paarty is whatcha gettin’ neer
Don’t cha just a be a-walk-a by
Da music would make ya wanna fly”
and on and on.
“Hey Fellas whatcha name” the man shouted with the aid of his loudspeakers.
“Nick” replied Nick.
Then booming across the yard, “Nick Nick Nick Nicky NicK
Rexy’s place will do da trick
Anyting yar lookin far, I and I show you da door”
and on and on.
Well with an invitation like that we had to make an adjustment to our plans and check this guy out.
We walked across the yard to a pavilion of sorts with the name Sexy Rexy’s painted in faded letters across the front. The place was pretty sparse, a few picnic tables and a makeshift bar in the back. A youngish man offered us Red Stripes and Ting, we got one of each.
From the time we turned from the street into the yard known as Sexy Rexy’s the older man who enticed us in with his rasta flavored rapping, had been singing a song with uninteliglble words, but with all the gusto he could muster. We sat at a bench and rexlaxed out of the heat and enjoyed the entertainment such as it was. Soon the song was done and he enthusiastically came over and introduced himself.
“I am Sexy Rexy” he proudly stated with a big smile, and as we introduced ourselves I remembered hearing of this guy though I didn’t know any details.
I’m not sure how to describe Sexy Rexy, saying he was a character would be a gross understatement. We found ourselves spellbound within the world of his stories. He spoke in length about Ivan, by figuratively walking us down Lighthouse Road, colorfully describing the damage and the current state of every property from Jackie’s on the Reef to The Yacht Club.
When he found out we were at Banana Shout, he told us of he and Mark’s decades long friendship in story form, telling tales of Negril’s past from the Jamaican vantage point. We could have stayed all day, but the pangs of hunger and the need for a ganja refill said it was time to go.
Sexy Rexy went back to his music and set out to lure in a preppy looking couple coming up the road. As we passed them they asked what was over at Rexy’s and I replied, “Jamaica.” An adventurous smile grew on the cute older woman’s face and dragged hubby towards Rexy.
As we walked away I heard Sexy Rexy say over the loud speaker, ‘Hey sista whatcha name”
After a spliff or three and an afternoon nap, the sun grew heavy in the sky. I remembered it was Friday night, so I hopped in the shower, shaved, poofied my hair and put on my loudest Hawaiian shirt. We’re going to 3 Dives!!
3 Dives is about the best restaurant in the world, great food, great people, cold beer, and a sunset that defies description. No one was diving tonight, the webcast was rolling and we just took our time and hung out with strangers who were now friends.
July 8, 2005
I could have listened to thier stories all night! Kris and Patrick had been back from Negril for about forty-eight hours, and their Jamaican enlightenment lit up the room. Looking at photos of places I’d been, but with Kristine’s attitude in them and her stories behind them brought me back to my balcony on the cliffs. As much as listening to the words, I absorbed the unmistakable Negril energy flowing from them.
I was so proud! They really got it. They really understood the magic. It got in their bones, they didn’t simply watch it from their porch, they got into it, and thats what it takes! Now at least now there’s another person in the family that can’t answer the big question, why do you always go back to Negril?
The answer is in every story. It’s in the vibe that arises when sharing experiences with friends, and when Kris says she can’t wait to go back, I understand completely. Sadly so many don’t get it, maybe they never will, or they won’t, I don’t know which is worse.
In Jamaica you constantly find yourself asking, “Am I really here?” “Did that just really happen?” So many nights I’ve sat at my journal laughing to myself when comparing the day’s original plan with what actually happened. The well laid plan is so far from where the Jamaican party gods had actually taken me, and it is nowhere near the rich full life experience I’d experienced that day. It’s just a scrawny agenda, and it looks as if it was written by another person entirely. I guess in some ways it was.
I ask myself, “Was I really there this morning?” “Was this really the day’s starting point?” Bless Jah! How does one take an idea, form it into words and expect it to fill a day in a life? In the real world we do it everyday, and we never question it. Our lives can be so well lived, if we just let go of convention and fucking live it! Maybe that’s a partial answer to the big question.
Why Jamaica! You can really live there, no rent, no bills, no stress, no job, no clients, no deadlines, just life, just living, just feeling the vibe coming over you, and having the freedom and the audacity to ride it. That’s my Negril, my spot in space and time where I live totally. Where I choose live how I’m unable, afraid or unwilling to live everyday life. Everyday life where all those things listed above have such a hold, and became so real. Even more real than our true selves, and the worst part is we know it, we see it happening, and we feel powerless to change it. “The Rat Race”, “Life’s Rollercoaster”, “The Human Jungle”, choose your metaphor.
I guess that’s why its called vacation, maybe we can only handle the wide open, unencumbered life in small doses.
I dose again in August.
July 6, 2005
“The Biggest Human Event in Planetary History!” A headline blared from some mega media website. A bit heavy handed don’t you think? Well, I was there, and I wasn’t in some cordoned off media area with air conditioning and adult beverages. No not me, your intrepid reporter was in the thick of it, squashed between stinky biker types, soccer moms and half naked teenagers. What I don’t do for you, dear reader!
The adventure began with a walk to the train depot near my house. There were about twenty very young, very hip looking people waiting impatiently for the 7:51 SEPTA R2. A few High School aged girls were flitting about unable to mask their excitement, while the ultra-hip nose ring and Doc Martin crowd looked on disdainfully. I guess I fell somewhere in between, as my tie-dye shirt, canvas shorts and sandals identified me as one of the faithful.
Going to events in Philly via public transportation is usually an adventure and this trip did not disappoint. Packed well beyond capacity with bleary eye-ed Live8ers, the train rolled and rocked its way towards Philadelphia and the big event. Industro-techno music from an unseen boom box filled the crowded car, keeping heads bopping, feet tapping, and really pissing off the conductor who was unable to control the situation. Other than feeling a little weird being the oldest person on the train, the trip was far-out! I mean cool. The cat’s pajamas?
Back in the spring I’d heard there was going to be a Live-Aid 2, and I barely took notice except to reminisce about that long, hot, and very wasted day at the old JFK Stadium when I was a kid.
As the hype grew so did my desire to be a part of history, again. Really it was more like a “wouldn’t that be cool ifâ€¦” kind of thought, but as the big day drew nearer my resolve grew stronger and at 8AM Saturday July 2nd I was on my way!
It was Live 8 this time, not Live Aid, and this time we’re not fighting hunger, but tackling third world debt and trade injustice. I guess I’m not the only one who’s grown up in the last twenty years.
Walking up the stairs from Suburban Station in Center City Philadelphia, I was amazed how crowded the city was at 8:30 on a Saturday morning. I could see thousands of people streaming from everywhere up Broad Street toward Ben Franklin Parkway. What a sight to see!
Finally, I got to the place where I was supposed to meet my friends, but they were nowhere to be found, so after a few minutes I decided to check out the infrastructure for today’s event which was pretty impressive.
The Benjamin Franklin Parkway is about a quarter mile long from Love Park to the Art Museum, you know, the one with all the stairs Rocky likes to run around on?
At several points along the tree-lined Parkway there were huge television monitors with speaker clusters, they seemed so far from the stage, and were right in the middle of the street. How many people are they really expecting?
I counted four very large, well staffed EMS tents with huge pallets of ice and bottled water to keep the thousands hydrated, and even at 8:30AM the police presence was heavy and everywhere.
Parked at 20th and 22nd Streets North and South were big red fire trucks with giant spray arms ready to cool the crowd. I didn’t think the crowd would actually get this far back. There was no view of the stage. Little did I know that in a few hours 22nd street was only going to be mid-crowd.
Lining the entire length of the Parkway were food vendors of every stripe, well almost every stripe, hundreds of them! There was your regular outdoor event fare, Hot Dogs, Cheesy Fries, and Water Ice. There was also Greek, Chinese, Organic, Vegetarian, and even a Falafel stand, but no Jamaican food! What a disgrace!
My gastronomical disappointment was short lived, I was standing just a hundred yards from the stage when The Fresh Prince himself came out and the place went nuts! He spoke of the reason for Live 8, how we were all here so the members of the G8 would take notice of poverty in the third world, especially Africa. I was impressed with my fellow revelers, because they cheered like crazy and we all joined people around the world in raising our hands in the air in an act of unity.
Normally, being a sophisticated slightly jaded ex-deadhead, I would poo-poo this act of unity by the ipod generation, but I was caught up in the moment as the Black Eyed Peas took the stage and found myself jumping and cheering with the crowd.
Then as if by magic, the familiar bass riff of Bob Marley’s “Get-Up, Stand-Up” shook through the crowd and then Rita and Stephen Marley took the stage and broke into the lyrics! Was this really happening? Woo Hoo! What a moment! The sheer power and integrity of the Marley’s created an irie explosion that blew from the stage into the crowd as we all moved as one.
Then it was my ol’ pal Bon Jovi, his familiar “Livin’ on a Prayer” is a Philly classic. Although eighty percent of the crowd wasn’t born when the New Jersey album came out, (hell it was actually an album, vinyl, an LP!) their moms and dads kept the song a staple in classic rock radio.
The day was getting hot and my friends and I decided to move back from intensity of a “Stage View” position. I didn’t really have much need to hear the canned music of Destiny’s Child, but the slappin’ bass line turned us around and I have to admit, Beyonce’s “Survivor” rocked! Something about her voice that cut through everything and made white people jump up and down saying things like “You Go Girl!!” I sometimes feel the need to apologize for my race.
For the next few hours we listened to the music, but spent most of our time people watching. They were all here, though most of the crowd was between fifteen and twenty five there were thousands of kids, this was definitely as family friendly affair. No bad behavior, no obvious booze consumption and all day, ALL DAY, I didn’t get one, NOT ONE whiff of sweet ganja smoke. There were also a large cadre of hippies, and hillbillies, radical old ladies and a smattering of outlaw bikers.
Walking thru the crowd is always a lot of fun, I found one guy who had crowd walking down, he was about 6’3″ very hairy, very sweaty and had his arms over his head, it was like he was a big smelly Moses as the crowd seemed to part before him. What I found sorely lacking were the angry young men and lesbian activists, they were there, but kind of quiet and marginalized, so they didn’t add the flavor I count on them for at these large events.
I dialed back in when Toby Keith was singing some song about “Whiskey for my men, and beer for my horses,” you gotta love dem backward ass country folk.
Next up was Dave, the Dave Matthew’s Band, a big time favorite of mine! The sound was great for an open air concert and I tried to get closer for a better view of Dave, but I only got as far as the 22nd Street North fire truck sprinkler set-up. Dave-shmave, now this was quite a sight! A few hundred folks were frolicking in the cool falling water, like a giant wet t-shirt contest. Of course I watched only for editorial reasons, just to relay the event properly.
This is where I noticed the first of another interesting activity many teenage girls were involved in. They would walk up to a bootleg t-shirt seller, ask for his ID, and when she felt she proved he wasn’t legit, she’d start in on the guy. She would scream, “You fucking dirtbag!! You’re stealing from starving babies!! What the Fuck is wrong with you!! Don’t you have a fucking soul???????? Etc. . .” While her friends who were spaced twenty yards apart all screaming for the police and pointing in the direction of their friend and often the fleeing seller.
It was a pretty funny site these big tough looking guys with a five foot nothing sixteen year old girl just wailing on them. Most just walked away, some argued back and a few ran. Good work girls! Linkin Park was the perfect soundtrack for this, starting sweet and then rocking out!
I found a place under a tree and took some notes as Sara McLanahan’s beautiful voice mixed with the cool breeze and cooled off a million people bringing them to a mellower place. I’d hear Sara before, my daughter likes her a lot, but this was the first time I ever listened to her. Wow, just enchanting.
By the time Stevie Wonder came on I was all the way back to Love Park singing the dozenth “we hate capitalism” type petition of one kind or another. This added to my pile of fliers from NORML, Act-Up, The Lesbian and Gay Task Force, and even the Church of Scientology, though I didn’t see Tom and Katie anywhere.
The mass exodus to busses, trains and parking lots slowed to a crawl as more and more people turned to take in Stevie Wonder’s performance. Dressed in white at his piano, with a full band and choir also dressed in white, “Superstition” was bouncing off the granite museum walls, like a giant surround stereo. Even the cops and vendors stopped and bobbed their heads paying homage to the legendary performer.
Getting out of town was insane, every road was choked with traffic and the over taxed and under prepared regional rail service was rife for one of those human stampedes. It was a hundred degrees in the station, the air was thick stinky, people had that look in their eyes where panic was only an inciting incident away. I got out of there.
I walked a few blocks to Girard and Broad, got on the very crowded but tolerable Broad Street Subway up to Olney Transportation Center and waited for the 55 bus to take me home. While I waited I got a few patties and a few Tings at the Golden Crust Bakery and Grill and pondered the enormity of the situation I’d just left.
July 3, 2005
Vinny from Philly reporting live from Live8 in Philly!
Lots of good bands, an overly well behaved crowd, and good time is being had by all. I’m a little bored but I’m kind of a pain in the ass that way.
I am taking notes and will be posting a full report this evening.
July 2, 2005