“ Where can I get a nice Bikini?” Dee asked Mr. Brown Around Town.
“A really small one,” I chimed in hopefully.
“Yes, Yes, I know a place for you,” of course he did, taxi drivers in Jamaica can get you anything you want, and a few minutes later we pulled into the craft market just past the airport.
I’d never been there before. The place seemed cleaner and sturdier than the bigger craft market near town. The older women working the booths didn’t look very aggressive, and it being a holiday, I was hoping for some bargains. I immediately did what I always do when I go to one of these places. I bought a Red Stripe, and tried to look aloof. I also bought one for Mr. Brown, and a bottle of water for Dee.
The first couple booths didn’t have any bikinis, but the third one did. A chubby Jamaican woman showed Dee several hand woven, very small bikinis. She picked a white one with a purple design on it, and asked to try it on. They both looked at me like, “Well, go outside while we do this!” I was a bit hurt. I grabbed a crocheted Rasta-Dread hat for my nephew and skulked out the door.
“She’s trying on bikinis.” I said to Mr. Brown as I perused the other stalls. I wasn’t in a shopping mood, so I used my well-worn “I’m not buying souvenirs till right before I leave” line. It worked pretty well, but I think the other women wanted some action since Dee was obviously buying from the other woman.
“Viiiinnnnnyyyy” Dee calls in her best alluring voice, “Come tell me what you thiii-iinnnk!”
There are worse things in life than being the bikini approver. Dee was self-conscious about her weight, but her standards were overly high. At 115#’s she’s a hard-body, now at 122 she feels fat. She looked fantastic.
“You look fantastic!” I marveled.
“I love it!” she said spinning around, and headed for a wall of colorful sarongs.
The shopkeeper just smiled knowing she could name her price. I was happy Dee found something she liked, but her enthusiasm severely limited my haggling opportunities. So after overpaying by a good twenty-five percent, we were back on the road, and decided to stop for a snack.
“Who do you think has the best Jerk Chicken in Negril?” I asked Mr. Brown. “Do you mind stopping somewhere? Your choice”
“Ozzie the best,” Mr. Brown said matter-of-factly and pulled in front of the small store. I’d heard of Ozzie’s, and many Negrilheads swear by it. I was open-minded.
Ozzie’s was clean, and a cross-wind kept the small dining area cool. I ordered Tings and Jerk Chicken for the three of us, but they only had one order of chicken left, so it was Jerk Pork for Mr. Brown and me.
Every trip to Negril I award one place my “Best Jerk” award. Ozzie’s had quick service and the food was excellent (especially the pork), but I wasn’t awarding anyone till I gave last trip’s reigning champ “Best of the West” a shot.
By five o’clock we were home at the Castle. I went inside to take a cool shower, while Dee made herself a cocktail and hit the deck chair to soak up the late afternoon sun in her new bikini. I must have dozed in the cool breeze, but was awakened by voices outside. I looked outside to see Dee napping where I’d left her.
The Castle must have been close to full occupancy, several couples had commandeered the yard chairs and lounges, and the people in the penthouse were having a sunset party. I walked over to Dee, stopping to say hello to our castle-mates. I sat on the edge of Dee’s chair staring to the horizon.
“I’d forgotten how beautiful it was” Dee said solemnly not seeming to notice the twenty people sharing the view. I pulled her foot onto my lap and massaged it absentmindedly.
“Listen,” I said as the sun floated near the horizon’s edge. A few moments pass, “SSSSSSSSSSSSSSS, did you hear it?”
“I must have missed it,” Dee giggled. “It’s so beautiful here.”
“You fit right in.” I stated smoothly. “How do you feel about a romantic seaside dinner, champagne and lobster?”
“Mmmm, sounds nice, is it close?” Dee cooed.
“Just a few doors down. Just past that point,” I said, pointing down the coastline. “Go get dolled up.”
“I have something in mind. I need to take a shower first.” Dee said.
“You just took a shower.”
“I’m suddenly feeling dirty.”
Dee rolled her eyes, and ran off to our cool stone room. I looked around and noticed the sunset watchers were mostly gone as was the sun, but the cloud dusted sky was still alive in pinks, corals and blues. It is really beautiful here.
I was shaken back to earth by the faint sound of our shower, I dashed inside.
Dinner at Xtabi
About an hour later Dee and I pulled up to Xtabi. A wonderful place, hundreds of small white Christmas lights draped all about, juxtaposed with leafy tropical plants. The rhythmic beat of the sea joined gentle island music playing on cheap scratchy speakers adding to the charm. Xtabi is a testament to rustic Caribbean elegance.
We walked to the bar and ordered two very dry martinis it was a martini kind of place. The bartender was well practiced, chilling the glasses, stirring vigorously and pouring properly. Unfortunately for Dee they had no olives, so she settled for a lime twist. Dee was beautiful, her loosely wrapped flower print dress defied gravity as she sipped her drink.
I asked the hostess for a table on the cliff’s edge. She said it would be half and hour, but there were other tables ready. We decided to wait. The bar room was nearly full, though we were the alone at the bar. The staff was mellow here. The bartender didn’t put on a show like many of his Negril colleagues, even the guests spoke in hushed tones.
Once at the table we ordered a bottle of champagne, grilled lobster and grilled red snapper. In no time our waiter returned with the bubbly, and popped the cork lavishly off the cliff into the abyss beyond. Dee couldn’t understand why they didn’t light up the cliff-side and the ocean below.
“This is nice, but it would be so beautiful to see it lit up,” she said.
“I never thought of it, I’m sure there’s a good reason. Jamaicans don’t seem too shy about making a buck.” I replied.
“The fish don’t like light in the night-time,” the waiter said, responding to Dee’s question. She still thought it bad marketing.
The food was very good. The natural, earthy taste of the impossibly fresh seafood called for slow eating, savoring every bite, cutting small pieces and chewing a bit longer. The side dishes of buttery callaloo and plantain added texture to complete the meal. Dee even wrapped up a few pieces of lobster to take with us.
“You’re breakfast,” Dee smiled as she handed her plate to the waiter.
“Woo Hoo!” I responded, currently stuffed but looking forward to cold morning lobster chunks.
We must have been the last dinner seating. We noticed the other diners sipping after dinner drinks, enjoying the starry night, so we ordered fruity frozen frou-frou drinks, and joined them. One of the guys a few tables away was playing astronomer, pointing out the various constellations. I have no idea how those ancient astronomers looked at the stars and saw crabs, warriors, bulls and virgins.
“See that” I said to Dee pointing to a range of stars, “That’s the Bob Marley constellation. And over there, a Gianticus Splifficus”¦”
Mr. Astronomer guy wasn’t amused and thought I was busting his balls.
“Asshole” was all I heard but there was more said. Dee put her hand to her mouth as if she was laughing in church
I laughed, “Dude I’m just playing, relax.” I asked the waiter to fill their drinks, but the guy grabbed his date and stormed off.
“Fucking Americans!” he grumbled as he passed us.
Now I don’t usually like to be “The Ugly American”, but in this case I was proud of the distiction.
I woke Tuesday morning with a big head. I stumbled for a bottle of wata and a packet of Excedrin. On my extensive packing list, hangover medicine is a high priority. I went outside and the sun was already up, taunting me. “How’s your head? Go get a cup of coffee. Go now, I haven’t heated the sidewalks yet.”
I headed across the foot-burning concrete. “Liar” I grumbled as I retreated onto the grass. I didn’t see Petrona sitting with some guests.
“Hi Vinny, what did you say?” Petrona asked.
“ha Ha, um, oh nothing. Just muttering, how are you today?” I said.
“Oh I’m fine, how are you and your friend enjoying your stay?” Petrona asked, ever the hostess.
“We love it! Having a great time! Hey Petrona do any restaurants deliver?” I asked.
“Yes, Brown Sugar, do you need the number?” She replied.
I filled two coffee mugs as Petrona went to get me the number. Then I headed back to the room, to deliver Dee’s morning coffee. She was already in the shower, so I ordered breakfast.
Dee emerged from the room wearing only her new sarong. She drank her coffee and some OJ we’d bought for screwdrivers. In a few minutes a girl with bags of food arrived. I was pleasantly surprised how quickly it came, and by how inexpensive it was, only 600J for two meals with fresh squeezed mango/orange juice. I tipped well, hoping to make an impression.
We had one American Breakfast, (bacon, eggs, and toast) plus an order of Callaloo and Saltfish with Johnny Cakes. It was good, a little salty, and Dee wasn’t expecting bones in breakfast, but we polished it all off in record time. So quickly in fact that when the owner’s dogs came by we had nothing for them, but Dee had an idea.
“Are you guys hungry?” Dee asked while playing with the dogs, and before I could do anything she was feeding them my lobster chunks from last night!
“Hey! They were mine!” I objected. The dogs were laughing as they walked away.
Dee walked over to refill her coffee, fighting to keep her sarong from falling off most of the trip.
I saw a man talking to Petrona, asking about Vinny. I looked over and made eye contact as he waved.
“Hey Vinny!” He said as he came over. “Vinny from Philly?”
“That’s me,” I said.
“I’m Cliff, Cardboard Box from the Negril.com board.” He held out his hand.
“Hey Cardboard Box!” I said shaking his hand, just then Dee came back.
“You must be Dee,” he stated, as he shook her hand. She was still fighting with her sarong.
We chatted awhile, taking about who was in town and where people were staying. Cardboard Box Cliff was a long time Negril visitor also from Pennsylvania, but he lives out in horse and buggy country.
“I see you’re having trouble with your top, I’ll sit this way.” Cliff said gentlemanly as he sat on the half wall enclosing our patio, now facing away from Dee.
“Thank You.” Dee said letting the sarong fall, “You turn around too,” She said to me, getting back to her breakfast. I joined Cliff looking out to sea.
Cardboard Box Cliff soon headed on down the road, saying something about lunch at Jackie’s on the Reef. I made a mental note, but I didn’t really feel like doing much that day especially after finding a place that delivered.
Dee had gone inside to oil herself up for morning tanning, and I sat on our porch to read my book. A few minutes passed and she was out on her deck chair, falling into a morning routine. Suddenly my rented cell phone rang, the number didn’t seem familiar, but I answered it.
“Hi Vinny?” the voice said.
“Yes, who’s this?” I asked.
“Sara Champlin, the masseuse, we emailed last week” She said.
“Oh Hi Sara, how are you? I forgot we made a tentative for Tuesday, are we still on?” I answered, I’d forgotten all about booking her.
“Yes, we were set for Noon.”
“What time is it now?”
“Damn, can we reschedule for 2PM?” I asked.
“Sure see you then!” She was very professional.
“Great! We’ll see you at 2PM.” This lazy day was taking shape.
I walked over to Dee to tell her the news, and I was surprised to see her tanning sans top. I mean I wasn’t objecting, I just wasn’t expecting them, err’ I mean it.
“Hey sexy, want a massage?” I asked in my smooth voice.
“Not by you!” She blurted out. She must have seen my face drop because she started laughing, “I didn’t mean it that way.”
“You’d better not. I have a masseuse scheduled for 2PM” I said.
“Man or Woman?” She asked skeptically.
“A Jamaican guy with a foot long penis,” I said matter-of-factly.
“Greaaaat! OK, do me a favor then, go buy some bigger condoms. Your extra smalls won’t fit him.” She thought she was just hilarious.
“Bitch,” I said over her snorting laughter. “Her name is Sara, and she comes highly recommended. I made the appointment last week.”
“Awesome! Is there any ice water dear?” She asked, regaining her composure.
“Yes, I’ll be right back, my queen,” I replied dryly.
“Yeeessssss, you’re coming along nicely,” she said in her best Dr. Evil voice, raising a pinky to the corner of her mouth and all.
I retuned with her water and asked, “Am I just a pervert, or is every woman in this place topless right now?”
“I know! Those girls from upstairs are down by the water,” Dee whispered.
I looked. “I’m going for a dip!” I said, maybe a bit too loudly.
“Shhhhh,” she giggled. “Did you notice all the men are sitting out too?”
“You love the attention.” I scoffed.
“No I don’t,” she lied.
“Aah, let them look, even I’m having a hard time looking you in the eyes.”
“You’re not doing a very good job, and yes, you are a pervert!” She said giggling and covering up.
I looked up and noticed the Jamaican guy around the corner from us reading a book at his table, and the penthouse occupant was looking down shamelessly enjoying the view. I waved, he waved back. “I’m getting the penthouse next time,” I greenly thought to myself.
“I’m going to hit the ATM and the store, are you sure you’re ok?” I asked.
“Yeah, go now, how long will you be?” She asked putting her top back on.
“Half hour max,” I replied
I really wasn’t very motivated to leave. Some family and friends asked why I took so few pictures on this trip, I don’t know how I answered exactly, but nothing would spoil the scene than a guy with a camera. I wasn’t going to be “that” guy.
I walked over to Fuzzy who was manning the main gate and asked him where the closest ATM was. He told me the bodega across the way would change dollars or traveler’s checks, but I’d get the best exchange rate from the ATM in town. I’d thought so, but how technology was spreading in Negril, I figured I’d ask. Fuzzy flagged me down a “good” taxi, and in a few minutes I was at Scotia Bank. IÂ got some US, some J, and then walked over to the Hi-Lo to get some goodies.
Dee wanted some pretzels or chips, but Jamaicans have a different view of junk food. I purchased my very first Doritos in Jamaica, some Jackass Crackers, some sweet buns, beer, juices, a fifth of Absolut, and a $14.00 bottle of French champagne as a surprise. Big spender, dat Vinny!
Dee took a cool shower a few minutes before her massage. Sara arrived five minutes before 2PM, setting up as Dee toweled off. Sara was very professional, but there was a warmth, a spiritual energy around her that Dee keyed in on right way. They talked for a few minutes before deciding to do the massage on our patio. There was a cool breeze off the sea, and complete shade at that time of day.
I wasn’t sure if I wanted a massage, but when I met Sara I decided to go for it. I took a shower, then a nap while Dee received her rubdown. I was in a very relaxed state as I climbed onto the table. I recommend Sara to anyone, not only did she manipulate well my sore muscles, she channeled my energy, and revived my spirit. It felt like meditating with another person steering. It was one of the deepest massages I ever recieved, amazing.
After saying good-bye to Sara, I plopped on the deck chair next to Dee. We laid there for a while, when I realized I was probably getting burned I went inside and napped till almost Sunset.
“Where did this come from?” Dee asked, finding the champagne in the fridge.
“Surprise,” I said waking. “What are we doing for Dinner?”
“Let’s stay in,” she said finding the fresh bottle of Absolut in the freezer.
“Fine with me, I’ll order from that place,” I said meaning Brown Sugar.
There was an awful lot of haze on the horizon that evening. Still, everyone was out to watch the sunset. I rolled a spliff, and Dee popped the champagne. We sat on our deck chairs to enjoy the show, but soon found ourselves mingling with fellow guests. Here-to-fore we had only shared smiles and waves. It was nice to hang and talk with people, maybe all the bare flesh earlier that day brought us all closer together. I can’t think of a better way for it to happen.
Our food arrived just as the sun set. We retired to our patio for a nice dinner of Jerk Chicken and Curried Goat. We added fruit juice to the champagne to extend it, but it still didn’t last very long. So I switched to beer and ganja, and Dee got into the Vodka.
We moved the deck chairs to give us a dance floor close to the cliff. Dee cranked up the specially burned CD she’d made for the trip. The CD weas a compilation of hits from the 80’s, and they were pretty horrible. The kind of horrible you find yourself dancing to at weddings. Journey, Styx and REO Speedwagon, not to mention one hit wonders like Maniac from Flashdance, and What a Feeling from Fame. Luckily there was no Michael Jackson.
As people came back from dinner or wherever, they’d stop by and hang with us a bit before heading back to their rooms. We had fun late into the night, until we realized all the lights were out, and our music was much too loud, so we finally crashed.
Wednesday – Finding Nemo
I was up before dawn and went straight for the coffee, but I let myself fall back to sleep when the hangover hit. Dee all but fell out of bed, stumbling to get cold water from the fridge, she looked to see where the sun was.
“Want some Excedrin? It’s good shit.” I offered as I pulled myself onto my feet.
“No, I’m fine. I’m missing sun, this is my last day.” She said absently.
“Cool, I’ll find out about that boat ride,” recalling a foggy memory of a snorkeling conversation with that couple from Cleveland.
“Awesome! Let’s take a dip.” She was already moving toward the door.
“Deal,” I said pulling on swim trunks.
The morning sun was bright, but not yet hot. We climbed down the stairs from the castle’s base to the platform near the water. Without fanfare we both jumped in, well she jumped in without fanfare, I was a bit more tentative. Tuesday, Dee had been accosted by several pointy little fish who seemed hungry to her. I got a pretty good look at them, so I was charged with lookout duties, but the little creatures didn’t show.
I climbed out of the water after a few minutes and began to videotape Dee swimming. It wasn’t long before a family of teenage girls came down to snorkel along the cliff-face. One of the girls noticed a Puffer Fish in a little dent near the cave entrance. Everyone got excited, except the fish who stayed un-puffed.
“Look a Puffer Fish!” One of the girls called to her sisters. They all leaned over for a look.
Dee looked a little concerned, “Um” Are they nice?”
“Yeah, it’s only a Puffer Fish,” she said, the “duh” was implied.
“Oh, like in Finding Nemo,” Dee said.
“Yeah!” several girls replied.
“I loved that movie!” Dee laughed, “Lenny is my favorite.”
Everyone laughed and the girls snorkeled away like they were fish themselves.
The water had brought us back to life, I went for coffee and Dee took a shower. I ran into Petrona and asked her if she knew a glass bottom boat and snorkeling guy. She made a call and put me on the phone with Famous Vincent. I told him we were looking to go somewhere between two and three that afternoon. He answered, predictably, with “No Problem Mon.”
I returned to find Dee sitting at our table smoking a spliff from last night. I handed her a steaming coffee mug.
“Snorkeling between two and three,” I told her, “then we can do sunset at Rick’s.”
“Cool, Sounds good,” She said, “that will be fun.”
“He said you can sunbathe on the deck,” I added, “but if his boat is as small as the ones we’ve been seeing, I don’t know where you’re going to do it.”
“It’s ok I’m gonna lay out all morning,” She said sipping her coffee. “Eww, this is too sweet.”
“I’m sorry, I’ll get you another,” I offered.
“No, I’ll do it, enjoy your book,” She popped up and walked across the mildly peopled yard wearing only bikini bottoms. I guess she figured everyone had already seen her, but still I was impressed with her liberation.
She was almost back to the porch when the people from the penthouse met up with her. They came into our portico and we made our introductions. Scott and Deb were heading out to lunch and invited us along, but we told them we had planned to chill this morning.
Sitting down Dee was all giggles. “When I was laying out yesterday, that lady, Deb was lying out and said, “˜I guess it’s ok to go topless down here.’ With that she took her top off, and her boobs were gi-normous! I didn’t know where to look!” Dee blushed as she told the story. “I felt like a little girl next to her, I was, like, “˜I’ll be going inside now”
“Wow too bad I missed it, I mean, them” I laughed. “Maybe she was hitting on you?”
“She’s here with her husband, duh” Dee scoffed with a little smirk.
“Maybe they’re swingers?” I replied, “She totally wants you.”
“In your dreams” She sipped her coffee.
“I didn’t bring it up.” I added, “Must be in your dreams.”
“You’re such a jerk.” She pretended to storm off to her deck chair looking back with an impish smile.
– To be Continued
August 4, 2006