Archives – May, 2008

Rebecca the Blackberry Angel

At first I thought the situation called for an ode, “Ode to Rebecca”, but our entire relationship consists of two emails and a phone call. An ode might be a bit much.

Maybe I should explain:

Friday night I went over to my friend Dee’s place in Crown Heights. She had somehow come into possession of a wild bird, and she wanted me to help her set it free in Prospect Park. It’s a whole other story. Our original plan for the day was to meet up in Manhattan, have a few drinks, and then go to see the new Indiana Jones movie. So after the bird was free and happy in the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, we hopped on a 3 train heading into Lower Manhattan.

Street level somewhere near City Hall I pulled out my trusty Blackberry and hit the Google Maps Button. Within seconds it told me where we were and where we needed to go. I love my Blackberry. I’m almost obsessed with it. It holds everything, numbers, emails, to do lists, music, and lectures on mp3. And of course I have it all tricked out just the way I like it, in the picture you can see I even created a Negril Notes theme for it. Okay, I could be a little obsessed.

The map on my Blackberry said we were too far away to meet up with our friends before the movie started so I hailed a cab and we hopped in. And that’s when it must have happened! My Blackberry fell out of the pocket of my jacket. I always wear that jacket and I hop in and out of cabs, subways, busses, you name it, and that Blackberry has stayed with me every time.

When we met up with our movie companion we found out the nine-thirty showing was sold out and that we were on for ten o’clock. We walked to Chevy’s around the corner to kill some time, ordered Margaritas, and made chit-chat. Dee’s friend was very nice though she was obviously crazy for me, Dee pretended not to notice. Sometimes it’s not easy being me. Anyway, After only one round we walked over to the Regal Battery Park, found decent seats, and settled in to watch Harrison Ford do what he does so well.

I reached for my phone to make sure it was on vibrate, and it wasn’t there! I checked my other pockets; nothing. I stood up and looked around my seat; nada. I raised me arms and screamed “FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!!” Okay I didn’t really do that, but I was pretty upset. I headed back to Chevy’s to see if maybe I took it out and laid it on the bar for some reason.

Indiana Jones was playing in five of the theater’s eleven screens, and we were in theater number eleven on the top floor. Some other showing had just gotten out and the down escalator was jammed. My stress began to build, the escalator moved glacially, and I felt like a trapped animal. I checked my pockets for duct tape to wrap around my head to keep it from exploding, but I had none! Instead I took a deep breath and tried to relax. When I was calm and still several floors from street level I realized all the people around me were talking about the movie, discussing in detail things like the plot, and the ending!

Finally back at the bar the pretty yet vacant doe-eyed bartender, who made us the shitty margaritas, disappeared for several minutes finding a manager. Meanwhile I found the bus boys and asked them in Spanish if they found a phone, I didn’t know how to say Blackberry in their native tongue. “Si Si,” the taller one said and my stress just deflated, I hadn’t realized how hard my heart was beating. “Thanks Guys,” I said as I started counting out twenties as a reward for their honesty, but I nearly broke into tears when they handed me a scuffed up Motorola Razor.

Walking back into the theater I began to think philosophically. “It’s not like I lost a kidney.” “I have almost everything backed-up.” “I’m just going to look like an ass at work on Tuesday.” “I don’t mind looking like an ass.” “Who cares what those bastard think!” “Who needs that f*****ng job anyway!!” Now back on the escalator I asked the big football player type ahead of me if he had any duct tape. He just looked confused, and began walking more quickly up the moving steel stairs.

I plopped into my seat in failure and disgust. My companions were sweet and consoling, which made me feel better, and by the time the myriad previews were over I was able to let go and really enjoy the film. Indy Rocked!

The rest of the night I kept calling the phone hoping the evil bastard who had it would pick it up. I was planning to threaten that I could track them on the GPS, though I never actually loaded the friggin’ program.

Saturday morning I had my spare cell phone charged up and working, and I sent the number to all the people who might need to get a hold of me over the weekend. I kept calling the Blackberry which I keep on vibrate. I pictured it buzzing under the seat of some cab never to be found. But life goes on.

I took the 63 bus through Park Slope to the Food Co-Op, and as I sat there I rang the Blackberry again.

“Hello” Holy shit! Someone answered, and she didn’t sound evil at all! She’d found the Blackberry in a taxi the previous night and was waiting for me to call and claim it. I must have sounded like an idiot on the phone, I was so excited, and happy, and exuberant, and relieved that I almost didn’t write down her address.

She was like a Blackberry finding angel, she seemed as happy that I found my phone as I was. Whoever stereotypes New Yorkers as uncaring troglodytes are just as wrong as they can be. I’ve only been living here a year and the people have been great. Rebecca the Blackberry Angel is just another example.

I blew off food shopping for the time being and took the 63 all the way to the Atlantic Avenue Train Station. In minutes I was on a 4 Express train to the Upper East Side. From Eighty-Sixth and Lexington, I all but ran to the address Rebecca had given me, and that I’d written on the palm of my hand. The doorman seemed a bit suspicious as I trundled through the revolving door almost out of breath.

But, as I yanked out my wallet to show him my identification, he handed me the grey envelope that held my beloved Blackberry. I think I actually caressed it as I gently pulled it from the envelope and removed the bubble wrap. Yeah, she actually used bubble wrap! This is a woman of substance!

Before leaving I asked the doorman, that if I sent flowers or a gift basket to the building with her first name on the card, would she get it. He assured me it would.

Later that day I looked around the web for some token of thanks to send to Rebecca the Blackberry Angel, but I couldn’t make up my mind. Flowers seemed corny. A fruit or cheese basket seemed too, I don’t know. I went to Harry & David’s to send a Moose Munch basket, but again it didn’t hit the mark. So I did what I always do in times like this, I called my daughter Kristine for advice. She suggested I make a donation to New York Cares in our heroine’s name. Kristine and I are recent members. We believe in the cause, and they do great work.

I emailed Rebecca the Blackberry Angel to say thanks again, and to tell her in lieu of flowers or some such thing that I was making a donation in her name.

The next morning she emailed back saying it was a nice thought but not to make the donation in her name, but in the name of:

“all of us who will loose a cell phone or need a hand, and appreciate the kindness of strangers.”

She went on to say that she has been the beneficiary of annonymous efforts, and if I wanted to give something towards the “Big Karma bank in the sky,” that I should go for it.

And I did.

Thank you again Rebecca. Words can not describe my appreciation.


Vinny (~~)

Leave a Comment May 26, 2008

Kings of the Castle – Part 3

The next day started early for me. Well before dawn I walked cool damp Castle grounds. I love his place! I love the gentle slosh of the Sea emanating from the Blue Cave, the cool salty breeze in my hair, the sun lightening the edges of the eastern sky, and of course, the steaming mug of Jamaican coffee in my hand. Did I say I love this place?

Since retirement, Dad has gotten used to sleeping in, and for me in Negril, sleeping in is about six-thirty in the morning. I’m not sure when he actually rose since clocks are not on my vacation agenda, but by mid-morning we were hungry, and I had Dad all jazzed up for an authentic Jamaican Breakfast.

I always enjoy Selina’s so I figured we’d head down to her place for breakfast. We hit a road in a route taxi, and my Dad was great, he just rolled with the punches all week long, open to everything. We got to talking to our fellow travelers about Jamaican Breakfast, and one of the guys named Lionel told us he had a cousin with a real authentic Rastafarian Breakfast Joint directly on the beach.

“I’m a tour guide!” exclaimed Lionel, but when the other guys in the car laughed when he said it, he knew the jig was up.

Of course the afore-mentioned restaurant seemed too good to be true, but what the hell, these guys had a good positive vibe and I said, “Sounds great! Take us there!” Dad seemed a bit trepidatious.

We passed Travellers and Shields and pulled into a small overgrown drive just before Bar-B-Barn. From where we parked, we couldn’t see the beach, or the road, and Dad was expecting us to be robbed at any minute, but I could hear the surf close by. We followed our new friends up a grass covered path and in seconds Seven Mile Beach appeared before us. I looked over to Dad as he stood wide-eyed at the impossibly beautiful sea of blueness. We were so taken by the scene that we didn’t notice the big Rastaman setting up a table for us.

Lionel, who stood beaming as if he was a bit surprised by his new-found success as a tour guide, decided to talk, and talk, and then talked some more. He was entertaining at first, an amiable bloke to be sure, and he was even up front about having to hustle tourists to make a living.

I don’t know If the big Rastaman was actually his cousin Lionel, but Lionel seemed pretty nervous when he came by to give us fresh squeezed juices, or to update us on the progress of our meals.

The Jamaica Breakfasts arrived and I was impressed! They were bountiful and beautifully plated. The big Rasta-Chef explained everything and my Dad was rapt with attention. “Don’t eat too fast.” He admonished us. “We don’t use salt. We let the natural flavors come though the food. Please enjoy!”

This guy had a great touch, and the food was excellent. The Ackee was tender, and there were few bones in the Saltfish. The yam, the plantain and johnny cakes were as advertized, bland at first but the subtle flavors built as you enjoyed them.

I was so happy with the meal that I grossly over-tipped Lionel, which had the added pleasure of making him go away. I loved the guy, but we really wanted to eat in peace.

I guess I’d made up for the previous night’s hooker debacle. I really felt like the island-savvy son, and Dad really seemed to be enjoying himself.

We checked out the beach a while but there wasn’t much going on, and we were back at The Castle before noon. I walked over to the bodega for beer, water, ting and other assorted necessities to stock the fridge for the week, while Dad went to work on his Vince Flynn novel.

On my way back from the bodega I ran into sweet beautiful Petrona, who offered to move us from Deluxe 2 into Superior 12 which had a TV and A/C. Dad was happy with the move, and with the panoramic ocean view from the porch. You really can’t beat this place, you’re treated like family, the location is paramount, and the prices are so low you can’t understand how they stay in business.

Dad and I relaxed reading, taking short dips in the sea, and drinking Red Stripes. The place wasn’t crowded, but we did meet Angela from Nova Scotia that day. Orchid as she is known on the Message Board. Dad had been to Nova Scotia with my Mom a few years back, and they seemed to hit it off pretty well. Angela was living large in the penthouse and was on an extendned and extending vacation, she may be still there.

Later in the afternoon Susan, the owner of The Castle, returned from her vacation. So where does someone who lives in Negril go for vacation? Brooklyn of course! Susan graciously invited Dad and I out for a lobster dinner at Erica’s Cafe.

Susan drove us in her little red car, Petrona joined us, and there was also a Canadian couple, who were long time Negril residents, and friends of Susan’s. We had a nice time, the food was excellent, and so was the conversation. We each had half a grilled lobster, and a nice portion of curried lobster with all the accoutrements. Dad and I peppered Susan with questions about the building and history of The Castle. There’s definitely a book in that story, maybe even a mini-series.

Being Saturday night we said our good-byes to our hostess and we hopped a taxi over to The Seastar In for some twisting by the pool. The road into Seastar seemed darker than usual on this moonless night, but everything brightened up as we turned into the driveway. The party was in full swing when we arrived, Rob, Lisa and Captain Rob were working the webcast, and I introduced my Dad to all the boardies logged in that night. The place was crowded, there seemed to be so few people in Negril, they must have all been at Seastar.

As we settled in with ice cold Red Stripes, there was some commotion in the pool area, some girl had gotten naked and jumped in. Henceforth she will be referred to as Nakid Girl, though her nakedness was relatively short lived. She spent most of her night stumbledancing to the reggae stylings of Rasta Ralphie, other than the few minutes we chatted about things metaphysical. She was very wasted but she was no dummy, and she seemed a bit over her head in whatever she was involved with, but for that night she had a grand time.

Dad was very impressed with Rasta Ralphie. The two of them were in the same basic age range, but old Ralphie had the physique of a much younger man. I’m sure is had something to do with his hyperactive stage persona. I tell you that man can rev up a crowd.

I had a nice time visiting with Rob, Crob and Lisa. Lisa was only a few days away from heading back to the frozen tundra of Winepeg Canada after six plus months in sunny Negril. She must not have stayed too long because it seems like she was back in a few weeks, but I’m sure for Rob it was an interminable absence.

We’d had a long day and I doubt we lasted much later than ten or eleven o’clock. Chris, the Seastar’s owner, had his driver take us back to The Castle with the added fun of sharing the ride with Nakid Girl.

More to come…

Vinny (~~)

Leave a Comment May 22, 2008

Negril With Dad Continued…

It’s been on my mind to continue telling the story of my Dad’s first trip to Negril. In the weeks after returning I’d spent hours scribbling this and that in my journal, that’s my process. I write and write, I dump it all onto the the page, and then I begin the editing process. But then tragedy struck I lost my journalI was apoplectic. Imagine months of my deepest, not to mention wierdest, thoughts, all my compiled gems of literary genius. Gone.

So where was I? We left off with Dad and I making it to The Blue Cave Castle after a bit of drama at the airport. Can you believe them treating me like a tourist? Well ok, but anyway it was pretty un-cool.

Arriving on a Thursday was a good idea as far as airfare was concerned, but Dad had to miss the Rutgers v. FSU game. He’s a Rutgers season ticket holder. Therefore after settling in we figured maybe we could find a bar with ESPN for a little dinner, football scores and maybe some highlights.

We asked Santa, the night security man at The Castle, if he knew any bars showing American Football, or at least one with cable. He mentioned a few, but he didn’t seem to sure of himself, so we decided to grab a taxi and see what we could find.

Stepping into the steamy street of the mid-October evening, it was quiet, the little beer shack across the street had morphed into something else since my last trip, and Elvis the carver was gone for the night. In a few minutes we were in a cab with a driver who swore he remembered me from last year, and we lit out for Mary’s Bay. I’d watched football there before, but it looked closed as we pulled up. Even Easy Rock was closed. October is about as low as low season gets in Negril.

I asked the driver if he knew of any places that might show American Football, but he was kind of shaky too. I didn’t want to go all the way to the beach so he turned around and we headed up to LTU or Parrot Bay, but as we pulled past the Castle I remembered Xtabi, “They have TV’s,” I thought.

Before we committed, I jumped out of the cab and asked the girl at the front desk if they had a TV with cable in the bar, and she enthusiastically said, “Yes, we do!” her pretty Jamaican accent filled the room. I all but skipped out the door, paid the driver and said, “Get out Dad, this is the place!”

“They’re playing the game?” he asked.

“I don’t know, but they have a TV with cable.” I was already crossing the street, and in minutes we were sitting at the bar pretty much all by ourselves.

“Hey Buddy, what are the chances you can turn on that TV so we can catch a little ESPN?” I asked as he opened our beers with his lighter.

“Not so good mi bredda, the TV is broke.” he said with a sad smile. I looked at my Dad and he just smiled, “It just ain’t in the cards tonight.”

I just laughed, the pretty girl at the front desk didn’t lie, there was definitely a TV and I’m sure it had cable, but next time I’m going to ask, “Do you have a working TV with cable?” Once bitten…

Dad must have been hungry because he dug right into the mediocre off-season Jerk Chicken, and he really enjoyed his first-ever plantains. We took a few Red Stripes for the road and walked back to The Castle since it was just a few doors down.

Once on the street I thought walking had been a bad decision, and I was quite over-protective of my Dad on the dark dangerous strip of road. I get pissed off at Samsara every time I walk that part of the road, with that wall so close to the road there’s no room to walk, and I’ll never stay at Samsara because of it.

As the shoulder widened we relaxed and my Dad got the chance to say “No Thanks” to his first ganja proposition. I was proud of the old guy, he was smooth and finite, and the Jamaican entrepreneur didn’t ask again.

But the next part was entirely my fault. Only thirty yards from the safety of The Castle gates, a taxi passed slowly, and as I waved off the driver I looked for just a split second too long at the scantily-clad Jamaican hotness in the passenger seat. I knew what was coming next, and I knew I couldn’t stop it.

“Hey boys, you need some company?” there were two of them, and I did something really stupid, and no I wasn’t drunk, I have no excuse, but I engaged them in conversation. I don’t know what I was thinking; I guess I was trying to be cool in front of my Dad, “Watch your island-savvy son handle this.”

They got out of the car, I told them to get back in, and of course they didn’t listen. Somehow certain people in Jamaica just know you’ve recently arrived, and you’re ripe for the picking.

My Dad just kept walking, and at first it was funny. I was between him and the two girls, and I was talking back and forth telling them we weren’t interested. They were nothing if not persistant. Then the tall one passed me and started talking directly to my Dad. He didn’t answer, but I got a little angry. The driver must have noticed my attitude change and called the girls back to the car. Their graphic promises of carnal delights didn’t stop till they drove away.

“Does that happen every night?” My Dad asked half amused and half astonished.

“Maybe it’s the time of year, I’ve never seen them so aggressive.” We were joking as Santa opened the gate for us. I must have looked shocked or something because Santo asked if I was okay.

We were exhausted after a long day and were sleeping soon after entering our room.

More to come…
Vinny (~~)

Leave a Comment May 21, 2008

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