Filed under: Negril

50th Birthday Extravaganza!

It’s taken a while to process my 50th Birthday Extravaganza trip, but as my 51st birthday looms large and there isn’t an extravaganza planned. At least not yet.

The idea came to me a few years before the big day. After seeing several sisters and brothers-in-law reach their 50th, I decided to not wait for an inevitable “Surprise Party,” or worse yet to tip-toe around the weekend before my birthday walking into rooms ready to feign surprise for a party that never happens.

At first I thought, screw it, I’ll go to Negril and sidestep the entire issue.  Then came, I’m sure The Kid will want to come, and then; Mom and Dad will probably come too. Pretty soon it was game on.

When booking my Christmas 2012 trip I inquired with the fine folks at The Blue Cave Castle if renting out the entire place was a thing, but the answer was somewhat non-committal. So once I picked the dates, which were 15 months in the future (March 8-16, 2014), I asked my friends at the castle to hold that week until May 1st, 2013. They were more than happy to oblige, because Petrona and Susan are way cool.

My dream was to book all fourteen available rooms and throw a huge party worshiping and honoring my favorite person. I made the announcement to my family at Christmas 2012, and then I made the Facebook Event the next weekend.

We did pretty well and booked 9 rooms by the date, and luckily another party booked 4 of the remaining rooms, so there wouldn’t be random people wandering around. By the time of the party we actually had several rooms booked at other hotels.

The group was the best of all worlds. My Daughter and her boyfriend, Mom and Dad and at least one sister. Two friends from high school and their brides, some work friends and their friends, and some Jamaica friends. I booked the Penthouse for me which was very exciting.

I planned a huge party at The Castle with great food, plenty of booze, a band and to have it all broadcast globally via webcast. As the day grew closer that idea mellowed into a smaller bash, but I continued to use the term “Extravaganza” anyway.

As things got closer one of my friends and his lovely bride had to cancel leaving a room open for my brother and his family. Well the room was too small for the whole family, but my sister and my parents had an extra bed each so we figured out the accommodations.  So at six weeks out the cast was set, let the “Extravaganza” begin.

More to come,

Vinny (~~)

Leave a Comment February 28, 2015

Taxi from the Roundabout to The Castle

Leave a Comment February 25, 2014

Blue Cave Castle History

Leave a Comment February 25, 2014

Morning Drive Through Negril

It isn’t me driving, but its a fun little jaunt through the area. From just north of town, past the big All-Inclusives and down along the beach. Then around the roundabout and up through the cliffs, past The Castle (@14:30), around the horn and back out onto the highway up past Tedd’s. Finally back towards town ending at Burger King. I played  it on my big TV, and I got really excited . . .

Leave a Comment February 18, 2014

Happy Birthday to Bob Marley

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds . . .

None but ourselves can free our minds . . .

Leave a Comment February 6, 2014

50th Birthday Extravaganza Packing List 2014

We fly out from JFK at 5:40 AM on Saturday March 8th. And yes, the packing has already started. I’m at the making a list and checking it twice stage, but the day draws near!

I usually post my packing list before a Negril trip anyway, but this time it may actually be helpful to the newbees on trip number one.

Packing List – 50th Birthday Extravaganza – March 2014

– 2 pair – Swim Trunks (I may need to upgrade mine to something more stylish.) 
– 3 pairs – Shorts
– 1 pair – Gym Shorts
– 16 Assorted T-Shirts (Plan on two a day. I’m in country 8 days. It’s hot and t-shirts don’t take up much space.)
– 4 Hawaiian/Nice Shirts (Basically non t-shirt shirts. I don’t bring anything actually dressy.)
– 1 pair – Jeans (I wear them on the flight, so this isn’t technically a packing item.)
– 2 pairs – Socks
– 12 pairs – Boxers
– Flip Flops
– Running Shoes (LOL, as if I’ll be running. I wear these also . . .)  
– Hoodie
– 1 Hat – (Down from two, I’m in no mood to wear an Eagles hat . . .)
– Laundry Bag

Health & First-Aid
– Prescriptions
– First-Aid Kit (Simple, Band Aids, alcohol wipes, tweezers)
– Neosporin
– Sun Block 50 SPF – Spray on (Up from 30 because my sister Theresa nags me if I buy any less.)
– Chapstick
– Bug Repellent (Get the good stuff with at least 40% Deet. Jamaica skeeters ain’t no joke)
– Pepto Bismol (Tablets Individual Packets)
– Excedrin Extra Strength (Great for hangovers! Individual packets also)
– Vitamins
– Wet-Ones (This is my secret weapon, put them in the fridge as a quick cool-off remedy. Try it and you will thank me.)
– Misc over-the-counter drug packets. ( Dayquil, Imodium, Benedryl)

Mind and Body
– My Jamaica Journal – It’s a leather-bound journal Kristine got me years ago that I only use in Jamaica.
– Meditation Stuff – Buddha, candle, incense, cushion.
– Books – When I read actual books, I would leave one on the shelf in my room like a long-term lending library, but since I’m all Kindle and Audible now, I bring a completed book and leave it. This trip’s selection is “The Book On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are” by Alan Watts.

My Reading List
– “The Heart Of Being” by John Daido Loori (Re-reading)
– “Midnight’s Children” by Salman Rushdie
– “Wyoming” by Iris Cushing

Toiletries & Shaving Supplies
– Toothbrush
– Toothpaste
– Floss
– Mouth Wash
– Shampoo
– Edwin Jagger 89BL Double-Edged Safety Razor
– Shaving Brush and Stand
– Assorted Shave Creams and Soaps
– Proraso After Shave Balm
– Alum Block
– Moisturizer
– Hair Brush
– Deodorant
– Nail Clippers
– Washcloth

Travel Supplies
– Passport
– Cash – a few hundred in 20’s, and $50 in singles for tipping
– ID, ATM Card, Credit Card
– Travel Wallet
– Plane Tickets
– Printed Hotel Reservations
– Pens (For the customs forms on the plane. Be a hero because no one on the plane has a damn pen)

Other Stuff
– iPhone – Camera, Camcorder and about a hundred other things . . .
– Netbook (I always say this, but this trip I plan to post a lot on various social media and on this blog)
– Flashlight
– Rain Poncho (I always bring, though I have never used)
– Travel Clock
– Sunglasses
– Breath Freshening Gum
(Keep in checked baggage only)
– Disposable Lighters
– Mini Leatherman
– Pocket Knife
– Waterproof Matches

Ok, folks see you in Negril!

Vinny (~~)

Leave a Comment February 5, 2014

50th Birthday Extravaganza – Post #1

The day is drawing near. The official countdown widget has been created. The plane tickets have been purchased, and the hotel has been booked. All we need to do now is Pack & Go!

What am I talking about? Just the biggest most extra extravagant extravaganza in the history of Negril!

Vinny’s 50th Birthday Extravaganza
at the beautiful and famous Blue Cave Castle in sunny Negril, Jamaica!!

March 10th, 2014

The Blue Cave Castle Negril, Jamaica - Pic by Christine Joseph

The Blue Cave Castle Negril, Jamaica – Pic by Christine Joseph

Who’s all coming? Me. The Kid and Kevin. Mom & Dad. Betty Boop. My Brother Michael, his wife Amrita and the kiddos. The Lerches. Kaptain Kramer. The Eardley’s. A bunch of people from Chicago, and many others. The Castle is full, but there are sill rooms nearby.

More to come as the details take shape . . .

(~~) Vinny

Leave a Comment December 5, 2013

Negril: Tuesday 12/18/2012 – Reality Sinks in . . .

There are so many things to do in Negril, but sometimes the most fun is to do nothing but be there. Being there is a different kind of nothing, and Negril regulars understand this definition of being.

It was one of those weeks in Negril where one could bounce around and be the belle of the ball, or just chill and recharge before the Christmas rush back in the states. To that point I hadn’t made a decision either way.

By the time I felt the need to move from The Castle it was somehow Tuesday. It’s funny how that happens. I rolled out before nine AM, and I was in the back seat of a route taxi two minutes after passing through the silver Castle gate.

I love corrupting the faithful route taxi driver. He took me down to the NCB Bank, and I paid him 500J to wait until I finished getting cash and grabbing a case of Red Stripe. Once back in the car the young driver offered to take me on a tour.

“How much?” I asked.
“500J” he responded too quickly.
“Deal! Take me somewhere I haven’t seen and I’ll give you a good tip.”
“Challenge Accepted!” He didn’t say, but that was the feeling I got from him as we shot through the round-a-bout and down the Beach Road.

The wind in my face on a beautiful Tuesday morning, I began to wonder if nine twenty-five was too early for a Red Stripe. I guess I decided it was since I opted for a Ting in a glass bottle. In my opinion, Ting in a glass bottle tastes better than Ting in a plastic bottle. We shot up past the A-I’s and over the new bridge around to Orange Bay and then inland into the hills and dales beyond.

I love backwoods Jamaica. I’m always amazed how Jamaican drivers are indifferent to pot-holed roads and impossibly steep hills. It’s rides like these that the familiar reassurance of “No Problem Mon” holds actual weight.

We came out on the road from Sav la Mar a few miles outside Negril proper when a quick left turn took us back into the bush. Minutes later we were driving slowly along an isolated beach. My driver looked at me with a “I bet you’ve never been here before” look, and instead of saying, “Isn’t Blue Hole just over there?” I just smiled and enjoyed the ride. Soon we were on the ass-end of West End Road and fifteen minutes later I was loading my little fridge in Deluxe One with warm Red Stripes.

Rob of and Real fame had a webcast scheduled down at Fun Holiday on the beach. Invigorated by my morning trip I decided lunch at the beach, followed by some beach beers was a good idea.

This time out I wanted to stretch a little, so I walked into town. I had no illusions of making it all the way to Fun Holiday, but I was hoping to make it to somewhere near Canoe Bar. I don’t like walking around that blind corner on the final dip into town.

I ran into a guy I always seem to run into in Negril. I hopped into his van and he took me out to Fun Holiday, all the while offering me every diversion, substance and pastime available to we wayward travelers. I begged him off with the, “Look for me later. I’m meeting up with some friends tomorrow who love all that crazy stuff,” line.

There wasn’t much going on at Fun Holiday, but I loved seeing Rob and saying hello to the boardies, at least to the financially independent ones who are in the chatroom on a Tuesday afternoon. (You know who you are…)

The only other person there was a young Jamaican girl named Nikki who seemed annoyed that I wasn’t paying more attention to her. She gave me a huff as she left.

The day was cool and the beach looked great. For someone who goes to Negril so often I’m not very fond of the water. I love walking along the waterline, and I love walking to the many bars along the beach, but the surf rarely goes above my knees.

About an hour and four beers later I’d only gotten a few hundred yards. I was talking Football with a bartender, and I had a nice buzz working when I noticed my new friend Nikki, her sixth sense honed in on my buzz, closing in for the kill. Though I kind of like the attention, I’m grounded enough to see what was happening. Attractive twenty-two year old women no matter where they’re from don’t have any interest in middle-aged men, even when the guy is a charming bastard like me.

This experience seems to happen more and more as the years go by. Is Negril changing or am I? Obviously both change constantly, but I do try to keep away from such situations. Once in the situation, however, extricating oneself is tricky. Lucky for me the bartender noticed I wasn’t buying and chased Nikki and her friend from the bar.

His help added dramatically to his tip, and after a really good fish sandwich he arranged for a driver to give me a ride back to The Castle. Nice.

A nap later it was time to head out to 3 Dives for more webcast and a great Jerk Chicken dinner. I arrived at 3 Dives about half an hour before sunset. I grabbed some beers, ordered dinner, and busied myself making stupid faces and odd comments into the webcam.

Just as Rob and Lisa were telling me about a reality TV show that was filming in town, a bald dude in a white suit showed up and began to bounce around the place like, well, like a reality TV host.

I had never seen Hotel Impossible, but Anthony Melchiorri is an infectious guy. He shook hands and asked about everyone there. He shook my hand and finding out I live in Brooklyn, he threw on his Brooklyn accent and told us he’s originally from Sheepshead Bay.

Intrigued by the webcast Anthony zoomed in on Rob. He got all excited when he found out Rob “is”, and he started flexing his marketing muscles while his entourage chowed down on Jerk Chicken and Red Stripes. By the time he and his crew left, Rob and Lloydie had arranged for them to come back Thursday night to feature 3 Dives and as marketing tie-ins with the hotel he was revamping.

It was late when Rob and Lisa dropped me at The Castle. The fully booked resort had many guests partying all over the place. I made my rounds, drank more beer and it was well past midnight when I bid my fellow revelers goodnight.

What a day . . .

Vinny (~~)

Leave a Comment July 20, 2013

Negril: Monday 12/17/2012

Another lovely morning along the cliffs of Negril. Well into my second cup of coffee, and just finished a wonderful breakfast made by Teddy the Chef here at The Castle.


I’d planned to get home early Friday after work, attend to some last-minute details and get to bed early. Of course that didn’t happen.

I ended up working till about 7 PM, then made the plan-bashing step of the night and met up with some work friends. We wound up having an impromptu sort of sad makeshift payday holiday party.

The married people had to get back to their families, but for me it was still early enough to get the “Last Boat Out of Hoboken”‘; so dramatic. It sounds like a movie from the 1940’s, but it’s what the boat dude announced (with much bravado) several times before closing the gate.

It must have been nine-thirty-ish, so I had been officially on vacation since I left the office at seven so I decided to splurge on a taxi back to Brooklyn for me and drinking pal Gabi. For some reason she and I find ourselves stumbling out of Hoboken together from time to time. We get in the cab near the Trade Center and off to Brooklyn we go. OK, home by ten thirty-ish sleep by eleven, taxi to airport 4 AM. No problem.

No sooner did we get in the cab when my phone started buzzing. It was “The Lerches”! They were in town and were looking to meet up in Soho within the hour. I looked over at the beautiful-but-too-young-for-me-brunette and asked, “Blue Ribbon in Soho?” She responded, “oooh oysters . . .” Gabi is never one to turn down a party. So I halted our driver, I think I may have actually even used the word “halt”, and he detoured the few blocks over to Sullivan at Houston.

It was great to see The Lerches so unexpectedly. They were in town for SantaCon, and had just gotten back from Negril a few weeks ago. I hope they got the kiddo home before mid-day happy SantaCon turned into late-night drunken evil SantaCon. It can be unpleasant.

As usual Blue Ribbon did not disappoint. Papa Lerch ordered the big-grande raw-bar extravaganza, with caviar and shots of vodka. There was more food and more shots. We got a little blurry, but it was a great time.

Gabi took off around midnight and “The Lerches” graciously paid for dinner then we went to find a night-cap bar. We ended up at a corner bar on Prince off of Broadway, but it was late, Mama Lerch was getting tired and I was to be on a plane in a few hours. We said our goodbyes and I got a slow R train back to Brooklyn, so slow in fact that I hopped out at Atlantic Ave and grabbed a town car home. I walked in the door at two-thirty AM.

The driver was picking me up at three-forty five, so I did what any overfed slightly buzzed person would do. I pounded a Red Bull, got in the shower, put my traveling clothes on, and fed Rosie the Cat.

Being a bit OCD on packing, was a big help in this situation. I had everything laid out and ready to go. I guess I know myself too well.

The driver was right on time, and I must have slept in the car because we were at JFK in like 30 seconds. I zombied through “Web-Check-In” and security and into my seat. It was a great trip, I slept all the way through.

I arrived in Sunny Jamaica around nine-forty five AM and was through the airport gauntlet by ten-thirty. I waited for a couple I’d met on the immigration line who’d suggested we split a cab to Negril. We found a driver, they haggled the price, and away we went.

Our driver was the serious type. Straight-through, no stops, and he drove fast. Very good choice. It seems every year the trip gets shorter. Every year they finish a bridge, or re-route around a town, or simply improve the roads in general. We dropped the nice Canadian folks off at one of the All-Inclusives just north of town, and I was at The Castle before noon.

The place looked great. It was a bright sunny day, wonderfully hap-hazard xmas decorating here and there. A lot of familiar faces. Ed “Ras-Walleye” and his lovely wife, Teddy, the staff, and of course Petrona and Susan.

I did my normal arrival routine. Change clothes, unpack then over to the store for supplies. I encountered Milly the Juice Lady on the way over, so I came home with some orange/pineapple juice too. “Home” meaning my room, Deluxe #1 at The Blue Cave Castle, after nearly ten years staying there, it feels like home.

I don’t know exactly what time, but I opened my second beer and realized I was exhausted so I “took a nap” expecting to be up for sunset. I woke up at just after ten PM. I guess I needed the sleep, and the tropical air is great for sleeping.

Sunday I just stayed around The Castle reading and decompressing. Other than a short trip to the store, and two sunset beers at the No-Limit bar; I did nothing.


Vinny (~~)

Leave a Comment December 17, 2012

Packing Slip for the End of the World . . .

How can I honor the last days of the Mayan long-count calendar? How about with a Packing List?

Packing List – December 2012

Clothes (Unless you’re going to Hedonism)
Ok, the Hedo joke rings a bit stale. Especially after that time me and . . . Umm, nevermind, I promised never to tell that story.
– 1 pair – Swim Trunks – Down from two, I almost never swim, and I hate getting salt water in my beer.
– 3 pairs – Cargo Shorts
– 1 pair – Gym Shorts – Down from three. Gym? Really? As if . . .
– 14 Assorted T-Shirts – Up from ten. I noticed the only one that has been with me since 2002 is my Sponge Bob shirt. A classic is always a classic.
– 3 Hawaiian Shirts – I’m realizing these are like my Jamaican uniform. Hmmm, might be time to reconsider.
– 1 pair – Jeans
– 2 pairs – Socks
– 12 pairs – Underwear
– Flip Flops
– Running Shoes (LOL, as if I’ll be running) – Ditto
– Light Jacket/Windbreaker – Hoodie (2012 update)
– 1 Hat – Down from two, I ain’t wearing that Eagles hat anywhere . . .
– Laundry Bag – I still think this is a great idea.

Health & First-Aid
– Prescriptions – These weren’t part of my 2005 world.
– First-Aid Kit (Simple, Band Aids, alcohol wipes, tweezers)
– Neosporin (For creepy crawly bites)
– Sun Block 50 SPF – Up from 15 because my sister nags me.
– Sun Block Stick 70 SPF (For my nose) – Up from 30 because I’d rather not get burned, I only blame my sister so as not to diminish my perceived machismo.
– Chapstick
– Bug Repellent – I went all natural organic friendly this time, we’ll see how it works. Stay tuned . . .
– Pepto Bismol (Individual serving packets, helps w/ humidity)
– Excedrin Extra Strength (Great for hangovers! Individual packets also)– This gets more and more vital with each trip. . .
– Vitamins (Which I buy in single serve packages anyway)
– Hand Sanitizer (Good when hand washing doesn’t permit itself)– Confession: I carry this stuff but I never use it . . .
– Wet-Ones (I put them in the fridge, Woo Hoo! Instant cooling!) – This is like my secret weapon. Go ahead and scoff. Try it and you will thank me.
– Condoms – And no, they are not the same ones since 2002 . . .

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. – This is still with me, still not full. I haven’t used it on the last few trips. It’s become such an heirloom I’m afraid to lose it, but since it’s the “End of the World” trip, what the hey.
– Meditation travel stuff – Buddha, candle, incense, zafu.
– Books – Books? What’s a book? I used to enjoy leaving my book on the shelf in my room for the next inhabitant, but on my last few trips I’ve embraced my Kindle.
This trip I’m packing a pre-read book to leave on the shelf. So if the world doesn’t actually end subsequent Deluxe One Blue Cave Castle stayers can enjoy Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.

– Christmas Lights – Two boxes to decorate my space at The Castle! I like to refer to them as Holiday Enlightenments . . .

Kindle – Reading List:

A Universe from Nothing: Why There is Something Rather Than Nothing by Lawrence Krauss

The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss

Jackpot: High Times, High Seas, and the Sting That Launched the War on Drugs by Jason Ryan

Other Stuff
– iPhone – Camera, Camcorder and about a hundred other things . . .
– AAA Batteries – Energizer Max – 8 Pack
– Netbook (I plan to blog this trip daily!)– I always promise to blog daily, but I get all flubunged . . .
– Flashlight (De power go black a lot)
– Rain Poncho (for those afternoon storms)
– Disposable Lighters (Keep in checked baggage)
– Leatherman
– Pocket Knife
– Waterproof Matches
– Travel Clock
– Sunglasses
– Reading Glasses – Ouch :)
– Breath Freshening Gum (Red Stripe and Jerk Chicken are great, but . . .)
– LifeStraw – This is a personal water purifier a friend bought me for Xmas. I wasn’t gonna bring it, but it is the “End of the World” trip :)

(This is the boring part)
– Toothbrush
– Toothpaste
– Floss
– Mouth Wash
– Shampoo
– Disposable Razors
– Shave Cream
– Moisturizer
– Hair Brush
– Hand Lotion (Udder Cream is my fave)
– Deodorant
– Nail Clippers
– Towels – Washcloth

Travel Supplies
– Passport
– Money some 20?s, and $50 in singles for tipping
– ID, ATM Card, Credit Card
– Travel Wallet
– Plane Tickets
– Printed Hotel Reservations
– Pens (For the customs forms on the plane. I’ll be a hero because no one has a damn pen)

OK Mayans, the time has come. Now it’s put up or shut up!

Vinny (~~)

Leave a Comment December 11, 2012

SOPA – When Republicans and Democrats agree – Watch Out!

Download Info

Google Petition

Leave a Comment January 18, 2012

Negril – June 2011

I’m starting this post with a few photos. I’ll add the drama later….

I love this angle!

I love this angle!

As close as you can get . . .

As close as you can get . . .

Sunset from The Castle - June 18, 2011

Sunset from The Castle - June 18, 2011

From \"The Castle\'s\" yard - June 19, 2011

From The Castle's yard - June 19, 2011

Another stunner from \"The Castle\" - June 24, 2011

Another stunner from The Castle - June 24, 2011

Lovely sunset from Kuyaba - June 23, 2011

Lovely sunset from Kuyaba - June 23, 2011

Leave a Comment July 11, 2011

Booked, Packed, … AAHHHHHHH!!!!!

I’m long since booked, I packed last weekend and filled in a few missing items last night, so all that’s left is the GOing!

A 5:40AM Flight puts me in Montego Bay before 9AM, and at The Castle well before noon. It’s like getting an extra day in paradise!

I look forward to seeing all my Negril friends and fellow travelers.

Soon Come!!

Vinny (~~)

Leave a Comment June 17, 2011

Go read my post @ Realcity!

Realcity: Realcity Check

Leave a Comment June 1, 2011

Book, Pack and Go Baby!! Woo Hoo!

I get so excited whenever I book a trip to sunny Negril! I’m not doing anything fancy, but I’m so relieved to be booked. Air Jamaica was expensive this time around. but what can you do?

I booked my favorite room at The Castle for the week and I can’t wait to see all my peeps!

Negril here I come! Woo Hoo!

Vinny (~~)

Leave a Comment May 9, 2011

Metro Card Recycling – Original Artwork Purchases

My Friend Victoria is getting a lot of headaches from the MTA the past few days because she is using used MTA Metro Cards as canvas for mini paintings of New York City scenes.

I’m a big fan and I just had to grab a few of these mini masterpieces before they were all sold out.

This one caught my eye first

This one caught my eye first.

Loved this one.

Loved this one.

Victoria has a series of NYC Water Tower paintings that have always intrigued me.

Victoria has a series of NYC Water Tower paintings that have always intrigued me.

Thank you Victoria, and good luck fighting “The Man”! We’re behind you all the way!

Vinny (~~)

Leave a Comment April 8, 2011

Is this East Village artist a threat to the sanctity of the MTA’s intellectual property?

Is this East Village artist a threat to the sanctity of the MTA’s intellectual property?.

Leave a Comment April 8, 2011

Published @

I wrote a piece about my discovery of. and subsequent membership in, the Park Slope Food Coop here in sunny Brooklyn, NYC.

Leave a Comment February 25, 2011

Negril May 2010 – The Kid’s B-Day Trip – 5

I woke up around 8AM, well that’s not really true, it was more like I stopped sleeping sometime around 8AM which for me is way late even on the foggiest of mornings. I’d slept so late that Kris was already showered and had gone down for coffee. I stumbled over to the fridge, groped for a bottle of water, and then over to my bag for a handful of Extra-Strength Excedrin. Even after the entire water bottle I was thirsty.

As if on cue Kristine bangs on the door, “Are you decent?” “Yeah sure,” I replied. “Good, I need some money, the Orange Juice Lady gave me this.” she said as she walked in holding an overproof rum bottle filled with Millie’s Orange Mango Juice, “It’s really friggin’ good.” she added between swigs. I have no idea what Millie actually charges, but I usually give her 500J and she seems happy with that.

It’s one of the joys of life at The Castle, I’ve mentioned before all the cool neighbors and neighboring restaurants, but it’s more than that. Millie seems to arrive at the perfect moment every time. I don’t think I ever had a “I wonder if Millie is gonna stop by today” thought that I can remember. She just appears when you can really use some fresh squeezed juice or just some fresh fruit. I’d chalk it up to coincidence, but it happens over and over again trip after trip. Let’s face it, she’s an OJ psychic.

It must have been a mixture of Millie’s juice, the cool shower and the Excedrin, but by the time I made my way out into the bright morning yard for the day’s first cuppa I felt totally revived and ready to conquer the day. Our little crew had commandeered about half of the big picnic table under a canopy of braided palm fronds that serves as the social center at The Castle.

This had been Meg and Jay’s fourth or fifth trip to Negril and the second that year. They had gone to The Grand Lido the previous January to attend “Rat Dog Daze,” several days of Deadhead fun in the sun with Bob Weir and friends. After someone has been to Negril several times, especially in a relatively short span of time, it seems that the decompression comes faster and the slide into Jamaica time happens much more quickly.

“We were thinking about Half-Moon Beach for today.” Meg offered. Half Moon Beach is about Meg’s favorite place in the world, and it seemed as good a day as any to venture up there. When The Kid came down to join us Meg filled her in on the wonderfulness that is Half Moon Beach and the collective decision was made. I added that a nice brunch at Selina’s would be the perfect preparatory detour landing us fat and happy on the little crescent beach spot right about noon. It was agreed and we went to our respective rooms to get our beach stuff.

Now I love Negril’s Seven Mile Beach, I have even gotten to know and love Bloody Bay Beach, but for a classic tropical beach experience in the general Negril area, for me it’s Half Moon Beach. About four years earlier I had been in Negril with a girlfriend who wanted to tan her boobies somewhere quiet and uncrowded. It happened to be Easter Sunday and we were having brunch at Selina’s, and it was Selina who suggested Half Moon Beach. That first trip was special. Being Easter Sunday there were several Jamaican families picnicking on the beach. The boob tanning idea went out the window, so she and I spent most of the day in the crystal clear water playing with the local kids. Later that year I was in Negril with Meg and Jay and shared with them my new find. On subsequent trips it’s a spot I rarely miss.

Selina’s is always great. I’ve been going there for years, and on Sundays brunch is tradition. I normally don’t do Big Roy’s Banana Pancakes but I was fearing the onslaught of a mighty hangover merely postponed by juice and analgesics, so I indulged. Jay had the same and I think both ladies ordered the American Breakfast. The food was great; fresh, hot and plentiful, and as always the Bloody Marys lived up to their “Best In Negril” reputation.

The Sunday Brunch Band had gone on break soon after our arrival and came back as we were finishing. Normally coffee and Bloody Marys lead to Red Stripes and an hour or so of lingering and mingling, but Half-Moon was waiting as was our driver. So we said our good-byes and headed north along the beach road.

The only time you ever see Half-Moon Beach crowded is during the twice-weekly Wild Thing anchorage, and I’m sure it gets busy during the season. This time there was a smattering of fellow travelers, and a few more arrived later in the afternoon, but twenty people does not a crowd make. We were lucky enough to take possession of the area near the big Seagrape tree at the water’s edge and proceeded in our revelry.

Sun, sand, ganja and Red Stripe, by mid-afternoon we had retreated to the bar for some snacky food, and another round of beers. Our driver was long gone, but a guy named Sonny had dropped off his fare and was lingering hoping not to deadhead it back to Negril so we cut a deal.

On the was back I talked everyone into a quick stop by Ossie’s Jerk Centre to sample the famous Jerk Pork. Unfortunately there were only two portions left, but really that was enough. We needed beer refills and the couple succulent chunks of porky yummy-ness did a nice job of holding us over till dinner.

Kristine negotiated a great deal for a Black River trip with Sonny our driver for Monday or Tuesday, so good a deal in fact that I expected not to see him again. He said he’s stop by in the morning to see what we wanted to do. Keeping plans loose was one of my goals for this trip, I didn’t want to feel as if we were working off a checklist all week.

Back at The Castle, we joined the rest of the big picnic table crew and became acquainted with Jim Zeppa and his friend and ex-daughter-in-law Nancy. Jimmy was a character to say the least, an older gentleman from Canada who’s spent his life in the music business. An old-school raconteur who held court every afternoon during our stay. He and Kristine hit it off. His name-dropping of talent large and small alternated as entertainment and background patter, but however received he just kept on going, all the while adding a sweet sentimentality to our week in paradise.

(~~) Vinny

Leave a Comment February 11, 2011

Negril May 2010 – The Kid’s B-Day Trip – 4

There’s an ethereal quality to The Castle’s morning stillness. Whispering a subtle greeting, the day shifts gently into being. A familiar opening. I sat quietly watching as The West End stirred lazily. By 6AM the road was awake, and the distant whine of a fisherman’s outboard brought with it the faint smell of coffee wafting across the yard.

I walked to the ledge and saw no one. My eyes were no longer sharp enough to see if the urn light was green, so I made my way down the cool stone stairway, across the prickly tropical grass, and over to the coffee hut. Though in full percolating glory, the coffee wasn’t quite ready to go, so I padded back upstairs for my binoculars to spy on the fishermen who, by then, were dotting the horizon.

Well into my third cup I heard Kris stir back inside the room. By the time I went inside to ask if she wanted a coffee the stirring had stopped. A blessing and a curse, Kristine inherited the “sleep of the dead” from me. We can sleep though anything, I once fell asleep during a Van Halen concert. True story.

We had our breakfast at Teddy’s Hideaway, actually back in the restaurant, which was a lot nicer than last trip. Teddy’s has really found an audience in Negril. When Petrona and Susan first added a food at The Castle I thought, “Cool, this is so convenient.” and the first time I only had a few breakfasts. It was nice not needing to forage for every meal, but wow, the Lobster Thermidor is something special. On the previous trip with Mom and Dad our best meal was served by Teddy out in the yard at sunset. It was a great time.

Early afternoon brought Meg and Jay in from Montego Bay with Kenny. I’d known these two Deadheads for six or seven years by that time, and it was the first time they were meeting “The Kid.” I hadn’t realized how often I refer to my beloved daughter Kristine as “The Kid,” so much so that when I asked, “Do I really?” they all started laughing. Jay said, “Dude I knew you for like five years before Meg finally asked you her actual name.” It’s funny when a mirror is held up like that. I’d truly never gave it a second thought. When I returned from Jamaica I began asking friends about this and every one told me the same thing. Sorry Kid :)

The four of us walked over to Choices for pre-sunset dinner that night. Choices is always a good choice. A key feature to staying at The Castle is the number of excellent restaurants and bars within walking (or stumbling) distance. The food is always good at Choices, though for the life of me I can’t remember what I had.

Back at The Castle, we watched the final moments of sunset and relaxed in the yard with some fellow travelers. It was still fairly early though Kristine and Meg were showing signs of fatigue while Jay and I were raring to go. Saturday night is The One Love Reggae Show at The Seastar Inn! We were encouraged when I logged on to Webcast to find the party already swinging. I entered the chat room to say hi, and Rob offered to send the Seastar taxi to pick us up. How cool is that?

The girls encouraged us to go and have fun. They were both tired and decided to stay in and do their nails, or their hair, or whatever it is that girls do. We did make an attempt at changing their minds, but it soon proved to be without fruit.

The taxi they sent was huge and very well air conditioned. Within minutes Jay and I entered the brightly lit oasis that is Seastar. We sought out the Webcast Crew and made our introductions with the folks hanging in the general webcast area. It was great to see Rob & Lisa, but I was taken back when they asked, “Where’s The Kid?”

The Seastar Drummers were just taking the stage as we settled in. What a magical experience, I am always moved by the total way produce their music. I didn’t realize I was in a drum induced trance till someone yelled, “Vinny!” I may have been that I was a bit drunken too. Jay had started an unhealthy shot roller-coaster. He bought a huge round of shots for the group, so it became my responsibility to handle the next round, then another guy felt similarly obligated, and so on. I’m not sure how far it went. I have a convenient rule about the number of shots I will do in one night, I don’t count them.

I have a fuzzy recollection of leaving, and then piling out of a smaller taxi into yet another bar, or was it two other bars? I missed sunrise Sunday Morning.

(~~) Vinny

Leave a Comment January 19, 2011

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