Hoping today will be an example of patience, vigor and generosity, throughout Brooklyn, NYC, Jamaica and all others in the wake of Hurricane Sandy . . .
My thoughts are with my family, friends and sanga members.
October 30, 2012
Ahh what a welcome sight that Guinness tap was as we finally got into Shannon Airport in County Claire Ireland, but we were still far from our destination.
No, I didn’t actually order a Pint of Guinness upon arrival. It being 5:45AM local time I felt it a wee bit early and opted for airport coffee, and then we went searching for our bus to Dublin.
Yes a BUS to Dublin! We arrived at JFK about 3:00PM for a 5:40PM flight and Aer Lingus would not let us check-in. 3:30, then 4 o’clock, and still we could not check in. The line began to grow longer and angrier as time wore on. Luckily, we were near the front of the line so we were among the first processed when the line started moving.
The check-in kid seemed stressed as I gave him my paperwork, and in almost a whisper he said, “Sir, I’m afraid your flight has been cancelled.” Yes, CANCELLED! But before I could get too pissed, he quickly offered us seats on a 6:20PM flight to Shannon with connecting bus service to Dublin.
Yeah its a pain in the ass, not to mention adding almost four hours to our trip, but at least we could leave that night. Many people in the long line did not get that option. Nice job Aer Lingus! (note: Irony)
We boarded and had a nice flight to Shannon, and the morning drive to Dublin Airport afforded us a pretty ride through the Irish countryside. From Dublin Airport it was a quick run to Dublin City Centre and to our hotel The Arlington O’Connell Bridge.
It was about 9:30AM by that time so we stored our bags at the hotel and staggered out into the Dublin morning to fine some food and some coffee, and to then get into what Dublin had to offer.
More to come . . .
April 19, 2012
Three more sleeps! Book, Pack and GO!
April 15, 2012
It doesn’t interest me if there is one God
Or many gods.
I want to know if you belong — or feel abandoned;
If you know despair
Or can see it in others.
I want to know
If you are prepared to live in the world
With its harsh need to change you;
If you can look back with firm eyes
Saying “this is where I stand.”
I want to know if you know how to melt
Into that fierce heat of living
Falling toward the center of your longing.
I want to know if you are willing
To live day by day
With the consequence of love
And the bitter unwanted passion
Of your sure defeat.
I have been told
In that fierce embrace
Even the gods
Speak of God.
by David Whyte
January 2, 2012
Oooh! The heat is threatenin’ our very lives today. . .
If I don’t get some AC, I’m-a-gonna melt away . . .
Woo Hoo, 104º in Manhattan today, the RealFeel® temperature is 115º. I’m sitting in relative comfort in a Starbucks at 51st & Broadway watching people stumble by. If there is a good day to be in the tourist-choked Theater District, 116º day is the day.
It’s funny to me how the media is freaking out about a little heat. Hey guys! It’s summer! But they report it as if it has never happened before when actually it happened about, I don’t know, eleven to thirteen months ago. Do we really need the Daily News to have sweaty people plastered on the front page? At least The Times put the story below the fold.
In a few months we will be all bitching about the cold. I’m heading back in the pool!
July 22, 2011
I’m starting this post with a few photos. I’ll add the drama later….
I love this angle!
As close as you can get . . .
Sunset from The Castle - June 18, 2011
From The Castle's yard - June 19, 2011
Another stunner from The Castle - June 24, 2011
Lovely sunset from Kuyaba - June 23, 2011
July 11, 2011
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.
June 17, 2011
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!
May 9, 2011
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.
Loved this one.
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!
April 8, 2011
Many of you have no idea that I am a world-class film guru. Well, I am, and here are my 2011 Oscar Picks and Predictions:
Best Documentary: Feature
Restrepo – I haven’t seen this one, but I still think it should win. I don’t care if you’re pro-war, or anti-war. Get over yourself. The men fighting at fire base Restrepo didn’t have the luxury of your bougie opinions.
Best Music: Original Score
Hans Zimmer should win for Inception but the Nine-Inch Nails dude will win for The Social Network however undeserved.
Best Achievement in Costume Design
Who really cares, really?
Best Art Direction
The King’s Speech – I don’t know much about art design, but I know what I like, and The King’s Speech is beautiful in every detail.
Best Achievement in Cinematography
Another subject where I’m in the dark technically, but I liked True Grit. I loved the wide-rangey range shots. I’m a sucker for the wide-open west from my travels as a kid. Inception looked great too but it was too techy for awards.
Best Adapted Screenplay
The Social Network will win. The book, which I liked, read thin and linear like a screenplay, but since Sorkin is everyone’s favorite quazi-political screenwriter it’s all him.
Best Original Screenplay
The King’s Speech – See a pattern yet? I loved the story of how a little West End play can make it through the gauntlet to become a major motion picture. It reminded me of the little train that c-co-could.
Aronofsky should win for Black Swan, but Fincher will win for The Social Network. I didn’t get a vote, but everyone is on Facebook and for some reason that seems to matter.
Best Supporting Actress
No idea on this one. I think Amy Adams could win, she’s kind of hot, and she’s a good solid actor, but I’m afraid the kid, Hailee Steinfeld from True Grit is the sentimental Jody Foster, Tatum O’Neil favorite. By the way, if Hailee does win someone needs to keep poor Dakota Fanning from slitting her damn wrists!
Best Supporting Actor
Everyone is saying this is between Christian Bale and Geoffrey Rush for The Fighter and The King’s Speech respectively, but my pick is Jeremy Renner from The Town. The guy was terrifying as the menacing best pal of Afleck’s lead.
Natalie Portman – But watch-out for Michelle Williams, everyone knows she got screwed not winning for Brokeback Mountain. Rachel Weisz really? I say no.
Colin Firth – He was great in The King’s Speech. I’d like to say it’s rare that I tear up in a movie, but I got misty watching Free Willy. Colin Firth’s performance was heartbreaking, subtle and powerful all at once. This is a must-see.
The winner is … wait for it … The King’s Speech!
I may have tipped my hand earlier, but I loved this movie on every movie loving level. It looked great, it was well shot, well paced, and had really special performances all around. Of course the leads were great, but the drunken-fat-pirate-dude from The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise was an excellent Churchill. A deadly serious role but he somehow lightened every scene he was in. It was nice to see Helena Bonham Carter in a movie without a screwy get-up or any CGI appliances.
The simple story of a guy learning to move forward in life by dealing with that one thing that had held him back. This was no superhero story, nothing miraculous happens, he simply presses on. It was a beautiful story even if he was regular guy with regular problems, but the fact he was British royalty thrust into the limelight during the opening moves of World War II makes it a magnificent story.
February 25, 2011
I wrote a piece about my discovery of. and subsequent membership in, the Park Slope Food Coop here in sunny Brooklyn, NYC.
February 25, 2011
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.
February 11, 2011
Just before Thanksgiving I got an email from my sales manager, “Hey Vince, Are you up for an install in the Caribbean around Christmas?” I responded simply, “Sure, I’m game. What’s up?”
Over the next month or so the project began to take shape, but the date was pushed forward with almost every contact with the client. Finally in mid-January we nailed down a February 2nd start date, I wasn’t too confident that the place would be ready in time, but the guy said to be there, and if they weren’t ready it was on him. Who am I to argue? Okay, I argue with clients all the time, but I have a rule to never argue with clients that send me to The Caribbean in February.
January in New York City was the snowiest ever. Really, ever! Though I was hoping for a crippling snowstorm the day of my return, I was getting worried that a snow storm would keep me from leaving on time. In the days before my trip, an ice storm brewing in the mid-west was set to hit on the day I was scheduled to leave. Waking up on Tuesday the 1st, I was happy to see wet rather than snowy sidewalks as climbed into my taxi.
I got to the airport on time, through security, and into the waiting area with over an hour to spare. Waiting to board, my fellow passengers and I were glued to CNN in the gate area as they breathlessly covered the huge storm coming at us from the west. Once on the plane it was obvious that the rain had turned icy.
“Attention Passengers, This is your Captain speaking. We are delayed on take-off due to the weather…” The voice boomed through the American Airlines Boeing 757. Okay here is comes I thought. He didn’t give us much info, and said we’d know more in “a few minutes.” The next thing we heard was that the 9AM take-off was delayed because we needed to get in line for de-icing, which was fairly terrifying, and that our scheduled departure time was now 10:30AM. Upon hearing that and seeing the ice pellets bouncing off the wing outside my window, I feared that plane was not getting off the ground.
As it happened, a de-icing truck actually came out to us, and moved us way up in the conga line. After watching the de-icing procedure, we were informed that our take-off would be at 9:20. Cheers erupted from the hundred or so souls praying to get to the islands, and out of the Big Apple deep freeze.
The flight was uneventful and even with the delay we arrived at Cyrus King Airport in St. Thomas about twenty minutes ahead of schedule.
It was a bit of a process getting from the airport on St Thomas, over to St. John. I would have enjoyed it more if I was on vacation and not traveling for work, but I was very focused on seeing what shape my work site was in. The airport was tiny and my bag took only about a beer to show up on the carousel, in minutes I was in a taxi driven by K9 Joe, a retired police officer who was very proud of his service, and who regaled me with his stories even going as far as handing me a portfolio of photos and press clippings.
We went around a corner and up a hill and boom there was harbor. The view was stunning, no less than six magnificent cruise ships docked about bay, they looked less like a collection of ships than like a city in a future where they build skyscrapers on their sides. There were hundreds of smaller craft filing the spaces between, some massive in their own right, but dwarfed by these leviathans of all-inclusive luxury.
K9-Joe looked with contempt at the scene that had me agog in the passenger seat explaining the traffic would be horrible if we took the coastal route, so we headed up into the hills. He promised he would get me to the Red Hook Ferry Dock in time for the 3PM. Until then I didn’t know there was a 3PM to St. John, but I felt confident K-9 Joe would have me there on time to catch it.
After a whirlwind drive along the spine of St. Thomas, I paid Joe and bought my ferry ticket as the 3PM to St. John beginning to board. It was a sturdy craft, but it lacked any kind of island charm, if it was in Jamaica it would be green, yellow and black with Bob Marley classics blasting throughout.
Still in partial work mode, I made a few calls back home to check on my guys to make sure things were going smoothly, they weren’t but I was sixteen hundred miles away, and I could only give moral support. I tried to relax and take in the delightful island views.
Arriving at St. John I found a taxi to take me to my hotel. The driver said it was “Just up the hill,” and he wasn’t kidding because it was only about a quarter mile up the road. I had been worried because I didn’t know where the work site was, or how far it was from my hotel, or if any of the cell numbers I had would work. Luckily, my fears were allayed as we cleared the boat dock area, The Crab was just around the first curve about halfway between my hotel and the beach dock.
Entering “The Inn At Tamarind Court” one walks into the restaurant area and the actual hotel is to the left. I went to the office and attractive brunette behind the desk smiled and said, “You must be VIncent!” “Yes I am, but please call me Vinny.” I replied in my charming way. She handed me the key, and in minutes I was exploring my room. Now the rooms at The Tamarind are basic, and well, they’re basic, but I’m not too picky as long as they are clean which my room was. It kind of reminded me of my first minutes at The Negril Yoga Center back in 2004, which I was reminiscing about as I unpacked.
I didn’t waste much time, I threw on a pair of shorts, brushed my teeth, stepped into my flip-flops and off I went. I hit the open-air bar and met Amy the Bartender who sold me a $3 Red Stripe, and gave me the lay of the land in Cruz Bay, St. John, USVI.
After a couple or three, I was wobbly enough to take a walk about the neighborhood. I went down to The Crab to find a construction site, which at first scared the hell out of me until I ran into the Chef whom I’d known from their places in New York, and he said they were still on schedule. His confidence caused me to take a second look and I saw that under a layer of construction dust, saw horses, scattered tools, the place wasn’t really too far away.
At this point in a restaurant opening the will and focus of the owner to kick a little butt and hold fast to the schedule makes all the difference. Nothing will force the various contractors to get the job done in the dwindling time allotted than the promise of serving guests i9n three days. The two young brothers who own and act as the operations team for this successful little chain fit the bill, and the next morning the pace of everything seemed to quicken.
From my site visit I walked down towards the boat docks where there seemed to be a lot of bars and shops and the like. Along the water I sat at The Beach Bar for another Red Stripe, but didn’t stay. It was too nice, I was looking for some more interesting places.
I found myself across the street at Larry’s Landing which seemed like a townie bar, and not surprisingly I met several locals. Being a part of the US (sort of) the Virgin Islands attract people that don’t fit so neatly into normal society, and then there are the twenty-somethings not ready to take on the pressures of real life after college. One girl explained it like this: “Well after college, the economy went to shit, so everybody was like, stay in school and get your masters, but I don’t know what I want to do, right? So I was like, stay in Michigan and wait tables or wait tables in paradise? No brainer, duh?” I couldn’t argue.
I went back to The Tamarind for dinner sometime after dark, and there about a dozen people in the open-air bar and restaurant. Amy introduced me around to the mix of locals and fellow guests. By the time I was done with dinner I was clinking beer bottles and buying rounds for the convivial group of misfits. I felt right at home.
At that point it kind of hit me, drunkenly heading up to my room with fresh Red Stripe in my hand, I looked back at the motley crew which I had just been a part of, yeah I wasn’t too thrilled with my room at The Tamarind, pretty old, needing remodel, but I REALLY like the kind of people these places attract. For me vacations are as much about people along the way than about the scenery of the location.
It was a Negril moment. Not fancy, but people who demand fancy can annoy the shit out of me in a dozen different ways. I like this place.
February 10, 2011
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 theRealNegril.com 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.
January 19, 2011
It doesn’t have the same ring to it, but I feel like I’m cheating on Negril.
I’m sitting here at Has Beans Coffee Shop in sunny Brooklyn doing research on St. John US Virgin Islands. One of our clients is opening a restaurant there in a few weeks, so I have to go to configure their system and train their staff.
Yeah, you like that? I “have” to go. Life’s tough
The people in my office that do things like book trips waited till last week to book my room and it looked like St. John was going to be full. The situation wasn’t unexpected, early February is the busiest time in the Caribbean. So the plan was to book whatever we could on St. Thomas, and then I’d have to ferry over to St. John every day. All things considered, not the worst commute.
To their defense we are always waiting till the last minute to schedule things. In the restaurant opening business the actual opening date is a moving target dependent on city, county and state inspections, and often on a general contractors misplaced optimism. We usually work locally, so we can afford to install one week, train the next and wait around to “Go Live” until they’re ready, but when the job is far away we try to knock it all out in a five day span.
Last week I walk into the office and my scheduling coordinator looks at me like she’s expecting me to become “Ballistic Asshole Man” at any minute.
“What’s wrong?” I ask.
“I found a place for you on St. John,” she said as if she wasn’t finished.
“Cool, so why the face?” I say waiting for the other shoe to drop.
“The place is kind of a hole, but it looks “pretty” clean . . . I sent you the link.”
So I went to my desk and pulled up the website expecting to see “Black Beard’s Rusty Crotch Inn,” but the “Inn at Tamarind Court” didn’t seem foreign to me. It’s a small place with only around twenty rooms half of which are sleeping rooms with a shared bathroom. I was booked in a Standard Room with a queen-size bed and my own bathroom. The place has a little bar and a restaurant, and is kind of shoved between the road and a mountain. My kind of place, my first thought was that it’s almost Negrilian.
When I went to TripAdvisor.com the place didn’t look as good as on the hotel’s website, but with TripAdvisor you need to read between the lines. Still the place looked fine for a week.
But, just for dramatic effect I stormed across the office to the scheduling coordinator’s desk and told her I was very upset with her.
“You really don’t read my blog do you!”
January 16, 2011
From my dimly lit table next to a steamy radiator, I sit quietly as Brooklyn braces for the forth snow of the season. You’d think we were in Bulgaria with shortages of everything. I don’t get it, the bodega on the corner is always open, and I’m sure the Chinese place mid-block will be serving lunch tomorrow. I don’t panic. I guess I’m easy.
SO, where were we? Yes, we were heading out of Montego Bay with Kenny on the road to Negril.
Our airport beer supply lasted only till around Hopewell where we stopped to grab refills. I sat back relaxing as Kenny gave Kristine the Grand Tour. It really never gets old, this was my lucky thirteenth trip to Negril, and I wanted Kris to relax and enjoy without feeling as if we were on a schedule. This was her first time here in five years and she had a few things she wanted to do too. So when Kenny started asking about day trips and the like I deflected. I wanted to maybe do a Black River trip, but wasn’t ready to commit. We had friends coming, and who knows who might be staying at The Castle, that so often changes everything. I did book Kenny for the return airport trip.
We hit a lot of traffic moving thru Lucea, but a slight detour stopped us in front of Lucea’s famous clock. It seems so out of place and its probably apocryphal history just adds to the wonder. Like my Mom, Kristine loved seeing all the kids in their neat school uniforms making their way to and from school.
We picked up speed as we ran the stretch south from Lucea to Green Island, so much so the first “Welcome to Negril” sign seemed to sneak up on us. Seeing that sign always elicits a cheer and a toast though its actually closer to Orange Bay. Kenny explained that the early signs are for the All-Inclusive crowd to think they are actually in Negril when in reality the most of the big AIs are in Hanover Parish. Westmoreland Parish where the town of Negril actually is starts maybe three-quarters of a mile south of Sandals.
Kristine’s nose was pressed against the glass as we ran along the strip. Passing Selina’s, she asked about the kids, then over to Kuyaba, where she stayed on her last trip saying, “Let’s have dinner at Kuyaba tonight,” as she searched for familiarities in the faces that went by.
A chip off the ‘ol block, she spent most of her week, five years ago to the day, bopping around the Kuyaba neighborhood mingling with the Jamaicans. Through our many conversations prior to her trip she felt right at home soon after arriving, much to the concern of her boyfriend who seemed to feel the need to “protect” her. That didn’t last too long.
We pulled up to the Blue Cave Castle and the gates opened as if by magic and we rolled onto the property. “Holy Shit! This is sooooo cool!” Kristine emoted as she climbed out of the van spinning around in an attempt to take it all in. I took care of Kenny, we thanked him and said we’ll see him tomorrow when he dropped off Megan and Jay.
Through the archway and into the main part of The Castle, there were a few people in the covered patio area, and a others milling around. We said our hello’s and went up to the second floor to Deluxe 3. When her roommate bailed we decided to share a room. At first I didn’t love the room. I’d been in the room before, not to stay, to party and only for a few minutes. What threw me was the lack of the big window opening to the patio I’m used to in “Deluxe 1” and “Deluxe 4,” but as we unpacked taking dibs on the various dressers and the like, Kristine opened the back door onto the patio and my entire view of the room changed.
“Deluxe 3” is this very large room but then its opened to this huge patio area, part of it shared with the lower tower room and part of it private. Over our week there I fell in love with the room, it was cool and breezy, private and wide open. The patio became the centerpiece, and over the next seven days three different groups of people would inhabit the adjacent room slightly changing the the patio flavor with each shift.
After a castle tour, it was time to head over to L&M Grocery to stock the fridge. When we left The Castle the street was quiet, but by the time we crossed and got to the No Limit Bar a few familiar faces popped up. Always staying at the same place adds the dimension of getting to know people in the neighborhood. Of course faces come and go, but there is a core that remains trip to trip. The jerk chicken guy who is always grilling at the foot of the Willow Gate with the red bandanna was there and I introduced him to Kris as the neighborhood’s foremost chicken jerker. He is also a good man to know for a few other things. We ended up having a beer at No Limit Bar, we needed a beer, it’s what, thirty yards from The Castle gate to L&M. A thirsty 30.
We eventually made it to L&M and the lady at the counter perked up when I came in with my daughter. Eight months prior I’d taken my Mom into L&M who asked a lot of questions about the different products you can’t get in The States but that she’d seen in Ireland. I don’t know her name, but she knows me and gives me a good deal when changing those first US Dollars. We loaded up on Red Stripe, some Guinness, mangoes, water, bananas, vodka, Ting, various fruit juices, and spice bun. All life’s essentials.
We turned the fridge on high and loaded it up. Kris was puzzled to see me stuff even the fruit into the fridge until I told her about the tiny but voracious Jamaica ants. “It’s like National Geographic in here.” Please don’t take this to mean I’m saying The Castle is buggy, on the contrary the place is spotless, but as Jeff Goldblum said in Jurassic Park, “Life finds a way.”
Don’t get me off on a rant about morons from Crooked Musket, Kentucky who on their first trip out of Sisters Pretty County, whine on TripAdvisor about the lack of Five Star accommodations for $75 bucks a night in Negril. “Ya know Earl, when Tallulah and Clevis got hitched, well after Pa done brought the scatter-gun to bear, they paid $75 bucks at the E-Cono Lodge in PokeCuzin and they ain’t never complained about no dang lizards!”
These days any idiot can put their opinions on the internet
Anyway, we ate an early dinner in the yard by Chef Teddy just before sunset, and The Kid didn’t last much longer than that. I sat up a while that first night staring up into the clear night sky counting my blessings. Kristine had gotten through film school, and had moved to Brooklyn only blocks away. It was the first time since her Mom and I split coming up on twenty years ago that we were in the same zip code. We were spending more time together than we had since she was in middle school. I’d been in Brooklyn for almost three years, had a sane roommate, and found a wonderful spiritual community at the Zen Center of New York City, and though my writing career hadn’t taken off yet, work hadn’t sucked so bad in the previous few months. All in all, Life was good. Praise Jah.
January 15, 2011
Kristine was probably having seconds thoughts as the Negril breeze drew closer, and my Negril mania heightened. “Bug spray, you need really good bug spay!” “We need to be on the road by 4AM, I’ll get the taxi to pick me up first and we will come by your place. Don’t oversleep.”
Finally the morning came and I arrived at Kristine’s place at about 4:05AM. I was relieved to see the lights burning in her second floor apartment, and a wave through the gloaming as she heard her phone ring. In minutes we were whizzing down the Belt Parkway making JFK Terminal C in about half an hour. Checked in and drinking coffee at the gate a few minutes after 5AM, we were finally on our way.
True to form Kristine was getting to know all the people sitting near us on the plane. We managed to cheat a little realizing our seats were A and C, so when B came we just moved to two unoccupied seats behind us. I was half-expecting a hassle from the flight attendant, but this was Air Jamaica. No problem.
The flight into Kingston was uneventful, the Kid slept most of the way. My browbeating not to oversleep was handled as only one in their early twenties can. She stayed up. I relaxed and read my book. I tried to watch the “Irie Vibes” or whatever they call the in flight programming, but that didn’t last too long. I may be a ball of anxiety pre-trip, but once on the way all that stress really slips away.
My expectation of flying into Kingston was that all the Port of Entry passport crap would happen there during the layover, so once in Montego Bay just grab the bags, hop into Kenny’s Taxi, Red Stripe, spliff, and the road to Negril. But as often happens with expectations, they were dashed as we sat starving in the terminal area where the only open food outlet was Burger King.
Now I’ve spent a dozen vacations in Negril without having it my way, but we were tired and got, well, I don’t remember what we got. I do remember it hitting the spot, and about fifteen minutes before we boarded our Mobay flight Kristine wheedled a few cocktails out of the lady setting up the terminal bar. It was after all, a little past 9AM, and it was Kristine’s Birthday.
The flight to Montego Bay was breathtaking on several levels. The vast Jamaican mountains with their smoky blues and exuberant greens brought on oohs and ahhs from we on the starboard side, while the crisp Caribbean Sea captivated those on port. Punctuating the splendor, the morning sunshine heating the moist mountain air formed dramatic updrafts which offered us a staccato rhythm that bounced that huge Airbus A-320 all the way to Mobay much like the rocky Jamaican roads would do in decades past.
Upon safe arrival in Mobay (there was applause), we walked briskly to immigration and cruised right through. The same thing with customs. Nice. Right outside the door a some kid had a sign saying “Vinny” and when we walked over he handed me a cellphone. It was Kenny! “I’m stuck in a little traffic my brother, run a tab the beers are on me!” Even nicer. It was definitely time for an icy cold Red Stripe, so we made out way to the bar and ordered up four beers. Four? Yeah, we knew the first two would be empty by the time the transaction was completed. Judge as you might.
I love to people watch at the airport bar in Mobay. The hustlers sizing up their prey, people from Iowa attempting to sort through some local drama, I just take it all in. Kristine is beginning to decompress too. I just smile as she takes a long pull from the brown squat bottle. There is something magical about how those first beads of outdoor Jamaican sweat are quenched by that first Red Stripe on the back of your throat. It sneaks up on me every time.
An older guy offers us a ride but we decline. We buy him a beer, and he tells us about the depressed business climate on the North Shore. “Hey man, all the cool kids go to Negril.” I say as Kenny’s bounds into the area, “VINNNNNYYYYY!!!” I introduce him to Kris, and at once we are in his warm embrace both literally and figuratively.
We learn that Megan and Jason had booked Kenny for their ride in the following afternoon. I love to drum up business for Kenny, he has never screwed me. Ever! He’s on time, he gives a fair price, he tells a good story and, most of all, my Mom really likes him.
Kris and I feel a second wind come on as we cruise though Montego Bay proper, and on along the coast. The party had just begun!
January 10, 2011