Wild Jamaica

A group of three was bumping Future–or something Future like– and smoking when we got to the gate. It too was padlocked. I was growing frustrated with the fact I had wasted so much time dancing with the boss-scout that I’d miss my shot and he felt it. He called one of the guys over and asked where the guardian was. The guardian was out on a small errand and was to be back in 10 min. Like clockwork, the guardian came back with a couple bags in hand. He had gone to grab some snacks for him and his group. He didn’t seem particularly happy to see the boss-scout, scowling as they met–maybe he was a scowler? Before I could step in, the boss-scout pulled the guardian aside and they began to chat amongst themselves. They were just beyond earshot, but I could tell they were negotiating the terms for me to get my photo. The argued back and forth until eventually the guardian opened the gate and let me in.

“How long you need?”, the guardian asked me tersely. “Just a minute”, I shot back, walking towards the lighthouse. The guardian’s other friends were still smoking, and blaring their music and, for the most part, ignoring me. I looked back over my shoulders at the gate I had just walked through as it closed behind me with a sort of foreboding doom.  Like my time on 7 Mile Beach just hours before, I felt that this could have been a terrible, and stupid mistake. Who knows what they could have asked for or demanded while I was in their possession. I didn’t let myself think about this too long though. When I stepped before the lighthouse, it was more majestic and awe-inspiring scene than anything I could have conjured up. The sky had become beautiful in contrast to the milk skies before. It featured tangerine, lavender, navy, and even flamenco hues. Trees swayed lightly in the breeze and the clouds moved effortlessly above and between the trees. I focused myself and quickly took the shots I came to get. Both interested and anxious to have me leave, the guarding walked over and quietly observed my shooting, making his annoying presence felt. I gathered my things and hurried out of the gate, where my folks, Alton, and the boss-scout were all waiting.

Negril Lighthouse was built at the turn of the 20th century. It’s a beautiful and grand structure that’s completely worth the hassle of convincing a group of smokers to let you see it.

I graciously thanked the boss-scout for helping me secure the shot despite all of his hustling. The guarding walked back to his friends, glad to be rid of me when I made it back to the boss-scout and my party. I gave him $10 USD for the aid, which judging by his eyes, seemed far more than he was expecting. As a token of equal gratitude, he gave me two mangos from his backpack that he said he had picked. I was overcome with relief, adrenaline, and true joy. I had my pictures, the boss-scout had his hustle, the guardian had his weed, and my family had found me. Everyone won. I shook has with the boss-scout who revealed his name as “Lloyd” when I asked. Suddenly, I wanted to know more about him, to sit down for longer and chat about Jamaica, but there wouldn’t be time. I did get to ask him about his age, about what he was eating that allowed him at such an advanced age to climb fences and such the way he did.

Lloyd said, “I’m 47”. “How old did you think I was”, he asked incredulously. I didn’t know if he was serious or joking. His hair made him appear to be far older than he claimed. “My hair has been this way since I was 18”, he said smiling his bright smile. I couldn’t believe what was happening.

Later that night driving back to Montego Bay, Conner flagged us down in a small town that seemed to be in the middle of some kind of block party. I thought there was some kind of emergency or a last-ditch appeal to party in the city. He wanted to speak to Alton. After about a minute of chatting and big gesturing, as was Conner’s style, Alton came back to the car laughing. “What’s going on”, I asked. “He’s hungry. He wants to eat conch”. We did make eating good Jamaican food a priority for the day, and mangoes aside, Negril catered to the tourist pallet. I was with Conner on this.

We eventually arrived at a bar back in Montego Bay called “Jerky’s Bar and Grill”. When I asked about it, Alton said that Jerky’s was his favorite place to eat in town and that he dined there daily, sometimes twice a day. It was a no-frills place that featured easy to read menus–save some stranger items like Connor’s conch–with an order and sit system. They also had a full bar and made fruit juice, squeezed to order. The makeup of the establishment was different too. The prices were written in Jamaican Dollars and catered to and served primarily locals. It’s the sort of local heavy establishment that I tend to direct visitors to when they come to New Orleans. Despite crying about the so-so jerk chicken outside of Margaritaville and wanting the “true, real Jamaican jerk chicken”, I went with the oxtails. This time the food was fantastic and still, the juice was better, delicious even. The service was ok, but that’s what I wanted and expected. These people had lives and a job that wasn’t necessarily tied to tourism and it allowed me to meet and drink with Jamaicans that had no interest in me as a hustle. These were the people I had been looking for. Not Deon though, he was pissed his food was late. When he got his conch, emotions still besting him, he brazenly cut the line in front of a woman half his size for the Jerky’s sauce. She clenched her fist so tightly and cut her eyes so sharply at him that I thought I’d have to catch his head as it rolled off of his body. He quickly caught his error and apologized in an affected patois–it was pretty good actually–but not before she could call him a “stupid motherfucker”. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one.