Wild Jamaica

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.