On the way, I couldn’t help understand why the natives were able to pick me out so well to pitch their products, to attempt to hustle or “guide”–whatever you called it. I couldn’t have been that much of a mark, could I? I could tell visitors to New Orleans pretty easily. They didn’t walk with the spirit and flow of the city. You could see it. After some contemplation, it might have been that I walked with a different gait; built differently perhaps? Far fewer people wore glasses in the country than I see in the U.S, but that couldn’t be it. What was it? The sun began to shift directly from overhead (scientifically not true, but follow me) and revealed more of the cerulean waters that 7 Mile Beach is famous for as well as a Monet like vanilla sky. I was trying to find the bottom of the coconut when I looked over at one of the many huts and shops that lined the beach and saw clearly advertised “fresh coconuts, $2” and then saw it again and then saw it again! My coconut didn’t taste so good anymore. Looking at my wrist, it should have been evident from day one. The very wristband that allowed me liberty and a good time in Jamaica, was also a beacon of sorts to notify every would be guided, everyone in the grassroots tourism industry that I had something to give. It was a striking revelation and without a moment’s hesitation, I popped the band and put it away–throwing it away would have meant no drinks at the resort and that was not an option.
Be sure to stop at Rick’s Cafe for good drinks, music, and a killer sunset.
Our next destination was Rick’s Cafe, a lively and scenic bar location that is seen as a bit of an alternative to the beach. Alton personally wanted to bring us here. It seemed to be the place where they stuffed all of the beautiful people. Save the huts and indoor bar, Rick’s was a sturdy venue that seemed to be carved out of the island itself–sitting on the westernmost edge of Jamaica. Some of the best sunsets can be seen from there. Rick’s also has a “Hard”, “Harder”, “Ultra” and “Insane” difficulty diving platforms which draw people from all over to try their grit out on them. The “hard” jump is hard because it’s about 5 feet high and requires you to…well… jump into the ocean. “Harder” and “Ultra” jumps are accessible by potential divers who form queues and differ by their heights, 20 and 35 feet respectively. “Insane” cost $20 dollars, but for the extra money, you can climb another 20 or so feet up on a wood built ladder and from a think plank, jump 50 feet into the ocean. I wasn’t brave enough, and neither was anyone else to be fair. The “insane” jump is usually taken on by Rick’s staff as a sort of in-house trick and hourly spectacle that you have to see to believe.
Just beyond Rick’s and before the horizon, is a lighthouse that has a mysterious and otherworldly quality. I wanted to go there. As the sun set, I felt like my chance to get a real feel of Jamaica was too setting. That in mind, I slipped out of Rick’s and made my way towards the lighthouse. On the outside walls, a few natives were selling freshly picked weed. Unlike the mother of four on the beach desperately trying to sell her bracelets, these guys didn’t need to say much. What they had sold itself, stinking of excellence. Apparently, this sort of thing was illegal, but in my entire time in Jamaica, I think I saw two cops and perhaps a third, but I can’t be sure. If it was illegal, no one cared. The whole trip I felt that being on the tourist circuit in Jamaica was like walking on the world map of a Japanese role-playing game (RPG) and having unseen enemies randomly engage you for a battle, in this case, one for sales. This time, however, it didn’t happen. It was strange and welcome. I was able to wave at people in the shops like neighbors. They’d smile, and or wave me off, but the interaction wasn’t a transaction, and I’d been craving that.
From Rick’s Cafe, you can see the beautiful and haunting Negril Lighthouse.
As I walked further down the street, the shops vanished behind the winding twists in the road and the lighthouse came into view. I was so excited to get close to it, to potentially go inside that I didn’t notice a scout walking the street. To continue to use the RPG analogy, this scout had to be the “boss” of the stage that, to complete my mission, I had to best. The man appeared to be homeless or at the very least haggard, with perfect teeth, tight, glowing russet skin and a head of steel wool. His lingo was thick, but understandable as he spoke in a somewhat slower rasp. As I walked by him, he asked me if I was interested in seeing the lighthouse. I told him that I’d like to take a photo of it was going to go in to do so. He explained that the lighthouse, which at one time was open to visitors, had been taken over by an American who fired him as the lighthouse guardian. He went on to trash talk the current guardian and said that his replacement had a strict “no-visitors” policy and didn’t care about the lighthouse upkeep like he did. “That’s fine and good”, I said, “but I’ll ask myself”. The scout-boss wouldn’t budge though. “He won’t listen to you” the boss-scout pleaded, “let me take you to another way to get in”.
After some back and forth and, I agreed to follow the boss-scout to see what he had in mind. “How much is this going to cost”, I said, cutting to the point. “I take care of you bruddah, and you take care of me. Respect.” Again with “respect”. Going back the way I came, there was another entrance to the lighthouse, slightly behind it headed west., right where he said it would be. However, the boss-scout wanted me to climb a padlocked iron fence to get my shot. He showed me how easy it was by climbing himself. “How old is this guy?”, I wondered. Once over, he beckoned me to do the same and part of me wanted to do it –likely the 7-year-old part of me. I was struck at the request, that he’d ask me to do this request, and that I actually considered it before sanity kicked in. After taking a breath, I realized that I’d be technically breaking and entering private property in a foreign country. I wasn’t willing to risk it and explained that I was going back to negotiate with the guardian myself. Not wanting to lose a potential score, he hopped back over the fence and said that the guardian would never talk to me, but he could intercede on my behalf and maybe work something out. The sun was setting more deeply still. Sensing defeat, I accepted that I wasn’t going to see the lighthouse without the boss-scout and rushed over to the lighthouse entrance with him.