Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Best Years of My Life


Growing up in Jamaica was an experience I will never forget, never regret and I would never trade for anything. I cannot think of anywhere else I would rather have been born. Life is about being happy, content and enjoying each experience as it comes, growing up in Jamaica for the most part was a wonderful experience. Looking back I now realize that the good times were very good and the bad times … well was not that bad.

I am not sure what was the one contributing factor that made my life so special, content and eventful. Maybe it was the fact that I was the youngest of 3, spoiled and pampered or maybe the mad crazy friends I have or all the above.

Stage Two Life” for me was between ages 6 to 12 characterized by not having a care in the world, life was about playing, watching lots of cartoons, going to school and play some more.  At that time television was not the 24 hour event it is today and as such one had to find other ways to entertain one’s self.  We had one channel, one station, JBC TV signed on at around 4:30 if we were lucky. Because many a times we sat in front of the TV at the appointed time and watch the test pattern until 6 or 7PM, no cartoon. I cannot begin to describe what that does to a child experiencing stage two life who is hooked on his 1 hour per day cartoons. TV signed off at 12 midnight with the playing of the national anthem, so we had lots of time outside to play, to use our imagination and be creative.




The first television we had was a Westinghouse black and white TV purchased in the 1960’s and lasted way into the late 70’s. In those days if it was broke you get it fix, you take it down to the TV repair man. We did not live in a disposable society like current times, most items especially electronic equipment lasted many years.

Ours "floor polisher" got so old it use to give us a shock from time to time and I had fun tormenting the poor dog with it. He hated the noise but he loved our mops and brooms and because of him we had to replace them on a regular basis...(polisher picture from: Jamaicans.com)




My love for cartoons went hand in hand with my love for comics and I spent most of my lunch money buying the latter. My favorite cartoons of that time was The Ruff & Reddy Show, Hair Bear Bunch, Hong Kong Phooey, Dynomutt, Scooby Doo, anything Hanna Barbra, G-Force, Thunder cats, Daffy Duck and Foghorn Leghorn just to name a few. With regards to comics I had a very large collection and swapped, loaned and borrowed comics from others. I wish I still had my collection of Commando Comics, my DC and Marvel super hero comics, Archie, Sad Sack, Andy Capp, Rawhide, Kid Colt, Jonah Hex, Richie Rich you name it, I had it and read it. I stopped collecting comics when they changed the format, comics now continued and being in Jamaica meant that there was no guarantee you would get the next one in the series. 

I spent a lot of time during this stage making my own toys rather than playing with the toys bought for me. In fact I would dismantle the store bought toys just to see how they were made and off course I could never put them back together.  Making kites was a favorite of mine, all types of kites with names like Big Bajie, John Crow and Boxy Kites if it can fly I would make it. My uncle use to make Bagie Kites that were bigger than me and on windy days it was so powerful we had to tie it to a post to keep it from flying away and taking me with it. Back then we made the biggest kites out of bamboo, cord, paper, homemade glue (flour and water) and old bed sheets strips used to make a tail. The smaller kites were made out of very thin coconut bamboo, thread and pretty paper (crepe paper). Sometimes when the sky was filled with kites we would attach a razor blade to the tail of the kite and play kite war. Each person trying to use the tail of his kite to cut the opponents line.  Flaps were fitted onto the kites to make them sing in the wind. Kite flying would always cause a debate as we argue whose kite look better and sing louder. Sometimes we would let a kite out so far that it was almost impossible to see, you knew it was still there because you could feel the tension on the line.  


I spent a lot of time going after kites that got away or got stuck in trees, climbing fences to retrieve ones kite from someone else’s yard was normal and often life threaten when that yard was guarded by a big bad dog.  You learnt very quickly to develop retrieval tactics and evasive maneuvers, once the lookout shouted “Dog a Come!!” 






The Fine Art of Negotiation
Kids learn at a very early age the fine art of negotiations. It is something we do before we start playing our games. An agreement on the rules is very important and must be laid out up front before playing commences. Yes there are times when we must stop the game to adjust the rules and seek every ones buy in to the adjusted rules. There are also times when a player decides to cheat and make up his own rules or go around the rules. Such actions normally results in instant termination of the games and separation of the group into warring factions. Cries of cheat can result into physical confrontation. For example a group of boys get together to play football, if the ball is owned by one person then that person expects to play for the entire time. We can swap out various other players but not the ball owner. However sometimes the ball owner is total rubbish at football, we want his ball but we do not want him for the duration of the match. He is then substituted and being upset about it he grabs his ball and head home. Sometimes he is allowed to leave but without his ball, in any case this action normally causes a fight or two or an argument of some kind.

There is no limit to the amount of games we can make up and play limited only by the hours in the day. Boys never really remain upset with each other for too long, I have witness the worst fights on a football field between two boys in the neighbourhood and by the end of the day all is forgiven and forgotten, at times they are forced to shake hands and move on to the next challenge and adventure.

I remember a group of us boys getting the Dutch pot from the Kitchen, with some rice as bait trying to catch birds with a stick and some string. Once we caught two Grassquit and the boys decided that after waiting for so long they were going to cook and eat the birds, trust me there is nothing on a Grassquit to eat, all I tasted was Grace Tomato Ketchup.








I think stage two life, is when we are most creative, it’s amazing what we could do with everyday resources, we made cars, bus and trailers using milk carton with bottle stoppers for wheels. All we needed was a string and round and round we go, being boys a truck war would start which ends in the complete destruction of our creation. 



Wooden scooters (we use to call them skates) were a favorite of mine these were more like wooden bicycles without pedals and pushed along like present day scooters, made out of wood with ball bearings for wheels.


We did not need any wood work classes to make these things, limited only by our imagination and hand-me-down instructions from older relatives. Give us hammer, if no hammer use a stone, nails and wood and off we go. Our construction effort would last a couple days, finished with a coat of paint and various decorations. It did not take long before we started to race each other with the appropriate sound effects.

Our toys did not have to be complicated for us to enjoy them, a piece of garden hose about 2 feet long made into a circle, held together by a stick and pushed along with a stretched out wire coat hanger with a hook at the end was perfect for navigating between various obstacles, as we play let’s see who is more skillful to pass through the obstacles without touching anything or lose control.  A car tire filled with water (our petrol) and pushed along with 2 long sticks (like pushing a wheel borrow) the faster you go and the more corners you take, the more water/petrol you lose and the quicker you have to stop at the gas station (outside pipe) manned by an attendant who takes leaves for money whose denomination was made up as we go along, why one leaf was valued as $100 and another as $500 was anybody’s guess.

As stage two progress the toys get deadlier, I remember my friend Frankie and I embark on a lizard hunting adventure with homemade bow and arrow made from small coconut bamboo, thread and a pin used as an arrow head or just making a target to see who can hit it. Playing war with the lizards as the enemy using a homemade flame thrower made from Baygon insect spray and a box of matches to light the sprayed content of the can. My father lost it one day when he had to put out the fence post that was on fire.

Growing up in a yard filled with fruit trees was an adventure in itself. If you could not climb a tree then you were at the mercy of the people who could. I am happy to say I was an expert climber. We had big blackie mango tree in the back yard, a Julie Mango tree in the front yard, an orange tree to one side of the yard and ackee on the other side. Next door, all around us, we had hairy mango, coconut, East Indian Mango, sweet sop, sour sop, cherry and coolie plum just to name a few and all for the taken. If you are hungry pick something and eat till you belly full.

 
Who needs breakfast or lunch when mango season is in full swing, when the branches of the tree bend so low, begging you to relieve it of its burden, ripe red and yellow mangos so juicy, so sweat they tickle the back of your throat, after having several of these bad boys you normally finish the feast with a very loud mango burp.  When I am feeling generous I would climb to the top of the tree and shake each branch raining mangos down on the people below. The blackie Mango tree grew over the roof of the house on one side and you can hear the mangos as they hit the roof and roll to the end where a number of us kids would be fighting to see who would catch it before it hit the ground.  On idle days I would sit in the top of the tree, feeling the cool West Indian breeze and eating a mango with the stem still attached to the branch, leaving only the seed dangling in the wind. I remember once a friend showed me how to climb up a coconut tree and pick coconuts but then refused to show me how to climb back down, “listen nuh” … shimmying down a coconut tree is not fun, it is a painful experience for a little boy who was only allowed to wear short pants.

Mango time:

Mi nuh drink coffee tea mango time
Care how nice it may be mango time
In the heat of the mango crop
When di fruit dem a ripe an drop
Wash your pot turn dem down mango time
De terpentine large an fine, mango time
Robin mango so sweet, mango time
Number eleven an hairy skin
Pack di bankra an ram dem in
For di bankra mus' full, mango time
Mek wi go a mango walk, mango time
For is only di talk mango time
Mek wi jump pon di big jackass
Ride im dung an no tap a pass
Mek di best a di crop, mango time
Stage two life primary school was a trip, what I remember most about it was recess, playing karate in the school yard, climbing trees and football (soccer) but if someone was to pass the ball through your legs (your salad as it was called) they then shout “salad!” … and everyone playing was allowed to kick you on the backside and they did it all at once. Kicks coming from all direction and you had to run but you cannot play again if you deprived one of your fellow players his kick. You had to submit your backside for punishment but only after you negotiate the intensity of the kick that was to come.

At the end of recess we had 2 bells, the first bell meant stop playing, head to the restrooms and get yourself ready for class. You had to tuck your shirt in your pants, wash your hands, face and look presentable, no more playing just wait for the second bell. The second bell meant line up in front of your classroom, boys in one line and girls in another and get ready for teachers inspection. The teacher would walk along the line to inspect your attire and if you were not properly done up then out of the line you go, prepare yourself and if you normally get that process wrong then prepare for the cane.  All those who pass the inspection was allowed in class, girls would enter first and stand by their desk, then boys, the teacher would enter the class and everyone would sing out a hearty good afternoon miss. The teacher then said her piece and then the command to sit was given, girls first then boys, only then would the afternoon lessons begin. 

At primary school it was customary for boys to dislike the girls, if the other boys found out you liked a girl they would tease you to no end. The teacher would punish you by putting you to sit between two girls and your friends would laugh at you. I had a mad crush on the girl I dislike the most, which meant I spent my time being her worst nightmare. I remember primary school trips to Hope gardens, Carib Cinema, Hermitage Dam and Castleton Gardens, what fun we use to have. At the end of stage two I remember getting my first long pants, it was a rite of passage and I was now in a different league.


Stage Three Life” started upon entering high school around 13 but the end of the stage depends on the individual and in Jamaica you do not have to end it, well if you are a boy. I find parents place less demands on boys than they do on girls.

Stage three is also characterized by not having a care in the world. You had two main responsibilities, (1) have fun and (2) pass your exams. High school for me started off slowly but turned out to be the time of my life. At stage three you were allowed to like girls and I also found out quickly that peer pressure was a threat to your existence. Kids like to dare each other to do the dumbest things and I realized that completing a successful dare was not that important. What was more important to your friends was that you attempted the dare and failed because that was much more fun.

I remember a friend of mine was dared to go into a yard in Constant Spring Gardens, climb a tree and pick a mango which he did. However what we did not know was that the yard was guarded by 3 very big, very mean dogs and as such he was stuck in the top of the tree with a frightened look of terror on his face. We could not contain ourselves with laughter, this was cartoon stuff, Tom and Jerry, Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote master piece. In the end a woman living in the house had to come out and hold the dogs to allow him safe exit from the premises but without the blasted mango. We teased him without mercy for over a week. 

First form was uneventful, I do not remember much of it, in second form I met my best friend Mark and I cannot stress enough how important meeting Mark was to the rest of my life. It was also in second form that I met my second best friend Gary an unassuming kid from England sent to live in Jamaica. Our friendships grew stronger during third form. Not much happened in Second form, it ended with only two major incidents that I can remember. One was an attempt by boys in another second form class to have their way (battery) with a female teacher. It was then that I understood the importance of having strong male teachers in an all boys school. I must say I cannot remember a single boy I use to hang out with in school that grew up in a home with both mother and father, some lived with their mothers, other lived with their grandparents or close relatives. So having strong male teachers as role models is very important.

The second major incident in second form was “The Pen Foot Incident” in my class, after which a certain person was known throughout is life at high school as Pen Foot.  Nick names was the order of the day in high school, almost everyone had one, to this day if someone asked me if I knew such and such person who use to go to high school with me, I would always ask, what was their nick name in school. Names like Ma-Bootoo, Professor Flip Noodle aka flip, Cyndi Rex because of the shoes he wore, sugar because he use to eat a half pound of the stuff in class, Higgla, Tonto and in my case weatherman because I use to say if my arm hurts it would rain, these were the names we go by in our world.

Then came Third form, first thing Gary came back to school with a 100% Jamaican accent and you could hear him way before you saw him “WowYoooow! a me man Gary  …. Mi deh yah”, Mark came back, more Mark than ever and we had a new addition to the class and my third best friend Simmo aka Tonto. Whose favorite pass time was Brigadier Jerry, Jah Love and laughing at the crazy situations he could create for Gary, it was he who named Gary ….”Higgla Muma”. I am not too clear about the situation surrounding that name even though I was in the class room at the time. Gary was talking about his mother for some reason and Simmo shouted out that Gary’s Muma (mother) was a Higgla (a person who sells stuff on the street) even though Gary’s mother I believed lived in England or had moved to the USA at the time but from that day on Gary was forever known as “Higgla Muma” aka Higgla.  And you could still heard him way before you saw him”WowYoooow! A me man … Higgla …. Mi deh yah”, Mark (Flashy Mark), Gary (Higgla), Simmo (Tonto) completed my inner circle, my core friends and life was never the same, well not for me at least. 

We were four different individuals, with different personalities but we complimented each other and we got into a lot of trouble. Mark was the idea man, the instigator, 70% of the ideas Mark came up with was either wrong and should never be attempted but life would be very boring if we did not attempt at least some of them. It was dangerous for Mark to be idle because he would come up with some crazy ideas of things to do. Most of his ideas were way over the top and it was up to me to step in at times and declare which ones were not worth the risk and which one we would go ahead with. Gary would do almost anything, go anywhere, and Simmo would take it to the next level and make a bad situation worst. But you can bet your last dollar that no matter how crazy the situations we find ourselves, we would always end the day laughing our heads off. Our crazy actions would add something to our lives.  I cannot go into the details of each adventure that in itself is a book waiting to happen. 

Boring Teenage Summer Nights can be fun Sometimes:
I had one rule for summer and that is to never to get a summer job. I was offered a lot summer jobs when school was out but refused them all. It was a matter of principle because I regarded going to school and passing my exams as my only job and summer was a break from that job. I also knew that after I finished school I would be working for the rest of my life, so why should I start something that I knew I had to do in the long run to survive. Fortunately my big sisters did not share my views, they all had jobs, especially my bigger sister who was out of school and working permanently. So it was my job to go by her work place and take her car and her money. Like I said before I was spoiled rotten by my family being the youngest of three so financing my summer activities was not that hard.

There was this one time in third form that Mark took his brother’s girlfriend’s car without permission and came by to pick us up. The thing is none of us had a license to drive at the time or could even drive even though we declared how good we were at it. While driving Mark spotted a police car coming towards us, he panicked and bent down to hide from the oncoming police officers. The only thing that was visible was Mark’s hands on the wheel nothing more. Luckily the cops were not paying attention and they drove by. We then took the car over to our high school where we were all suppose to take turns driving it, heck it was a automatic so how hard could it be.

I was up first and I took off like a light but I am not sure what happen, I think the car was possessed by an evil spirit because before you know it was totally out of control and the four of us, two in the back and two in the front was try to bring it under control all at once. Arms and legs were everywhere pressing everything, the car left the road and climb the curb into the garden area, then out of the garden, with our heads bumping all over the place.  A teacher came out of the teacher’s lounge and saw the uncontrolled car speeding towards her and quickly went back into the lounge closing the door behind her. The car then came face to face with a man walking across the school yard with his groceries and for me time stood still, as we say in Jamaica "The two a wi eye mek one". I saw the look of death on this poor man's face, pure panic, he went right and the car went right with him, left and the car followed, in the end he chose the right direction and with Groceries in hand footed it as fast as he could.

The car was then heading for the chapel, at which point it made a 180 degree turn in a cloud of dust and came to a full stop with the lights, radio and wipers going on. All was silent until someone shouted “rass clat mi neva know say di car have radio  ... We could a listen to 2 chune man”. The car was damaged and Mark’s brother went ballistic, little did he know that for him this was just the beginning of his torment by us, as over the years we would use both his car and his GQ suits without his permission. Sometimes we would wait for him to fall asleep so we could push his car down the road and start it without waking him and little did he know at that time that we would end up crashing that car coming down Swain Spring mountain some years later.


Can still remember the first night we heard White Mice(Gemini Sound System)


Pepper in the Ketchup Bottle
One night, 6 of us decided to go to Burgerman on Trafalgar road, we were up to the usual mischief of putting pepper in the ketchup bottles. Great fun was had by all as we watched people pouring pepper on their burgers. Hey we were 16 at the time, on a week night in the middle of summer holidays how else could we entertain ourselves? The bill for the burgers came and Mark collected money from everyone then made his way to the cashier but walked right passed her and out of the restaurant. We all sat there dumbstruck as a look of panic washed over our faces, we did not know that Mark was going to do that and I am sure Mark himself had no idea he was going to do it also. That was classic Mark impulse action, spur of the moment stuff.

We had no idea what to do cause Mark took our last red cent and we did have any money to cover the bill. I immediately decided that this was no place to be when the stuff hit the fan, so I also made my exit. I found Mark halfway up the road sitting on a wall holding his tummy from continuous laughter. Then all the other boys made a mad run for it, with screams from the staff. Eventually we all made it out in one piece but not everyone found it funny and gave Mark an earful. An argument developed that Mark should return the money to each individual, to which Mark responded “You think burger free”, the argument continued all the way walking back to Sandhurst at around 11:30PM, the night ended over a couple beers and discussion of various topics as everyone ended up paying Mark for the burgers.

Prank Calls on a Long Hot Summer Night:
One night during a long hot drawn out summer, we were bored out of our minds. It was a week night and not a lot to do so Mark decided we should make some pranks phone calls. We must have annoyed about a dozen people that night as we grab the phone book, closed ours eyes and select the next victim. Finally we called one number and some young girls around our age answered, it seems they were also equally bored. We tried to prank them but they were not having it so we all chatted for a while, turned out they were students of Alpha so we made plans to meet them the next day and to this day we are all still good friends. However that night Higgla decided to up the ante and called the emergency number telling them that Sandhurst Guest house was on fire. We sat on the veranda drinking a couple beers with great remorse as the fire engine screamed by towards the Guest House. Gary then said that he should not have done it since his own house could at this very moment be on fire, every one agreed it was a rubbish thing to do. It was the low part of the night but what was done could not be undone and we never did that again. I know one guy at my high school who specialized in fake bomb threats to the school. If it was a sports day at Queens, St. Andrews, Holy Childhood or Immaculate and our school proceedings was getting in the way, eating up good daylight and girl time. After the evacuation only a fraction of the students would return to class as most made their great escape.   




Stage Three Life for us was school, girls, parties and more parties, every weekend.
Disco Sensation (Hughenden, Base), Soul Sensation, Soul Express, Legacy, Colossus, Ambassador, Topsey, Le Jeux , Epiphany, night beach at Hillshire, The Plazas at Christmas.

Over the years we shared the trials and tribulation of various failed relationships.

Looking for Sessions, cruising around Cherry Gardens, Orange Grove, Jacks Hill, Norbrook, Water works (Mr. Ranking duppy). Park the car and listen for the baselines as it reverberates off the side of the hills then drive in the general direction of the beat until come upon a party. In Jamaica the hills are literally alive with the Sound of Music.



High School BBQ and FĂȘte, Teen Jam at Tropics, Phase II, NCB Sports club,  Enforcer Disco, Frank and Ferno, Squeeze, Bruce's patties, Peace Maker disco, Easter break in ochie, Soul Swingers Disco, The Va (A van to move the sound system, it was not road worthy and so we did not call it a van but a Va, it was painted using house paint) , Indies Pub, Swain Spring, Jah Love Music, Georgie wine, Brigadier Jerry, 12 Tribe Council, Hillcrest, Stony Hill, Port Royal (Mile Post 12), Running Boat (impromptu cooking) , Orange Grove Carnival, UWI carnival, Champs, Ray Town Dance, Zinc Fence and Third World music, Night Beach, Beat the Gate(getting into a party when you are not on the guest list or did not pay).

Higgla out of principle would feel insulted if he was invited as he preferred to use his wits to get into a party. I remember one immaculate fete, he clearly had more than enough money to get in but chose instead to scale immaculate fence, later that night we saw him limping, he had climbed a tree to get over the fence but misjudged the height to the ground, he turned around to go back but the limb he was standing on gave way, his ankle swell up, big, big like a melon.

Fonda Rae - Over like a fat rat 1982 
Gwen Guthrie - It Should Have Been You 
McFadden & Whitehead Ain't No Stopping Us Now
The Brothers Johnson - Stomp! 
Sharon Brown - I Specialize in Love 
Jeanette Lady Day - Come Let Me Love You 
Howard Johnson - So Fine 


Rent-A-Tile
A dance floor is normally made of small square tiles and you can rent one of these tiles when you dance a slow tune with a girl. It is also called lock down, because heads are burred into each other, arms wrapped tight in an embrace that not even light or air can pass between you. Movement is minimal, just enough as you isolate one piece of the music to move to on a very dark dance floor and both of you never step out of the rented tile.

Peaches and Herb
Ray Goodman and Brown
René & Angela
Stephanie Mills
Luther Vandross
Freddie Jackson-You Are My Lady
Jeffrey Osborne
Jody Watley


Rub-A-Dub-Style
There is very little difference between Rent-A-Tile and Rub-A-Dub-Style the concept is the same except Rub-A-Dub-Style is a bit more aggressive or aggressive smooth. With Rub-A-Dub-Style there was a lot more grinding, as hips massage into each other, one person legs might be spread apart to act as a stabilizer or a wall used for support. Apart from the grinding of the hips not a lot of other movement took place. Some men like to put the girl against the wall so she cannot back up and then grinding pressure is applied to the most melodic Rub-A-Dub-Sound that vibrates the very wall she is against. While other men like to be against the wall and have the women do all the work while he takes a puff of his cigarette or a sip from his beer. I think the style varies base on the relationship between the couples, men who like to show they are in charge would rest against the wall and have the young lady “come -a -me” do her stuff, crazy cool.

I have no clue what these kids are doing today, I do not get the concept of men standing on one side and women on the other side of the dance floor and the two never meet and men dance to impress other men. It is the most impersonal and anti-social dance style that defeats the entire purpose of why we use to go out. In my days the number one reason why we go to a party was to meet girls, it was a successful night if that objective was accomplished.

Black Uhuru
Gregory Isaacs
JACOB “Killa” MILLER
Lone Ranger
Dennis Brown
Freddy Mcgregor
Gregory Isaacs
Barrington Levy
Tenor Saw
Pinchers
Super Cat


Session Here, There and Everywhere
I recently found an old Executive Monthly Minder Planning book from 1988 and noticed that the month of June and July 1988 was a very busy for me:
  • 23 June 1988 NCB Party - Legacy Disco
  • 24 June 1988 the Club with Colossus Disco
  • 30 June 1988 Session at Hillcrest Ave Colossus Disco
  • 1 July 1988 Session with Colossus, Legacy and Ambassador ($30)
  • 2 July 1988 Ferry Inn with Colossus Disco ($25)
  • 2 July 1988 Beach Bash Party Legacy Disco ($25)
  • 9 July 1988 Armageddon Party ($60)
  • 15, 16, 17 July 1988 was also marked Session
  • 29 July 1988 a party in Norbrook with Legacy and Le Jeux Disco ($20)


Radio DJ personality Wayne Chin use to have these short blurbs on the radio:
  • "Wayne Chin Says – Man who ride and dilly dally, end up on hospital trolley".
  • “Wayne Chin Says – Man who goes to bed with itchy batty wakes up with smelly fingers”

After a night of drinking and dancing at the 1980s night club at the Courtleigh Manor's, we hailed a cab. Everyone got into the cab except a very drunk Gary, who claimed on top of the taxi and shouted to the driver … “Driva!! …drive man!.. mi alright up yah so!” … well the cab driver lost it…. “Boy get yu Rass offa mi kyar tap” … at which point we jumped out, grab him and pushed into the taxi …

SOONER OR LATER - Larry Graham
Change - Paradise 1981
Change - The Glow of Love
Howard Johnson - So Fine
Imagination - Just An Illusion
Shalamar -
The Whispers - And The Beat Goes On


And Then There Were Three...:
One of the sadness day for us was when Gary left us. It was not the fact that he left but how he left, couple days had passed and we did not see or heard from Gary. Several phones call made and no luck on his whereabouts.  So we decided to go to his house, we knocked on the gate and asked for Gary only for the person to tell us that Gary went back to England. We were sad, angry and relived all at the same time. He was fine no harm came to him but he left us without saying good bye and we felt hurt. We were very silent after leaving his house, something had changed in our world and we were not prepared for that change. We now understand why Gary left the way he did but his leaving reminded us that Stage Four Life was not far off.

Yeah I remember the 70s to 80s, the Political war years, they were bad but they did not stop us going about our business and having fun. It was not all doom and gloom as some would have us think, yes we had road blocks and police operations and political posturing. Yes the super market shelves was empty at times and many imported items was scarce but local production was high. So we had food to eat, over time we also got use to frequent power cuts which forced us to do other things, find other ways to entertain ourselves, be a family, play games. 

My first real hurricane was Gilbert, before that my sister and I would complain that the weather service was bogus. Each time a hurricane was coming and everyone prepared, it almost always managed to miss us in the end. Part of us wanted to experience a hurricane and older people would tell us to stop saying stupid things and be careful what you wish for. Yes we experienced loads of bad weather, near misses and close shaves but never a direct hurricane, one for the history books. I had no idea hurricane Gilbert was coming or even existed because I was having way too much fun. The day before Gilbert was predicted to arrive, I was at home nursing a hangover. I had no clue until about 12 noon on September 11th when I woke up. I heard the weather report on the radio but quickly dismissed it as bogus weather. The joke at the time was if the weatherman said it was going to rain prepare for sunshine and head to the beach.

Later that day I had an early dinner/lunch and went outside to sit on my verandah with the Sunday paper, aka scandal news. I looked around the neighborhood and everyone was acting strange for a lazy Sunday afternoon, normally you could hear a pin drop.  I looked up and out and saw a straight line of airplanes taking off from Norman Manley Airport. I said to myself “ mmmm very strange, they never normally do that”. Then later the phone rang, it was my relatives in New York and they were losing their minds, worried sick about the impending doom. It seems we were about to meet our maker, I tried to calm them down but they were not having any of it and was told to stock up and prepare for what seemed certain death. It was then that I decided to head down to the supermarket in Barbican but by the time I got there the shelves was mostly empty and everyone running around like the zombie apocalypse was upon us.

 


On the morning of September 12th I got up to go to work, turned the television on and realized that this was it. I realised that Hurricane Gilbert was in a Jamaica state of mind, that Jamaica’s name was written all over this one and so it was time to batten down the mental hatch. It was then that I realized that the saying “calm before the storm” is so real because I hear none of the usual morning noises from nature. 

I think it was about 9:00 am when we were in the thick of it, my first real onslaught from mother nature. I remember the sound of the wind, it was extremely loud, rain was hard and fast as it came down by the bucket load. The wind was powerful and dangerous as the front door strained to resist it, it shake and rattled and I seriously though it would not hold out for much longer as I moved a piece of furniture to brace against it.

The trees almost stayed constantly at a 45 degree angle as their roots gripped mother earth most was unsuccessful and made loud noises as they were broke and/or uprooted. As I looked out the window it was clear that anything that was not battened down was on the move. Flying missiles was everywhere, zinc, wood, pieces of metal all moving in the wind like a leaf from a tree. I saw a dog went flying pass my gate heading down the road, the poor animals legs were not on the ground, I saw several  satellite dishes took off like a flying saucer heading back to their home planet and I saw things move that I seriously thought was firmly connected to Terra Ferma and could never move.  By this time the power was gone and my grandma was busy cooking all the meat that would spoil.

I am not sure what time the eye of the hurricane got to my house but when it did it was very calm, the first half of the match was over and Gilbert was scoring goals at will. It was a 15 minutes half time break and everyone went outside to survey the damage. First to our own property and then to the surrounding area. Destruction was everywhere, trees and light post uprooted, electrical cables dangling, some people had lost their roof and had to move in with their neighbours. Everybody was helping everybody, it was Jamaicans at their very best and it made me proud to see everyone asking everyone else if they were OK.

Then the winds started picking up again and everyone raced home to prepare for the second half of the match and Gilbert was the first out on the field of play, large and in charge. About one hour into the 100+ mile an hour winds and heavy rain, I heard a huge crash on my roof. I thought this was it, my shingled roof was gone and it was time to move over to the other side of the house but it was the roof next door that came crashing down and ended up partly on my roof and in our yard taking the apple tree with it.

The morning after was a beautiful morning, the sun was shining and hardly any cloud in the blue skies. We had no Electricity for about the next 3 weeks, most people had no water for about 2 weeks. So first we harvest water whenever it rained and even when water returned the pressure was very low and water very dirty so we had to boil it before use. We did not have a lot of food, we had to cook everything that would spoil, but later stocked up on can food. During the hurricane the animals living in Barbican looted the supermarkets with one report that the supermarket manager was beaten up by the very people he served everyday. Strangely enough he had stayed in the supermarket during the hurricane because he wanted to open quickly so that people would not go hungry and this is how some repaid him. He was saved by JDF soldiers who had to fire a couple rounds scattering the cockroaches chasing them back into the ghetto from whence they came.

Jamaica looked like a war zone, total destruction, houses destroyed, streets blocked, fallen trees and light post, dangling wires, trees without leaves and it was hot. Everything that was anything was in the streets, dead animals all over the place but for me the worst thing throughout all of this was a piece of zinc that got caught on the top of a light post because for two and a half weeks I had to listen to this squeaking sound every time the wind blew. Morning noon and night, squeak, squeak, squeak, I thought I was losing my damn mind, going mental from it and was so happy when the JPS men came to remove it and repair the poles. Nine months later and Jamaica was filled with Gilbert babies.


After Gilbert our diet consisted mainly of Corn Beef aka Bully Beef aka Bully Baff it was the order of the day. We had so much of the stuff we were beginning to smell of it. Our choices was basically limited to tin food, Corn Beef, Mackerel or Sardines and when things returned to normal I made it my duty not to touch the stuff for over a year. I can still remember my first taste of ice cold water after Gilbert a friend had gotten light back early and we all used her house as the base of all daily operations. I drank it slowly, savoring the taste because drinking water from a pipe in the middle of the day means you are drinking hot to warm water…  


I must say though I had loads of fun the following days, weeks and the month after Gilbert. For one thing, I did not return to work for about a month, every day was hanging out with friends, playing dominoes, drinking hot beer, Running Boat (impromptu/communal cooking) and playing tennis over Blue cross off hope road. Just having fun and rolling with whatever life throws at you. Would I have rather been somewhere else? In another country? Hell no!” and miss all this!!.
 
Back in the days (80s) nothing beat Hellshire beach on a Sunday morning. A perfect way to end a weekend, relaxing, playing dominoes, eating fish and festival, drinking beer and seeing all your friends.

Nothing beats leaving a party at 3:30AM and heading straight to Hellshire beach with good friends, making a bonfire and watching the sunrise then having breakfast from the stalls, first catch of the day before heading home to sleep.

Nothing beats lunchtime at work when one person says "lets go to Hellshire beach for lunch", rolling up your pants walking in the water and having a three hour lunch before heading back to work.

Nothing beats Ivors Guest house for lunch or dinner, looking out on the city of Kingston and the Caribbean sea or Devon house on a Friday afternoon enjoying a Devon Duppy, good conversion, good food and listening to good music with good friends and work mates.

Indies Pub on a Saturday night was a must back in the 80’s, pac man, defender, beer and pizza, friends and music. We transcend social barriers as one night we would be hanging out at the best uptown session/club and the next we are enjoying ourselves at a downtown dancehall, soaking up the vibes and holding our corners, what more can a Jamaican adolescent ask for.

This is just a very small fraction of my life experiences growing up in Jamaica, on certain days I can remember each experience like it was yesterday and crack myself up with laughter. I know I would never trade that experience, that wonderful life for anything. Eventually we were dragged kicking and screaming into Stage Four Life but it was my years between ages 6 to 27 growing up in Jamaica and my friends Mark, Gary and Simmo that made me the type of person I am today and I will be forever grateful.

 
Miss Lou" - Hon. Louise Bennet Coverley - on folk songs 

5 comments:

  1. I adored this blog post!!! I LOVE reading about the simpler things in life! I was born and raised in Canada and for the most part think foreign kids are spoiled to death and would know what the hell to do with a tire and a stick if it hit them in the face. When I'm in Jamaica and watch the small kids STILL playing with a bike tire and sticks it just makes me smile. This recount of life growing up in JA was so great, thanks for my first smile of the day. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  2. yow...mi feel like is my story.....those were the days....everything a me dat

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks for posting. I came across this blog while searching for kite flying in Jamaica. It helped, and also brought back so many memories.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks for these wonderful memories that had faded from my mind. It really reminds us of how simple and stress free our lives were in Jamaica in the 60s, 70s & 80s.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Your Blog was very well written and a true representation of my core five best friends also. Take anyone of us and plug into your story and vice-versa and story stays the same. Car scene through the Den (Hughenden), Down Red Hills, Up Stony Hill, the racing game "follow-the-leader"! With the police making a mild attempt at chasing us, but all the time knowing that if we did get into trouble that phrase " You know who my father is"? was a key to freedom, when used correctly. The innocents of laughter and pranks on each and the unsuspecting public at large that was the classroom of our adolescence. As you could write several books on the escapades and adventures of those days I too would have enough material for several novels, but I love the way you told it, well done and thank you for telling it so well from: one of the core Disco Sensation crew! From the Base shout out to Mikey, Bobby, Hutchy, Jerry, Turbo! Nuff love to the expanded and extended DS Posse!
    Relink soon……….!!!

    ReplyDelete