Posts Tagged ‘Jamaica

22
Jan
09

I’m baaack (in Jamaica mon)

And like *poof*, I  disappeared.

And like that, I am back. Not just on the blog, but also in Jamaica. And it is nice to be here, I must say. I’ve missed the good times that we’ve all shared: me, you, the 80 year old rasta pepaw with the missing teeth and the parrot on his shoulder…oh wait, I took that picture down didn’t I?  Never mind, I can take another tomorrow. I’m going to Negril and I just know that  the man, or at least several snaggletoothed replicas of him, will be there.

So I took a redeye into Montego Bay and arrived at 7:45AM Monday to discover my reservation was lost. It took a full  two hours to find it and get to my hotel, and by the time I finally was allowed in my room I was just exhausted. Which really does not explain how I got into a drinking contest 45 minutes later.

I swear, I do not seek these things out. They find me.  Or maybe we are drawn together like magnets to iron maidens or something. I was walking back from a quick  lunch, nose in a trashy detective novel, when I heard a loudspeakered emcee enthusiastically cajoling/encouraging/ordering the holiday-makers to come to the front of some bar and join in a competitive beer-drinking event. I looked around to see where the voice was coming from, but couldn’t–it was omnipresent. Carefully, I sidled past a cluster of about six people, into what I thought was a courtyard…and instead found  a lineup of 12 sunburned people, looking at me challengingly. Then I glanced back. Beach bar. Shite. Beer drinkers. Right in front of me. Oh, and my stupid ass. Right in the middle of the competition floor. Nicely done, Lena!

“I’m sorry, very sorry,” I said, backing away and smiling, shaking my head no no no with great emphasis.

 “OH LOOK, WE’VE GOT A SHY ONE!” bellowed the emcee. 

I decided to try the “Ignore him; he’ll go away” tactic. It’s often effective. Pretending I couldn’t hear him, I backed up a small flight of stairs and  hid in a corner.

“COME HERE, MI’LADY.”

Nooo, I mouthed, hands up in the universal sign for “I give up, can’t help you; please leave me alone.”

“YOU SHY GIRL WITH THE BLOND  HAIR, COME TO CRAZY CHRIS. RIGHT NOW. DON’T BE SCARED, I AIN’T GON BITE YOU.”

Oh jeez. This wasn’t going to end. People were beginning to stare. I shuffled up to the bossy mic-wielding madman at the podium.

“Come and have a drink with us,” he said, suddenly  no longer a tormenter but merely an exuberant host. One who happened to have a microphone and an avid audience….but I mean on the bright side I was much bigger thah him. I felt sure I could overpower him if I could get his damn mic off for a minute.

“I really can’t,” I told him. “I mean, I can’t.”

“You in Jamaica now mon, you haf’ to.”

“Ya mon. You in Jamaica,” echoed back several of the bar patrons, as though they were in some sort of weird call-and-response church service.

Oh dear. Chris didn’t have an audience, he had acolytes. And they seemed in a mood to resent anyone who might  prefer sleeping over boozing, or prefer anything over boozing, or even admit to having slept at all in the past week. I know this mindset; it is common in the vacationer nearing the end of their holiday, who knows deep in their heart that that good times will soon be over and bad-weather suckiness will begin. I have been that person. Thus, I understood that  I didn’t want to fight them.

I took a seat next to my fellow beer-drinkers. Now that I was safely roped in, the audience became swiftly bored of me and began to catcall at a Jet Li lookalike in tight black biker short/swim trunk/underwear thingies. His friend got up and launched into a Kriss-Kross Humpty squaredance routine. People cheered. It was all incredibly stupid. But, okay I admit it, I was starting to have fun. There’s something heartwarming about seeing a man make a fool of himself on the dance floor and know it. (Mostly they think they’re hella sexy.)

Anyway. The beer was proffered. It was a small cup, really. This was fortunate, because–and here’s the thing I haven’t yet shared with you–I had already had two at lunch time. No, three. Something like that?  You can’t drink anything with jerk chicken except Red Stripe; it goes without saying. So I had ’em, thinking I was going to go straight to the room and to sleep…and instead here I was looking like a sweaty pale mess in last nite’s clothes, staring into a foaming cup of Red Stripe that according to CRAZY CHRIS’ latest instructions I would need to either drink or pour over my own head. The good news is, I would be doing this with nine other chicks. The bad: I would have to do it center-stage, standing up, while being photographed.  (If you read my Cabo blog, you know why I might have reason to worry about foreign drinking contests featuring insane emcees and video cameras.)

But the really good news followed a moment later: For the first round I would only have to drink one beer, not 3 or 10 as I had feared, and if I lost, I wouldn’t progress to the next round. And could go back to room, sweet room. Yay!

(At this point, a fiercely and perversely competitive voice began to speak up in my head, telling me ‘You can win this…and dammit you must.‘)

Shut up, I said to the voice.

Do it for California. Do it for yourself, the voice continued.

This is how I ended up taking my damn bikini top off in Cabo. GO AWAY, I said to myself.

And thankfully this time I listened. I came in third. My top stayed on. I did not progress to the finals, did not do disgusting watermelon shots out of the Squeezee bottle that was on offer, and went off to my room to take a nap.

I am sorry to let you down–and I know I did–but I had to. Better things were to come, like that nite, when a man named Sexy Bubba cooked my dinner, tossed my salad and flipped my eggs (I know how that sounds but…it was actually completely culinary). And the next nite when my dear old friend Donahue arrived in a chariot to take me to some cool bar furnished entirely with found objects and shoes. And today when my new BFF Marcia led me to a giant chessboard by the sea,  where I fully plan to play human chess as soon as I can rope 24 people in…and learn that damn game b/c I’ve never figured it out. And also tonite, when my van driver turned out to be a deejay who will return bearing a CD of up-and-coming dancehall artists, just for me. And tomorrow when…I go to Negril. Yay, hooray! I shall be back to tell you all about it. But for now…good night mon, and stay irie.

26
Nov
07

Lobster, breadfruit, Red Stripe and a faint ganja breeze…

 bluemtnme.jpg

I’m just back from Jamaica, and ready to tear down a few of your skeptical mainland assumptions, and confirm a few others.

Truth: Jamaican dudes are big ol’ flirts. These smooth talkers love the ladies.They’re also more equal-opportunity than American men. Even if you’re taller than them, older or a good 100 pounds heavier (especially then!!), they’re totally up for whatevah! Out on the touristy beach zones, this is pretty charming…but in the clubs, downtown Kingston, and anywhere else primarily local, it can be a bit overwhelming. Whether it’s downright frightening/dangerous or not, I cannot say. The tourism powers-that-be really kept me out of any overly sketchy situations. So I reserve judgement till next visit, when I’ll make an unescorted stop by Sketch Central.

jamaicafruitveg2.jpg

Truth: You can and should survive on rum, Red Stripe, fresh seafood and tropical fruit. More than any Caribbean island I’ve ever visited, Jamaica has amazing local food and drink. Fruits and veggies come straight from the ground, seafood is flippy-floppin’-fresh out of the ocean, and Red Stripe is easier to come by than water. Appleton Rum pretty much rules the liquor trade, which ain’t such a bad thing, given that they’ve figured out so many delicioso recipes featuring it. I could breakfast each morning on rum punch and be a happy camper. 

sunset.jpg

Truth: Their milkshake is better than yours.  Jamaica is a place where people dance, not walk. This is reggae’s home (like you could ever forget). A cell phone ringtone, a passing strain of Marley (any Marley) from a car stereo, a brisk uphill walk in the Blue Mountains–any of these circumstances will inspire spontaneous hip-swinging, a shuffle, some snapping. The party is in session, all the time.

False: It’s all about the ganja, mon. So sorry. Marijuana is illegal. Not sure whether that means it’s illegal to grow, or to smoke, or what–I don’t partake, so I never tried to figure it out. But if you think that everything good about Jamaica can be rolled up and smoked in a big fat blunt, you’re mistaken. Not only that, but you’ll piss off a significant percentage of the locals if you try.

(Note: I’ve heard from many friends that, when you’re not on escorted American tours, the ganj is sticky, potent and easy to come by. Just like in Hawaii, Amsterdam, Thailand or other famously permissive corners of the world. So don’t worry–it’s not like Jamaica’s gone Girl Scout. It’s just that they don’t want to be known as Druggie Central any longer. Can’t blame ’em for that.)

False: Everyone’s a Rasta. I’ma say, like, maybe 20% of Jamaicans are Rasta. But let’s not forget, Rastafarianism is a religion, as much as a lifestyle. As such, those who practice it usually like to be left alone up in the mountains to do their thing in peace, not parade it around like some sort of wack-ass Disney-style tourist attaction. Don’t take their picture. Don’t think you “get” them because you like to smoke bud and listen to Marley. Above all, don’t think you’re going to give up your tawdry Western life and move to a Rasta settlement. It’s sooo not going to happen.

False: If you come here on vacation, you have to stay on your resort. Gosh, this is a tough one. I heard from so many people that if you go to Jamaica, you’re pretty much doomed to be stuck on one all-inclusive resort all vacation long, since the area outside the resort borders is dangerous no-mans land populated by militants and machine gun-toting soldiers. 

Having been, I can say that’s not the case–with reservations. Jamaica is compartmentalized, fragmented and self-tormenting to a degree that I have seldom seen in other nations. The class system rules, and the government has issues.  But whose doesn’t? Surely not the US! And I’m not sure it’s relevant in this case. What is relevant, is that Jamaica contains a lot more than Hedonism III and Sandals 10, 214. From Negril’s ramshackle cliffside guest houses to the South Shore’s pristine beachfront hideaways to the mystic Blue Mountain retreats, bluemts.jpg

a thousand faces hide coyly behind the nation’s touristy front. And due to spectacular mis-branding, you won’t see most of them unless you specifically set out to do so. Which I suggest you do. It’s much more rewarding than just sprawling your lazy ass on a beach chaise lounge all week long. If you don’t believe me, check out the pics below.

big-dickswinging.jpg 

(big dick-swinging statues… take this one home to the boys at the office)

 lenakatie.jpg 

Welcome to Montego Bay…enjoy your stay…

medominic-colored.jpg 

Me and my homeboy Dominic…owner of Altamont West and quite obviously a handsome stud)

 All photos copyright Steve Petusevsky except photo Lena and Dom Wine w/Me, copyright Christian Fuchs Washington Times 2007




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