J A M A I C A / by D.M. Jerman

For a week at the beginning of November of 2012, I paid a visit to Montego Bay and Negril...


Last night I stood outside and listened to music with the local boys while they drank a little rum and danced and talked. It made me smile to watch them.
Locals pack the hostel court at night along with the strut of black marbled pigeons.
Grooves can be heard from local parties going on well into the night. I didn't go to Pier One, where the big friday bash is in Mo'Bay, instead I rode around with Carlos (a driver with a sound system who loves anything with a beat) up into his neighborhood called Melbourne. Quiet and dark except for pockets of local parties and people dancing. We laughed about how they thought I was a boy (my head recently shaved) at the local shop while getting "Wissla" (long rolling papers for smoking with the name "king weedie" on the side) and Red Stripe (never a hangover) and some drink that comes in a tiny bottle and tastes super sweet like cough syrup.

Old school. The way people do things is the way they do, until something comes along that makes them want to do it differently. Jamaicans understand this.
The whole place scares the hell out of me, but I'm getting used to it. Maybe even liking it a little bit: that terror that means you're beyond your comfort zone for the moment.
Thinking about where to go and how to get there and how much cash to bring along sometimes tires me out. Or I just wish my hostel had more couches...

It was explained to me by a high-all-the-time professional JUTA bus driver that "there are 3 classes of citizens in JA. Rich (who keep getting richer), Middle (majority taxi drivers and other service workers), and Ghetto- poor-as-dirt, "Real Rasta" slum-dwellers.
He talks further about clocking a drive to Kingston in 1 hour and 45 minutes. Unbelievable. It should take 3. 2 hours is how he usually does it, he says. One time it was dark and a bicyclist came out of nowhere. He hit him. Heard him hollar, but he didn't stop... and that's the protocol.
"You don't stop. If you hit someone and stop, they'll kill you or fuck up your car. You just continue on and go to the police station."
That night, he went home and went to bed.

They have a phrase: "Left is right. Right is suicide!"
Somehow, as absolutely nutty as drivers and driving is here, it is comforting to be in a car.

Taking lots of pictures here has been a goal.
Behind the little enclosed neighbor dome of the Mt. Salem housing project is a ghetto hill country with unfinished houses, beautifully shaped nonetheless. Most of my photography constitutes architecture, since I don't want to impose my giant lens on local folk.
I hang with some people from my hostel: a sky-diving German who talks it up about being a greaser in Hamberg, and a Czech accountant with a Cuban girlfriend younger than his youngest son. Both of them smoke like it's going out of style, and are drunk by sunset.
Learn my lesson with that one. We are white people. Therefore we are always about 5 seconds away from a jam when we go out and about here.
I practice never abandoning my drink.

Clothes lines flutter everywhere. A teeming slum, writhing and colorful and filthy. Potholes so big they put Chicago to shame. Jah mon.

Mighty fruits hang like ballsacks from the tree above the long picnic table where I work and spy my first Jamaican skink skurry up to a shady ledge where he can lounge out. Draping his legs over the cool painted concrete and keeping out of the purrview of cats.

The sand is very coarse and the stormclouds are fickle as the afternoons approach. All was well, very relaxed and quiet at Doctor's Cave Beach yesterday.

Boring, yes, but so worth it for the relaxation of a bouyant float and a canopy by which to stay out of the sun.
I never want to get out of the water for how much it feels like a bath.

50 years independent this year. The breezy day in the Caribbean glimmers with light... Irie, Irie.