stingey-mon an' de flip flops

chapter 1

july 11, 2009

portland parish, east coast, jamaica

yah, mon, dat be me. stingey-mon. in a heavenly place on de island called zion country. jamaica, mon. me be in de prom ised land, you know? after de captivity in babylon? maybe kingston, mon? me walk back across de desert to zion.

cause you know, kingston be very rough, mon. jimmy cliff, tuff gong (bob marley)? dey be long gone, mon. but de studio in tuff gong's name still be dere, exploiting de marley-mon's name. and all de hungry rastas, and rappas, and hustlas, dey be in de streets, mon, like on de bowery in manhattan when me be a chile. dey be knocking on de windows of all de cars, trying to make a dolla by cleaning de windows, but all de drivers, mon, dey roll up dere windows and lock dere doors, mon, cause dey don't wanna be rousted by de hungry touts and fake rasta men in de streets.

cause you see, mon, jamaica just 'came independent in 1962. long after senor christofer columbo "discovered" de island in 1494, taking it from de too-peaceful native tainos, while still looking for de watery silk road to china. but all he find be de west indies, mon, hispanola an' jamaica. an' after he die, de spanish and den de english, develop port royal, mon, at the very tip of de kingston peninsula, cause you remember, mon, de english sink de spanish armada back in 1588, and dis port royal, mon, den develop into de "wickedest city in de world", wid de pirate captain morgan, and de dandy, calico jack, mon, doin' all dese wicked an' nasty tings, until an earthquake bury half de city in 1692, so de euros move dere capital to "spanish town", mon, northeast of kingston, which today is all decrepit and run down, 'cause de euros eventually move to kingston proper, mon, right up until today, when it be de "murder capital of de world". yah, mon!

but of course, de wife an' me stay very comfortable, mon, in a lovely gardened house, complete wid de ripe mango tree, and de rock pool full of pet tilapia. along wid de obligatory spiked prison yard steel wire all around de perimeter to keep de gangsta men out, mon. 'cause just last month, dey be robbin' de next door neighbors' lovely tropical island house right trough de back yard. all de security devices, totally useless, mon, against de resourcefulness and hunger of the jamaican black man, who has not seemingly been able to govern himself, mon, wid any order or efficiency, since de englishmon move out in '62, my brudders an' sisters.

so we be very worried and tense, mon. we can not go out on de streets alone. dat's what maya, our super jamaican wonder host, tells us. it not be safe for us, mon. she have to drive us everywhere. an' feed us. an' take us everywhere. we feel like chilren, mon. "what kinda travel dis be?" de wife say. she say she thought we came to see da culture, mon. to meet de people, mon. now we be all paranoid and scared-like. but de truth be, we not feel safe in kingston, mon, where everybody say "watch your back, mon." "don't walk around wid more den jus' a little cash in your pocket, mon." "cover your camera, mon." ok. ok, we say. an' we never go out alone, and we not feel free, mon. an' what up wid dat, mon? we travel for freedom.

so we fly de coup of kingston, mon, after only 5 days, but not until we be introduced to de local calilou, ackee an' salt fish, de bread pudding & king fish, mon, or until we swim wid de fishies in hellshire, mon, down de azure blue coast from kingston. all in all, every little ting is all right, do' it be hot as humid hell. but we be very grateful, mon, cause we be very well cared for, mon, by our super host, maya, an' her many powerful jamaican no women-no cry friends, which be much better dan bein' rousted and ruffled in de streets widout dis protection, mon.

but now, like i said, mon, i be swimming up country in zion country, up de northeast coast from kingston. in portland parish, mon, maybe de most beautiful and still undeveloped part of de island. we not be goin' to montego bay or negril, mon, de full-service tourist route in de northwest, mon, wid all de americans an' euros dere on cruise ships an' packages tours. dat not be for us. we play it by ear, mon, day to day decide where we be going, hire a car to drive us safe-like to de next town, mon, keep our ears open for what's available in de bush, mon. like de rasta rafting trip down de rio grand, mon, or de slippery hike up de "reach falls" in manchoneal, when it be closed on mondays, mon….

but right now, i gotta a big problem, my brudders and sisters. see, i just lost it, mon. in de sea. in de carib, mon. shit! shit! shit! my flip flop, mon, it popped off when i started to swim! so eager, mon, to swim in de deep blue sea. but now i got me just one flip, or one flop, whichever it be, mon, and i like need both dese flip an' flops for de trip, mon. to be walkin' on de stony shore, mon, or hiking de slippery trails. where i gone be getting anudder flip? or anudder flop? i be way out in de bush, mon. lots of mosquitos, no electricity. very beautiful wid de colorful striped crotons, mon, but no flip or flops anywhere on de horizon.

oh, mon, i gotta find me dis flip or flop, an' not be buying me anudder pair somewhere up de road where me don't know right now. maybe i no find anudder pair, mon. dis one be special, mon. black wid army camouflage green between de toes. dey be perfect, mon. from vietnam. de only flip or flops for me. what me gonna do? i gotta be divin' under water, in de salty sea, mon, to find me dis lost flip or flop. right now! but i canna see a damn ting down dere in the stirred-up water and sand. it be very salty, mon. me eyes, dey sting like hell, mon. maybe de whole trip be ruined now. maybe me step on a sharp stone, mon, start bleeding, an' be eaten alive by a great white, people-snarking shark. or me be bit by an angry giant sting ray or a mean manatee. do dey bite, de manatee, mon? i don't know for sure, but i do know someting go dreadful wrong for sure, if i can not find me de flip or de flop.

by now, i be divin' for 40 minutes, mon. wid no mask, my brudders an' sisters. me eyes be all red-like from de salty carib. an' i can not find de damn ting!. no flip. no flop, just shit, mon! shit! shit! shit! it be a bad sign, for sure, mon. i can not navigate or survive widout my holy rubber friends. what you say? "just forget about it, mon. get some one ones" no, mon, i can not. i need both dese flip an' flop, mon. where de damn ting be? de water look so clear from above, mon. so heavenly blue an' inviting. but i can not see nuting down dere. an' when i come up for air, mon, i can not tell where me just been diving. completely lost me bearings. it all look de same from in de soup, mon. like bein' spun aroun' in a big salty stew pot. it be like tryin' to find one friggin' grain of sand in de whole wide ocean. fuck me, mon. where it be?

what dat, mon? somebody be callin' me. where it come from? behind me, mon. up toward de shore, mon. but dere only be little black jamaican boys, swimmin' and playin' dere, mon. look! what dat? one of de boys be waving at me.

i paddle an' splash over toward him, miserably and reluctantly giving up my self-created GPS system in de zion carib sea. de flip be lost, mon. or de flop. be lost too.

"you lose your slipper, mon?" de littlest naked boy be lookin' out from de shore to me. "yeah, mon, you see it?" "yah, mon," de little boy say. "where, mon? i been diving for it for half an hour. it be lost it an' me really need it 'cause if me don't find it, my whole trip be…." "it float up to de shore, mon." de little naked boy be pointing. "where?" "right dere." he points further up de shore. i look wid my untrained eyes and me don't see nuting. me see his tiny little black pecker and me say, "i don't see it, mon." "dere, mon," he points. den he starts splashing towards the shore, and just before he snatches de holy rubber flip or flop from de water, me see it. redemption, mon. me flip or flop.

de little naked black boy splashes over to me and hands me de holy rubber grail ting i so desire. i say, "tank you, mon. very much!" my little holy savior doesn't even answer, as he splashes off towards his friends. but i have de ting back in hand! i carefully reach down under water, mon, and place de flip or flop between de toes of my right foot, gently squeezing de toes of both feet just a little tighter, mon, so dis definitely does not happen again.

an' den… it suddenly hits me, mon. like a ton of tuff gong kingston discs. i realize dat all my fear… and all my prejudice… and all my expectation… dat de hungry an' angry black jamaican mon mean me harm, an' be a shootin' an' a robbin' me, an' be takin' me tings, mon… well…. me be wrong, mon. 'cause dis little naked black boy, not only do he teach me dat my stupid rubber flip or flip don't sink to de bottom of de ocean, mon, it float! but he help me find de holy rubber ting and go out of his way to give it back to me. den he just swim off like he don't want no money or nuting for it.

an' me, mon? just 2 days out of mighty kingston, mon, just two days exodus out of babylon into holy zion country, mon? me have a revelation, my brudders an' sisters. an' it be de same as always, mon: just let go of de fear, mon. let go of de stereotype an' de expectation. stop obsessing, mon… on tings you canna control. if zion want your flip or flop, mon, he gonna have it. you canna do nuting. but if you can just let go, mon, you crazy, fearful, white rasta mudderfucker, some times, mon, every little ting gonna be all right…..

one love,