july 13, 2009
port antonio, jamaica
dat be stitchie-mon. he be a true rastafari. he live in de bush up country in zion an' he grow his own food, own his own house, and smoke de ganja 24 hours a day. dere is a natural plantation behind his house an' in it grow mango and coconut, ackee and calilou, breadfruit and yam. de wife an' i meet him behind de counter of his black, yellow, green, an' red rasta hut (de first 3 be de colors of de jamaican flag, de red be used only by de rastafari), from which he sell many simple tings: water and mango juice, coca cola and coconut, and of course de red stripe beer. stitchie-mon dream one day to run a little guest house for tourists and travelers like me, but he no have de capital to get started at de moment.
"what do you want, mon? whatever you like, dat is what i am here for, my brudder." dat's what stitchie-mon say to de wife and me, and i tink i believe him. "dat is de purpose of life, mon. to make your brudder and sister happy. what do you want, my brudder?" we just met stitchie-mon about 20 minutes ago. da wife didn't really want to go into de rasta hut, but she be so hungry dat she agree after anudder two jamaican girls on de side of de road say, "go in, mon. no be scared. he take care of you."
so we go in and stitchie-mon seem to be de friendliest mon we have met so far in jamaica. i order a red stripe, naturally, mon, an' i tell stitchie dat de wife be powerful hungry. he say, "what you want to eat, my sister?" "anyting local," de wife say, an' den stitchie-mon whistle to his son, byron, an' tell him to go down de road to "fetch dis pretty lady some boston jerk chicken, wid red peas an' rice." but den i tell stitchie-mon dat de wife is vegetarian which bring a big smile to his rasta face," an' he whistle again to stop byron who already be half way down de road. he say, "never mind, go get your mudder."
next ting we know, stitchie-mon an' his wife, janet, be home-cooking us a meal right outside de rasta hut. stitchie-mon build a wood fire, byron go out back to bring up de ackee an' yam, an' janet be peeling and cooking it all in two pots on de side of de house. dey pull out a little white plastic table for us on de side of de hut, an' two short wooden stools, but we sit down in de grass for a while an' play wid dere little dog, yao, as we wait for de rasta-cooked meal.
soon we all be sittin' an' eatin' an' talkin' about rasta life, having a good time. stitchie-mon, he tell me how he meditate every day and work hard in de plantation. he look very strong an' fit, many 6-pack, even widout de la-la gym, an' i be tinkin' dat da rasta life be good an' natural an' dat i be very lucky to meet de stitchie-mon an' his family out here in de bush. he be a true rastafari, just like tuff gong, bob marley, who grow up out here in de bush before he move to kingston. den stitchie-mon say, "what else you want, my brudder?" "what about a little jamaican rum?" i say, an' stitchie-mon again break out into anudder big smile. he send byron to de local store, an' after de boy come back an' we finish de bottle of dark happy rum, stitchie-mon say, "something else, my brudder?" i say, "nuting else tonight," and he smile an' say, "what about tomorrow, my brudder?"
i say, "i don't know. we don't have any plans." he smile again an' say, "dat be good, mon. you just need be open to de master's plan." i smile an' say, "i guess so." he say, "you want to go rafting, my brudder?" me say, "yah, mon," cause maya, our super-generous kingston host, tell us we "must go rafting if you go to portland." so stitchie-mon pick up de cell phone and call sunny-mon to meet us de next day at de texaco station in port antonio, about an hour up de coast. stitchie-mon hand me de phone, an' i ask sunny-mon what be de price be for de rafting. he say 6300 jamaican. i ask stitchie-mon if it be a fair price an' he look at janet an' say, "yah, mon."
we say "hasta manana", an' i ask stitchie-mon how much we owe him. he say "me don't like to talk about money, my brudder." dis make me a bit uncomfortable so i say, "about how much?" stitchie-mon look at me again an' say, "give me what you want, my brudder." dis still don't help me at all, so i say, "c'mon, stitchie-mon!" stitchie-mon smile at me again, look at janet, an' say, "me give you 3 red stripe, dey be 150 each. de rum cost 800 at de store, you give me what you want for dat. de food, you give me whatever you tink, my brudder." dis still don't help me much, so stitchie-mon look straight into my eyes an' say, "if me tell you something, you probly give me twice as much, right, mon? we give you something to eat, so you give us whatever you want, my brudder." now i be stuck, tryin' to figure which way to go. i remember dey ask us for 5800 jamaican in hellshire when we first get to kingston, for 3 fish, which be near 70 dolla U.S., way outta line. i remember i argue like hell wid de cooker an' even maya, our super host, argue wid him too. we end up paying 3500 jamaican, but den 2 days later, we be paying only 500 jamaican for da very same delicious local fish everywhere we go. so we don't know who to trust, mon? is dis beautiful rasta mon as loving and one love as he say? it seem maybe dat we be seen like nuting but a money tree to every black mon in jamaica.
an' den i remember de wife say to me many time, "if dey all be so "one love-one heart" in jamaica, why dey all be shootin' an' robbin' an' murderin' each odder every day?" i say, "i don't know de answer to dat one; dey be very hungry, i guess, dat's all." i decide to pay stitchie-mon 2000 jamaican. he don't even bother to look at or count de money but' he say, "tank you, my brudder," an' he send us back to zion country wid a pint of rum an' some ice. i tink i pay too much for de rum, 'specially cause stitchie- mon keep two thirds of de bottle for himself, but i tink i be happy making a little contribution to stitchie-mon's future guest house plans. den we say "good night" a second time an' he say, "bring back de plastic bowl an' tongs in de morning about 9 o'clock, my brudder. dere are still many tings you have to learn."
de next day, after a few too many mosquito bites that night (especially around de ankles; you know dat, man, right?), we bring back de tongs an' tings, and stitchie-mon puts us in a "route" taxi up to port antonio to meet sunny-mon. dis be de biggest town on de east coast of jamaica, mon, but it be run-down just like de rest of de country. but dere be sunny-mon, a 70 year old rafta-mon, 40 years on de river. he come right up to greet us, fresh outta de taxi, cause i guess we stick out like two turnips in a whole batch of red ripe tomatoes. "yah, mon, we gone take you up river to float down 8 miles, mon. you gonna have a good time." we smile until sunny-mon an' his driver in crime try to charge us anudder 5000 jamaican to drive us up de road to de entry point. i be mighty pissed off at dis an' argue loud an' long 'cause me no wanna pay more den de 6300 we already negotiate. de driver-mon, he don't like dis at all, but me be insistent, so de sunny and driver-men finally agree to take us widout de extra price. dat be one for de stingey-mon!
so now de trick is to re-relax an' set out on de raft to float down de river for 3 hours, with de sunny-mon navigating de gentle slow rapids wid his expert bamboo pole. no worries, mon; it is very easy to relax rafting in paradise. but we be floating only for about 15 minutes, mon, when anudder rasta-mon come poling by on anudder raft from de opposite direction. he greet us an' say, "your floating bar, mon", wid a big smile on his face. we order 2 red stripe, of course, after only a minor negotiation, an' in anudder 5 minutes we trow ourselves over de side of de raft an' swim in de most wonderfully fresh water we ever met . it is anudder perfect moment, mon, widout a doubt. we do dis about 10 more times in de next 2 hours, which be 10 more perfect moments, mon, an' we feel like we be in rasta heaven.... which is where we must be for sure.... 'cause soon we be diving off errol flynn's rock right in de middle of de river.
dat's right, mon, de dashing pirate prince-robin hood himself, de flynn-mon, he live and retire down here in portland. he buy some cheap beach front property in long bay, mon, bring down all his hollywood pals an' pal-esses, an' even develop dis rafting bidness way back in de 30s and 40s. he put port antonio and portland on de international map... until too many hurricanes an' too much crime make most of de world forget dis place. portland, jamaica, mon, where dat be? but true, him an' de wife be rafting an' swimmin' right here on de same rock as me an' de wife be doin' right now. in fact, de sunny-mon take mrs. flynn many time himself right to dis very spot. it seem very funny, mon, dat right here, up country in zion, we be flash-backed to our very own lala land an' lucretia gardens, by de dashing flynn-mon an' his mighty rock right here in de middle of de rio grand river.
anyway which way, we be cool runnin' now, just like tommy swerdlow wrote in de movie by de same name, which me never saw, mon, but it be about jamaica, mon. maybe about de beach scene or de raft scene, or de rasta scene. someting, mon. maybe even be about de jamaican bobsled scene, mon, 'cause for some crazy reason or udder, de jamaicans have dis olympic-scale bobsled team. yah, mon, me not be lie-in' to ya; it be almost as great as de usain, lightning bolt-mon from de beijing olympics... and de many udder jamaican gold medal track champeens. all as swift as de wind, mon. anyway, we be makin' our own lazy an' swift poetry now, mon, 'cause wid or widout de ganja, mon, jamaica be cool runnin', 'specially if it be downstream in de flynn-mon's river raft in portland parish.
we finally finish de 8 mile sunny-mon float an' roll up under da bridge outside port antonio. we get out of de raft, an' lo an' behold, dere is de same driver, mon, dat sunny-mon done called to pick us up. me don't know de mon's name, but i tink me call him hungry-mon, 'cause he really bodder us for de money. very bad, mon. stingey-mon (dat be me) an' hungry-mon really battle it out, like a tuff gong war, mon. "me not be payin' you, hungry-mon" "yah, mon, you must be payin' me. dis is me bidness." "no, mon, sunny-mon not be tellin' me about no transport, mon." "you got to pay, stingey-mon!" blah blah blah, back 'n forth...until hungry-mon, he finally give up an' finally drop us off at de bus station. he say, "good luck, mudder fucker. dere be no route taxis today, it be sunday. maybe you be lucky to catch a bus." an' he drive off. he don't actually say de "mudderfucker" part, but he may just as well have. he be well-angry, de hungry-mon, dat i don't wanna pay him. but i be stingey-mon, so 'nuff said.
we have a very good local lunch, mon, jerk chicken for me an' steamed fish for de wife (550 jamaican for both!), an' we catch a route taxi at de texaco station after looking for about 60 seconds. de taxi-mon drop us off at stitchie-mon's rasta hut, an' stitchie mon greet us all friendly-like an' ask us how de day go. "very wonderful rafting, stitchie-mon, but de sunny-mon try to soak us for as much moulah as possible." "yes, my brudder, everyone here see you as a target. you be learning fast." yes, my brudder, my beautiful an' free, one-love rasta brudder, i tink to myself,
i do be learnin'........
from de hungry-mon, second world,
de trifty buccaneer from bensonhurst