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Back You are here: Home Reports from Real Life Oh, The Things We've Seen! Travel Writing Don't Smash (Rush Hour in Jamaica)
Saturday, 20 November 2010 03:45

Don't Smash (Rush Hour in Jamaica)

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If anyone ever asks you to go on a cruise, just do it. Don’t sit and think about it; just do it. Because the booze flows freely and the food is great. Because people on those boats will do nearly anything you want. Because what happens on the cruise stays on the cruise. Because foreign lands are endlessly more remarkable than ours. Even one day spent on a beach resort in Mexico is worth the price of the entire cruise. But this isn’t about Mexico, this is about a day spent dodging sports cars and hiding from evil clouds in Jamaica.


Our shuttle driver is Adrian and he tells us we are all family now and the only thing to worry about is nothing. He tells us that if we are looking for something in Jamaica and we don't find it, the “peelpeel” say it will find us. My face turns a knowing smirk and my stupid little dream of smoking pot on the beach feels a little bit more like reality. Adrian makes a joke about Jamaicans driving on the wrong side of the road but I don't remember it. The roads are small and crowded with every manner of wheeled transport, save American cars. I only saw 2 of them and I was counting.

A man slides by the shuttle on a bicycle and stops in the gutter after another man yells something. Then the guy on the bike picks up a sizeable stone and throws it at his antagonist. I really like Jamaica.

Finally the bus stops at Margaritaville, located on Jamaica’s "hip strip". Adrian assures us that it is always alive with a party. The walls of Margaritaville shake with the sounds of American pop music and a shouting DJ. And it's noon. Or as we say in the states: beer thirty. Kelly and I don’t stay long. The only thing to do at Margaritaville is drink and swim and neither of us can swim. We decide instead to go for a “walk”.

Now, this is where it got interesting. Here we were, two high-functioners on our first trip to Jamaica. This was the first moment we could be alone without someone knocking on the door or making a blaring announcement on a loudspeaker. We walk maybe 10 feet and someone tells us he has some smoke, he has the best herbs. Yes, that's right; we stopped and bought our pot from the first motherfucker who asked us. 

"Ok ok, get in the car here" and he points to a little white station wagon and he slides in the driver seat. Kelly and I shoot apprehensive looks. I don't want to get kidnapped and this guy was shady, with his fast talking and his halted movements. Then Kelly gets in and I’m close behind. I make sure not to shut the door all the way. My heart is trying desperately to pound through my chest and escape this situation but I take a deep breath and attempt to calm down. I smell the weed instantly and a little palm-sized bag appears between us.

But wait, what about papers? Where do we smoke it? Those were Kelly's questions. My only question was "how much?" because I really wanted to get out of that car and not get lost and mugged in Jamaica. He says 40 dollars, and I should have told him we just wanted a joint but whatever, I knew it would be worth it. Like I said, I just wanted out of this car. He offers to drive us around and we can smoke in his car and he'll take us to get papers. I tell him we're good and I give him two 20s and he warns us to smoke it on private property, not the beach. I get right back out of the car and it looked so obvious to me what we were doing but I didn't care, we now had Jamaican reefer. 

It takes me a full minute to calm down and for the cops to stop materializing in my imagination. The rush alone was probably worth half the cash I just forked over. Now we have to cross over to the head shops and get some papers.  The road we were on never stopped moving. There was a constant flow of souped up Hondas and work trucks and hatchbacks. This is a tourist-heavy area and there are people designated to help idiots like us cross the street. But we’ve already strayed too far from the other tourists. We have to rush across on our own.

Five minutes later we have papers but no idea where to smoke this stuff at. We stop the next person who approaches us and I don't remember what he asked us but I interrupted him and asked where we can smoke. Kelly gives him a 5 and he leads us across the street towards an alley. Another look is stolen between us but we follow. I relax a little when I see a tennis court and I remember it's the middle of the day. This guy wasn't going to rob us or stab us in front of all these people. Right? It was starting to seem like the people in this area were just a bunch of street folks in need of money. I think I was fitting right in.

The guy reaches behind a bush in the alley and pulls out 2 cinder blocks for us to sit on, quite the gentleman. I’m only a little bit nervous by this point. We hand over our weed and our papers and quicker than I’ve ever seen, we're the proud owners of a finely rolled Jamaican joint. He’s talking the whole time and he's telling us what these bracelets he put on our wrists mean. Then I see the bandage clinging to his forearm and I realize how homeless this half-toothed man is. 

"The red is the blood of Jesus Christ, the yellow is the sun, the green is the land, and the black is the beautiful people of the island," He speaks in a quick, hushed tone.

I’ve only taken a couple of hits and I am quite stoned. Some older ladies draped in colorful sheets and shawls walk by and look away. The bum gives us another joint and Kelly tells him to keep the sack, we don't want to take it back on the boat. A child approaches from the tennis court, peers inquisitively through the fence and the bushes at us, and then wanders back to the tennis court.

"Just put it in your poosy," the bum says, "We do it all the time."

Kelly shakes her head and I agree. No way is anything going in her “poosy” except maybe myself. I only run with classy girls, not girls who skeeter drugs. I think we were both too high to carry it around anyway. The paranoia was slowly starting to creep in so the bum just won himself a $40 nugget of weed. Then he pulls out more bracelets tied to a string on his inner thigh and asks us how many friends we have. Now, remember, kids; nothing in life is free.

He starts with this "all you need to do is slip me a little somethin somethin, a 20, you know" talk but he says it low enough that Kelly doesn't hear him. Now I’m annoyed and I want to finish this joint and get away from this toothless fool. I want to hand him the bracelets and walk away but that's when he'll get me with the machete, right? Instead I pull out some cash for him and like the fiend he is, the price goes up. His voice is rushed and louder now.

"40, gimme 40. Look, I gave you all these bracelets."

This makes Kelly mad and she tries to pull off the bracelets. Things between her and the bum get a little heated for a second (especially when he tells her to be quiet) and I worry I’ll have to break the two apart. All I wanted to do was smoke a little weed in Jamaica. I shake my head and tell him he told me 20, I’m not paying 40. I get him down to 25 and he God-blesses us and I wanted to say “fuck you asshole, we gave you all of that weed”. He claimed he wasn't going to smoke it, he was a farmer. But he'd “dispose” of it for us. 

I have to convince Kelly that I wasn’t scared; I just didn't want to pay that guy. Finally we walk away and finish the joint on the way back to the street. We have another one in the backpack but now it's time to hit the beach. This will prove to be more difficult than it should have been. Everything has this slow-motion blur around it and my chest burns with what I can only assume is the fire of the Jamaican people. We don’t stay long on the beach because we’re the only tourists and everyone is staring and evil faces are appearing in the clouds above me. We have to go back to Margaritaville before someone tries to sell us something again. We plant the joint and the sand and head back.

At first it sucks trudging down the street in the moist, overheated air. Sometimes the sidewalk is too small so I have to walk in the street and avoid getting struck by cars blasting inches past me at 40 mph. It’s equal parts terrifying and invigorating, much like the rest of Jamaica. Then I see these busses ramble past and they're packed to the windows with ugly sweaty tourists and they’re giving me long looks, wondering how I get to wander the streets of Jamaica while they're desperately avoiding the bare thigh of the fatass seated next to them. Suddenly it doesn't suck walking stoned in the Jamaican gutter.

We stop and sit on a wall to have a cigarette. The paranoia itches at me now and then but it's always fleeting anyway. I make up stories for the natives passing by. He stole that handbag; the girl across the street is his partner and they rob dumb tourists. I keep forgetting it’s a work day for these people, they’re busy, not like us overabundant Americans. This was the first of 3 vacations that year.

Halfway back to Margaritaville, Kelly remembers that these lesbians in our cruise group wanted some sand from the beach. We have no choice but to walk back down to the beach, past all those angry faces and get some sand. The ordeal is all very confusing, with many missteps and quick mind-changes. We scoop the sand up like the white idiots we were and get back to the street. Not easy. Then, out of the void behind me, a camouflaged truck tears by and it's full of heavily armed, serious faces. 20 of them and I swear they were all looking right at me.

I’m starting to have a hard time and we need to get back to our friends. The sky has pinkened ever so slightly with an approaching sunset and there are more cars on the strip than before. Every few seconds one of them stops at the curb behind us, no doubt ready to get us a little more zombified. My nerves get even more itchy when I notice a dark, gangly Jamaican making his way down the sidewalk behind us. I’m sure he's going to get pissed we're in his way so I think of an excuse to stop and let him by. When I stop, he passes right between us and does something quite unexpected.

He sings.

And it’s a fucking beautiful song. The quick serenade took the edge off of my paranoia; I was calm again. It was like the gangly Jamaican wanted us to know there was no reason to be scared. Walk to the beat, get lost in your surroundings, enjoy my song because it might not last. Just don't be afraid. And after that, I wasn't afraid. All it took was his short little verse to put me at peace. I really really like Jamaica. 

The rest of Jamaica wasn't quite worth mentioning. I heard some great music thumping out of souped up sports cars with stickers on the back that said "so seductive" and "don't smash", not "Honda" or "Nissan". And those Jamaicans love their car horns. Any excuse to blow those things, it was like they'd just discovered them.

They smoke a fine strain of weed. I’m no connoisseur but I know good weed. I’ve smoked purple stuff, Alaskan stuff, sticky stuff, fluffy stuff. I quit smoking it a long time ago but none of it can measure up to the Jamaican stuff. I spent the next 2 days as a zombie. That night I was back on the boat in a cramped crowd of people waiting for the restaurant to open its doors and I was totally confused but I was totally calm at the same time. It was a beautiful moment. I was the eye of that rich, fat hurricane.

Later I looked on the map and we’d walked about 8 miles from Margaritaville; much farther than we were “supposed” to go. So prepare for an adventure and risks galore if you want to find some pot down there. Who knows; maybe one day I’ll live in Jamaica, sputtering around on a dirt bike selling overpriced weed to tourists, the fools.

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Last modified on Thursday, 15 March 2012 04:38

High stakes rambler.

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