Friday, March 23, 2007

First: Big Problem, Mon.

The beautiful Negril beach was full of enough postcard scenes to fill a Hallmark store – and enough street hustlers to fill Manhattan. The native trinket hawkers know the stereotype better than the foreigners do – it’s as if I was on a Chicago street corner, saw an Indian walking down the street and immediately engaged him in conversation with a greeting of “What’s up, man? How you doin’, bro?” and, upon hearing his reply in accented English, guided him over to my stand, saying, “Hey, man, c’mon, gimme a second of your time. You’re in America. Land of opportunity. All kinds of time for opportunity, man. Give a home-grown American some opportunity, my man. Here, you like Ronald McDonald? Check out my figurines. How about baseball? You like baseball? How about this mesh baseball hat? Look, Cubbies, man. Red, white, and blue. Colors of America. You saw this exact same stuff one block back? At some grandma’s trinket stand? Yeah, sure, but we’ve all gotta make a living. Check out this Pizza Hut visor. Here, just hold it. Try it on. Go ahead. You told the grandmother you’d buy it from her? OK, but what about this extra large belt? I bet you don’t find those where you’re from. Uniquely American, my friend! No? You’re sure? OK, man, so what you really need, huh? I know why you’re here. Triple-decker burger? Carne-Queso-Refrito-Grande Burritisimo with extra hot sauce? Deep dish double pie with quadruple meat topping? I can get you whatever you want. No food? How about guns, man? Handguns? Rifles? Assault weapons? Whatever you want. Here, check out the one I carry...no? OK, fine. You come to America, you don’t help the natives? Screw you, buddy!

Sure it sounds ridiculous, but that’s what you encounter in the tourist areas of Negril, Jamaica, at least during spring break. Instance after instance of almost exactly the same pitch, given to you by a dreadlocked native, who’s half the time got a joint hanging from his lips. I can only imagine that the true Rastafarians hate it, as some tourists may come away thinking that these ganja-smoking, dreadlocked shysters are real Rastafarians, especially since some claim that they are. Rastafarians wear their hair in dreadlocks, smoke marijuana as part of their religion, and usually don’t eat meat. And maybe some of these hucksters believe that they are Rastafarians, just like the homophobic rhetoric-spewing woman down the street thinks she’s a Christian because she attends church weekly. But I’m pretty sure, just like Mrs. “Jesus don’t like fags”, they’re pretty much missing the point, and in fact most are just intentionally presenting Rastafarianism, and their own culture, in a clich├ęd, stereotypical, prepackaged, commercial way to fit smoothly into their preconceived idea of the tourist’s preconceived idea of them, so that the tourist feels his expectations have been met, and therefore feels comfortable parting with $10 for an authentic Rastafarian necklace, made authentically in Indonesia.

And the old standby is the offer of, and request for, “Respect, mon.” While I assume its origin is pure, and that some, maybe even many, people still use it as an honest greeting, for the hustlers, it’s become a way to guilt tourists into conversation. I’m assuming it works especially well on those tourists who have been indoctrinated to believe that there’s nothing worse than coming off as an “Ugly Americans”.

Walking down the beach a little before 9 a.m., taking pictures of the new day’s light that the sun was throwing on the clear water, as well as on the odd boat anchored in it, breaking up the monotony of clear aquamarine water, if such a thing can be monotonous, I was greeted by a dreadlocked Jamaican probably in his mid twenties, his irises surrounded by sickly looking yellow sclera, and a roach dangling from his lips. High before 9 a.m. on a weekday? Well, this is Jamaica, I thought, a little disgustedly.

Yellow Eyes rattled off the typical spiel, starting with a request for respect while offering an extended fist to be tapped. On this, my second full day in Jamaica, I had decided that a lack of facility with the lingua franca might be advantageous in my quest to walk down the beach as unmolested as possible. Therefore, to the best of my ability, I had taken on the verbal characteristics of a Polish tourist with a heavy accent, although with an ability to communicate effectively in slow and halting English. This had seemed to work rather well on the massage lady, as well as on a trinket-hawking lady, both of whom I had passed earlier.

I replied to Yellow Eyes, whose thin arms protruded from his black tank top, in my accent that even I could tell was rapidly diverging from Polish or even Slavic, and seemed headed, as are many of my accent attempts, to end up either Irish or Indian at any moment. However, I hoped to keep this conversation short.

“No, no. I fine. I no need anything. Thank you,” I said, ever the smiling and, I hoped, somewhat patience-trying second-language communicator.

“No, mon. It’s cool. You want some?” he asked, holding out his spliff toward me.

“No thank you. I no smoke,” I said.

“No? Don’t smoke, huh? Well, c’mon, mon. You gotta talk to my friend,” he said as he pointed back up the beach, about 50 feet away from the water, to the porch of one of the many stands that are wedged in between the resort areas. There was a woman with two children just to the right side of this stand, selling towels. On the porch, a skinny cornrowed guy with aviators on, who also looked to be in his mid twenties, leaned on his crutches. Gimpy McCornrow wore a gray tank top that revealed arms that were slender but not skinny, much like the ones owned by Yellow Eyes.

“He can’t come on to the beach, mon. He’s hurt. You gotta go talk to him. Don’t wanna be disrespectful, mon.”

Well, no, of course I didn’t want to be disrespectful. Later, I would think I could have said, “I respect you guys. Please respect my right to walk down the beach.” I would think I could have asked, “So anyone walking down the beach has to go see him if beckoned?” But at the time, nothing I could think of seemed to be a logical, obvious, organic response to his line of argument. And that’s the problem. I stepped into his paradigm. I let him choose the game and the playing field. Later, when I tell a guy who’s trying to lull me into a state of guilt (with his rap about how the local Jamaicans need tourist support) that I can’t support all of the locals myself – that I already promised an old woman a hundred yards back to buy her standard Rasta necklace, therefore preventing me from buying his, I will see just how easy it is to keep the conversation, or at least my side of it, on my terms. When I will tell him that, he will admit that it’s true that I can’t support everyone, and his subsequent request that I choose him as the recipient of my support will be noticeably less energized. But I don’t feel confident about pulling something like that off right now, especially with my contrived accent, which I am now starting to fear, with any memory of a Polish accent long gone from my head this far into conversation, and with my ears continually contaminated by his Jamaican accent, will start to take on Jamaican characteristics. Maybe he doesn’t know a Polish accent, but I’m betting he can spot a poor Jamaican one.

Ignoring what I will later realize is the uber-reasonable mother logic my mom has succeeded in installing in me over the years, which is exhibiting itself as an awareness of questions rattling around in the back of my head (“Why do you need to talk to this stranger? Just walk down the beach. You don’t need to justify anything to this doobie-smoking slacker...”) I walk alongside my new acquaintance up to the shack, to go respect his friend.

When we get to the bar, they both invite me to follow them through it to the “garden” in back. The bar is nothing but that – a bar. No tables or chairs, just a small room with a chest-high counter between it and the front deck that faces the beach. Glancing at the rickety-looking bar as we pass it, I wonder if more than five or six drinks can even sit on it before it collapses under their weight.

Not completely oblivious, and somewhat greedy for the story this will give me, I realize I’m probably going to have to buy something, maybe a smoothie, prices for which were listed at the bar, or perhaps one of the towels the woman with children was selling next to the porch.

My new friends guide me into the back of the shack in their convincing way, which is some odd performance of spookily laidback yet threatening persistent expectancy. The back yard has a neglected wooden deck, a line with laundry on it, and beyond and everywhere around the deck, weeds. Gimpy McCornrow sits down, and Yellow Eyes encourages me to take some pictures.

I say, “How much you want for pictures?”

He says, “Nothing. They’re free.”

“Free?” I ask, to confirm

“Free,” he says, and then points out the foot-high marijuana plant growing right at the edge of the deck, encouraging me to take its picture.

So I do.

His friend points out the banana tree, the ackee tree, and some plant that looks like a cactus, calling it a name I can’t remember, but which at the time I dutifully repeat like the friendly tourist I am. They very much want me to take pictures of all the plants and trees, even this cactus, for which it is hard to compose a picture that doesn’t also strongly highlight the pieces of broken pottery and plastic around it, and the rusting corrugated metal shed behind it, but, against my better artistic judgments, I snap one anyway.

Having taken more than my fill of pictures over the course of five minutes or so, I inquire about the smoothies as a way to show I’m ready to get out of here and give them some money.

“What about for the pictures?” Yellow Eyes asks.

“What about pictures?” I ask.

“You have to pay for them,” he says, and my stomach drops as the skin on my neck gets hot – I’d been expecting to be ripped off, but not this blatantly.

“You say they free,” I say, thinking that this is a little underhanded of Yellow Eyes, but that if he’s gonna charge me for the pictures, I guess I have five bucks I can spare.

“No,” he says.

“Yes,” I respond. “I ask you how much, and you say, ‘nothing,’”

“No,” he says.

“No, you lie,” I say, a little afraid of so accurately labeling his actions, but ticked off enough to do it.

“No,” he repeats.

Emboldened by his lack of offense at the term (some early morning ganja must take the edge off such accusations), I repeat, “Yeah, you lie. You say no money for pictures.”

“No, you gotta pay for the pictures, mon.” He says again, and apparently I’m starting to see the logic in his highly nuanced argument, because I acquiesce.

“How much you want?” I ask.

“One hundred,” he says.

A flitting thought that he means one hundred U.S. dollars crosses my mind, but it’s gone before I really even register it, as I think, well, I made out pretty well, and begin to dig in my money-containing plastic bag for my Jamaican bills. One hundred Jamaican dollars isn’t even two bucks U.S. I take out the bill and hand it to him. He stands about three inches taller than I, and he shakes his head. “One hundred American,” he says.

This is when I start to get nervous.

“One hundred U.S.? I no have that.”

“One hundred U.S. For the pictures,” he says.

“One hundred dollars? U.S.? For pictures?” I ask.

“One hundred, mon.”

“I give you five dollars,” I say, having heard negotiation is common in foreign countries.

“One hundred.” He repeats, undeterred. Apparently he doesn’t know about the negotiation thing.

“I no have that. I only have ten dollars. I give you five dollars each,” I say, thinking that I really don’t have more than fifteen dollars on me. I feel myself start to get a little shaky in the legs, and feel that my lips might soon start to twitch a little, if this tension isn’t relieved. The fact that it’s early in the day, that a woman with children was about forty feet away fewer than five minutes ago, and that, though they’re probably both taller than I am, I probably outweigh each of these guys, all give me more peace of mind than I would otherwise have. Also, I’m neither high nor incapacitated, giving me a respective (and, in one case, literal) leg up on each of them. If I had remembered the pepper spray and Swiss army knife in my pocket, I may have been even more confident, although pulling those out could have escalated things, which was not my goal.

“One hundred. For the pictures,” says Yellow Eyes again, apparently having caught on to the fact that I’m easily convinced by little more than repetition.

Not having one hundred dollars, thinking that this is a ridiculous situation, having read that gun crime is rare on the beach even at night, while this is nine o’clock in the freaking morning, and being aware that each of my extortionists is incapacitated in his own way, I decide on a course of action.

“How much are those smoothies?” I ask again, as I turn to the front of the shack and start walking. I get a few steps in before I hear Yellow Eyes say, “Hey, wait.” I get a few more steps, walking at the same pace, determinedly, but not at a run, before I feel his hand on my arm. Another couple of steps before I feel his hand around my elbow. I see an obese Jamaican woman in her twenties or thirties talking to a Jamaican man in his fifties also in the shack, not ten feet from me, as I take two more steps and feel the hand fall from my elbow, assumably because he doesn’t want these two to see him trying to physically restrain me. That’s when I realize I’m walking right for the bar that faces out toward the beach. It’s blocking my path. If I want to go around it, I have to backtrack right back to Yellow Eyes. As I look at the bar, I remember my doubts about how many drinks it could support. Now I realize it’s going to have to support all of my weight as I attempt to vault over it. Or not. Either it holds, and I’m past it, or it doesn’t, and it’s no longer a barrier, I figure, as I plant my hands on it and swing my legs up to chest height and out over it. It holds fine and steady, and a second later I’m jumping down off the front porch onto the beach. I’m free. I don’t even see Yellow Eyes, although I don’t look back for him, but rather sense that he’s not too close. Apparently marijuana really does dull your initiative.

I go to the woman with the towels and the children, asking her how much a towel is. “Ten dollars,” she tells me, as I realize that I’ve inadvertently dropped my Polish accent. I fish the ten dollars out of my plastic bag as I hear Yellow Eyes say something to her in Patois that I can’t understand, but am pretty sure has to do with not selling me anything, and possibly with my owing him money. I realize that I can’t pay for the towel and also give the guys the ten dollars I had offered, at this point feeling that I should pay my extortionist, both because I want to be able to walk down the beach this way again without them telling me I promised them money (which of course was the result of a lie, but logic doesn’t seem to be a big part of their reasoning process), and also because I want to be able to walk down here in the future and have the absolute moral high ground should I see them again, able to tell them off since I gave them everything I promised, even though they had lied to me. I hand the woman the ten U.S. dollars, telling her to give each extortionist half. I then walk back down the beach whence I had come. I don’t remember at what point I look back, but when I do, I see no one following me.

Seeing the people in my group at breakfast, I tell them the story. Too shaken up to be very hungry, I eat a little and go back to my room to lie in bed and process what happened. After telling the story several more times that day, I’m finally pretty well at ease again.
In fact, to combat any residual fear, the next morning I walk the same way up the beach, this time cognizant of the pepper spray and knife in my pocket (in fact, with a hand on the pepper spray when I near the shack), and with a conviction to stay within 20 feet of the water no matter what, well out of the way of any shacks or gardens. As it happens, no one is at the shack that day. In fact, I walk up there several more times, not seeing anyone at the shack until the last day of my stay. At this point no longer expecting to see my garden friends again, figuring my encounter with them there was an anomaly – that they usually loiter somewhere else during normal working hours – I am somewhat surprised to see Yellow Eyes, Gimpy McCornrow, and another fellow of their same demographic, all sitting up at the bar of the shack. I stare my two friends down as I walk by on the way back to my hotel. As opposed to our first encounter, this time I’m wearing a wide-brimmed fishing hat with “Jamaica” written on the front, an offering I made to appease the sun god after he burned my ears crispy the first day, punishment for having forgotten to apply sunscreen there. Also, I’m not wearing sunglasses, whereas I believe I was that first day. Hence, I’m not sure they recognize me as the friendly Pole, or just think I’m some new guy staring them down. Regardless, they sit at their bar and look back at me. As I walk past them, they start to wave me over, and I shake my head slowly and persistently to indicate my utter incredulity at their unabashed shamelessness. The new guy waves his hand at me in a dismissive “just go away” gesture. Then I turn to see where I’m going, but then look back and turn to keep my gaze on them, walking backwards, still shaking my head at them. Now Yellow Eyes and New Guy are getting off their stools and walking toward me. I continue shaking my head and return New Guy’s earlier dismissive wave of the hand. Then I turn to see how much farther I need to get before I’m within safe proximity of other tourists. About fifty yards, it seems, and my pursuers are about thirty yards behind me, although I doubt they’re going to run, so I’m fairly confident in my escape plan. I don’t look back, and don’t speed up, but just keep walking toward the next resort area, where I see a group of three people I guess to be Italians throwing a Frisbee. I would have preferred Americans, but I’m still guessing Italians will side with the innocent tourist over the shady Jamaicans. Luckily, I don’t find out, as, when I reach the Italians and finally turn around, my pursuers are nowhere to be seen.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Next: I Was How High?

While sitting well within the confines of my resort’s designated patrons-only area (six feet behind the sign which served as the barrier beyond which non-resort customers were not allowed to pass, and a good thirty feet behind the first of three thick, long rows of lounge chairs that the spring break crowd had set up) I was probably in the 98th percentile when it came to “most recessed position from the ocean, and therefore from normal beach traffic”. Therefore, it was a little surprising to me when the Jamaican man chose, before all others, to address me. He had just been walking along, and I had been lying in the shade in my beach chair, safari hat low over my eyes, sunglasses on, head over my notepad, in which I was writing, with a book in my lap. I guessed him to be in his early sixties, though he could have been a hard-living forty-five. Actually, however many years this guy had, I’m pretty sure they were all hard-lived. However, that didn’t mean that I had any idea what he was talking about when, point blank, he asked me if I was freaking out in my notes.

I looked at him, paused a second to make sure he wouldn’t just wonder off, and then replied, “What?”

“Are you freakin’ out in your notes?”

“Am I what?”

“Are you freakin’ out in your book. You’re reading a book, right?”

Finally, a phrase I understood. “Yeah,” I replied.

“And you have a notepad there. You’re freakin’ out with it.”

“OK, yeah,” I was forced to admit. “I’m freakin’ out with it.”

“Yeah, man. So, do you have it for me?”

Oh gosh. Another question that makes no sense to me, I thought, although I was kind of amused. “Have what?” I asked.

“Have what you promised me last night,” he told me. Of course, I was one hundred percent sure I had never seen this man before in my life, much less fewer than twenty-four hours ago.

“I promised you something last night?” I asked, in a tone I thought might be polite but which was probably also heading toward condescension.

“Yeah. Five bucks, man. You said you didn’t have it, but you’d get it and give it to me next time you saw me.”

“I promised you five bucks last night?” I asked, showing him I comprehended his statement, but yet had no idea what he was talking about.

“Yeah, man. Five bucks.”

“I don’t remember that. I’m pretty sure I didn’t see you last night.”

“Yeah, man. You were so high. You were so high you probably don’t remember.”

I took a little offense to this, basically because this crazy-eyed gray-dreadlocked dude who used “freakin’ out in” as a verb phrase in first-impression-forming conversations with strangers was implying that, at our last meeting, he had it more together than I did.

“Really? I don’t think I was high last night.”

“Yeah, man. You were so high.”

“Really? It was me? What was I wearing?”

“Man, you were so high. You told me you’d get me five dollars today.”

“And what was I wearing?”

“Man, it’s OK, just get me three dollars, OK? You told me you would, man.”

“I really don’t remember that,” I say, realizing by this point I’m beginning to tire of this guy and wish I could just go back to reading my book, but have the feeling that this isn’t going to end pleasantly or quickly.

“Then just get me a drink from the bar, man,” he entreats as he fingers a fork that was left on the wooden sign. “Just get me a Coke from the bar.”

That’s when I began to admire the homework this guy’s done, as well as resent him more. Y’see, the bar serves its patrons free drinks – it comes included in the “all-inclusive” deal purchased by guests at this resort. Therefore, the only argument against getting him a drink seemed to by this lazy tourist’s unwillingness to walk fifty feet to get a thirsty man a drink. Although really, it was more than that.

“I can’t get drinks for everyone who walks by here,” I told him.

Of course, he replied with, “Not everyone, man. Just one drink for me.” While I saw how much easier that would be than getting drinks for everyone, I still didn’t like the precedent I would be setting, plus, it’s not as if he hadn’t approached me under false pretenses. And at this point, after the Yellow-Eye incident, I was careful not to agree to things that I would later not be too willing to do.

“I don’t know...” I paused, weighing the fact that this guy wouldn’t be begging if he weren’t hard up to some degree versus the fact that I didn’t necessarily owe deceitful beggars anything, and that I really didn’t want to get a reputation as the “Bum Waiter”.

“Just go up there and get a Coke, man.”

“I...I’m not going to do that. Sorry.”

“What?” This is when I first sensed his supplicatory tone take a turn and begin heading toward one more accurately described as angry and outraged.

“I...I’m not going to get you anything. I’m sorry I can’t help you out. I’m sorry.”

“You’re not?” he hisses at me in what is a rage I’m surprised could be arrived at after only the denial of a small plastic cup of Coke.

“I’m sorry.”

“You see this?” he asks me, holding up the fork.

At this point, I think that, if he throws it at me, I’ll cover my face with my arms and turn my bent right leg to the left to try to protect my groin and torso, and then I’m pretty sure I can catch this guy and tackle him, since he’s probably giving up at least 25 years and forty pounds to me.

I also ask myself what kind of stupid spring breaking frat boy leaves his stupid fork on a sign on the beach, anyway.

“Yeah, I see it,” I answer.

“Do you want it?” he asks.

“Do I want it?” Man, this guy rarely only happens up intelligible phrases by rare accident.

“Yeah, do you want it?”

“No, thanks,” I say in an attempt at polite declination.

“Well, you’re gonna get it,” he says, pointing it at me.

“I am?”

“Yeah,” he says, as he draws it across and a few inches in front of his throat, like some salty pirate of centuries past. I believe, though I’m not sure, that he made a guttural throat-slitting sound. That could, however, be my imagination.

“OK, well, I’m sorry, but I don’t think I’ve treated you with anything but respect.”

“You’re gonna get it,” he says again, as he makes the same throat-slitting-by-fork gesture and starts heading southerly down the beach.

“OK, man, but I don’t know why you’re acting like that. I was totally respectful to you.”

Little did I realize this statement was the nominal fee for a diatribe involving some off-the-cuff spewing of venomous racist vitriol.

“You white people think we like you here? You think we like you coming down here? We don’t like you coming here and messing everything up! Messing the beach all up? You white people think we Jamaicans like you, but we don’t!” As he finished, he was now walking up the beach to the north.

A thought of the local economy without the influx of tourist dollars crossed my mind, but I didn’t figure this was the right time to get into an honest discussion of the local economic situation. So I just said what I had learned was used as the last ditch effort of the locals to get what they want.
“Respect,” I said, as I held out my fist toward him. He, however, continued walking down the beach with his fork held menacingly. Guess the “respect” thing doesn’t work for everyone.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Finally: Andy won't let nothing hurt you, man.

It was after ten at night when we got back, which meant two pertinent things: the bar was closed, and it was dark. None of this would have been a problem, except for one additional fact: we were out of rum. Without rum, the suggested game of Presidents and Scumbags could not commence. Without rum, this would be a one-drug night. Marijuana only. A Jamaican tourist cannot get high on ganja alone (well, he could, but what kind of fun is that?). Two of my guy friends and I walked a little down the beach, to make sure that the stores down there weren’t still open. Seeing no light coming from them confirmed this for us. As we reached the point where we acquired this visible certainty, my two friends and I were standing right next to a Jamaican guy with a bag of various brands of cigarettes who was making a sale to some English-challenged Italians.

In the hierarchy of beach solicitors, where the Ganja-Coke-Ecstasy Man is the hard-driving business tycoon, the Cigarette Man is the little old lady who owns the antique store. The Ganja-Coke-Ecstacy Man smells the sale if your “no” doesn’t shoot from your mouth without hesitation. Even then, if it isn’t cogently and repeatedly presented, you’re in for the hard sell. In contrast to the GCE Man, who approaches you with furtive glances, as if he has a plumb secret to tell you, the Cigarette Man walks down the beach shouting advertisements for his wares. “Cigarettes! Who needs cigarettes? You? Anyone there? Want some cigarettes? Cigars! Cigars!” You say no to the GCE Man, he thinks you’re being coy, upping the aggressiveness of his pitch and possibly insulting you if you dare to walk away; you say no to the Cigarette Man, he believes you, possibly smiles, and moves on. With this in mind, I waited for the interlingual sale to be completed, then declined any nicotine but asked this Cigarette Man if he could tell us where we could buy some alcohol, preferably rum.

“Oh, yeah, mon. Sure. You want rum? I show you where you can get some rum. Who wants rum? You three? OK, follow me.”

A distant third behind “Oh, sure, go right up to that store,” or “Oh, yeah, I have some in my back pocket,” “Follow me,” from a Cigarette Man was still better than just about anything a GCE Man could say. So, of course, we did.

“My name’s Andy, mon. I show you where to get good rum. Just follow me.”

Not allowed to access the main road that ran parallel to the beach behind the resorts by walking over resort property, Andy led us down the beach a few hundred feet before turning away from the water in a non-resort area and exiting the beach through a hole in a chain link fence that led us into a neglected lot full of weeds, various discarded building materials, and the crumbled foundation of some kind of small former building. It was dark, and we were wearing flip-flops. Tetanus crossed my mind, as did blood-sucking Jamaican bugs. Oh, and homicidal homeless people whose slumber we may have been disturbing. Upon entering the lot, the road seemed way too far off to allow my luck to carry me through this field without some kind of injury, but a minute later, there I was on the other side, trying to exit the lot through an open gate that was occupied by a group of three Jamaican guys and one Jamaican woman sitting near what seemed to be a fruit and soda stand. It was dark, and there was no nearby light, so they were shadows, only somewhat visible in the yellow light of the far-off streetlamps.

Despite answering negatively to Andy’s question as to whether or not they had rum, they were not about to let that fact end any possible business transactions. One of the dreadlocked guys told Andy in Patois (I assume, as Andy then related it to us) that one of us could go with Mr. Dreadlock, back into the lot we had just traversed, and who knows where from there, assumably the beach, to get the rum, and the other two of us would stay here at the stand with Andy. Certain that this would lead to at least the mugging and possibly the direct transit to the afterlife of the one chosen to go on this trip, we stated that we were going to remain together, and at this Andy started off down the street, saying he was going to the nearest store. It was clear that he wanted to be done with these people, but wasn’t beyond being persuaded to follow their suggestions, if that was our wont. Not hesitating, another dreadlocked man from this group then instructed us to get in his car, as he would drive us to get some rum. After having heard the desire in Andy’s voice to be done with this group, and therefore all the more certain that this suggested car trip would lead to at least the mugging, and possibly the direct transit to the afterlife, of, this time, our entire group, we stated that we didn’t want to be driven anywhere, thanked them, and followed Andy down the street.

We followed him to a shop that we found out didn’t currently have any rum, but from which I was able to purchase some kind of homemade coconut candy which I had never seen before. The night would therefore be considered a success by me if I could get back to the room in one piece to eat this candy. My friends were of the same mind by this point, as I found out when we discussed it quickly while following Andy out of the store and back up a walkway to the beach, thankful to avoid the lot route back, as Andy was telling us that, “You safe with Andy. Andy find you rum. You no have no problems when you with Andy.” We thanked him for his trouble and offered him money for his time. He declined it, saying that we were almost to a rum-possessing outlet, and he was so adamant and seemingly good-hearted that we decided to let him guide us to this place.

Emerging again onto the beach, were quickly came upon a bar inhabited by, thank safety!, tourists. Immediately, my blood pressure began to drop back to something approximating normal. We walked up to the Jamaican bartender, where Andy and my friend together asked for a bottle of rum. “What kind?” asked the bartender. “Appleton, if you have it,” said my friend. “Appleton, sure,” said the bartender, turning and pulling a sealed bottle of Bacardi from the shelf, placing it on the bar in front of us, and saying, “Appleton. Here you go.”

We weren’t going to argue. We paid $25 for it, thanked Andy profusely for his diligent help (but, really, at least in my case, for not being careless with my life), paid him for his time, and went on our merry way back to the apartment, only having to decline drugs two or three times before safely reaching our room.
We would see Andy several times during the remainder of the trip, and he usually recognized us with a hearty “Hello, my friends. It’s Andy. How are you?” We planned on eventually taking a picture with him, or tipping him again, basically just for his pleasant ambassadorship, but, like most plans put off because of a perceived surfeit of time, we didn’t get around to it before leaving. However, he remains one of my most pleasant memories of Jamaica.
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