Man in the street

I was busy scouring the saucepan and would not have looked up if it hadn’t been for the flashing lights of the motorcycle outriders. We’d eaten seasoned rice with saltfish and ackee, the remains of which now stuck stubbornly to the bottom of the pot in a burnt and glutinous mush.

Following the outriders came a slow procession of vehicles, some 14 in all. We live in a cul-de-sac (dead-end street), so I amused by imagining them processing into gridlock when they turned into the dead end, then reversing one by one in as dignified a manner as they came in.

Who could it be, our VIP? Our street is well-connected, metaphorically at least, housing Ms Jamaican Broilers (Best Dressed Chicken!) and a Tru Juice heiress, but neither could justify a police escort.

It was the Prime Minister, the Honorable PJ Patterson, leader of the People’s National Party and of the country since 1992. He is now stepping down as party leader, and thus as Prime Minister, and the struggle to take his place has been the main political story for the past two months. In contrast, the press treats Patterson as a yesterday’s man and the words most associated with his leadership are tired, floundering, decrepit and moribund. Never mind that he’s the country’s longest-serving leader, what warms my heart are the stories of how, some 40 years ago, he helped out managing the Skatalites. I mean, let’s get this into perspective – the man still gets name-checked by the band. Bet he never got that at the Commonwealth Summit.

Back in our street, half the vehicles had backed up and parked on the scrubby patch of grass opposite my kitchen window. Fourteen cars, 14 years in power – hmmm – a fat Toyota Cygnus and two sleek Nissan Cefiros sitting next to lean-looking deportees, second-hand imports, one with a red “VIP pass” stuck lopsidedly to the windscreen.

“Honey”, I yelled. “There’s a metaphor parked outside the house.”
“Well, it can’t make the grass worse than it already is!” He shouted back.

Ignorance is … no excuse

In yesterday’s Gleaner newspaper, I came across a letter headed “Not hostile to homosexuals”. Here are the high- and low lights.

THE EDITOR, Sir:

THE BRITISH Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) reported that Elton John regards Jamaicans as very hostile towards homosexuals. Not only is Mr. or Mrs. Elton John (the BBC did not state his title so I don’t know) wrong about Jamaicans, but he was very unkind.

It is homosexuality and not homosexuals that Jamaicans are hostile towards. There are countless homosexuals living in Jamaica today who have never once been harassed because they keep their unlawful practice to themselves.

It is not true to suggest that Jamaicans promote violence against homosexuals. One of my best friends is a homosexual and we enjoy a good friendship built on respect. However, like the majority of law-abiding Jamaicans, I would report him to the police if I see him in an act of homosexuality.

In this age of rampant globalization, I find it comforting to know that there are people who do not know whether Elton John is a man or a woman. And like the letter writer, I can separate the act from the man: it is his musical drivel of the last 20 years that I resent, not the piano player himself. After all, he did write Benny and the jets.

However, in flagrant contradiction to the letter, it is true that Jamaicans promote violence against homosexuals.

Example 1
Buju Banton – Boom bye bye

Boom [as in gun sound] goodbye, goodbye
[as in we won’t be seeing you again, you’re dead]
Inna batty bwoy head
[In a queer’s head ]
Rude bwoy no promote no nasty man
[Rude boys don’t promote no queer men]
Dem haffi dead
[They have to die]
Send fi di matic an
[Send for the automatic [gun] and]
Di Uzi instead
[The Uzi instead]
Shoot dem no come if we shot dem
[Shoot them, don’t come if we shoot them, as in don’t come to help them]
Guy come near we
[If a man comes near me]
Then his skin must peel
[as in pour acid over him]
Burn him up bad like an old tyre wheel

Example 2
Vybz Kartel – Bedroom Slaughteration

Bow cat, sodomite, batty man fi gat assassination (Yeah)

Example 3
Elephant Man – We Nuh Like Gay

Battyman fi dead! Tek dem by surprise
Get a shot inna yu head, inna mi big gun collide.

Example 4
Beenie Man – Han Up Deh

Hang chi chi gal [lesbians] wid a long piece of rope

Example 5
Beenie Man – Damn

I’m dreaming of a new Jamaica, come to execute all the gays.

Phew.
There are many more examples but citing them would merely be further proof of the banality of evil. Nuff already, y’hear?

I wrote a quick reply to the Gleaner and am curious to see whether it will be published. I’ve already created a gmail label entitled “hate mail” in anticipation.

The realtor

Mags was the man. She was the queen beeotch who could undercut the bottom line and still make a profit. She was mid-something, slim and tall, her clothes of the sheerest huggingest synthetic … stuff. Hipster beige pants and khaki blouse. She stood with one hand cocked on her hip and the other pressing in the earpiece that was her most constant companion. She would peer over her titanium anti-reflect bifocal shades with a withering glance that could set legs aquiver and landlords stammering. Her hand-drawn eyebrows arched independently and the only word they knew was: supercilious.

The one time she showed any sign of emotion was when she described the range of day spa treatments in town. Of course there was the most romantic, Strawberry Hill, but a weekend there would mean an extra bedroom in nine months’ time. I think she winked but I may be wrong.

She showed us cold mansions with razor wired gardens; pension-replacement townhouses built on remittances from Toronto; and über-exclusive compounds where Aryans were welcomed without hesitation. The house we loved had already been let, but that didn’t stop Mags, who gazumped the joyful tenants without a qualm. When Mags took me to meet the owner, I was shocked that she would not look me in the eye, would not talk to me and when we got down to the nitty gritty of the negotiations, would not even stay in the same room as me. Mags acted as go-between. She sighed and shrugged and raised up both her hands at each of our requests.

We finally fell out over a lock worth 500 Jamaican dollars (US$8) – Mags said that all the locks had been changed since the previous tenant, but also that the property had been vacant for almost 12 months. The paint on the back door lock indicated that the lock had not been changed since the repainting, which Mags also said had been done when the previous tenant had left. Gotcha, I thought. The locks haven’t been changed and anyone could have copies of the keys.

Mags was exasperated. Why were we making such absurd demands? The chairman of the residents’ committee agreed. “Grills and bars on the windows? Pshaw! I keep a Colt .45 by my bed and I’ve never had any cause for complaint!”

I was happy to turn the house down, grateful not to have a landlady who wore encrusted Chanel sunglasses and who baulked over the slightest demand on my part. I noted that both Mags and the house owner were “high-toned” and high class. For it’s very soon obvious to the newcomer in Jamaica that there is a “hierarchy of shade”, that the lighter your skin, the higher your social position, the more powerful your connections and the higher up the hillside you live. Yet on this day I was treated like dross, a wetback on a budget and no pull from above. This day it was all about the money, honey.

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Late night reading

Late at night, when everybody else is asleep, I reach under the bed and get out my favourite porn reading: The Rough Guide to Jamaica. Check out this extract:

A mile or so past Chukka Cove, a tiny paved road cuts inland towards Cranbrook Flower Forest, an exquisitely landscaped, 130-acre nature park with several grassy lawns, a fishing pond, a family of resident peacocks and a swift-running river with plenty of marvellous swimming spots. Run by a friendly Jamaican family who wanted to create a space where visitors and local people could retreat from the urban clamour, Cranbrook is an overwhelmingly peaceful spot (ooh). You can bring your own food and drink, or buy it from the tuck shop, housed in a pretty cut-stone building that was originally an outbuilding of the sugar estate which flourished here. To the right of the tuck shop is the fishing pond, a flower-wreathed man-made pool that’s well stocked with tilapia (aaah). Caught with the aid of a customized bamboo pole, it costs US$5 to have your fish scaled, seasoned, roasted and served with roast yam or rice and peas, etc. (oh yeah). The stretch of river next to the pond has several shallow pools ideal for splashing children. Beyond the pond is the largest of the lawns, and, to the left, a series of mesh-covered walkways sheltering a staggering variety of orchids and anthuriums (don’t stop!). Strategically-placed steps lead down to deeper pools, where the river gushes up from the rocks. Overhung with lush greenery, the deep turquoise water is cool, refreshing and absolutely clean, having been freshly filtered through the limestone (yes! yes! yeeeeesssss!!).

Ahem.

Other reading, from the Jamaica Observer, is less enchanting:

Four people were shot dead by gunmen in Kingston, yesterday.

One of the dead men has been identified as Roy Burgher, 68, who the police said was shot inside a bar he operated at 63 Mountain View Avenue, the community where one man was killed during Tuesday’s protests by the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party.

According to the police, a group of gunmen assault rifles and semi-automatic handguns, invaded 63 Mountain View Avenue, an impoverished community, and shot Burgher while he ate lunch at about 11.30 am yesterday.

Burgher’s daughter, wife and neighbours were all shocked by the brutal nature in which the elderly man was killed.
“What a set a brute them wicked,” one woman said as tears streaked down her cheeks.

A large pool of blood marked the spot where Burgher fell. He was shot in the head and the abdomen and died on the spot. A piece of food he had been chewing at the time, was still affixed between his lips when workers from the Maddens Funeral Home removed his body. Blood soaked his whitened hair.

“See the food all still inna him mouth, them boy deh wicked and no have no soul,” another onlooker said.

*Gulp*