Loving Me Some Reggae on a Friday Night!

I may sound biased, but I don’t think I am. Reggae music is the best. Now, there are different eras of reggae – call them styles if you like — that may have different degrees of bestness, but I am talking about the era of the classic Bob Marleys, Dennis Browns and Beres Hammonds. Some fine Jamaican singers. Incredible lyrics. Among the best, not just on the Rock, but in the world.

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My Norris Friends on My Mind

Two days ago, I got a Facebook friend invitation. I did not recognize the name entirely, although it sounded familiar as I repeated it mentally. The profile picture was of no help because it was too dark. I could not pick out the features. However, I was half-sure who it was. One of my sisters, now living in Canada, had told me just earlier that she had reconnected with a childhood friend of ours. A friend from way back in the day in Jamaica. We lived in Norris, St. Thomas, and this friend was from Gutter Head, an adjoining district up the road from us. On the way to the hills of Windsor Castle on the left at the intersection there, and down to Logwood and Yallahs on the right.  However, we all went to the same primary school — all-age at the time — in Easington, the district on the other side of Norris. Right after going over the bridge that spanned Yallahs River.

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The To-Die-For Jamaican Patty

I just had two patties for lunch.  Jamaican patties. My Jamaican peeps here in South Florida and elsewhere do not need such clarification for they know what I am talking about. But the distinction is necessary for those not familiar with this epicurean Jamaican delight. Patties, to the uninitiated non-Jamaicans, are palm-sized portions of ground meat, flattened and shaped into rounds or squares, then cooked and served, as in hamburgers. For those of us in the know though, Jamaican patties are more exquisite.  More divine. They are a kind of pastry made with a flaky, golden-brown shell, and lightly stuffed with a savory, spicing filling.  One of those I had today was filled with spicy ground beef and the other with ackee.

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Memorable Primary School Lessons

At the age of ten I was already in high school. At Morant Bay High School in St. Thomas, eastern Jamaica. When I did my Common Entrance examination while at Easington Primary School, in the same parish, to try and earn a place in high school, it was because my teachers felt I had the aptitude. Despite my age. It was by dint of faith my teachers put in me, and luck that my name was even put forward, because I was so young, and places in high schools were limited at the time. Some felt that I was taking the space of an older student who maybe was about to “age-out” of being able to do the exam. Back then, the average age of high-school qualifiers was twelve. Anyhow, I did the exam and aced it.

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Smelling the Roses in a Crisis

It is the last Sunday in March. I am listening to Kool97 FM from Jamaica, as I often do on a Sunday. They play some great oldies all day long. A combination of mostly American and Jamaican greats of the crooner variety. It is now after 10 at night, Miami time, and they’ve just started throwing down some super reggae classics. Dennis Brown is on deck, and I am feeling mellow. About an hour or so ago, they ran a Bob Andy segment, featuring a string of his hits. Bob passed last week, leaving behind a legacy that will last forever. He possessed musical wizardry that helped introduce an iconic genre of Jamaican music during an era not so long gone, the power of which may never be superseded.

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Gone Fishing

Last Sunday I went fishing. Down in the Florida Keys. I can’t remember the names of some of the keys, for there are so many. The most popular ones don’t escape me though, like Key Largo, Marathon, Big Pine Key and, of course, Key West. Key West is perhaps the most well-known as there are so many stories about its famous residents, past and present, including Ernest Hemingway and the descendants of his polydactyl cats. And one I will never forget is in the lower Keys. Ironic that I will forever remember it as that one has no name. No Name Key. Yes, that is its real name. A name so unique it is unforgettable. There is where I went fishing. Well, not exactly there, but from the bridge you have to cross to get there from Big Pine Key.

Not bad!
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What’s in a Name?

I stepped up from the street, scuttled across the sidewalk and slipped through the front door of the small building. The sign hanging over the door had caught my eye from across the other side of the street and magnetized me. It read: Trace Your Ancestry Through Your Surname. I should have known better immediately and not allowed it to pull me in. But sometimes we act on impulse and end up doing things that make no sense at all. As in this instance. This time around, though, I did catch myself before it was too late. My senses slapped me, spun me around and pulled me back through the door. How could I possibly trace my ancestry through Smith?

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Languages: An Avenue for Life Exploration

I speak several foreign languages. Thanks to my teachers at good old Morant Bay High School in St. Thomas, Jamaica, who gave me the start. French is one that I learned. I am fully fluent today, to the point where I switch registers easily, depending on the need, moving from standard to the very informal. While at university in France, a teacher, handing me back a piece of homework, asked me, “Have you ever thought about becoming a diplomat?” Strange question, I thought. “Why?” I asked. Because your French is so élévé,” she replied. My French was at a high standard. I guess it must have been because it was “book French” that I had learned in Jamaica. Very formal French. Though grammatically correct, no one used that level of French in everyday communication, even for school assignments or in the classroom. So ironic, though, that the lowest mark in my academic life was in my first French exam. Got a whopping 17 out of 100! Why do I still remember it so well?

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Missing Jamaica

I have lived more than half of my life overseas. Outside of Jamaica where I am from. I am not that young anymore, so you can imagine it’s been a long time living in foreign lands. But, I miss Jamaica like Day 1. After all these years. I imagine only those who have lived overseas will understand my emotions. When I left Jamaica first for good, it was for a posting to Brussels by the company I was working with at the time, right after Hurricane Gilbert did a number on Jamaica. And I have lived abroad ever since. So, it’s been a while. Gilbert mashed up my beloved island in 1988.

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The Enigma of My Jamaican Passport

The chill of the night air on the outside still clung to the windows of the bus, but it was warming up on the inside. I shed the jacket the driver had lent me earlier when it had started to get cold. I had not expected, and so was unprepared for any weather like this. For it was Africa, after all, and Africa was supposed to be hot all over, and all the time. Even though I knew better — that it was a jigsaw of diverse countries running up and down latitudes – my recessed imagination of it being characteristically the same recaptured my mind. Characteristically hot. Snow-capped mountains? No. Hot deserts? Yes.

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What’s In An Accent – A Jamaican One, That Is?

The cadence of our speech, our accent, is often a marker of where we come from. What country, or even what region of a country. Sometimes, an accent may be an indicator of not only where we are from, but also of where we may have lived outside of our country of origin. Some accents are described as being rough and thick, while others are said to be sexy and pleasing. Guttural or heavy. Lilting, undulating, or sing-song. Some are more well-known than others, easily recognizable, having spread far and wide internationally; some of the others, I imagine, have remained in the confines of small, remote villages. My own Jamaican accent is all of the above, depending on how discerning the listener is, or depending on where in the world I am. Whom I’m talking with, or even what mood I am in, also nuances how my base Jamaican accent sounds when my words pop out of my mouth. The choice of how I modulate my voice is usually not deliberate. The situation I am in at a given time automatically selects how I speak.

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The Evolvement of My Driving

This is embarrassing. Really dreadful. I know the car is going to buck again like a raging bull and shut off in a huff! It has done so already, three times in a row. Each time followed by laughter. From derisive giggles to roaring, fatuous hoots. I have always been good at learning new things, grasping them effortlessly and mastering them quickly; but my one-O-one in driving a motorcar is turning out to be an unforgiving exception, proving now to be my undoing.

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Upon the Departure of My Mother

I did not cry when my mother died. Not when I got the news. I was in the kitchen at home in Florida, tooling around the stove trying to fix a quick breakfast, when the red, car-shaped phone rang. I reached quickly into the corner of the counter where it was parked and grabbed it before it stopped ringing. I pressed the on button and jammed it against my ear, gripping it firmly between my hunched-up shoulder and my head, cocked awkwardly to the side. They were my extra pair of hands, as I needed my regular pair to delicately turn my eggs over so as not to burst the red; I loved them slightly runny, just like my mother used to prepare them for my father when I was a little bwoy growing up in Norris. My brother’s voice came through from the other end of the line: “Miss Lil gone,” were the words I heard, somewhat perfunctory, and the egg red burst.

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Things I Am Grateful For

A few weeks ago, a friend invited me to participate in a Gratitude Challenge where, for each of three days, I had to list three things for which I was grateful. I posted the lists on Facebook, per the challenge, and have decided to repost them on my blog. Perhaps my decision to repost them is driven by my conviction that giving thanks is necessary in life and doing so is an affirmation of the items of gratitude I originally expressed.

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