Downtown with Michael
"Gonna meet a little girl in Kingston Town."
I used to sing that song during school assemblies when I was a pup. The romance of the idea was lost on me back then but as I got older and my taste in music developed to my discovery of Reggae as something fantastic I knew I had to go there, and the promise of finding my dream girl was just an added bonus.
The plane trip from New Orleans was an interesting start. I had an aisle seat and to my right was an couple that were returning home from their daughter\\\'s wedding in the States. The conversation wasn\\\'t flowing like free cabin wine but we passed the usual niceties and of course I heard about the wedding.
As we came into land the woman began shaking uncontrollably. The poor girl was terrified and she gripped my hand so tightly I wondered if I should lose my fingertips.
The stewardess placed a blanket over her in an effort to calm her as you would a startled horse, or perhaps to hide her from the other passengers who were starting to shift in their seats as the woman wimpered and moaned with every shudder of the planes body.
Her husband was quiet in the window seat. I\\\'m not sure if he was enjoying the view of Kingston passing below or if, like me, he was fully occupied with the well-being of his wife and his fingers.
We landed safely (of course) and as the blanket was unveiled there emerged an relieved Jamaican housewife. When we made our way from the cabin I half expected her to fall and kiss the ground like the Papal Father but she was simply happy to be home and vowed never to fly again.
I still think of her fondly. I guess in my line of work, serving those in times of need is just another day at the office, but what I loved about that interaction was the commitment of parents to seeing their daughter happily married. Call me a hopeless romantic but I hope the daughter is as supported by her husband as well as this woman was by hers, throughout the years of their marriage.
Once through the security process I sought the bus that would take me into the city. Alas, there was none to be found. I went to the Police to ask advice. I introduced myself and showed my own ID to the two constables. They advised me there was no bus into the city and went on to say I shouldn\\\'t go there anyway. It wasn\\\'t quite as obvious as this but I got the impression a sentence like, \\\"Kingston is no place for you, White Boy\\\" was on the tip of their tongue.
So there it was. No bus into the city where I would face my death.
Meeting a little girl wasn\\\'t really my sole intent. I wanted to see the place. I also intended to rent a motorcycle and ride down to Montego Bay and back over the next fortnight.
It didn\\\'t matter how much I did protest, my brothers were not interested in my interest in Kingston. One of them offered to drive me to home when they finished work and from there, Spanish Town, he would see me on a bus to Montego Bay. So it was decided. I went out and sat on the grass under a tree for the next couple of hours until the two Constables finished duty and drove me to Spanish Town.
As I thanked my new friend and secured my seat on the bus, he directed me to go from the bus to the Police Station and have them show me the way to my motel. I assured him I would and waved through the dusty glass as the bus pulled off towards May Pen.
Now this wasn\\\'t exactly what I had in mind when I had planned my exploration of Jamaica but I\\\'m laid back enough to take it as it comes -GoEzi remember, so I sat back and enjoyed the bus ride.
What I hadn\\\'t checked was how long it was and what our expected arrival time at Montego Bay was to be. The journey was only about 160km distant so I figured 2-3 hours would see me there. It was about 5pm when we left, hell, I\\\'d probably still arrive before dark!
Yeah Right! We stopped every few kilometers to pick up passengers and with every addition to our weight the bus rolled ever slower. Finally we had all our seats full and the thing stopped dead. We had to wait whilst repairs were made to get us back underway. the repair was not a swift one.
Several downpours later (about an hour I guess) we got a flat tyre. If the engin problem took a while to fix, the tyre problem wasn\\\'t that simple. The driver had to walk for help. Then the replacement wheel assembly had to be brought out to us in a tow truck. By the time the wheels on the bus went round and round (haha -flashback from previous chapter) it was well into night time and I could no longer see the showers marching across the mountains.
We reached the next stop about 10pm. We\\\'d been traveling for 5 hours. I asked the driver how much longer we had to travel and he said about another hour. That was enough for me. I decided I would find a bed for the night and continue with this ride in the morning.
I got off right there and started trudging off in the direction of town.
A tall ruffled looking Janaican match my stride with ease. He introduced himself as Michael and asked me where I was going. I told him I had no idea except that I was heading into town (I didn\\\'t even know which town it was actually) to find a bed. He decided that he would help me and no matter how hard I tried I could not dissuade him. He was very obviously the worse for wear due to his Ganja habit, or perhaps he had a mental disorder.
Somewhere along the path we passed several men sitting in a ditch to our left. Michael wishpered to me not to stop, not to look at them, and to walk faster. I\\\'m a strapping 6\\\'1\\\" and can stride with the best of them but this young man had me at a trot. I started to wonder why I had suddenly become the recipient of everyone\\\'s danger warnings; first in Miami, then New Orleans, now twice in Jamaica. I\\\'d been a cop for 7 years and only ever been punched once, I think I was capable of looking after myself.
The hotel that Michael brought me too was not deserving of the title. I was not concerned though. I had a room and a bed, that was good enough for me.
The land lady provided a bucket of water for my use in the shower and told me I would also have to flush the toilet by pouring some of the bucket into the bowl. Michael wanted to know my plans for the following day. It was about midnight by now and I tried to fob him off by saying I wasn\\\'t going to get up early. He had different plans though and at 5.30am I was woken by him calling to me through the window shutters.
I told him to go away and he did - for about an hour and a half. I got up and completed my ablutions, including a bucket shower and went out to enjoy a liesurely breakfast. I was deliberately trying to go slow so Michael would lose interest and find something else to entertain him. No luck though and when I left the hotel in search of the bus stop he was waiting.
His tongue didn\\\'t stop from the time I met him to the time we parted. I imagine he talked all through the night but I was spared that because I had walls around me and fell alseep. The land lady at the hotel didn\\\'t seem to like him either but she had given him some breakfast as payment for bringing me to the place.
I wanted to take my time to look around this town but I was unable to. The air was filled with reggae but it wasn\\\'t the sound of a stereo it was live reggae. I could hear at least three bands playing as I walked around the small town. I imagine there was anything more to do there than grow ganja and chase the dream of Bob Marley or Eddie Grant.
Michael made it impossible to just chill and enjoy. He was something like a bedfull of mosquitos. He followed me to the Post Office where I sent off some post cards. When I had finally had enough I told him I was going to catch the bus. He walked with me up the main road to show me the way.
At the bus stop he asked for some clothes because he only had what he was wearing. I told him I had travelled around the world and didn\\\'t have anything excessive in my pack -bare essentials only. I slipped him a couple of American dollars and he loped off. Perhaps to make his next score.