Rum-filled days and memories

By Ed Brock

More than photographs and cheap souvenirs, the best thing about traveling to foreign lands is the memories that entwine themselves into who you are.

In Jamaica there was a mysterious, pervasive smell of burning plastic as we waded through customs. It must have been all those credit cards being used at once.

The customs agent smiled when he saw "Reporter" in the occupation line of my entry form and seemed dubious when I said I was just there on vacation. What are they hiding, I wonder?

On the bus for the hotel, before you reach the top of the hill where all you want to look at is the turquoise waters of Montego Bay, what draws the eye is the cryptic messages etched in frantic letters on buildings and bridges.

"Multiply by fire" one graffiti monger had declared.

And then that manic drive that seems to occur on all these little islands, this time so frightening one of the passengers cited her heart condition in begging the driver to slow down. It didn't work.

On the road, goats and cattle grazed in random positions, one bull standing placidly next to a bus stop like any other mass transit traveler. Houses with ornate metal spider webs over patios and windows.

A brief stop gave us the chance to toss down our first round of rum drinks at some roadside caf?. A cat sleeping on the floral-pattern cushion of a white wicker chair posed unwittingly for our cameras.

We arrived at the resort and things turn blurry from there. The memories become a pleasant smear of rum drinks poured over sea-salt covered lips and sand, sand everywhere. Lazy mornings drinking Blue Mountain coffee under the beach grape trees that spread wide limbs bearing fat leaves over the hotel restaurant's deck.

And the Rasta mon were everywhere, making offers.

"Hey, aren't you the mon who told me to go get the stuff?"

"You take this fruit, mon, you get me later. No problem, mon."

"I'm just a Rasta mon, you know, I'm just trying to make living, mon."

In the afternoon the rainstorms move in, making rivulets and waterfalls in the limbs of the palms and breadfruit trees as we watched from the spacious balcony of our room. During the coolness of the downpour was also a good time to hit the hotel's hot tub which was abandoned by the less hardy guests.

A stroll down the beach revealed a mystery. A team of men with heavy equipment were straining to pull a dilapidated pleasure boat out of the water.

The severe damage to the boat spoke to me of some horrible misadventure, of hapless tourist adrift in a storm or falling prey to pirates. I asked one of the men what had happened.

"Oh, it sunk, mon, so we had to pull it out."

"How did it sink?"

"Eh, it just sunk, mon."

Not the answer I wanted, especially standing down the beach from where the James Bond movie "Live and Let Die" was filmed.

There was a great laziness upon us for the whole week, a serious lack of motivation. But finally, on the final day, we snorkled and nearly drowned before getting used to the action of floating in cool water over Neptune's realm.

And then our time was up. We packed up and hopped on yet another bus, driving past the ruins of a steamship that sunk 100 years before while running guns to Cuba and the small, smoky bar in a 400-year-old building made completely of brick (even the roof).

Last minute shopping at the airport and then back to America, back to work. And when all that rum we bought is gone, there'll be nothing but memories.

Ed Brock covers public safety and municipalities for the News Daily. He may be reached at (770) 478-5753 ext. 254 or via e-mail at ebrock@news-daily.com.