It’s the Monday after Spring Break, and those of us fortunate enough to have escaped the Gray Latitudes for a week are trying to readjust our sun-addled brains to DeKalb’s ugly realities.
In the time-honored tradition of home slide shows, those who went away dangle their stories of paradise in front of everyone else. This column is no exception. Sometime in August, I came to the horrible realization that I had spent the last four breaks laboring in Franklin Park, the underbelly of the Industrial Revolution. Jamaica called.
After visiting a travel agent and finding someone willing to risk grievous sunburn and maybe even jail with me, I was set. However, I had ignored the long arm of Murphy’s Law and paid dearly for it.
On the day of departure, I was stricken with the God Emperor of sinus infections. All I could do was hope for a quick recovery or peaceful death on the island.
A quick glance at the 200 passengers on the plane reminded me that I was part of a group which made up one side of the largest love/hate relationship all over the globe. We were White American Tourists.
Seeing CIA Director Robert Gates in the bathroom line did nothing to alleviate my misery. My suggestion to fly treetop over Cuba’s presidential palace and dump the septic tank was dismissed as being against FAA regulations.
Within five minutes on a bus to Negril, we were offered beer and pot in quick succession. Five guys from Wisconsin accepted, drawing deeply from a pipe of the world-renowned mountain Ganja. Apparently they were very displeased with reality.
Despite the abundance of liquor and other mind-altering chemicals, Jamaica seemed to be doing just fine without our Drug War. There were no drive-bys or crack houses in evidence.
Guides assured me the gangs of young men with machetes were heading toward the cane fields and not collecting gambling debts. Indeed, only one pistol was brandished during the entire week.
Of course, the lockups had their share of thugs, but most Jamaicans were more interested in making a buck than trouble. Besides, most of the island’s truly bad apples eventually find their way to Chicago or Philadelphia.
“Nuh problem” is Jamaica’s unofficial motto, and they live by it. You can get anything along any two-block stretch without asking. Jamaican hustlers, sporting names such as John Wayne or Sugar Ray are among the best salesman in the world. Their sunny hard-sell pitch always began with “Oi mon!” or the sound of a slashed tire, “Ssssssst!”
“Ssssssst! You need some ganja? Dis is de best on de island, same as me grandfather smoke. Ow about dese wood carvings? Sah, M’Lady, Take a look at dis braclit. No charge fe look.”
Leaving 90 degree Montego Bay and landing in a snowy fog was a rude shock. DeKalb and Chicago, at least for nine months each year, is truly Hell on Earth.
On the other hand, you can get a small house for only tens of thousands, flat property taxes, and more sunshine in a month than a decade of Julys in Illinois. Never mind vacations, my resume and request for a foreign work permit go out next week.