Such a Natural Mystic…

There is something so newborn and fresh in the air after a hurricane leaves—don’t tell me Gustav wasn’t a hurricane when he visited here; it’s like insisting someone is 19 when they’re turning 20 tomorrow. The atmosphere seems to have been cleansed, purged of all the humid, hot and evil vapours that have been oppressing us for months now. A zephyr-like breeze whispers idle threats and the sun sparkles as it shines on the moist landscape. The riddim track to Marley’s Natural Mystic is blowing through the air.

This is life reasserting itself after having tossed off a tantrum to remind us who’s in charge. Too many people can’t enjoy the beauty of this moment; they have been storm-wrecked and can’t put the pieces back together again. On the other hand most of them are old hands at navigating hostile weather whether from the elements or the lopsided social system that always has them on the receiving end of bad Karma.

Many more will have to suffer
many more will have to die
don’t ask me why…

And no, we can’t just send them some good Karma, a la Facebook. A helicopter is plying back and forth rescuing people marooned in the middle of Hope River in Gordon Town. Marooned in Hope? Hopefully not Obama’s fate now that McCain has trumped him with Palin. The woman looks like a closet dominatrix, doesn’t she? She almost doesn’t look real. More like something out of The Avengers or Charlie’s Angels. Can you imagine her presiding over the White House were something to happen to McCain?

No Sir, give me Obama any day.

Going back to the Olympics for a moment wasn’t Dayron Robles, the Cuban hurdler great? i wish i could replay the footage of him, headphones on, warming up by rhythmically and effortlessly climbing back and forth over the same hurdle. I thought it was great that he insisted on wearing his usual glasses or spectacles rather than contact lenses or some fancy name-brand pair of racing glasses. A more unlikely looking athlete you could not hope to find. Dayron Robles, the anti-athlete, doing it for the nerds! If you wanted to personify the limber, indomitable, insubordinate, swimming-against-the-current Cuban spirit you couldn’t hope for a better poster boy. Between Robles and Bolt the Caribbean certainly expanded the vocabulary of Olympic stardom!

As you can tell I’m somewhat scattered post-Gustav. Our resourceful Cuban neighbours are probably being besieged by him now. They are far more competent at moving their people out of harm’s way so this creeping hurricane probably won’t damage them too much.

In lieu of having anything worthwhile or truly meaningful to say let me leave you with this inspiring video of Bob Marley’s Natural Mystic fom jahlivejahlove

Gustav Gully Creeps across Jamaica

Gentle soul? couldn’t have been more wrong. Gustav was a killer, insidiously creeping across the country, causing rivers to burst their banks and washing away homes and lives. Not much to choose between Ivan and him.

Tropical storm! you could have fooled me. we’ve just got power back and I’ve been sweeping water out the house all morning. Allegedly he’s now left Jamaica but the rain and wind continue.

The only good Gustav story so far is this one from the Daily Gleaner:

Gustav’s gift to Rae Town:
While some Jamaicans were busy running away from the oncoming Tropical Storm Gustav, some residents of downtown Kingston were running towards it with buckets, scandal bags, pots, pans and everything else they could find. They were hoping to catch fish that were literally jumping out of the water and on to the beach…

A High Wind in Jamaica

He’s been here a few hours now. i don’t mind him; he’s a gentle soul compared to Emily and Dennis. Or Ivan. Ivan was terrible.

It’s been raining and gusting for some hours now, at least four or five. but we’re lucky, we have water and power so i can amuse myself on the internet and watch tv if i want. Barack is to speak shortly and i guess some people are all agog about that.

It’s not all as upbeat as i’m making out. There’ve been a few casualties–motor vehicle accidents some of them. A Police Inspector has been shot in St. Mary. A 50 year old man was killed while belatedly trying to prune a tree. i know all this from Nationwide Radio. Radio in Jamaica is the best. and Nationwide is arguably the best of local radio. Digital radio FM 720 in Kingston. The brainchild of Cliff Hughes, an old hand who has revolutionized local media, N’wide is my lifeline during these disruptive and distressing weather events. There’s something very comforting about having your favourite journalists on duty, keeping you company as it were, through the rough times. Emily Crooks and Hughes babysat us through Ivan the Terrible. Don’t know what we’d have done without them.

everytingkripsy left a hilarious note on the youtube video Hurricane! in my previous post:

I know unu a get prep for the storm and everyting but a wah yu a do wid so much kerosene!! mine unu blow up the yard.. lol.. good luck

Well, everytingkripsy, a kersene a run ting when di power gone; anyway, mi gone a watch Obama do his ting. till soon folks.

Waiting for Gustav


Well, here we are caught in the headlamps of an oncoming hurricane yet again. Sitting ducks can’t duck you see…

Gust-av…

Up to last night he was all set to head North through the channel between Cuba and Jamaica. Something seems to have made him diverge from his plotted path. Perhaps he felt that Jamaicans were too ecstatic post-Beijing and needed a little spanking. Perhaps he had one glass of Babancourt too many while flying over Haiti and drunkenly meandered off the flight path. Whatever the reason we here in Jamdown woke up this morning to hear that there had been a dramatic shift Southward in Hurricane Gustav’s position. There’s a fairly strong breeze now, not much rain yet. This storm is a creeper– like Ivan–in no hurry at all, moving at five miles an hour, that’s all, just taking a leisurely, post-prandial walk across our horizon.

Hurricanes are disruptive. And these slow ambling ones are the worst because they rain on you for days. Please Gustav–beg yu–nuh linga. Forgive us our Usain Bolts and our Shelley Ann Frasers. For those who live under the poverty line hurricanes can be deadly. For those of us comfortably above it it’s a matter of bringing, plants, pets and artwork indoors. This was my beloved dog Pappadom with Christopher Iron’s startling sculpture the last time there was a hurricane. Alas the great Pappadopoulos has moved on since then.

One of the things i enjoy about hurricanes is living by lamplight for a few days afterwards. More anon.

Meanwhile here is a slideshow of a friend and me battening down for Hurricane Dean i think it was about a year ago…

Neither pale, nor male…

Just some postscripts while we wait for Hurricane Gustav to huff and puff and blow our house down. When I read Jean Lowrie-Chin’s column “The best of times in Beijing” in the Observer yesterday i was seized with envy and regret. Why hadn’t i thought of going to Beijing myself? Why oh why had the thought not even occurred to me? What a once in a lifetime occasion that would have been!

But then again the second best place in the universe to be when the Jamaicans took Beijing by storm was right here in Jamdown! You could have sliced up the euphoria in the atmosphere with a knife–i personally have been humming ‘walk like a champion, talk like a champion’ ever since…of course the rest of the x-rated lyrics to the Buju Banton song don’t apply but those two lines remind me of Jacques Rogge and Usain every time.

Naturally Kingston’s dancemasters, no, not the NDTC ( National Dance Theatre Company) but dancemakers such as Johnny Hype, Shelley Belly and Elephant Man, are tickled pink that Usain Bolt showed off their creations to a global audience in such fine form. Check out this video of Elephant Man and others demonstrating their brand new Lightning Bolt dance and the To di Worl’–

My friends from Left, Right and Centre (Nationwide Radio, Digital AM 720) had their usual wicked spoof on the Olympics advertising a product called Haterade Plus:

Are you angry because your sprint career has ended without a gold medal? Do you feel the pain of your country’s poor performance at the Olympics? Are you so bitter that you want a review of your own false starts? Then reach for Haterade Plus! Haterade Plus is jam-packed with anabolic steroids, caffeinated beverages and the most bitter sinkle bible (aloe vera) in the world. So if you’re a hater with attitude break your own record with Haterade Plus!

They go on to mercilessly skewer the in-fighting in the PNP by sending up the whole ‘core values’ discussion. I am going to try and link to an audio clip as soon as possible so watch this space!

Also check out Clovis’s cartoon in yesterday’s Observer. This is Clovis at his best. I love it. This one is priceless.

Cartoon by Clovis, Jamaica Observer, August 25, 2008

And I was so sorry when Churandy Martina of the Netherlands Antilles lost his bronze medal for allegedly stepping out of his lane in the 200m. Glad to know an appeal has been mounted on his behalf, hope its successful. Read all about it here.

Finally moving on from the Olympic races to a different race altogether–the American presidential race–Michelle Obama was impressive, wasn’t she? Neither pale, nor male–i can identify with that…

To the World from Jamaica! Patwa Power Bolts the Stables


Yes, we can…be worldbeaters! That’s the message from Jamaica’s relentlessly resilient and resourceful underclass who have proven yet again their ability to dominate global competition in the arenas where their lack of English doesn’t hold them back. This is Patwa power (patois or creole, the much reviled and disdained oral language spoken by the majority of Jamaicans) at its most potent: a lithe and flexible force–honed by adversity–flaunting its mastery of the universe of athletics.

To underscore its point Patwa hurled its most powerful lightning bolt at distant Beijing. Named Usain, this young and irrepressible son of Jamaican soil then re-inscribed forever the significance of the word Bolt. Both English-speaking and Patwa-speaking Jamaicans united in celebrating Usain Bolt’s extraordinary exploits (Gold and world records in Men’s 100m, 200m and the 4×100) and those of the nimble, determined young Jamaican team accompanying him. Over the two weeks of the 29th Olympiad they enthralled global audiences over and over again with their worldbeating skills.

Portia Simpson-Miller, considered by many patwa-speakers to be their spokesperson, nailed it when she said on radio that the achievements of Jamaican athletes at Beijing made her proud because “what people call ‘ordinary people’ have produced such extraordinary results”. Prime Minister of Jamaica briefly from 2006 to 2007 Simpson-Miller has faced enormous hostility from the English-speaking elites here who would like to continue their hegemonic rule over this small island state in the Caribbean. President of the Opposition People’s National Party she is currently being challenged for leadership by Dr. Peter Phillips, seen by many as representing the highly educated but numerically small middle class and a state of mind known as Drumblair, the equivalent in Jamaica of WASP (White Anglo Saxon Protestant) culture or status in the United States.

Watching the athletic meet at the Olympics unfold from the vantage point of Kingston, Jamaica was an incredible experience. Raw, naked nationalism at its very best: First we rallied around Samantha Albert, Jamaica’s only entrant in the equestrienne events. Samantha is a white Englishwoman with a Jamaican mother who was born and lived here in her early years. She didn’t stand a chance of medaling, merely hoping to make it to the top 25, yet Jamaicans cheered her on, proud to see their flag in this never before contested event.

Then there was the first big race, the men’s 100 metres, in which both Bolt and Asafa Powell were gold medal contenders. Alas Powell disintegrated under the pressure; he still came in fifth but his fans were inconsolable. Bolt’s sensational streak to victory helped but by and large Jamaicans were grieving for Powell. He holds a special place in their hearts. It is as if they identify with him. Whereas in the past they used to cuss off Merlene Ottey when she only managed a bronze medal this time the public concern shown for Powell’s morale and well-being in the aftermath of his disastrous run was quite remarkable. When he finally anchored the 4×100 team to victory in fine form, thundering down the closing stretch like Nemesis herself, he had completely redeemed the favoured son spot he had never really lost.

If Jamaican success at the men’s 100m was tempered with disappointment at not pulling off a trifecta (or even a bifecta) the female athletes delivered perfection by winning gold, silver and silver at the women’s 100 metres. This was an unexpected bonanza. Till now no one had really focused on the female runners or races other than the women’s 200m where Veronica Campbell-Brown was expected to deliver gold. Now the women had successfully grabbed the spotlight and kept it on themselves winning gold or silver in most of their events. In the end, of Jamaica’s 11 medals (six of which were gold) 8 were from women as TVJ’s commentator Bruce James usefully pointed out. One of the sweetest was Melaine Walker’s virtually effortless 400m hurdles gold medal.

Shelley Ann Fraser (women’s 100m winner), the pocket rocket who shot out of the starting blocks and into our hearts wasn’t even considered a medal contender to begin with. Earlier in the year when Veronica, the defending Olympic 200m winner didn’t qualify for the Jamaican 100m team because she came fourth in the qualifying trials (this shows you how competitive athletics is in Jamaica) there were many who thought one of the unknowns who had beaten her should have stepped down in favour of Campbell-Brown out of deference to her seniority and past distinctions. Fraser was the one many thought should have been eliminated from the Jamaican team to make way for Veronica.

Maybe that’s what made her run like a cheetah and spring like a moko jumbie but from now on everytime anyone in the world wants to illustrate the concept of delight they should simply replay Fraser’s girlish leaps and bounds when she realized she had won Olympic gold. If the whole world fell in love with that ecstatic brace-filled smile and the spontaneous, unadulterated joy Shelley-Ann Fraser expressed on the track you can imagine how we in Jamdown felt.

What was hard to imagine even down so (admittedly from uptown down so) was how the parents of these individuals must have felt. Especially when the TV cameras took you to the homes of Shelley-Ann and Sherieka Williams and Sherone Simpson and Melaine Walker and you realized with shock how very poor these people who had produced such champions were. Most of them had watched their sons and daughters winning Olympic silver and gold on very small TV screens, in very humble living quarters, in this ghetto or that one.

Waterhouse. Slaughterhouse. Powerhouse. That’s what young Shelley-Ann from Waterhouse has reiterated for us in case we didn’t know this already from the abnormal number of successful musicians her community has produced. Virtually 80% of Jamaica’s biggest names in music have come from Waterhouse, one of the poorest ghettoes in Kingston, including the young singer I mentioned in my last blog, Terry Lynn. The area should be declared some sort of national patrimony or Talent Park with free education up to any level for all.

When asked if she herself had ever displayed any running talent Shelley Ann’s mother said that indeed she had quite a bit of experience sprinting from the police, with the goods she tried to sell as an unlicensed street vendor. She was an experienced runner she said so her daughter’s performance was not that surprising.

The Ministry of Transport hastened to announce that it was going to upgrade the roadways in all the communities whose athletes had produced Olympic gold. Why? Not so much to elevate these depressed communities as to give them an instant facelift so that when the international media arrived their impoverishment would be less apparent and less of a blight on the brand name of Jamaica! The politics of sports in Jamaica! Or just the politics of politics…

On a more amusing note page two of the Observer, the social page, suddenly underwent a population transfusion, the beige and white socialites who normally monopolize it abruptly displaced by the almost uniformly dark-skinned athletes. Sigh! If only Jamaica’s business and social elite were one hundredth as nimble and competitive as the country’s athletes! If only they too were worldbeaters!

Personally I think that the phenomenal performance of Jamaican athletes is also due to the cultural self-confidence they feel; a confidence expressed by Usain Bolt in Beijing’s Bird’s Nest stadium when he spontaneously broke into the Nuh Linga and the Gully Creeper, the latest dance moves innovative Jamaican dancehall music has produced (actually Usain’s trademark gesture of pulling back an imaginary bow and arrow like Orion is now the latest dancehall move here).

This is not a confidence manufactured by the abjectly self-conscious, respectability-seeking, hymn-singing English-speaking middle classes but one bred out of the flamboyant, boisterous, in-your-face Patwa-speaking population. In the forty years since Jamaica’s independence it is the latter who have proved both through their athletic and musical prowess that they are ready to take on the world. The Beijing Olympics have shown that the world is more than ready for them (minus the prissy IOC head Jacques Rogge who sounds for all the world as if he had been formed in the bowels of Upper St. Andrew). To the World Ja!

Photo credits, captions
(L-R) Asafa Powell, Nesta Carter, Usain Bolt and Michael Frater of Jamaica celebrate the gold medal after the Men’s 4 x 100m Relay Final at the National Stadium on Day 14 of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games on August 22, 2008 in Beijing, China.
(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images AsiaPac)

(L-R) Joint silver medalist Sherone Simpson of Jamaica, gold medalist Shelly-Ann Fraser of Jamaica and Joint silver medalist Kerron Stewart of Jamaica stand on the podium during the medal ceremony for the Women’s 100m Final at the National Stadium on Day 10 of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games on August 18, 2008 in Beijing, China.
(Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images AsiaPac)