Vacations in the middle of a winter like this are a big mistake. You’d think a trip to Jamaica --- not the hospital – would be just what the doctor ordered. A few days in the sun spent splashing in crystal blue or turquoise waters followed by a rum punch or a Red Stripe would be the answer to the polar vortex. Nope, it makes it seem worse.
Of course, you don’t realize that ahead of time. I got to Kingston at night. The rental car place drops bad news on me right away. There’s not much gas in the car. There was a gas strike that just ended so you’ve got to find a gas station that actually has gas. Some haven’t gotten their delivery yet.
Ok. I’ll just look for gas with the help of the GPS on my phone. And that would have been a good idea if my phone had service. So right away, it’s dark, we’ve got very little gas, no GPS and they drive on the opposite side in Jamaica. But I don’t give a damn. It’s effin warm. It feels great.
Some guy in the parking lot tells us how to get to the hotel. He gives us a few street names though I’m not sure what the hell he’s saying and it won’t matter much because the streets won’t have signs anyway. We leave the airport in the dark at the mercy of fate. Death, or worse, might be just ahead, but I don’t care, I can drive with the windows down. It’s warm. If I’m gonna die at least it won’t be while shoveling.
We find a gas station within a mile. I don’t care they use liters and they tell me I owe “four thousand three hundred.” We’ve got gas and it’s warm. And after some conversation of which I can’t really understand I gather that the four thousand is Jamaican dollars. The guy is happy to take forty U.S.
Getting gas so soon was more of a break than I realized. Kingston is a dirt poor people-hanging-out nightmare without street signs. Running out of gas might have been a tad stressful. Turns out my man in the parking lot, his name was Rayon – “like the fabric, mon” – had given us enough landmarks to look out for. But it was no joke getting there. I hurried into the hotel’s rooftop bar like it was an Emergency Room. Bartender, help, I’ve got to see a drink.
The next morning we set out for a place a couple hours away.
My cousin, John Cox, has been building a house there for fifteen years. He’s been after me to go since he started. This winter did the trick.
The drive there is standard issue crazy. It’s like Ireland.
You’ve got to negotiate potholes on narrow roads where you’re either hitting branches or a passing car with your side view mirror. But on your right is this amazing coastline.
His directions included this crucial tidbit. “The locals are friendly. If you can’t find the turn just tell someone you’re looking for the white surfer on the hill.”
I thought he was joking until I couldn’t find the turn and pull over trying to figure out where to go. A middle aged Rasta man approached the car and after some back and forth I drop the white surfer on the hill line. The guy lights up – that’s an expression – he didn’t actually light up. Quick aside, I did not see or smell ganga, marijuana, the entire trip. (Yeah, some reporter I am).
Anyway, the Rasta man jumps in the car and guides us up some ridiculous hill to John’s amazing place. Surfers, check out Boston Bay! Everyone else, check out Caribbean Dawn, the name of his hilltop paradise.
We did the beach, waterfalls, caves with waterfalls, jerk chicken. We got sun and warmth. And then we had to come back.
You think this winter’s bad? It really is worse when you leave and come back.
You know, prisoners who have life sentences and no chance of parole are actually happier than prisoners with life sentences with a chance at parole. Prisoners cling to that sliver of hope instead of just accepting their life for what it is.
So, if you didn’t get away this winter you’re happier than me. I cling to the hope it might end. You’ve accepted it. That’s how I see the world. My winter is worse than yours.