11 Days in Jamaica – Day 9

(c) Stan Thomas/Kanale Creations

Friday June 22, 2007

Today is Friday. We have our last gig of the trip tonight. I have no plans until then. Funny that even though this is mostly a vacation, I still keep waking up around 6 am. I usually go on down to breakfast before it gets too crowded.

I hadn’t lain out on the beach all week. After breakfast, I ran the stairs, changed clothes, headed back down to do just that. It was still early enough that only five or six people were in the water. I picked out a lounge chair and laid down. The bright sun was climbing higher in the sky. A few big clouds gave the sun something to briefly hide behind once in a while.

The people in the water were far enough away that their voices were barely carried ashore. The gentle sound of the waves lapping the shore was louder than they. A few chairs to the right of me, a family was seated, trying to catch some rays. There was no one on my left. What a peaceful scene. I was going to enjoy this. I drank my water and quickly dozed off.

My bliss lasted nearly three hours. What shattered it was the arrival of a group of about eight people. They were loud. Instead of taking the lounge chairs in the row behind me, they dragged the chairs up closer so they were now in line with mine, surrounding me. I tried to shut my eyes to shut them out but I knew getting back to the bit of heaven I had just been jolted out of wasn’t going to happen.

Five minutes later I hear, “Stan!” A few of the band members were walking around and spotted me on the beach. They asked what I was doing (!). We ended up trading places; all except Leroy walked over to the area where I was, while Leroy and I walked back toward the hotel. Leroy had mentioned wanting to do some more shopping so I went with him.

We walked through Soni’s Plaza, down past the Craft Market, all the way down to Taj Mahal. Since we had gotten in the habit of not dressing like tourists, walking around town was so much easier. It was kind of like being in two worlds; in the gift shops that catered to tourists, the store clerk stayed very close to us, never letting us get out of sight. In the stores that catered to locals, we got quizzical glances, something like, “you look like you’re from here but something just isn’t right.” On the way back, I talked Leroy into stopping by Island Grill.

Island Grill is a Jamaican fast food place that is giving Burger King and KFC a healthy serving of competition. They have something like 14 outlets across the island. There is something about the fries they serve there. I tried them for the first time in Kingston last year. They are the best-tasting fries I have had anywhere. Leroy agreed; those fries are the bomb!

Today was also the last chance I’d have to try an Indian restaurant called A Passage to India. It is right across the street from the hotel. I had seen the place and the billboards countless times but had never tried it. I told Rory that I was planning to go, mainly because Ronnie, our alto player last year, wanted to go.

We walked up the winding staircase to the restaurant. We were the only diners there. Another group came in much later, but for the most part it was just us. The dining area was covered, open air, with a patio and a larger indoor dining area. Service was a tad bit slow, probably because everything was cooked fresh.

Our appetizers arrived. They were so good we practically inhaled them. For the main course, we had lamb tikka and chicken tikka along with garlic naan. (Why horn players would eat at an Indian restaurant before a gig, I don’t know. Why horn players would order garlic naan before a gig, I don’t know. But I’m glad we did on both counts.) The naan came to our table straight from the oven. The flavors in the tikka sauce were like a well-balanced symphony. All the different spices seemed to burst out at once, but none overpowered the other. We ended up sopping our plates with the naan. Ronnie, thank you for the suggestion!

Usually I feel a touch of sadness when we play our last gig here. It means we’ll be leaving Jamaica in a day or two. This time I didn’t feel as sad because some of us were going to Negril tomorrow.

Tonight we played two sets for the dinner crowd. People would walk by and look. Some would stop and take pictures of us as we played. Those who were dining would bob their heads in time with the music. Others got a little pep in their step as they passed.

David, our alto sax player, really dug into his solo on one of the songs. He played through the changes like a master. I wish someone had recorded it because it should be used in the classroom to teach students how changes should be played. A perfect example of improvisation. I was so mesmerized that I missed my entrance at the end of his solo.

At the end of the set, Lee thanked the crowd for listening and the hotel for having us. We took our bows and packed up our gear. Some stayed and ate dinner while others took their gear back to their rooms. God willing, I’ll be able to join the band here again next year.

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