Archive for Faith’s Pen

11 Days in Jamaica – Day 7

Posted in Blog, Journalism, Travel with tags , , , , , on Friday, 17 August 2012, by Stan


Wednesday June 20, 2007

This is a day I always look forward to when I return to Jamaica; the day when I get to hang out with Lancelot. We’re usually gone all day long. Today he said he would show me the center of the island and the town of Mandeville.

Lee wanted to play some more quartets this morning after breakfast. I had to call Lancelot and ask if we could leave half an hour later. He said it was not a problem.

The quartet session went well. We played most of the same charts as last time and one different piece that was even more challenging than the others. I had to leave the group a bit early to go meet Lancelot.

I went back up to the room to drop off my horn and change clothes. As I walked down the hotel’s driveway, Lancelot pulled up. It’s always good to see him. He’s full of wisdom, sayings, and is a wealth of knowledge about Jamaica.

We headed out. I did ask if we could stop off at  Walkerswood. They make the seasoning I use when I make jerk chicken at home. They have grown enormously in the past couple of years and now have a big factory. Their product line has grown, too, and is now readily available in the States.

Next we drove through the town of Moneague. We drove by Moneague College and through some of the side streets before heading back to the highway. Once we got back on the highway, Lancelot stopped at a small roadside fruit stand for some pineapple. He knew the Roadside fruit stand in Jamaica - (c) Stan Thomasproprietors and talked with them for a moment. It seems like he knows everyone on the island. He offered me a slice of pineapple, confidently saying that it was “so good, it will put Hawaiian pineapple to shame.” Jamaican pineapple is good; more orange in color than the Hawaiian variety, but I have to say nothing tastes as good as fresh pineapple from Hawaii.

While watching television, I remembered a conglomerate company called Lasco made several public service announcements about the shortage of milk on the island and their attempt to resolve the crisis. I asked Lancelot about this. He said that a few years ago, there were more dairy farmers on the island but they weren’t being paid enough for their product. So they stopped raising dairy cows and went into other crops that paid more. As a result, Jamaica now has to import most of its milk products. Sad because according to Lanceleot, all the government had to do was buy the milk and supply it to the school children. That way the dairy farmers could stay in business and there would be enough milk on the island.

As we drove over some of the many hills on the island, Lancelot pointed out the thin pipes that supplied water to the residents. Pipes which frequently broke. Pipes which are woefully inadequate to supply the growing population. Many residents have water tanks in which to store water. These are sometimes filled by water trucks. Since the government does not take a proactive approach to upgrading the water infrastructure, residents are forced to take drastic measures to get action. When the pipes break and are not repaired in a reasonable amount of time, and the water trucks don’t come, residents will block the roads. NO traffic gets through. That means commerce is virtually halted. Alternate routes are available but involve driving hours out of the way.

Linstead has developed quite a reputation. The crime rate is high. Lancelot pointed out one store that he says had been robbed 20 times already. He explained the reason for most of the crime is because there are few jobs. Several of the factories that used to be on the island have shut down and gone to other islands like Trinidad. Of course, that leaves nothing for the youth to do. And, as one of Lancelot’s sayings goes, “the devil will find work for idle hands.” Coincidentally,  The Gleaner, one of Jamaica’s newspapers, ran a story that Sunday about one of the candidates running for office campaigning to clean up the horrid conditions in Linstead’s marketplaces.

Each large town we drove through had a franchise or two of the ubiquitous Burger King or KFC. As we came into Spanish Town, I remarked to Lancelot that I hadn’t seen any McDonald’s. He replied that there were no Mickey D’s on Jamaica. What?! A country where there is no McDonald’s? He said the last one closed in 2005. We covered a large part of the island during the day and sure enough, no golden arches to be found.

What happened? I found out after we got back to the states that the golden arches had been under a black cloud since they first tried to come to Jamaica’s shores back in ’94. Apparently the international fast-food Goliath lost a court battle against a local David and McDonald’s was prevented from doing business on the island for a few years.

When they were allowed back on the island, Mickey D’s was late to market – believe it or not – and never did establish a foothold. Jamaicans had by then already pledged allegiance to Burger King and KFC, in addition to their own home-grown chain called Island Grill.  According to this commentary, not only was McDonald’s late to market, they didn’t even research the market.

Rejoining one of the main highways not far from Spanish Town, Lancelot abruptly pulled over next to a roadside coconut stand. He bought two coconuts, one for each of us. He asked me if I had ever had coconut water before. I told him the hotel served it on occasion. He told the proprietor to cut the coconut so I could drink the water. One skillful chop from his machete and I was drinking fresh coconut water. I drank as much as I could, all the while thinking about what Tom Hanks’ character, Chuck Nolan, told Wilson about coconuts in the movie “Castaway”.

While Lancelot talked with the proprietors, he started using part of the coconut to scrape the ‘meat’ out of the inside and was eating it. Once again, the proprietor picked up his machete. Whack. Whack. Chop. Soon, I was scraping the inside of the coconut and eating the meat, too. It dawned on me right there how many people you see here walking around with machetes. They are used to cut down fruit, chop down trees, clear vines and brush. They are used to cut open fruit, trim hedges, cut grass, and chop meat. And I never for one moment felt uncomfortable about how prevalent machetes are in Jamaica.

Over his lifetime, Lancelot has lived in all 14 of Jamaica’s parishes. Out of all the towns in all the parishes, he says he wants to live in Mandeville. He was practically beaming as we drove into the town. Mandeville sits on a hill and offers an excellent view in many places. It reminded me a lot of San Francisco.

Driving through the town, we passed a military installation. As we passed by, a large helicopter flew in and landed. We passed quite a few upscale homes and many gated communities. Then, Lancelot turned up a narrow street, which led to a building resembling a plantation house. This was our destination. It was called Bloomfield Great House.

Bloomfield Great House actually was a working coffee plantation back in the 1800’s. The main building has been converted into a restaurant. Inside was a beautifully-decorated restaurant with indoor and veranda dining areas, private dining sections, and a big dining area for large groups. On the walls hung many works of art by Jamaican artists. The tables were covered by primary-colored tablecloths. Long streamers of sheer fabric were draped from the ceiling. Use of these vivid colors created a very vibrant atmosphere inside.

We were seated on the veranda. From here you have a commanding view of Mandeville and large part of the center of Jamaica. It was breath taking. There was a slight breeze blowing. I ordered a combo lunch, which came with shrimp and chicken, vegetables, and of course, rice and peas. Lancelot had a club sandwich with fries. We talked a bit while we ate but I spent most of the time just being absorbed in the view. So this was Mandeville. I think I could live here, too.

On the way back we took a slightly different route to connect back to the highway. Lancelot showed me some one of the places he used to live. We stopped at another place that offered a scenic view of the interior of the island. Then we headed back to Ochee.

Lancelot stopped at the Oasis petrol station to fill up the tank. One of my side ‘projects’ on this trip was to photograph some of the billboards and other signs in Jamaica. I hopped out of the car, camera in hand, and quickly snapped a couple of pictures of the station’s sign. Upon returning to the car, a gentleman, who I assumed to be the manager, came trotting over. He anxiously but politely asked if I “would care to disclose why you photographed the sign.” I blurted out my best “no problem, I’m just taking pictures of signs” speech. Understanding what I should have said, Lancelot instantly came to my rescue, telling him, simply, “He’s a tourist.” At first I was offended. Because Jamaica has become a second home to me, I don’t think of myself as a tourist. Then I realized that the manager thought I was a local.

Our trip took us through the parishes of Saint Ann, Saint Catherine, Clarendon, and Manchester. In addition to the towns mentioned earlier, we visited Ewarton, May Pen, and a host of others. Our last stop was at Faith’s Pen for some jerk chicken and pork. It was dark by this time. In my haste to get back to the car, I took a shortcut behind a building and ran into a barbed wire fence. Incredibly it was only a couple of strands high where I hit it. Thank God it only left three superficial scratches.

We arrived back at the hotel and I bid Lancelot farewell. Some of the band members were sitting in the courtyard. Since I had been gone all day, they wanted to know where I had been. I told them about Mandeville. While we chatted, more members of the band walked by. I was very hungry by this point and the aroma of the food from Faith’s Pen was making me even hungrier. I offered some of it to Leroy, then excused myself to the poolside grill and ate the rest.

Later on that night I ran into Lee. He told us that we are scheduled to be the opening act at the first Wine and Jazz Festival in Palmdale. This is going to be a big gig for us. Jeff Golub, The Rippingtons, and Richard Elliot will be performing. I’m really looking forward to this one.

Snoozing and Losing

Posted in Blog, Journalism, Travel with tags , , , , , , , on Friday, 17 June 2011, by Stan

Caribbean Travel + Life magazine

Normally at this time of year, the Friday before Father’s Day, we’d be on a plane winging our way to Jamaica. Things didn’t work out as planned this year so we are sitting on the sidelines until next year.

Aside from the everyday places like home, school, work, and friends and relatives, I have spent more time in Jamaica than I have anywhere else. But it’s been 3 years since I was last there and I feel homesick. During the time I’ve spent there, I’ve been introduced to quite a few places most visitors to the island have never heard of. These places are a joy to visit, mainly because they are off the beaten path and not frequented by tourists.

Over the years, I was planning to submit articles on Greenwood Great House and Scotchie’s to Caribbean Travel + Life"" magazine. But I procrastinated. Same with photographs of Faith’s Pen and a few other places. Then the May issue of CT+L showed up in my mailbox with “Jamaica Like You’ve Never Seen It” boldly spread across the cover as one of the featured articles. Obviously, that got my attention. I flipped to the story and there it was; my secret Jamaican places revealed for all the world to see.

After I stopped kicking myself, I read the article. It shows the reader two alternatives in each of several categories such as history, food, art,Dunn's River Fall's (c) Stan Thomas/Kanale Creations falls, rum (of course), and more. The first is an ‘enthusiast’ spot. These are places that are found in a travel brochure that you’d pick up at the hotel or cruise ship excursion desk. Someplace that is more than just a barbecue on the beach. These are suggestions for first-timers. Dunn’s River Falls is an ‘enthusiast’ spot. The second is the ‘expert’ location – or what could be called insider information – that only locals and frequent visitors to the Jewel of the Caribbean know about. Faith’s Pen is an ‘expert’ location; a place for, as the article says, “die-hard Jamaicaphiles.”

Faith's Pen (c) Stan Thomas/Kanale CreationsBefore you get the wrong impression, let me emphatically tell you I LOVE Caribbean Travel + Life magazine, precisely because they are familiar with and divulge such secrets as they did in the May issue. If you like the Caribbean or just want to learn more about the Caribbean than what you see in a brochure, CT+L is indispensable.

That age-old saying, “you snooze, you lose” is true. Hang on to an idea too long and not only will someone else come up with it, they will follow through with it. In my case, I lost the chance to sell three articles on the ‘secret’ Jamaica and the photographs to accompany them. It took me seven years to find these places. Read the CT+L article and you will learn about them in about seven minutes.

Note to self: Turn off the television and write!

Disclaimer: I subscribe to CT+L. By clicking the CT+L link"" and subscribing to the magazine you can help keep this blog going.