I had to buy my wife a BIG expensive ring at the airport leaving Jamaica just so she would speak to me. But it could have been worse, she could have gone home without me and shipped the body back when it was finally located.
Here is the story of how I almost let my lust for ganja almost get me killed
It was 1983, Montego Bay, Jamaica. Me and my wife, two sisters, two cousins and their hubby’s rented a villa in the hills above Montego Bay for seven glorious days. It was gorgeous, just like the one pictured here.
Fully staffed with two cooks, a houseboy/driver and another guy you don’t see in this pic, the mean looking guard with a machete and a german shepherd. the guy that walked point around the estate at night. It really did seem like paradise. The Jamaican staff were nice people and the food was awesome! First time I ever had fried plantains.
Beautiful sea breezes at night but if you opened a bamboo shutter in your room at night the guard outside would soon be at your window tapping on the sill with his blade and indicate you should close your shutter. like NOW! Holy crap am I in prison while on vacation?!
Back then you did not go out at night unless escorted by your Jamaican driver who was cleared by the villa rental agency to pass police checkpoints unmolested. The atmosphere on the island was tense, we all felt it but no one would tell us anything. Just your typical smiles and nods. Unless they suspected something out of order they would not stop you but when they did I heard from friends it was a big hassle.
I should have found that bar and got drunk
So one day the girls decide to go shopping in town and I went with them to see what else was going on, maybe find a nice bar, get an ice-cold dark Jamaican rum cocktail, eat some jerk chicken, whatever. While the ladies were shopping I stood just outside the market stall people watching. Soon this big black jamaican dude saunters by and starts joking around with me. Real social guy, I knew he was going to try to sell me something, I was smiling and waiting for the punchline. Before long the subject of ganja comes up. (I must look like a stoner) You take some home he says, foolproof method, I tell you how. Oh, REALLY says me, and that was the start of my adventure in Jamaica.
How do you spell going off alone with a 7 ft tall Jamaican taxi driver in the hills of Jamaica to search for ganja?
M O R O N
He had me convinced his idea had merit. I had already been planning the perfect way to smuggle some weed home (only a little) but his way sounded a lot better than mine. Or so I thought at the time. My wife was really pissed (I could tell from the frown on her face) when I got into his taxi, but with a wave goodbye we headed off.
No problem MON
My first mistake was to believe anything the guy said. 2nd, 3rd and 4th mistakes were not learning anything from mistake #1! His “foolproof” plan was to press a half pound of ganja so flat it would fit inside the sleeve of a reggae album. Yes folks this all happened back in the days when music came on this thing they called a record album. After re-sealing it in shrinkwrap I was to put it in my luggage. Where is the downside I ask myself.
They kept looking at my Topsiders like they were food
As his taxi headed up into the hills above Montego Bay I started to get this tingling feeling in the back of my neck. Similar to the ones I used to get in Vietnam right before the shit hit the fan. WTF am I doing?! After 30 minutes of nothing but a dirt road and jungle I finally wake from my fughe, stop this effing car! Right about then he pulls in next to a pink concrete, one room shack, his home. Wife and 3 young kids inside. Right away they focus on my boat shoes, licking their lips like they want to eat them. Inside I’m thinking I would gladly trade them to be back at the villa with my family right now.
My brother in law has the ganja press he says, he come here soon, no problem MON. (Everything in Jamaica is “no problem mon”) We wait and we wait, two hours or more then I finally start smelling the scam, by this time I know I’m in trouble but don’t know what to do about it. As friendly as I can I suggest he take me back to town and we try again tomorrow (like I’m ever coming back). I give him 20 bucks to keep him happy, It’s starting to get late and I sure as hell don’t see myself bushwacking back to the villa, it was miles away. I thought for a minute I might have to take one of his kids as hostage (only a passing thought), he obviously was waiting for somebody. He finally agrees to go and we head back to town.
I’ve been gone (missing, presumed dead to the family back at the villa) for hours and before we hit town it gets dark. “Bob” (his mom named him after Bob Marley the famous reggae artist) suddenly pulls over and tells me he has to trade taxi’s with his cousin because he can’t be seen with a white man in his car after dark! Huh?
Ok so this marine has been in difficult situations before, the thing is to not panic, right? Well I figure this is going to be a classic headline somewhere “American tourist missing in Jamaica” with brawl to the finish right here in the slums of Montego Bay and I don’t figure to go down without a fight. I’m wearing shorts, tee shirt, boat shoes and no socks. I got no weapon and no place to stash one if I did. Bob turns into a dark alley and I ready myself for action not knowing what else to do. If they want my Sperry’s that bad let’s see if they are willing to die for them.
James Bond eat your heart out
We sit in the dark, engine off, lights off. It’s hot and steamy. Bob tells me to stay down. Soon another car pulls in to the alley, blinks his lights, I’m asking myself if I accidentally wandered on to the set of a Jason Bourne spy movie. That’s my bro says Bob, meet me at the market place tomorrow, we get the ganja mon, no problem! In your dreams I’m thinking, if I get out of this I’m going straight to the airport and catching the first plane out to anywhere, USA!
I get out of Bob’s taxi and walk slowly to the other car all the while expecting trouble from any quarter. It’s so dark I can hardly see, eerily quiet, I can hear my heartbeat in my ears and my neck hairs are standing up like wheat stalks. Adrenaline is coursing through my body and my fingers are tingling, trigger finger itching.
Get in the car MON
The driver of the other taxi is alone and I quickly jump in the back seat. He tells me to hunker down and pulls out of the alley. Asks me where I want to go and I start thinking, wow, I may get out of this with my skin after all! All the villas have names and I tell him mine. No one is following but there is a checkpoint ahead on the side of the main road out of town. “Walter” is waved through by the cops with barely a look at me so I figure the fix is in. Shortly after the checkpoint Walter stops the car and tells me “this is as far as I can go mon” I got no clue where we are but he seems to know where I’m staying. He points to a hill across the road, “you go there mon”, and from what I can tell in this dark place it’s just Jamaica jungle top to bottom.
We are in a deserted section of road, one weak streetlamp is on casting weird shadows over the road. I can smell the ocean, there is a slight breeze, all my senses are awake and alert. I throw Walt a twenty and start across the road. Finding an opening in the bush I start up the hill. I’ve done this before but usually armed to the teeth and with a squad of marines at my six. After an hour of sweaty climbing I am amazed when I reach the perimeter of our villa grounds. I can see the lights on and my family moving about inside. Now all I have to do is somehow sneak past the guard and his dog. I’m a paying guest here but who knows what kind of reaction the guard would have if I suddenly came out of the jungle, never mind the dang dog!
I figure to make a sprint toward the house as soon as the guard starts his rounds on the far side of the villa. I see my cousin’s husband John through the cracked shutters of his bedroom, lights on. I think somehow he knows I’m out here. As soon as machete man is nowhere in sight I make a dash for the house. That sixty plus yards felt like a mile! Feeling like a peeping Tom I whisper loudly, John, John, it’s me! For Christ sake is that you man, you had us worried sick! Never mind that I say, just open the window.
I clamber inside and land on the floor, dazed but oh so glad to be alive. Buddy says John, I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes right now, all the girls think you are dead. I look down at my Topsiders and start laughing, if you only knew! He tells me I have to go out and face the gauntlet in the living room and he follows me out of the bedroom murmuring “I gotta see this”. And there they are, all my loving sisters, wife and cousins, red eyed from crying looking at me like I’m a ghost.
Well friends I would like to say that the rest of that night and the two days left of vacation was as good as the first few but I would be lying. They made me pay for my stupidity, as only women can, with a joint effort at the silent treatment. Even John wouldn’t acknowledge me upon orders from his wife. The rest of the trip went by without further incident but I was from that point forward a marked man, shunned like Hester Primm.
It was one of those adventures in my life that centered around the need for weed, one that took about five years off my life and one where looking back on it what the hell was I thinking! I thought that I had learned my lesson but a few years later in Hawaii I did it again! Film at 11.