The posse had a week to recover from their New Years Eve antics when another invitation came down the pike...The Westender, formerly known as “Hoggs Heaven” – a resort located all the way at the end of West End Road just as it turns up the hill towards Revival and into the hills points south of Negril, was celebrating their 25th Anniversary. Music, food, booze...why not? It just so happened that this party coincided with Sexy Rexy’s Annual Birthday Bashment but fortunately the timing worked out well – the Westender called their shindig for sunset – nothing happens over at Rexy’s until at least 10:00pm.
RG, Red Leader, Phenom and Margaret had taken an “interesting” motorcycle ride that day but sped home to recover from the experience and change, once again, into party clothes. When they arrived at the West Ender the party was in full swing and it seemed ALL of Negril was there. The food was indeed flowing but RG noticed trays of what seemed to be “better” food moving past the chicken and pork line into a space till unknown to her. Still, they filled their plates, found Niah and ate standing up while listening to a jazz band play.
RG had never been to the West Ender and was quite impressed with the place. She spotted an upper deck where she saw her friends Tom and Angie sitting...so she went up to say hello. Aha! This is where the “good” food was going....this apparently was the VIP lounge. This was also where the “hoy poloy” of Negril were hanging – low lighting, comfy chairs with cushions, almost club like and best of all – free booze. RG wasted no time in bringing the rest of the group up. She and Margaret jumped on the buffet line and even though they had eaten they figured they must try some “hoy poloy” food...some wonderful shrimp dish and calalloo crepes that were pretty darn good. RG took full advantage of the open bar.
She loved catching up with Tom and Angie. This lovely couple originally from the Orlando area had had a rough time of it trying to make a life for themselves in Negril. Tom was a successful restauranteur in Florida who cashed it in so that he could become a fishing boat captain in Negril and raise his son Jay there. They were soon to learn how expensive and time consuming it was to bring a boat to the island and once there, the boat suffered mechanical difficulties that went from bad to worse. The final blow was when he had to bring the boat over to Mary’s Bay for his mechanic to work on it when he hit strong head water and the boat smashed into the rocks, creating a gaping hole on the hull. Everyone in Negril figured that was it for him...but no...Tom persevered, had the boat fixed and now is building a successful business. They had charters booked and RG remarked how often she saw their boat out, passing the yard from her back patio...there is a strength and determination in this family that is just inspiring.
Soon enough the drumming started and everyone scattered to take a look. The Jankunoo dancers began – RG took a seat just in front of the venerable Mr. Hogg and his entourage on the floor and watched in fascination. They were dressed in “slave” dress – “mammy” style clothing reminiscent of the days when that was what the Jamaicans did – they were slaves to the plantation owners of the British and American landholders there. Their dance expressed something different – a desire to break free of those restrictive clothes and restrictive life – sexy without being taudry, culturally significant, very African.
RG was confused about the costume and mentioned something to Jackie. Jackie, being African American said “this is part of our history – part of our culture”. Nuff said on that!
The hour grew later and RG and Red Leader found themselves talking with Coco – it had gotten to the point in the evening when it was time to “pick” on people – Coco remarking about one neighbor’s dancing abilities akin to “having a seizure” and should she ever do that to please take her to hospital immediately. They had their giggle, looked at the time and decided they were ready to move up the road – this party was slowing a bit and the free booze was “finish”.
So, on they went to Rexy’s. When they arrived at Rexy’s it turned out it was a bit on the early side but at least they could get a beer no problem from Miss Shaw who was dutifully tending bar. Rexy is one of the more colorful characters of Negril. When RG first met Rexy his place was a tiny little bar/shack across the street from where he is now, on the sea, with a picnic bench and was a lovely spot to stop and watch sunset. Many an evening, after LTU closed, the gang would sit on the picnic table or steps of the shop having a night cap of beer and conversation.
Hurricane after storm after hurricane pretty well destroyed Rexy’s little place and he finally moved his entire operation into a barn-like, horse arena-like structure across the street. It made for a great place for a party, that’s for sure – tons of room and even though chairs in any kind of repair were fewer and farther between there was yards and yards of railing to perch upon.
Rexy is one of the more colorful characters of Negril. A man of medium build he has a smile that could light up the room – and he just smiled all the time. Always a kind word, passing by his place on foot as often as RG did yelling out to him “Oy! Rexy!” and always getting a warm response back this jovial man built his business and his reputation on being kind but at the same time eccentric and tons of fun. Aside from the smile was the gray dreadlock beard he sported and of course his motto: “And twice on Sundays!” He was beloved throughout the community – when he wasn’t at his bar you could find him playing dominoes over at Dora’s and even in the roughest of games that smile never abated. His birthday celebrations had become legendary and a “must do” for a Negril resident to attend.
Within the hour the place filled up – stragglers from the West Ender party and the rest of Negril were there – Bubbles, Bruce, Bushy...their posse was completing! Not to mention every other character in Negril and perhaps even a few tourists. Sitting was not exactly on RG’s mind – she danced with reckless abandon.
January 6th – the night of these two parties, was a full moon. Not only was it a full moon – that night the moon appeared to be closer to the earth than it ever has. RG, Red Leader, Andrew and Amanda crossed the street and sat on the concrete slab behind what was Rexy’s little place so long ago and stared up at this big swollen moon, silent as they observed it’s brightness, it’s reflection on the sea...at that moment RG was about to bust from the beauty and the vibe that she was feeling. Full moons were always a special time in Negril – all those years in the cave making an occasion of this monthly occurrence. This memory did not escape RG but she looked around her and realized that life goes on – a celebration can be made of just about anything.
Niah is not only an important part of the posse – he kind of invented it and he definitely NAMED it. He is the captain of their ship, the driver of the silly-bus...he is the Neal Cassady to their Merry Pranksters.
This year Niah got a new van – much needed. The new van has seats that recline, windows that open wide and a great sound system. The old van held sentimental value but soon enough the new one was adorned with stickers such as “watch your head, watch your step”, advice learned from the previous year and delivered almost indiscriminately to anyone who’d listen.
So when he threw his annual birthday party the faithful gathered in Orange Hill. It was so important to him that his WHOLE posse attend he made TWO runs into Negril to be sure to collect them all.
When they arrived the yard was full – Niah’s grandchildren romping about, three or four people busy preparing tons of food in the make-shift outdoor kitchen and two domino games in progress. Red Leader took his spot with his guitar and amp up on the deck of the house.
In one pot was the Mannish Water. Mannish Water is basically “Goats Head Soup” – its main ingredient being the guts and innards of the goat that had been killed that morning in honor of the birthday boy. It is only served at special occasions – you usually will not find it on the menu in a restaurant.
Next pot over the Goat Curry was being prepared.
In the next pot stewed pork.
On the table a couple of guys were busy cutting up, seasoning and flouring chicken to fry.
A feast was in progress. There was tons of beer and in the house, upstairs sitting by itself as a centerpiece on the table was a bottle of Irish Whiskey. Once the whole posse was together they collectively toasted their host breaking into that bottle for a shot each.
The domino games started to heat up. There was the “chill” one, the one Phenom was participating in then there was the loud one – complete with arguments, slamming dominoes and “bumbaclots”. In general the party was pretty mellow – people enjoying the copious amounts of food, in conversation and Niah was just in his glory – he loves nothing more than to throw a great party. This was kind of a double celebration – he had gotten his “red plates” the day before making his new van completely legit and official and legal to carry tourists and posse and not get into all kinds of trouble doing it.
RG, Red Leader and Bob grabbed the two young newbies that were staying with Jubie over at Tingalaya and took them up the hill from Niah’s house to take in the spectacular views...to the left you could see Little Bay and Sav La Mar, to the right, Negril.
Earthangel was about to pass out. There was absolutely NOTHING for her to eat at this shindig (even though she’d been told there would be fish). She ate some rice but combined with the beer and whiskey she was definitely leaning against a wall. RG also was feeling a bit woozy – too much beer for her, bloated and kinda drunk in a way she was not used to being. Combine that and that they had plans to take in the Opening Jam at the RatDog gig, this group left on the earlier side, before sunset. Niah, who was still in reasonable shape, gladly drove them home.
RG heard the party went well into the night...and Niah was proud and entered his 54th turn around the sun in great spirits.