There was a Bob Marley tune and some laughter on the light breeze as I pulled into the parking lot. I parked the dinged up rental car under a tree in the dirt parking lot, glad to be off the main road. The car had no air conditioning other than the 360 air of four rolled down windows but the temperature was pleasant. I took a last hit from the spliff that I had found in rental car's ash tray and turned the key to shut off the engine. Discovery of the spliff had been a nice surprise upon leaving the Thrifty Car Rental office in MoBay - even though it was Jamaica, I doubted most rental cars came so equipped.
The spliff was dropped back into the ash tray. I turned to get out of the car and nearly interrupted the night with a scream. A huge bird was zooming straight at me. I thought it was going to smack right into my head but at the last moment it pulled up and landed on the car door knocking me back with a shock and a blast of wind from its jagged wings. I had a vision of eyes being peeked out in an Alfred Hitchcock film but quickly cancelled that thought - definitely not wanting that to be the next scene.
The bird looked straight into my eyes with what was hopefully not a hungry look and then delivered another shock by screeching, “Who are you?” with what sounded like a pirate accent. It was a big greenish grey parrot of some type with an menacing looking beak. I hoped it was a vegetarian and preferred fruit and seeds to flesh. The bird screeched again, “Who are You?”
“JB” I replied trying to sound friendly and not frightened – I thought it wise not to show fear or weakness – confidence always helps keep situations under control. Hopefully he was a regular here and didn’t generally harm tourists.
“Who are you?” demanded the bird again in the same nasty tone.
“JB” I said more forcefully.
“Who are you?” screeched the bird for a fourth time.
Relaxing a bit I replied this time, “Sometimes I don’t know who I am. Who do you think I am?” Finally I just said firmly, "go away!" and the bird flew away leaving me wondering how potent that ashtray spliff was and a bit confused at the unusual events. Was this a bad sign? A good sign or no sign at all? Who are you was certainly a relevant question considering my current state of mind.
I think I had come here on a search for enlightenment. It was all very strange. In my head I sang "what a long strange trip it's been" - the Grateful Dead song but to a Reggae beat. I’d been playing one of the “Fire on the Mountain” CD's of Reggafied Dead tunes while I navigated the dark roads alternating from coast road to stretches of overgrown pavement deep in the inland’s lush tropical foliage. All of these elements combined to create a surreal and uncertain sense of where I was and where I was going. I felt a little like a puppet moving to an unseen hand. I deliberately shook that feeling off – I was coming to realize that for better or worse I was the one behind the steering wheel. Somehow I just needed to learn how to be a better driver and navigator.
There are said to be many roads to enlightenment and I had given up looking for a map. I was just going on instinct and possibly clouded perceptions. A little herb often helped or maybe it hurt. The important insight it had provided was that reality could totally shift in moments depending on state of mind. So, if reality was not fixed and was only a matter of perception, then, all kinds of life experiences were available it would seem. The trouble was that it often felt like you were being tossed around on a sea of uncertainty with no control over what was going on.
It still seemed better than being one of the masses that were cock sure that their sense of what reality was at a given moment was all there was for anyone and everyone. Anyone that didn’t see it their way was simply wrong. That was definitely not the road to enlightenment. In fact, I was totally certain that anyone who thought they had all the answers was mentally and spiritually deficient.
I had made a lot of twists and turns on his road and wasn't at all sure of where I was going but I had a lot of questions seeking answers. Jah only knew why I thought I might find some answers way off the mainstream at Club Tropical. Any of my friends would have felt it was pretty far fetched and that I was just going to chill out and party in the tropics. Well, if that was all it turned out to be, that would be fine too. It would just be one more little side trip. I sat back to collect my thoughts and try to get centered. I could hear lightly crashing waves in the distance and the rustle of the breeze through the dense tropical foliage. It was soothing after the bird incident and the long drive from the hotel.
The car door creaked as I finally opened it sending some other unseen birds and other night creatures scattering in alarm. In the distance, I heard the opening bars of a song called “Celebrate Life”. The timing was perfect. It was a favorite of mine for the music and the message. I’d been lucky enough to see the song’s creator, Lucky Dube, live several times. His performances were always a joy to behold. Lucky was from South Africa and his blend of African riddums with Reggae was infectious. His message, like Bob Marley’s, was one of hope and the determination to rise above despair and the hardships of life. Both of them came out of often cruel societies. The apartheid in South Africa made things even worse for Lucky than Bob growing up in Trench Town, Jamaica. In Trench Town there was poverty and violence but not the intense racial hatred and separation of South Africa.