Sunday, April 30, 2006

Aunt Rosa

Pudding Pan

Going back to the roots...

Mocho, referred to by many as "back a God", is the birthplace of my mother. Known for being a little far from "civilization", the Mocho Mountain range is home to many districts filled warm and friendly people who depict the best traits of humanity.

Its good to go home...even though I never lived there because the kinship keeps us connected to each other and ourselves.

Blessings to Vashtoria "Miss Modda" Allison and Harold "Papa" Allison -may his soul rest in peace.

Saturday, April 29, 2006


Yeas... that's a black man with a surf board... in Ja at that!

Washed Up

Friday, April 28, 2006

Defining Moments

Sweet, Sweet St. Mary
By SheerAlmshouse

I can still close my eyes and smell the earth, freshly roused by the daily rainfall. I see the smiles of adults and children as we pass them on the narrow trail-like road. They stand to the side as they hear the loud engine of the 70s Volkswagen bug approach.

I can still smell the sweet high country landscape covered with sugarcane, cocoa and banana trees. All these rich images will help to form the woman I will become, the woman I am –when I open my eyes.

I cannot help but visiting this profoundly visual and inspirational place when I think of what St. Mary represents to me. The memories go back over two decades. It seems longer in theory but still, somehow, it feels like yesterday.

My daddy grew up in the parish of his birth, and the birth of several generations of Morrison’s and Thompsons, to whom we are undoubtedly related. After all, in the Jamaican countryside, anyone who shares your name is seen as your cousin. We even describe them as second, and third cousins, indicating the strong families ties even where the blood bond weakens.

Theirs was a very small district that we called “Montry Gayle,” -which I have yet to locate on a map- in which my grandmother grew up. It wasn’t until recently that my grandmother set me straight that the village was in fact “Mount Regale,” located about three miles from Richmond. This was the place to which I would later travel with my father on weekends. As the only child for almost a decade, I was happy to make the journey with him.

My daddy always had a love for the land and everything living on it. He respected agriculture, and years of “upwardly mobile” university studies could not detach those heartstrings. He started raring goats, then went to pigs as he tried to find which hat suited him best as educated farmer.

It was on those regular weekend trips that my father and I would bond. He played the multiple roles of parent, playmate, comforter and educator as we took the country road to and from Kingston. It was then that I developed a keen interest in geography and social studies, and later in landscapes and of course, long winding trips into the countryside.

I remember playing with the children of the adopted daughter of my great grandmother, Mammy, climbing trees and taking turns running to the spring, turning many corners for about two miles uphill, and then sliding down the always wet, clay-like, rich St. Mary soil to the place where cool, sweet water poured from rocks.

My mother would lament the state of my clothes to my father upon our return from these trips. I played coy but I just could not resist the urge to slide down the slopes near the spring. I was a city girl on the loose in the country. Those Adventures of Sheer Almshouse came to an end the day I slipped and actually rolled all the way down. That was the last I saw of my favourite Popeye sweater and pink gingham skirt because I stuffed them under the guest bed at Mammy’s. Surely, I could not play the fool with my mother any longer.

It’s been years since I have visited St. Mary. The last time was a gathering of generations of Thompsons at the roots from which they sprung. It might have been the last. It seems that every generation rebels against the land and fights its hardest to be as far from it as possible.

We have a saying that “ wantie wantie cyaa gettie and gettie gettie no wantie.” Translated, it means “those who want it cant get it and those who get it don’t want it.” “It” here refers to any object desired. This seems ironic on so many different levels as I sit on an antique kitchen chair on a large step that doubles as a verandah for my studio apartment in the heart of noisy, nosey and peaceless Kingston.

I have essentially become a city girl with a country heart. I know the names of my neighbours, and I always make it a duty to smile and say hello. But even “hellos” now seem stifled in the concrete jungle. However, every time I come across bananas or sugarcane originating from St. Mary in the market, I have to ask the vendor’s surname- who knows? We may very well be related.

Passa Passa

December 2003

Last night, make that early Thursday morning, what in essence was Christmas morning, I took my flu-ridden self out of bed, out the door, into the streets of Tivoli Gardens for my first dose of “Passa Passa.”

Having reached there somewhere after four am, we were treated to a long “talk pon mike” session where the sound selectors allowed upcoming, and perhaps all too struggling artists to ‘bless the mike” with a sample of their pieces. I thought that maybe we had come too late and that the dance was over. I was to find out otherwise.

“Excusing” our way through the jam-packed street audience, I realized that this was by all means “the street dance” that my parents’ generation reminisce so sweetly about. We passed too many rough-looking creatures to make our “upwardl- mobilized” selves comfortable, but somehow, we managed to strike a balance by creating our own permanent “screw faces.” We had to hold the vibe.

Decked out and looking real cute the trio of us girls, seemed to be a sight for so many men of varied backgrounds who were (quite relievingly) prepared to simply admire from a distance.

The cliche “uptown meets downtown” is the phenomenon of “Passa Passa”, the weekly Wednesday night street dance in the streets of Tivoli Gardens. All animosity is put on hold as patrons dance up a storm to the latest music selected by the most engaging selectors I have personally ever heard. But I don’t get around much anymore.

“Fan them off, Thunder Clap, Signal di Plane, Pon di River, ” the selectors belted, guiding the crowd into a dancing frenzy. Old, young, rich and those who simply put aside their money woes, moved to the lastest dances in the dancehall. Yes, the dance is certainly back in the dancehall. And so is the expert selector who can keep a crowd eating out of his hands with the smoothest and most salient interjections coupled with the most appropriate songs.

The day is breaking, so I check my watch- 5:45 am and the dance is going on strong, in fact, it has just begun. All of a sudden, my too-protected-self simply lets go and allows the whole vibe to penetrate my being. From the looks of things, nobody is ready to go home. That was all good because, quite frankly, neither am I.

So we pranced and danced and inhaled the air that put us in a trance, holding this real “artical downtown vibe” until, people who looked like they were getting dressed to go somewhere started asking us “excuse” as they passed the sound boxes. It was quite a pregnant moment when an elderly lady, armed with her bible passed us by as we bubbled at the sound boxes, on her way to Christmas morning mass. We had to stop and ponder our carnality for a lingering second. The symbolism truly profound.

As soon as she was out of sight, we felt vindicated to continue in our revelry and that we did. We had breakfast at “Passa Passa” that Christmas morning; a meal of somewhat undercooked pan chicken and hard dough bread.

The sun came up on us at that blessed street dance and our true features were tested by the intensity. Not everybody holds up to daylight, and we were lucky to be given its stamp of approval, having checked ourselves through each others eyes. Of course, in the dancehall, image is everything.

So things have changed a little since my mother’s time. It seems like it’s no longer “bad blessing” for the “sun to come up on yuh face at a dance.” In fact, at “Passa Passa,” it must. Apparently, new tradition has it that one should leave the venue and head straight for work, making the necessary clothing modifications in the car. Thank goodness Boxing Day was a public holiday and I wasn’t slated to work!

The dance is back in the dancehall. I really got tired of seeing everybody standing and posing. Now everybody “a do the ‘Thunder Clap’”. Quite frankly, I love it!

So its 8:00 am and the dance is still going on strong. Our ride is ready, but we don’t like the vibe so we pass. We hitch a ride up Spanish Town Road to visit a friend, then jump on a bus heading straight downtown. We are a little self conscious, wearing party clothes in the bright morning, clearly “comin from Passa Passa” as many people inquired.

The dance was still going on… the bus had to drive though it. Of course, we made sure to “duck” our heads as we saw faces that we had danced with all night. We couldn’t simply be seen taking the “Chi Chi” bus from the venue, having looked so “uppity” in moments before. But we were still piqued for the adventure.

Since I will take temporary residence in a foreign country, it was most necessay for me to have the Passa Passa experience. Having danced unitl dawn and taken the bus home, I can assure that no matter how far I go, or how long I stay, I will always have to comeback to this blessed island home of “Passa Passa,” vibes, niceness, and so much more.

This is the Jamaica I love. Christmas 2004-“Passa Passa” here I come!

Carnival is cominggggg

These pics were taken from carnival in T & T (Trinidad and Tobago). You aint enjoyed carnival if you aint played mas in T & T! Big, fat, slim, or skinny....

St. Clair Police Station

The first night in TT, we went to pick up costumes in the elite bourgeois country club in Port of Spain only to return to find the car broken into. Well, the way TT run, is a good ting we were not around when it happened. I never been kidnapped before and probably wouldn't live to tell the tale.

Anyway, shit happens everywhere- not only in Jamaica.

And speaking of shit. Former TT Prime Minister Basdeo Panday will be spending two years in jail for not declaring funds in excess of US$250,000. However, after spending two nights, he has been released. His lawyers argue that he is in poor health.

Well, still better than the previous Jamaican Prime Minister who "forgot" that he owed roughly US$25, 000,000. How long would he be jailed for?

But you see, some politicians are simply untouchable!

Warm Cosy County Feeling

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Dr. Sonia Laveau and Mr. Selwyn Laveau have such a warm home. Maintained like a Caribbean country home, you step in and immediately feel at home. Look through every window and you will be transfixed in the lush hinterland that is Aunty Sonia's pride and joy... her ginger lily, impatiens covered garden.

Bring on the Beer

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The music doesn't really start playing until you get some alcohol in ya. "Where is the pitcher?!?" BTW- Carib beer sucks. Better off with Stag because finding a Red Stripe in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is literally searching for a needle in a haystack. We dont mind anyway, because thankfully, our Jamaican bars are fully stocked with the good stuff. Ask for "Carib" in Ja and you will be directed to the cinema in Cross Roads (by that name).

And as far as beer is concerned, Jamaica is the only place I know where you ask for a beer and the bartender is likely to ask "hot or cold?"

You see, cold beer quenches thirts and hot beer (RED STRIPE OF COURSE) brings up gas.

Black and White

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Jouvert mawnin relic

Mek Mi Show You How Fi Pose

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Photographer: Dean Eccleston

Dr. Sonia Laveu demonstrates that the "cutey cutey" poses dont cut it. "Lift up yuh leg and pose!"

Jah Moves

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Photographer: Lisa-Marie Laveau

Welcome to the house of alms

In Jamaica, we mean something different when we say "almshouse." It isn't a place where the indigent go to for help but simply something "fucked up"- a verb.

There are many things that are fucked up about our island home, and about the world in general. This is not by any means, an attempt to exhaust the list.

But is nuff alsmhouse a gwaan and is either I make it bleed or it kill me.

Mi nuh ready fi dead yet!

But thi is not just for the purpose of identifying trash, mind you- I will leave that to the NSWMA. And you certainly wont find me articulating for "green peace" nor vegan, tofu, and soy extremes. I have lots to write about generally and lots of photos specifically that I would like to share.

So I guess this is some sort of "purpose" but the major problem is that there is none.

I was trained in media and communication and I respect the power of the web. Brats like me get to air grievances, accomplishments and dirty linen in public! And people like you would rather spend time reading my crap than doing all the things that you really ought to be doing.

Work sucks anyway- especially when you have to wear a suit!

Sheer Almshouse
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