Thursday, November 13, 2008

I knew you'd figure it out

When walking through the small square in St Georges, you will hear
occasional sharp calls- whistles and clucking that you may assume come from
some kind of tropical bird. After a while you begin to realize that they ar
coming from a man who hangs out in one of two spots on the square. He
doesn't look too approachable somehow, so you just accept him as part of the

A few nights back my stereo was competing for my attention with reggae
blasting from a boom box on shore. There were two locals working on a
scooter on shore, a German looking fellow and a black rasta-looking dude. I
turned mine off and listened into the reggae, and decided that I liked their
music better than mine. I later went ashore to tell them so.

We made introductions, and I learned that the rasta-looking dude was Johnny,
and the other fellow had a name that I simply cannot learn. I asked him to
repeat it a few times, but each time it sounded different to me. I wonder if
he was having some fun at my expense.

Since then, I have had a pleasant acquaintance with Johnny, exchanging
greetings whenever I go ashore. He has a politician's handshake, the kind
with the other hand on your shoulder, and good eye contact; but in Johnny's
case the warmth comes off as genuine. He will go out of the way to greet me
ans show me what he is working on or to show me the hogfish he just caught.
I have an uneasy acquaintance with the German looking guy because I still
don't know his name.

Anyway, I was walking the square and saw Johnny parked in one of the two
spots where whistler hangs out. Suddenly I thought "Is Johnny the
whistler?". In retrospect, I should have known, but it was early.

"Hey Johnny, you are not the dude that sits here and wlhistles and clucks,
are you?"

"On no man, no sir, that be 'bama, he, he about 100 years old and has a
cane. He called bama, like Alabama. 'Bama, Alabama"

"Sorry Johnny, no offense man, you don't look to be 100, I just never saw
Bama up close"

So yesterday, I decided that I should get a picture of bama, just to soak in
the local scene that much more, and I approached him. Wen someone seems
unapproachable, trust your instincts. I walked over with my coffee cup in
hand and greeted him by name. He mumbled something incoherent and reached
for the coffee. I told him there was not much left, but he was welcome to
it. He grbbed it and drank it down. Then he reached out with his cane and
hit me lightly on the leg, in a way that was not friendly but not meant to
hurt either; kind of an insult. "how you know my name?...f%&k off". I
explained that Johnny had told me his name, and he responded by tapping me
on the head with his cane, another little insult.

Bama launched into a mumbled tirade of some sort, I couldn't make much out,
but I think he was tring to convey that even at 100 years old he could kick
my ass at will. I bid him good day, and moved on.

When I saw Johnny the next morning, I gave him a little grief.

"Johnny, you didn't tell me that bama is half mad"

Johnny reached out and gave me the two handed handshake, smiled his
toothless smile and said "I knew you would figure it out"