If I told you about the fifty mile trek I took,
with ice accumulating on my beard,
and shivering to sleep in the tiny hollow,
would you believe me?

What about the time they thought I was a terrorist
trying to assassinate the queen?
Or the time they took everything away from me;
my clothes, my hair, even my name?
Would you read it as fiction?

"That kind of thing doesn't really happen" you might say,
and I no longer care to argue my case anymore.
as you explain to me how, in a modern day society,
these kind of things things really work.

I wonder whether I should care,
as I nod dumbly to your every point,
telling me why you know, definitively,
that I am lying.

This is why my poetry shall refer only to emotions.
Nobody reads emotion as fiction;
you can feel it as they tug at your own-
A broken heart, a smile, a stray giggle.

Whether I made that journey is no business but my own,
but the cold I can describe perfectly;
Not biting, but stinging, and numb in every other sense.
The fear giving way to tears, which froze on my cheeks.

Besides, if this really is fiction, if I had really
made all of it up inside of my head,
would I still lie to you?
Of course I would.
Certain people sometimes say sharing their emotions is difficult and, while this may be true, very few people will deny how a person feels when they express themselves. Sharing details of certain experiences, however, is far more likely to taken with a pinch of salt. I don't much care for it in most instances.
“Mother, Mother Ocean ... I have heard you call.
I wanted to sail on your blue waters ... Since I was three feet tall.
You’ve seen it all ... You’ve seen it all ..."
                                      
                     ­                          -Jimmy Buffet



 I’ve always loved that song ... “A Pirate Looks At Forty”. Of course when I first heard it, I was rolling-skating my teen heart out, my sweaty palm nervously holding the hand of some girl for a “couples-only skate”, stumbling through the words so that I wouldn’t have to look her in the eye. I probably looked pretty silly singing about turning forty when I had only recently got my restricted drivers license.

  I’ve since forgotten that girl ... but I have rarely forgotten about that song. I guess I was a romantic, even in those days ... Even if I was still shy around girls.

My romanticism has blossomed into the full-blown hopeless type ... and my shyness has become almost legendary gregariousness (o.k. at least locally, anyhow!)

  But in these last few days ... The last days of my thirties ... I’ve seen that song in a slightly different light. I always did understand, in a way, what he was singing about.
  
  From the first day my Grandpa took out into the Gulf of Mexico when I was six years old and (Ironically) about three feet tall, I’ve been fascinated with the ocean. I’ve always loved pirate movies and any and all things adventurous.  If you’ve read anything in my non-fiction catalog, or know anything about me, you know I am quite thee adventurer. I’ve never climbed Mount Everest, or swam the English Channel ... But I have had a very interesting life so far. I have seen and done things that many people will never have the chance to do. I have been to places and met people that would fascinate even the most jaded jet-setter.

  I have shaken the hand of some very influential people ... Let’s see, How ‘bout Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey ... They were campaigning for the oval office in the late sixties, my Grandma was a reporter for the local paper in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania when she brought me to the shopping center where they made a speech on their campaign trail. I think I was five or so, maybe younger.

  I also met Colin Powell; he was speaking at some big corporate motivational show being held at the Orlando arena. I was working the show as a stage hand and while we waited out back for the show to be over so that we could tear it down and load it out, he came out to his awaiting motorcade. We were just outside the door and he smiled at us as he realized who we all were. (Probably a little disconcerting ... Hell, rattling even, to be a man in his position and exit a building into a crowd of ruff looking long-hair types, all dressed in black and staring at HIM!)

Well, let me tell you ... His eyes went across us once and with a grin, he immediately accessed us for who we were. Now you’d think a man who has ran armies, consulted presidents and helped to change or at least write, history ... A man who just got paid some ungodly sum of money to give a speech to a bunch of conventioneers who were probably more interested in the after-meeting events in the hotel bar than his speech, a man who had his own police escort for crying out loud ... Would nod and whisk himself into waiting limo and the non-confrontation bliss afforded the man of his stature ...

  Not on your life!
  
  He stopped, calm as any moment I’d ever seen him on T.V. and he asked us how we were all doing. He waived off one of his body guard-types (probably secret service) and shook some of our hands. He made eye contact with all of us and seemed strangely eager to talk to us. While he did, he politely asked us how our day was! Can you just imagine?
He was as personable as any true gentleman I’d ever met. (Benny Hinn, Rod Stewart and a few others I’ve worked for as a stage hand, don’t even want to see the local crews when they come and go, let alone seem to want to have a chat with any or all of them!)

  Mr. Powell didn’t look down at us, he smiled with us!

  He shook a few of our hands and I am proud to say mine was one of them.

  It was raining, his “People” told him they’d have to hurry if they were going to make the airport in time with the wet roads and all. I am a great judge of character (most of the time), I swear, he was disappointed that he couldn’t finish shaking all our hands ... you could see it in his face. He reluctantly, almost frustratingly, agreed with the men in black and bid us a good day. We all wished him well too, and then headed in out of the rain to start our load out.

  The disappointed look on his face never left my mind that day ... Or, for that matter, to this day ...
  
  I wondered if he was somehow lonely in his world ... Missing the camaraderie of old “chums”.

  A world constantly choking in protocols and being “politically correct”.
  
A world where your eminence front is surely carving a shape of it’s own into the face you were born with. A uniformed world so full of rules that you grow weary of worrying if you’ve said or done the wrong thing ... and to whom, constantly watching your step, as well as your words ... Always having to second guess yourself as well as most of the cutthroat types you often deal with in a world like his. A place where you wake up in the morning and get handed a schedule of what you are going to do today ... and worse still, where you are going to go today.

  Not a life … An itinerary.
 
 Just imagine being a man of his stature ... Yet, some one else told you when and where you were going to eat! Everyone in your world ... there to do a job. No one there to be a real friend ... It makes my free spirit shudder ... A very lonely world.

  I wondered if chatting with “the guys” was a much needed respite from his prison. After all, this was a man who had spent many decades in the camaraderie of the Army. In a war zone, you exist with real friends. Those friendships are as real as they come.

  A prison I doubt he saw coming … We rarely see the walls we build until the morning we wake up and discover that we can’t see over them.

  A lonely place indeed, for a man as real as he seemed to be to me. Funny, we Americans often chide and make jokes about how fake our presidents and other politicians are and have been ...

  Makes you wonder why he refused to run for that oval office ... doesn’t it?

  I haven’t voted in all my life, my view on politics and politicians is bleak at best ...
If that man ever runs for president, I will register to vote and I will vote for him.

  He was “real”.

  Not only important these days ... but rare as well.

  Of course, working in the production industry, I’ve also met and worked with a lot of stars. I’ve been a spotlight operator for many famous artists ... from Mel Torme′ to Tina Turner ... During Super Bowl 35 at Tampa’s new Raymond James Stadium, I was the spotlight trained on Steven Tyler and Brittany Spears as they sang “Walk This Way” during the halftime show. So, if you watched it, you’ve seen me work ...

  Small world, huh?

As a lighting director, I’ve met countless stars; my fingers have been the board operator or moving light programmer for countless more. Blood, Sweat and Tears, The Fugee’s, Snap!, Bone, Thugs and Harmony, Method Man and Red man, Onyx, Etta James, Eryca Badu, The Lords of Acid, Digital Underground (with Humpty), Ms. Rita Marley (A sweetheart), her son Ziggy and the Melody makers as well as several other members of their family, not to mention almost every other Reggae artist you could think of (and a few you probably haven’t heard of yet). I was the Lighting Director for “Sting ‘96”; a Reggae festival held every year on Boxing Day, in Kingston, Jamaica. At this particular show there was a special guest, Biggie Smalls ... Sadly, it was to be one of his last shows. I remember he was in a wheel chair.
  
On a lighter note, there’s a Funny story behind that show ... I had been the L.D. for the Def Jam 10th Anniversary tour. One of the main DJs for the show, (He spun for Meth & Red) was a very cool guy called “DJ Enuff”.  He and I got to be good friends as the tour progressed, because I too, had been a DJ for more than a decade before that. (More on that, some other time). Before the tour ended, he had given me one of his shirts, it had his personal logo on it and I wore it proudly. (My hand to God, I’m wearing it RIGHT NOW!) Well, as I stood on that stage in Kingston ... Christmas day, 1996 ...
Wearing this shirt, tweaking some moving lights that I had positioned on the stage ...

I heard a familiar voice call out: “Nice shirt.”
I looked up ... And there he was, I hadn’t seen him in over a year ... Not since I’d left Manhattan.
Neither of us knew that the other would be here ...
And lo’ and behold, I was wearing his shirt!
Small world, funny story.

  One more?

  If you insist ...

  How ‘bout this one? I never dreamed while I was roller skating, that one day I’d actually be onstage with Jimmy Buffet ... But it happened! On his “Carnival” Tour, they needed four different looking stagehands to dress up in colorful costumes and dance around during the opening of the show and then collect the curtain when it fell ... I was one of those guys at the Ice Palace show in Tampa ... Onstage with Jimmy Buffet! (There are Parrot Heads out there that would drown you in a keg of spiced rum for a chance to do that gig!) Where you there? If so, then once again, you’ve seen me work ... Small world.

  My life is full of those kinds of stories. I usually write in sadness because it’s therapeutic, instead of about all these wild and crazy things that have blessed me. (I gotta work on that one!)  Where I’m going here is that even though I’ve had some unbelievable moments ... I’ve always been restless ...

  “O.k., I’ve done this ... What’s next?”
I know it makes me sound ungrateful ... Believe me, I’m not.
It’s just that I’m always trying to see and do and learn ...
I am hopelessly in love with experience ... And inner expression.


“Yes I am a Pirate, two-hundred years too late ...
The cannons don’t thunder, there’s nothin’ to plunder ...
I’m an over-forty victim of fate ...
Arriving too late ...
Arriving too late.”


  I think you are getting the picture though ... I’ve been living a sometimes-amazing life. A semi-charmed kinda life … I wouldn’t trade what I’ve experienced for anything. But if you think these things I’ve done so far are lofty, you should try and picture some of my earlier goals in life ...
I wanted to be a fighter pilot ...
A Test Pilot ...
An Airline Pilot ...
Hell ... any kind of pilot ... And still loftier than that, I had designs on becoming an astronaut!

  When that all went the way of the winds, I was singing in a band, (For all that was worth ... I was terrible!) So I wanted to be a rock star! If you ask, you’ll find, most DJs are disgruntled musicians ... I was no exception. But by doing that, first in radio, then in nightclubs, began a journey that took me all over the world as I got into doing concert lighting by learning moving lights in the nightclubs. I was in the proverbial right place at the right time. The band brought me something else though that I didn’t realize until almost two decades later ... Writing! Back then, I only wrote song lyrics and poems, but once I started to write stories, a floodgate opened and out came all this STUFF!

  Fiction ... Short Stories and a whole novel!
My own, albeit different, brand of Philosophy ...
More Poetry ...
And the ideas for many more stories ...

  Why Me?
  
  Who knows ... ?
I don’t fight it, I learned a long time ago to just go along with things ... (O.K., most of the time, anyway!)

  And so this searcher now has yet another, seemingly impossible, aspiration ... Being a writer. I say “seemingly impossible” because I have no schooling at this whatsoever ... I graduated from High School (Go Cobras!), barely squeaking through English. I did and always have though, love to read. I think between my love of a good story and my fascination with studying and understanding people, I have found something new that I could be good at. I’ve always had an artistic side ... and, without really seeing it, I’ve always done some form of work that let my creativity vent.

  Herein the philosophy ...
Everything happens for a reason, whether you understand it, or not.
Learning to recognize it may never come ... but trust me ...
Learning to accept it will always make things easier ...

  Well, I’m too old to be a nightclub jock any more. You eventually get to dislike the new music ... A sign from God that it’s time to quit.

  I’m too beat up to keep doing the grueling and sometimes dangerous concert production work. This comes in the signs of limping, memory loss and shear dislike of teaching someone else your gig so that they can later steal it from you ...

  The Army wouldn’t take me as a helicopter pilot at 18, I doubt they’ll have me now ...

  And I still can’t sing ...


“Mother, Mother Ocean ...
After all the years I’ve found ...
My occupational hazard is ...
My occupation’s just not around ...
Feel like I’ve drowned ...
But I won’t wear a frown.
Yes, I feel like I’ve drowned ...
Gonna head up town.”


   Ol’ Jimmy ends this song in a satirical, kind of joking, up-beat note. An acceptance of his life that can only come with the wisdom of age. On a later live album, he says he wrote this for “a friend”, but I wonder if it was actually about him.  ( Did I say album? God, now I am showing my age!)

  I like to end most of my philosophical essays in a similar way. That’s the therapy of writing. You not only divulge your innermost thoughts ... You get to come to terms with them as well.  

  Do you think I got this from him?
  
  Do you think that he’d think I stole it?

  Nah ... Pirates always shared their plunders!


                                           -Jeff Gaines


                 One day after my @$#*ing Fortieth Birthday!
Half a decade ago today, Dad ceased to be alive.
Five years ago, Dad died at the age of sixty-five.
He was a hard worker, he could have outworked two twenty-year-olds.
When he went to the doctor, bad news was what he was destined to be told.
He was diagnosed with Leukemia and it caused distress.
Twenty months later, he succumbed to his terrible illness.
Two days before he died, he couldn't even respond when people talked to him.
Forty-eight hours later, he met a terrifying fate that was very grim.
He underwent Chemotherapy to temporarily survive.
Half a decade ago today, Dad ceased to be alive.
Dedicated to Charles F. Johnson (1947-2013) who died on July 13, 2013.
Jeff Gaines Jul 10
“ ... One Love. One heart. Let’s get together and feel alright.”
                                     -Robert Nesta Marley


   Take a deep breath ...

  No, seriously ...
No breath you ever take will be like the one that you take when you look out over her azure and  aquamarine blue waters or her lush green hills ...

  Now, let it out.
No breath you ever let out will be like the one that you let out when you listen to one of her waterfalls or finally meet and make friends with just one of her incredible people.

  Unless you go there ...
Your lungs will never be filled with the air from that blessed place like mine have been.

  It’s sweeter ...
  Thicker ...
  Spicier ...

  The place I’m speaking of isn’t Heaven .  
And it isn’t Utopia ... Or even the Garden of Eden.
If you live anywhere in the United States ... It’s only a plane ride or two away. And if you’re really lucky, then you live in the southeastern U.S. and you can get there on a leisurely cruise ship.

  Hear me now ... Once you’ve been there, it stays with you ... inside you ... forever.
You never really leave it ... It never really leaves you. So even when you are away from her, all you have to do is close your eyes ... and Breathe.

  I’m talking about ... Jamaica!

  It’s my favorite place in the whole world ... Bar None.
I love living in west central Florida. The Tampa Bay area, without a doubt, is one of the coolest places to live in the country ... in the world possibly.

  I haven’t been everywhere, so I’m not qualified to decide thee coolest place to live in the world. I have however, been to every state in the continental U.S. as well as 3 Canadian Provinces and Europe. On top of that, I’ve been to the Bahamas, Saint Lucia, Aruba, Puerto Rico, Barbados, Turks and Caicos, Trinidad and well ... you get the picture. I have found wondrous beauty and fascinating people everywhere I’ve went.

  Each island and country ... each state even ... having it’s own unique people and characteristics that made them a joy to discover and explore. I’ve left a piece of myself in each of these destinations and they, in turn, have left a mark on me as well. All of these places and the people who inhabit them are in me forever. I can only hope that I’ve left such a mark in the spots I’ve visited and maybe in some of the souls that I’ve had the joy of meeting along the way.

  Only a few places in my travels have left me with a bad taste in my mouth. I’ll not name them here. I hate to throw stones. Besides ... This piece is about JOY!

  Remember that word ...

  JOY

  When you finally arrive in Jamaica, and I don’t mean the “Touristy-everything-you-see-in-the-travel-ads” Jamaica. I mean the “Leave-the-hotel-on-foot-and-walk-down-the-road-for-some-fresh-cu­t-sugarcane-and-cold-coconut-milk-at-the-roadside-vendor” Jamaica ... You will discover a joy that you’ve only dreamed of all your life.

  But that’s not all ... While you stand on the edge of that road ... Be it in Trelawny or Sav-La-Mar, Negril or Port Antonio and you listen to the tropical breeze in the trees over your head, chewing on your ‘cane, sipping your coconut milk ... Something wonderful will happen ...
It will discover you.

  Like the sun that gleams in the eyes of her people ...

  Like the soft, warm sand between your toes ...

  Like her hypnotic rhythms that echo through the air  ... Night and Day.

  You see here ... you make friends with these things ...
You have no choice. The people here learned it a century ago ...
  
  You’re here ... enjoy it.
  
  There’s nowhere you have to be ... right now.

  Nothing needs to be done ... right now.

  I think whomever coined the phrase “Wherever you go, there you are.” Did so in Jamaica.

  I’m rather fond of telling people that “ ... you can have fun with me in a cardboard box.” What I mean by that is that I know who I am. I have found myself and am very comfortable with what I’ve discovered.
  Of course, I aspire to have and do more ... But ... I’m not going to die while I wait.
  
  Someone once said, “No man is an island.”
I disagree ... we are, in our own way, each an island ...

  Our world an ocean ...

  Who we are is defined by the size and shape of our “island”. Some are large, with the ability to take on and handle many tasks and tests. While others are sleek and beautiful to behold so many “do” for them in return for being allowed to relish in their beauty. And still others are imposing and brutal, hiding a fear of what the others have ... know ... or are capable of doing. This ocean gives us the space we need to learn and grow, but some would like to consume it all up in a most awful game of “I, Me, Mine”.

  There is much to learn here on this magical isle ...
  About life ...
  About pain ...  
  About truth ...
  About politics ...
  About sorrow ...  
  About history ...
  About strength ...
  About passion ...
  About injustice ...
  About love ...
  About perseverance ...
  About the rest of the world ...

  But, more importantly than any of these things ...
If you don’t just come here to be a tourist ...
You will learn about yourself.

  You will discover each other ... You and this beautiful Island.

  Not that being a tourist is a bad thing ... Jamaica’s number one source of income is tourism. It’s just that when you do only “touristy” things, you are probably not alone. Nor are you likely to discover someone who could become a lifelong friend. Here, being a tourist is to learn about Jamaica, not being one is to learn about your self ...

  The people around your tour, more than likely, will be doing a job or being a tourist, just like you. There’s nothing spiritual about riding around on a bus with a bunch of people taking pictures and asking a lot of questions. One of the best ways to “discover” who you are, is to be alone ... not lonely ... Alone.

  Listen to your inner voice ... and breathe.

  Sometimes couples, close friends or even families come undone because they fail to give each other the space each needs to grow. Eventually, their “inner self” regresses enough to lash out and make this space. Without understanding why, they have inadvertently driven themselves apart, all in the name of trying to be “who they are”. When I read history books, I theorize that this anomaly has destroyed races and nations ...

  Sometimes, we need to be alone. Like wolves or dolphins, we are, in essence, pack animals. We instinctively hate to be alone and will go to great lengths to be in another human’s company. Like some folk’s go to sleep with the radio or T.V. on, just the sound of another human voice can be comfort enough to send us blissfully into slumber. The irony here is that we will also go to great lengths to be alone. Sometimes the drone of cars, machines and yes, even other people, can overwhelm us ... clouding or even drowning out our all important inner voice.

  That voice being the entity that is who we are. It is all seeing ... All understanding ... All hearing ... All loving. We may not always hear or understand it, but it is what and who we are ... What we will always be ... Some might call it the inner child.

  And like all other living beings ... it gains knowledge and, more importantly, experiences ... So, like a child, it must grow.

   The knowledge ...

  The memories ... and the wisdom of life that they bring us, is tangible. These things have substance and mass. We may repress them ... forget them even. But ... they never go away. As they amass in our souls, they expand. That is how we grow. If you are looking for that child, I think you can find it in Jamaica. If you still know that child and would like a growth spurt or even a place to start that growth anew ...

  Come to Jamaica ...

  I promise you, if you let go of all you think and do at home, fall into the pace of “Island time” and, most importantly ... Let her in ... Jamaica will change you forever.

  When you come home from the trip where this happens to you, you will know. The only way I can describe it is to say that when you try to reintegrate into the world you’ve always known, it will be a bit of a task. Believe it or not, you will actually feel like you’re still there ... In Jamaica.

  Breathe ...

  From the other side of the fence, the experience is the same. When you first arrive on her shores, you are still back where you came from, so to speak. Don’t be ashamed. You don’t know the difference ... yet.
  In your world, you’ve been conditioned to be who and what it takes to survive. You have your accent and your slang terms, your favorite foods and your favorite corner store or pub. All these “learned behaviors” along with your odd idiosyncrasies and cute little habits make you “You”.

  This is exactly where I’ve been going here ... You are only “You“ when in “your” element ... “You can take the boy out the neighborhood, but you can’t take the neighborhood out of the boy” so to speak. But, just being “You” when you are at home ... in your element, doesn’t mean that you’ve discovered “You”. In fact, I think that being molded by a certain place or group of people, a “pack” if you will, pushes you away from being or knowing the real you and into a mold built by your surroundings.

  Tell me true ...
How many times have you snuck away to the rooftop ...
Or driven alone in the country with the radio off ...
Or just wandered off for a walk ... or a long shower ... alone? That is your inner-self doing it’s thing ... Growing.

  Breathe ...

  The solace you feel in those moments is your inner-self expanding. Relish in it. It is one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself. That’s where “Island Time” comes in. While you are used to making a call or driving up the block to get what you need “right now”; it doesn’t quite happen that way here. Even in their best resorts. The pace here is slower, MUCH slower.

  It should be ... it has to be. It’s not just a pace ... or a frame of mind ...
It’s a way of life. You aren’t at home any more. Nothing happens with the snap of your fingers ... it happens in three or four snaps ... o.k. , Maybe five or six. Keep snapping ... when it falls into the beat of the song in the background unnoticed ... you’re almost there.

  The people here learned long ago that slow perseverance will get you through anything ... and they have been through so much ... You will just never know ... until you go there. Go there. And while you’re waiting a little longer on your cocktail or your food, look around ... think ... and breathe.

  Think about how far away you are from what drove you to come here in the first place. Think about how far away you are from work, the kids, the farm, the traffic, the weather, the cell phone ... and above all ...  

  Breathe ...

  Oh, there’s your cocktail now ... See? That wasn’t so bad ... Was it?
As you linger here, you will get used to it. You will understand that the Jamaicans aren’t rude or lazy as some of your ignorant, less open-minded friends who came here before you have warned that you they are. It isn’t so. These people who speak badly of all Jamaicans couldn’t grasp the concept of “Island time” because they were still “at home”. I’ll bet anything you can name that they never discovered themselves or Jamaica on their trip. Not just a waste of money ... An even bigger waste of time. No disrespect to Walter Elias, but they may as well have went to Disney World ...

  Entertainment ... at it’s best.
Self-discovery ... not on your best day.

  Here we have yet another irony. If someone you know speaks badly of the Jamaicans, or calls them rude or lazy, I’ll bet more of anything you can name that they were the ones who were crass or “Holier than thou” with the Jamaicans first ... Whining about how long it took to get something or how long it took for the waitress to take their order or bring their coffee refill. What they failed to learn is that that isn’t the way things work here ...
“Island Time” prevails.
“Soon come, Mon” ...  And soon it will come ... Mon.

  But while you wait ... Breathe.

  What’s your hurry anyway? The beach isn’t going anywhere ... nor is the waterfall up the road or the open-air market downtown. Now maybe the Reggae festival does start at sunset or maybe it’s even that very sunset that you’re trying to off rush to ... but remember, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” So it’s your fault, not the Jamaican waitresses fault, that you are now waiting in “Island Time” for your drink or your food. Still more irony: More often than not, these people speak rudely to the Jamaicans first and then run home to tell it the other way around.
  
  Breathe ...

  Don’t rush anything here ... it defeats the purpose. Trust me, I’ve been here more than twenty times. I’ve been almost everywhere on the island. I drive when I come here. That is another story for another time. I’ve sat in the hills of cockpit country; I’ve eaten cherries, yes cherries, in a man’s yard in the high country near Savannah-Del-Mar with my friend John Swaby. The Jamaicans call it “Sav-la-mar”. I’ve driven the high road over the Blue Mountains from “Town” (Kingston) all the way to “Mobay” (Montego Bay). It was absolutely breathtaking.

  The first time I went to Jamaica, I went by myself. I’ve always been the adventurer. But I had no idea what I was in for. I stayed two days in Mobay at the Wexford Hotel on Gloucester Ave, and then I went out to Negril for four more days at Hedonism II. In Mobay, I wandered over to Walter’s Bar and Grill for a Red Stripe or a Dragon Stout and maybe a bowl of Pumpkin soup. During those two nights partying in the hot spots down by the water, I kept finding myself back at Walter’s trying to escape the loud goings-on.

   I had heard so much about Negril (and its even slower pace) that I woke up on the third morning, packed up my stuff and went down to the street to get a cab. Two hours and seventy-five bucks later, I was at Hedonism. I was so drunk by the time I got there that the desk clerk took my bags and told me to go hit the buffet so I could “ ... wake up a likle”. Well, I used to be somewhat of a professional drinker and I walked right past the food to the world famous “all-you-can-drink” bar and proceeded to drink some more ...

  When I woke up (read: came to) the next morning, I was in a hammock down by the beach of the hotel. There was a security guard asking me if I was all right. He’d noticed that I wasn’t wearing my room key around my neck or my wrist and he wondered if I was the “missing” gentleman from the night before ( I didn’t have one, as I’d not checked in yet!). I silently hoped I wasn’t in trouble ... I told him I was indeed the “missing” guy. The eight beer glasses (five empty, three full) in the sand around my hammock told him the rest of the story. He didn’t ask for an explanation. I tried to gather up the glasses to clean up my mess and he told me that I didn’t have to worry “ ... bout dem tings here.” He just smiled and showed me the way to the front desk.

  The Jamaicans are not rude. They are some of the most friendly, inviting people in the world. Now get this, not only was all my cash still intact in my pocket and my luggage safe behind the front desk ... they wouldn’t let me pay for my stay in the hammock or the free beer ... They said they loved taking care of me and that was that. He checked me into a room and the rest of my adventure began. (I wish I could remember what happened after I got there! The whole time I was at Hedonism, the staff smiled and whispered when they saw me coming.) Try that at the Times Square Marriott or the Los Angeles Four Season’s!

  In those next few days, I met a Rastafarian cabby outside the gate of the hotel; his name was Rasta Denny White. He was so cool; he took me to Rick’s Café and he almost died when he watched me jump from the cliffs there. (He didn’t think I would do it.) I could see the whites of his widened eyes forty feet below me as he watched me jump. Later, he took me to little food shops and roadside stands. The next day, he took me up into the hills of cockpit country to see ... Well, “Tings” (Read: illegal “Tings”).

  But the best part of it all was that he let me just “Hang”. I’d sit at the cabstand with him and try to understand the banter of Patois between him and some of the other locals.

They’d constantly reassure me that they weren’t talking about me and I’d reassure them I wasn’t paranoid. (This filled them with laughter. You see? Jamaican people are not rude!) We ran errands for his wife, fixed his car, he even took me around to meet some of his family ... All for no charge. He could see that I wasn’t trying to be a tourist. He truly appreciated my being “real”, but more importantly, he respected it. I even rode along with some of his fares. I didn’t care; the guy needed to feed six kids!

  I guess growing up in a tourist mecca like Florida; you get used to not being a tourist. Life in Florida is pretty laid back, so just hanging around in Jamaica seemed pretty natural to me. I wanted to eat her food, know her people, her customs, her language and her culture ... I wanted to know her.  

While I was there I did just that, I found all those things ... and they found me ... I also found myself ... I was comfortable to just “be” there ... And, I learned ... anywhere else for that matter.

  Evryting Cris’ ...
  
  Evryting Irie ...
  
  No problem Mon ...

  She had found me ...

  When I came back from that trip I was different. My friends said so. My family said so. My girlfriend said so. I had a little trouble keeping up with things because, like I said before, I was still there ... in Jamaica.

  It wasn’t until seven years later that I could go back. I would hear the commercials or listen to some reggae and long to be back there, but fate had dealt me some blows ... I had neither the time nor the wherewithal to go back. It was bearable though ... all I had to do was close my eyes and ... breathe.

  If the Island, for some reason, doesn’t sink into your soul like it has mine, then I promise you her people surely will. The Jamaican motto is “Out of many, One people.” I think this should be the motto for the whole planet. But, leave it to the Jamaicans to come up with it first. This tiny island, one-hundred and twenty-two miles long, fifty-two miles wide has changed and educated many people and things on this huge planet ... Think not? Try some of these things out and then tell me what you think ...

  Reggae Music ... A style recognized and adored the world over.

  Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee ... Arguably the finest, definitely one of the rarest coffee’s in the world.

  James Bond ... Ian Fleming drew this invincible spy’s name from a Jamaican book and penned all these stories at his home in Jamaica!

  Getting the idea?

  Good, because I could fill this page with people and things that are everyday words in the rest of the world that have somehow emanated out of this tiny little island nation in one way or another ... What an energy!
  
  The first time I wandered into the square in downtown Mobay, I will never forget the first thing I noticed. Now, I don’t have to tell you that times are tough here. More people here are “have-not’s” than there are “do-have’s”. But when you go there, sit down while you’re waiting for a drink and watch the “pickny’s” (children). They play and laugh on every street. You’ll see them on the side of the road and at the seaside. A lot of them have never owned a pair of shoes or a matching outfit in their whole lives. Most of them have never owned a bicycle, or woke up on Christmas morning to a tree with tons of presents under it. It’s not that they miss these things per se’ ... it’s that they are children ... And like the inner child inside of you, it doesn’t really matter to them. Coveting things is a learned behavior.

  From their youth they learn to discover themselves ... without the trappings of western “civilization”.

  This is something that the Jamaicans and a lot of other less “blessed” nations have up on all of us supposedly “more prosperous” nations ... We merely assume that they are ignorant ... they know that we are! Most of us are so arrogant that we miss this entirely ... Thinking that because they are not as “well off” as we are, that some how they are inferior and we are superior.

  HA!
  
  I’ll tell you what ... In a battle scenario where all combatants were unarmed and had to survive the fight through wit, ingenuity, perseverance and intuition, I’d take an army of Jamaicans over the best trained soldiers in the world ... Any time ... Every time.  
  
  And we would win that battle.

  The thing that struck me so hard in the square that day was the pickny’s smiles. No matter where you see them, no matter what you see them up to, you will almost always see them doing one thing ... Smiling. They are content. I’m sure they aspire to do and have more like everyone else ... But as I said before ... they know they are not going to die while they wait.

  That is the biggest lesson that Jamaica has to share with many of us. It is a badly needed lesson, indeed. We take so much for granted. We take each other for granted. Come to Jamaica and see what it’s like to have a “tough life” and then go home and see if it doesn’t make you appreciate all the comforts that we so readily have right here at our disposal ...

  Like shoes ...
  Running water  ...
  Telephones, TVs, dishwasher’s, microwaves  ...
  Air conditioning ...

Not that there aren’t many who do have some, most or all of these things here in Jamaica but ... There are far too many who do not ...

  Tell you what ...
  How ‘bout you let me and my buds come by your house and take all these things away from you for a week ... o.k. ? Then, let us drop back by and rudely whine and complain when you don’t bring our cocktail or our second cup of coffee when we thought you should bring it!
  
  Would you feel a little rude ... or dare I say it ... angry?

  An old Native American saying dictates: “Do not judge a brave until you have walked for a day in his moccasins.” I have never walked in the shoes of a Jamaican. But I have met, worked and hung around with enough of them to know that I love and respect them with all my heart. They don’t need your pity. Trust me, they don’t want it. They are as proud a people as any.

  But, they are also very misunderstood by so many people. People who probably will never make friends with their own inner child ...

  Or understand “Island Time”  ...

  Or Joy ...

  Or for that matter ... Themselves.

  Now close your eyes ... and breathe.
Come ... and find Joy ...
Come ... and find that inner child ...
Come ... and find yourself ...
Come to Jamaica ...

  Let her discover you.


                                              ~Jeff Gaines
                                    October 14th & 15th, 2002
                                       Port Richey, Florida.
                      (Wishing he was up on Richmond Hill!)
Being a Lighting Designer/Director, I was blessed with landing an ongoing gig with a Producer from Jamaica that put on several large Festivals in Jamaica, The Bahamas and several other Caribbean Islands. For 5 or 6 years, I found myself going to Jamaica 5 times a year or more and several other islands the rest of the year.

Mostly we did huge, multi-day festivals Like Sumfest, or Sting or the Air Jamaica Jazz/Blues Fest. But we also did The Bahaman Jazz/Blues Fest and several Comedians, like Sinbad, on other Islands.

I was also the first guy to do "Rock-n-Roll-type" lighting for Carnival in Trinidad. Prior to my friend Scott and I, they had only used what we call "Flat White Television Light". We brought all the tricks and Moving Lights and Strobes and Fog and well ... that's yet aanother story for another time. The people LOVED it ... and to this day, THAT is how it's done there every year. It makes me SO proud.

This story is about how Jamaica touched me. It helped me find myself in a way I never saw coming. You see, I had gone there on vacation several times before I started going there for work. This essay is mostly about what happened to me in those first trips, before I was going for work. It really is a mystical place and and is very dear to me, as you just read.
Randy Johnson Jun 29
I have two purrfect sweethearts and I'm smitten.
They are yellow and they're my two new kittens.
One of my babies is a girl and the other is a boy.
There's nothing like pets to bring a person joy.
They're beautiful, adorable and tame.
George and Peggy are their names.
I love to stroke their soft fur.
When I pet them, they purr.
They've taken a shine to me and owning them is something I'll never regret.
They're two purrfect sweethearts and they're wonderful pets.
Jeff Gaines Jun 26
>>> This is more "NoPo@HePo" (Non-poetry at Hello Poetry). It is a new way to share your writings here, Fiction or non. I hope you enjoy it.<<<
                                                          

________________

" ... Only time will tell ... ya think you're in heaven, but you're living in hell."
                                                          ­ -Traditional Jamaican Folk Song



  Funny, rain never depressed me before. It's pouring outside and normally I would be elated. I love it when it rains ... Everything gets watered ... The water table gets replenished ... The dust gets washed away, making everything shiny clean ... I love it ...

  But, not today. I've never felt like this, not that I can remember.

  I don't deal well with depression ... in fact; I don't deal with it at all.
Therefore, I'm usually always happy-go-lucky. Not much bothers me, and when it does, I head-butt it like the Ram that I am. I don't fear much of anything.

  But, as I watched the rain come down today, I almost began to cry. Again ... not like me. As of late, I feel like I'm being tested. I've never been so filled with anguish and anxiety. I've never felt so hopeless, not even years ago, when I lived in my car. At this moment, it seems, all that I touch turns to dust, not rust ... dust.
          
  I feel like everything that I attempt ... gets thwarted. I also feel like every time I have a dream about to be realized, it vanishes right in my hands. It's even worse than not having it ... I get to see it, even think I'm gonna realize it ... and then ... poof! The dream is just gone.

  All I've ever wanted was to be successful and have the love of a good woman. I know that I'm no angel, but I try to be. I'm most always genuinely concerned for others. I am always trying to make my situation better. I never wrong people intentionally, and above all, my heart is huge and full of lots of wonderful things. I've seen them all. Sometimes they pop out of me and surprise me with the way they make me act and react. I didn't know I could so easily feel and exercise such emotions; Compassion, unmeasurable patience and understanding of others pain. But the thing that it's filled with most of all is ... Love.  A passionate love that can't be measured. Like a Bald Eagle, my devotion can be never ending.
  
  I’ve always felt like I was a little selfish, I still think I am, a little. Aren't we all? But today, as I stared into the hard falling rain, instead of taking a deep breath through my nose and loving the smell ... I stared into the quickly amassing puddle in front of the apartment and felt the tightness in my chest and jaw. Tears tried to well up in my eyes, but, with a long deep sigh, I wouldn't let them. I'm not a quitter; I never have been.  

  I've deemed a name to this condition I've been afflicted with most all my life. I call it Charlie Brown Syndrome.
  It seems sometimes, that no matter how good my intentions, no matter how hard I try, in an attempt to do something positive, it almost always blows up in my face and, more often than not, I end up looking like the bad guy on top of it!

  In almost every situation, I also feel like the things that undo my efforts are both unforeseen and out of my control. I always end up feeling frustrated and helpless to remedy the situation. And, as if that wasn't enough, it almost always looks like it was my fault ... Or, if I hadn't tried to do what I had done ... then none of the unasked for trouble would have occurred. Like I said before, I look like the bad guy ... almost every time.

  My luck with women could be written into a comedy somewhere ... though; it feels more like a tragedy to me. I have no problem finding them, whatsoever. It just seems that I can't find the right one, or if I do think she might be her, then you can almost certainly guarantee that she either has a boyfriend/husband/fiancée, or she's just plain not interested in me. If she is interested in me, then she almost always turns out to be a liar/cheater/Fruit Loop ... with a drama card ten miles long. Eight out of ten times, I don't find this out until I'm head over heals crazy about her. And moreover, I never see it coming, Because like I said, I'm usually always a very positive type of person.

  So my heart, or what's left of it, gets smashed up again and I'm left to stand there, with my good intentions and my need to love and be loved ... bewildered and alone.
My buds tease me that I have a tattoo on my forehead that reads: "Psycho Chicks Line Up Here" ... I look for it every morning in the mirror.
            
  In my search for thee ever elusive “Little Red Haired Girl”, I've told every girl I've ever been with; “If you don't lie or cheat on me, you will have all my trust and faith. But, the first time you do, I'll take it away and then you'll have to earn it.” Not only have I never met one who could keep up her end of the bargain, I've never met one willing to try and put forth the effort to earn it, once they had lost it.

  Most of the close friends I once had are now off on their own adventures and, for one reason or another, I'm without them. Most of the friends I have now are, in a more realistic sense, acquaintances that I can run with and have a good time with. It's kind of unnerving ... to realize that some of the people you call friends, make faces or talk to others in whisper campaigns behind your back. Or, they stand back there, behind you, and roll their eyes every time you make a statement. All in the name of making themselves look better, by making them look like they think you're a fool to someone else. It kind of gives you a conspiracy complex.

  It's really strange though, that they are always there as your friend and they include you in all of their plans ... Seems like that would eventually make them look stupid, doesn't it? Stranger still, is the fact that they think that you don't know they do it, because you don't say anything about it so you can avoid the conflict.
  
  I just don't feel the bond with them that I felt with others in my youth ... Maybe that’s how it is when you get older ... I'm a hopeless romantic and I'd like to think that it's just not so.
  At this moment, I have never felt so alone and without direction in my whole life. I don't have a feeling to compare it to. One step forward, two steps back ... More like fifty steps back.

  " ... And then one day you find ten years have gotten behind you. No one told you when to run; you've missed the starting gun ..."
            
  I never dreamed that those words would mean to me what they mean to me now.  I remember reading them more than twenty years ago, the day my friend, Randy Reed, brought Pink Floyd’s “The Dark Side of the Moon” album over to my house for the first time. I had a turntable ... He didn't.

  I remember reading those words and thinking that the poor soul who had wrote them was feeling bad because he'd missed out on a part of his life.  I was maybe 13 or 14 at the time ... I couldn't fathom such a loss. Besides, in my youthful world, I was assured I could be anything I want to be, have anything I want to have, or go anywhere I wanted to go. Nice myths our parents' parents told them. I never dreamed I would someday look back and question what I had done, or where and most of all, who, I had been.

  I don't really regret my past. I've had an incredible life so far. I've seen, done and experienced things that people have, and will continue to, dream about doing all their lives. But somehow, I feel empty at the moment. Somehow I feel alone. Mostly though ... I feel almost helpless. Like a tiny raft in a vast, stormy sea ...

      You can't fight, you must relent ... It will only make it more painful to fight ...

  My question is this ...

  Who is it more painful for?      

  ME?  

  Or the vast stormy sea?

      Again ... I'm not a quitter.
    It's going to take a mighty big wave to sneak up and make me go under.  
  
  But lately, I feel like I don't have much besides my nose sticking out of the water. I'm terrified that the wave is headed my way. I worry I won't have the strength to endure it. I've been told that God, or the universe, depending on your view, will never give you more than you can bear and that through adversity comes strength. If this is my lesson, then I'm one strong soul. But I'd much prefer a lesson in how well I handle success or the love of a wonderful woman. That, it would seem, is never to be our choice to make. We are eternally the pupils and God , or the universe, our teacher. I love to learn, always have. It’s just that I’ve never found it so heart wrenching before.  

  The only thing that I feel like I might truly regret in my life is not having a family. I love children. So much so, that I didn't just go out and recklessly have some ... I’ve always felt that If I couldn't give them the life that they needed and deserved, then I'd have no children at all ... and that's just what I've done. I see my friend’s children and I die a little inside knowing that those kids are the age that my children should be. I feel like I'm missing out on a joy that may never cross my face ... or my heart. It seems to slip further away every day, each time I think about it, I feel like I sink a little deeper into the dark, stormy water ...

  It is probably my biggest unrealized dream ... The only football I seem to keep failing to kick.
  
  I can think of only one other thing that approaches a feeling of regret for me: my health. I'm not ugly, but I'm not the hottest guy on the planet either. I’ve been told on many occasions that I’m quite handsome. Countless women have told me that my eyes and my confidence are the sexiest they've ever seen. Still, I wish I had took better care of myself as I've grown older.  

  Make no bones about it, I am thee most cocky, confident, egotist you have ever met. But, even though I’m pretty sure some of it is an eminence front, I’ve never been one to be insecure. Like I said before, I’m usually pretty fearless. It doesn’t feel like a reckless fearless; it feels like confidence fearless. But even so, I’m usually alone.

  Not lonely …

  Alone.

  For a while, I thought that maybe it was something about me. A bit of insecurity trying to sneak up on me … but now I’m beginning to think that it’s simply an issue of fate ...

  Perhaps, I’ve just never found my “Little Red Haired Girl” ... regardless of my looks.  

  Before, my attitude has always been: "Hey, If they don't like the way I look, then why would I want them?" Typical for my normal, “Joe Cool” attitude …

  I think that arrogance, much like justice, is blind.

  I was so blind it seems, that I failed to ever notice that I usually only take interest in beautiful women. By the same token, so, so many have taken interest in me as well. But being with women is not the same as being in love with one.

  I can be such a fool sometimes ...

  But ...

  I've always had really nice looking girlfriends ...

  I guess no matter how you look at things ...
In the end ... you bring it on yourself ... mostly.
  Sometimes ... you let others bring it on you too.

     Aw hell, sometimes they bring it even when you DON'T let them!

  And sometimes ...

  It just falls right out of the sky ...

  C’est La Vie!

  Mi Vida Loca!

  Oh, good grief!

  I'm gonna go back outside ...

  I can be such a blockhead sometimes ...

  Who am I kidding anyway?

      I love the rain!




Jeff Gaines


Monday, August 23rd, 1999
My odd way of venting and coming to terms with things ... even laughing at myself in the end.
Today, my cat died that I had for nearly six years.
When I found her dead, it brought me to tears.
Animals always bring plenty of joy.
I adopted her in September of 2012 and I named her Boy.
I named her Boy even though she was a female.
It was heartbreaking when I had to say farewell.
It wasn't until she died that I truly appreciated what a special cat that I had.
Boy and I went to Sneedville and spent the last Christmas with Mom and Dad.
She was very pretty and solid white.
She was indeed a beautiful sight.
It's very sad to know that she no longer exists.
Goodbye Boy, you were my cat and you will be missed.
Disney didn't expect it but Solo is a flop.
When it came to ticket sales, the second week saw a 61 percent drop.
In Solo, Lando Calrissian is a pansexual, even robots turn him on.
I'm sorry to have to say it but the magic of Star Wars may be gone.
Certain people are angry because of The Last Jedi.
Leia was sucked into space and she didn't die.
Disney obviously knows nothing about outer space.
Criticism is something Disney doesn't want to face.
Disney thought Solo would be a massive hit but it's not.
Fans are angry and that is what caused the Solo boycott.
If you like The Last Jedi and or Solo, that's okay.
But Disney is very upset, they've had better days.
Randy Johnson May 26
As I walked down the highway, I saw a dog that had been killed by a car.
That poor animal had irresponsible owners, whoever they are.
If a person is irresponsible, they should not own any pets.
Even though it wasn't my dog, seeing it dead filled me with regret.
I felt sorry for that poor dog and angry because of the owner's irresponsibility.
The dog was allowed to walk down the highway, the owner is to blame entirely.
Because of the irresponsible owner, that unfortunate dog's fate was sealed.
If that dog would've had a better owner, the dog wouldn't have gotten killed.
If you own any pets, please take good care of them.
Because if you don't, they might die and it will be grim.
I WROTE THIS TRUE POEM FOR ANY IRRESPONSIBLE PET OWNERS WHO MAY BE READING.
Randy Johnson May 24
Five minutes after I left, four people were shot in a pharmacy.
If I had been there for an extra five minutes, one of the victims would've been me.
A maniac shot four people over a tray of pain pills.
Two of his victims lived but the other two were killed.
He probably thought he'd get off scott free but he did not.
He wasn't even able to get out of town before being caught.
That punk shot those people five years ago today.
Now he's rotting in prison, he's being made to pay.
The cops arrested him and put him behind bars and that's where he belongs.
He valued pills more than four innocent people, what he did was so wrong.
DEDICATED TO THE FOUR PEOPLE WHO WERE SHOT AT THE DOWN HOME PHARMACY IN BEAN STATION, TENNESSEE.
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