Lonnie Gottlieb

Insiders Negril

Negril, 1975,
chapter 1 > JAN & MICKEY
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In the mid ’70’s Jan & Harley visited Jamaica for business reasons. They wanted a face to face meeting with Mickey Chung, their Jamaican supplier & to establish a more personal bond with him.
Jan was only too thrilled to come to a beautiful tropical island during her spring break & even more thrilled to get the VIP treatment from Mickey. He had some of the planets’ best herb & treated them like royalty.
Mickey was a good looking, golden skinned Chinese/Jamaican with an eye for the girls, a ready smile & a firm handshake. Most Jamaicans held a handshake like a wet noodle, but Mickey had learned from his many American friends that a strong grip implied a strong man & he liked that idea. He had inherited the inscrutable black eyes & straight black hair of his Chinese father & the high cheekbones & fine features of his multi-racial Jamaican mother making him extraordinarily handsome. His broad shouldered body was hard muscled from swimming & soccer playing.

His passions were ganja, women & reggae music. He was an early & devoted fan of Bob Marley, Peter Tosh & Jimmy Cliff. He knew many of the players in the Kingston music scene but he was more interested in the runnings of the far Western tip of the island where he had been born.

When Mickey had VIP friends visit him in Negril he put them up at one of the many properties he owned. Crystal Cove, his personal favorite, was a spacious thatch roofed villa out on the secluded cliffs of Negril’s scenic West End. It was built in an rondel style, set back from the sea on a point of land with a drop off from the cliffs 25 feet down to a protected clear turquoise swimming cove.
It had a big living room with a ceiling fan &
a huge waterbed facing the ocean where spectacular sunsets dropped right into the horizon out the louvered front door of the villa’s veranda. There were 2 bedrooms & a bathroom facing a backyard garden filled with all kinds of blooming flowers & many Ortanique orange, mango, banana & grapefruit trees with ripe fruits hanging down ready for picking.
Blooming vines of bright red & purple bougainvillea grew profusely over the villa giving it a festive air.
There was a romantic courtyard with a sprinkling fountain that attracted the beautiful little iridescent green streamer tailed humming birds called Doctor birds that are indigenous to Jamaica. They darted in & out of it seeking a bath & a drink of fresh water in the glittering afternoon sun.

There was a nice kitchen & two plump grey haired Jamaican ladies looked after all their needs. Sweet faced Jenny gave the orders & was a splendid cook with a hearty laugh that made her big belly bounce. She would smile a wide white toothed smile while making a big Jamaican or American breakfast for them each morning & Auntie Lee did the housekeeping.

A Jamaican breakfast is made of boiled green bananas that tastes like boiled potato, with some ackee & saltfish which is very foreign looking but tastes exotic, spicy & delicious & callaloo which tastes like a tropical spinach, fried plantain & chewy boiled dumplings or crispy Johnny cakes made of fried dough, completes this typical Jamaican meal. Jan soon preferred it to the traditional American breakfast of crisp bacon, pancakes, eggs any style, hot coco bread & fresh fruits. Both breakfasts came with fresh squeezed Ortanique orange juice & endless cups of the world’s best coffee which is grown in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica. Jenny made it freshly ground from the beans & stirred well with tinned “Betty” sweetened condensed milk……as close to heaven as humans are allowed to get.
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Dinner was usually whatever kind of fresh fish the neighboring fisherman brought by. It was pan fried & then steamed with hot country peppers, onions, scallions, vinegar, Jamaican spices & tomato. Jenny served it with fragrant white rice & red peas cooked together & flavored with grated coconut.
On other nights Jenny would cook a hearty chicken dish called Brown stew chicken which was pan fried chicken covered with onions, potatoes, carrots, browning sauce, tomatoes, spices & ketchup & stewed for another 20 minutes giving out mouth watering smells until all the ingredients had simmered together making a delicious gravy for the rice & peas it was served over.

There was no electricity on the cliffs yet but they did fine without it using a propane powered refrigerator, water heater & stove. Kerosene torches & glass hurricane lanterns which had “Home Sweet Home” lettered on the shades lit the nights with a warm glow. Days began at sunrise & they were usually tired out & ready for bed by evening. There was no phone, no TV, no air-conditioning & no distractions but for the sun & the sea in this secret world they found themselves captivated by.

An outdoor shower made of coral rock faced out to the sea giving a breath taking view as you showered off the salt water after swimming & diving from the coral cliffs into the clear shimmering turquoise Caribbean.
From the water you had to climb back up to the concrete landing on iron ladders that had been sunk right into the cliff sides.

There was total privacy so nude sun bathing & swimming was natural & being undressed most of the time became the norm. They soon became more familiar with their own bodies than they had ever been & nudity was not embarrassing anymore, soon it felt natural not wearing clothes.

The entire coastline of the 3 miles of the West End Road was honeycombed with a series of caves in the limestone cliffs that were from 2 to 40 feet above the sea. The lower end cliffs started just West of the town of Negril & grew higher as they ran out past the lighthouse in that direction. The ocean came right into them & you could drive a small boat into many of them, others had openings which went up to the roadside which was built parallel to the picturesque & jagged coastline.
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Mickey usually appeared at the villa in the morning for breakfast & joined Jan & Harley for the day of sunning, swimming & smoking huge spliffs of his best herb. They snorkeled in & out of the caves & on the coral reef some distance out from the cliffs. There was a big red raft tied out off the shore & they could lie on it in the sun, rolling off into the warm clear water which was teeming with life. They saw sea turtles gliding by & porpoises leaping out of the sea several times.

Mickey had a slick power boat with “Pocket Change” written across the stern in big gold letters & brought it by one morning, “c’mon, mon,” he called to Jan one day when Harley had been called to go to MoBay, “lets take a boat tour of the coast,”. Jan jumped into the cove & Mickey helped her on board giving her towels to wrap around her & off they went on a high speed trip running even with the coast.
They saw how the high cliffs towered over the honeycomb of caves all along the coastline & Mickey told her how his men would truck barrels of cured herb from the field houses to this coast. There were several spots where they could carry the packed barrels down trails cut into the rock face to the caves below. There they would be stacked on the dry cave floors until the ganja supply up North had dried up & the market was at its high. That’s when the timing was right for high speed boats, like the one they were riding in, to pick up the sealed barrels from the caves in the dark of night & ferry them out to the big mother boats that were waiting to carry them to hungry buyers in the states.

As the boat passed the high cliffs they came close to a pod of porpoises leaping & frolicking together just off the cliff side where several thatch roofed guesthouses & big white washed villas with sparkeling swimming pools & tall palm trees shading them clung to the cliff tops above protected coves. They saw several tiny white beaches set into the rocky shore & strewn with beached fishing boats, then past the Negril Yacht Club which had no yachts but was a great night time bar & restaurant they had driven past.
From here they could see the long white ribbon of the beach & behind it they could see the mighty green hills that marked the far end of Negril’s Great Morass, a flat plain composed of layers of sponge-like peat & covered with dense undergrowth, bright green cane & huge Royal palms. The Negril River ran blackly through it from the sea coast at the end of the beach right before the town into the interior of the morass where it eventually joined the Orange River which flowed out to sea about 5 miles East of Negril.
They continued on past Negril beach & went by the very end of it where they spotted many naked tourists swimming & lying on several smaller beaches as they passed the infamous Hedonism II Hotel. Slowing down between the deserted island of Booby Cay & another rocky point called Rutland Point where another long beach began, Mickey told them this beach was called Bloody Bay.
“Some say it was named after the early whalers who butchered the caught whales on the shore here turning the whole bay red with their blood, others say it was named after Bloody Mary Reed, who sailed here with Calico Jack the pirate. Sure is beautiful here isn’t it? still probably looks a like it did back then when they were here.”
The white sand beach was completely unmarked it had the same deserted look of the small Cay they had passed earlier. A heavily wooded shore came right up to the strip of untouched sand. The clear water gave a view of some big coral heads below,
“Let’s drop the anchor here & have a swim,” Mickey suggested,
” I have some fins, masks & snorkels on board so let’s see what’s out here.”

They dove off the boat stark naked & were engulfed in the still calm world of the under sea coral heads, the mirror like surface of the sea was rippled in the sunlight above. In an instant they were surrounded by millions of bright darting finger sized torpedo shapes of the fry of tropical fishes just hatched & swimming in great schools of movement & quick silvery colors, like magic they all disappeared at once leaving the viewers wondering if the fry had really been there at all. The sandy white bottom was littered with starfish of all sizes, some with thin spindly legs, others stouter, the coral formations were muted colored shapes looming ahead & became clear & bright as you swam directly above them many black spiny sea urchins crept along the corals & tiny many armed sea anemones swayed in the currents. They spotted a family of Spotted Eagle Rays gliding gracefully along the bottom their wings looking like they were flying in slow motion as they fed in the sea grass beds near the shore. They saw many other types of reef dwellers, big eyed squirrel fish, colorful Parrot fish feeding on algae, a camouflaged octopus entwined in the reef was almost invisible but caught their eyes as it suddenly moved. The whole scene was so harmonious & peaceful it was hypnotic to just float there & become a part of it. They snorkeled leisurely in the warm water for an hour. Finally they splashed ashore to lay belly down on the warm sand, the sea was so calm & still it felt as though you could pick it up at the edge to get a peek at the perfection that was living just under the surface.
As the sun began sinking they picked up & swam out to the boat to head back to Crystal Cove before nightfall.
“Whatta perfect day, who could ask for more? it really is paradise here,Thanks Mickey, you’re so lucky to have it as your home”
“Yeah I know it is a paradise here & just to prove it to you I’m having the Chinese chef at the Yacht Club make us a special meal tonight, I’ll take you back to the villa to change & we’ll meet there at eight, OK?”

end chapter 1

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Kim Rasmussen
Kim Rasmussen

Where was his place on the cliffs? What year is this? Amazing detail, Lonnie…describing the sea life, shoreline and caves! Felt like I eas there!!