Wednesday, August 10, 1977

(I got a little sidetracked from the story, due to events in my current-day life. Which I also need to update, but events haven't "settled" in my head yet...)

Psalm 73

Got up medium Dressed Packed up some things for the Prices. Heard "Strange Homecoming." Pops went to town. We went thru clothes, etc. Ate a snack. Rested. Pops came back with S. Parbousing,
Garth Henriques, a man named Marcus and Mrs. Clarke. Moved our bagas board. Ate supper. Put on p.js. Heard Dulciminia." Went to bed. Speedy+Mrs. Mattis met Mrs. Clarke.

The Prices were a family that Poppy knew. They lived in a tenement yard in Kingston and I'd gone with Poppy a few times to visit. Tenement yards were generally where the poorest people lived; there would be however many families crammed into however many rooms there were in a house, and corrugated tin shacks in the yard sometimes. Sometimes, there was no house, just a collection of corrugated tin shacks. If you've ever been to Jamaica, you'll know what I mean. The youngest Price, W. was about 3 or 4 when I'd gone with Poppy to visit, and he hated wearing clothes, so he was usually buck naked and covered in dust from the well-trampled yard. The other day, I saw Poppy and he showed me all these pictures on a contact sheet, but I forgot to bring them home with me.

Mrs. Parboosingh was an acquaintance, the recent widow of a Jamaican painter. She doesn't know it, but when we were first evicted from the house in Kingston, we camped out on her back porch. She was away at the time. But she had a full set of patio furniture, and so we slept there on the covered veranda. It was very comfortable, actually, and the only comfort we really lacked was a bathroom. The house was locked up. She had very tall grass or something like that surrounding her house.... voila! Instant bathroom.

But I'm guessing that Garth was a friend of hers, as the social circle of rich Jamaicans was pretty small. Just for shit and giggles, here's an article I found. I have met several of the people mentioned in the article, including Basil Keane. And now, since I found out he's dead, I'll let you all know that the "unforgettable Jamaican" Mr. Keane is referred to as "the dentist" in this post (perhaps, this will add on to your understanding about me... why I say people suck. Cuz there's always a "dark side"). Garth was exciting to meet, since he was then a dj on RJR Radio. "Googling" him just now, I realized with great humor that he has other significance...

In our house, we used bagasse board with cinderblocks underneath as a base for our mattresses, instead of bedframes. It had the effect of looking very Japanese, and was actually very comfortable and kid-friendly. When we got to the Big Apple, Poppy substituted bagasse board with particle board, and mattresses with sleeping bags. Not quite as comfortable. At first, he couldn't find cinderblocks and so we used large purple egg-crates, but later he discovered a treasure-trove of large industrial-sized tin cans outside of the local elementary school. We slept on that for *years*. But the summer I started working, when I was about 16, the first thing I did was buy one of those folding foam chairs popular in the early '80's. The sleeping bags were way too thin for my bony hips, and for a long time I had scars left over from the sores. I never complained or told anyone about the sores because I knew it couldn't be helped. I knew we had no money.

The meeting between Speedy and Mrs. Mattis and Mrs. Clarke was very important to me. I loved Speedy like a big brother. Poppy thought I had a crush on him, but I really didn't. And I finally figured out who Neal was. He was the son of a fruit-and-vegetable vendor who showed up to our house once in a while on a truck. Earlier in the diary, I had noticed Neal because he was "kinda cute" and he had waved good bye to me. So whenever his dad came on the truck, Neal would come, too... and I think a few times he may have shown up by himself. And I did like him... he was definitely my "crush". But Speedy was "big brother" and we spent a lot of time talking to him. Mrs. Mattis was the cook/housecleaner across the street, but she was very kind to us and would sometimes sneak us food she'd made.

But Mrs. Clarke had become kind of like our Jamaican grandmother. She started out as the last housekeeper we had in Kingston. I remember when money got tight, and my mom told Mrs. Clarke, in tears, that she couldn't afford to pay her anymore. Mrs. Clarke volunteered to come for free, but my mother wouldn't have it. But Mrs. Clarke would still come to check on us. When we were evicted from Montgomery Ave, Mrs. Clarke was the one who just happened to come by that day, and took me and the Professor to her home.

Compared to higher standards, Mrs. Clarke had nothing... she did have a much-beloved Mr. Clarke, but I think he died either just before we left Jamaica or shortly after. Her son had long since gone to England leaving his daughter Marlene with her. Marlene was maybe three or four years older than I. I can't remember what happened to Marlene's mother, but I think she was in England, too. I got the feeling Mrs. Clarke never heard from them, and they certainly didn't send much--if any--money because both of the Clarkes were always working. Mrs. Clarke lived in a neat little two-room bungalow in a tenement yard in Kingston, and willingly took us in and let us stay with her for about a month. Whereas the dentist put a padlock on the refrigerator two days after we got to his house.


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