Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Painting in a paradise?

Paradise is exactly like where you are right now... only much, much better.

Laurie Anderson, Language Is A Virus

"Paradise Palm #1", 12"x16" ink and watercolor on paper SOLD

Monday, August 18, 2008

Upstate Reggae on the River ECO Festival

Hello blog readers -- I'm still here!

I know I've been absent from the blog a great deal these past few months but I've been busy holed up in my studio painting items to sell at this upcoming music festival. In addition to my usual array of paintings, I'm also going to be selling hand-painted garments such as tee shirts and sun dresses.

Many have a tropical theme while many others are geared to the reggae audience for the festival. Here's a sampling of what I've been working on and will have on hand to sell at the festival this coming Saturday, August 23, 2008.

Each item is individually HAND-DRAWN and/or PAINTED -- no two are exactly alike, none are silk-screened/printed or in any way mass produced. Each is a one-of-a-kind original.The tees are all a nice heavy-weight gauge, 100% cotton. I have sundresses in cotton jersey and also some in linen. The men's khaki shirts are a cotton/poly blend.

Lion of Judah/Rastafari -- Adult: $75 Youth: $45

Lion of Judah/Star -- Adult: $75 Youth: $45


Emperor Haile Selassie -- Adult: $80 Youth: $55

Dreadlocks -- Adult: $45 Youth: $35

Star of David/rasta colors - All sizes: $35

Bamboo -- Adult: $75 Youth: $45

Lion of Judah on KHAKI Men's Shirt -- Adult: $100

Foliage Sundress 1 -- Adult One Size Fits All: $125

Foliage Sundress 2 -- Adult One Size Fits All: $125

Barbed Wire Sundress 3 -- Adult One Size Fits All: $125

Kids' Flip Flop Tees -- $45

And several more............

The festival is an all-day event, 10a-8pm, and will be held at a beautiful state park on the Hudson River, approximately 40 miles north of NYC. Click on the link above to find out more about the festival and come check out our booth.

Prices for the hand-painted garments range from $40 to $125, depending on the design and the garment. I'll be back shortly to update this post with more precise pricing information for each design. I presently only have a few of each design on hand but please email me if you see something you like and would like to request a custom order at no extra charge.

We will also have a huge basket full of brightly-colored Red-Gold-&-Green tie-dyed tees on hand, to be sold by our youngest daughter -- she dyed them, she'll sell them, she'll earn the cash.

Big thanks to my dear friend and mentor, Zan, who has advised me extensively on how to work on the shirts and shared many ideas and designs with me. Without her help, these would not have been possible.............

Hope to see you all at the Festival.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Oranges & Sardines -- Published!

The editor of Oranges & Sardines, a new art and poetry quarterly, came across my work online and invited me to submit several pieces for inclusion in the Fall issue. I'm thrilled to invite you all to take a look at the issue, which includes 3 of my pieces and also a brief interview.

The magazine will be available as a free pdf download for a limited time here.

Click here, or visit amazon. com if you'd like to purchase a hard copy, which will be available shortly.

One of the 12 artists included, I can be found on page 50:

The first image at the top of this post is the cover of the debut, the Summer 2008 issue; the Fall issue features a painting by one of the quarterly's publishers....................

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Better than ever.............

Been busy with plans for the summer -- much to report! WIll upload more pics of new works, new mediums, new every THING this week!

Thanks for your patience.

Charcoal and watercolor on paper

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Painting of a Painter

When in Negril, seek out Ras Husmo. He walks the beach with his rolled up canvases and will gladly sit and chat, buying or not, to discuss the arts........yours or his.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Monday Morning -- Monochrome

Time for a change............

This is Myrna, an ubiquitous figure on Negril Beach. Unmistakable in her 2-foot wide, floppy brimmed straw hat, Myrna motors up and down the 7-mile beach from morning until late afternoon, soliciting guests for a cruise upon the sea.......

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Monday Morning Mashup #9 - Dancehall Queen

Dancehall Queen
12"x15.5" Mixed Media Collage

The fiery red and orange flames of her tattoo only partially obscured her stretch marks. I stared at her belly, trying to figure out which came first, the baby or the fire.

We'd spent the better part of the morning at Sangster International Airport, waiting for our daughter to arrive on a flight from JFK. She was flying alone, an unaccompanied minor at age 12, and the stress of the day had worn us out. We were tense, anxious and didn't speak much as we sat outside, sheltered from the sun but not the heat. Neither of us dared tempt fate by acknowledging what was in the back of our minds. We just waited, doing the mental calculus of arrival time plus baggage claim plus immigration time plus unforeseen delays plus, plus, plus. Where was she?

When she finally burst through the sliding doors, looking 5 years older than when we last saw her just 3 weeks ago, I started to cry. Delight, joy, relief. Her younger sister and I peppered her with questions -- about her new clothes, her new purse, the flight, the summer program and on and on and on. Her father gave her a silent but strong hug and picked up her bags. You'd think he'd just seen her at breakfast.

We piled into the car, her sister and I chattering away about our stay in Jamaica so far as my husband steered us away from the airport and toward Negril. We'd barely turned off the low road before he said, "Mi wan fi stop and give mi sistah one check. She nevah si di girls dem fram lang time." He made a sharp left off the road and pulled up quickly in front of a squat concrete structure, just yards from the main highway, lonely in the stark landscape of the roadways extending from the airport. The concrete blocks were not rendered, each block and the oozing mortar in between still visible. This tiny oven escaped the direct heat of the midday sun with only a few branches of a single sparse tree, stretching up from the roadside.

Damn. It looked hot in that little house.

"Which sister lives here?" I asked.

"Elaine, mi sista fram mi faddah."

I know that in Jamiaca there are no half-sisters or half-brothers, no "steps" of any kind; if you share a parent, you are sister and/or brother. Case closed. I have to admire the simplicity of that kinship. But I didn't remember ever stopping at this little block house before. I thought I'd met all the siblings on both sides of the family. Perhaps we had met before, another time, another place.

As we spilled out of the car, the girls were obviously not too keen about making a pit stop on the way to Negril and the beach. They glared at me. Before they could speak, a wirey 50-something woman in a flowered housedress, flipflops and a baseball cap quickly met us at the car. Big smiles and "greetings" and "come inside, mon" and "look how dem big!" as she poked and pinched the girls and beckoned us to come inside the house. The girls looked at me, pleading silently to stay in the car and just keep daddy on track. Nope. Not happening. After a long morning at the airport, I was happy to receive a little Jamaican hospitality and followed Sister into her house. "Come ON," I hissed. "This is Daddy's family. This is YOUR aunty. Aunty Elaine. Be polite." They fell in line and trooped inside behind us.

The first room was small, maybe 5x10, windowless and the walls covered from floor to ceiling with framed photographs and yellowing newspaper clippings. A small overstuffed chair and a tiny table were the only pieces of furniture. A large orange and white cooler took up a quarter of the room. Elaine quickly twirled open the combination lock and flipped open the cooler top, digging into the ice to retrieve a red stripe for me and an icy pepsi for each of the girls.

"Mi haffi keep dis cooler lock up," she explained, "or mi pickney dem drink off mi bizness." She swiftly slammed the cooler shut, snapping closed the lock and lead us into the next room. The house was surprisingly cool and dark and we quickly passed through into the dining room, with the small kitchenette visible just beyond.

Well, at least I thought it was the dining room.

Twice as large as the first room, and with both windows and an open door to the alley on the left, it was much brighter. And I saw a round wooden table and a few folding chairs across the far side, just before the entry way to the kitchenette. But as I entered this middle room, I noticed one single bed to my right, pushed up alongside the wall and another full-size bed along the wall to my left. Each bed was occupied. In the middle of the afternoon. Elaine seemed not to notice.

On the bed to my left, a young woman and a young man, both clothed but barely so, lay partially entwined on top of the covers, with a standing fan blowing a cool breeze over their glistening skin. They each looked to be about 17 or 18.

To my right, a young woman in a peach-colored nylon half slip and black lace bra lay alone, also on top of the covers but under the breeze of a second standing fan. She also appeared to be in her teens, her black lacquered hair piled high in wide looping curls and waves, or rather, piled horizontally northward from her forehead. Her huge brown eyes opened slowly and she gazed briefly at this procession of strangers entering her dining room-cum-boudoir. Then she turned over and went back to sleep.

"Wek up, wek up," shouted Elaine. "A your uncle dis, an unno cousins fram farrin. Cho! Wek up! Wek UP!"

The pair in the other bed, sat up abruptly, wiping the sleep from their eyes and giving us weak smiles, inaudible hellos. "Dis a mi likkle son, Norris an' 'im girlfren Tameekah," beamed Elaine, as she headed toward the stove in the kitchen. "Siddung, siddung," she smiled, pointing to the dining table. The girls and I each took a seat around the table and I found myself just inches away from the peach slip and the black bra.

That's when I noticed the tattoos.

A dozen crude, quivering orange flames crept up her belly, from beneath the elastic top of her slip, rising to tickle the bottom edge of her bra. And intersected with the stretch marks along the way. I'd never seen anything quite like it.

"A dat me big dawta, Cherine, " Elaine smiled, as she brought heaping plates of fried chicken over to our table. "Git up, git up Cherine! A yuh likkle cousins dis. Cousins fram New Yahrk. Git up, Cherine!" Cherine began to stir. "Watcha, see how dem pretty an tall! " Elaine smiled even wider as she touched my little daughter's hair. "Dem pretty an nice, " she clucked. And then, of course, the requisite question, "When yuh gwan have one bwoy?" My husband just smiled and stepped outside for a smoke.

To my left, Cherine slowly sat up, swinging her bare legs over the side of the bed. The flames collapsed slightly under the rolls of her flesh. She gave a glimmer of a smile as she glanced at me, and then broadened her grin as she saw her two cousins. She jutted her chin out and up toward them. "Dem sweet and pretty, eeeenh?" My girls didn't quite know what to say. They began to feign extreme interest in the chicken in front of them, trying not to look at the lady in her underwear staring at them.

Cherine was quite pretty, a browning with huge black eyes. She didn't much resemble Elaine, who had a very dark complexion, a broad nose and a cramped face. Cherine's face was a broad smooth oval, with full pale lips and a hint of India in her features. This effect was heightened by the prominent placement of a small brown beauty mark smack in the middle of her forehead, a permanent bindi. I introduced myself and the girls.

"Mi haff one dawta," said Cherine, reaching toward the headboard of her bed and retrieving a framed photograph of a little girl in a sundress. As I began to talk to Cherine, drawing her out, I learned that she was older than I thought, 24, her little girl was 8 and that she was a dancer. A professional dancer.

Well I know what that means when I hear it back home. A "professional dancer" typically does not dance on a stage but on a pole. I hoped that wasn't what Cherine did for a living but the lingerie and the tattoos gave me pause. And who was I to judge?

"Show dem, Cherine, show dem how you gwan an wine. Play dem one video," shouted Elaine from the kitchen. Cherine smiled broadly now and nodded. At the foot of her bed, a small table held a portable tv, a dvd player, a haphazard stack of dvds and what appeared to be a clump of hair on a small molded plastic hat stand. Cherine saw me staring at the peroxide-colored lump. It appeared to be a taxidermy project gone awry.

"Dat a mi wig", explained Cherine, "fi when mi werk." I glanced at my girls, who hadn't said a word, their eyes wide. Cherine shuffled through the dvd's, consulting with her brother Norris in rapid fire patois before selecting a favorite and inserting it into the player. Norris pointed the remote at the player from across the room and a grainy image filled the screen. Despite the flashy cover on the dvd box, this hardly appeared to be a professional production. More like a home movie.

The scene appeared to be an outdoor night-time gathering, the dusty ground enclosed by broad 7-foot high swaths of rusty zinc, yellow bare bulbs throwing spots of light onto the small crowd. The muted bass beats of the music strained to be heard through the television's tinny speakers, a soft babble of conversations in the background. "A dance party, dat," smiled Cherine. "A dat where mi werk."

The camera panned a cluster of young women, slowly swinging their hips, staring down into the dirt, clutching their drinks and looking bored. One-by-one they seemed to take their turn as the star for the camera, stepping forward and stepping up their game. What little clothing they wore was tight and brightly hued, a variety of gem-colored halter tops, mini skirts, and vinyl boots. Their overly-styled hair was black, blue, pink and blonde, with manicures to match.

And then we saw Cherine. Compared to the rest of the crowd, she was modestly dressed in low-slung tight white bermuda shorts with a white mesh midriff top. Her peroxide wig was in place, looking much more like a regal headdress than it appeared on its stand in her bedroom. She wore knee-high gladiator-style sandals and began to prance and strut, pausing only to grind and wine as the camera tilted down toward her hips. Norris and Elaine hooted and clapped. Cherine looked at me and smiled broadly, nodding. I smiled back, saying "wow, that's amazing, you look fabulous."

I glanced again at my girls who looked bored and unbelieving. How could this possibly be someone's job? "Deh pay mi a munny fi dance, seen?" Cherine told me, clearly proud of her work. And within seconds, the camera had moved on to another young woman and Cherine stepped back into the cluster of other dancers.
A saucy dancer with long brown extensions, wearing a denim mini skirt and emerald metallic halter, filled the frame.

She shimmied fast and furiously and stared provocatively out of the TV. As the camera moved into her face, it slowly tilted down her body, closing in on the vibrating mini skirt which now filled the screen and and seemed to rise up with each shake of her hips. Suddenly, her legs widened and the skirt flew completely up. Uh oh, I thought, here comes the snapping of the thong, the flash of the silky panties.

Except that she wasn't wearing any.

Nuttin. Not a thong, not a g-string. Just the glorious body that god gave her. And completely shaved.

Norris hooted again, Elaine laughed loudly while Cherine scrambled for the remote, smiling but trying to fast-forward through the dvd. Now the bald punanny shimmied and shook at double-speed. I don't know which was more unsettling.

I looked quickly over at my previously-bored daughters. Horrified doesn't quite capture it. Now they simply stared at one another, speechless, afraid to look directly at the tv for another second. My youngest wouldn't make eye contact with anyone, only staring into the face of her older sister, looking for guidance on what to say and what to do. I smiled at my 12-year old when she looked over at me. She didn't look 5 years older any more; she looked much younger, pleading silently with me again to just "go".

I had to agree that perhaps it was time to make a move.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Monday Morning Melancholy

This week's Mashup is still in progress but I promise it will be worth the wait.

Until then, here is a portrait gem to tide you over.................

Melancholy Baby
Watercolor and Graphite on paper

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Monday Morning Mashup #8

Kind of Blue
 4"x9.5" Mixed Media Collage

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Monday Morning Mashup #7

"It's totally paradise, dude. Awesome."

One People?
10"x14" Mixed Media Collage

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Monday Morning Mashup #6 - Rastafari Gothic

See more dreadlocks and other portraits here.

"Rastafari Gothic", 10"x14" Mixed Media Collage

Hmmm, no pitchfork? 

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Monday Morning Mashup #5

I said, "No. No. No."

I Don't Wanna Go To Rehab
10"x14" Mixed Media Collage

Friday, March 07, 2008


As the sun begins to set......

Negril Nightfall
Ink and Watercolor on paper 
Purchase a PRINT of this painting  here.

Or after the rain falls.

Negril Rainfall
Ink and Watercolor on paper

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Monday Morning Mashup #4

"It is a curious thing to be a woman in the Caribbean after you have been a woman in these United States."
Zora Neal Hurston, 1938

A Curious Thing
10"x12" mixed media collage SOLD

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Monday Morning Mashup #3

Strange Fruit
9.5"x11" mixed media collage

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Monday Morning Mashup #2

"A Pirate of the Caribbean", 8"x10" mixed media collage SOLD

Monday, February 11, 2008

Monday Morning Mashup

A new feature of The Night Shift -- I've been experimenting with collage. Many of my paintings never see the light of day but have some remarkably beautiful elements within that I hate to discard.

Ergo, Monday Morning Mashup...............look for a new one every Monday.

"Party Hat", 6"x8" mixed media collage

Friday, February 08, 2008

And a change of scenery

They like to say, "Once you go, you know." I say it takes more than once. Go only once,  you don't know nuttin'.

"Cabana By the Sea"
Ink and watercolor on paper 
Prints available here.

A surprise

I returned to this painting one last time. If you recall, I posted a few original stages of this painting back in the early summer -- refresh your memory
-- but I wasn't sure where I was going or if I was just going to abandon it. It's not unusual to put something aside for a while and let it stew.

So I picked it back up this week and went at it with some gouache -- that's a water-based opaque paint. Unlike watercolors, the paint can be applied in thicker layers that fully obscure what is underneath.

She is still a bit bizarre looking, but I rather like that in a portrait. Here's the progression:

First washes of watercolor over ink lines....

Then I ran it under the faucet because I wasn't happy with it. Some colors remained and I began again........

Then this week, after leaving it alone for about 6 months.....I added gouaches.


I think I'll leave her alone for another 6 months. At least.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Yuh Know Mi?

"Yah mon, yuh know mi. Mi remembah yuh. A lang time you a come a Jah-mey-ka, riiiiiight?"

I'm that smiling dread who Touch Fist with you the first time we meet because, "Yuh cool, seen?"

I'm that smiling dread who told you, "Yuh one Original Ragamuffin, a dat mi know," as I nodded to my bredren and we all laughed that knowing laugh, eyes wide. Made you feel like you were one of us, right?

Yah mon, yuh know mi.

I'm that smiling dread who said, "Nuff respect, souljah, big up di EYE, seen suh?" as I effortlessly rolled you the fattest skliff you'd ever seen. But as I drew my tongue across the edge of the rizla and then twirled the tip of that fatty inside my mouth to seal it up tight, you wondered if this was really A Good Idea.

"Bless up", I said as I handed you the sacrament. "Tek it, mon, tek it," I said as I waved away your offer of a few jays. "Jess gwan an' bun some weed, mon." After all, you're one of us, right? And after a few deep draws on that skliff, you decided it was indeed a good idea.

Yah mon, yuh know mi.

I'm that smiling dread who told you, "Wi muss tek one trip inna de hills an' see deh ganja fields dem, cuz you a one-a mi I-dren, you a ragamuffin fi true, seen?" And then I told you where to rent one criss cyar so we could make a serious tour to the country and you could see the Real Jamaica.

Yah mon, yuh know mi.

I'm that smiling dread who told you that tourists,"Couldn't hangle deh ruff roads" as I instructed you to slide over to the passenger's seat while I slipped behind the wheel. And then I said, "We muss mek two more stops fi pick up chree more bredren," before we pulled into the gas station with the "T+E+X__+O" sign to fill the tank. My friends and I share the wealth. When one of us hits the Tourist Jackpot, we all climb aboard the gravy train.

"Ragga, wi wan some Guinness fi di drive, seen?" I said. It took you a moment to realize I was speaking to you, calling you "Ragga". But when you realized you had acquired your very own yardie street name, you smiled a little smile. And moved quickly to provide me and my three friends with drinks. You didn't realize that I just had forgotten your real name.

Yah mon, yuh know mi.

I'm the smiling dread who took you so far beyond the boundaries of Negril (or so it seemed) that you couldn't believe you hadn't had the courage to do so on your first three trips to the island. What a story you would have to tell your friends back home. You got so high you knew you could never find your way back to Negril if you had to drive yourself, so you were happy to have us guide you and show you the runnings and give us a likkle change when we brought you back to your hotel and buy each of us plates of brown stew chicken and a round of heinekens because we told you it was the right thing to do.

"Come I-dren", I reminded you, "We showed you the Real Jamaica. Yuh muss tek care a wi, a chru?"

Yah mon, yuh know mi.

But that's the sad part of this story. Yuh nah even know mi real name. Yuh nah really know me a-tall.

And I'm not really smiling.

Yuh Know Mi?
 Ink and watercolor on paper
Print available here.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Bikini Bandit

I'm not just a city person, I'm a New Yorker. Not by birth but by choice. And New Yorkers don't typically just drop in upon one another to visit, or to "give a check," as they say in Jamaica.

We schedule, we plan, we make appointments to do lunch. We keep our guard up and we're cynical by nature. And frankly, when we are cocooned in our apartments, an unexpected knock on the door or, more aptly, a startling ring of the buzzer gives us pause. We glance at one another.

"You expecting someone?"

"Noooooo, not me. You?"

"Nope." Brows furrow.

But when we are in Jamaica, there seems to be an endless stream of folks passing through, dropping in, giving us a check. Only a handful have been given the closely-guarded secret of our arrival date, an even smaller number have actually been invited to come visit us. But many have heard through the sea-grapevine that we are in town and they come, seemingly by the dozens, day after day after day.

I'm a bit of a recluse myself. It's an adjustment.

Don't get me wrong. There are folks I'm delighted to see, to catch up on what they've been up to since we've seen them last. We gossip and laugh about life in yard. True friends.

But then there are the rest.

You know who I mean. You've heard of Empty Nesters? Well I call the unwelcome visitors the Empty Guest-ers. They come empty handed. With empty bellies. And empty wallets. Guess what else is empty? Their schedule! They come to spend the entire day with us, wonderful news, no?

And so it was with Nadine, who knocked on our door early one morning. Still groggy from sleep, I was less than thrilled to find a sullen 15-year-old girl on our doorstep, making the typical Empty Guester announcement: I've come to spend a day at the beach with you.


Well, at least she was alone. But that also struck me as odd. Nadine is usually with her mother Denise, a relative of my husband. I've always liked Denise. She's a hard-working, married mother of 3 and has a full-time job. Denise typically phones us first, asking when she can come and visit us. As you might imagine, that's a huge bonus in my book.

More importantly, Denise has always seemed genuinely interested in just coming by to say hello, to catch up with our family and see how our girls have grown. She wants our children to know one another, to keep the American "cousins" in her children's landscape. She never asks for a thing and never complains about her own struggles. Denise is cool and kind.

So why was Nadine alone on our doorstep? She was suspiciously empty-handed for a full day at the beach, even for an Empty Guester. No purse, no bag, no towel, no change of clothes. Nuttin.

Brows furrow.

I told her we're still getting ourselves up and sorted out. I suggested she could go up to the front and sit at a beach-front table at the Whistling Bird bar while we get dressed.

"Have you had any breakfast yet, Nadine?"

She only raised her eye brows, pouted her lips and shook her head. Ok, I'll make some breakfast and bring it up to a table at the front. The girls will join her in a minute, as soon as they get into their bathing suits.

So I whip up some scrambled eggs and toast and haul a big platter full up to the beach. I see that my girls are sitting alone at a small table while Nadine has planted herself on a tall bar stool, flirting with the bartender.

And drinking a Red Stripe. On our tab.

"Nadine? No more Red Stripe," I say, as she tips the brown bottle up and drains the last of it. "Your mother would hardly be happy to learn that I plied you with Red Stripes while you were under my watch at the beach. You're only 15. No more beer."

She shrugs her shoulders and slips off the bar stool, headed for the eggs and toast. I glare at the bartender, hissing "Juice and soda only, ok?" He starts muttering about Jamaican pickney drink young and it's only Red Stripe and American pickney "jess cyan hangle it like Jamaican pickney dem an'"--- I stop him. "Look, if she's under my care, she's not drinking, ok?" Now the bartender shrugs his shoulders.

After devouring more than her share of the scrambled eggs and toast, Nadine asks for the key to our cottage. She needs to use the bathroom. Sure, I say, handing her the key on the long, blue nylon cord. She turns and strolls back along the sandy path toward our cottage, swinging the key around her finger in big looping circles.

"Mommy, she was drinking BEER!" my oldest daughter whispers. My little one, sitting next to her, is wide-eyed and nodding her head.

"Yeah," I sighed, "I know. It won't happen again. She must just be feeling a little feisty, being down here alone without her parents. But I told her it is NOT permitted. No more Red Stripe for Nadine." My girls look at each other and snort, starting to giggle. Not only is Nadine bold enough to order a beer, stunning in itself, but to put it on Mommy's bill is too much for them to imagine. They are clearly in awe of Nadine, their very first Bad Gyal.

I'm disappointed that I now have a 15-year old to wrangle and entertain all day. I was looking forward to just setting myself up in a quiet corner of the property to draw and paint. My girls, however, are now looking forward to whatever surprises Nadine may have in store of us for the day. I typically dread having a day-long Empty Guester in the first place, nevermind one who clearly was planning to push her teenage boundaries.

Brows furrow.

Nadine returns a few minutes later, handing me the key and slumping down in a chair. She's quiet and clearly bored, considering her options. "Cyan mi haff one pepsi, miss?" she asks. Sure.

She walked over to the bar, got a Pepsi from the bartender and returned to our table. She then announced that she was going to "tek a walk 'pon de beach. Mi soon come." Giving the girls a little wave, she spun on her heel and briskly walked off in the sand, heading up the beach. Part of me thought I should stop her but part of me was relieved that she was gone. After all, she'd gotten to town by herself, clearly she could handle a walk on the beach alone. And clearly she really had no interest in spending the day with an 8-year old and a 10-year old, let alone the American Auntie who wasn't going to buy her any beer.

So now what do I do?

"Don't be too long, Nadine," I rather lamely called after her.

Although not from Negril, she knew this town as well as I did if not better. I figured she'd return by lunchtime. As soon as she was hungry. Still, I felt uneasy. I walked over to the the bartender and asked him if he thought she'd be alright alone. Of course HE saw no problem with her drinking Red Stripes all day, so I don't know why I valued his opinion of the situation. I guess I just wanted to hear someone else say "she'll be alright, nah worry yuhself."

Which is exactly what he did say. And now it was my turn to shrug.

Still, it gnawed at me that she was left in my care and was now cavorting up the beach. I called Denise but her phone went straight to voicemail. I left a message, saying that Nadine had arrived safely and eaten breakfast, but had taken off up the beach. I just wanted to let her mother know that I really didn't feel as if I had much control over her.

Sure enough, by the time lunchtime rolled around, so did Nadine. I don't know what she'd been doing for the past few hours, but she still looked bored. And she was hungry and in need of the bathroom. Clearly we were just the convenient service station for her day at the beach. After serving Nadine and my girls some lunch, she announced that she was ready to go home. And she needed cab fare.

Brows furrow.

"Your mother isn't planning to pick you up?"

"No, miss, she nah leff werk so soon and mi want fi go back a mi yahd." Alright, alright. I gave her the equivalent of $10 U.S., more than enough for a route taxi ride home and a snack for the road. She mumbled a "Tenks,miss," then glanced at the girls, jutting her chin out and up toward them. "Likkle more," she smiled. And she headed up the path toward the gate out to the road. Gone.

It wasn't long after that I got a call back from Denise. She was upset but also embarrassed -- she had never given Nadine permission to come check us at the beach today. In fact, she hadn't seen Nadine for nearly 3 days. "She run off, she a chobble mi so, Veek-toddy-ya. Mi nah know wha fi do wid dat pickney." She shared tales of more-than-typical teenage rebellion, tales that would curl your hair. She was worried and also disappointed to know that Nadine had just slipped through her fingers. If only we had known. I promised we would "hole her dung" and call again if Nadine resurfaced.


After hanging up the phone, I glanced around the cottage and noticed that something just didn't feel right. I went into the bathroom and noticed some small cosmetic items and toiletries were gone or, at the very least, not where I'd left them. And tucked into the corner of the bathroom, rolled up into a ball and stuffed behind the door, was my blue-flowered bikini, soaking wet. It left a large puddle on the floor.

So Nadine had a swim at the beach after all. If she'd asked me if she could borrow a suit I'd have gladly loaned her one; I was annoyed that she'd simply sneaked off into the bathroom and slipped on one of my suits without asking. She then had simply put her own clothes back on over the bathing suit and went to "tek one walk pon de beach." Pretty clever for an Empty Guester.

It soon became clear that Nadine had helped herself to a few more of my things -- a white linen blouse, a black camisole, and a pair of camouflage pants, all of which were now missing. I suppose she didn't steal the bathing suit because it was too wet to stuff into her bag with the other things.

But she had no bag. She was an Empty Guester. No purse, no bag, no towel. How'd she carry off so many pieces of clothing and toiletries?

Brows furrow.

It was much later in the evening that Nadine did resurface. She had, in fact, been carrying a very sizable backpack while on the road for 3 days, and she'd stashed it in the utility bathroom adjoining our parking lot. One of the groundskeepers tipped me off, after spotting her darting in and out of the tiny shack. I found my missing clothing shoved into the bag and dutifully retrieved them, feeling sad and angry.

The Empty Guesters always got under my skin. But I always tried to check myself, to try and put myself in their shoes and be more gracious, knowing that I lived a privileged life in comparison to most people I've met in Jamaica. It's a fine line to walk: am I a sucker if I open my home and my wallet? Am I selfish if I don't?

The Bikini Bandit put me to the test that day. She didn't strike me as a "sufferah", someone plagued by bad luck or bad choices. But what did I really know about her life? Not much. I got my things back, the day hadn't cost me much and I ultimately helped return her to her parents. So now my reclusive shell has become a bit thicker as a result and the other Empty Guesters will have a tougher time when they next cross my path. But it is Nadine who I worry about more, not myself.

Brows furrow.

Bikini Bandit
ink and watercolor on paper
Print available here.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Likeable Enuff

a few selections from my favorite website ---

But How Can We Tell?

Father: You see, girls, there is an election coming up, and so far we have only had boring white men. This time we could have a black man or a woman as our president!

Four-year-old daughter: But Daddy, we're white!

Father: Yes, but we aren't boring.

--Metro-North train

Overheard by: Emily

"Ah. The Hillary Clinton concealer, then."

Counter lady #1: Do I have something on my face?

Counter lady #2: Yeah. Evilness.

--Cafe 212, Columbia University

Overheard by: Ariz

Republicans: Eeexcellent

Black woman #1:
Who you gonna vote fo' in this election?

Black woman #2, picking her fingernails: I dunno. I just fuckin' hate Bush. Anyone but him.

Black woman #1: I like Hillary. I think I'm gonna vote fo' Hillary.

Black woman #2: Yeah. I mean, Obama's cute, but I don't care -- he's a black man. My husband's a black man, and he don't do shit.

Black woman #1: Mmm, I know.

--D train

"Likeable Enuff", 12"x16" Prints available $35