So there's this Jamaican, Andrew, though he likes to go by "Andrea", as that's what the Italians call him. He has built a shack on Negril's Long Beach and opened an Italian restaurant (Ristorante "Di Andrea"). A sign and two pick-nick tables on the beach, four small tables in the shack's porch, and a makeshift kitchen. I never saw anyone eating there.
Eager to bypass the hotel restaurants, I decided to try "Di Andrea". The only vegetarian item there is the "Rasta Pasta": spaghetti with a tomato-oil sauce with a nice combination of local veggies ("Callalloo" is somewhere spinach and kale). It was excellent: in fact, it was the best food I tasted in Jamaica.
I went back 2 night later, sat at a table on the porch and ordered the same dish. This time I got to talk to Andrew himself, and find-out how he got to learn Italian and Italian cuisine.
Then, point-blank, I asked him how his business could survive,
given that I seemed to be the only client he had in the last two
days. He became quite defensive and loud. Having been forewarned
of Jamaicans' intensity, I wasn't too worried, and instead I prepared
myself for an animated discussion. That led to talk about the
big all-inclusive resorts just North of him; those resorts provide
everything the residents may want right on the spot, and discourage
the residents from venturing outside the confines of their compound.
Andrew pointed out that Negril has become a tourist destination
thanks to the locals who provided the necessary infrastructure;
this in turn paved the way for the all-inclusive resorts. Yet,
those resorts are now hogging the tourists, and depriving revenues
to the locals who made it all possible in the first place. And
the economic forces behind these all-inclusive resorts are international
investors, who, in all certainty, are white people. "I am
not a racist!" he repeated a few times, "but all those
people are white."
Andrew stated that he is aware of an underlying spiritual movement within Jamaica that will eventually flare out, and he predicted that there will soon be a revolution of sorts, as a consequence of which the all-inclusive resorts would fail and the whole beach would return to the locals.
I was fascinated by Andrew's views, and pretty much in agreement (other than the revolution bit). What I didn't realize at first, was that my being in agreement with him was totally irrelevant to him. He soon made it very clear to me that, as an American, and a white one at that, in his mind I was part of the system, and therefore the "enemy".
My food came, so we interrupted the conversation so that I could eat. During that time, Andrew paced back and forth on the beach. After dinner, I went to thank him, but as I approached him, he stepped back. The closer I got to him, the more he retreated. "I don't shake hands" he said. He wouldn't tell me if he wouldn't shake hands with me particularly, or with anyone in general. So I thanked him and left.
I saw Andrew again the following day. I asked him if he was mad at me and he assured me that he's not mad at anyone, and that I'd be welcome to come back for dinner that night; which I did.
After ordering (once more, "Rasta Pasta"), I was very careful to keep the conversation light, as I wanted to just enjoy myself and I didn't want to upset Andrew. To no avail: Andrew noticed I had brough Alice Walker's "The Color Purple", and was high offended by the fact that I, a white man, should be reading such book. Then Andrew told me:"You have some strong spiritual energy there, my friend!" I protested that there wasn't a single spiritual bone in my body. "Oh no, Davide Andrea, you've got a strong spiritual energy" he insisted. Soon, he started pacing, repeating my name "Davide Andrea, Davide Andrea". Then, he started circling the perimeter of the porch, around my table, mumbling something. He got louder, and I started making out words to the effect of" Oh the Devil is strong, the power of the Devil is strong...but for the blood of Christ, the blood of Christ who will redeem us...the Devil's power...the blood of Christ" over and over. Finally, it turned into a full fledged exorcism.
"Andrew, cut that out!" I cried after a few minutes. He froze, then went inside the kitchen.
After a minute, he came back out, and said: "My friend, I am afraid that I can't cook for you tonight."
Well, let me tell you: the "Rasta Pasta" at the "Chances" restaurant, further down the beach, wasn't nearly as good.
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