International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: Smoke this
to make sense in the Caribbean
John M. Edwards
FROM GENERAL MONTGOMERY!
IN ANTIGUA, A YOUNG JOHN M. EDWARDS RUBS ROLLIES WITH A REAL LIVE
RASTAFARIANAND LIVES TO REGRET IT.
I looked over at the sculpted resort hedge, shivering like a wet porcupine
in the tropical breeze of night illuminated by a Tikki torch, and stepped
uncertainly off the porch. lI felt like a young adult waking up from
a Frank W. Dixon Hardy Boys mystery.
"Boy! Boy! Come here!"
I walked over to the shimmering hedge, eyes adjusting to the androgynous
gloom. Crouching behind the hedge like the bleeding gums of a cancer
victim was a real live Rastafarian with long flowing dreadlocks and
superfly mirrored sunglasses. I could tell he had been smoking weed.
"Do you want to buy a bag of sensimilla?" the Rasta rasped
in a low gravelly voice.
"No thanks," I said. I had never smoked pot before.
"Was that your sister you were talking to earlier?" So. He
had been spying on me. "She is good-looking. Maybe you can set
me up with her?"
Yeah, right. "She has a boyfriend."
"My name is General Montgomery!"
This is, of course, the same name as the legendary former leader of
Liberia, the only attempt at a real U.S. colony on the African mainland,
spearheaded by Free Blacks, former plantation slaves turned American
Even though I was underage, here in Antigua, a permissive Caribbean
island almost totally reliant on tourism, I was allowed to drink Red
Stripe beer and banana and pineapple daiquirisand, more dangerous,
talk to the young local islander women who kept asking me if I wanted
some "company." I guess I looked old for my age. I felt free
and easy on this family vacation. Maybe I should try something new.
Yes or no?
The General handed over a large plastic pouch of "sense" for
only 20 dollars! Dreams are cheap in the Caribbean.
Paranoid. Smoking the ganja in my bungalow bathroom, with rolling papers
supplied by the General, and ready to flush it down the toilet if my
parents barged in, I felt warm waves of ecstasy shudder through my body.
This was as cool as listening to Pink Floyds "The Dark Side
of the Moon!" I felt like my soul was pulsating, then I saw stars,
stripes, strobes, fireworks, and passed out like my lethargic greedy
cat, Kirk, on the stone floor.
Initiated, I would buy a bag from the General every day over the hedge,
which appropriated folkloric dimensions, from the vague friendship forming
between me and the Antiguan. I was a big Bob Marley fan and was just
a little bit in awe of the freestyle Rastaman culture, which the General
explained was based upon worship of the late assassinated Ethiopian
King Haille Sellasse and an eventual exodus or return to Zion. Its
uncertain if the so-called religion is based upon Judaism or Christianitythe
twin faiths of the African Ethiopian diaspora.
"We must also eat a lot of goat stew!" the General added superfluously.
"I dont like fish."
I was eating gigantic lobsters every day. But my favorite was the conch
fritters, which I ate absentmindedly like Fritos or Pretzels.
"Boy! I will return tomorrow with another bag of the very best
sensimilla." With that, he made his way like a leathery-skinned
bat through the shrubs and quickly vanished across the grounds to the
Where the next day I spotted the General wearing only shorts running
down the beach like an Olympic athlete on steroids, closely pursued
by two policemen, who tackled the General and handcuffed him. As they
hauled him away, he bawled out, "Im innocent!"
Oh well, I thought glumly. There goes my supply. And so that was probably
the end of my experiment with becoming a drug addict--like my burnout
friend, Erik, back home, who surreptitiously grew marijuana leaves in
his basement with Grow Lights.
Huh? What? The General appeared at the appointed hour at the hedge,
like an apparition.
"The police arrested me, mon, but later let me go. No evidence."
"Thats lucky!" I was psyched to smoke.
Montgomery then invited me to meet his friend on a secret place on the
beach. I wondered if the so-called friend was a woman. Reluctantly,
The friend didnt seem very friendly. A fat black guy wearing a
T-shirt, saying simply "Antigua," he had wild eyes and seemed
to be suffering from some mild palsy which made him shake when he talked.
In Caribbean slang, he said something about me, along the lines of:
"Whats this frigging white cracker honkey doing here?"
With a devilish smile, the General loaded an elaborate chamber pipe
with some bud his friend was handing over--reluctantly. He lit the pipe
and quickly handed it to me, his arm moving like a lightning bolt in
front of my face.
"Try!" demanded a disembodied voice.
I grabbed the pipe, watching the angry red embers, and inhaled deeply,
Whoa, I woke up sprawled out on the beach, my head pounding like pizza
dough, unsure of what time it was.
"Boy! Boy! Are you okay?" His creechy voice sounded like a
There was now no sign of his friend.
"What happened?" I managed, with suspicion sliding around
like a salamander in my sore throat.
"You passed out. Maybe this ganja is too strong for you."
I stood up and felt around in my pants for my wallet. "My wallet
is gone!" I lamented with teenage angst.
"Well find it tomorrow," the General said lamely.
"Do you think your friend stole it?" I accused.
The embarassing silence that ensued seemed dangerous, so I said goodbye
abruptly, and walked back toward the resort, wondering if the General
had set me up. I no longer wanted to be his friend. I felt like a fool
for being so trusting in a foreign land.
On the way into my bungalow, wouldnt you know it? "What?"
"John, weve been looking all over for you." My dad looked
exhausted with worry. "Where were you? Have you been drinking?"
Luckily, my dad just thought I was drunk. Aside from having seen the
classic propaganda film "Reefer Madness" (and believing it
verbatim) and owning all the original Capitol Records Beatles albums,
my father, a university professor emeritus and notable literary critic,
was so square that he never suspected that anyone he knew smoked marijuana.
He, however, smoked three packs of Kent cigarettes a day.
Obviously relieved, my father finally said, "Well, were leaving
early tomorrow and you have to get up for the plane. Sleep it off."
Back home in the boring New Jersey suburbs, I received a small package
out of the wild blue yonder one day evidencing illiterate scrawl. I
opened it. Out popped my wallet, empty. On a small piece of paper was
written the following:
"Greetings from General Montgomery! I found your wallet on the
beach, but the money and cards were gone. . . ."
Sure that the General had lifted it himself, I was somewhat miffed by
the unreasonable request that came after: "For returning your wallet,
could you send me 10 pairs of Levis blue jeans?"
Signed: "General Montgomery, your Rastafari friend."
© John M Edwards May 2009
Bio: John M. Edwards has traveled worldwidely
(five continents plus), with stunts ranging from surviving a ferry sinking
in Thailand to being stuck in a military coup in Fiji. His work has
appeared in such magazines as CNN Traveller, Missouri Review, Salon.com,
Grand Tour, Islands, Escape, Endless Vacation, Conde Nast Traveler,
International Living, Emerging Markets, Literal Latté, Coffee
Journal, Lilliput Review, Poetry Motel, Artdirect, Verge, Slab, Stellar,
Trips, Big World, Vagabondish, Glimpse, BootsnAll, Hackwriters, Road
Junky, Richmond Review, Borderlines, ForeWord, North Dakota Quarterly,
Michigan Quarterly Review, and North American Review. He recently won
a NATJA (North American Travel Journalists Association) Award, a TANEC
(Transitions Abroad Narrative Essay Contest) Award, and a Solas Award
(sponsored by Travelers Tales). He lives in New York Citys
"Hells Kitchen," where you can eat ethnic every night
with lost souls from Danté's Inferno. His future bestsellers,
Move and Fluid Borders, have not yet been released. His new work-in-progress,
Dubya Dubya Deux, is about a time traveler.
Fishing: Chasing Tail in the Tropics
John M. Edwards
Well, the problem was, I thought I saw a real live mermaid. The
genuine article. This was a fantastical phantasm (or orgasm) that was
hard to shake.
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