After a few laps around customs in Montego Bay I was finally admitted into Jamaica. Or Jamaica-mon, as they say when the welcome you to Jamaica, mon. My brother Tom had to be paged to convince the authorities that I really was going somewhere that evening. We headed west to hills above Negril in time for sunset esconcement in the hammock chair with a rum drink.
Jamaicamon is okay.
Tom’s wife of 45 years, JC, prepared us a couple of the very same pretty fish I was looking at a few days earlier–a Jack and a Parrotfish.
And a Red Snapper
The locals were pretty sure Tom and I were twins. We do share an astonishing number of traits. Including a taste for pyro. Tom is lighting the grill with a blowtorch and a heat gun.
It is alarmingly fast and exciting as well. The little cooker is one he made out of an old pressure tank. The fish were yummy.
Tom and JC have been coming to Jamaica for a few decades and are building their paradise palace with the help of the local workforce. Tom is a welder too. The security grates are wonderful, but as he says, there’s not much inside to steal–the most valuable thing anyone could cart off are the security grates themselves.
Here is the front door grate, swung into open position over a matching mosaic panel on the wall behind.
The house is solid masonry, built to withstand hurricanes, fires, earthquakes and sundry other disasters. But cement is not the prettiest substance to look at, so Tom set to work covering the building, inside and out, in mosaic tile. Tom’s admiration for Gaudi’s work is unmistakable.
One of Tom and JC’s main employees in this insanity is a local fellow named Binghi. The upper right panel is Binghi’s first stab at mosaic imagery.
JC prefers doing more freeform mosaic.
She spends a lot of time in horticultural adventures with their gardener Tai Jean. Most of the plants are only a few years old. It’s kind of a Jack-and-the-beanstalk world.
Look at all the baby mangos. Aren’t they adorable?
This is ackee, an integral part of the national dish. Harry Belafonte: “Ackee, rice, salt fish is nice. And the rum is fine any time of year…” It is quite poisonous when young, and only partly poisonous when harvested. Edit with care.
The bird watching is good too. Lots of peculiar birds, hummingbirds, raptors, owls and other flying things. Here is a Jamaican Patoo–a large relative of nighthawks, that sits motionless in the same spot all day for years, but at 27 minutes after sunset (JC and Tom have timed him) he stretches his wings and takes off for a night of beetle hunting.
No matter the project at hand, if a good sunset is happening it’s cocktail hour on the west veranda.
Me being me, I am always up for a project, so Tom assigned me a large section of the west wall for a mosaic panel. He figured I could at least get it started and he and Binghi could finish it up later. Sounded like challenge to me. I came up with–of course–a variation of my favorite canyon/river/dory/sunset doodle.
This I refined and enlarged onto brown paper, then it was off to the tile room to pick out the palette.
Tom introduced me to the secret weapon: the Taurus 3 diamond-bladed ring saw. Sort of like a jigsaw for glass and ceramic.
A quick duo and away we go. Cut out one piece of the paper pattern at a time, paste it to a tile. Cut it out with the ring saw. Set it where the piece of paper once was. Repeat ad nauseum.
Here is my first stone dory. The wee light blue lines were supposed to be my wake, but look more like the shock wave of a dory breaking the sound barrier. That works too. Those kayakers who broke the Canyon speed record last month got nothin’ on me.
We filled the hoddy board up with cut tile, so it’s time to mix up some thinset mortar and start sticking it on the wall.
Then back down to the shop to make more cliffs.
And stick them on.
Oh oh. Cocktail time. Stop picking at it.
Time for a day off. Gotta go to town and check the email, as the internet cannot seem to function up in the hills of late. Down by the first actual “road” we hail a Route Taxi–a collective taxi that drives a particular route–like a maniac. But that’s how driving is in Jamaica. As Tom points out, Jamaicans are amazingly easy-going, patient, understating folks–until they get behind a wheel. Passing on curves? Routine. Yahoo. The picture just doesn’t do it justice.
A switch to another taxi at Green Hill and off to Alfred’s in Negril.
Upon checking the email we are stunned to find the world has not missed us whatsoever and is still spinning around in spite of our absence. Humph. Outside of Alfred’s is Negril’s famous seven-mile beach.
We stop at Miss Sophie’s for patties, then back to the hills. There is much work to do.
The sunset is ready to install.
Tom refines the pattern for the final parts.
Tom made some lovely sunset clouds to act as a transition to whatever happens above. I have plans. Later. Time to grout.
And done. Well, no. Not done. The bottom needs a transition too. How about some Hopi waves?
Blam. Done. So there. I really like it. Tom and JC like it. That’s particularly fortunate, because it’s a lot like a tattoo. It doesn’t fade, it doesn’t go away. It’s just there from here on out.
We can’t work this hard all day. Binghi and I on break.
But now I have to come back and do the wild celestial panel that I’ve been thinking of to go above this.