Chautauqua, Adventures

Adventure # 2.

It was at about the same time that I was first reading the ad about sailing, that I met Meredith, and it was as a result of meeting Meredith that I got to go to Jamaica.

Since arriving in Boulder, I had gotten back into photography, something I hadn’t done seriously since high school. I like photographing places and people, and Colorado is night and day different from central Minnesota. Certainly the people were different.
I started taking pictures of some of the people at Penny Lane. I’d ask them of course.
I’d walk up to their table and ask them if I could take their picture.
Not the paranoid schizofrenics of course, but all the others if they looked interesting and didn’t mind.
Sometimes I would be walking on the mall and see someone interesting and I would walk up to them, or stop them as they walked by, and ask them if I could take their picture. Only rarely did anyone decline. Some would want to know what it was all about and so we’d talk a bit, and some didn’t seem to care what it was all about and continue on about their business after I took their picture. Usually it was women that caught my eye (go figure) but they had to have some quality, some uniqueness that caused them to catch my eye. It might be an attitude, manner of dress, hair, tattoos or piercings, or any number of things. And usually it was that uniqueness that made them willing to be photographed by a total stranger and not be weirded out by it.
One night I was having a bite to eat at Old Chicago on the mall. I was sitting on the patio outside since it was a warm night and I noticed a girl coming out of the bar next to Old Chicago. She sat at a table out on their patio and lit a cigarette to go with her beer.
With in minutes a couple guys had joined her at her table, but I didn’t think that they were all together. The thing that caught my eye in her case was her hair. She had dark brown dreads down to her butt.
In Boulder, dreads are a dime a dozen and normally wouldn’t stand out at all, but this girl didn’t fit the rest of the profile. Usually girls with dreads are your typical earthy, long skirt wearin’, patchouli smellin’, Phish listenin’ bare foot hippy chicks. Not always, but usually. And that’s ok. I’ve photographed some girls like that, though they too had some quality that set them apart. But this girl with the long locks was different in a number of ways. She wasn’t wearing baggy pants or a patchwork skirt. She was wearing make up but not too much. She was petite at 5-4, about 110 pounds, and this girl wasn’t interested in hiding her femininity under a lot of loose, baggy material. She had on a pair of black, low slung hip-hugger pants that weren’t leather but fit her like a glove. Her top was some kind of red shiny material that also clung to every curve. She was wearing black boots that zipped up the side and probably added a couple inches.
The result was a refreshing slant on the whole dreads thing. I had to talk to her.
I settled up with my server and went next door, arriving just as she went into the bar.
I figured she was heading for the bathroom, but when I opened the door she was standing at the bar waiting for a refill. I walked up beside her, said “Excuse me…”, and laid my little spiel on her as we stood there. I told her how I would love to photograph her if she was of a mind, and how she would get a complete set of all the pictures. That I liked her “look” and how different it was.
She knew exactly what I was talking about. She said, “Yeah, when I was fifteen I ran away from home and went on “Dead Tour” for the next four years. As a result, I’ve been around and seen a lot, and I decided that I wasn’t going to wear any certain “uniform” or fit any certain mold. I like dressing up when I go out and I like looking good. I have followed and practiced the Rastafari religion for the past ten years and believe me, I have earned these locks. I have a full time job in sales and marketing, and I have a three year old daughter who’s father left when I got pregnant.” She said her name was Meradith and she was twenty-two. We discovered that we had the same February 14th Valentine’s Day birthday, so I gave her a card and said I hoped I would hear from her about possibly working together.
I figured that before the night was over, she would probably scribble her phone number on the back of my card and give it to some guy and I would never hear from her again, but about two weeks later, she called. I wound up photographing her and her daughter Israel too. As a result we became good friends and remain so to this day.
I became Uncle Rick to Isreal, and the three of us spent a lot of time together. Our favorite picture of all is one I took of her wearing nothing but those black boots, with her head way back and her dreads hanging straight down past her butt. Oh yeah, and she’s holding a bottle of Guiness in her right hand. It’s a great shot that I like a lot.
She has a big print of it, matted and framed, hanging in her living room. She’s very proud of it because she likes the way she looks. It is a pretty cool photograph, and when she’s 70 she’ll still be able to look at that picture of when she was 22… and remember.
I also got to know Isreal’s Godfather, (read, step-father) a former boyfriend of Meredith’s named Steve. They are just friends now, but still close, so he was over at the apartment a lot of the times when I was there. We all got along very well. Anyway, it was Steve who asked me one day if I had ever wanted to go to Jamaica. I said that of course I would love to go to Jamaica. Who wouldn’t want to go to Jamaica!
And so, as Meredith, Steve and I sat out on the patio of her apartment, they explained how I could go on an all expense paid trip to Jamaica for ten days.
And so that’s what happened. I flew first class to Miami and from there to Montego Bay and from there by car to Negril where I stayed at a really nice little resort for ten days. The flights were uneventful but the car ride from the airport in Mobay to Negril was one I would not want to do twice in my lifetime. Once I was safely in Negril and settled into my modest but comfortable room, one of the first things I bought was a t-shirt that said “I survived the road to Negril”.

The place I stayed, called The Negril Yacht Club, had probably been a big fancy deal back in the day before the big resort hotels built farther down the 7 Mile Beach, but these days it survives as more of a locals place to stay or for tourists who stay for a month or two or three. It had a good restaurant, an outdoor “tiki” bar, hammocks slung between swaying palms, kayaks, etc. and my room with a huge bathroom and shower. two beds and a little patio ten feet from the ocean, was $30 a night, $35 if I wanted A/C which I did. I wasn’t paying for it anyway. Best of all, in no time at all the whole staff, all 7 or 8 of them, knew you and you knew them

Happy rejoicing at day's end.

The whole trip didn’t cost me a thing and I was even given five hundred dollars spending money. So, after ten days of lying on the beach, sitting at the outdoor bar drinking ice cold Red Stripes, exploring the town of Negril, kayaking along the shore for miles, lying in a hammock sipping frothy rum drinks for hours, photographing some beautiful Jamaican girls, and falling asleep each night to the sound of the waves on the shore ten feet outside my window, I flew first class back to Colorado, safely clearing Customs in St. Louis.  My only regret is that I didn’t take more pictures.

Meredith, Isreal and Steve have since moved to New Jersey and I look forward to seeing them all again some day.  It will happen.  I will have to go to New Jersey, which is fine because in addition to seeing everybody, I can fulfill another lifelong dream,  which is to go to Coney Island and have a hot dog at Nathan’s. I can’t wait!
Meredith and I call each other once in a while to keep caught up and stay in touch. And we always exchange Valentine birthday cards in February.


5 comments on “Chautauqua, Adventures

  1. Rick that’s quite a story my friend!
    In many ways on a much smaller scale, I have had similar experiences. I always seem to click with people throughout my lifetime, be it women or men but mostly women…LOL
    Anyway, thanks for sharing and you can bet I’ll be reading the rest of your chapters.
    Peace bro

  2. Grr, I’m a detail girl, and now I’m trying to figure out how you got a free holiday. It was something illegal wasn’t it?

  3. I’m sure you both can guess why someone might get a free trip to JAMAICA mon, and return with souvenirs like rum, coffee, herb, cigars, t-shirts, etc. One of these in the amount of 15 lbs. : )

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