Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Jah Heat

The closest I've ever been to Jamaica.*

Summer 1991, a beach bar in Florida. Dark weekend night, bodies pressed close together on the sand dance floor, bare feet buried deep for stability, braced slightly spread. Cool wet sand just under the sugary still warm white top sand. Dancing to a middle-aged white-guy cover band, who can flip from Jimmy Buffet to Bob Marley in one song. Drinking iced-down but toxic liquor--the bartender says "All the light alcohol mixed, with a splash of cranberry or coke" from a mason jar left to sweat on the graying picnic tables parked to one side of the dancing.

People are moving slow, that lazy sexual beat of Marley's tunes, bodies keeping just far enough away for public decency. Sweat trickles down the backs of knees, makes a cool spot down the leg, and the light from the bar catches glistening spots here, there-- a cheek, a thigh.

For me, there is a kind of peaceful strangeness, ironic clash, in dancing, getting a bit drunk on dancing and alcohol, to Marley's lyrics: "Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery; None but ourselves can free our minds"-- "Exodus: movement of Jah people! Oh, yeah! Movement of Jah people! Send us another brother Moses!" Lyrics about Revolution, about Holy Retribution. About Jah, the great Messianic God of the Rastafarians. And yet, here we are, a mostly white, young crowd, some dancing in bikini tops with cut off shorts. Most have spent the day suntanning, some are making out on the dance floor. They are on vacation, and they are sin personified. And we don't really blame them.

Most people have no idea what the songs say. If you asked them, told them, they would be surprised that this party music, those pot smoking Rastas, were anything other than what they seem-- peaceful zoned out hippies. Would God mind our revelry, see it as pagan ignorance? I like to think not. He made wine at the wedding, hung out with the whores and thieves. He knew that often the sinners are the ones who most understand redemption.

It is a bliss of a sort... this wet heat, the wind blowing salty and slightly musty, tasting of seaweed and fish, off the slow waves of the gulf, the gulf which here luminesces emerald blue in the day against the snowy white, white beaches. We forget anything else but here. Now.

*Inspired by this morning's CD selection in the car, and a wandering mind remembering those days.


Anonymous said...

most people might not realize what marley is saying, but this one always did.

he is timeless. also, most people don't realize that Ja is actually Jehovah.