We slept late on Thursday, then headed to swim. For the first time since we arrived, it was slightly overcast. I’d heard from several people that it rains every day in Negril, just for a few minutes at a time, but this was the first hint of it we’d even seen.
We swam for a long time, watching the ‘reggae mariachis’ on the beach and a divebombing bird. The ocean was a little colder than usual without the sun. Around 3pm, we went to change and go find some lunch.
We got a table at Alfred’s, one of the spots that had live music a few nights before. I knew I was dehydrated, because I ended up with three beverages in front of me: water, pop, and Red Stripe. I had a grilled cheese (the European kind, open-faced and toasted), salad, and fries with Grey’s Spicy Sauce. That stuff goes well with anything.
While we sat there, it started raining a tiny bit, though not enough to really soak anything. The people who were sitting in the uncovered areas eating were unbothered by it.
On the way back up the beach, we met both Captain Eveready and Captain Moses, who offered to take us out in their glass-bottom boats. We fully intended to, but their boats were never on the beach when we were around.
We sat on the beach for a long time, reading, chillaxing, and drinking rum punch. We decided that we should run to the store for our own booze, so we could watch the sun set on the patio at our hotel. We wandered out to the street and down the block to Shamrock, the little convenience store we’d passed a few times without realizing it was there. We got a bottle of overproof rum, some Pepsi and Diet Pepsi (they’re not much on Coke there, apparently), Red Stripes, and I got a cheese bun. I was maybe a little obsessed with the concept of the cheese bun, even though I didn’t know exactly what it was.
We returned to our hotel, got a table on the patio, and got to playing cards, drinking, and watching the sunset. I probably don’t have to tell you again just how awesome Jamaica is:
We played cribbage, which involved Matt drawing a picture of a marmot for reasons I know but can’t possibly explain, then we played slappy, the preferred game of drinking people. Once the sun went down, a band started setting up on stage at our hotel. We had no clue they had live music there, so that was spectacular. As the show began, we learned that it was, in fact, their first gig at the hotel. They’d be doing music twice a week from then on, for free. Look out, Bourbon Beach!
The band was Ansel and the Foxtrots. Ansel was a guy in his 60s with one arm. He was a great performer. A few songs into the set, who should wander in but the roving trumpet player? He hopped on stage and started playing with the band. We loved it.
We watched their first set, then decided it was time for dinner. We wandered over to Roots Bamboo, and were promptly seated by a very enthusiastic server, the same one we’d had our first day. He told us his name was Billy Ray, but that people called him Slick. I’m pretty sure you can’t get by in Jamaica without an awesome nickname.
Speaking of awesome nicknames, we’d spend much of our time in the ocean every day speculating about the sign in front of Roots. It advertised Money Cologne’s big birthday bash on February 25, which happened to also be Matt’s birthday. We were sadly leaving a few days prior. We even recognized some of the names on the sign, so we knew it had to be a big deal. But the most exciting part, in general, was the name Money Cologne. Best nickname ever.
I had steamed vegetables and rice, which was way better than it sounds. Matt had oxtail and broad beans. While we ate, we noticed a couple laying on top of each other near the stage, making out.
We went back to the hotel after dinner to catch the rest of Ansel and the Foxtrots’ set. They played ‘No Woman, No Cry’; that was the 6th time we’d heard it, and by then it was actually making me choke up. Seriously, you try being in an amazingly gorgeous place with the person you’re madly in love with, and see if it doesn’t make you a little sentimental, too.
The North Dakotans were in full force for the show. They’d slowly emerged from their rooms and stumbled to the beach in front of the stage. They danced and yelled and became involved in incredibly deep conversations about things they wouldn’t remember the next day. And then at the end of the show, the band broke into ‘Hot Hot Hot’. The female bartenders came out and danced at the front of the stage, and all the old people formed a conga line. IT WAS HYSTERICAL.
Matt and I left them to the conga line, and headed over to the Jungle. My research had shown that Thursday was ladies’ night at the Jungle, and therefore the most crowded. Also, free admission for me!
There were lines of pimped-out cars parked along the road, and people piling out of taxis. We got in line and Matt paid admission. Inside, he got a hand stamp, and a guy wanded him to check for weapons. The wand beeped at both his pockets; he told the guy it was his wallet and lighter, when in reality he had a pocket knife in one of them. The guy didn’t seem to care much, and waved us past.
The downstairs of the Jungle reminded me a lot of the Gay 90s. Sort of cavernous, with bars shoved in various places, and platforms that seemed to not serve much purpose. There was an aquarium with a snake in it. It was also really strange being indoors: apart from the hotel room, we were always some degree of outside.
We followed the music to the right, and saw a bartender excitedly waving us over. We got drinks, and then went to check out the dance floor. It was the typical club floor: round, with a DJ booth above it, VIP rooms on either side, and areas for people to stand and watch. There was hardly anyone in there yet (it was good to know that Negril has the same dance schedule as Minneapolis, at least), so we decided to go check out the upstairs.
We climbed a flight of stairs that had a platform halfway up. It had three couches and a giant TV. A guy was lounging there, watching sports. The upstairs is a giant patio with a bar in the center. There’s a little food stand on the left serving typical Jamaican food, particularly of the fried variety (best idea ever!), and stage with another DJ booth. Matt and I grabbed what appeared to be the very last unoccupied table; the place wasn’t exactly crowded yet, but the rest would be standing room only.
The place filled up quickly, and the DJ started playing. It was mostly American pop/hiphop; we heard things like Hollaback Girl. It was entertaining, but nobody was really dancing at all. After a while, we decided to surrender our table and see what was going on downstairs. After a stop in the bathroom (where Matt talked to some dudes who were trying to figure out how many mushrooms one should take at a time), we made our way to the dance floor. And that was AWESOME.
They were playing much better hiphop downstairs (we called it the Annex, because of the 90s thing), stuff like 50 Cent and Walk it Out, which I only remember how to do when drunk, much like the Electric Slide. It was packed and unbelievably hot; we were drenched in sweat. I absolutely loved it. After a long time, the DJ started switching the music to more local stuff. He played a lot of dancehall, doing that thing where he’ll mix and swap stuff out every 30 seconds or so, talking over it a ton. He told us it was his birthday the next day approximately 50 times. We got kind of sick of the talking and spastic music changes, and decided to head out. We hadn’t noticed til we were walking out that it was mostly locals at that point. All the tourists had either headed out, or were still up on the patio with Gwen Stefani.
We got back to our hotel close to 3am, and settled into our routine: drinking a lot of water and watching ESPN.