24 hours in Kingston. It’s sultry, airless hot here, overcast, and the whole city looks desperate for rain. I’m uptown (top ranking), staying in the only hotel (probably) in Kingston to have a Poet’s Corner. There’s a bench beside the sign where you can sit composing at leisure.
I haven’t written a poem today, but I have met with Keith Lowe, expert on the experience of the Chinese in Jamaica, who told me that all the Lowes in Jamaica (including my grandfather, Lowe Shu On) come from one of two villages in the south of China. He also drew me the Lowe name in Chinese:
There are Chinese shops and restaurants all over Jamaica, and an obvious Chinese prosperity. I talked to Keith about prejudice towards the Chinese in Jamaica. He said the most common taunt was “Chiney nyam dog” – work it out. But the Chinese have settled here, married into the black community, had children and grandchildren. I popped into the Chinese Benevolent Association, where some very young children were being taught martial arts. The caretaker kindly showed me the Dragon Room where, well, dragons are kept until required.
Now, speaking of dogs, I met Leah today, the poet Tanya Shirley’s much loved mutt. I forgot to take Leah’s picture but suffice to say she looks like Pat Sharp. I’d not met Tanya before, so it was great to have lunch today. Here’s a link to her reading “Sunday Ritual”, a poem I love.
Tomorrow I’m hoping to spend the day with Herbie Miller, Director of the Jamaican Music Museum, who told me on the phone today that if he had the name the Jamaica musical genius, it would be the late alto saxophonist Joe Harriott any day. Over Bob Marley. Controversial! I originally started writing about Joe because he’s a relation (dad’s cousin), but now I think I’d have wanted to know more him regardless – an amazing, troubled musician.
Lastly, last year’s hurricane Sandy has wiped out Jamaica’s banana crop. Those left are hard to come by, overpriced and deformed, according to George, the taxi driver who bought me from the airport. I’ve been in two supermarkets today, but am yet to see even a deformed one. Jamaica is out of bananas.