Ezekel Alan

This blog is about: cotton candy, cold milo, midgets, mangoes, sex, aged rum – everything but writing my next book

Archive for the category “Being Jamaican”

Losing touch with one’s roots

It is a clear sign of how much I have lost touch with my roots. Yesterday, a nasty, inconsiderate bird offloaded its burdens on me while I was on the way to the office. I was wearing a suit, and a fine one. If something like this had happened thirty years ago I would have saved my lunch money from school and, on my way home, stopped by the local Dropon man to buy the numbers. I would not have hurled expletives at disappearing feathers and cursed Noah for bringing two birds on-board the ark.

If my palm had itched me terribly thirty years ago I would have tried to cajole my cousins into playing marbles for money, knowing that luck was with me, and I was sure to win. When my palm itched yesterday I worried about bacteria in the metro and on the rails I had held.

It’s more than the Oceans that separate me from my homeland now. And it’s much more than time. I no longer know what leaves are good for what ailments, how to smell death on someone soon to die, what to do if I want to see ghosts and such. I’ve been so long out of the ghetto that I can’t even fake being ghetto any more. The culture of my old community feels like an alien insect that’s been extracted from beneath my skin and taken away for study.

This is perhaps why I never saw it coming. Why I didn’t realise what the bird shit and itching palm portended. You may have seen the news by now – Disposable People was, first, short-listed for the very prestigious Commonwealth Book Prize 2013. Then it won the Regional Prize for the Caribbean!

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Regional Winner- Commonwealth Book Prize 2013

The funny thing about it is, when I was writing the novel it felt more like a catharsis than a work of art. A purification of the soul, getting rid of memories, superstitions, wickedness, rottenness and things unspoken. Now a panel of international judges thinks that the purge was good. Well blow my fish!

All I can say now is that if I see a fat woman sneeze today I won’t be thinking of Avian Influenza; I will be dragging my skinny negro ass and watermelon belly out on  the town tonight to see just what else Destiny has already decided.

book-regionalwinner-2013

Who knows, I already see an email in my inbox from a potential agent…

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A reader’s perspective

English: Amazon Kindle e-book reader being hel...

I finished your book (Disposable People) on the train home last evening (then started Pao). I had lots of laughs throughout your book as well as despair and disgust. The treatment of dogs even shocked me. A good deal of your story does help me understand the root of Jamaican attitude toward sexual relationships and life in general.

Of course there are exceptions to any generalization. I know three loving men and fathers who raised their children alone when the birthmothers took off to the States. They are terrific fathers. I know an old fellow who pass a few years ago. He was married to the same woman for over 50 years. They never had children and he never had any elsewhere. He worshiped his loving Birdie (as he called her). Franklin was his name and he worked at the resort I frequent since it was built in the early 70’s. He was in his late 70’s when he died. I miss him and his stories. That is where I first heard of many Duppy stories and learned the proper way to roast a breadfruit.

Very strange fruit (Bread Fruit)

Over all I enjoyed reading your book. One thing the books lacked was answers. Damn man I need some answers. How the heck you get out of that horrible place? What takes you around the world? What kind of consulting? What happened when you did meet your father? Why semicolon? Look forward to your next books. I found your book while looking for historical novels about Jamaica on Amazon…seems to be a shortage of them.

– Anita

 

Yawn

Just waking up, not sure how I will face the New Year with this tendency to procrastinate. There’s plenty to be done, but I mainly seem to get through the slothful and sinful parts of my to-do list. I drink too much rum, watch too much American tv, eat too much of the kinds of food that are not good for me, and still feel unhealthy emotions towards the Republican Party.

Republican Party (United States)

Republican Party (United States) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And, if truth be told, in the past few weeks I have ignored my blog and second novel but not the bar and the football games.

But the New Year is approaching fast and I will, once again, promise myself to become a new man. As soon as I am fully and properly awake I will make my new resolutions, or try to find last year’s list. This time will be different! I will be the kind of man that my lady wants (needs?) me to be!

Goal number 1 for the New Year has got to be “Become Un-lazy”. Not sure what potion I can buy to help me with this, but I will try.

I will also publish novel number 2! Yes, I will…I think. The ideas are coming fast and furious, and are abusing me all hours of the night, plunging themselves in and out of my brain. They are such a tease! They want me to try to catch them. To get up and hold them down with a pen. I will, soon.

I will not buy the new Blackberry phone, or any new gadget that Apple, Google, Nexus and all those people stretching their fingers into my pocket want me to buy. I hope for Blackberry’s sake that they have learnt their lesson well: people don’t want a phone merely to keep in touch free of cost (BBM), they want a phone that allows them to share, interact, play, and experience the wide world of gadgets and technologies. In this world where entertainment is highly privatized and where speech has become fragmented and people don’t seem to have plain, ordinary conversations any more, folks are not hoping to talk more, but to share experiences – videos, games, jokes, photos, etc. I hope BB gets it, though I still will not get their phone.

New Phone

Blackberry Phone (Photo credit: jtcoleman)

I want to eat more Jamaican food this coming year, however hard that may be to come by in this part of the world.

Ah, humbug, I’m not even sure why I am using all this energy now to think of my New Year’s list when it isn’t even New Year’s Eve as yet.

Let me go get some rest and get back to this in another day or so.

Blessings.

November 6 – there will be blood!

After the votes are counted, there will be blood. There will be murders and mayhem. I predict suicides, rapes, extreme violence, lynching, lying, spitting, brawls, slaughtering, genocides, homicides, infanticide. I fully expect at least one Columbine. I know there will be lone gunmen as well as gangs marauding through the streets, searching for the supporters of the other side, and slaughtering them. Looting, burning, stealing, destroying, that’s what’s gonna happen on November 6. I see streets with tires burning around the bodies of men and women and children. And people watching, wondering, how did we ever get to this? It will be a bloodbath. There will be a frenzy of violence, and drinking of blood.

Violence!

Violence! (Photo credit: Rickydavid)

I remember a time, long ago, when I felt a surge of violence inside me that was shocking and unbelievably powerful. I felt like I was a machine – a thing of blood with moving mechanical parts. I wanted to run into the streets and fire my gun in the air and at every and any thing that moved. I felt violent.

The difference between what happened to me and what will happen on November 6 is stark. With me, I was at a Jamaican Dancehall session where DJ Capleton was on stage chanting “Come let us burn them out!” The music was psychotic and violent, and it was pulsating in my veins. I was smoking (not cigarette) and I had been drinking (not juice) and found my self in an inhuman trance. And the message of the music spoke to me. And I saw myself as a real gangster, a real ‘don’. Thankfully I have never returned to having those feelings since.

MS_Capleton

Capleton aka ‘The Fireman’ (Photo credit: Rototom Sunsplash)

As for the US presidential elections, I have been thinking about November 6 and what will happen after the votes are counted. It is a close election, that we all know (or that we have all heard.)

Someone will win and someone will lose.

People say that America is sufficiently civilized so the results will be accepted without physical violence and mayhem. That may be true, but in my view even if there is no outward show of violence, I know that there will be violence in the minds of thousands if not millions of Americans when the results are known. When they either see that the black man is still in the White House or that the billionaire Mormon who has nothing in common with the poor has assumed the seat of power.

Americans feel deeply about this election. The level of dislike between both sides has hardly ever been more palpable. There is no doubt in my mind that Obama and Romney genuinely dislike each other. And there is, similarly, more than a mild disgust between their supporters.

Passionate Democrats say they have seen the Republicans dress up a snake in sheep’s clothing (look carefully, that’s the tail beneath the dress.) The tea party has been quiet. Mitt has been moderate. Ryan has said little about the tough things that will need to be done to balance the budget. Passionate Democrats see this as an obvious and well planned strategy to strike for the middle and not alienate the liberals, the poor, the middle class, the Latinos  etc. What will happen if the ploy succeeds, and passionate Democrats see the snake slithering through the grass on the front lawn of the White House?

And, from the other side, what will happen if the ploy fails and the tea party and ultra conservatives see that they have lost, and that the black, Muslim, foreign-born, pro-life, pro-gay, godless man is back in the white house? Remember the sign in Ohio at the rally? (“Time to put White back in the White House.”)

One of these two outcomes will materialise, and I suspect that the burning, and looting, and lynching that’s in our genes will boil and there will be extreme violence in the minds of thousands of people. What will happen outside the mind is another story, but I know that inside, there will be violence.

A History of Violence

A History of Violence (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As for me, that night in Kingston I stayed inside the Dancehall, I drank a  few more Guinness, tried chatting with some girls, and ate some peanuts and roast corn. I later went home and slept.

The bird must die!

This bird must die

This is not a time for us to be sentimental. We may think that it looks cute and cuddly. We may remember watching it as a child. We may be thinking that our own children are watching it and laughing, maybe even learning. But this is not a time for us to be foolish and sentimental. This bird, this vile, evil, monstrosity of a bird, is dragging our economy down and swelling our public debt. The bird must die! Or we all will.

Ah, you hear the music, you think it sings and dances. You think it entertains and educates. You are a fool. These are the time-honored deceits of the devil. Evil and debt come in many guises. And make no mistake about it, this is debt. Our debt. Or enormous public debt that will soon drown us, like a tsunami. If we don’t heed the warnings, and kill the bird.

The bird must die. It is a sacrifice that must be made for all humanity. When the bird dies we will be able to breathe more freely, rid ourselves of the suffocating hold of public debt. And we will be able to do more, for our own people, and perhaps a few of the world’s poor. But first we must kill the bird.

It may seem harsh, but the most bitter medicine is always the best. Amputate the leg before the cancer grows. The bird has already grown. Our public debt is huge. If we don’t act NOW a pernicious, cancerous public debt will eat away at our core, like gangrene. The bird must die. It is for the common good. It is for the debt.

Heed the warning. Kill the bird. The bird must die!

I’m in labour

I haven’t been blogging much this past month. It’s not thatI am depressed because there’s no Olympics to watch. That is only a small part of what has happened, and yes, it is painful that there is nothing else to watch on t.v..

The real reason is that I am writing! I go through phases when nothing happens, and times, like this, when all the ideas come.

I learnt a lot from the first novel. I continue to be very surprised by its success. I feel that I have gotten better, and I have gained much from the comments of readers.

I have a complete draft now in place, and am working on polishing and fine-tuning. I will need another month of work to get it to where I want a full first draft to be.

The ideas are coming. I’ve broken water.

I will get back to blogging in a bit, but a child is on the way.

One love

Cheating – in athletics, not relationships or politics

List of Major League Baseball players suspende...

At the end of my chain-smoking day, I put aside my weed, and I sometimes pray;

I say to the Lord, “I have never been gay, but I would like gays to be treated in a proper way.”

There are all kinds of things that come to my mind at the end of each day. These days my thoughts often turn to the Republican party in the US, and what could happen to American society if they were to come to power. I have heard some words and seen some deeds that have caused more than a small amount of consternation in me, a black man. I sometimes wonder what I would be thinking if I were a woman, or gay.

I read a New York Times article the other day that spoke of the dark (in deeds, not colour) road to the White House that some folks seem to be taking, and the devious means being pursued. (See article here.)

But that’s not what this blog today is about.

Neither is it about whether Jamaican men cheat in relationships, which is a subject that draws an awful lot of visitors to this website.

The question for today’s blog is ‘Do Jamaican men cheat in athletics?’

Or is it the question?

Carl Lewis rubbed me mighty wrong before, during and after the Olympics with his less than sincere concerns about the standards of drug testing in Jamaica, and his blatantly nasty insinuations about Usain Bolt’s performance. He wanted the world to take a good look at drug testing standards and facilities in our little, poor, backward, third world nation, because to him, it is unthinkable that we could produce athletes that could not only beat but humble his countrymen.

At the end of my chain-smoking day I started to reflect on the fact that no prominent Jamaican athlete has ever been tested positive for drugs in any international event. So, let us assume that we evaded detection at home, and made it to the world stage where drug-testing facilities are better. Nothing. (Not yet, and I hope not ever.)

The US, on the other hand, has had a long string of domestic and international drug-testing scandals. In fact, I don’t think there is any other country that has reported as many prominent cases of doping.

I found on the internet a list of the top ten sports figures whose careers have been tarnished by allegations or evidence of doping:

10. Shawne Merriman, NFL, San Diego Chargers – USA

9. Jose Canseco, MLB  – USA

8. Rafael Palmeiro, MLB – USA

7. Ben Johnson, Olympic Sprinter – Canada

6. Floyd Landis, American Cyclist – USA

5. Kostas Kenteris & Ekaterini Thanou, Olympians – Greece
4. Barry Bonds, MLB  – USA

3. Alex Rodriguez, MLB – USA

2. Marion Jones, Olympian – USA

1. Roger Clemens, MLB  – USA

(Read more at http://www.toptenz.net/top-10-sports-figures-steroids.php#oSZ8XXj5GYCp8svm.99)

Let’s forget about the unspoken suspicions around a whole generation of runners in the Flo Jo era, and get to BALCO, Marion Jones and a sub-industry producing drugged up athletes. Should we then move to Barry Bonds?

English: Marion Jones - September 30th, 2000 a...

Marion Jones – September 30th, 2000 at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

No, let us instead look at this Lance Armstrong case – which is interesting for the fact that we are not talking about one person, but a whole network of cyclists who are confessing to the fact that there was some kind of ‘operation’ going on.

I don’t know if Lance is guilty or innocent, and a part of me wants him to be innocent, partly because I want to believe there is some good in us, but mostly because of his fight with cancer, and the fact that I hate to see someone’s reputation and life ruined and destroyed without solid evidence.

English: Cyclist Lance Armstrong at the 2008 T...

Cyclist Lance Armstrong (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What I find also really interesting is that the great World Anti-Doping Agency and the US anti-doping bodies could have been testing this man for over 7 years and now need to rely on witnesses to testify that he was taking drugs. I really wonder what Carl Lewis and the whole lot of them have to contribute to this issue of the caliber of these first world drug testing bodies.

The worst moment for the US in the 2012 Olympics?

I believe that the men’s 4×100 meters track race might have provided the US athletes with their worst moment in the 2012 Olympics. Let me tell you why.

What it meant

  • Jamaica had won the men and women’s 100 meter races, which are seen as the top athletic events at the Olympics. While Jamaica also swept the men’s 200 meter event, the USA took two of the medals, including gold, in the women’s 200 meters race. This placed the advantage in Jamaica’s court.
  • But the US stormed back by winning the women’s 4×400 in dominating style, and also took the 4×100 in a similar but world record-setting manner.
  • At this point, the bragging rights were approaching even because the US now had one of the only two World Records at the meet, and also had the only athlete with 3 gold medals – Alison Felix. They had also blown away our girls in the 4×100 and 4×400.
  • The 4×100 men was therefore a pivotal race, not only in terms of deciding bragging rights re the number of important track events won, but also in determining if Bolt would join Felix with 3 golds (if not Felix would take bragging rights given that she also had a world record). Then there is also the special significance of the 4×100 as the highly prestigious closing track event of the Olympics. The last race that people would remember. The 4×100 mattered, and quite a lot.
  • The fact that Jamaica won, Bolt got a third gold and a World Record, not only made Bolt the single most celebrated track athlete at the Olympics, but also gave Jamaica a decisive hold on the claim of being the most dominant country in the track events. But this isn’t all that makes that race so difficult for the US.

Bragging rights

After this victory, no one would speak of Felix being the dominant track athlete

How it happened

  • The defeat was made fifty times worse for the US because of how it was done. The US had an excellent game plan – start off extremely strong, execute baton change well, and give Bailey a lead to try to hold off Bolt. This lead was to come from Gatlin and Gaye.
  • Gaye was therefore a crucial part of the US strategy. Gaye, perhaps the most talented US athlete never to have won an Olympic medal, was hungry for that prize. He said it many times before the games. Having failed in the 100m final, this was his last opportunity for gold. The race mattered significantly, and his role in it was crucial. His job was to give Bailey a lead that he could use to fight off Bolt, give Gaye his gold, and swing the bragging rights pendulum firmly back to the US.
  • Gaye got the baton first and took off around the corner. I believe the single worst moment of his life, and for the US athletics team in London, is when he saw the gold jersey of the Jamaican Beast, Yohan Blake, pull up comfortably beside him. I cannot imagine anything more demotivating that the certainty of knowing that with Bolt about to receive the baton at the same time as Bailey any remote opportunity for an American gold medal had then completely vanished.

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