In search of the compassionate Jamaicans

I like to think that I am observant. I had a discussion yesterday about whether Jamaicans display compassion, in particular towards strangers and those in need. Put briefly, I said, I saw evidence of it each day. Someone else said “Frankly, I don’t see much of it in Jamaica… that is why our society is the way it is.” In response, I cited some random instances that I had witnessed the day before. My discussant was not convinced. We can both be right. I may see and she may not see. Maybe, for this week, I will go out and search for those random acts, which I think may be useful.

Several days ago, a newspaper reported on a disabled truck that was looted by residents in Mount Rosser.

Disabled truck in Mount Rosser, stripped of its contents and some tyres
Disabled truck in Mount Rosser, stripped of its contents and some tyres

According to the report, ‘By the time the driver could come to his senses, hoards of people descended on the truck and began stripping it of energy drinks, cornflakes and saltfish. When the police arrived on the scene, the truck was almost empty. The looters even removed two of the wheels and emptied the gas from the tank.’ Yesterday, Observer columnist, Mark Wignall, commented on the story, ‘we are, as a nation which ought to be seeking development of our people, facing doom instead’. He noted that we did not get to this point overnight and cited an incident in Kingston in the 1980s. He mentioned that there used to be two distinct Jamaicans–‘The ‘town’ people were more individualistic, while ‘country’ people were naturally prone to kindness and lending assistance to total strangers.’ I had made a similar point in my discussions. Now, Wignall argues, ‘the lines have become blurred and we have melded into worse than the worst’. He tried to retain hope: ‘I clutch at optimism because of the many unsung Jamaicans, many of whom in their quiet ways are giving us pause to see a small but shining light of the possibility of a better day.’ But, it does not last: ‘The reality which puts a brake on that optimism is, when these good people stand up for principle and doing what’s right, the numbers are stacked against them. The politics of the nation is stacked against them.’

I won’t argue against Mr. Wignall’s conclusions; they’re his. First, Mr. Wignall is like me: he sees good people (‘many unsung Jamaicans’ doing things in ‘their quiet ways’. That heartens me, because he’s been in the business of observing Jamaica much longer and more deeply than I have, and we’ve seen the same things. But, using his terms, are the numbers stacked against the good people? That I cannot answer, and it may not be possible to agree or disagree unless we go about counting. I am sure that I can find incidents of bad people to counter the incidents of good people.

Let me step sideways for a moment. When I was the IMF’s resident representative in Guinea, I remember many incidents of disabled or crashed trucks and even passengers killed in crashes being looted by citizens near the incident. My reaction was that this was an indication of the dire poverty that existed, but it was also something else that was about humans’ base instincts. Opportunity was there but was nothing without motive. I never understood what motivated the looting, especially in a society that appeared to have much respect for human life. Most people to whom I spoke were appalled.

But, we know that such incidents are quite widespread worldwide. Sometimes, they occur where a desperately poor population happens to be on the route used to convey much valued goods, often food–aid trucks are common victims, as are commercial food carriers. The operators may use various means to track their convoys and also have the truck secured with armed personnel. We know of places where bandits are operating, looking to rob, rather than loot. Good people turning bad? Were they really that good?

I’m not aware of a country that does not have instances of depraved behaviour. It may be more common in some than others. If I scan the news stream that is coming over my phone, I know I will be regaled with the latest stories of such acts. Voila! A Utah mother charged with the murder of her seven children as newborns, after bodies found in cardboard boxes in the garage of her former home. That’s not normal, and we dread such extremes. Ironically, Utah, home of the Mormon congregation, has a population of 2.9 million, about the same as Jamaica, though is vastly bigger in terms of area.

What triggered the looting in Jamaica? Life had become so desperate? Respect for others become so low? We can speculate. Maybe, someone should poll the residents of Mount Rosser. The problem we have is that, with Mount Rosser clearly in our minds, how would that weigh against something that was good?

The girl who was a good student, who did charity work, but fell foul of the school principal over her way of dressing, and was told to leave the school. Who then left her home to live with relatives far away, trying to earn some money. Who was sought by the school vice principal and urged to return so that she could at least get her graduation credits and qualify for university. Whose tuition had been paid for by friends for the past several years and is still being paid for. Who was somehow kept on track by a combination of good deeds by friends (not strangers, admitted).

I’m not going to demote that action because the girl was known to most of the persons who wanted to help. Giving assistance to complete strangers is one part of a spectrum of kindness; often, we can see a connection, if only in terms of passing or repeated acquaintance even if no direct close knowledge of people. The indigent man in the church graveyard, who’s there every week asking for money to buy food. Maybe, the verger knows his name, but maybe not. Do any of the parishioners? Does it count that I give him or someone else begging for food the soup and sandwich that was handed to me at the ‘fellowship morning’? I see those kind acts, and don’t want to implicate myself in the counting of good deeds.

We know of the windscreen washers on the streets. To some they are a major annoyance, to some they are just part of our urban scene. To some, money will never leave their hands, for others they will pay the $100 for the wash and give something else. I’m not getting into motivation, just acts.

Some see kindness often tinged with danger and mischief. Are people helping young girls and boys because they are sexual predators? Maybe, there are some. But, I can see the potential for an evil notion in everyone I meet, so I don’t know how far I can go if I cast that net over every action. It says something about my fears, not necessarily about the reality that is taking place. Why not see school teachers the same way? That would be awkward.

The economist in me sees the benefit of doing two things that seem to be opposites. One, is to try to catalogue for my own curiosity the random acts of kindness I see. The other, is to try to be structured about my ‘data collection’. I may be able to do both, by standing at the bus terminal at Half Way Tree and just monitoring what goes on for a few hours. My phone camera is often ready but I may have to do more stopping along the road to capture the events. Or, I will be doing some walking around. I may even have to ask some people why they did what I saw them do. I hope that no one takes offence, either at the pictures I may be taking or any questions I may pose.

Now, I’m in danger of tainting my own sample. I am going to head off for some dawn practice. I know I may see some workers at the junction of the main road who will beg for a ride. Sometimes, I give one if I recognize the face, but I also know of incidents where such acts of kindness were met with death. It’s a delicate balance between kindness and risk-taking.

The face of the world has gotten harder. Jamaica is no exception. Were we spoiled by thinking that our face was very soft in the past. All the stories of kindness were real and common. Did the good outnumber the bad? I remember stories of bad deeds being told when I was a young boy in the 1950s. Guns were fewer, knives and machetes were more common. People stole clothes from the line; that happens less today because people hang out clothes less. People stole chickens and fruit and vegetables. Praedial larceny is older than the country as an independent state. We’ve also had bad people around. The seed were there in the past. Were they growing but we did not notice? The 1970s might have been the turning point. Oh, what a decade! Have the bad seeds now grown into trees that outnumber the good plants? I’m going to close my eyes and visualize and say not yet.

 

Mek wan jackass bray

Jamaican life is full of proverbs and most people will gladly share the wisdom gained from them. ‘Mek wan jackass bray’ can be translated as ‘allow one jackass (donkey) to bray at a time’.

It’s meaning is simple: It is difficult to see the merit in other persons’ ideas if everybody attempts to speak at the same time. Also, if someone is speaking foolishly, avoid adding to the confusion.

Yesterday, I listened to some of the live broadcast of Parliament, during a session when PM Simpson-Miller was responding to questions tabled by the Leader of the Opposition regarding her overseas travel. Such broadcasts have been available since 2007 (some 10 years after laws had provided for this). Jamaica has a British-style Parliamentary set-up, and with the now-tribal positioning of the two main parties, it’s not surprising that any face-off between politicians tends to be raucous. I think there’s a big difference between a vigorous debate and the near-juvenile behaviour one sees in both the UK and in Jamaica.

Many people are not familiar with the proceedings of Parliament and I would believe are shocked by what they observe and hear when the House is in session. Let’s say that Gordon House is often the place for a few choice “Gordon Bennett!” Or, in modern parlance, “Are these people for real!”

Though not from yesterday, this clip shows that Gordon House proceedings are not far from yard behaviour. Fulminating is the word that comes to mind. 

Don’t feel ashamed if you cannot watch the whole excerpt.

A few weeks ago, Everald Warmington, a JLP MP, got the nation’s attention with his declaration that if you did not vote you did not count for getting government benefits. His lambasting of non-voters never touched directly on reasons why that has become so popular. Perhaps, he needs to stand outside his Parliamentary role and ask an honest question such as “Would I want to vote for someone to go to Gordon House and act as if they are in a rum shop?” The proceedings could be mistaken for a session at the dominoes table. 

A common reaction heard or read yesterday was to describe the behaviour as ‘boorish‘. No disagreement, there. Many people view politicians as part of the privileged set of Jamaica. Given that the discussion underway yesterday was about the cost of the PM’s travel, it did not slip past many that the cost of politicians is not seen as public money well spent.

The substance of yesterday’s discussion? We got to hear the total cost of the PM’s travel and that of her Cabinet members and Minsters of State. (I have not seen the report that was tabled, and strangely only three copies made available to the House. But, it seems that J$118 millions for Cabinet and junior ministers’ trips , plus J$16 millions paid by the Office of the PM for her 25 trips, and J$25 millions for her staff.) We also learned something about what was accomplished by each trip. The PM got angry during the process of cross-questioning, and couldn’t avoid a few snide asides about the Opposition. Par for the course. Boring, to some extent. Unleaderlike, I’d also say. But, again, these are politicians at work, work, work. Blood was extracted from a stone. Teeth were pulled.

The PM seemed to have a hard time understanding that a large part of the populace wanted to know about her travel as part of the good governance of the country. Of course, most understand the important ambassadorial role the PM and other politicians play. But, it’s normal for the population to feel they are getting value for money from those elected to represent them. Often, politicians forget why they are in Parliament and performing their jobs in government. Their junkets need to be set in the context of what the people expect and need.

Mrs. Simpson-Miller has often bristled when asked about these trips, choosing to see ‘criticism’ of her travel, rather than a reasonable request that her people be better informed about the workings of government.

But, the whole matter could be simplified and need never raise any personal hackles. It’s not the norm in Jamaica for politicians to report to the nation on their overseas trips. It’s common practice in most organisations, worldwide. Not least, it leaves a clear record of how the stated purpose of the visits are matched by outcomes. It’s good management practice. Jamaican politicians are often telling us how we need to move forward and improve how the country operates. Yet..

The cynic in me could say that Jamaica’s politicians have not displayed a very good regard for good management. Nevertheless, we should keep pushing them towards being better than they are. Just make it a matter of routine that reporting on the trips is done. It could be in bland form with a short written report. It could be an oral presentation. It should be set in a very tight timeframe (say, within 7 days of the trip ending): that may be hard when trips are close to each other, but it means being more efficient. Government ministers have a civil service backing them and it’s very easy to set up good systems. Lots of examples exist internationally. Now, that the reporting has been done to Parliament, we should not break the mould and have this happen as a special exercise, but instead be part of government business.

Mr. Holness said the Prime Minister “should use her discretion in managing public funds frugally”. That’s important on many levels, not least because such spending is part of an overall national budget that has to stay within agreed limits as part of an IMF program. If the spending is within the agreed limits then the Fund should have no issues, but if it exceeds, then we need to know what offsetting measures exist to keep the budget deficit as agreed. In that sense, the benefits of the trips are irrelevant. You get no extra fiscal leverage for trips being ‘worthwhile’.

The PM’s response to Mr. Holness on that point was “I have not gone on any trip that has not been beneficial to Jamaica and the Jamaican people.” Let that be said. However, her saying so is not what government is about; a little substance to the statement will make it better. That’s really all that is being asked.

Junkanoo rushing from itself?

I am not going to venture deep into the waters of Bahamian Junkanoo. JunkanooThat is a minefield best entered with enough protection to thwart all forms of attack.

It’s just about noon on Boxing Day (December 26). The first parade of the Christmas season has just come towards its end as far as a public spectacle is concerned. The last ‘A group’ has left the main show area, Bay Street and Rawson Square. The crowd has left the temporary bleacher stands faster than hot bread leaves shelves. The tired fans are rushing towards their beds. Many have been out watching this annual spectacle for the better part of 10 or more hours. That’s a long time for any event, let alone one that is put on hours after the main dinner of the year for most people, on Christmas Day, and after a night when many were in church way past midnight. My young daughter and her mother went gleefully from our lodgings at about 1.30am. They returned home at about 8am. My wife did not make it past the sofa and hit it with a thud. She’s still pole-axed. My daughter told me she slept during the parade. She’s hanging in there. I’d decided to give the live parade a pass this year.

In the recent past, I’ve not felt the same fun as in earlier years. The groups came out late. Gaps between groups were long. The performances did not compensate for the sense of frustration that I felt. Instead, I decided to try watching it on local TV. It was not bad. It started on time–3am, later than usual because of a risk of rain earlier and to give the groups a better chance to get their pieces in position. The first group always suffer, and Saxons did. But, I was impressed by the promptness and settled in for a good show. Then,  problems with the next major group emerged soon. Two hours after the parade had begun that second group was still not on the road. The ‘reasons’ started to trickle in. Maybe, BEC, the national electricity company had an outage, so the groups were having to work in the dark. Anyway, we were backing up. I forwarded myself to my bed at 5.30am.

Two hours later, I awoke and found that I’d missed only two of the remaining five major groups. The delays have become perennial.

For a change, as I was watching from home, I went online and sent out a stream of commentary about the events. I encouraged people to watch the broadcast online–it was good.

I found myself getting into the commentary, as the groups’ performances hit my ears and eyes. Most left me flat. Thankfully, the best was saved for last. The Valley Boys, often called ‘the premier group’ of Nassau’s Junkanoo, came out with a spectacular show, under the theme of ‘From China to The Bahamas’. It was a simple theme, that lent itself to a consistent approach: everything Chinese. Fabulous costumes, flouting reds and yellows. Black faces whitened to look Asiatic. Lanterns. Buddha. Chinese national flag. Ladies with fans. Wide-brimmed hats. Images of Bruce Lee and Enter the Dragon. A bonus was the Prime Minister, Perry Christie, a well-known avid Valley fan, out of the streets in FULL REGALIA, rushing, dressed as a Chinese Emperor. He even immortalized his dance, the ‘Perry Shuffle’. All in good fun.

Junkanoo is a national treasure or artistic and musical inventiveness and Bahamians are fiercely proud of it. But, it looks like it’s about to outlive its current form.

The major groups are now very large (around 1,000) persons. Many costumes are very large and heavy: that’s one reason why the prospect of rain and strong winds sent ripples of fear through the organizers. The delays seem to be a constant. What to do about the parade will be a topic of conversation, at least during the Christmas Season. Many acknowledged that the ‘fun groups’ (sometimes just a handful of people, having fun, especially with a few drinks) may need to be dropped, though they have the benefit of filling gaps when bigger groups are tardy. The ‘B groups’ are not really competitive with the larger ‘A groups’, which are larger and better funded. Even the A groups are not all equally blessed. Should new funding options be considered? Should a change of format and venue be considered? The National Stadium. The PM and some of his Cabinet aired that view when interviewed during the parade. Traditionalists may bridle at ‘taking Junkanoo away from its roots’. But, things change. One Bahamian friend, who was a traditionalist, but got bored and tired of the delays, and is convinced that a stadium style could work, having seen how Brazil’s carnival now works.

I can sense the fears of the traditionalists. I’ve seen the same process at work with things that have much longer and deeper roots, for instance, the relocation of a sports stadium that has been part of a community for decades. There’s a lot of emotion invested in the location of events. Just this week, we saw the last NFL game played at Candlestick Park–a ‘baby’, built in 1960. The English soccer team I support, Queens Park Rangers, are now going forward with plans for a new stadium. I grew up in the shadows of the current stadium; I can’t visualize home games being played anywhere else but at Loftus Road (the team’s home since 1917). All of my childhood football memories from the early-1960s–glories and despair–are enshrined in that place. I have a friend who’s apartment abutted Arsenal’s former home, Highbury Stadium, and remember her anguish at plans to build a new stadium after plans had been rejected to expand Highbury. She was not even a fan, but her life had been deeply touched by where she lived and what she experienced with the football stadium and its activities just outside her kitchen window. So, I know any word about changing Junkanoo wont be taken just so.

The Junkanoo format needs to change. The groups need to accept a different kind of discipline. Spectators wont keep putting up with the current situation. If they don’t then the event will die. I wont presume the discussion, but it needs to happen. Recent history suggests that the ‘conversation’ will be painful. Some say, “let the groups decide”. But, just because that’s how many things are in the Caribbean, those who really have the power to make decision, may decide and changes go ahead anyway, and then there will be recriminations about lack of consultation and betrayal of traditions, etc.

At least, The Bahamas have their Junkanoo as a vibrant part of their national life. Jamaica is barely holding on to its version of Junkanoo–more in keeping with the earlier base of the  festival: a holiday for slaves, with many trappings of African traditions and aspects of colonial experience mixed. A rump, not even matching the horse’s head that is part of the tradition. I’d get into a fight about trying to boost that tradition much sooner that mix it up with Bahamians about where they will hold their parade.

The heart beat of Caribbean Christmas: joy and pain

A Caribbean Christmas presents some problems that don’t exist everywhere.

Many people head to church on Christmas Eve, late at night, knowing that they are going to be up way past the time when Santa comes calling at their homes. They go to what’s called ‘midnight mass’, starting at 10.30 pm, with the service just getting going when Christmas Day starts. This is the season of ‘The Sermon to end all sermons’. The theme has to be big, and bring them all to the knees begging forgiveness before they head home to see what The Bearded One has dropped under the tree. “Slackness” was a familiar theme some years ago–girls in skirts up to their necks; boys in pants down around their ankles; rude people doing bad things and thinking that a day on their knees would atone; stealing; lying; sweethearting. Bring on the Seven Deadly Sins and let’s add a few.pieter_bruegel_the_elder-_the_seven_deadly_sins_or_the_seven_vices_-_avarice

Then, people head home in the deep of night, and have to wake up on Christmas morning to a houseful of screaming children.

“What did Santa bring?” Rip, tear, shred.

“Oooh!”

‘Yeah!”

“Is that all I get?”

“That’s not what I wanted?”

“I got that last year!”

The mixed feelings that are Christmas are beginning to show early in the day. Happiness is only a smile away from fearful rows.

“Why did they have to use so much incense? Think about the asthmatics.”

“It’s time you all cut down on these services. Tooooo looooong!”

“You leave our services alone. We’re the only godly ones left.”

“I blame it on the government.”

“At least we got a government now. Your lot, took all the money and left us all with nothing to show. Bunch o’ crooks.”

The families sit and eat a hearty breakfast and love each other long enough to not bite off each other’s ears. I always like Christmas breakfast. It’s seasonally traditional: ham and eggs; coconut bread; raisin bread; special Christmas brews of teas and coffees; sorrel. Some like a little liquor early. “Boy, bring me that rum!” Grandpa needs to be kept happy.

The energy used up opening gifts is not much but it goes fast if you’ve had little sleep. Tuck in!

Men often get saddled with chores soon after if not before.

“Honey, can you assemble the bike, Robbie got? You know, I’m no good with those instructions…”

Hours later, Honey is still looking for grommet A to fit onto spindle 2. Robbie has gone back to playing with the empty box in which a new train came.

“Dearest, the kids want to try out their new i-whatevers. Just set up the modem and router for them. I can’t figure out those electronic doohickeys.”

Hours later…

“I get three green lights, and I see the connection, but still no Internet…Am I connected at your end?”

The kids have gone outside to play with rocks and just broke the neighbour’s window.

“Sorry, Mr. McFarlane. Daddy will come to fix it in a minute. Merry Christmas!”

We’re not yet at noon and moods are beginning to fray. We have three hours to go till dinner with the family. How many people will be there? “I hear about a hundred.”

Time to head to beds and take a nap. The day is hard in the land of the baking midday sun. The cool breeze of the morning has already given way to a rising heat. “It’s so hot!” Soon, silence reigns. For a few hours, calm will prevail. Energies restored and ready for the real fray. The arguments over Christmas dinner can be fierce. In The Bahamas, a peculiar ritual starts to shape up as people pre-position themselves for the coming Junkanoo parade.

“Who’s going to win?”

“Only one group in it, man.” Saxons. Valley. One Family. Roots.

“What’s the best theme?”

“What song Sting got out this year?”

Why they start Junkanoo so late? [After midnight.]

“The weather’s looking inclement. Better put the parade back a few hours. Start at 3 in the morning. Makes sense.”

“Those judges. All of them crooked, eh. They’re going to rob us, again.”

“Ain’t crooked. You-all don’t have any music; can’t dance. When you start practice? Last night? Cha!”

Dinner hasn’t even been served yet and the ripples are beginning. Blood won’t flow and voice will only rise a few decibels. Blows won’t be struck, but tongues will lash. But, the focus shifts as the smells become stronger from the kitchen and the clatter of dishes and trays start to compete with the voices.

“Oooh! Look at the turkey! Wow! That ham has a glaze, eh!”

“Where’s the peas and rice? Macaroni coming?”

“Baked beans coming? I hope so.”

Let your meat stop your mouth!

Jamaicans are exceptional

Jamaicans are exceptional–in the truest sense of that word. They like to feel special about themselves, and they like when others treat them specially. If they are not given that special treatment automatically, they usually extract it, sometimes forcefully. However, this exceptionalism is not necessarily always a good thing. Let’s look at some examples of exceptionalism in Jamaican daily life.

Driving can be tedious: roads are narrow and traffic is sometimes heavy. Jamaican exceptionalism comes into play, however, when drivers decide that it is within their rights to drive on the wrong side of the road. Why not? It’s clear, or at least, mostly clear. So, off they go, blaring horns and flashing lights at oncoming vehicles and drivers who mistakenly think that they have right of way. If the oncoming driver dares challenge with gesture or comment the ‘exceptional Jamaican’, woe betide him or her as a barrage of cuss words come flying forth like water from a power hose.

Do you ever go to an airport? Try flying when Jamaicans are travelling. Weight limits? Baggage limits? What foolishness, is this? Jamaicans always travel with lots of heavy bags, because they have lots of relatives and friends abroad who need to be fed with the goodness that is Jamaica–patties, fruit, liquor, pepper. When Jamaicans are returning from abroad, then naturally they have to come back with all the goodies that foreign places offer. It makes sense. Who can travel with one piece of carry-on luggage?

“That hefty bag that is being hauled wont go into the overhead bin, madam.” Who told the air steward to say that? “Young miss! That is my special bag with the jewels given to me by Granma Beatrice. I cannot let it go into the hold. You’ll have to drag it from me!” So, a fracas ensues, and much cussing and vilifying of whatever country the air steward represents. The less-exceptional Jamaicans on the plane are covering their faces and keeping their heads low.

Jamaicans sometimes have really thin skin when others decide to show them disregard or disrespect. Trinidad is getting the brunt of that right now, after 13 Jamaicans were denied entry and deported. Now, the ire of Jamaicans–in the pursuit of their right to enter any and every country they wish–is in full flow. Anything related to Trinidad is now a target. Boycott! Ban them! Deport them! It was the same much of last year, when Barbadian officials felt inclined to physically abuse a Jamaican woman while denying her entry at the international airport. The regional courts agreed with Jamaicans that they were exceptional that Barbadian officials needed to get themselves out of people’s underwear in the pursuit of border control.

Jamaicans are now wholly accustomed to being exceptional in the world of athletics. If there are three medals to be won, Jamaicans want them all, and all of them to be gold. Imagine our frustration during the last Olympics, when we had four men in the 100 metres final. Of course, we took the first four places, and had we really focused, we would have arranged a dead heat and forced the giving of four gold medals. As it was, our quartet gets the top four places, take three medals and make sure that the world understands by winning the 4×100 metres relay. We are the best, so why fret about the rest?

Jamaican exceptionalism is about to face a stern test. We have a singer who is trying to bust her lungs and impress American audiences. Tessanne Chin is a typical Jamaican–evident when she opens her mouth and says “bred and butta”–who has an exceptional singing voice. Now, every Jamaican expects Tessanne to win on The Voice, and if she does not, then it is one big plot by Americans. Of course, our barely 3 million Jamaicans here can’t out vote 360 million Americans. So, we have to convince a lot of them to vote for our girl, by phone, or online (Twitter handle @Tessanne). Some of our brethren and sistrin in America will vote for Tessanne, of course, but what can we do to get about 359 million non-Jamericans to vote for she? I would love it if our Prime Minister, rather than heading to China or Europe to talk up Jamaica, went to America to talk up Tessanne. That’s an exceptional gesture that would be very much in keeping with thinking that Jamaicans are the exceptions that prove the rule.

The good, the bad, and the ugly

I have a strong dislike for things that seem easy to fix but go unattended. Not that I’m up and down ladders doing jobs. My dislike focuses on social and economic problems. In the same vein, I look happily on examples of ‘jobs well done’.

I’m going to try to keep my eyes and ears tuned keenly so that I can share examples that fit these ‘bad’ and ‘good’ labels. But I also want to add a category for what I think is just despicable, or ‘ugly’–physically, tonally, morally, I’m open to being appalled.

Each week, on Sundays, I will share my catalogue. That’s my day for the calmest reflections, so my bile from earlier in the week should get tempered.

I was in Miami part of this week, and you’d think that city of excess ought to feature. Let’s see.

The good:
A man named Horace Prince, who is a staff member at the Edna Manley College of the Visual Arts and MC-ed the summer camp show. The man was FUNNY, maybe the best stand-up comic not doing that for a living. I felt for my in-laws, who couldn’t keep up with the rapid-fire patois. Added to his routine was the strong and positive messages he gave all the performers.

An honorable mention goes to the official at Miami International Airport, who promptly responded to my Twitter comments about poor signs. Our last exchange yesterday was around midnight and he was clearly doing his job on personal time. Trust me on that.

The bad:
In the realm of justice, the cake goes to the US legal system and the seeming travesty that was the trial and verdict given on George Zimmerman. The pain was worsened this week by the juror who voted to acquit but then stated she thought he “got away with murder”.

The 15 year-old who was in charge of selling tickets to me but did not know how much change to give from J$1000 and selling 3 tickets at J$250 each. Bad for the education system, whichever it was.

Fountainebleau hotel in Miami Beach may be THE place at night but it gets a prize for some of the poorest front desk service I’ve ever seen. Too much going on and slow seemed to be the only gear. After checking out from my room why would I want to join a line of over 30 people to get a copy of my bill. I loved the ‘light bulb’ moment when my wife suggested having an email option on the TV check out. Priceless. I suggest to a manager that they do some serious time and motion studies.

The ugly:
The ugliest was the story about a young man in St. James who was chopped and stabbed to death after party goers discovered he was cross-dressing. Jamaica’s homophobia reaches a new milestone.

The very ugly has to be the latest sexting scandal unleashed on himself by Anthony Weiner. I really couldn’t give a tinker’s cuss about what does or says as a politician, but as someone who claims to want the public’s trust I ask myself “What is he thinking?”

An honorable mention goes to Jamaican MP, Dayton Campbell, for his unflattering comments about a Miss Jamaica World contestant. Good that he apologized quickly afterwards, but check yourself next time the finger reaches for ‘send’.