November 2017 Volume 14

Taking Fresh Air’

Ray Ford
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There’s nothing as exhilaration for me as, even for a moment, escaping my own circumstance. I call these sorts of fleeting escapes, `taking fresh air’. And that I did, in taking-in this year’s `Big Purple Session’ in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I had intended to do the same last year. But, my spirit didn’t take to Spirit, and, theirs neither, took to mine. These days, I cannot take `hauling-n-pulling’, which seems to be Spirit’s way of pulling-in its customers. And so, as in similar cases, I asked to be, counted-out. Too old am I, for `rough-treatment’.

It’s getting late in the day. And so this is not the time to say, `I’ll do it next year’. Because, ‘Bulla-John’ is now looking at his watch. And, at any time, he could blow-off the game. And so with that in-mind, I made the trek. And, it didn’t take long. In an hour-and-a-half, the spoilers on the wings of the Delta B-757 were raised, the air-flow was spoilt, and the descent was initiated.

I remember in my youth, taking-on the drive from Michigan to Florida. And in the same time-span as the flight down to Orlando, I would not even have crossed into Ohio. “There comes a time to put-away childish things,” Dr. Payton Fuller once responded, when asked if he was driving back down to Florida. And taking-on these marathon drives at my age, is for me too, one of those childish things.

Speaking of Dr. Fuller, I saw him at the `Purple Session’, still wearing his mother’s trademark smile. He was one of those who inspired me to settle on going to Michigan, all of forty-seven (47) year ago. He had visited KC, from which he had long-gone, while I was still there. And just his demeanor, carriage, and bright-eyedness, suggested to me, that Michigan might be, the place to be.

But despite his disarming smile, Dr. Fuller is a serious man. Mechanical engineering is a serious subject to get a doctorate in. And he is one, who earned one. And fluid mechanics - his specialty, is a serious sub-set of the same. He could also have - if he had cared to - majored in humility.

On-arrival in Orlando, I was met by my Fortis sparing-partner, John Prescod, jnr. John and I go-back a-ways. And whatever hospitality he affords me these days, I deserve because I ran up-hill and bent my back many-a-time, for him, and with the old ball at that. As reward, when I visit, I now get my Florida oranges juiced, my coffee freshly brewed, and, my Snapper fish sautéed to perfection. All this while I cross my paws, and peruse my newspapers. Now and again, I may offer to do the dishes. But only out of guilt. Not out of desire.

“So when are you moving-down to Florida?” he at times asked. “Probably never,” I shot back. Because, I would then lose my outsider-status, and would have to begin doing for myself, the things I now have done for me.

As an outsider too, I like the freshness of Florida - the expansiveness of its expressways; the languidly of its populace; and the meandering of those in-land canals, snaking through subdivisions. All these attributes go a far way, towards allowing me to forget my troubles, and, to dance.

At the event, I ran-into some Fortis bredrin whom I hadn’t seen for years. Besides Dr. Fuller, there were Jeff Barnes, Kitson Blissett, `Lucky’ Brown, Lorenzo `Ratty’ Dryden, Patrick Hector, David Henry, Dr. Dennis Johnson, ’Muscles’, Oliver Oddman, and several others. And just to stand there, and to shoot-the breeze with no set agenda, were elixirs in of themselves. The feeling of an automatic belonging - that of being a member, without having to show identification-papers, was most welcomed.

Another simple pleasure of mine was to stand and eat a couple of beef patties and to drink a canned coconut water, in a Jamaican grocery store in Palm Bay. I swear that those patties, are the best in all of America. And there was no fear on my part, of being cited for loitering.

I happened to be in Eli’s - the said grocery store, when news came-on that the Panthers NFL quarterback Cam Newton had - by what he had said - violated some NFL code of conduct or something.

“Afta mi neva ‘ear ‘im sey nutten,” a portly female customer remarked. “All mi ‘ear ‘im sey, was someting or odda,‘bout ‘oman and routing,” she continued quite naively. To this, the proprietor pausing from his busyness at his cash-register, looked over his reading-glasses. And then like a pharmacist would, chimed-in. “Yu nuh know di problem?” he asked rhetorically. “Di problem is, ‘im black.” And with that, the case was closed.

Then there was the inspiration of Marcia Griffiths. So often, we Jamaicans are accused of demanding a full day’s pay, for doing less than a full day’s work. Not her. She gave us full-measure, and then some. And in-addition, decked-out in her purple outfit and signature flamboyant head-dress to match, looked the part. Then there were the usual inescapable `save Jamaica discussions’, one in Palm Bay, and one in Fort Lauderdale.

At the one in Fort Lauderdale - a wedding anniversary dinner on the Sunday night after, a Comrade in his advancing years, unveiled his plan to return to (quote): `help re-build Jamaica’. Of course, that was after he had gobbled-down, a few glasses of wine. After stating his case, he asked for a show-of-hands, as to whom might he depend on for help. Immediately, one piped-up, “I’ll help you.” “In what way?” the delighted Comrade asked. “Well, I’ll give you a ride to the airport.” That drew a lot of laughter, and summed-up the general sentiment I heard in the `Pan Handle’ state - a sense of resignation, that for us old-timers, our time has now passed. And that probably the younger brigade, should take-up the slack. `There comes a time ….’, Fuller’s words kept coming back to me.

But of course, this was all part of comic relief. The same gentleman, who would only venture to take the Comrade to the airport, is a serious supporter of his alma mater - Holmwood Technical High School, back in Jamaica. Just a few weeks earlier, he had shipped-down several stoves for the Home Economics Department there. And so there was a lesson in all of this. That even though some of us have abandoned the thought of returning home to Jamaica to live, we must not abandon the thought, of giving some of those walking in our footsteps, a fighting-chance.

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