Morgan Lane, the most infamous street in the notorious Grant's Pen neighbourhood in Kingston, Jamaica.
I'm not your typical traveller. I've never stayed at a tourist resort and technically I've never really been on a vacation. As a kid my parents piled my brothers and I in my dad's '81 Malibu for road trips through Detroit, Chicago and Minneapolis to Saskatoon to visit my grandparents or on tours of the east coast of the U.S. to visit relatives in Buffalo, Brooklyn, Queens, Philly, Baltimore and D.C. Those trips definitely explain my love of cities more than my time playing small college basketball and barnstorming in Southern metropolises like Holly Springs, Mississippi and Talladega, Alabama.
My trips to Jamaica as an adult have been limited to funerals. Last month I travelled to my father's homeland for a memorial the family planned for the one-year anniversary of my grandmother's passing. With no funeral to attend, I had more time to explore Jamaica, take photos and drink rum.
My cousin Wayne says Kingston has a hundred buyers and a thousand sellers. Leon is one of the best. They call him "African" because he migrated to Jamaica from Sierra Leone years ago. You can find him in the Barbican neighbourhood hustling fresh fruits and vegetables on his donkey cart for reasonable prices.
Graffiti and street art in Jamaica is more about political messages than about style. Last year I managed to snap a couple photos of a message I saw all over Kingston: "Nature. World Peace. Trying Man. Revolution." This time I saw "Jah Children Wak Up" everywhere, this one on Grant's Pen Road.
When my Pops couldn't find a parking spot in upscale New Kingston where we planned to eat breakfast, he pulled into his old high school, Wolmer's, and gave me a tour. It's the oldest high school in the Caribbean, founded in 1729, and its alumni includes two Jamaican heads of state. Apparently it used to go down in the alley pictured above.
My uncle Sterling is a senior manager at J. Wray & Nephew (makers of Appleton) and lives in a beautiful house on Cooper's Hill overlooking Kingston. The view of the city is amazing, and I caught a man participating in the famous Jamaican pastime, relaxing, under a tree on a nearby hill. Impossibly, someone is building a house on that hill, which is probably the actual national pastime. Uncle Sterling told me, "People love to take pictures of the shacks, but we have good living in Jamaica as well." His success has led my cousins and I to call Appleton "The Family Business" as we drank it all day. Good living indeed!
After a trip to our family's ancestral home in Rock River, St Mary, my Pops took my cousin and I through several towns in the parish of St. Mary before heading back to Kingston. He went out of the way to take us through the market in the town of Highgate, which he described as chaos. He didn't lie, but it was as colourful and bustling as any place I'd seen in Jamaica. I didn't get to go to Port Maria, the capital of St. Mary on the north coast, or Ocho Rios in neighbouring St. Ann parish,where I was hoping check out The Runaway Jamaica, a sustainable Bed & Breakfast that uses locally-sourced food and art, which is unique in an area full of large-scale resorts.
I woke up too late to hit Hellshire Beach in Portmore, St. Catherine with my uncle and cousins, but as a consolation prize I got to visit my uncle Rupert's bar and store in nearby Gregory Park. The sun was hot but the Guinness was cold and The Water Cave Bar is easily one of my favourite places in Jamaica.