Today we're off on our annual trip downtown. It's a trip without a specific destination. We always just wander round in the area between parade, Coronation market and the waterfront. A coaster will bring you from Half Way Tree to Parade for JMD100. When you get off you see and feel the downtown setting at once. There's more vendors here, lining the streets with foodstuff, bra's, dvd's, basically anything you can think of. We walk from South to West parade and up West Queen Street, heading for downtown market. The best time of day to make a downtown trip is late afternoon. It's really hot downtown, and the hustle and bustle, the exhaust fumes, the lack of shade, and the speed with which everyone around you is moving along, takes up a lot of energy.
I like to arrive at 4 or 5 pm or so. The golden hour between 5.30 and 6.30 pm, in which it gets dark outside, is a magical moment to observe the Down Town surroundings. We were on our way to our favorite bar in West Street when we passed an outside bar with speakers lined up right on the street in Princes Street (or Mathews Lane, I have to guess). We ordered a beer and observed the settings. We're standing right on the street with cars, people and push carts passing by and vendors packing up their wares. Not hearing any of it because of the fine selection of classic reggae tunes blairing from the speakers. A very special moment, not one to take out my camera and make pictures, that would just spoil it. The locals by the bar strike up a conversation with us and offer us chairs to sit on. Friendly settings.
It's almost dark when we finally continue to make our way to Forever Young, the bar we visit every time we're here. Forever Young is a spacious deck bar on West Street, where you can play a game of pool, order food from the kitchen or just cool down on the terrace in the shade. We greet the owners as we do every year and strike up a conversation.
It's dark outside now, but only 8 pm. We decide to walk back to Parade and take a yellow bus to Crossroads. From Crossroads we walk to Regal Plaza, just around the corner, where Vinyl Thursday is in full effect. To be honest: we're tired. We stick around for a while, the thing nice as usual, and then call it a night.
Mostly a day of resting, reading, a short visit to a friend and lounging by the pool, the aim today is to reach Dub School in Vinyard Town. We had a short sleep after dinner and woke up at 11 pm. A JMD 600 taxi ride is all that it takes to reach the venue at midnight. The venue is a regular house in a regular avenue. There's a big front yard where an ital chef is cooking and where the bar and Dub School merchandise stand is situated. You can walk around to the back of the house where you reach a concrete yard with the DJ booth.
There's also a staircase to a deck space where a next chef is preparing a wonderful take on vegetarian patties. As we're walking to the backyard I hear dub and reggae music playing with a loud voice on the mic continuously talking and singing over the music. The voice is Lee Perry's, who's standing right in front of me when I enter the yard. He's clearly enjoying himself and it takes some persuasion from Dub School's host for him to hand over the mic after an hour or so to the next artist passing through.
We see and hear talented local artists and visitors perform on dub riddims that are turned up louder and louder as the evening proceeds. The atmosphere is intimate and friendly. What's striking about the setting tonight is an abundance of benches and chairs and other contraptions to sit on. No standing up marathon if you're not up for it. Just sit down and enjoy. At 3pm the music stops and we walk to the front yard. The locals haven't seen us around here (it's indeed our first time at Dub School) and they invite us to come back more often. I tell them it's our pleasure to be here. Now the music has stopped I realise how quite the neighbourhood suddenly is. Only in a country where music takes such a central role in society could you play music so loud until 3 am in a regular neighbourhood. It's amazing.