Friday, April 15, 2016

MEET McDOWELL

I want to tell you about McDowell.  We have been together for a year and a half and we hope to be together for a long long time.

McDoo, as he is called by the locals, is born and bred in the heart of Portsmouth.  He speaks with a deep Portsmouth accent, knows everyone and everything and every place.  Take a walk through Portsmouth with him and he can tell you the history of every house, who lived there, their family ancestry to the most remote third cousin, what happened there, what happened to the people, where their heirs are now.  He has an amazing store of local knowledge under his cap and the memory of the proverbial elephant.

His name is interesting; He belongs to the Magloire tribe, a huge band of Dominicans. He looks like a Magloire. 'McDowell' is derived from his father's name, McDonald.  His mother called him Xavier.  He calls himself Joseph, "My tourist name," he says.  I call him McDowell, (sometimes Mackie) but there is no way, no matter how much practice, can I say it like the locals.  It's something like, Mac Doo wheel with the emphasis on the last syllable. I feel silly even trying.
  
He knows his reggae, classic and current, and plays the guitar,sings and dances.  He does not know any other music but often listens to Blues.  I'm sure he hears the origins of reggae in the Blues music.  He has never even heard of what are considered  to be the Blues and Jazz greats, much less the classical composers. Maybe because he is too young!

Here is a true Sagittarian born in 1960, December 5.  Even his Bar/Grill is called Sagittarius.  Although out spoken, straight forward and direct, he keeps his thoughts to himself.  He is generous and kind.  He is independent, optimistic, and honest, easily offended, can be a loner, loves deeply, is jovial and good humoured, philosophical and idealistic. He has no formal education to speak of, but is well informed and thoughtful. McDowell is a religious person, Catholic, but not a church goer anymore.  He has come to understand that the hierarchy, patronage and paternalism of the Church are oppressive and man made. He is a deep believer by nature and is always conscientious of other dimensions, both good and evil. He keeps it to himself.  St. Michael and Jesus keep him safe.  He is also a political person, a natural social democrat.

Now, McDowell owns and operates a Bar/Grill in the heart of Portsmouth across from the Credit Union, next to Bourgh's Square.  He has many stories of his happy boyhood and youth spent on the wharf at Bourgh's Square, now a bustling bus terminal. In his early adult years he was on the sea sailing the Caribbean, especially BVI, USVI, St. Thomas, Ste. Maarten. (His father was lost at sea when he was 14 or so).  Stories of a young man's adventures abound, as you can imagine.

In the early 90's he fell for a local beauty.  They had 2 daughters.  He opened the original Sagittarius Bar on the same site as the present one, and a hamburger stand in 'The Shacks", in Picard, by the new Ross Medical School.  Then life's confusion got in the way.  He lost the Sagittarius Bar and  closed the stand at The Shacks.  He had  another daughter (different mother).  All through this he continued to  looked after Miss Gweny, who by this time was an elderly lady. He had been her helper since he was a child.

Two years ago he opened the present Sagittarius 2 Reggae Bar and Grill. The Bar is doing well in these hard times in Dominica.  Not great, but better than simply staying afloat.  Actually it does stay afloat on a sea of rum and chicken and chips and soup.  The habitu├ęs are mostly his school mates and men and  women he has grown up with and yachters off their boats in Prince Rupert Bay at Purple Turtle.

We met a long time ago, when I was with Sono who was trying to buy a guitar from McDowell.  I don't remember, but he does.  After Sono died I would pass McDowell, who was working at Cabral's bar, everyday on my way to CALLS to work.    He would call a cheerful 'Hello', and on my way back I would stop in a have a chat and a beer. We began to look for each other and eventually, easily and naturally..........


He says he is happy, his life is good and his prayers are being answered.  Me too.  McDowell is easy to live with and I love him.

Look on FaceBook for sagittarius 2 reggae bar and grill


Melanie, McDowell, Marian, Melona

Friday, April 8, 2016

MY FAVOURITE PAROS

Drug addicts, alcoholics,  street people, ne'er-do-wells and people with 'not good head' are called 'paro'.  They are mostly harmless, some are petty thieves, and most beg or will do small, quick menial jobs for a living.  Here, in Portsmouth they are all known and tolerated.  I would even say looked after by the community - sort of!

 For my own peace of mind I have three favourites, i.e. those to whom I give hand outs, or use for errands.  I say peace of mind because I can then easily say a firm no to the myriad others without feeling mean.

FLY is a special favourite of mine.  He has a dilapidated bicycle.  He carries full cases of coke from retailers to Bars around Portsmouth, on his head while riding his bicycle.  I call on him to fetch large bottles of drinking water or cylinders of propane for me.  Last week he came to my door, shivering and soaking wet, hoping I had an errand for him.  I didn't at the time, but I gave him a shot of rum and an old dry T-shirt of McDowell's.  Some days later McDowell he said he saw the T Shirt on Baygone (other Paro).  Fly probably sold it to him for the price of a hit.  My most recent encounter with him was yesterday.  He stopped me on the street, asked if there was anything I needed; he could do it for me NOW.  That should have been my clue, but I missed it. I asked him to buy 2 large bottles of water and leave them by my door. I gave him $20ec.  Keep the change.  When I got home hours later, no water, no $20, no Fly - of course.  I decided to cut my losses and deal with Fly next time I saw him.  I have to say I was surprised.  He always treated me straight and he is too smart to kill his reliable sort of bounty.  This afternoon he turned up with 4 large bottles of water, all smiles.  I told him I was almost mad at him.  "No, no, I don't want that.  I wouldn't do you bad".  I gave him 2 cigarettes and $5ec.  He must have done well with my original $20. to afford an extra 2 bottles.

JENNIFER hangs around outside the grocery store begging for change and talking to the air.  If I have a heavy load I get her to carry it to McDowell's Bar for the price of a shot of rum. They tell me that Jennifer used to be a classy women and owner of a high fashion clothing store.  She still dresses elegantly and holds her cigarette like Rita Hayworth, but she is now a serious crack addict and has lost her senses and looks.  Yesterday I gave her a coin and she turned and ran around the corner.  It must have been the 1ec she needed to make up the cost of a hit.


Potty
POTTY or possibly Porty, as in Portsmouth.  I can't tell, and nobody knows when I ask.  Probably Porty as he was a natty man about town in his halcyon days.  Anyway, he will answer to either.  I am told that he taught everyone in Portsmouth to play the guitar, that it was he that started everyone off in music, some of whom went on to have real musical careers  overseas.  He is a   bass guitarist.  He worked as an orderly in the Portsmouth Hospital for many years but succumbed to cocaine and lost everything.  However, although tatty (no longer 'natty') and in need of bath, he maintains some modicum of civility.  He eats real meals not scraps, always pays for his rum, never begs, is respectful (he can be difficult when he is 'under his rum' though), enjoys his reggae. He often carries my heavy bags from the Bar to home (2 cigarettes and 3ec) and does messages for MCD . You could grow potatoes in his ever present red cap.