My Saturdays have become quite simple in recent weeks; I’ve been trying to keep things simple and quiet. This Saturday, I craved some exercise so went to an early morning kick boxing class, after breakfast. The previous day’s burst of Spring had typically reverted to deep Winter, and a cold wind tapped my face as I walked up the short hill to class. It had been the same the previous Saturday, when my walk to class had been amid snow flurries. But, by the time class was over, Spring has awoken. My limbs ached; my arms felt tired; my shirt was soaked with sweat; my head was clear. I told myself that the aches and strains would go soon enough, and that I had plenty of dry T-shirts, and that I had done myself some good.
For the rest of the morning I kept to my plan to read a little and think about my handicap. Well, golf. I had another clinic due early afternoon and the clear blue sky made its prospect more inviting. I headed to the course after lunch and hoped to get the benefit of what was shaping up to be the nicest part of the day. I had a good laugh before the session started, when joking with another retiree who had bitten the bullet and bought a set of clubs online and also now sported new golf shoes–white. “He’s put you at a big disadvantage.” the pro said. He had the gear, but did he have the game? We got through a series of work on the driving range, with irons and woods–getting into the jargon, now. On Sunday, we were going to be let loose on the course. Fore!
A Jamaican friend had called me on my drive up to the golf club, and told me he was off to play squash but that I should call him after I had finished to see if we could catch up. I had no particular plans, but was open to the idea. After I called him back and arranged for him to pick me up, I spoke to my Dad in Jamaica, and heard how he and his household had just been enjoying some freshly dug yam that had been roasted. Don’t mistake this for the sweet potatoes that sometimes adorn an American table: this is the big, hard, starch-loader source of energy that Jamaicans love. That did it; my mind was set on eating Jamaican food 🙂
My bredrin (new to the Greater Washington area) and I headed over to Silver Spring and found a Jamaican restaurant that we knew, but had not frequented much. Chicken soup was on the menu, and we ordered two, “…with nuff dumplin…” The cashier (a Jamaican-born student doing part-time work) told us that we were picky, but she would serve the soup herself as she was picky too. We added some steamed snapper as our dinner. The soup was a good start, but when the fish arrived, we knew we were in business. “You have any fresh pepper?” I asked, and in no time some hot pepper sauce was on the table. The fish looked pretty, dressed with onions, green peppers and carrots. The accompanying rice and peas and steamed cabbage made the meal more than a handful for even a very hungry man. We each admitted ‘defeat’ and decided that lunch the next day was already assured. Then we made tracks to leave, once we had boxed up our left overs.
We struck up a conversation with one of the lady owners of the restaurant over the state’s new bag tax: “It’s important. Have you seen what they pull out of the Anacostia River?” she said. I quipped that it was fish. “But what do you imagine those fish have inside them?” she retorted. We smiled and put our food into the bags, then my friend posed a few questions about where the lady was from. We then got into a long chat about mutual friends, Jamaican entrepreneurs, nicknames (the lady told us she was known as ‘Choopsie’–kiss). We stood there at the counter for a good 20 minutes talking and reminiscing.
“The world is small,” Choopsie said as we readied to leave. Had we become friends? Not necessarily, but we had become more than passing strangers. A phone call. A idea to meet. A meal. Little things exchanged at a food counter. All had opened doors to other things. My friend needs to go to Jamaica soon, and he now has a person to try to reconnect with. Our lady owner wanted to make us feel more welcome: “Next time you’re coming, if you want to try the escoveitch fish and have it done with vinegar and pepper, just call ahead…” Appreciated.