Sun | Apr 5, 2020

Sunday Sauce: Christmas in September!

Published:Sunday | September 12, 2010 | 12:00 AM
The crowded streets of downtown, Kingston. - Norman Grindley/Chief Photographer

Oxy Moron, Contributor

There were no Santas, carols, Christmas trees nor other Yuletide fandangle but, on Saturday, September 4, the festive ambience of the cramped streets of Kingston could rival any Christmas Eve's. It was two days before the official start of the school year, and King Street and beyond were the epicentre of Jamaica's last-minute back-to-school rumblings.

Music blared, horns tooted, vendors shouted, competing for buyers, who were confused by the cacophony that surrounded them and the range of prices being announced by human bullhorns.

"Chee hunjed dollar" was topped by 200, which was bounced away by 100. Around and about the shoppers go, trying to catch all the bargains. Yet, no one went near the youngster who was calling out 2000 for his multi-coloured schoolbags.

In this hawkers' haven there is no age limit. From children whose lips were still wet with breast milk, to people whose gaping mouths reveal no teeth, to those who, at any moment, could be sleeping in the bosom of their maker, they were all there, eking out a living for themselves. Intermittent showers and frequent patrols by the police could not deter their entrepreneurial spirits. There were scuffles here and there to escape the lawmen and women, and the rain, but the hustlers were not leaving. I bet they were silently singing, "you gonna love me, yea!"

Every sales tactic in the book was used, with one vendor dramatically tossing his wares into the air while shouting their unit price. As they fell back on to the tarpaulin, placed strategically in the middle of the road, people descended to see what was for the taking, mass-produced clothes, which looked rather disposable. Men donning stuffed brassieres were not uncommon. And there was nothing shameful about using their heads to display ladies' underwear.

"No pichure! No pichure! Not ready for the limelight yet!" a youth shouted. True, for the limelight was going to clash with his lime-green slippers.

"Come back anneda day!" he cajoled, and the slippers screamed, "Could somebody buy us please!?"

"Red Bull! Red Bull!" yelled a man built like a black bull. Yet, for him, the market wasn't so bullish at all.

"Boy belt, man belt!" soared over the music, and you looked to see "boy belt" and "man belt", but they were pink, mauve, red, magenta, white, orange, neon blue, variegated, floral, and broad.

malodorous atmosphere

Farther along. "Woman panty, woman panty!" They, too, were pink, mauve, red, magenta, white, orange, neon blue, variegated, floral, but narrow.

And as if to expunge the malodorous atmosphere, a large cart of spices was pushed through the throng. A strange place to be, among clothes, shoes, books, bags, etc, you might think, but people actually mobbed the cart, to add some flavour to their lives.

Under the big tree, a rotund woman in bright orange, tight jeans played a drum set, as a huge man with a small head and dressed in black satin preached and sang to a semi-circular gathering of women who apparently had no money to spend on earthly things, but were eagerly contributing to the preacher's coffers.

Juxtaposed with the joy of those who were doing brisk sales were the jackass-under-cool-shade faces of those who weren't doing so well. Nobody looked at their unpopular stock, for who in 2010 wears brightly coloured laces and high-waist jeans? And as the evening darkened, the crowds dwindled and those faces lengthened.

It was a melange of colours, noises, anxieties, hopes, deferred dreams and great expectations. It was downtown Kingston.