Bar: the street university
IT IS often claimed - fact or not - that Jamaica has more churches per square mile than any other country in the world.
But a check of the number of bars across the country could also lead to a similar claim.
Wherever you are in Jamaica, there is a bar no further than 10 minutes away, and once they open their doors, you will find a congregation of men.
On Sundays, it is said, women go to church while the men go to the bars.
"The bar is one of the biggest universities in the world because all kinds of people come to the bar. You have people who come to the bar to talk about politics, history, and all kinds of things that is happening in the world," said Maxine, a veteran bartender whose youthful looks belie the fact that she has been working in bars for more than 20 years.
"It is a place of reasoning and a place to relax. A man will have eight quarts of liquor at his house, but he leaves home to come to the bar for the companionship," Maxine added, as she wiped the counter of the small establishment in downtown Kingston.
"I am not really a drinker, but I come to the bar and I will buy you a drink, and before you know it, me and you are the best of friends," said Palmer, a regular visitor to bars in Kingston and St Catherine.
"You see how me and you a reason now, me wouldn't be talking so loud in a mi house, and a talk we a talk, not cuss," Palmer added.
It was a similar response from Andrew, who was sipping a hot beer in a bar in Cross Roads in the Corporate Area.
"People believe that men are worthless because they go to a bar, but that is far from the truth," Andrewsaid.
"After work, me stop and have a drink to relax before me go home, and that allows me to leave the problems of work here before me go to mi woman and children," Andrew said.
A fine-looking bartender with a pleasant attitude is always a plus for any bar and attracts more customers.
"Me no have fi a 'look' her, but me like talk to her and get a vibes," said an elderly man who gave his name as 'Baldhead', while eyeing a youthful bartender in an establishment on Slipe Road in Kingston.
With his drink of white rum chased with water in one hand and a cigarette in the other, Baldhead gave a toothless smile to the bartender as he stared longingly at her well-toned legs which flowed from a tiny pair of white shorts a size too small for her fit.
"Even when me young and me wife look like she, me still go bar. And now me old and me wife age wid me, you no think me must come look on somebody like this?" added Baldhead as he rejected the often-repeated claim that men wasted their money in bars.
"Is only worthless man done them money in bar, and most time, is that them overdrink and somebody tek the money from them. Is not that them spend off the money in bars," Maxine argued as she fired back at the invisible critics.
Bars have evolved from small shacks in far-flung communities to sophisticated establishments specialising in sports, food, gaming, music and movies. Regardless of where they are located, or for whom they cater, bars maintain an eager and loyal clientele of mostly men.