Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Life’s Lighter Side

A recent Time Magazine cover featured not the usual world leader, but the round, yellow, Mr Smileyface, that cheery symbol we put on notes to our friends. Turns out that scientists are discovering that happy, optimistic people live healthier, longer lives. I’ve also found them to be some of the most prosperous – positive people radiate energy.

Winston 'Bello' Bell
Despite our daunting crime problems, Jamaicans still have that great gift of being able to look on the lighter side. In the tradition of Louise Bennett and Ranny Williams, Charles Hyatt, Oliver Samuels, Fae Ellington, Claudette Pious , Winston ‘Bello’ Bell, ‘Blacka’ Ellis, Michael ‘Boysie’ London, Tony ‘Paleface’ Hendricks, Joan Andrea Hutchinson, ‘Ity and Fancy Cat’, young Christopher ‘Johnny’ Daley, and so many more, we have sweetened our lives with humour. It should come as no surprise that we have the life expectancy of first world countries.

Oliver Samuels
One look at Oliver Samuels, and you start laughing. My friend’s late mother who was in an advanced stage of Alzheimer’s disease, was unresponsive until the ‘Mack D’s’ ad came on TV. Whenever Oliver said “Mack D’s gone mad!” she would become animated and laugh merrily. Such is the power of comedy.

We don’t have to go far to find a joke. Take my husband’s football team (please!). Each of them has a nifty nickname, with a long involved story as to how they got ‘christened’. They include Led, Sour, Spanner, Rubie, Dugu – strange names but great guys. Believe me, if we put Led’s (Richard Wan’s) outrageous laughter to a good reggae beat, it would go platinum.

We create strange names. I know a toothless guy called “Sawfmouth” and a man named “Suckdust” - he does the vacuuming at a rural supermarket. My friend’s helper refuses to wrap her tongue around the French word mayonnaise, so she has dubbed it “mahagony butter”. At Caymanas Park, a sore loser will call for a “Stewart’s enquiry” and that distinguished auditing firm is often referred to as “Peat Margaret”. Then I’ve heard a fed up guy saying: “I am done, done, done - Dunn, Cox and Orrett!”

Charles Hyatt
We love to make fun of our local lingo. When Charles Hyatt was stopped from going to a public restroom, he indignantly pointed out to the security guard that the sign clearly stated “fe male”. During the discotheque era the story was told of a skimpily dressed young lady who informed her father that she was going to the popular nightspot to which he answered, “Discotheque? ‘Dis go tek’ off that skirt!” Then there is the story of the tourist who said he loved Jamaica well enough, but was puzzled at the folksong, “Some of them are Hollow, some are Bald.”

My friend Micky Lyn has a zany sense of humour. He was a touring partner in our teenage days and we remember him shouting to a careless pedestrian, “Lady, you ever see a car in plaster-paris??” He it was, who couldn’t resist catching crabs on the country road, though he had nowhere to put them overnight, so he locked them in a shower stall at the hotel and stood on a plastic crate to have his shower, continuously kicking off the critters.

My brother Tony
My awful brother Tony Lowrie takes the cake. From an early age, this terrible fellow became the bane of my existence. These are two lines from a birthday ‘poem’ he penned me: “Today you’re 25 or is it 26?/ Neither your body nor your brain gives any clue of it/ But your sands of time are getting few/ What about my neice and little nephew?” One day he became very serious and said, “I have something important to tell you. Of my three sisters, You. Are. Definitely - the ugliest. But!” he shouted as I lunged for his throat, “You know how to fix up yourself.”

I am not sure why we asked him to be our son’s godfather – now my son has two role models, Uncle Tony and Elephant Man. Have you ever tried to discipline your six-foot teenage son when he’s doing the ‘chaka-chaka’? I’m asking him about his SBAs and he’s telling me, “Look outa road! Flowers a bloom! Shankle dip!” Mercy!

I thought my family was hilarious until we met my sister’s in-laws, the Fischers in Buffalo, New York. Tommy and his brother Ray would embarrass the older folk by pretending to be a passionately gay couple at big family occasions. Then Tommy’s sister once plastered him with make-up, dressed him like a bride and sent a photograph with a fake account of the ‘wedding’ to the local paper, which was given great prominence in the social pages.

We’re virtually addicted to our hilarious media personalities. No matter what kind of morning I’m having, Alan Magnus and Dorraine Samuels can ‘Make me laugh’ - they have marvelous timing. Francois and Danae are no slouches, either. Then there are Barbara Gloudon’s priceless quips, and the funniest pair on TV, Simon and Neville. Lindy Delapenha was great in his hey-day. Once there was a break in a show he was hosting and words on the screen read: “We apologise for the interruption, due to a technical itch.” When they got back on the air, Lindy was scratching himself and saying with a straight face, “Sorry, technical itch.”

The Time Magazine story included a ‘happiness rating’ for countries throughout the world. Though we’re not mentioned, I found it interesting that some of the biggest economies (including Japan and Singapore) were rated less happy than many poorer countries. “Tek ‘kin teet’ kibba heartbu’n”, advised Miss Lou. Laughter not only covers, it cures.


  1. Stumbled upon this excellent article today while searching google for something completely unrelated. Lots of laughs and heart warming moments; you made my day. Tanks!