Even though I’ve been coming to Jamaica for a very long time, New Years was always a holiday I preferred to celebrate here in the states. Up until 1993 I had the Grateful Dead as the backdrop. After that, our New Years varied in going to shows in San Francisco or celebrating “quietly” at our home in Bodega. We’d been hearing for many years about the good fun everyone was having in Negril – finally we relented and spent New Years in Jamaica for the first time and after that there was no turning back.
New Years Eve 2006
The day started like mostly any other special day…girls doing their fingers and toes, talking outfits and plans for the evening in the Palapa, sipping Sparkling Wine. New Years Eve in Negril is one of the biggest party nights going…you can kind of feel the electricity in the air…or was that a thunderstorm?
The first party was to be at Pirate’s Cave for their annual “Last Sunset of the Year” shindig. The plan was to meet there between 5:00pm and 5:30pm. All of us got ready, put on our party duds and were about to walk through the door when BAM. A slap of thunder hit so hard it made the house shake. I’m a New York girl, thunder doesn’t phase me. Freaked Liz and Michael a bit…they are not used to electric or thunder storms. So here we are dressed to the nines, all gathered in the door way and the rain came down in sheets.
It’s a tropical storm. It will pass. Pfft.
A half hour goes by. Then an hour. Michael is video taping a most amazing lighting show over the sea. Well, the sun set somewhere but we didn’t see it. I was about to give up, remove the party clothes, put on pajamas and wait until the later night parties passing the time resting and reading when just as suddenly as it began, the rain stopped. You know a sure way to make sure it doesn’t rain? Take an umbrella with you. We did.
Talk about micro-climates. It hardly rained at Pirate’s Cave at all. When we arrived things were in full swing. The place was packed which is always really good to see. Some friends had scored a bunch of tables, we made ourselves comfortable there and had a few cocktails. The evening had begun.
We went home after Pirates for an outfit change (but of course!) and a quick South Park episode viewing before venturing out again.
Next stop LTU. That’s our local watering hole and it was great to see and be seen there. The kids immediately excused themselves and went up to Rubin and Tanya’s room (One Up, great view of the road!) while we older folk schmoozed it up with each other. Bill went to town with the noisemakers…he had a great variety so we had fun with those for a while. They also had these Happy New Year hats that were so cute…Liz sported one all night long.
Then on to The Caves. For the second year in a row we were invited to their private party, rubbing elbows with all of Negril’s glitterati which included Lennox Lewis and Chris Blackwell.
If you have never been to the Caves I have to tell you that this place is something really special. The vibe is just as beautiful as the scenery. They had a fabulous DJ spinning and had everyone dancing. Again, tons of friends had migrated in that direction and it was great to see all. Hors D’Oeuvres were plentiful, including a beautiful cheese platter…jello shots for those who wanted (not my thing they make me gag) and champagne. We managed to score ourselves some great seats for the fireworks display and at the stroke of midnight off they went! Wow! Now, they had awesome fireworks last year but this year they were even better and went on for what seemed like 20 minutes. A few doors down Ricks Café also had a barge with fireworks that were going off at the same time so we really had two shows going – spectacular. Then they did this little competition thing…the Caves would shoot one or two off, then Ricks and so on and so forth for about five or ten minutes…kind of like a dance-off but in the sky.
The after party, as usual, was at the tower. At around 4:30am everyone went up to the fourth floor observatory and watched the moon set when Rusty turned me around, 180 degrees to show me the Southern Cross, just having risen sitting slightly above the horizon. This is an amazing sight for me to see…this is something you do not see in North American skies and in December/January down here only late at night. I always think of that Crosby Stills and Nash Song…”When you see the Southern Cross for the first time, you understand now why you came this way” …nuff said.
New Years Eve – 2007
New Years Eve starts for us just before sunset when the posse makes its way over to Pirates Cave to celebrate the last sunset of the year. Last year it rained all over that parade – this year the power went out. Usually I “dress” for this event but somehow the day got away from us so I didn’t and we headed down there just as we were.
Aside from Tom, the owner, being understandably grumpy with JPS it was a good time – champagne flowing, good friends, good vibes – good warm up for the evening to come. I’d made up my mind that if the power didn’t go back on New Years celebrations would be held to the yard – the house, the cave under the house…but I was not going to go through what I’d gone through four years previous – trying to put make-up on by flashlight. Wouldn’t you know it too – the lights were back on just in time to start getting ready for what would be a long and joyous night.
This year’s New Years plans were somewhat uncertain from the get-go. The normal routine was sunset at Pirates, outfit change, LTU, the Caves for fireworks and “the moment” then on to the Tower for the after-party and sunrise. This year our missing man from our missing man formation happened also to be our resident host at the Tower – definitely no party going on there this year. We figured a few of us would go back to the yard and play out the rest of the night there. So the plans were set – off to LTU with a mission to proceed to the Caves after.
This year Bill from LTU really did it up. He rented a sound system and DJ and when we arrived at around 9:30pm the place was swinging. Everyone we wanted to see and party with was there – and aside from having to wait a tad to get a drink at the bar it was terrific fun. So much fun that when the posse was collected for the next move we exited under the protests of just about everyone who was at LTU and stood across the street a little unsure if we were doing the right thing.
Turns out this year the Caves wanted money to go in – a private party for anyone willing to pay. Well, there certainly were quite a few of us – and even though 1500JMD didn’t seem like a lot of money they wanted 3000JMD for “VIP Access” to the actual “cave” – in which they were serving free hors d’oeuvres, champagne and cigars.
I looked across the street – more people arriving, people dancing, the music was great. I looked around me at the posse…we had hit the “pause” button. Ron and Peg had gone off on a scouting mission to see wha gawan at the Caves – who was there, what kind of deal they would strike for us mostly local and regular visitors. While they were gone we did a straw poll to find out that everyone in the posse would go along with any move that was decided upon by the rest of the posse. So the consensus was – well, massive indecision. The call came in – we did have to pay, but at a discount – two for one, in other words 750JMD…and no VIP access. We all looked at each other, we looked across the street – and a conclusion was finally drawn. All our friends from town were where? Across the street. Everyone we wanted to usher the New Year in was where? Standing right there – across the street from the happening party. The call was made – we were staying at LTU. We went back in, greeted exuberantly as we did and Ron & Peg made their way back to us.
Yes, The Caves is beautiful and yes, they have a marvelous fireworks display – one which could be seen from LTU (as could Rick’s fireworks display). Yes, The Caves is very “exclusive” and yes…the past three New Years we’d celebrated there. The decision to stay at LTU was the best we could’ve made – at the stroke of midnight we were within each other’s grasps, as well as all our friends from town – it was, at least to us, the party to be at that night.
We were in no rush to leave after the midnight hour either – another change from previous years. We danced the night away, I even got up on the bar to dance – something I do less and less of as the years go on but I try to do at least once a year at LTU specifically where it is well received. We were of the last to leave the party and headed across the street to the kids room to continue the frolick on their porch for a few minutes. Since at that point Jason, Jessie and Jerry were all still staying at the Tower we decided that we’d continue the tradition and see the sun rise there. We got straight into the silly-bus and after a quick stop at home to change into warmer clothing we found ourselves there again this year.
No fuss, no muss just the posse with a few beers and cocktails – a fire lit in the fireplace and tunes playing on the stereo. We star gazed for a long while – I got to see my beloved Southern Cross. Before we knew it we were up on the top floor star gazing and later watching as the sun crested over the canopy.
The sunrise watch is generally silent – as the light hits us slowly and gently and the rooster starts crowing “Happy New Year!”…we prepare for our walk of shame back home. New Years day started once again on the roof of the tower and before we knew it we were sitting on Peg’s porch sipping strong Blue Mountain Coffee. Another great start to a New Year.
New Years Eve – 2008
New Years Even is my favorite holiday – mostly because the parties rock all night and by sunrise everything is “a-new”. After the 2008 that Les and I had experienced, “a-new” was more than welcome – hope loomed for 2009 in everyone’s hearts in many different ways.
The posse as a whole had a different head space this year as opposed to the last – last year it was all about “spreading random acts of fun” but this year, dare to say, the posse was more “somber”? The giggle machine seemed to have been broken. Still, we are “The Rotten Posse” and New Years Eve was a specialty for all of us.
As per usual, plans were up in the air until shortly before “the day”…the first plan was the plan that had been in action the past couple of years – start at LTU where for the second year in a row Bill was hosting a wing-ding complete with sound system, hats and noise makers, then up to the tower for the after party and ceremonial daybreak on the New Year festivities.
A day or two before New Years Rusty, resident Tower host, changed the plan. He had not been on-island last year…he had not had one of his famous full blown New Year’s parties in about four years. So he decided it was time – he would be throwing a full blown New Years party at the Tower and inviting everyone. He especially wanted to include his neighborhood and by doing that reconnecting with his immediate community there on Hylton Ave. Bill had planned on closing the bar at around 1:00-2:00am so that the revelers there would come up to the Tower afterward.
I had had a great time at LTU the year before and was torn but knew I needed to be with my posse to ring in the New Year at midnight. So, the plans were set – “Les jeux son fait”.
New Years Eve day is a day of primping and relaxing for me. I play “home spa” – do my nails, a facial mask, extra conditioning on the hair. This year a special treat – Rambo’s friend Monica, with whom I’d become fast friends with immediately – is a hair stylist and has brought her iron – she is going to straighten my hair for the occasion. Now, I had brought my own iron last year but it never was touched – what’s the use with the humidity and all? Monica talked me into it, if even for just a little while I would have poker straight hair. So, adding to the spa day like festivities at around 8:00pm Monica shows up, iron in hand as well as all those little hair-dressing clips and such and I take the position.
When we arrive at LTU the party is in full swing. Everyone is there! Miss Tee is having a bit of a meltdown due to a food malfunction but she’ll get into the New Year spirit soon enough. Coco, Susan, Jane, Rambo, Monica, Ron and Peg…all are there. There is dancing, drinking and laughter but at 11:00pm or so Les gives the “high sign” – it’s time to head up to the Tower.
I found it a little hard to leave the party at LTU – I ran into Pinky and Andrew just as they were arriving and made sure they knew to come up to the Tower after they were done at the bar. But when we arrived at the Tower I knew I was in the right place. Various characters from the neighborhood were already there- Gulli was tending bar. Music was playing and festivities were well in hand. Most importantly, the posse was together.Just before midnight everyone gathered on the roof top and watched fireworks go off in all different directions…they could see the works emanating from the Caves and from Ricks…and to their surprise a most amazing display coming from somewhere southeast….West Ender? Orange Hill? They didn’t know but at the stroke of midnight surrounded by the sky being lit with electricity and color they all hugged and wished each other a Happy New Year.
Once downstairs Rusty did something quite uncharacteristic for him and his parties – he silenced everyone so he could make a toast honoring all those that had passed in the last year or more – Neil, Sammy, Peter…they all raised their glasses to their dearly departed friends. Again, somber moment for the somber posse. Random acts of somberness all around.
It was time for the outfit change. I headed into the room Jerry had taken for the night and changed from cocktail chic to funky funky but chic. When I emerged Bushy, Bubbles and Bruce were heading up the stairs – warm hugs and kisses and wishes for a great New Year all around.
Over the next hour folks trickled in from LTU, the beach and other points…but not as many as expected. Still, it was a good fun-loving crowd.
The posse found themselves and just a few others alone and on the roof close to sunrise. This was posse tradition – to watch the sunrise on the New Year. Usually it was uneventful – by the time the sun rose it was more like day breaking with the Roosters crowing “Happy New Year”…but this year was different…the sun rose like a fire in the sky – we couldn’t take our eyes off the spectacle as the sky slowly lit – burning bright orange fading into pinks and the clouds a deep purple – it was by far the most dramatic and beautiful sunrise I had ever seen on New Years. As the sun rose higher, lighting the day brighter and brighter – as the sky evolved from dawn to morning – the sweet strains of Niabinghi drumming and chanting filtered up from the stereo in the kitchen downstairs…Jessie and Rusty took turns waiving the Lion of Judah flag.
We sat for a while up there talking softly, laughing heartily…getting ready for the day. I took a moment to ask the universe to be kinder to me in 2009 than it had been in 2008….and to help me absorb and apply that awful year’s lessons of life.
Random acts of somberness….
New Years Eve – 2010
The day starts and finishes like all New Year’s past. These days, since Pirates Cave closed, we watch the last sunset of the year from our back porch and this year it is spectacular. The newest twist to our plans on New Years is to expand our horizons past our little neighborhood on the West End and do a bit of a bar and party hop up the road. We start the night at Canoe.
It’s early and the band is just getting ready to start playing. Not too many in the bar just yet so we get to enjoy a quiet cocktail and some quality time with Patty and Kirby.
We next head up the road to PeeWees to wish Janet and the family a “Happy New Year When It Come”. Some folks are starting to trickle in to begin their evening plans. We chat up with Janet and the folks at the bar for a while before moving on.
Next, LTU, where once again there is a sound system and a pretty raging party happening. Again, all our friends are there and the atmosphere is immediately warm and vibrant. We dance, drink and toast – we enjoy being with these same people year after year on this holiday. We watch as just before midnight the Caves send their now famous paper lanterns into the sky – no fireworks for them this year. Seems like no fireworks for anyone – except for LTU. Rambo is busy readying the first ever fireworks display from LTU’s sea wall – a bunch of bottle rockets which he sets off at the stroke of midnight. While the show itself is underwhelming it is still exciting and we are thrilled that Rambo managed not to hurt himself in the process.
We stay to enjoy each other for a while longer – more dancing, a last cocktail. We are now ready to head up to the tower to finish the night off just right and glaze into the day. As I leave the bar I see Niah busy filling every last inch of his van with folks heading up Hylton Ave. – I decide I want no part of an overcrowded ride up the humbly-bumbly road so I jump on the back of Rambo’s motorcycle and we zip on off.
When we arrive there’s a nice crowd and nice vibe going on. As always, throughout the evening people come and go…coming in from the many parties that were happening in Negril that night from the beach to Travelers to Negril Escape to of course, The Caves – they flow like water down a stream, some staying longer than others. We get to see some folks we missed at LTU and get to hang out longer with those that were there with us in the earlier part of the evening. By 4:30am though, while we climb the stairs to the 4th Floor Observatory (read: The Roof), it is pretty much the same small group that finds themselves up there year after year.
We watch as the night turns into dawn – the sky changing colors and textures by the minute as the sun creeps up above the tree line brightening the sky until the last star is no longer visible.
In the bright daylight of 2011 we once again take that walk of shame down Hylton Ave. It is quiet…we are quiet…only our footsteps along the unpaved Marl Road are heard as we begin 2011 a-new.