“Hey Mon, Would you like to see my jewelry?”
A: “No, I’m all set.”
The cottage industry, Roaming Beach Vendors, aka, the band of people who stroll the resort sands past the chaise lounges of relaxing tourists perched under the midday sun, deserves the respect it never gets. Find a country, island, beach cove, or open expanse of seashore and you will experience the creativity of the entrepreneur. Free trade is a curious thing. Put it on the internet and (if legal) it is a normal part of our culture. Put it on the beach during the primetime of your well-deserved vacation, and something changes.
The West Indies Islands are remarkable in creativity from the local merchant, homeopathic herbalist attendant, masseuse, artist, watersports sales agent, food vendor/cook, and brownie salesman. Oh, did I mention wood-carver? Not only have I been engaged by one of these energetic trades, but I have searched them out in various lands. Fondly, the strong palms of the Thai masseuse, clad in white linen, head to toe, with that genuine smile, remains in my memory. On a chaise under an umbrella steps from the lapping waters on the salty shore is the perfect place for the back and shoulder rub down in the fifty or so minutes. What value, too. And, there’s more. Who might pass up the opportunity to listen to the comical stories of the beach comic, as he tries out a string of his latest jokes on the sunning tourists. Shouldn’t that act be worth a few shekels ? Many of my beach vendor friends have many jobs. Take my comic friend, ” the Mighty Bassman”, as his real job is to pace the full several miles of beach promoting with a bullhorn the merits of attending the nightclub /beach bar for that evening. ” It’s going to be Hot, Hot, Hot! Come to the Party at Alfred’s Bar. Remember, Ladies are alway free! Hot, Hot, Hot.”
It is hard work, as the Jamaicans call it: Hustlers or Chiselers. I am certain the downturn of the North American/ European economy has touched the livelihood of many of the vendors. From firsthand experience, I have seen the numbers of unused beads amass in the hands of the hair-braiding ladies. Fewer little corn-rowed children roam the classrooms after vacation week. Belt-tightening certainly affects all the vendors. Music prevails on the beach, as the creativity of these local artist come through. Put three guys with dreadlocks, Hawaiian shirts, an aged tambourine, Guitar and old bass fiddle in front of you, playing a Bob Marley song. As the bass fiddle is held together with ducktape, and the songs are in key, I open my wallet. These artists become my regulars, or I, theirs. I may be easy, but I like it. Perhaps, I may be convinced to begin a foundation for the advancement of beach vendors, or to establish the Beach Vendor Senior Citizen Home. In any case, I have grown with the beach vendors, heard their stories, watched them age, and have seen some leave us, like BanjoMan.
Negril Beach is seven miles long and the best beach in Jamaica. BanjoMan would begin his day on one end and finish the full distance and return at day’s end. All was under the hot sun. He weighed a mere 140 pounds and wore khaki shirt and pants, a floppy straw hat and carried that ole -timey four string banjo, on bare feet. I could guest that I first met him at his age seventy. He lacked several teeth; top and bottom. He could play and he could sing. BanjoMan wasn’t much of a talker, but I think it was his humility. He could play:” The Harder they come, the harder they fall” and all the others. The beach vendors mostly adored him, as I did. One season BanjoMan hung up his instrument for all time.
Who invented Aloe? Yuck, these beach vendors roam the sands with aloe fronds in hand, looking for hapless idiots to smear a substance of rubber cement on those bodies. The goop is sticky, yes, can’t wash off and will stain your favorite “T”-shirt. Then, they want you to give them money? No thank you. Then I think: ” I just don’t get it”, as the cardboard box on the beach vendors head is full of little reef fish. They are all beautiful in color; sargent majors, parrot fish, tiny grey angel fish. Tourist do not buy fish on the beach. Every week he fishes and offers his catch. He is still in business.
See, the All Inclusive Resort Business on many West Indies Islands has put a dagger in the hearts of these vendors. Guests do not bring money to the chaise lounges at water’s edge. One price and then package is sealed. I say, that you need to bring those dollars. Buy that coconut palm hat that you will alway wear. Go parasailing several times. Bring home those Flip Flops. Have them sing out for you: “Three Little Birds”. And, support your Beach Vendor. You will be glad you did. Thank you.