Friday, July 12, 2019

A Stick of ‘Juicy Fruit’ In Scanty To Puzzle Customs and Immigration Officers


It has been said numerous times that good things come in small packages.

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Back in the day I attended Nazareth Primary School located in Maidstone, Manchester, Jamaica, West Indies. While there, the female students from a young age were cast into home economics classes. The agenda included sewing. Female students were taught how to crochet, tat, hemstitch, decorate dresses with smocking and sew garments without the use of a pattern (the method was called free hand sewing). One of the first garments that the girls were taught to sew was the “scanty”. A scanty was also known as baggie and panty. But none of these labels sounded decent for little girls to repeat in a classroom setting and especially in public. Hence, to say “scanty” was appropriate and becoming.



A scanty in those days was made out of cotton or calico fabric. Or, to be more resourceful, flour was stored in strong cloth bags and delivered to shopkeepers. Customers would place orders with shopkeepers to receive one as soon as they were relieved of flour. In return, the customers would rip open the bags at the seams, bleach away all the writings and thoroughly wash the material. Elastic was placed in the waist of a scanty but none in the legs, which was done on purpose for ventilation. With such a design a little girl should walk with care and guard against jumping and spreading her legs, as hidden areas could be revealed and met with laughter and a description to further embarrass: Mi si yuh lickle fishy. Meaning: I see your prized possession, the vagina.

Now that the word scanty has been expressed (and also to give millennials another reason to use this old fashioned term), this leads me to the main purpose of this essay. So here I go without further ado. A few years ago I journeyed from America to vacation in Jamaica. I had had the usual great and fabulous time with family and friends and was preparing to return when on the night before the set date, a relative came to me with a sealed envelope to deliver to her lover who resided in New York, my destination. I took the envelope but grew a little suspicious about a bulk I felt. It could be drugs, I said to myself. And inasmuch as she is a relative, I am not taking any chances with any unknown contents. With no one in sight, I carefully opened the envelope. In doing so, i found something wrapped in cloth that was protected by a handwritten letter. On proper inspection, I discovered it to be a piece of scanty, the crotch, and a stick of Juicy Fruit gum.  My good Lord! Haha!

I laughed until tears flowed from my eyes and formed a bowtie under my chin,  knowing that I had feared the worst about the contents of the envelope only to discover that it was a piece of scanty wrapped around a stick of Juicy Fruit, chewing gum. I then proceeded to read the letter. My eyes  bulged with excitement and more laughter came. The words in the letter were words of love. My relative had found it necessary to express her undying love for her lover in New York and reminded him, without mincing her words: Honey my pussy will always be the best no matter how many other ones you will come across in my absence. She wanted to deter her man from cheating and to stay true and committed to her. Let him remember the good times they had together in Jamaica as lovers before he left for America. The letter was a great read. However, the scanty crotch and chewing gum became a hit. In my head, in the moment, that was a damn good and clever move by my relative, Juicy Fruit chewing gum was the perfect item to express her true feelings for her man. Youth allowed her to be juicy and possess gum to “hold” her man from a distance. Keep him focused on her and no other female,  while the contents could also translate as her being sexually starved, a symbol of loyalty.

Did I reseal the envelope and take it to my relative’s lover in New York?  No, I didn’t. I returned the envelope with contents to her. I expressed that while I understood her purpose and feelings, I would not be able to deliver her special and romantic effort as “randomness and suspicion” seem to be traits among customs and immigration officers. She smiled and told me no problem.

If I am asked to choose my family, rest assured that I would choose my same crazy ass family again. My family is complete. Hahaaaa…


Tah-tah!  It’s healthy to express feelings, thoughts and self.


Grace Dunkley-Asphall, Copyright © 2019

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Oh Me Oh I Oh You...just ask the questions



Hello!

My blog is still up and running! It’s not over yet. Don’t give up on me in this modern world of loads of blogs, information and questions which seem to have no answers. Be calm my readers because amidst that I have a surprise for you.

I am pleased to share with you the completion of my book: Oh Me Oh I Oh You...just ask the questions - Grace Asphall.

For full indulgence please visit Amazon.com

Below you will find the introduction to the book and reviews.
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Introduction

The idea of writing this book was founded on the people whom I have met on the streets or in an establishment in my Flatbush neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York, USA. I summed them up as being bold and strapped with interesting character traits. They never cease to amaze and impress me with their antics, stories, knowledge on world events, laws, local happenings and their opinions on current affairs and religion. They court stamina. More importantly they express themselves without fear...self-induced therapy.



REVIEW
Oh Me Oh I Oh You…just ask the questions is an insightful and witty collection of essays that explores the rich culture and meanings behind the old adages of Caribbean/Jamaican folklore. Grace powerfully quips with wisdom, self-reflection, and astute observation, cleverly drawing you into each story as you recognize situations or dilemmas relevant and relatable to you. Her ability to write in such raw, unabashed, honest, and thoughtful manner only reinforces the connection you experience to each of her stories. In this atmospheric platform of life lessons you will find there is something for everyone. Whether you are a procrastinator, a teenager experiencing peer pressure, or someone having trouble asserting your voice in the workplace, this easy-to-read thought-provoking book will draw you into the wisdom of ‘old sayings’, helping you to find your voice and your ‘aha’ moment. A must-read!  - Natasha Ioda

REVIEW
Grace Asphall captures perfectly the sayings and adages of old-time Jamaica in Oh Me Oh I Oh You…just ask the questions. In the age of consumerism, social media and instant gratification, the wisdom and intuition from traditional Jamaica is refreshing to read and is more valuable than ever. - Peter Allen

REVIEW
Step into the world of Grace Asphall! Her unique perspective will have you laughing, thinking and talking. You may find yourself quoting some proverbs too! - Peter Domani



Tah-tah! Happy reading!

Grace Dunkley-Asphall, Copyright © 2019

Thursday, March 14, 2019

A Hidden Diamond In Plain View


Here today gone tomorrow is one of the most defining phrases of the 21st century.

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We should make good use of a moment, time, things, foods and places as the world turns and change becomes evident. We may rebel at whatever the change is, be it for better or for worse. People who are optimistic will always see change as growth and prosperity.

Old buildings and even relics always capture my heart anywhere I go. I often smile when I see them and imagine the many stories and secrets that they hold. In my Flatbush neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York, there are a few such buildings. During my daily walkabouts I tend to ignore the old buildings that are right under my nose. I always aim for the ones in the distance as if they were better.



One day the stars, sun, moon or anything in the constellation had ordained it that they were not going to entertain my attitude of ignoring some buildings. So, as I stood at a stop light on Flatbush in October 2018, I looked across the street at a building I knew quite well that was under renovation. It used to be a clothing store and I wondered what will take its place. Will it be another clothing store? What will it be? The renovation boasted a modern look. A drastic change from what it used to be. Two floors above the main floor it appeared as if they are being set up as dwellings. The building stands next to a location which I frequent and I am sure that someone there will eventually say something about its purpose.

I finally decided to move along so I waited on the stop light to change in my favor. I did one last looking around and in doing so, for the first time I noticed that the building I frequent has two floors above it. The third floor windows were covered with posters which gave the impression of abandonment. No activity could possibly be taking place there. Who would cover windows with posters if they're in use? The posters even showed signs of aging. Inasmuch as that was my feeling and observation, I decided to take a picture. I was very much interested in its details: Serenity Garden, Massage & Spa. I then vowed to call when I returned home to see if it was an active business.

As soon as I reached home I called and was elated to hear the voice on the other end. I expressed my interest, made an appointment and since then I cannot get enough visits. The ambiance is set up for the purpose: relaxation. The staff is excellent, receptive, polite, pleasant and professional. On my first experience I alluded to the fact that I never dreamt that such a beautiful place existed in the midst of the hustle and bustle of Flatbush. I felt as if I was transported to an island where streams flowed and birds chirped. My soul was arrested for the remainder of the day and is still under arrest by such a beautiful find, a diamond right under my nose. So long Manhattan! You have competition.



Tah-tah! Patronize a neighborhood business. It’s either hit or miss.

Grace Dunkley-Asphall, Copyright © 2019

Monday, October 29, 2018

Are parents pushing their children to fail?

The heights by great men reached and kept
Were not attained by sudden flight
But they while their companions slept
Were toiling upward through the night
(Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

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Parents always want the best for their children.  The piquant scene of a mother doting over her newborn while the father looks on with chest puffed up like a peacock, filled with pride.  In that moment and long after postpartum blues, the golden rule is: Go to school, learn your lesson, become anything but a thief, a liar or a murderer. But in a world of turmoil, bigotry, racism, competition, a small amount of love, greed and bad decisions have affected how the golden rule is maintained. Not quite well I would imagine, under those circumstances.



Whereas that may be the case, sometimes survival of the fittest keeps the golden rule afloat. And in that period the same parents who had embraced the golden rule will make a gambit. They dictate to the children what they should become even when they know that they are not academically inclined. That’s because some parents with potentials were hindered by poverty and the lack of opportunity to be a cricketer, basketball player, football player, tennis player, golf player, track and field star, lawyer or doctor. The most interesting thing is that some parents hardly ever encourage children to look into other professions. The focus always remains on sports, law and medicine. And there is prejudice when it comes to identifying the real doctor among doctors. People in their prejudiced mind believe that doctors should be associated with medicine, no other field.

Speaking about medical doctors. I recall an account of a teacher asking his students to share what they would like to become in life.  One student mentioned that he would like to become a doctor. The teacher hearing this looked at him and said, “Eh-eh! It must be a doctor bird you are talking.  Needless to say the teacher trampled on the student’s ambition, not giving him any hope that he could become a doctor.

That being said, to tell the truth, some parents secretly love fame, labels and popularity. They are on top of the world when their children are kept in the limelight. They receive recognition as if they are the ones excelling at school or being a star athlete.  Parents with such an attitude often do more damage than good. They are setting up their children to become rebellious or be a thief, liar or murderer; the forbidden behavior outlined in their golden rule for children. Some parents are clueless that a child can become mentally retarded because of their deleterious interference in their education.

It’s noteworthy to point out that parents’ hopes are set high in this era of escalating technology and social media, where pictures travel faster than light moving from Twitter to Facebook to Instagram to WhatsApp and more.  Accordingly, social media has really caused parents to put pressure on their children when it comes to choosing a career or a profession. Parents who remain in their selfish zone, count every second, minute and hour to graduation day. The plan is to lavish social media with graduation pictures. The saddest thing is that children have no choice but to honor the selfish commands of parents while in school. They hardly ever notice that children are under immense strain to please them. It is during this time that many children will fall by the wayside like fruits where they will remain in a rotten vegetative state mentally and physically.

I recall the story that was told about a child who went to medical school to please his parents. When graduation day arrived he presented his achievements to the ecstatic parents and told them that he did it for them. While the parents remained proud and happy, the child informed them that his only desire in life was to become a truck driver. They were disappointed as their son moved on to become a truck driver and a successful one, owning several trucks. He made more money in two years than he would have made in five years as a doctor.  Clearly, some parents embrace status instead of the happiness of the child. A child with a purpose will not be happy if he or she is forced to do something that they are not interested in. Parents can apply peer pressure to their children in an unusual and horrified manner more than the children’s equals.

Yes, parents will force children into academic fields that they do not fancy. But that still doesn’t give children the right not to listen to parents’ input in their career path and goals. Children should understand that they do need guidance. In many cases, there are children who have the potential to be more than what they think they are capable of doing. Adults who are paying attention will coach, encourage and instruct them on how to be a winner. Poor performances in academics can lead to their detriment outside of the classroom. Parents and children should keep in mind that not everyone can become a lawyer or a doctor. According to old time people, “if everyone should ride a horse, who would be available to open the gate”. Some people have to sweep the streets, some have to be builders, some have to be farmers, some have to be drivers, some have to be cooks and so on and so forth.

It’s not what you become, it’s how well you function in what you are doing. Doctors specialize. They choose a field that they know they can handle efficiently, and not for the sole purpose of gaining big bucks, because that would be a very bad decision for themselves and patients. Do not choose a job because of money or status. Your focus will always be on the money and the status. Likewise parents should not choose careers or professions for their children because of prestige. Hello Mama and Papa! All jobs are with prestige. They provide and supply the needs of people. It’s important to know that in cases where children are pushed against their honest choice in ambition, your golden rule will flop. When they become the topnotch you wanted them to be, the devil has a funny way of recruiting the vulnerable to his throne of bad behaviors like the ones noted in the golden rule: a thief, a liar or a murderer.

Tah-tah!  Choose a job! Do it with honesty and to the best of your ability. 



Grace Dunkley-Asphall, Copyright © 2018

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

How Prince Harry and Meghan's Romance, The Curry Flavor Twist Broke Royal Tradition to Help Others

Flavor is defined as: The distinctive taste of a food or drink; an indication of the essential character of something; alter or enhance the taste of food and beverage by adding a particular ingredient.
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In the beginning there was flavor and the flavor was with romance. And that romance was kept among a chosen few for safekeeping. The romantic flavor, in due season, ripened beyond measure and was shared among the people across the globe. For who would have thought that a certain Prince from England named Prince Harry, the son of Prince Charles and Princess Diana, would have journeyed to a far away land called Canada to find his lady love? Before that, his lady love, Meghan Markle, an American actress, older than Prince Harry, biracial and a divorcee had travelled across the continental divide to reside.



The seasons changed across the land. The sun played and then hid. Birds flew high with spiteful intentions. The moon stood against the clouds, stars sparkled while a volcano belched with fury. In the meantime, the people had soon forgotten about the hottest flavor on the scene, royal and biracial. Then came news from Kensington Palace that Prince Harry had proposed to Meghan Markle to stir them from their forgetfulness, purpose and contumacious ways. Television screens flipped and raced back and forth as the couple romantically stood side by side in a garden at the Palace to share the exciting news and the details and sentimental value of the engagement ring. And behold the people with the book of Genesis on their minds looked at the garden and smiled with thoughts of Adam and Eve.



Before night could turn into day, the impudent behavior among those in the media descended upon Meghan. And so did the doubtful with their main concern. Did the Queen really accept a biracial woman to be the bride of her grandchild, Prince Harry? But such behavior was no match for the strong flavor of love. For what was founded on love shall remain love before the eyes of the people. The days following the announcement of Prince Harry’s engagement to Meghan brought hope among the females who were labeled cougars because they preferred to date younger men. And hope was also seen for the people who were afraid to expose their interracial relationships. It became clear that age is just a number and that love has no color nor boundaries. Neither should anyone tally the times a woman will kiss a frog before finding her prince. Thus said the adage.



And if one seek one shall surely find. So it was in the City of Brooklyn, New York, Flatbush neighborhood, a surge of interracial couples became evident more than before. Black girls with white men by their sides paraded supermarket aisles in daisy duke shorts unable to control escaping butt cheeks. And the Jamaicans who saw giggled as if pumpum shorts of dance hall fame is without sin. Whereas the elated females expressed themselves, let it be known that Meghan was with good report. The public had never seen her wearing such garments. And by then ripped jeans had disappeared from her public clothing. She had already taken on the noble look in her attire and adopted the royal etiquette. Likewise, in that same time, black men walked proudly alongside white ladies and made sure to hold eye contact with passersby. For it is in seeing that they will understand. Carriers of yoga mats and bottled water spiked. Dreadlocks hairdos were held under intense gaze. And smiles became necessary having seen the multitude of romantically involved walking about freely, happy as larks, following their hearts.



And it came to pass that a wedding date of May 19, 2018, was set for the royal wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan. And the mischievous people erupted with laughter, gossiped and expressed that they cannot wait to see the day when Queen Elizabeth II would hold her little biracial grandchildren. Aha! Little did the mischievous people of the land know that before Meghan came along gossipers mentioned that Queen Charlotte from way back when, in the early centuries, was not full white. She was the great great great or so grandmother of Queen Elizabeth II. And to those who believe or doubt, their hands will search the land of Goggle in due season to find out.

So as the wedding plans went forth, there came a loud noise from Meghan’s siblings who were white. Before that, it was made known that Meghan’s mother, Doria Ragland is black, wears dreadlocks hairdo and a nose ring. She is also a yoga instructor and a social worker. Her father, Thomas Markle who worked as an Emmy-award lighting director is white and has other children who are not of Meghan’s mother. They are white and with a strangeness in behavior. All manner of unkindness came from them towards Meghan. The news reports became relentless. Staged paparazzi pictures by Meghan’s father were revealed. And the people of the land were astonished. How could it be that so much bitterness could exist among them?  Then came news that Meghan’s father was in a far away land named Mexico, ailing, and that he would not be able to walk his daughter down the aisle. Frenzy hit the land and the loud mouths from various media thrones and talk-shows fell in accord, speculating that Doria, Meghan’s mother, might be the one do it. But low and behold before the situation could explode further word came that Prince Harry in his shining amor spoke. And the world and all the brouhaha stirrers became calm.



And it came to pass that on May 19, 2018, the royal wedding day for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle arrived to seal the love flavor between them. By then a multitude of people had journeyed from far and near and descended at Windsor, Berkshire, England. People stood by the wayside to view as much as they could. Whereby those who had rank and were special quests took their seats in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. 

Television land made it possible for viewers across the land to witness the historic royal wedding of true love and with a break in tradition. And it was ordained that fascinators, hats, handbags, shoes and garments were the handiwork of people with creative minds and sewing machines. And those same viewers in far away lands became wise and took pictures of the many scenes that raced across the television screens. Some pictures were perfect whereas some were poorly angled and not of brilliant shine; yet they remained precious. 

The romantic flavor between Prince Harry and Meghan permeated the air as the bride in all her radiant glory appeared down the aisles of St. George's Chapel by herself to a certain point where she met Prince Charles who took her to the waiting Prince. Queen Elizabeth II looked on with no expression on her face to read. Was she having a good time? For thou noble woman must have known beforehand that a black gospel choir would have sung “Stand by me” to charm the heart of any dead rat bat. The young black cellist went ahead and pumped up the flavor. Life without flavor is dull said the jolly. And all the other hues rejoiced to see the unity when everyone gather in the name of love.



And what a flavor it was to see a Jamaican among them, Rev. Rose Hudson-Wilkin, Chaplain to the Queen. Those who knew nothing about her were amazed when they heard. But in the end it was the man from afar who in a strange land that would wake the town and boldly tell the people about love. Reverend Michael Curry, an American, was that man. He turned on the light of love in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor, using his Curry flavor with a touch of Songs of Solomon, Martin Luther King and slaves. And the royals and guests looked on. Some perplexed, some smirked, some stoned-faced, some smiled, because never had they heard such teachings in their land. In Television land some viewers cheered and some feared that he had gone off script. Tek him dung! Nuh spwile di royal wedding, came the Jamaican voice in my head. What manner of man is he? That he should be so bold before strangers with his words about Martin Luther King and slaves. But alas, he endured and ended with love as Prince Harry and Meghan looked on with joy. Doria understood the teachings and she nodded with smiles. It was American. It was fire. It was Curry flavor. Her daughter Meghan had found love.

And when the vows were taken, Meghan officially became a member of the British Royal family. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle now Duke and Duchess of Sussex were all smiles, filled with love, Curry flavor and togetherness as they walked down the aisle of the St. George’s Chapel, hand in hand. And so it was that when they alighted from the Chapel they kissed, the love flavor was fully sealed for the world to see. The people rejoiced and were exceedingly glad that a new day had arrived in modern Britain.

Tah-tah! All things are possible. Love has no color nor boundaries. 

Grace Dunkley-Asphall, Copyright © 2018

Friday, April 20, 2018

Barrel and Air Bed: Exquisite Austerity Furniture In North America

Necessity is the mother of invention. Or, tun yuh han an mek fashion, according to the Jamaican saying.
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While President Donald Trump, the most controversial modern day President of the United States of America, is happily living his world of tweets, there are many people in America who are wishing that they could experience one drop of poop from a tweeting bird above for good luck. Healthcare costs, high costs of living and exorbitant rent have redefined the lives and living conditions of many. Should things continue on this path, America, the land of plenty and prosperity, will perhaps become a land of nomads, shared living spaces like a modern day office which will allow people to sleep in shifts according to roommates’ work schedules.



Low income tenants across New York State are the most likely to become homeless. There are tenants who are paying more than half their income towards rent. The slogan “one paycheck away from being homeless” attracts legitimacy. Landlords are tone deaf to the plights of the tenants as they also fall in line to complain about high property taxes and the upkeep of their properties. The slum landlords lack scruples and moral values when it’s time to collect rent from the tenants who occupy their leaky, insect and rodents infested dilapidated apartments and houses. Failure by any tenant to pay rent will lead to eviction which can be devastating for those who do not have immediate shelter.

From my observation, the residents in Brooklyn have a higher possibility of becoming homeless   because it has captured the grand prize for high rent. I take into consideration the strolls I often take in some sections of my Flatbush neighborhood, be it spring, summer or winter. The view is a sorry reality. Any little space between buildings is a nestling place for the homeless and their personal effects. Sometimes an open space on a sidewalk will suffice. If there is time to spare, a conversation with one of the patrons in an eatery is most likely to reveal that the person is homeless.



Dandy-shandy politics have left tenants with little hope that the landlord-tenant situation will improve. As a result some Jamaican renters in Brooklyn have taken a proactive approach by downsizing. They have decided to rent a single room and not buy the standard household furniture such as bedroom sets, couches and other large items. Instead they are purchasing barrels and air beds in the event they are evicted. The items are inexpensive and easier to remove from their apartments. Furthermore, there will be no high storage fees to pay.

Barrels are appropriate for storing items, giving the room a neat and spacious appearance. The air bed is a great idea. Inflate and deflate as you please. Without batting an eye I hurriedly purchased one. It is comfortable and most suitable for me on the run, especially having discovered that a coil or spring mattress leaves me in medical jeopardy. Given the spotlight on the exquisite goodness of the air bed and barrel, I cross my fingers that merchants will not be like greedy landlords. If they do, Jamaicans are never without solutions. They always have a plaster to fit every wound.


Tah-tah! “Cleverness is better than strength”.



Grace Dunkley-Asphall, Copyright © 2018

Thursday, March 8, 2018

A Jamaican Tradition Hooks 7 year Old Jewish Girl



When it comes to culture and tradition there is always someone watching, reading and listening.
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If anyone should ask me to explain culture, I would say to them that “culture makes the world go round”. We share, adopt and contribute.  It is the round robin in society be it through dance, art, religion, culinary arts, music, sports and more. Culture is also associated with biology which will not be drafted at this time.

Now, when it comes to tradition, it is deeply rooted and has a way of getting around too. Sometimes when it makes its debut here and there the impression is lasting, especially among children. On one such occasion, I was intrigued by an essay written by a seven year old Jewish girl which was sent to me by her mother, my friend of many years, for its authenticity.  In it she relayed an activity about the rolling calf. Rolling calf stories exist in Jamaican folklore but more importantly, how did this seven year old learn about rolling calf? Did she learn about it through a babysitter or at school? As far as I know a rolling calf story told during bed time as a child used to have my siblings and I huddling with fear as it was supposed to be the King Kong of all ghosts. This little Jewish girl is either associating with Jamaicans or reading about Jamaican tradition.

Being a Jamaican, I felt compelled to share with others how far Jamaican tradition has traveled in bits and pieces to hook a little Jewish girl in North America. Without further ado and with permission from her mother, please read her rolling calf story noted below:






Tah-Tah!  There is no end to knowledge.



Grace Dunkley-Asphall, Copyright © 2018