Richmond Hill Inn
|Union Street, P.O. Box 362
Montego Bay, Jamaica
My secretary, Joycie O'Brien, begins to glow in early February upon the mention of St. Patrick's Day, more than a month away! In all the years we've been together (I've told most of this before), I can count on a call from the owner of a local Irish pub on the night of March 17.
"Mr. Bockol, there's a very tall Irish lass here who's been dancing on a table for nearly half an hour."
"She says you're her lawyer and, as sure as shenanigans, she's gonna need one before long. Can you come and pick her up? And she said you wouldn't mind bringing her along some clothes. That's quite a chill she's got, as she doing a jig without..."
"I'll be right over."
"Quickly, the men here are like hungry birds in the presence of St. Francis."
I never know exactly where she'll be. Roache and O'Brien near Haverford or Murphy's Bar in Roxborough are boisterous favorites. Scanlon's on Manayunk Avenue, below Ridge seems to have recently tickled her fancy, especially if stuffed shrimp or broiled scallops are specials on the menu.
Her first brandishment of blarney occurred just after our initial meeting. She had arrived for a job interview at Goodis, Greenfield, Henry, Shaiman & Levin on a blustery March morning in 1972. I explained that my previous experience had been as an Assistant District Attorney, that I was new at civil litigation and might need her guidance, but that I learned quickly, did not dictate much and had a fairly pleasant disposition, even at a deposition.
She was as leery as a leprechaun in London, but said she'd give me a call if she wanted my bossiness.
Then she inquired, "Is Goodis Irish?"
"No," I replied, softer than necessary.
"Is Greenfield Irish?"
"I don't think so."
"Is Henry Irish?"
"Chances are slim to none."
"Is Shaiman Irish?"
I could see the growing disappointment in her eyes, so I knew I had to appease her somehow.
"Is Levin Irish?" she queried.
"May the Lord bless him; he is."
She raised an eyebrow. "I'll let you know."
That evening, the associates at the firm decided to go to Heaton's (now the Society Hill Hotel) at Third and Chestnut Sts. to celebrate St. Patty's Day. Lo and behold, Joyce was there on a table dancing.
"Joyce, your clothes." She was as bare as the cupboards at Old Mother Hubbard's. So she hired me to fetch her some and retained me thereafter to do legal work around the office.
This year Joyce had an extra sparkle in her eye, a glint of faraway places. "I'll be going to Jamaica this year for vacation, over St. Patty's Day, if you don't mind."
"That's a marvelous and beautiful place to go, but...on St. Patrick's Day, you usually need...legal advice," I cautioned her.
"Ah, there's no problem this year; I've solved the riddle of my annual indiscretions. It's the color green. Whenever I see the 'green' all flowing everywhere, and green hats and green beer, I simply go overboard. They don't celebrate St. Patrick's Day in Jamaica. There'll be no green surrounding me, so there'll be no reason to lose my composure."
"Well, if you say so," I replied, less convinced and no more reassured. "Nevertheless, leave my phone number with the owner of your hotel. Actually, this is an awful time to leave. I've got two briefs due in the Supreme Court in three weeks. I simply must do the Greenberg Complaint and the Reply to New Matter for the Faraghers. Joycie, how can you leave me for a vacation now?"
"Fatty, we've been working together at the practice of law for more than 16 years. I know crocodile tears when I see them. My bags are packed."
Jamaica in March is redolent of hibiscus perfume and Blue Mountain coffee. Joycie had her heart set on Montego Bay and was staying at a small inn, of which she'd heard me speak, called the Richmond Hill. It overlooks Mo' Bay giving visitors panoramic views of sunsets melting into the Caribbean. It also has the finest red snapper in the world.
The inn's owner, Stanley Chin, is a renowned fisherman whose small, sprite fleet is used by deepwater angler enthusiasts to fetch that evening's tuna, dolphin, marlin and snapper. The fish are filleted at his marina, upon return at about 3 p.m., 20 minutes from Richmond Hill, and placed on ice until 8:30 p.m. The inn's dinner bar opens then as all the stars have just earmarked their places in the sky, twinkling to phonographic renditions of Peter Duchin's tinkling. The sun disappears. A sizzle steals into the air as if a dragonfly were here or a snare drum were Duchin's accompaniment. Then the smells of garlic, hot peppers, pimento and coconut oil waft across the wide veranda where candlelit diners await the seafood in sybaritic style.
The red snapper is a fish whose thick flakes remain wet upon frying. A mouth-sized portion glistens pearl-like upon entering between one's lips. The fish's warmth and freshness give a taste as light as a heated tradewind.
If tuna is the day's catch, don't hesitate to order it grilled with ackee. Close your eyes and you're supping on steak and eggs.
And for your last evening on the island spring for the lobster tails, gigantic presentations of turbid one-inch high and wide cubes cross-hatched as filling for the foot-long shells of speckled red crustaceans. Drawn golden butter is poured into every baked crevice so that the lobster emits a mist of steam, exasperated that you haven't begun to devour it.
"Oh, Joycie," I say, just as she's leaving for the airport, "don't forget to order flamed bananas in Myers' rum and to wash it all down with coffee and Rumona. Make sure to have smoked marlin, pumpkin soup and meat patties. Curried goat is not to miss. Have mangos in the morning and papaya at night...and may the Lord show your stomach no mercy for leaving me with a temp who can't get an envelope straight into the typewriter!"
"No need to worry about a belly as tiny as mine. How can I eat all those things, Fatty? I'm only staying 10 days. I've told all the secretaries to pitch in to help you out. I finished typing the Pomerantz wills and the complaint for Dr. Koblenzer. Cheryl and Claire will cover emergencies and Ceil will come in tomorrow night to do the St. Patrick's Day article for The Retainer. You better get it done. It's already the 9th of March."
"But Joyce, I've nothing to write about."
"You'll think of something. Write about that Irishman, Levin."
I didn't have to wait 24 hours. My phone in the office rang at 3 p.m. The voice seemed distant but clear.
"Fatty, this is Stanley Chin; I'm afraid we've got a problem.
"Your fine secretary, mon, she wanted to go fishin' her first day and that was all right with me. She caught some yellowtail the size of which I haven't seen in years. I don't know where she found the strength. She was staying cool with Red Stripe and an occasional tonic. But at about five to three o'clock, we were almost back to the marina. The sun started hidin' behind the clouds, low in the sky, and the water grew dark and emerald green."
"Oh, no," I screamed, as my heart skipped a beat.
"She jumped in the water, mon. She was up to her neck; thank some saint she's as tall as she is or she would have drowned. But now she's singing Irish tunes and doing dances that would make most of Captain Bligh's crew blanch...and we can't get her out of the water!"
I held my breath as I asked the next question. "Is she wearing anything?"
"Well, he chortled, "at first we didn't actually know. No one saw her jump and the water was up to her neck. But as the tide went out, there's no denying mon, she's got nothing but a sunburn on."
I raced to the Overseas Terminal.
I arrived in Jamaica at 8 p.m. The sun was a red balloon above the deepest green waters I'd ever seen. The marina is 20 minutes down the highway.
"Is she all right?"
"She's wrinkled and she's burnt to a crisp, but she hasn't stopped the Irish Reggae yet."
"When does the sun disappear, Stanley?" I countered.
"It should sink below the horizon in 20 minutes."
As it did, the bay waters turned a cool blue. I waited with sunburn lotion at the end of the pier. Joyce, a few yards away, stopped her exuberant antics. She gathered her thoughts, as there was little else to gather, and said: "Every legal secretary who goes selfishly on vacation leaving her boss in the lurch should see me now."
NULLUM CRIMEN, NULLA POENA, SINE REGGAE
(This article was written in 1988.)
|Copyright 2004 Richard Max Bockol, Esq.||Back|