Mets among the Bob Marleys?
I’m always on the prowl for sweet Mets gear, but the last place I expected to see souvenirs in a small souvenir shop in Jamaica or with a street vendor in Mexico.
We spent Thanksgiving week on a glorious reunion cruise with my extended family, a true once-in-a-lifetime week fabulously floating through the Western Caribbean on the Freedom of the Seas. Our adventures, especially those related to our favorite baseball team, shall make up this week’s Deezo Friday Five. And we'll have more cool things during the week.
1) I’m a tourist at heart, and simply can’t rest until I search through every single souvenir shop in case they have the perfect postcard or float pen.
So I spent the last chunk of our day in Ocho Rios, Jamaica with my son, brother, his friend and my brother-in-law on a mission to the Hard Rock Cafe, then hitting some of the shops.
The Hard Rock is in something of a two-level strip mall, and some of the stores were so tacky that even I would take a step in and turn around. Lots of marijuana designs, which is just not my thing.
But we walked into one shop and a Yankees logo caught my eye. “Is there no escaping this evil?” I asked myself. But then I realized this was an entire display devoted to licensed MLB goods, but with Jamaican sayings and symbols.
There were caps, shirts and balls, and I saw the Skanks, Sox, Cards and then the Mets! Sweetness! I picked up a cap with the interlocking NY on the front and the Jamaican flag on the side, and a shirt with the NY and “Respect, mon.” More on that in a minute.
Later we walked around an outdoor marketplace, and other shops had similar gear. There was another cap with the Mets bridge logo in Jamaican colors, and a “Caribbean vacation” logo on the side instead of the flag.
I thought this was a good sign, and set plans to search out similar displays in our other ports of call. They wouldn’t create these things just for Jamaica, right?
2) Earlier in the day, we took a taxi bus to the Dunn's River Falls, where tourists climb up 200 feet of tiered limestone as cold, cold water rushes by.
Actually, the taxi ride to get there required more bravery than the climb. There are seats that fold down into the aisle, so if there is ever a need to evacuate quickly, well, you won’t.
We were taught some phrases along the way. “Yeah, mon.” is kind of a universal response.
At the falls, a guide leads a group hand-in-hand, carefully stepping on rocks that form the tiers. Another guide expertly juggles everybody’s camera — yes, I was afraid — and snaps photos along the way. This was the first of many times that I was asked to blindly trust our dreadlocked friend.
I thanked one of the guides before we started, and he extended his hand in a fist and said, “Respect, mon.” I wasn’t sure if this was a directive. Had I been disrespectful? The other guide did the same, so I realized it's the way the locals say “Hello.”
The climb was a great adventure, hanging on to slippery rocks for dear life, taking steps in places where we could not see the bottom and wondering what the heck the woman in the group ahead of us was thinking when she decided to wear a thong.
3) Next we went to Grand Cayman, which had a Hard Rock Cafe but precious few souvenir stores, making way for high-end jewelry shops.
My son and I opted to take a cab to the island’s famous Seven Mile Beach, which I have say possessed the softest, finest sand I’ve ever seen.
The taxi dropped us off at one of the open-sided beachside bars, and we walked around for a while as the son selected a perfect spot to throw down our towels.
Naturally, I was wearing my Faith and Fear in Flushing T-shirt because you should always look your best when representing the United States when in other countries.
It wasn’t long before a guy came over to talk. “That’s a Mets shirt, right?”
I was very impressed.
While he isn’t a reader of Greg and Jason’s great site, he recognized the color scheme and the name Flushing. Turns out he attended the Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, not far from Shea.
“I root for the Yankees, but I don’t hate Mets,” he said. I was immediately skeptical. As you know, I usually don’t converse with Yankee fans. But as we talked I learned he was more of a football guy with a passing interest in baseball.
And I was on a diplomatic mission, and he seemed nice enough so I didn’t want to make waves.
4) Our next stop was Cozumel, Mexico, which I learned was pretty much untouched until Jacques Cousteau filmed a documentary in 1961 — just a year before the Mets — and it became a hot spot for divers.
We walked through a marketplace in the port, and saw one of the merchants had a Mexican wrestling mask on his cart.
This was a hoot, since my wife and kids watch Mexican wrestling movies for kicks. The wrestlers, who never show their faces, and fight crime when not fighting each other. Think “Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park” but with evil midget assassins instead of Ace Frehley.
A couple steps revealed that almost all the stores had Mexican wrestling masks! They practically outnumbered sombreros.
And I thought the masks were just covered in just cool designs. But it turns out they were the actual designs used by current wrestlers, kinda like walking into Sports Authority and buying Mets stuff.
Except that I couldn’t find a Mexican MLB display like I found in Jamaica.
Then we took a cab ride to the Mayan ruins at San Gervasia. The ruins don't have the pyramids like those on the mainland, but our Mayan guide walked us through the tomb and temples and told us about prehispanic life in the region. The whole island was considered sacred at one time.
I couldn’t believe that we were encouraged to encouraged to climb atop the 2,000-year-old structures. If there were such a place in the United States, I suspect we would be kept far away.
It was fun imagining what the ruins looked like in all their glory, back in Julio Franco’s rookie year.
Note my second bracelet, that shows I mastered both the ship's FlowRider and climbing wall!
5) After our tour, my cousin Tim joined us for an excursion to downtown Cozumel, where you could buy a cold Corona through a bar window for a buck.
Every couple of blocks we noticed vendors selling handmade bracelets, usually bearing girls names.
But Tim, a die-hard Jets fan, stopped when his eyes caught a display where the bracelets had the names of college and pro teams — but not the Jets and Mets.
Tim asked how could be so, and the craftsman said he could create new designs in minutes. And in moments, we were picking out colors and watched how Roberto — Tim asked his name, among other things — expertly wound thread around a plastic base and produced perfect letters.
We were impressed. Tim pronounced that the bracelets were good luck charms, and promised that if the Jets win the Super Bowl, he’ll come back and kiss Roberto on the forehead. Roberto was afraid. I think he will root against the Jets.
Then, I learned the hard way that the symbol for pesos is the same as for U.S. dollars.
There was much distress when we popped into McDonald's for a quick bite and I tried to order in Spanish for my son and cousin, and saw $125 appear on the register screen.
I suspect the clerk has noticed that look on other tourists, because he quickly said, "Pesos," and told me that it came to about $12 in U.S. dollars.
I also learned that a Happy Meal is called a “Cajita Feliz.” But, as we learned in Pulp Fiction, a Big Mac is still a Big Mac.