By Gerald Hausman
On The Road, USA
One summer when we were living and teaching in Jamaica there was an expression we heard on people's lips. They said, "Evry ting clear, mon. Just symptom an sign." This was a saying I'd heard before but also a popular song that summer in the 1980s. It was written and performed by a group from Port Maria called The Foundation.
We lived on one point of land and The Foundation lived on the other, so we faced each other. I met various members of the group and often recognized them by their rhythmic walk. We heard them sing at a high school one night. Afterwards, we all gathered outside and smoked ganja. A policeman came over and said, "We don't mind the smoke but hold down the noise." We did what he said.
There was a concert in Kingston called Sting. We attended. Mostly I remember the pickpockets – little children really – as we came in the gate. A friend in camo pants with many large pockets lost a couple hundred dollars he'd stashed in every pocket, spreading the money around in case he should be picked, as he put it. He was and he lost everything and we were told by our Rasta friend Roy: "It a symptom and sign." He also told us to stick together – " tight-tight!" We did as he said. Hours later, toward the early hours of the morning, there was a riot. Guns cracking everywhere, police dogs running and barking, people screaming and scattering. Some were crushed by others.
We held on to one another and were by a powerful human tide and carried – feet paddling uselessly in the air – from one end of the football field to the other. My feet never touched the ground. But we held hands, stuck together as a group. Thanks to Rasta Roy, all of us are still here.
I saved a boy from drowning that summer. He went down three times in the big blue beyond the reef and I brought him up on the third surfacing, a plume of water sprouting out of his mouth. Today he is a mentor for many, a solid believer in Jah.
That winter I found a black Madonna, stuffed in the deep straw of a pack rat hole in the side of an arroyo. I don't know what made me reach into the nest in the first place. But it was like I was urged to do so by some greater power.
The following spring I lovingly placed the sacred Madonna in the church of grace and healing in Chimayo. Letting go of her was having her with me in memory, always, for how could I forget her beautiful face? My friend from Trinidad, Kelvin, said, "I've seen her before, she comes from South America. Long, long ago she came here to New Mexico, not in spirit. In the flesh. She had pure black skin. Many santos were made the year she left for good. But now she remains in spirit. You found one of those santos. You and your family are blessed with good health."
A year later I found myself pressed for money, I saw a green meteor pass over the roof of our house while I was praying. A Baptist cousin from Texas, a pastor, said: "That was the green light, Gerry. You got the green light."
Our financial picture changed suddenly when, one day, I received a check from a writer friend. He said, "Don't pay this back to me. Help someone later on when they're in the same need." The Madonna, the green light! No wonder I felt the positivity of change. Within a month my agent started selling book proposals that had been gathering dust for a year. One after another they were taken by major publishers. In time I had more work than I could handle. Believe it or not, it went on like this for more than twenty years.
However, now, on my 70th birthday I find myself on the road. The home of the last twenty is behind us as we head off on an unexpected adventure.
Yesterday, while standing on the Atlantic side of Florida in the warm wind of a night that presaged stormy weather, I felt a weird change come over the land. Minute particles of sand hit me all over my body. I looked at the night sky. There was a swath of midnight blue and great blossoms of pink and orange clouds floating like psychedelic jellyfish.
I wondered what was happening ... a tropical depression? The too-warm wind from the sea, the pressure drop. I looked up at the night sky again just as a fiery green meteor curved over our roof.
I was shivering, almost shimmering, with remembrance. The same feeling came over me. It was the green light again. And there was Roy smiling, in memory – "Symptom and sign, symptom and sign."