There was a guy in my home town in northern Michigan — let’s call him “Todd” — whose wife left him for Ziggy Marley’s drummer. That could a movie all it’s own, right?
It gets worse. Not only did Todd lose his wife to Ziggy Marley’s drummer, he PAID the guy to do it.
“And for the love of Jah, if you’re going to pay a dude named Ziggy to entertain drunk rednecks at your saloon, get some college kids to work the bar so you can keep an eye on your wife and make sure she isn’t giving head to a dreadlocked drummer in the walk-in freezer.”
Todd was (and possibly still is) a businessman and restauranteur. He bought a tavern in our home town, one that’d been around for decades, after the original owner had a stroke and decided to retire. During the bar’s long history, it’d hosted dozens of musical acts you’ve never heard of, like local blues duo Mozart and Ace. But Todd had big ambitions. He thought he could put the tavern on the map. Somehow, nobody really knows how he pulled it off, he booked Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers to play at the bar during a summer weekend.
I was in my mid-20s when it happened, and only heard about the show second-hand. Even at the time, it seemed like a terrible idea. A town with a population of less than 300, most of whom are farmers who know all the lyrics to Hee Haw songs, doesn’t need live music from the spawn of reggae royalty. And for the love of Jah, if you’re going to pay a dude named Ziggy to entertain drunk rednecks at your saloon, get some college kids to work the bar so you can keep an eye on your wife and make sure she isn’t giving head to a dreadlocked drummer in the walk-in freezer. That’s just common sense.
The scandal was huge news for a few years. Todd divorced his wife and closed the bar, and as far as I know that’s the last anybody heard from him. I’m not sure what he’s doing with his life these days, or even if he still lives in town, but he definitely needs to be a big part of this documentary. I never talked to him and got the whole story, but I imagine that not long after he learned that his wife cheated on him, he sunk into a spiral of depression and heavy drinking. Every time I visit my parents, I expect to see his car parked in some dark lot, Todd sitting alone inside, staring at the streetlights and taking long gulps from a bottle wrapped in a brown paper bag, angrily muttering the lyrics to “Tomorrow People.”
If Todd’s not available, maybe we just hire an actor to play out that scenario. Who cares if it’s 100% true, it’s great cinema.
* * *
We need to include something about that time I almost visited Jamaica while on a Caribbean cruise.
This was during my late 30s, so it probably belongs somewhere around the end of the second act. Our ship arrived at the Ochos Rios port at dawn, and I was one of the first passengers outside, dressed in my finest tie-dye. But Jamaica wasn’t what I imagined from a youth smoking skunk-weed and listening to Legend. It was fucking scary. I didn’t make it six yards before I was surrounded by a mob of taxi drivers, shouting promises of low fares and cheap access to “the stuff that’ll make you smile.”
As I got deeper into the fray, they got increasingly threatening. I was cornered by a thin, foul-smelling man named Donovan, who offered to take me to “The Happy Place” for just $3. His taxi was a beaten-up van with the windows blacked out; the kind of vehicle preferred by serial killers and pedophiles. My desire for potent marijuana was cancelled out by my desire not to have my corpse discovered in an abandoned warehouse.
“Thanks, but I’m good,” I said, backing away like he’d just pulled out a weapon.
“You like Bob Marley?” he hissed. “All white people like Bob Marley. I take you to a place, you understand what ‘Redemption Song’ all about.”
“That’s not necessary,” I said, my voice raising a few octaves in panic.
“I find you the best ganja, you feel like Bob Marley. Don’t you want to feel like Bob Marley?”
“Not today no, thanks.”
I retreated back to the ship, repeating the same excuse used by every other easily-intimidated passenger: “It’s too rainy.” Instead, I sat at the pool bar and drank $10 rum runners and listened to a white guy in a Hawaiian shirt play “Three Little Birds” on a steel drum.
* * *
The doc’s third act practically writes itself. That racist suburban mom who first warned me about Bob Marley? She recently friend-requested me on Facebook. I haven’t responded yet, but I kinda want to say yes, just to see if time and age has softened her edges. Also, I’m curious if she’s going to watch the Facebook stream of the Marley documentary. And if she does, maybe she’ll watch it with me. That would be so meta-meta-something. A documentary whose pivotal scene features a racist woman in her 70s who once believed Bob Marley was brainwashing black kids into butchering white kids watching a documentary about Bob Marley — how does that not get an Oscar nom? I wonder how long she’d last before saying something horrible? “I ain’t no racist or nuthin’, but like I always said, you just can’t trust a negro with a knife.” Maybe the movie would effect her on a profound level and she’d have a moral metamorphosis. First it’d be “Hey, that’s not the ‘Electric Avenue’ guy.” And then “You know what? This music ain’t so bad. Maybe I’ve been wrong about Bob Marley. And if I was wrong about Bob Marley, maybe I’ve been wrong about a lot of things.”
And then, in the documentary’s epilogue, I’ll buy her a copy of Legend. Actually, no, probably just that Black Crowes cover of “Time Will Tell.” You can’t change the world overnight.