The day I met a Rasta in Paris.


Let’s start with the obvious if anyone should ask: I am the epitome of “normal”. I have a job, a family and a mortgage. I use public transport. I have a bachelors in law, a masters in criminology and for a short while made my living defending criminals who, heaven knows, were as guilty as sin.  
Normal.
And as many normal families do, my family and I enjoyed a great European holiday just a few months ago travelling through France and Italy. With great excitement and anticipation, we entered Europe through Charles de Gaulle International Airport, ready to consume whatever culture Paris had available to bestow upon us.

Paris, o Paris.
Everything we expected, yet, so much more. Not difficult to become mesmerized by the city of love and romance. How can you not? Every step you take overwhelms you with such rich historical undertones that had shaped the city into a pulsing beacon of human evolution. Throw in the food, colors and music; her architecture and people, the language and the culture. And you have an instant siesta for the senses.
What's the point, you ask? I need to paint the context as well as my state of mind at the time so that you can better appreciate the impact of what I'm about to share with you.
In my entire life of normality, I have never ever been in contact with a Rastafarian. The closest I ever came was one interesting night as a university student when cheap wine made us chant to the tune of Bob Marley’s Come we go burn down Babylon one more time. But dude, that was back in the days when we still had LPs and cassettes. I'm not even sure they burn Rasta music on CD today.
So, imagine the day I not only bumped into, but befriended a Rasta. 
It started as a morning like all the others. Fueled by a fresh croissant and a decent latté, we headed out in the direction of the Latin Quarter. The architecture along the Seine soon filled our SD cards, and in a state of awe, we reached the Saint Michel fountain. With a “pardon” here and an “excuse me” there, we shouldered our way through the crowd to behold yet another magnificent piece of art. There, in all his splendor, the arch angel Michael stood poised over the devil with sword in hand while two winged lion-dragons spewed water into a pond.
Competing with our fellow tourists, we ooh’ed and aah’ed and flashed away with our cameras, so intent on the display above us that we never noticed the small group of multi-colored rough-shots on the ground, right beside the lion-dragon. So imagine my shock when, one step later, I stumbled over one’s leg, crashed into the lady behind me and landed square on top of the… Rasta?!
I jumped to my feet and stuttered my apologies, backing away from five confused faces and the sweet scented marijuana pipe that now lay on the ground. All around me the tourists backed away, my family included, clearly implicating me as the culprit and putting as much distance between themselves and sure-fire trouble.  
Pardon, monsieur…” My broken French was not sufficient to express my apology. “I’m sorry, I didn’t see you…”
A block of a man, 6 foot 2, white and as solid as the rock of Gibraltar staggered to his feet, gold brown dreadlocks crawling out from underneath his yellow, green red and black woolen Rasta tam. “Hey man, why you com steppin on me like a cockroach?” Around him his bredren shook their heads, muttering and occasionally making eye contact; one fellow gingerly reaching for the fallen pipe lest I step on it, his concern more for the devise than for his brada.
“Sir, really, I didn’t mean to step on you. I apologise if—”
I expected a fist, a scowl or a finger at least, readying myself to pounce back at the slightest sign of conflict. Instead the giant grabbed me in a bear-hug, I thought to choke me to death, but he had different intentions.
His laughter echoed against the arch angel as he turned to his bredren and shook his dreadlocks. “Blouse an skirts, man. Naa worry bout it. Mi always inna crosses.”
For a moment I thought he’d spoken English. Perhaps it was the marijuana that had his tongue in a twist. “Uhm…” I turned and looked to my wife for help, but she had backed another step away, hand in front of mouth to hide her laughter. Mouthing a “we’re going to the Notre Dame, call us…” she promptly turned, grabbed the kids and left me with only the echo of her laughter for company.
“Yu nuh easy, heh,” he said, catching my desperate eye-call to my wife. Sure, if that meant I’m uncomfortable, hell yeah. As a “normal” person, my wife knew I had no idea what to do next. And she had left me. On purpose.
Dude, ease up.” He looked over at the fellow with the pipe, at my departing wife then back at me. A smile crossed his face. He had a plan. “Yu waan suck the ganja pipe?”
I understood that. “Uhm, thank you. But, no thanks.” I had to get away. Fast. “Sorry again for stepping on you.” I started backing away. “I’ll best be gone now.”
But the Rasta had other ideas. With a “Dude,” he clamped his arm around my shoulder and shook his head. “Stay, man, have a chat.” That was clearly not a request. He pulled me closer and solemnly introduced me to his friends, each now taking a turn to suck on the pipe, greeting me with an “irie” before passing the pipe anti-clockwise to his brada. By now the tourists have lost interest and slowly the crowd and my family disappeared from view. Without ceremony the big man pushed me to the ground to sit beside him in the circle of Rastas. I was alone, but apparently, have made new friends.
Long story short, that’s how I met Michael Harris Foster Jnr, better known as Mickey, a white Rastafarian with blue-blood Manhattan lineage. I slowly eased up in their company, enjoying their quips as their pipe made round after round. I daresay I didn’t understand half of what Mickey’s friends had said, but the roll of words on their Rasta tongues was music to my ears. They talked about everything and nothing, commenting on passersby and life alike. They asked about me and mimicked wonder at my “normal” life. I asked about theirs, and sat amazed at how different their lives were from mine.
Mickey’s story, especially, was one for a novel. How his father, senior partner in an esteemed New York law firm had disowned him; how his sister, a hot shot in the CIA had lent him money – which he had used to flee from Alfonso, his New York bookie, and a fate of certain death; how he’d landed up in Paris and a life of irie with his Rasta bredren. How Alfonso had followed him; and how, in a desperate attempt to stay alive, Mickey had gone into hiding at an Abbey south of Paris.
I’m sure most of his tale was ganja induced, but I nonetheless enjoyed it. Would you believe that Mickey was there when the Notre Dame was bombed a few months ago, and had helped the CIA to catch a bunch of crazy bad dudes who had also killed the monks in the Abbey?
Off course I didn’t believe him, even though his bradas solemnly vouched for the truut.
I wavered slightly when he relived the murder of his sister – he seemed so sincere in his telling; a tear even streamed down his cheek. But then he shattered my confidence when he told us of the final enactment of their revenge on the crazy dudes in a secret cavern right underneath the Colosseum in Rome; and how the whole place had gone up in an unholy explosion just as the CIA agents, with Mickey in charge, had made their escape from the carnage in an underground train.
A crazy tale told by an even crazier dude.
But, would you know, this crazy dude had managed to change the glasses through which I now see my otherwise “normal” life. Yes, I still have a job, still have a mortgage. I still take public transport. But since that day, I’ve been inspired to dare to dream. To see and describe life whichever way I choose.
True or not, I’ll let you decide.
*
Note: With Mickey’s permission, I’ve captured his entire tale in my debut novel Ancient Revenge, now available for the Kindle at Amazon.

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