Self portraits

Self portraits

Monday, November 14, 2011

Stay Same (My Counterfeiter)

One time, in my travels to Jamaica, I met a counterfeiter. This isn't him - no - this is some random guy working at a restaurant who saw the camera and jumped right in. Don't even know his name. That must be why I look like I'm sucking on a lemon in the picture.

random guy and me

But, anyway, my counterfeiter, well, I'll call him Robbie. At first glance, you might think he was native Jamaican, but, actually he was born and raised in Chicago.  He had lived on the island a long time, and spoke in perfect patois.  One day I followed him to his room - we were going somewhere, and he had to iron his jeans. I'm not kidding - he was that kind of guy -- the neatest Rasta on the island. He had no furniture in his room but the bed, which he used as an ironing board. And, it turned out that under the bed, there was a box. Of memories, you might say.

From the box, Robbie revealed his story to me. He'd saved some of the currency as a kind of souvenir. The US bills were made painstakingly on copy machines, so he had to perfectly line up the fronts and backs to print them.  He had kept some one-sided sheets, where the backs didn't print - perfect in all appearance till you turned them over and found them blank.

His friends would buy and sell or otherwise distribute the bills, like they'd buy ten 100's for $300 from him, and they'd resell the bills so everybody made a profit. Until they got caught. Then, Robbie did his time, turned Rastafari in jail, and moved to Jamaica. His favorite phrase was, "Trust me." And, so, of course, I did.

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