“Rasta man, Roll the Roll” by Nii Moi Thompson

Despite the distractions of voluptuous women in scanty bikini, either gyrating to azonto music or striding the beach, I was able to spot Paa Joe the moment I met him at Tawa-la; dark lips from excess tobacco, a chimney of a nose complemented by large strands of dread-lock hair. At least he taught me what Tawa-la meant in the Ga language, literally: Pipe Tobacco or Pipe Fire.

He put up the one-love gesture as he took his seat under the shed where I sat, away from a host of other Rastafarians, coughing and chocking on their own puff.

“Rasta-man, roll the roll…Rasta-man, roll the roll,” they all chanted. I figured that was his moniker. He refused to be bloated. Rather, he took the red piece of rug stuffed in his back-pocket, and wiped some ‘tears’ from his face. “Aw Mills, Aw Agya Atta…” he exclaimed, kneeling instantly in sorrowful reverence. Others joined him. I chuckled.

The ‘wailing’ worsened when an image of the late President appeared on the television screen which had been placed to entertain guests under the shed. Paa Joe dashed to the television set, used his rug to wipe the screen, apparently expressing his condolence, and requested that another roll of marijuana be organized for him.

“Rasta-man, roll the roll…Rasta-man, roll the roll,” the cheers were loud, and mocking.

“The man was sick…his own people killed him,” the bar-tender said.

Paa Joe did not take kindly to that. As though possessed, he lifted an arm, almost ready to strike the bar-tender.

Bomboclat, anyemi…Bomboclat. If sick man go fit build two universities den plenty schools in three and half years, den always make sick person come chop President.”

Now I could not hold back the laughter.

“Make I tell yuh…,” he continued. “This man yuh crucified, this man yuh vilified, was Haile Selassie him son inna Zion. Him continue projects of previous government. Him bring single spine give your fada and moda in three years. Kwe, kaaa fee b**l**”

Just then the scenario got murkier; as one of the channels captured Ursula Owusu eulogizing the late President, Paa Joe went berserk. “Quench da screen. Bomboclat…bloody hypocrites, fire burn you all. Babylon babe!”

I left the scene laughing all the way to catch the Circle bus home. Atta Mills died intestate, without a word to any of the commuters on-board the Circle-bound ‘sardine’ van with little ventilation. A sorrowful Akan dirge was bursting my ear drums, while some aggrieved passengers swayed to its deafening tune this way and that, tapping their feet to the rhythm. No one talked or hummed, but I read their thoughts. Bloody hypocrites!

Beside me was a mother whose milky teats were trying to find their way into the mouth of an agitated infant. I resisted the temptation of staring, and looked outside only to find Paa Joe dancing along to Bob Marley’s ‘Who the Cap Fits’, holding a bottle of beer in one hand with a joint stuck in-between the fingers of the other.

“Rasta-man, roll the roll…” I cheered him as the bus sped off in a ghastly plume of exhaust fume.

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