All posts by C.S. Giscombe


Say It Ain’t So, Joe

Vice President Biden, choosing the vernacular

In which I cogitate on the ways in which racial language enters the 2012 presidential campaigns through a side door and note the prevailing color patterns and relations in popular media.

Cooking recently for a dinner party and listening to NPR, I heard several times Joe Biden make his now-famous “chains” remark.  The vice president, speaking in Danville, Va., said Governor Romney had indicated that he would unleash the big banks and “unchain W…


4 Songs in Jamaica

Harry Belafonte album cover

In a parking lot in Port Antonio, leaving the Maroon Conference, loitering with a woman from the States and a woman from Jamaica. My people, I was saying, are from here, Portland Parish; I’d been to Jamaica before, had visited family in Kingston and Mandeville, but this was my first ever trip to Portland. I’m a wayward son, I said. “Prodigal son,” suggested my American friend, because that’s got the possibility of rapprochement but, feeling rakish, I sang a bit of Pat…


Patwah, Patois

Jamaica’s Blue Mountains (courtesy of

“a compound of the most heterogeneous description” –F.G. Cassidy

I set out for the International Maroon Conference  by shouldering my backpack and walking across Berkeley to the BART station and then there I was on the train to SFO sitting catty-corner from a woman my age who also had a pack. Mexico,  she said.  Jamaica, said I.  She said, They’ll know you’re an American as soon as they see you. But I’d been before and re…