As the plane lifted off I began to think of all the luxurious things I would see as I journeyed to the topical paradise of Jamaica. I had been to just about all of the islands, so finally getting to the place that is listed number two in in the Beach Boys song Kokomo, seemed to be a big deal. On the flight over I sat with a native Jamaican who worked for the department of education for the country. She was making an emergency trip back home, cutting her trip short by a few days because her landscaper accidentally cut a few of his toes off mowing her lawn! Yikes! As much as she seemed upset by the whole incident, she couldn’t help but feel smitten by my American charm and humor when I suggested she call a “Toe Truck”- Get it….Tow Truck! She was able to offer me some surprising good advice for my trip in which I will get to in a bit- but first….why was I heading to Jamaica in the first place?
Back in February I was attending the Sports Illustrated Swim Suit Launch party during the NBA All Star Weekend in NYC. Work can be a bitch!!! I was there because a good friend of mine was DJ’ing the event and I wanted to see him in action. His name is DJ Irie, and he is a brilliant performer, promoter, entrepreneur and person. We would later have the chance to visit him and his team down in Miami for his famous Irie Birthday Weekend. (Video and Story to come!) As I was speaking to Irie, he introduced me to a guy who seemed cool, very zen and slightly out of place. His name was Rohan. Irie said, “Chuck, do know who that guy is?” I may have said yes just to not sound like an idiot, but he went ahead and said that’s Bob Marley’s son. I swear that what I am about to say is the God’s honest truth, but as soon as he said those words, “Could You Be Loved” blasted across the nightclub….Strange? I’m beginning to believe that coincidence is nothing but a made up word, created to explain something that people don’t have the vision to see. I shook the mans hand, grabbed a quick photograph and tried to have a conversation in a place where the lighting was dim, music was loud and the accent was thick…..(I don’t mean his Jamaican accent either, don’t forget I pahk the ca in Havaaad yaaad…)
Needless to say we didn’t broker any huge Life is Great deals during that conversation but I banked the encounter in the old brain knowing I would be back again to revisit the reason why we met to begin with. Fast forward to the eternal struggles of operating and maintaining a media empire like Life is Great New England. We were always in pursuit of trying to find the right media partners that both fit the personality of the show but could also offer a product that would fit into the context of the show. For instance a bathroom cleaning spray would have a difficult time getting a solid product placement spot on our featured videos. That’s why Jetsmarter works so well. Its pretty easy to incorporate Private Jets into an adventure show! Sadly our team was consuming a lot of energy drinks in order to keep up with the pace of such a job. All of us had kids, other jobs, crazy schedules and a need for some artificial motivation. Ironically I saw an old college friend of mine who was starting a new energy drink company in Boston. I reached out to him to see if his start up could use some huge exposure on our emerging media platform. Lucky for us he had no idea what I was talking about and, didn’t capitalize on the opportunity. I am a firm believer in EVERYTHING both GOOD or BAD happens for a reason. While I was in the stores searching for a can or bottle of his new drink, I came across the now famous bags of Marley Coffee! In my head I wondered if that cool cat I met at the SI swim suit thing was connected at all to this company….at the very least he knew who to reach out too! Wow, thank you to my lazy college friend who couldn’t see the opportunity, because if he did the next step would never have taken place.
I reached out to Rohan Marley to see if a meeting could take place. Not only did he ave all of the contacts but he was the ruler of theMarley Coffee empire! It was his baby! He was very receptive to a meeting and invited me to come visit him at his Tribeca home. It’s funny how creative endeavors emerge, but I can’t quite recall how we decided on doing a weekly podcast. It will come to me I’m sure…
The next step was setting up the meeting. Like I said earlier, we have a great relationship with Jetsmarter, a private jet chartering service that give me access to luxurious travel especially to NYC from Boston. I boarded a jet, felt like a major league baller, and headed to the Apple! What happened next is that of legend. His apartment is one of those places where the elevator goes directly from the lobby of the building into his living room. When the doors opened up I was greeted by Rohan, wrapped in a blanket. Was he sick? Did he forget I was coming? Either way he graciously invited me in. As I walked in I couldn’t help notice that sitting on his couch was future NFL Hall of Famer Ray Lewis. Ray and Rohan were team mates at the University of Miami. I noticed that although I had a appointment with Mr. Marley, I clearly caught them in the midst of a relaxing afternoon of having coffee and watching movies. The movie that was playing on the big screen was Unbroken. Here I was trying to have a conversation about doing a weekly podcast while one of the most emotional and overwhelming movies of struggle and triumph was playing in the room. My play was to sit back and let the movie play. I said that we should watch the whole thing and talk afterwards. I was intrigued at how a guy like Ray Lewis would react to the story of Louis Zamperini. Would he shed a tear like I did when Zamperini returned to Japan years later to carry the Olympic Torch and confront his captors offering forgiveness? I didn’t know what to make of this guy. This was Ray Lewis, an emery of my team the New England Patriots. A guy known for his on and off the field fire. To me this was a wildcard that I didn’t quite know how to handle. NOTE: I ended up developing a nice friendship with Ray and will be doing some projects with him and his team that I am extrodinarliy excited for. So I will save some of the stories relating to him for a later time.
After the movie, Rohan fixed me a Rum flavored cup of the Coffee and we had a talk. We decided that we would try to do a weekly Podcast to discuss issues like coffee, his culture, family, music, sports and whatever happened to be on our minds. This was an obvious platform for him as his father was known not only for his brilliant music but also for his thoughtful observations about the world he lived in from religion to politics, to sports and music and everything in between. “Let’s have you down to Kingston Jamaica to start the process…” He said…. I agreed and the trip was on.
Shortly before I was to embark on this journey, I was called by his marketing/PR team with the news that the trip needed to be cancelled. I was disappointed but also confused. I suspected it had something to do with the ridiculous law suit one of my other companies happened to be involved with at the time and the shameful and dishonest reporting of it in the news. (Once again, I want to save those stories for another blog….trust me they are good…) This gave me an opportunity to directly speak with Rohan and his team to give a clearer run down of what we had planned. Suddenly the trip was back on! Amazing! So back to the lady on the plane with the good advice. She mentioned to me that I should be very careful on where I go and who takes me around. When I told her that I would be escorted by none other than Rohan Marley, she was comforted and realized I’d be safe. Come on, I was in Jamaica for the love of God with the Son of Bob Marley. Its like visiting South Africa and grabbing a bite with Nelson Mandela! She also said to me that I needed to only eat food that was from the area. I needed to immerse myself into the culture of the land.
In preparation of the trip I tried to do as much research as I could on not only the Marley family and their story but that of Jamaica and especially Kingston. I was not excited after what I saw. Most of that researched showed me poverty, drug wars led by fierce gangs and an uncertain governmental system. Yikes!! What was I getting myself into? I was also traveling alone. I didn’t bring my crew this time as I figured this was going to be an exploratory mission. Get a lay of the land, try to see if there was a fit here and formulate a plan after some reflection. I was going to be shooting all of the material myself, recording the podcast and lugging all of the equipment as a one man show!
These prejudices I carried with me were certainly keeping me careful. I saw a few guys walking down the street with machine guns strapped to their chests. They must have been some type of police or military as I couldn’t say one way or another from their uniforms. It did reinforce my fears and heighten my need to stay alert. When I arrived at the historic 56 Hope Road address of Bob Marley, I was greeted by an eight foot high steel gate guard by a serious looking chap. They gates opened as they were awaiting my arrival. The sun was down and the darkness of the caribbean night settled in. Now I was down a sense and got a bit more nervous of where I was headed. This was a museum where thousands of Marley fans make their pilgrimage, but it was also the residence of some of Bob Marleys oldest friends and relatives. Nothing over the top. You wouldn’t see this on cribs. They talked the talk and walked the walk. Although I wouldn’t know the true power of this until later, I did feel like there was an overwhelming spirit that resided there. It’s hard to explain but I know I felt it. I was escorted to Rohans’ office which was a picnic table on a porch, under a street light. He had apple computer plugged in and an office chair. That was about all the evidence I saw that made that spot an office. Gathered around the table were 5 or 6 people that I would later become pretty familiar with. At the time they were just people I could hardly understand. There was Marley music playing on the PA system.
The plan was to join up early in the morning and knock out a few conversations. Test each other out. See if there was Chemistry. To be honest I wasn’t sure how this would turn out but the best bet was to go back to the hotel, get a good nights rest after a long day of traveling and grab a bite to eat. I had ox tail for the record. We had a lot to do. Tomorrow was a big day!