To be fair, while Blackwell is present at all these meetings, he's not always "present," often pecking away at a smartphone or, as he does for a long stretch today, untangling a thicket of electronic-gadget cables. "Is this a battery?" he mutters, staring at a white plastic cube.
At some point, the photographer who's been shooting the hotels shows up to give Blackwell a preview of his work. He cues up a slideshow on his laptop, and as pornographically lush shots of tropical luxury flicker by on the screen, a Bob Marley song begins to play in the background. Blackwell's face lights up. "Oh, this is my favorite," he says. The photographer nods, pleased, and says that that's what someone had told him. The song is "Time Will Tell," from the 1978 album Kaya. As the beautiful images fade from one to the next, Marley's voice repeats the chorus in sharp, taunting counterpoint: Time alone, time will tell / Think you're in heaven / But you're living in hell.
If Blackwell were a different sort of fellow, we could end it right here, on this ironic juxtaposition, but CB is most certainly not living in hell. He's right where he wants to be. Or so he insists. When he began purchasing properties in Jamaica in the Seventies, he always had the long-term plan of opening hotels later in life. He says he loves paying attention to detail, that that's the secret of his success. He spends his days jetting between New York and London and Jamaica, and he still has a toe in the music business – a new Jamaican artist he's working with called Chronixx, a friend of Saulter's brother's – and his own brand of rum, a business his eldest son, 20-year-old Chris Jr., helps to run. (Blackwell also has a 46-year-old daughter, both products of different romantic dalliances.)
Another flawlessly sunny day in Oracabessa, another leisurely working lunch on the beach. There is more wine, and talk turns to the great Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, and later to Edward Snowden's Russian asylum. "Putin! He's such a gangster!" Blackwell cackles. Despite the difference in their ages, Blackwell and Saulter seem very much like equal partners. (If anything, Saulter is tougher than Blackwell on the help at Goldeneye.) Throughout the meal, Blackwell remains simultaneously affectionate and distant, a courtly ghost. Someone mentions a Jamaican friend who looks much older these days after recovering from a severe bout of kidney stones. "Nothing," Blackwell says softly, "ages one faster than pain."
For all his inscrutability and sangfroid, Blackwell, at heart, remains what used to be called an aesthete: a man of wealth and taste, with the emphasis on taste. In London, his limousine was an old, retrofitted cab with a fantastic sound system. In Los Angeles, he eschewed boring, fancy restaurants for business meetings, instead seeking out tiny Ethiopian joints on Fairfax, Afro-Peruvian places in East L.A. And he loved the music he released to such an extent that he's still trying to turn people onto his favorite acts. Just a few months ago, Blackwell tells me, with no small satisfaction, he had some friends listen to an old record by Ijahman – one of the most undersung Island artists, in Blackwell's opinion – and they loved it, "said, 'Where did this come from?' Even though it was made in 1978!"
More than 10 years ago, Blackwell told Rolling Stone, "I have always been kind of a loner, you know, a bit of an outsider. . . . I don't live the life of somebody who figures out who they are going to have lunch, drinks, and dinner with, going to cocktail parties and the theater. I just like building things, making things, causing things to happen and chasing ideas I'm excited about." Considered in that context, Blackwell's obsessive-seeming daily routine makes more sense. When I ask what makes him happiest these days, Blackwell says, "I love to get things done, to make things happen. I think I've been given that gift, and it's worked in different fields. And I love that. It gives me a huge amount of pleasure." As for legacy? "Well," he says, slowly, "I think I'd like to feel that I've made an impact. Ideally, a lasting impact, not just a quick flash. I would love that. That would make me feel like everything was worthwhile."