Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Your Buddha Hab No Power

Brovic - Blogging since 1903
Your Buddha Hab No Power

KHUK KHAK, Thailand - Everybody knows babies require a lot of attention. Constant. Same with plants. I've got about 800 + here now. Little yellow palm starts, potted in clusters of four or more, encircling the parent plants from which they were spawned.

'Same same resort,' remarked the workman who cut a giant hole in the wall for a new window, transforming a dull, cell-like room into an airy breathing space. Now, instead of looking at a wall, you can see the garden, and the lake. Karl, from across the lake, said the builder was thinking, "...'Five units.' He wasn't thinking of living here."

One, eleven, eleven, already. Don't time fly? Here it was, New Year's, just the other day. 1.11.11. Gotta put up a post on a date like that; one which falls once in a lifetime, just like all the others.


Just to prevent time from slipping by without trying something different, across-the-grain, counter to given sensibilities, discretions, and tendencies, I went ahead on down to Damon's bar and joined Damon and the couple dozen Hells Angels who'd gathered there last weekend.

Lots of loud noise (from the bar and bikes), black leather, patches (Australian chapter), tattoos, suspicious looks, and what else? I don't know. I can't really say I 'hung out' with the dudes; in fact, when I came in, they were all in the back, and when I went to the back, they went to the front, it seemed, and when I took a seat at the bar, they sort of dispersed, and gee...eventually left.

"I didn't mean to run off all your bros," I said to Damon, half kidding. I had taken some photos of a guy and his girl (with her camera), and another group photo of everybody at the bar, and Damon, doing his master of ceremonies best, had thrown his arm around me when I first entered and introduced me, 'Here's my neighbor, my friend, my bro,' and introduced me around, but still, I caught a couple of them eyeing me suspiciously and studying me hard.

It was okay. The vet hat with wings helped. The most impressive thing was Damon stopping traffic as all those bikes rolled out of there in a roaring, thunderous, ear-splitting swarm, and the last guy backing his bike into the bar, torquing it out with the front brake on, revving up to about three thousand rpms, and laying a tire-screeching 'burnout' patch of rubber from the bar and out onto the asphalt, in an impressive, deafening display of 'see ya later.'

Damon explained after they had gone, 'It's not you, bro. They're like that with everybody. They keep up this image, 'if you're not one of us...'

'then you're not one of the bros,' I finished for him. 'You can't be trusted.'

Given the right circumstances, any one of us could have been a biker. See yourself as a social outcast, see yourself as a non-conformist, see yourself un-loved, a rebel. See yourself in a tattoo parlor, black leather, on a hog. See yourself with a ready-made family of people you can trust.

It's a pretty loud family. And there's an element of scare in the family. I could see it in the eyes of the Thai, watching the family leave. Hells Angels, on their way back to Phuket. Everybody stopped, and took notice.


Given the right circumstances, instead of who you are, anyone of us could have been a marine. An instant family. People you can depend on, people you can trust. There is an element of scare within the family. You could see it in the eyes of the Afghans when the predator drone struck. Everybody stopped, and took notice.


Everybody stops and takes notice at an accident scene. I've had three people in the last three days; one just in front of me, the other just behind me, a truck smacking both a motorbike passing a Moken (Sea Gypsy) kid on a bike.

It seems like I'm pretty focused at those moments, because helping hands appear from nowhere, a time-compressed blur, not unlike pulling missions in Vietnam, and it's later when I can't sleep that I see those folks...the stunned Indian man, shaken but relatively unhurt, with the other two Thai guys fleeing the scene on foot, leaving their bike; the Thai man in the road with a busted knee, and that Moken kid, maybe ten years old, in shock, scary quiet, a single tear sliding from the corner of his eye as I cleaned the sand and blood from his face and addressed his wounds.

'Talk to him,' I said to the man who dragged the limp kid to the side of the road. 'Tell him everything is going to be okay.'


I'm going to stop telling you these accident stories. They happen every day. It's not like I'm a magnet. I hear the sirens going down toward the traffic and tourist bottlenecks of Bang Niang and Khao Lak. They happen all the time. Just last week, two Germans on a motorbike got dragged under a truck in Bang Niang. Thing is, to go out prepared.

You know? You're not writing about your work. If an emt wrote about all his runs, it would have to be nothing less than gruesome, or a doctor in the emergency're not telling me about your work.

I guess I tell you this because it's relatively unusual and impacts my life in a meaningful way, beyond nonsense and storytelling. I guess I'm just thankful my uncle provided me with the training so I can continue to have deeply compassionate contact with other humans throughout life. It's a blessing, and not a curse.


They inform the user at Yahoo to protect your online identity and reputation by not publishing personal information or content that may jeopardize your integrity and safety.

Man, I've been saying all kinds of stuff, since...1903, I guess, so, what the hell.

Yeah, it's more than just 'family and friends'. Put it in the file. So, people think, 'I'm no threat. I've got nothing to hide.' And we quietly submit to increasing intrusion, observation, and control in our lives, and erosion of our citizen's rights. Don't believe me? Go through airport security.

So never mind concern of third-party knowledge of personal activity between you and family and friends. Everything you've ever said, on the phone, in a text, on a keyboard, downloaded, is collected, packaged, and sold.

Isn't it nice you're that important?


My neighbor waved me over the other day as I passed on my bike. We've only been saying hi to each other for the past two years. Turns out, his daughter and her husband and two kids run the little shop next door that caters to the Myanmar, and opened when there was a huge Myanmar population in the neighborhood, rebuilding the resorts.

I'm friends with those guys at the shop, and I didn't know that was her mom and dad next door until this year. Anyway, they've been waving hello, and the other day he had me stop in at his picnic table, where I see him huddled with other Thai men in the afternoons.

He invited me into his house, speaking only rapid Thai, which I didn't understand, and pointed to the walls, pictures of Buddhas, pictures of himself as a younger man with famous monks, citing their names, their wats, their towns.

Didn't have any pictures of his grandkids up there, or his family. Just the monks. Some big pictures, and lots of small ones. Underneath was a glass cabinet full of Buddha amulets on top of a long case with drawers full of amulet cases and necklaces for the Buddhas.

Obviously, he was a serious collector, or a collector's collector. That's what all those guys were doing each afternoon around his picnic table, examining Buddhas under the pocket magnifying glasses all serious collectors have, a pursuit you don't see in neighboring countries.

Out at the table, he looked at the Buddha I was wearing and frowned. He made a Popeye muscle-flexing pose, turned his mouth down in an expression of distaste, and shook both his hands in that bulb-screwing motion that says 'no have', or, 'I don't know', and waved his daughter over from the shop.

His nephew, who was sitting at the table and could speak hesitant English, said, "My Uncle says your Buddha hab no pow-ER."

The daughter, I don't know any of their names, came over in a rush from the shop. Her dad rattled off something in Thai, and she indicated in sign language that my Buddha wouldn't protect me from a motorbike accident, or getting cut, then she sat down, taking a Buddha that he'd given her, made a quick silent prayer, extended her arm, then placed her hand over her heart, then returned the amulet to her father. Then she stood for a moment before returning to the shop.

Her dad then proceeded to remove the amulet I'd been wearing (I won't say his name, but it wasn't Luang Po Thuat, for those of you who have been depending on him for travel safety),* removed it from the necklace, and replaced it with the new Buddha.

"Rong Paw Gao," he said. "Wat Klua Wan. Chanburi."

That's the Buddha, the temple, and the city. I had him repeat it five or six times so I could get it right, then he got a pen and paper, and I wrote it down. The nephew looked at it.

"Rong Paw Gao," he said, pointing at the paper. "Rong. Rong," he said again, pointing at the 'R' and shaking his head. He took the pen and scrawled an 'L' over the 'R'.

"Ohhh," I said. "Luang Paw Gao!"

They both nodded their heads, smiling broadly, eyes glistening in seeing I'd finally gotten it right. I put the amulet around my neck. My neighbor then again flexed his muscles and nodded his head, lips pressed together. "Hab. Hab."

The Thai are very superstitious. They believe it's unlucky to look both ways before pulling out into traffic. Just go. No helmet. No protection. Just shorts, flip-flops and a Buddha around your neck.


*isn't that comforting?