Friday, January 28, 2011

Pets In The Afterlife

Brovic - Blogging since 1903

KHUK KHAK, Thailand - Some of you people* out there with fifteen, seventeen hundred Facebook friends - you keeping up with all those folks? Just wondering. I've only got seven, and half of them don't write. Don't bother sending a request. Three of my seven friends are my kids. What's left...four friends? I consider myself lucky.

Confirm, Deny, Remind me later, Don't Bother Me With This Shit. Make one choice.

Welcome to the new readers! Hope you enjoy the stories. Most of the entries are written from here, and Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, and a figment of my imagination, and my computer screen, whichever is closest.

The people mentioned are introduced in earlier writing, like, who Mrs. Murphy is, and who's Manny, and who Lupe' is, and Damon, and so on, so I'll presume you'll know who's who, and that you've read the material like a book, from the beginning.

Who's got that kind of time? Well, it's just like college. You party your ass off the entire semester, and then come finals, you find yourself up all night, cramming, or you have no idea of what's going on.

If you can't relate to cramming for finals, then how about waiting to mow your grass until it's up to your calves, and you're going reeeal slow, three, four times the time it would normally take, backing up, pushing down on the handle until the rmps rev back up, and one, two steps forward, RRRRRRRrrrrrrrrrrr. You needed a bush hog.

You hear your neighbor out there, cutting his grass like that, and a smirk forms at the corner of your mouth. Shoulda kept up with it. It's hot, too. The dummy.

This blog extends back to...gee...1903, I can check the archive. Most of the time, the stories are lies, but, but, they're based on tru...something real! Or maybe something that might have happened, or something that could happen.

The circus fire? A lie. All lies. I didn't start it. Stand-up comedy act? Complete fabrication. My years with the high wire act? It was only one summer. Shot out of a helicopter in Vietnam at a thousand feet and fell through triple-canopy jungle during a hot hoist mission? Who's gonna believe that shit?

Everybody knows you can't pull a hoist mission from a thousand feet. Especially when you're sitting behind a typewriter in Saigon.

Me in space? Aboard the International Space Station? I got the T-Shirt at a yard sale.

Just because it could have happened doesn't mean it didn't. And just because it didn't happen doesn't mean it could. It's no less believable than some of the many things we've witnessed in our lives. Besides that, everybody knows if you tell a lie often enough, but you can't make him drink.

Right here in 'the Real 3-D World'** opposed to your computer screen, or a figment of your imagination. You've heard that before, and you'll hear it again. It's been very slow to catch on, albeit one of my top three favorite what I call 'dynamic phrase coinages'.

Maybe you've already noticed, but 'big-ass', and anything, hyphen-'ass' has caught on, evolved, and 'went viral', as they say. I coined that one way back in...'07. You can check the archive story. Remember? 'Big-ass house? Big-ass hairdo?'

I know, you're saying, "C'mon man. 'Big-ass' started on the the reservation."

You are correct! It did start on the reservation. By me. It's what I do.***

Who would've known that rappers would have made it take off the way it did. Now, every rap star wanna-be is spitting out lyrics full of words like, 'ghetto-ass', 'chump-ass', ' punk-ass', and 'one hood-ass nigga', so, 'big-ass house' is blase' now, check. Overused. That would be the minor leagues for CAFS, cliches, axioms, and figures of speech, which is, technically, what I do, you know, for money, for a living. Everything else is on the side.

'Big-ass house' is out. So is 'went viral'.

Thanks to rap, white boys who wish to rap, rez Indians who want to talk gangsta, and the god of communication, 'big-ass' anything, or anything-'ass' is now in common circulation and usage, coin of the poetry realm, including prime time television and National Public Radio. Cool, huh?

Toss 'Real 3-D World' to a rapper, a songwriter, an economist. See what they can do with it.

Is that all? To the new readers? Is that all you need to know? Humor, social commentary, a lot of fiction, some dicey stuff, some war stories, some paranoid delusional (still against cell phones), creative ventures, bending and breaking the rules of grammar and social propriety.

You won't hear me talking about the weather, but I see where it's seven degrees where you're at. Here, it's been balmy, about 84 all day. Rained, and then the sun came out, then it rained again. Now it's stopped. It's been a bit cooler than normal for this time of year...

("I don't like to talk about the 'Nam," said Aaron Running Hawk, a Vietnam vet, in the truck with Tom Cook on our way to DIA, Denver International Airport. In the next breath, he says, "One time we was out in the bush..." and proceeded to tell three war stories).

You can write directly to, and I'll respond. I like to hear from you.

Once in a classroom, Communication 101, a putz course, I put forth the suggestion that God is communication, deduced from communication being the most important thing in the world, because even if you believe God, an abstraction, or relationships, here in the real 3-D world are most important, the basis of relationships, with God or anyone, is communication.

That's why you smile when you get mail.

How 'bout you, Bobby? Your gods communicate? You communicate with your God?

Yes. Sent Him a text message. Told Him it was all in His hands.

Sure, you can argue against that premise. But tell me, what is more important? Your health. Okay. That's pretty important. And communication is an act. A verb.


What else? Even if what you're thinking is more important, I won't argue. But you'll have to admit, communication is pretty important, isn't it?

Otherwise, you're in a bubble, a isolation chamber, and everybody knows an isolation chamber will make a ni...will make you go bananas, eventually. That's why extended isolation is considered torture, because it breaks you down mentally and snuffs your spirit.

That's what they're doing now to Bradley Manning, the kid who let loose the flood of wikileaks. By the time he ever stands trial, and yes, he will eventually stand trial, he'll be a basket case, a casket case, a vacant shell of a human being. You watch.

A person needs to communicate.


There are these dogs in the neighborhood, three of them, trained through ESP to come over when I put out scraps. I put the scraps out, and then tell them through ESP, 'I've got something for you here,' and then they show.

But they also appear every day, regardless of whether I've put out food. That's not ESP then, is it? That's classical conditioning. Intermittent reinforcement. Those dogs will come over until kingdom come to see if there's any food. Maybe there's chicken bones, maybe not. Gotta check.

Can you work ESP with your pets? Will they come to you on mental suggestion? Everybody knows all dogs except Cujo go to heaven. Will yours be greeting you in the Spirit World, happy to see you've come home?


*what do you mean, 'You People'?

**The Slim Buttes 335th Tactical Aviation Squadron, for instance, is in fact a real entity. Don't believe me? Ask the pilots.

***a couple of you wrote, saying you enjoyed my 'ramblings'. Thanks, but, ha...ahhhh, just to let you know...this stuff, my material, is THOUGHT OUT, man! Look, there's a catchy title, an introductory graph, a theme running somewhere through it, the body, the connective thread tying it alllll together, and the snappy ending. Ramblings? What the hell.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Think For Your Own Damn Self

Brovic - Blogging since 1903

KHUK KHAK, Thailand - Google thinks I'm in Thailand, and sends me pages in Thai script. Yahoo presumes I'm in Japan, sending me Japanese stuff, in Japanese. Utube thinks I'm in Korea. I know they must know more than I think they know, but the bothersome thing, besides having to translate the pages, is that what they know is incorrect.

Can you relate to that? Ever run up against something like that, when you're on the phone, frustrated, maybe a little heated, and you're ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN the error is at their end? Maybe a credit rating company, the phone company, a government agency, something you bought. A billing. Your transcripts. Wrong identity.* A Hawaiian birth certificate.

'There must be a mistake.'


Su, a local tour guide who possesses limited but passable English skills, is nonetheless an effective communicator. In the instance of the above, or to express frustration with a person, she will narrow her eyes, press her lips into a line, tighten her jaw, grind her teeth, and make a tight wringing motion with her hands, like wringing out a towel, or a chicken's, two, three times.

Ralph Kramden (Jackie Gleason, The 'Honeymooners') would do the 'slow burn.' Remember the look ('if looks could kill...') of the Chicago crime boss in 'The Firm', when Tom Cruise, their attorney, whom they were trying to kill, walked into their office with those documents?

Sometimes, the most perfect conveyance of an idea is wordless.

My neighbor Karl, from Lakeview Bungalows around the lake, was complaining about his lazy-ass stepson, who he says is worthless, and can't think for himself. There's an inevitable 'you're-not-my-dad' clash built into the relationship already, but even more pronounced when between an exacting and pushy German step-father, and a laid-back Southern Thai kid.

"I have to tell him every move to make," said Karl.

He's not a kid. He's 25, 26 yrs. old. Well, yeah, whatever.

On the rez, Lupe' would raise his voice at me in mock anger and yell in that heavy Mexican accent, enunciating each word, 'HECTOR! Do I hab to tell you ebery pocking mube to make?' So, I know what it's like.

Problem with that is, you've got someone standing over your shoulder, watching your every move, and everybody knows that's a poor performance environment. Another problem with it is, aside from the constant need for supervision, is that it encourages helpless behavior. I had Lupe' doing more work for me just by fumbling my approach, appearing incompetent.

Coaches, down in the paint, demonstrating help-out D; my kids, walking me through a computer operation; the hygienist with the floss. Show me. Speak slowly please. Spell it out.

Like the vicious home crowd, derisively razzing each footstep of the big stupid opponent as he walked slowly to the bench after fouling out, "LEFT! RIGHT! LEFT! RIGHT!...LEFT!" until he sat down. God, that's funny when they do that. An entire arena full of thousands of people, all doing a joke together. A real good ha ha ha at the expense of some poor dumb goat on the other team.

I know what that feels like, too, to have a whole stadium full of people have a good laugh at my expense, and it wasn't a comedy act. Last thing I remembered was the coach yanking me by the jersey and saying, "GET IN THERE!"

Then there was a great explosion of laughter before everything turned to darkness, and it wasn't until later that

Well, it took a while. It took a while to learn to think for myself. Much too long. At some point you've just got to chuck the game plan and call an audible.

'First, you've got your parents making your dream for you, telling you every move to make, right?' Karl nodded his head yes. He was supposed to be something, but turned out to be something else. His brother became the something.

Then, what, you've got teachers, coaches, people like Manny telling you you've got your head up your ass, barking drill sergeants, corporate suck-ass brown-noses, department chairs, division heads, lap dogs, attack dogs, petty yapping dogs, associate vice-presidents and a whole hierarchy of bosses telling you, essentially, like we joke on the rez, "you're on this job from the neck, down."

'On my honor
I promise
To do my duty
to honor my country
and to obey the laws of the pack.'**

"If you're married," I said to Karl, "you've got a woman telling you what to do."

He sighed heavily and nodded, but added brightly that now, with his second wife, Mon, he can move forward on his own if it's a good idea, without...without...checking in. If it's a good idea.
If she thinks it's a good idea.

So now, I bristle when someone, especially if it's some young punk, tells me what I should do, or what I oughta do, or suggests what I need to do, or outright commands me to do something, like...'upagainstthewallmotherfucker'.

'Please step out of the car, Sir.'

'Face down on the ground! Hands behind your back!'

Oh, shit. 'Don't tase me, Bro.'***

Most of the time, it's not that bad. Airline security is about as bad as it gets for an ordinary person. Seldom is it that bad, with regard to being ordered around, but in many ways it appears that many people let other people (think, 'talk show host', 'pundit') do their thinking for them.

That's okay for deep space exploration, but for matters closer to home, like my social and political views, I'd prefer to think for myself. Freedom of thought. Isn't that...?

'Do your own thinking," dad said once. 'Don't join anything.'

At the time, the reference was...the Lion's Club, or maybe a social cause...SDS, or something local...the Elks, the VFW. I forget the context, exactly, but I remembered the quote. I asked him why.

"They'll try to do your thinking for you," he replied.


Ohh, I gotta tell you this, because it's real, and part of the story. I thought, 'No, leave it out'; 'put it in'; leave it outputitinleaveitoutputitin, so;

There was six or eight of us working together on or near Pine Ridge, stacking tipi poles or moving stuff around, getting firewood or some shit, on Tom Cook's agenda, when someone told Frank to do something.

Frank Crociatta, working as Field Marsh...Field Director for Running Strong For American Indian Youth, was Tom's immediate supervisor, living close by, going to ceremony, and being one of the guys, hanging with the crew.

"I AIN'T YO' NIGGA,' Frank spat out. Everybody laughed. Then with emphatic indignation, Frank added, "I'm Massa Tom's nigga."

Wes, Bo, Lupe', me, and whoever else, picked up on that and ran with it, using it whenever the opportunity arose. It evolved to, 'Be yo' own damn nigga,' and pretty much ended when Frank left, to be his own nigga, and Wes found work out east, to be his own nigga, and Lupe' got married.

"I used to be Tom's neeger," Lupe' said, laughing. "And now I'm Sandy's neeger. There for a while, I was my own neeger!"

We'd laugh, in the same way Malcolm X moved thousands of inner-city blacks, talking frankly and publicly about 'house niggas' and 'field niggas', and the difference between the two. When does critical, independent thought occur? Even once we've arrived at independent thinking, we remain enslaved by self-imposed boundaries exempt from rational evaluation. We can be the sheep, or we can be the not sheep.

Airport be sheep, my people. You, me, and everybody else. Better do just as your told. It'll be quick and painless. Just do what everybody else is doing. Get out of line, get offended, get smart, they can fffffuck with a Big Way.

Missing your flight will be the least of your worries. As of '07, something like 280 accidental deaths from taser guns occurred in the U.S. against unarmed people,according to amnesty international. Not saying it happens in airports, not saying it's a suppression of freedom of thought. Just saying it happens. Happened to an unarmed 72-year old woman.

Granted, there might be times in life when you've got your nuts in a vice, or for you women, your titty in a wringer, as they say, or 'up against the wall', when you very well may be thinking for yourself, but you're nevertheless serving the interest of someone else, perhaps to your own detriment. Hmmm? Evva happen?

Landlord? Boss? Banker? Corporate entity? The State? The asshole on the phone.

Something about it doesn't feel right. Something twisted and wicked and evil, crushing to individual dignity, suffocating to the spirit. You could say this is the way of the world. Reality. Doesn't mean it has to be.

The thought never occurred to me until one afternoon. One afternoon in a green helicopter, when dad's words rang true. And later, in a darkened bunker, listening to a group of 'hard core' infantry brothers question why we was where we was.

A person just needs to stop and...I, I guess, just needed to stop and ask myself, 'what do I want?'


*On the rez, we joke, "It was that other guy...Your Honor."

**Motto of the cub scouts

***Most memorable quote of the year, 2007; Yale book of quotations. A Univ. of Florida protester, taken down at a Sen. John Kerry public speaking forum, to University Police. They hit him with the taser anyway. 50,000 volts. Twice.


Monday, January 24, 2011

Drops In On You

Brovic - Blogging since 1903

KHUK KHAK, Thailand - Yesterday Karl, my German neighbor around the bend in the lake, asked me if I go for physical exam. I told him, "Yes. Once a year. Physical, dental, and mental."

He seemed surprised I'd want to talk with a professional mental person, a shrink. I acted surprised that he was surprised. Everybody knows everybody needs someone to talk to. Even shrinks need other shrinks. Just to get the screws tightened. A psychological lube job.

You wouldn't want to get aboard a flight not having the screws tightened, would you? Jumbo jet, wide-body, with 450 on board with a couple of screws loose. No. You'd wish to bring it to the attention of a flight attendant, at the very least.

Oh, you could see a medicine man, or a priest, or your good friend, or your neighbor, or talk to the Sea, or your dog, depending on who you believed in and who was the most reliable. Your dog? Great listener, accessible, 'there for you', but weak on advice. The Sea? Again, great listener, open schedule, can see you any time, but the feedback is almost imperceptibly subtle, like the garden.

Your good friend? Sometimes the best, especially in a pinch. But also, sometimes your really good friend can offer you really poor advice, and in all likelihood, lack the proper training and background to offer sound psychological counsel. Big on empathy, but short on skills. 'Simon says...'


Priest, medicine man, shrink, gypsy fortune teller. Your call. A roll of the dice. Who you go to depends on what you want to hear. Shrink is going to give you a prescription, for sure. You bet. Pharmacological intervention. Priest is going to give you, ohhhhh...something to think about. Medicine man...? He might have you do something. Maybe, maybe not.

Go to the garden. Go talk to God. Wikipedia. Over here, folks go to the temple. They go see the abbot.


Arthur, the guy from Australia, who lived in the U.K. and then in Kuwait, and then Mumbai, and then na na na na, stopped by earlier in the day for ten minutes and stayed a couple of hours. Smoked half my cigarettes.

Said all we gotta do is put out our desire to the universe and then not screw it up by not being joyful in advance, or something along those lines. You know the accent...even though it's English, it's hard to understand, especially if it's a sort of rolling, under-your-breath, trailing off mumble.

Anyway, you may have heard me say it. Told him, "Create your universe and go live in it."

That's what I told him, which he seemed to grasp and agree, yeah, and went on about clarifying his earlier comment. which I got the first time. We were sort of talking about the same things, but there wasn't a full and clear connection at either end. There were nuances to frames of reference each of us held, clear in our own minds, but somehow not fully communicating to the other the ideas behind it. Know what I mean?

We were both talking about creating a dream, but the approaches were different. His was alignment of energy and the dynamics of the universe, and I was thinking more about paying attention. I don't know if that makes any sense to you, or not. But it did to me then, and it does to me now.

How many times you need to pray.
Muslims say, three times a day.

Constant communication, open channel?
Ritual thus on holiday
God for this
God for that
need we change our prayer
or lay it down
and listen
to the silence
dropping in on us.

Change up the sentence structure a bit.


Talking about the things we take for granted; the monkeys, arriving yesterday in a truck with a large metal frame on the back, like for stacking up firewood; four of 'em, to harvest a truckload of coconuts next door, the monkeys operating on one-syllable commands from the men on the ground, tethered at the neck by a thirty-foot nylon cord.

I stopped to watch them work. Two German tourists stopped and shot photos. The monkeys grabbed the coconuts, spun them off in a twist, and dropped them to the ground.

The men will gather the fruit and head into town with the monkeys atop a heaping load. I don't get too close to them. There's something about their eyes and the movement of their eyebrows and displaying their teeth that makes me want to take a step back. I see they keep them on a short leash. Lightening quick, could pull your eye from its socket.

Last year in the suffocating midday heat, a monkey was chattering away high up in the coconut trees, working, angrily throwing the coconuts down with unusually loud THUMPs. In her restaurant, Karl's wife, Mon, stopped, listened, raised her eyebrows and interpreted, "Monkey say it's too HAWT!"

Now, I know I've already told you that one, remember? but those monkeys reminded me of her comment, and a good one is worth telling twice.

If you don't remember, tells me you haven't been reading the material I send you, or maybe you just signed on lately, or maybe hit and miss. If you remember, then, cool.


Yeah, those monkeys...the line of monks and uniformed schoolkids each morning, the Myanmar women and their babies' faces painted with powdered swirls, everyday things we take for granted. Stop to think about the people in our lives, thankfulness...the air...our food...our hearts, pumping away, boom boom, boom boom, boom boom, all this time, every second, this moment, all these years, without really thinking about it.

- end


Friday, January 21, 2011

How Long Has It Been

Brovic - Blogging since 1903

KHUK KHAK, Thailand - Don't you just love these numbers? The dates. Aren't you glad to see 1.21.11? Glad to be alive? I hope your day wasn't boring.

During boring moments, I'm multi-tasking, on the toilet, smoking a cigarette, cup of coffee, and reading the history of Laos for two months now (reading the book, not sitting on the toilet), a continual succession of ping pong power struggles between the Thai, the Lao, the Khmer, the Burmese, the southern Chinese, the Ho's, and the Vietnamese.

That's right, the Ho's.*

With the movement of armies and wholesale capture and relocation of populations, cities burned to the ground, people taken away, many of the people were related both linguistically and in lineage, particularly the Thai and the Lao, and borders really never got mapped and set down until mid 1800s when the French stepped in, with colonial designs of their own, to counter the British in India and Burma.

Thus, Thailand became a buffer State, to the French Indo-Chinese States of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, with land grabs and treachery going every whichaway.

You already knew this, right? Yeah, it's not a history lesson...just to say the Thai and the Lao are related, and the Khmer, too, like asking a Hispanic in Texas if they have relatives across the border.

And this king and that prince capturing the throne and executing all his brothers and all the members of the ruling royal family...stuff like that, all up and down the line. People fleeing on foot, fighting on elephants, crossbows and lances. You could see why the French thought they were superior.

Came in, got in the mix, hung around a hundred years. They had the muscle. They had the firepower, the balls, and sufficient arrogance to subjugate an entire...send the elite kids off to school in Paris, learn to be a bureaucrat.

Ahhhh, sorry. That's what I'm reading. Most people don't give a rat's ass about Laos or it's history.

The Ho's? The Ho's come out of southern China.

You can see it, the French influence, in the architecture, and up north, in the delis, where they have Camembert and Brie in the cooler, and a selection of breads and wines at check out.

Down here, catering to the Germans and the Scandinavians, we've got choice of some of the best chocolate in the world. A mountain of it right at the check out counter.


I don't like getting hung up in the middle of a project, or having it sit on a shelf, 'on hold'. After about the fourth trip to the hardware store, that shit starts to get old; the first trip was just an estimate, just to get started.

'How many you need?'

"Ba ba...ten, er,, gimme a couple dozen."

The second trip was to get what was actually needed for the job. The third trip was the necessary trip made halfway through the job upon realization more materials are needed, more than what you originally thought ('...that should be enough.' It never is), and to get the things you forgot on the first two trips. The fourth trip is to get the stuff you need to finish it up.

Just gotta stay on it.

Like the swing, for instance. Took me three weeks to get the board, then it laid here another two weeks awaiting Damon to bring his drill up from the bar. Laid out there so long, the ants began to colonize the underside.

Ended up taking it down to the hardware store, where, in successive trips, I got the chain, the rope, and the Ubolts to secure the rope in place, and had the guys there sand, polyurethane, and drill it. Then Damon came over and helped me put it up. How long has it been since you've swung?

I've got two of them up now; a bamboo old-timers swing like you'd see on a front porch in Iowa, and this one here. We've had 'em ever since the kids were kids; dangerous, all of them, don't believe me, just ask Bob Luckett, crossing a river, a terrifying plung down out of a tree across a ravine, an exhilarating zip line across the back yard, the 'chair swing' the teenagers busted, all so frightening that level-headed adults avoided them, leaving them entirely free for the little kids and the teenagers.

People should swing more, if you ask me. Swing more, and fly kites.

This is more like a conversation, right? It's not really a case of a, of a, of a professional writer trying to sell a book or an idea or something. Nah. This is more like you and me sitting here, and you sitting there and me going on and on and on about something where you can't get a word in edgewise, and maybe your mind drifted off and came back only when I started laughing at my own joke.

It's more like something like that. More than just reading and writing, right?


There are so many uniquely Thai cultural characteristics that one can take for granted after being here a while, such that would cause the tourist to gawk or point. You've got houses on stilts and spirit houses grand and small. Seen one temple you've seen 'em all.

There are vendors selling evvverything on canopied three-wheeled motorcycle 'slings', or sidecarts. Fresh fruit abounds. Buddha amulets worn for protection; shorts and flip-flops on motorbikes. The great food. Great beaches. Ladyboys down at the cabaret, elephants on the road, and monks chanting each morning at the temple just around the bend in the lake. What did Dorothy say to Toto?

There are guys going down the road on motorbikes, carrying covered bird cages, driving with one hand, on their way to songbird contests, where dozens of bird owners show up each Saturday and park their trucks and bikes right off the road. Their birds, trained to bust a song at the instant of a referee's whistle, compete in lines of cages hung from a tall metal frame, surrounded by all the squatting owners, picking their teeth and studying their birds as would a coach from the stands at a Grand Slam tournament.

I've never stopped at one of those bird song competitions. But I'm going to, and if it's cool, I'll tell you about it. Thai boxing and cock fights? Never been.

I've never been to a couple of waterfalls in the area, close by, nor the Khao Sok National Park, just up the way, which they say is stupendous. Never been to Ko Kao, a cool little island just not too far from here.

After working two weeks straight in the garden, I went to the sea for the first time since. You can take things for granted, sure. Never have been out to the Similans, an hour off the coast, and one of the diving meccas of the world. People come here just for that. Never been there.

Damon offered me a free boat ride and all expenses on him if I wanted to go out there with him tomorrow. I told him, 'I'm a busy man. I'm a terribly busy man. I'm right in the middle of a project.'

- end

*It would appear incorrect plural possessive, and thus, confusing. the apostrophe is there so you'll know I'm not saying 'Hoss'. It's 'Hos' or 'Hoes', like, 'My Hos,' or, as in, 'The Second Ho Invasion.'

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The 'H' is Silent

Brovic -Blogging since 1903

KHUK KHAK, Thailand - Damn, I had a title earlier. Can't remember what it was, but it seemed workable. Maybe it will come to me later.* You reading this stuff? I wonder, especially when someone writes, asking, 'Where are you now?'**

What is it you want? Humor? Commentary? Off-the-wall Tall Tale? Horrific war story? A brand new car. Pick up a cause, Piss you off, Fire your imagination? Where I am now? Hows the weather. Where are you? Closing the circle, circle the wagons? Family and friends. Winding it down, winding it up, not as much as you used to, too numb, too fried, too afraid, too much information, too much shock, too much too much? Yanked up by the roots.

Sat staring at this blank screen for the longest time. Out there in the garden, I was swamped with ideas.

That songbird froze me in my tracks. I was leaning over, reaching for a container for yet another of a thousand seedlings, when just overhead, right there in the palm branches, a wild songbird let loose on an extended song, all over the place in form, rhythm and structure, like Coltrane, spellbinding. I was afraid to move, frozen, reaching for the flower pot, thinking, 'this surely must be something like heaven.' Just that moment.

Then, timelessness, the green, the jungle, the damp smell of wet, rotting organic matter, lizards flicking across the ground, the black mold creeping across a faded pastel French colonial wall, a light midday tropical breeze, the sun's rays glinting through palm leaves on a gardener frozen by a songbird's expression. Could have been another lifetime.

Everybody knows you've got to thin your carrots. Was it the same with palms.

'What? Are you thinking of adopting a baby?' asked Claudia, Damon's Swiss girlfriend, sitting on her motorbike in front of Mr. Gui's hardware store after turning around when I yelled at her as she passed by. 'Why would you think of that?' she asked.

"You know, you've got time to think in a garden," I said. "I just wondered if it's in the best interest of the seedling to be pulled now, in infancy, and set in a nurturing environment, than to wait until later, say, adolescence, and yank 'em out by their roots and put 'em in a strange place and strange family...and if the same would apply to humans, as well, that's all."

There was a connection somewhere. Maybe I couldn't express it clearly enough, just then. In the garden, I was thinking, foster homes and loving parents and babies who wouldn't know the difference until much later in life, and how no matter how much pre-soaking you do before yanking them out by their roots, they nonetheless yield grudgingly.

'You have time for philosophy in your garden?' Claudia asked.

With the noise of the traffic, I wasn't entirely sure she hadn't said 'mediocrity'. Manny used to infuriate me when he'd say I'd never rise above mediocrity.

"You don't know the right people," he'd spit, "and you haven't got the natural talent or work ethic..." have I already told you this? Manny's 'mediocrity' speech? Lecture. How I could never make it to county commission, and all that? Still eats at me.

You'd think he could have been a little bit more supportive, given his role, and when I said that to him, 'you could be a little bit more supportive, you know,' being the type not to mince words, he told me I could have been a little bit more than what I was.

You ever get told you just weren't good enough to make the starting squad, or measuring up to your potential? If so, why?

'You can never be the shamp,' he'd say. Perhaps he was realistically setting the bar low, to affect such a low self-esteem that any small measure of achievement could be perceived as outstanding performance. Half the time he never even bothered to show up for tournaments, that's how....

HEY! DAMN! Hodup, now. There's a GREAT Big-ass moth that just flew in here...I mean, BIG. He's up on the ceiling...about a five, maybe six foot wing span, I'd say.

Ho-lee Sa-mokes! I've gotta do something here.

- end

*which it did, on the way back from 7/11.

**The Goldilocks Planet? Just like Earth? I mean...can we...can we...take it over?


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?


Monday, January 03, 2011

Say When To Stop

Brovic - Blogging since 1903
Say When To Stop

KHUK KHAK, Thailand - Just realized why I'm here and not there, and there when I'm not here. It's so I can garden year-round. It came to me in a flash yesterday while working around the palms, which incidentally, have yielded a crop of about ten thousand offspring, palmlets, now about six inches high.

They're all over the place, thousands of them, after the palms flowered last year in little would you describe it?...loose, almost grape-like clusters out-of-a-pod profusions those little tiny-ass yellow bees went after like crazy, then next came little oval smaller-than-a-pea hard green seed-like...seeds...that eventually fell to the ground, took hold, and now, VOILA!

I'm sitting on a fucking gold mine, baby! Alls I gotta do is put them in individual pots with a little potting soil and coconut barks and fibers, let 'em lay a couple years, maybe three, or five, and we're talking a substantial amount of cash, especially if you can sell your product to naive foreigners, twice above and beyond the normal, everyday Thai.

A nursery. A nursery, they'd call it in The States.

Okay, granted, it's labor-intensive. I've learned that on the first fifty. You can hire a Myanmar, factor in the cost, the plastic pots and soil mix, and you still come out ahead, unless you keep giving them away. One-year old yellow palm tree-to-be...fifty cents? A dollar? Two years, five bucks, sure. Three years, you're looking at a 7-10 dollar tree. See how it goes? Four years, five years, yeah, now we're talking...plane tickets.

'How mush you need?'

"How mush you can pay?"


I Give You Three Choices

Yeah, some of you people on that contact list, I haven't heard from in a LONG-ass time. What've you got, three options? You see who it's from, and delete it, straightaway to trash; you can open it, and read it, and never respond; you can open it, read it, chuckle or not, and drop me a note.

As in, drop me a note expressing how you can relate, how the story put you there, how it made you roll on the floor, tears in your eyes, how it made you wonder...either about the content, or the writer.

No feedback. You know what they say that does to a nigga, don't you? Make a nigga go bananas, momma used to say. Or, no, maybe that's an isolation chamber. Yeah, an isolation chamber make a nigga go bananas. No feedback is something else...lack of knowledge of results. And if you don't know what the results are, you can keep on making the same mistakes, over and over, the same redundant mistakes.

over and over.


It was Damon who came in here telling me, 'You're lucky. You know what you do. You're a writer.' And he went on to tell me he had a new drug that he thought I'd like, if I wanted to come down to the bar, something like ecstasy, 'It'll make a nun turn into a prostitute,' he said. I told him in declining that it didn't sound like something good for me. I'd have to catch him later.

Point was, he told me I'm a writer, which was a comforting affirmation from the outside 3-D world, outside my head, of who I think I am, and so after laying off for a good spell, partly because the coffee shop internet cafe on the rez isn't the best place for writing, and partly because I didn't have no good ideas, then came a flurry of entries launched at the end of the year to make it look like I'd done something in 2010, as a writer.


Say When

Take landscaping, for instance. Or a piece of artwork. Or a military venture. Or a lot of things I undertake; sometimes I don't know when to stop. I see it in others, as well. Head across the Gobi, up the Nile. Some people don't know when to stop; like, drinking, for instance, on the rez, or me, when I think I'm being funny and getting a good laugh from the audience, I keep on until I make my own self nauseous.

People are just being kind, I know, when I run through some of my routines, like Hitler, a speeded up mimed rendition of his speech at Brandenburg, pointing at a map, pinching a child's cheek, flashing off a salute... clutching at his chest with clenched fists...everybody has seen the same could say it's sure feels funny when I do it.

Or, say, a piece of artwork. A shield; 'Those feathers look good on there. Let's add a couple more. Balance it out. Add eight. A couple more, until the whole thing looks fucked up, and not the simple thing you set out for it to be. Know what I mean? Check out your garage, for instance.

Could you get a car in there? That's what I'm talking about. And dinner last night, for instance. Somebody should've stopped him. What the hell, two scoops. Supersize that motherfucker.

And out there in the garden, or a landscaping project, the dance floor, the lie, the never-ending story, the bullshit-without-end, the fanatical pursuit of a current project, like the nursery, where like tobacco prayer ties, you make fifty, and you can't stop right there, so you make one hundred fifty more, and it's starting to look and feel real good, so you're on a roll with a couple hundred more, and before long, you've got a thousand seedlings and a long string of ties and somebody tell him when to stop.

And then it's done. Done, to the point where you can say so, if you're not a perfectionist, over-critical of every eensy-teensy little flaw. Just say, 'Thanks,' man. Done with the shields, the amulets, the theses, the painting, the drums, the aircraft, the back flips, the kites, the there's one, where the kids always told me when to stop. They told me to stop when they saw me pick it up...begged me after the first few notes.

Who was it?...I asked somebody if they put out a garden. They said no. 'Not even one tomato plant?' I asked.

'Not even one.'


Now, see? That's a natur...what I'd call a natural ending, a perfect place to stop, and we could end it right there, but, see?...this is what I'm talking about. But there's more, like Tom said about redundancy, 'It sounded so good, I'm gonna say it again.'

Picking up sea shells, putting all them fucking railroad ties in that raised-bed garden in Indiana,* going over the rapids after that guy, all those drugs, the comedy routines that turned a favorable audience hostile, the basketball, swimming out to sea...somebody should have told me where to stop.

A woman will tell a guy when to stop. 'Stop right there. If you cut any more, it's going to look weird.'

Flat out, she'll say so.

'If you keep...(fill in the blank), you're going to...'


So, I guess we need that hand check, like editors and whatnot. 'Here, take a look at this. Tell me what you think.'

Honest people will tell you if it's for shit, or not. Nice people, and your friends will tell you it's the greatest, some of your best work, you're the greatest, keep it coming, you've should've won, you should've been on the starting five, you've could've been a part time network anchor.

Manny used to say everybody needs somebody to tell them when to stop.

'Don't go too far, Tony.' Remember that line, from 'Scarface?'

'No, Mel. You've gone too far.'

When to stop, walk away, count your losses, regroup, take a step back, pump the brakes, ease up on the choke hold, assess the damage, see if it fits, call for the switch hitter, relief from the bullpen, clear the bench, put in the subs, toss in the towel, tap out, beg for mercy, look for a new job, pit crew, a new hobby, quit bull-riding, bronc-riding, smoking, overtime, hard drinking, hard drugs, peyote meetings, fucking around, going 'out', driving a car...

'One of these days he's going to have to stop driving.' They said. Your mom, your sister, your kids.

You need a refill? Tell me when to stop. Say when.


*When we moved from the area, an Old Order Church of the Brethren (big hat, long beard, black suspenders, long-sleeve blue shirt; on her, a pioneer's dress and bonnet) couple moved in. I joyfully thought I had bequeathed them a prize-winning victory garden, with raised beds, hanging plants, and flagstone patios and walkways. They had it torn up and reduced back down to bare, straight rows again. It was, 'too fancy', they said.