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 Darryl Cherney Music 

Green Bubba (Part 1)

"Call me Green Man," I suggested to the Nepali bookstore owner who, as just about everyone else there, wanted to know the name and home country of every tourist that passed by. "My name is Darryl," I would begin, "but just as some of you are named Krishna, I have also taken the name of a god." I would then go on to explain that "before Jesus, Europeans had many gods, just like the Hindus. I'd give a little rap about the Green Man bringing green back to the world every Spring, pointing to the green clothes I wore for effect every day of my journey through the East. Then I'd segue into my work as an environmental activist. I had a large stash of postcards of the redwoods and would explain that California wasn't just L.A. as they gawked at and passed around the pictures of the pristine Headwaters Forest and the gawdy Drive-thru Tree, the latter photo always being the most popular. Then I'd talk a little about logging, American-style. Ultimately I'd take out my guitar, sing a few songs and gather up a crowd of 50 or so people who were ready for any change of pace. I had my routine down pat.

Yes, I was traveling solo through Nepal and India in the Spring of 1996, in search of culture shock therapy and something, as Monty Python would say, "completely different." I found it.

Katmandu is a polluted, overcrowded metropolis with cows. It wasn't until I hauled my fever-ridden self onto a bus at 5:30 am and headed to Lake Pohkara and the foothills of the Annapurna Range of the Himalayas that things began to get interesting. I was on a quest, a mission from the Goddess. Dissatisfied with environmentalism as we know it, I sought to see how the other half lived and if it could make an impact on my jaded, New York-born, California-transplanted brain. It did.

After three days of hanging out with Vishtar, the Rajneesh-following, Napali hippie waiter at Pohkara's Pyramid Restaurant, an establishment whose primary recommendation is that you don't get sick eating there, I decided to asked him for his address. He subsequently informed me that I'd have to write to him using his real name and explained that he had changed it because his real last name meant "slave." He then gave me that characteristic Nepali matter-of-fact look (that is always particularly out of context when they tell you something that blows your mind) and said to me: "I'm an untouchable."

Twenty years of schooling came colliding into the present moment and I experienced my first epiphany of the journey. "Untouchable" was a word I learned in 1965 in the fifth grade and my association with it didn't match the young, thoughtful, rebellious man I was now speaking to. Further, that reality called the caste system, to which I was previously oblivious, was revealed to me. From that point onward I recognized the castes of each floorsweeper, rickshaw driver, shop keeper, and hotel owner I encountered.

The Annapurna Range, though not as famous as Mount Everest, is actually where the lion's share of the trekkers go, as it is gentler, more fun with more to see and do. Three of the world's five highest peaks stand side by side. My first glimpse of the tribal hill people came as my guide, Hum (rhymes with broom), and I fell behind a convoy of 25 mules and 50 or so mountain folk on their way home. I was to discover these people live without internal combustion, grow their own food, cut their firewood by hand, hand chisel the bricks for their houses out of local stone, and carry up to 200 pounds on their backs secured by straps around their foreheads for 25-mile hikes up to 15,000 feet. Forget the back-to-the-land movement, these people had barely left the stone age.

Except for one thing. The first I saw a mule carting down huge baskets full of empty coke bottles to get their return deposit, I knew that something was wrong. Cultural pollution. Just visiting the mountains destroys them and the people that live there. Still, I had to be here now, as they say, and learn the lessons I had come to learn. Talk about a commitment to recycling! The truth is they can't afford to blow off the nickel deposit.

My friend Vishtar earned $20 a month waiting on tables. On that salary, he had to pay $10/month rent, send money back to his younger siblings to go to school (which is not free in Nepal!), and survive. This economic Berlin-wall and Hindu-based caste system froze these people into place. I began to wonder why there were any jobs at all left in the United States if you could pay third-worlders at little as 75 cents a day. The only explanation I could come up with was that there are some things that even a Nepali won't do, and so we Americans must still factory-farm our own chickens.

Speaking of animals, the co-existence of the critters (referred to by one Nepali newspaper as "urban fauna") and humans is striking. Cows, chickens, dogs, humans, goats and monkeys all living under virtually identical conditions. Living on the same streets, sleeping on the same stone surfaces, eating the same food, watching non-chalantly the same motorcycles, bicycle rickshaws, and occasional taxi cab careen by. The dogs and cows sleeping in the middle of the street seem to know the vehicles won't hit them and don't even flinch the wheel miss the stretch out legs by a half an inch. There seemed to be no laws, no functioning police, no permits, licenses, insurance or age requirements needed for anything. Dare I say that Nepal and India represent, perhaps, functioning anarchy in process. Considering that everyone drives on every side of the street, parks wherever they feel like it, and speeds up at the first sign of an old person or a 2-year old child crossing the path, it's astounding the nation doesn't walk with a collective limp.

"Hey Green God," the bookstore owner called out to me when I came back down from the mountains into downtown Pohkara. "It's Green Man," I corrected him to no avail. The Hindus seemed to relish re-interpreting my moniker to their own liking. Later in my journey, a young man camped on the stone boardwalk along the Ganges River in India, would suggest a name I could go along with. "Baba, he told me, is another name we use to refer to a god," he said. "That makes you "The Green Baba." I liked it, and handed him a postcard of Headwaters Forest for his contribution to my consciousness.







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