Green Bubba (Conclusion)
Where I'm kidnapped by barbers
Where I meet the Dali Llama Against My Will or...
Some People Call It Karma but it's Snot
"Go ahead, Green Man, break the clay cup on the
ground. It will bring you luck." So said Raju,
the sitar and silk salesman, tour guide and con man.
As I smashed the unfired tea cup on that stone street
in Varanase, India, I learned perhaps my fifteenth lesson
of the hour. We don't need styrofoam and we don't need
garbage cans to get a cup of tea "to go."
Raju was taking me all over to buy silk, to buy batique,
to buy whatever he could con me into wanting. Only later
I would find that his bargain places were charging five
times what everyone else was. But for now, I was engrossed
in the culture-shock therapy of discovering a place
I had always longed to go to: India.
With the cows and giant-horned buffalo and bicycle
rickshaws and motor-rickshaws and camels, goats and
elephants careening by on every side of the street;
with entourages of somber men chanting loudly down narrow
streets carrying corpses over the heads; with every
shop keeper and child of the street trying to drag you
somewhere to buy something; I had to admire the determination
of Sabrina the Swede. Amidst massive sensory overload,
Sabrina could only get a visual. Otherwise, she was
deaf and dumb. She couldn't hear the hustlers haranguing
her. She couldn't answer back the rude remarks even
if she had heard them. And for a flash I felt something
I thought I'd never feel for such a person: envy. I
envied her not having to deal with all the rip-offs
and sleezeballs that were rapidly destroying my faith
in the human race. But how could I envy a deaf-mute.
I did. If only for a moment. But I did.
Raju had introduced me to Dr. Vargis Shastri, former
spiritual adviser to one of India's vice-Presidents
and Kundalini Yoga guru. "Call me Guruji,"
he said. "Call me Green Man," said I. The
Indians always non-judgmental when listening to my tales
of the Europeans gods and goddesses. I maintained my
Green personae the entire journey.
Guruji's classes were okay, but it was his family that
truly warmed my heart. I took an intensive class twice
a day. And twice a day they fed me. I was offered free
lodging (no mosquito netting or fan so I turned it down),
and was treated like family. It was the only time I
was able to interact with women, as well.
"We do not want to expose women to western men,"
Mataji, Guruji's wife, told me. "They use them
for two years then abandon them. The do not take care
of their families." While I wasn't thrilled with
the Indian sexual dynamic, I certainly could not argue
with Mataji. She was right.
After Yoga one day, I was wandering aimlessly on the
Ghats along the Ganga (Ganges) River, when I was kidnapped
by barbers. Most people don't believe me, but it's true.
You see, all barbers are also masseurs in India, so
they grab a hold of your hand, deftly crack all your
knuckles, massage your forearm, twist you over onto
your back, and then, along with a friend, pounce on
you making you feel wonderful while they tell you that
only Maharajas get two masseurs at once and your should
pay them 500 rupees ($15). The going rate is actually
30 rupees, and that includes a haircut and a shave.
Which I got.
Raju was starting to get on my nerves. He was following
me to yoga class, insisting that he meet me every day.
I enjoyed my alone time. My trip with him to the silk
factory in the Islamic part of town was the last straw.
The silk was overprice, the pressure to buy intense,
and the infringement on my personal being annoying.
Then I overpaid for silk in colors that I didn't really
want. I decided to get him back.
The next morning I went to his sitar shop to have a
show-down. He was gone, bathing in the Ganga. I left
a note. It read:
"Dear Raju, you have committed the greatest crime
of all. You have betrayed a friend. You have taken me
to places where I have paid too much money. The Green
Man is angry. It is not good to make the Green Man angry.
I tell you now, leave me alone."
The next day, I found Raju waiting for me after Yoga
Class. He hadn't shaved, his eyes were bloodshot, he
looked scared and was pleading for my friendship. He
wouldn't leave until I told him I didn't think he was
a rip-off. I did just to get rid of him. Free at last.
After a week, Varanase was starting to get old. I was
getting antsy to go to Dharmsala and try to meet the
Dali Llama. I had just met a Dutchman named Marcel who
lived there and gave me the lowdown. The Dali Llama
was in town.
The day I left Varanase I was sick. I had caught some
kind of Bubonic flu and could barely get out of bed
to catch my train. I German woman, Judith, who I had
met while buying my ticket a few days earlier, was waiting
for me cross town. I stumbled into Dr. Shastri's Yoga
Centre and asked for help. Mataji and her daughter came
to my rescue. The fed me lassi and soup and shoved a
pill down my throat. I think the love alone jump started
my spirits. They put me on a bicycle rickshaw and sent
me to Judith's part of town.
I couldn't find her hotel. What was worse, every rip-off
in Varanase must have smelled my weakened state. They
were hustling me for pennies just to lead me to her
hotel. They were giving me wrong directions. Raju's
partner at the sitar shop, who I had never met, handed
me a business card tried to hustle me. I told him my
train left in two hours. He said, "No problem,
we've got plenty of time." The words "fuck
you" started to form on my lips.
I found Judith eventually, we hailed two rickshaws
and off we went. On the way to the station the two cutest
kids waved to us. First, they said the dreaded, "Hellllo."
And then in unison, they said "Goodbye." We
were on our way.
Even the train stations have cows. The ubiquitous animals
serve as organic garbage dispensers and gobble up the
edible food packaging (leaves) wherever people throw
it. This cow had wandered up and down the stairs and
was waiting with us on Track 5.
Judith was my savior. She was the Earth-Mother herself
come to take me to Dharmsala. I was very ill, and she,
a total stranger, took care of me. We found our seats
and immediately the beggars and food vendors paraded
before us. Suddenly there was this awful horn-like wheezing
sound. "Snake's coming," said Judith, matter-of-factly,
and sure enough, a snake charmer passed our way, basket
in hand. The open farmlands of India did pass before
me, a welcome relief from the chaotic urban affair of
Varanase. I played some guitar for the passengers, but
mostly I slept the 20 hour ride train ride and the five
hour cab ride that followed.
Dharmsala was like the United Nations. Every nation
seemed represented in this small mountain retreat the
Indian government bestowed upon the Tibetan refugees
and their spiritual leader Not only was the Dali Llama
in town, but there was a huge week-long festival. We
could barely find a room, except for one place--The
Green Hotel. I was home.
After three days of lying in bed, I stumbled out into
town. There I met over a dozen people who knew me. Eleven
from Williams, Oregon and the legendary Ponderosa Pine
from Bolinas, California. Just as I had felt India's
presence even before I left the states, I was now feeling
the Pacific Northwest's vibration as my journey wound
into its last week.
Ponderosa was an AP reporter in the 1950's who traveled
Russia before it was common, and worked for both the
Civil Rights movement and the Yippies as a press contact.
I would ritually go over to his hotel every morning,
smoke the local product, and listen to stories about
how he, Abbey Hoffman and Jerry Rubin listened to Sgt.
Pepper for the first time the day it came out.
The Williams, Oregon crew, on the other hand, averaged
age 19 and were American style environmentalists come
to help out Dharmsala's eco-education program. They
were running around xeroxing things, making presentations,
and although they knew and loved me, barely had time
to say hello. It was quite the awakening to see how
we activists really look.
As I began to feel better I realized it was time to
do laundry. There was a sign at the Green Hotel that
said "Laundry--this way," and pointed down
the stairs. I followed it to the dead-end of a dirty
stone alley. No laundry there. I walked back up the
stairs and asked a local where there laundry was. He
pointed back to where I had just come from. I said there
was nothing there. He said, "You go to the end
of the path and there yell, "Laundry!" Okay,
I figure, I'll try it. So I descend the stairs to the
end of the dirty alley and yell out "Laundry."
Then, like magic, across the adjacent rooftop, strode
the most beautiful woman I had ever seen in my life,
dress in a red sari, grinning ear to ear, as if she
knew exactly how ironic and insane the whole thing was.
I had met the laundry Goddess, herself. If I had been
more present I would have asked her for the answer to
that age old mystery: "Where are my socks?"
So I put on some nice clothes and went to visit the
Dali Llama's personal secretary for an appointment.
"Hi, I'm Darryl Cherney from KMUD Radio in Garberville
and I'd like to have an interview with your boss. "The
Dali Llama is leaving in two days," he replied.
My heart sunk. Hell, you can't even get an interview
with me if I'm leaving in two days. On the other hand,
as someone asked later, what did he have to pack?
I was told, however, that I could get up at seven the
next day and join 600 people and touch the Dali Llama's
hand for half a second. It didn't seem very appealing.
So I went off to the Welfare office to seek some environmentalists
I was looking for. I never found them. Instead, the
office was filled with tourists signing up to see his
Holiness, the Dali Llama. They joked with me and so
I decided to stay and sign up. Maybe I'd get up at 7
The crowd at the Dali Llama's headquarters was segregated
into Anglos and Asians. The Asians all wore their best
get-ups--giant furry hats with furry boots, colorful
baggy pants, home-spun blouses. The white folks, however,
looked like something the cat dragged in. Unshaven,
dirty, ripped jeans, matted hair, and a disrespectful
attitude to match. One guy was mocking a mustache with
his Tibetan payer beads. I was embarrassed for them.
The Green Man, however, was in full dress uniform.
And I had brought I Tibetan prayer flag made in my home
town plus two post cards of the redwoods with a simple
note about their peril. I found an aspiring movie star
who had also dressed nicely and we hung.
After four hours the line moved, and quickly at that.
I could see the big D in the distance and knew I had
half a second to make my case. As I drew closer, I unfolded
the prayer flag and positioned my postcards. Then, the
big moment came. I was before him. I showed him the
flag, then laid it on his startled seconds lap. The
same with the postcards. I touched his hand and it was
As I walked away I felt a hole. I hadn't been in the
present. I spent so much time preparing I didn't really
feel anything. A few steps down the path I felt a pull.
And so I swung around. There, staring me in the face,
was the Dali Llama. I met him eye to eye. We clasped
our hands and bowed, never taking our eyes from each
other. I felt it, walked away a second time, and without
really knowing what it was, knew I had received what
I came for.
Sitting at my favorite restaurant in Dharmsala, still
a bit ill and with just days left to my trip, I picked
up a napkin to blow my nose and left the paper in the
ash tray. Indians are a bit peculiar about etiquette,
and the waiter comes marching over to lift my snot-rag
out of the ash tray with his bare hand. God forbid there
should be anything in there but cigarette butts.
Twenty-four hours later, I experience deja vu. Same
restaurant, same seat, same runny nose, same waiter.
This time, however, I blow even harder and leave the
napkin extra wet and spongy in the ash tray. The waiter
comes ambling over, picks up the napkin, and squeezes
it. It's soft and moist. What he did next was so typical
of India because it was the last thing in the world
I expected him to do. I mean the last. He took the napkin
back down and started to wipe the table with my own
Streaks of mucus formed across the formica as I sat
there stunned. After a moment, he realized it really
wasn't working and left to throw the napkin away, leaving
me to gaze down at my own bodily fluids. Hesitantly
I picked up another napkin, to clean up my snot he had
left behind. I planned the newly soiled paper in my
pocket. India had certainly taught me something. Some
people call it karma, but it's snot.