Where are you now, what drew you to read my poetic diary, The Wonderland Amusement Park? Is
it for the first time? Have you been reading each new addition as they appear on line? Are we part
of a gestalt experiment coupled with Jungian fantasies, letting our spirits loose to wander down paths
we've been told not to travel on? Is this a place to entertain hatred, harbor a grudge, dig some dirt to sling at me or perhaps yourself? Are we practicing "the art of emptying others and filling . . . " ourselves, as Sun Tau mentions in his book, The Art of War? A strange thing, the mind. It's ours alone to use but we are influenced by others each pulling you, if you allow them to, into a world of mirrors
they too have carved with their mind. The psychiatrist, Carl Jung (Swiss psychologist (1875 - 1961) in his book, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, said: "As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being." He also posited, "Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to a better understanding of ourselves." In this diary I do something few have done, if any, and that's to express and bare my soul via tanka, haiku, and haiga. I am not a degenerate and more than you are. Admit it, you have fantasies, vile thoughts, anger expressed in a multitude of ways. We laugh, we cry, we dream dreams, awake and asleep . . . Dreams compose who we are, as much as genetic predisposition and environment.
"We are what we think. All that we are arises With our thoughts. With our thoughts, We make our world."
You think, I think, or we react to something without thinking. One's environment affects our thinking, and when combined with genetic predisposition; your results form a unique you. After coming back from Nam, the war had changed me. I went deeper into my self; did everything I could to bury my thoughts: drugs, sex, alcohol, and much more. I went this way and that way like a half back running in a zig sag pattern towards the goal line, only for me, there was no goal. I was stuck in the belly of the dragon, in a war zone. A tug-of-war? I was losing sight of who I am, stuck in the equivalent of an
LSD trip that refused to end. I'd built the Wonderland Amusement Park, a place where nothing is as it is, the Park's themes always changing, without a white rabbit worrying about being late to a tea party nobody gives a damn about. Enter at your own risk.
Here we are, again, back inside my mind, a mind that's not yours, so why the hell are you here? Am I a sad reminder, a mirror that disturbs you, a dream within a dream, the day dream dream if infant's breath? Am I a ride under arched bridges in the rice fields. I love America but don't live there. Instead, I live in the Philippines, a section of southeast Asia, not unlike Vietnam, with jungle, villages, sari sari stores; my closest friend, a carabao that grunts . . . most of the young girls enamored with kanos, who they think are rich, and the filipino guys, resentful of kanos who take their women away because they can't earn enough. What are toilets without toilet paper and lids? An unwed woman is not unusual in the Philippines, but unlike America, unwed mothers here is this Catholic country are looked down upon, fodder for gossip, and get no monetary support from the government let alone the child's father who barely makes enough to live on. What does a teenage mother do to support her baby?
Many drop out of school, some beg, others whore themselves out to older Filipinos or Kanos, and some just exist, living with family members, working as a maid(sometimes sleeping under their bosses' table, for $50 a month from sun-up til late at night with no days off. Like everywhere, the poor get poorer and the rich get richer, and to top it off, the Philippines is the only nation in the world that has only ten years of education instead of twelve. 1st and 2nd years of college are in essence the junior and senior years of high school. The rich and the powerful like a subservient people who must do as they're told to survive.
Many of these women become bargirls, guest relations hostesses (GRO's), working in seedy bars servicing men from their backsides, looking up every night at fat men, skinny men, foul smelling men, the gentle, the rough, "hell I paid for it, gimme what I want, slut!" They become actresses, learn to hate men, sometimes have sex with one another, and in the morning, they feed their children, parent's, in shanty houses infested with rats and cockroaches that run across them as they try to sleep for a few hours in humid, hot room without fans or electricity, the only toilet, a hole in the floor and a bucket filled with water to wipe their butts off. They hate their lives, but what to do? In Vietnam I knew a bar girl who whored at night and attended the university of Saigon during the day majoring economics, her husband a victim of the war.
These women survive in an ambience of blinking christmas lights and cigarette smoke laced with the smell of stale beer, their bodies the property of whoever rents them for an hour, two hours, the night, and if they resist, they are beaten to a pulp and tossed out into the streets. Cops take bribes, post office employees steal money sent in the mail, workers in the malls wear pants and shirts without pockets, the average wage in the Philippines, $2 to $4 a day. I've been there, folks, as a patient in the Philippine Orthopedic Charity Ward sharing a room with forty other patients, that has no fan, the windows are broken, cats wander in and out of the room, and the rooms are literally infested with thousands of small cockroaches. The charity ward, compliments of the Catholic Church, has several rooms like the one I stayed in, and share one toilet without a lid or toilet tissue, and stands in 2.5 feet of dank water, the stench, something from the bowels of a sick animal left to die on the side of a road. After I moved to the Philippines, my retirement was put on indefinite hold proceeding the final outcome of a messy divorce from a Filipino woman who'd married me for a free ticket to America and when I asked her for a divorce, she who brutally verbally and physically harmed myself, our two children, and one from a previous marriage, begged me to stay and even said, "if this is about sex, you can bring girls upstairs and fuck them." I turned down the offer, and instead, offered to live in a separate room for the year it'd take to get the divorce, and to pay bills like I'd done in the past. Needless to say, rejection is not her thing coming from a poorer than poor family, and I had to leave the house, rent a place of my own, hire an attorney, pay utilities and our credit card debts, hers and mine . . . I suffered a nervous breakdown and had to resign from my career as a teacher of troubled children, leaving me to live off of $450 a month, the military sent me as a disabled Vietnam vet. I had no choice but to move to the Philippines and live with my intended in a squatter's house, unable to pay child support for our children and my daughter from a previous marriage. In the Philippines we lived off of rice topped with various toppings and recorded music CDs for less than a dollar each. Some days we didn't know what we'd eat the two meal we ate each day. The heat was unbearable, and my depression getting worse by the second until I got to the point where I didn't know what day it was or when it was night or day, living 24 hours, except during meals and relieving myself, in our bedroom. I now get more money from the VA but my Ex wife gets part of that and my entire teacher's retirement pension for child support and will soon get more. And check this out, when I asked the Judge to do a psyche and custody evaluation, she ignored me, conned by my Ex's acting prowess and, instead focused the hearing on how much money I should pay her and questioned why I was living outside of the U.S. Could the Judge exist on $450 a month in the U.S.? Can anyone? I live a better life now thanks to my country who is grateful for my service in Vietnam. And thanks to a wonderful, supportive wife who loves me for who I am and not for money.
I understand the plight of the poor in southeast Asian countries, the hell they must endure so companies like WalMart, Toyota, and Shell Oil Company can make a killing.
To hell and back. Welcome to The Wonderland Amusement park, part illusion, part real, a city of mirrors, where nothing is as it seems. Enter at your own risk. Who knows what you'll learn about yourself? And during your visit, lucky you, become a member.
As I said, the America I returned home to was a different America. Battle lines were drawn. "Normal culture versus Counter culture." Back in Vietnam I felt like a bad ass savior who was doing the South Vietnamese people favor, risking my life so the Vietnamese could enjoy the fruits of democracy. I was naive, a teenager who believed everything he read in history textbooks and saw on newscasts paid for by big monied sponsors. I didn't know that The Republic of South Vietnam was ruled by a ruthless dictator who killed thousands of Vietnamese, and ruled with an iron hand where freedom of the press and speech were crimes punishable by death if the dictator disagreed with what was said or written.
I also didn't know that Shell Oil Company and Firestone Rubber had big holdings there, nor did I know that South Vietnam was a mineral rich wonderland compared to North VIetnam, and that it contained approximately 90% of the world's titanium. And poorly educated me, don't believe what you read in high school and middle school textbooks, and half of what you read in college texts: one of my degrees is in World History); the country had been at war for over a thousand years with bordering countries, China, Japan, the French, and Communist North Vietnam who desperately wanted a piece of the pie. The North Vietnamese speak a different dialect and look down on the South Vietnamese as a lower class of people. Although the French divided the Vietnam into two nations, the South and the North, the reason the Northerners wanted to reunite the two nations into one was not a patriotic or charitable act. They were lusting for the riches they lacked in the North.
I remember asking an old papa san, a long white bearded leathery skinned man dressed in black silk pajamas and a straw cone hat if he was glad the United States were fighting for his freedom? I didn't expect the answer he gave me. "We don't like you Americans and we don't like the North Vietnamese. We just want everyone to leave us alone so we can farm and feed our families." That was a sentence that germinated into a whole new conceptualization of the War our government labeled a Police Action.
Two weeks after returning to the States, I volunteered to live in an AWOL (Absent Without Leave) sanctuary for military deserters opposed to participating in what they felt was an un-just war, housed in a two story Unitarian Church. I quickly became the vice chairman of the sanctuary's vice-chairperson, which also served as a commune where LSD, Mescaline, and Pot ran freely and free sex was openly practiced at a time when AIDS and HIV didn't exist.
Every girl was on the pill, and laying on surrealistic pillows with white rabbits and Mad Hatters were the drill of the day. None of us worked, food was donated by the parishioners, and we made national news. I got stoned day and night
Sang Grace Slick of the Jefferson Airplane in her song:
"One pill makes you larger
And one pill makes you small,
And the ones that mother gives you
Don't do anything at all.
Go ask Alice
When she's ten feet tall.
And if you go chasing rabbits
And you know you're going to fall,
Tell 'em a hookah smoking caterpillar
Has given you the call."
One day early in the morning before dawn, FBI, GTF, Marine Police, and the county Sheriff's office broke into the Church (I guess sanctuary was outdated by then, the Hunchback of Notre Dame long dead. They woke us up in our various bedrooms, I was naked having sex with a pretty hippy girl . . . the officers rude, pushy demanding, and in a hurry. This had to be a flash lightening before dawn raid to avoid publicity as they were raiding a church, which would rile up a lot of people . . .without press coverage, no one would take the word of long haired, oddly dressed hippies, most of them stoned. The various law enforcement agencies would have time to doctor up press releases that would make them look good and generous small space if any in the newspapers. I'll never forget the look on one of the Marine deserters staring at us from the back of a Sheriff's car, with fear in his eyes . . . he would be tortured, I've seen such torture, and be turned into a zombie-like soldier who's every move will be controlled by the blowing of a whistle and sarcastic, cruel laughter. The statutes of the U.S. Constitution was null and void for servicemen in brigs and prisons in that era.
Neither were they applicable to war protesters. I remember a group of young adults and almost adults, of which I was a part, (we consisted of approximately 15 to 20 people) who met at an Orange County, California public park to sing anti-war songs. It wasn't an organized event. Other then dressing a little differently, we did nothing a church group might do . . . sang songs and shared our feelings. There was no amplification, our actions peaceful, and none of us peed on trees or smoked dope. 30 minutes into the sing-in, a trio of policemen walked uo to us and asked, as if they didn't know) if we had a permit to have a rally at the park. A rally consisting of 15 to 20 people? I told the officers that we weren't having a rally that we met to sing songs against the war, share our feelings, nothing that a church group wouln't do except for the theme of the songs we sang. They said we had to break up or be arrested. Immediately we were herded by a larger group of city policemen and women onto a small two lane street behind the park. Other war protestors and hippies (were there any for the war?) saw what was happening and began complaining, calling our removal from the park a breach of our rights (which was a correct assessment), and joined us. The police herded us faster and faster, and when one girl fell on the ground, four policemen held her down spread eagle while a fourth cop clubbed her with a baton. We exploded and started throwing rocks at these bullies in uniform, the girl's body bleeding, her voice yelling out for help. We turned on the cops. Our group which had grown bigger and bigger. The cops knew they were out manned and fled. Ten minutes later a Swat team came with tear gas and rubber bullets . . . All because a group of peaceful young people met informally in a public park to sing songs and share their beliefs
"And if you go chasing rabbits
And you know you're going to fall,
Tell 'em a hookah smoking caterpillar
Has given you the call."
Yes, the America I'd left had changed or, more probable, I'd changed in the 11 months I'd served in Vietnam. During that time, young people throughout America were changing their beliefs, losing faith in a dream that appeared to be filled with holes and was a smoke screen for America's rich. They became in a way, lost; explorers looking for an alternative to the pablum they'd been spoon fed by Doctor Spock and the Saturday Evening Post. They had brothers, boyfriends, and school mates who lost their lives or were maimed for life for what? A war we turned tail on and deserted, leaving those who depended on us to face Godless communists; an Armed Forces whose members more often than not, called the Vietnamese, gooks.
Welcome once more to the troubled mind of a man who couldn't be politically correct if he wanted to,. A man who offends the norm, and feels ill at ease with people, especially women, who at one time were some of his closest friends; a man who has no friends here in the Philippines, whose wife sees him as . . . something, I'm not sure what. Recently almost my entire staff at Simply Haiku revolted against me behind my back and said publically that I was a tyrant who bullied his staff, even though I'd rarely talked with them and usually when I did, I complimented them. Maybe some day I'll see the light and realize I'm Dr, Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde, or, at least, The Monster that Devoured Cleveland. I give and get nothing much in return. I dislike Christmas and my birthday, and want just to live my final days on this planet, in peace and harmony; something I haven't felt since the day I landed in Saigon. Go ask Alice, my alter ego.