"(It) wasn't long before it came to my attention that two people that had a one time played roles in my life had moved to Orange County and for no other reason than I could, I sought them out. One was onetime Air Vice Marshal come vice president of Vietnam, Nguyen Cao Ky. The other was the Laotian warlord General Vang Pao."
THE WANDERLING: Paragraph Nine Below
In several places on the internet I make reference to having lived on the Caribbean island nation of Jamaica for a few years and while there, apprenticing under a Jamaican man of spells called an Obeah. Usually, although those references may make mention of a given year now-and-then, most do not lay out any actual start-finish times I was actually in Jamaica. What does me being in Jamaica have to do with Asian warlords? Basically it has to do with how it came about I met two of the warlords as civilians stateside long after we had been stomping around Southeast Asia together. As for when I was in Jamaica and to set the scene for when I met the two warlords in the U.S., more specifically Orange County, California, there is at least one place where a solid start-finish date for me being in Jamaica shows up:
"When Apostolides and my uncle crossed paths I was living in Jamaica, having left during the winter of 1977 after being in Hong Kong earlier in the year. Just into the fall/winter of 1978 I began apprenticing under a Jamaican man of spells called an Obeah, not returning until the spring of 1981."(source)
For a couple of years leading up to and during the year 1977 --- before I left for Jamaica --- were busy ones for me as there were a number of loose ends that I had continued to put off that needed to be attended to before I left, mostly having to do with catching up with a few people that were either in, peripheral to, or relevant in some fashion to me then or at one time in my life. It was during that same so mentioned period of time, just up to and including 1977, that I, here in the United States and Orange County in southern California more specifically, purposely sought out and made contact with two of the three warlords pictured above that I had some interaction with in some fashion or the other in the early to mid 1960's in Southeast Asia.
If any of you are familiar with the onetime avant-garde poet, woman-about-town, and Sri Ramana devotee Mercedes De Acosta, you may have read she died in 1968, May 9, to be exact. Some months prior to that, in an effort to locate a fellow Ramana adherent she knew back in the late 1930s by the name of Guy Hague, and not realizing I knew Hague myself, contacted me to see if I could arrange a meeting between herself and my mentor who she thought might know where Hague was. Even though I had informed De Acosta that I had heard strong rumors to the effect that Hague had died, possibly ten years earlier, she was insistent that we set a meeting at her place at 315 East 68th Street in Manhattan, New York City to figure out how she could at least meet my mentor as well as for her to introduce me to her friend the pop artist Andy Warhol, of which I requested on the side as a potential optional condition. However, before she and I were actually able to finalize any of the arrangements she died. On my page about De Acosta, linked above, the following is found:
"(W)ithin days of De Acosta's death, oddly enough, the Wanderling received a request from Andy Warhol to meet anyway. The typically New York based Warhol just happened to be staying in La Jolla, California, not far down the coast from where the Wanderling was living at the time. Warhol was filming a movie called San Diego Surf with a bunch his groupies, including not just a few of whom were seemingly experiencing the short and long term effects of west coast/Mexican mescaline for the first time during the Wanderling's stay --- of which, it must be said, neither he nor Warhol participated in."
What is important here is mescaline and thus then it's source and the reference of La Jolla being not far down the coast from where I lived at the time --- a reference that related loosely to Orange County, California. In those days, several miles north of La Jolla, in Laguna Beach, there was an infamous 60s head shop on Pacific Coast Highway called Mystic Arts World --- albeit now long since gone, having burned to the ground in the early 1970s.
Mystic Arts World was not much more than a front for the operations of an outfit that called themselves The Brotherhood of Eternal Love. The Brotherhood dealt heavily in the movement and sale of 1960s counter culture indulgents such as marijuana, psychedelic mushrooms, LSD, and what was of most interest to the Warhol groupies for whatever reason, mescaline. The Brotherhood also circulated around such "turn on, tune in, drop out" heavyweights as Dr. Timothy Leary and Dr. Richard Alpert, AKA Ram Dass the author of the counter culture bible Be Here Now (1971) that so influenced Steve Jobs of Apple fame, and like Jobs, caused thousands to trek off to India and other exotic places, not to mention setting the scene to create an opening for a young American from Laguna Beach known as Bhagavan Das to become famous.(see)
My Stepmother, now deceased, had for years, owned a small weekender or summer-type cottage in Laguna Beach a short distance south of Main Beach on the west side of PCH, of which my Uncle and I used regularly in my youth --- my uncle having had long established ties with the art colony there and well before the rise of the Brotherhood.
However, my Uncle, who lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico and long since gone from the Laguna Beach art scene, for whatever reason during the exact same years as the Brotherhood, maintained or had access to a post office box in town. Every once in awhile a package would come to me from my uncle through a variety of means, hand delivered, etc., that, since I lived not far from Laguna Beach in those days, would then take to the post office and put into his P.O. box or, if requested to do so by my uncle, hand deliver it to someone associated with the Brotherhood.
In that the Brotherhood operated mostly beyond the legitimate confines of the law in a majority of their business transactions they were a little touchy about who they let close. However, setting my uncle aside, it all went down fairly easy for me because I was already semi-known by many of the higher ups and inside-members of the Brotherhood. Interesting enough, I had met many of those same higher ups in meditation sessions under the Zen master Joshu Sasaki Roshi, of which the following paragraph, offering a quick synopsis of the Brotherhood is found:
"The Brotherhood dealt heavily in the movement and sale of marijuana, psychedelic mushrooms, and LSD --- reportedly with upwards of $200 million in sales in the late 60s. The organization began to fall apart shortly after its leader died of an overdose of synthetic psilocybin in August 1969 and the Mystic Arts World building burning to the ground following a mysterious fire that started just before midnight June 4, 1970, a fire widely viewed as arson. By 1974, following an August of 1972 multi-agency government raid, most of the remnants of the organization were dispersed, scattered, or gone."
All during that period from meeting Warhol to a variety of minor interactions to a couple of major ones with the Brotherhood in Laguna Beach to leaving for Jamaica in 1977 I was in and around or through the Orange County environs on a regular basis. So saying it wasn't long before it came to my attention that two people that had a one time played roles in my life had moved to Orange County and for no other reason than I could, I sought them out. One was onetime Air Vice Marshal come vice president of Vietnam, Nguyen Cao Ky. The other was the Laotian warlord General Vang Pao.
For more regarding the interactions between Warhol and the Wanderling, please go to the following:
ANDY WARHOL AND THE WANDERLING
AND NOW, THE WARLORDS:
NGUYEN CAO KY (1930-2011)
During the years 1963-1964 Nguyen Cao Ky, with the then rank of major, was flying in and out of Laos for a CIA subsidized cover airline called Vietnam Air Transport (VIAT) most often to central Laos to a place called Pakse. As for Ky, long after events in southeast Asia had faded into the background, in his semi-autobiography BUDDHA'S CHILD: My Fight to Save Vietnam (2002), of his conception, birth, and childhood, Ky writes:
"After a long, cold winter's journey up the Red River from Son Tay, my mother arrived at the foot of the mountain. It took her hours to climb the hundred of steps leading to the summit, but she was desperate, and this visit to Huong Tich, the pagoda dedicated to Buddha that has welcomed pilgrims for more than a thousand years, was her last chance. A few months earlier, my father had begun negotiations to take a second wife, a young woman whom he hoped would bear a son to carry on the family line. Mother had presented Father with three daughters and two sons, but neither had survived past early childhood. A trusted fortune-teller advised that it was not my mother's destiny to raise a son. Seeking to change her fate, Mother set out on her pilgrimage.
"Near the shrine is a lake, and from its center jut several huge rocks where people come to pray. Mother found a sampan and paid the boatman two fares. The second was for the son whose soul, she hoped, would return with her. At the sacred stone, Mother prayed to Buddha for a son. Then she went home.
"When I was born nine months later, I was considered Buddha's child."
Ky then goes on to write:
"Many times death has taken those closest to me, but I was spared. No matter how great the peril I have encountered , I have emerged without harm. I am Buddha's child, and until my purpose in this life is fulfilled, Buddha will protect me."
Just before returning to the United States following all of my adventures and misadventures as found in The Zen Maker, The Code Maker that eventually led me to Long Tieng in Laos, to a Zen monastery beyond the reaches of time high in the Himalayas, then back through Rangoon, Burma, I was approached on the streets of Saigon by a couple of Vietnamese militia men dressed like STRAC troopers. Insisting I go with them in what I was hoping would turn out to be no more than an official covert operation of some sort I somewhat reluctantly went along, boarding a plane that a short time later set down in what I was told was the onetime French colonial town of Paske, situated at the confluence of the Mekong and Se Don rivers in Laos. There, rather than anything remotely close to smelling like an official mission I was taken to a small empty building not far off the tarmac. Pacing back and forth and wondering just what I was getting myself into, especially so close to me heading home, the door opened and in walked Nguyen Cao Ky, also looking all the same as a STRAC trooper and, just like his two emissaries sent to fetch me, packing heat strapped to his hip. Ky introduced himself then apologized for all the mystery, ensuring me I would be returned all in good order.(see)
Somewhere along the way, either by his system of informants or during his trips into Laos or both, word filtered down to him about an American in the north that was said to be "under the protection of the Lord Buddha." Knowing full well how his own protection came about, that is, through the determination and spiritual efforts of his mother, he was curious as to how such protection, if true, could befall someone else, especially so an American.
LAOTIAN VILLAGE OF PAKSE AND IT'S AIRFIELD ALONG
THE MEKONG RIVER AS SEEN FROM THE AIR CIRCA 1964
Without wasting time Ky told me in the recent past he had sought me out several times, but somewhere along the way I had simply disappeared. He related to me about his mother, her pilgrimage and her prayers to Buddha, basically everything he would eventually write in his book 38 years later and of which I have presented above. After his explanation of the role of the Buddha in his life as promulgated by his mother, it was quite clear he was interested in one thing and one thing only --- to know if it was true that I was "under the protection of the Lord Buddha" and if so, how was it that I, a fully white male of American descent and to his knowledge at the time with little or no connection to the Buddha, was afforded such rare and high level spiritual protection.
I told him I didn't know if I had such protection all along, but I became aware of the possibilities of same when I first arrived in-country. I had been rout-stepping around Tan Son Nhut Air Base on TDY for awhile and gone into Saigon a couple of times before being shipped north. On one of those times, almost as if I had been targeted, I was unrelentlessly pursued by a taxi driver outside the main gate. Giving up, he took me to a dump of a bar in the Cholon district of Saigon. Out of the smoky milieu of mostly horny and inebriated GIs, unsolicited, a tea girl attempted to sit on my lap and put what appeared to be a gold necklace around my neck that had a small Chinese character hanging midway along it's length. Immediately recognizing the small medallion I grabbed the necklace from her hands asking where the necklace came from and how she got it. She pointed toward a group of barely discernible figures sitting in the shadows along the darkened back wall, telling me that a burnt man paid her to put it on me. In just the few seconds it took me to work my way through the crowd to the back wall pulling the tea girl with me the burnt man, if there ever was a burnt man, was gone.
The necklace, which I still have and continue to wear to this day, from what I could remember, looked exactly like the one the person I call my Merchant Marine Friend showed me one day while I was in high school. He told me before the necklace showed up in his life, for as far back as he could remember he never owned or wore a gold necklace or any necklace for that fact of any type. However, after weeks and weeks of being missing following the ship he was on being torpedoed during World War II he was found floating out in the middle of the open ocean strapped to a piece of debris by heavy ropes --- and when found he was wearing the necklace, which for him, since he wasn't wearing any necklace the night his ship was torpedoed, seemed to have mysteriously appeared out of nowhere. As for the burnt man, my merchant marine friend told me in order to stay alive after the attack he had no choice but to jump overboard, landing in an area with oil and naphtha burning all along the surface of the water, the fire scorching both his skin and lungs as he plunged through the surface and came back for air, an endeavor he did over and over until he could no longer remember.
The problem is, by the time the incident in the Saigon bar occurred between me, the Saigon Tea Girl, and the burnt man, my merchant marine friend had been dead some ten years or more, having passed away during the summer between my sophomore and junior years in high school. At his memorial family members had told me he wanted to be cremated and his ashes tossed at sea near where his ship was torpedoed and, along with the ashes, the necklace returned to the sea as well. As far as I know those wishes had been complied with.
I told Ky I had not become fully aware of any protection provided me under any circumstances by anyone or anything until after an incident that transpired in the far northern railhead city of Chaing Mai, re the following from the source so cited:
"Within the members of the relatively small search team, Chinese all, was a Buddhist or Zen Buddhist. When they came across me, not knowing if I was the one they were searching for or not, the Buddhist amongst them noticed the small Chinese symbol hanging around my neck. The team was just going to abandon me, but the Buddhist, after seeing what I had around my neck told them I was under protection of the Lord Buddha and to leave me in such a state and in such surroundings would be bad Karma --- that nothing but bad fortune and and bad luck would follow them if they did not take me with them."(source)
As to the necklace itself and where it came from, the merchant marine told me when he was around my age (i.e., my age at the time he told me, a teenager in high school) he had become driven, actually obsessed with the lost continents of Atlantis and Mu. When he got old enough he ran away from home traveling the world to find or substantiate both places. But, the more and more ancient places he visited and more and more educated he became the more and more he became convinced neither place ever existed. In his quest, both pro and con, besides all the Atlantis and Mu books in his library, he had collected reams and reams of books, material, research and explanations that debunked nearly every single aspect of either continent or their civilizations that anybody could ever pose.
I told Ky even though my friend reiterated to me many times that he had long since lost faith in the existence of either of the two lost continents, through inference he often related the origin of the necklace back to one or the other or both. However, the grounding source for the origin of the necklace usually falls back to Gyanganj, AKA Shambhala or Shangri-la. How the necklace eventually fell into his hands is still not known to this day. Although there are those who seemed to think he got it after being picked up by a German U-boat, to me he always attributed it back to more of what is found in the story High Barbaree and the Shipwrecked Sailor.(see)
When all is said and done, what I have learned over time is that for the necklace to have the intended power vested in it, it has to either be given freely and without malice or found after having genuinely been lost. Otherwise, if taken or stolen, its intent would be reversed and what would befall the person so involved would be quite the opposite of the protection it provided.
NOTE: There are those who believe and ascribe to the above and there are those that don't. For more extensive coverage on Buddhist Amulets in Buddhism and Zen, their use, the spirituality imbued in them or not, and the sometime outcomes of either belief, please see #30 as found in:
AN INTERVIEW WITH AN ENLIGHTENED MASTER
Years later, when I heard Ky had moved to Orange County, in the same manner that he sought me out so many years before in Vietnam I sought him out for no other reason than to just touch bases. What I found was much different than what I had anticipated or when I saw him last. The first photo below shows Ky and his wife more or less as he looked in Nam when he and I first crossed paths. The second photo shows him clerking behind the register in the liquor store he owned in Norwalk circa 1977:
For additional images of Madame Nguyen Cao Ky click HERE
VANG PAO (1929-2011)
Vang Pao, like Nguyen Cao Ky, following the termination of hostilities and withdrawal of U.S. troops in southeast Asia, ended up in Orange County as well. Although throughout a good part of the war on an official level Ky was either in charge of the Vietnamese Air Force or on an unofficial level, pretty much running it however he wanted anyway, especially so several secret shadow units under his direct command --- it still remained, as for being a warlord, Vang Pao was a real one in the strictest sense of the word --- although, it must be said he had his strings pulled rather extensively by the U.S.
After the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu in March of 1954, in order to ensure western interests would continue to be maintained in the general greater southeast Asian sphere, the U.S. and/or allies or closely allied mercenaries or surrogates continued to keep their hands in the pie at some level or the other.
One of those closely allied mercenaries relative to American interest was Vang Pao, an otherwise minor Laotian warlord that through his association with the U.S. grew much more powerful than otherwise would have been ordained. Unrelated except for the striking coincidence, almost ten years to the day following the fall of the aforementioned Dien Bien Phu, through a series of events I found myself in the presence of Vang Pao, events of which were put into place by an even more copious series of events well beyond either of our control.
Ending up under the operational arm of Vang Pao and his contingents was, at least in my case, only transitional in nature --- that is to say, I was actually in the process of going somewhere else to do other things and, as far as I was concerned, relative to how I viewed Vang Pao, just passing through. For me and the people I was traveling with, staying there was at least a semi or quasi safe harbor carved out of the otherwise surrounding highly hostile environment. Take a shower, get something to eat, maybe a beer or two, and possibly a good night sleep. Under most circumstances who I was and what I did, would typically offer no opportunity to meet or interact with someone as high up the chain of command as Vang Pao. However, other things were in the works.
In that I was transitional, especially compared to the needs, wherefores, and whys of any mission the warlord's military contingents might have, I had upon arrival, no real part to play. The longer I stayed the less I had to do.
With time on my hands, even though other low-ranking members I was traveling with were off trying to trade cheap hand-mirrors and pocket combs for favors with the local tribeswomen, in that we were all Sheep Dipped and I was in civilian garb, I had gone off on my own volition easily passing myself off like some Peace Corps volunteer rather than a heavily armed GI, to lend a hand in repairing and building an irrigation ditch and fresh water conduit that supplied drinking water to one of the villages. An advisor to the warlord, a shaman, informed the general of my actions and the general invited me join him for dinner.
What is laughable about it all is my youthful naivete. Here I was, being said by others (and possibly thinking so myself) I was like some Peace Corps volunteer lending a hand building a fresh water conduit to supply drinking water for one of the villages --- when actually it came out later that the increased water supply offered by the conduit was just exactly what was needed by the warlord for the successful operation of a rudimentary refinery being put into place and tested for the commercially viable manufacture and production of a highly illicit and addictive drug, including the ability to increase the output level of the product.
It should be brought to the attention of the reader that the incident mentioned in the above section regarding Nguyen Cao Ky wherein I, after being found in pretty bad shape by a Buddhist monk and the monk in-turn concluding that I was under the protection of the Lord Buddha, happened after I had left Vang Pao's stronghold, thus then Vang Pao not being privy to the same level of information as Ky.
As for Vang Pao himself holding similar or like beliefs as Ky, in the book Tragic Mountains (1993) the author Jane Hamilton-Merritt states that even though Vang Pao had been seriously wounded and crashed-landed many times he came to believe that his life was protected by God. Unlike many Lao soldiers, he wore no Buddha images for protection. However, contrary to such reports, in SHOOTING AT THE MOON: The Story of America's Clandestine War in Laos (1996) by Roger Warner, on page 170 Warner writes of a conversation between one Colonel Thong and Vang Pao:
"Their conversation turned to Buddha amulets of the kind Thong had worn. Joining in, Vang Pao explained that one kind of Buddha amulet protects from all bullets, and another attracts all bullets but causes them to ricochet."
The photo on the left shows what Vang Pao looked like basically at the height of his power in Laos. The photo on the right shows Vang Pao more or less how he looked during the period of time I visited him at him home in Westminster, California. Note that the picture on the wall behind him is the same as the one I have presented on the left.
Roughly thirty years after my visit with Vang Pao in Westminster, the U.S. District Court in California on June 4, 2007, following the results of a sting called Operation Tarnished Eagle, issued an arrest warrant for Vang Pao and nine or ten others alleging them with plotting to overthrow the legitimate government of Laos by force and violence in violation of the Neutrality Act. On September 18, 2009, the Federal Government dropped all charges against Vang Pao although still maintaining all counts against a dozen of his alleged co-conspirators. Following the death of Vang Pao on January 6, 2011, all those charges were dropped as well. For more on Vang Pao, his rise to power and his years in Laos, see:
KHUN SA (1934-2007)
Unlike both Nguyen Cao Ky and Vang Pao who I met again stateside long after their own however overlapping in-country wars were over, I never met or saw Khun Sa again in or outside of Burma after the night I first met him.
As found in Doing Hard Time In A Zen Monastery, against the wishes of higher ups, I had holed up in a Zen monastery situated somewhere along the southern edge of the Qinghai-Tibet plateau. Without their knowledge nor necessarily mine at the time, I had ended up at the monastery after traveling from Chaing Mai in the northern reaches of Thailand to the upper reaches of the Himalayas on foot. One morning in the fields outside the monastery walls I was taking care of business when I was approached by three men. In what could be called nothing less than a blatant out-and-out forced kidnapping, having little or no option, against my will and with no real chance of making it back inside the monastery walls without being followed in by men with guns, I returned with them to Chiang Mai.
On the return trip we stopped for a couple of nights at a military encampment or compound of Khun Sa. At first I thought we had been captured and taken to the camp, which for all practical purposes, we were. However, once we were inside the perimeter of the compound it was quite obvious that the men I was traveling with and Khun Sa knew each other. He wanted to see the man under the protection of the Lord Buddha. After a quick introduction I was told I was under HIS protection now. Everybody laughed. Then Khun Sa motioned me closer, almost immediately dropping his eye contact from my eyes to that of the the small gold Chinese character dangling around my neck. Reaching forward he softly took the tiny medallion between his thumb and index finger, looking at it very carefully and rubbing it for what seemed the longest time. The background noise and the overall din of the soldiers in the camp became quiet and the air stilled. As a man who could have and take anything he wanted I thought he was going to yank the chain from my neck. Instead he allowed it to gently fall against my skin and stepped back and the sound returned to normal. Basically a tribal person seeped in superstition, Khun Sa, and no doubt along with a good part of his camp as well, knew that for the necklace to have the intended power vested in it, it had to either be given freely and without malice or found after having genuinely been lost. Otherwise, if taken or stolen, its intent would be reversed and what would befall the person so involved would be quite the opposite of the protection it provided.
UNDER THE PROTECTION OF
THE LORD BUDDHA
One thing for sure, as for being a true warlord in the truest sense of the word, in contrast to both Nguyen Cao Ky and Vang Pao, he did everything himself. There was absolutely NO tie back or pulled strings connections to the U.S. Matter of fact U.S. government interests went after him big time, even to the point of being indicting him on drug trafficking charges by a federal grand jury in Brooklyn, New York, in January 1990. For a fairly comprehensive background history on Khun Sa see:
KHUN SA: THE SECOND WARLORD
NAM YU: CIA LIMA SITE 118-A
For some reason I have always had a certain affinity towards warlords and their ilk. In Asia not all warlords that caught my interest were strictly land based either. One of my favorites was a woman, although actually designated as a pirate and sometimes a dragon lady, she held sway over more square miles of territory than any two of the above land-based warlords.
Her name was Lai Choi San, a notorious female Chinese pirate during the 1920s through the 1930s. She was said to have owned 12 heavily armed Chinese junks not to dissimilar to the one pictured below, all under her direct personal command, and as well, a fleet of several thousand buccaneers independently operating other junks all with sworn allegiance to her authority. Loosely based in and around the Portuguese colony of Macau just outside of the British Crown Colony of Hong Kong her realm covered the Pearl River Delta and coastal shipping routes to all of the South China Sea as far away as Palawan in the Philippines Islands. For the record, when cartoonist Milton Caniff created the character of the Dragon Lady for his Terry and the Pirates comic strip he based her on the real life Lai Choi San, even giving his character the same name.
MEETING THE PIRATE QUEEN
(for more on Lai Choi San please click image)
TANGO SQUADRON AIR MUSEUM, CHIANG MAI
THE WANDERLING AND HIS UNCLE
Their Life and Times Together
Fundamentally, our experience as experienced is not different from the Zen master's. Where
we differ is that we place a fog, a particular kind of conceptual overlay onto that experience
and then make an emotional investment in that overlay, taking it to be "real" in and of itself.
(please click image)
ON THE RAZOR'S
As to the subject of donations, for those of you who may be interested in doing so as it applies to the gratefulness of my works, I invariably suggest any funds be directed toward THE WOUNDED WARRIOR PROJECT and/or THE AMERICAN RED CROSS.
I was delivering a package to the Laguna Beach post office box for my uncle when I was approached by a man who said he was an associate of a man by the name of Johnny Roselli. He told me after being advised by members of the Brotherhood on how to find me he had been monitoring the post office for sometime in an effort to contact me. It so happened Roselli was a high ranking member of organized crime, also referred to as the mob, the Mafia, the syndicate, the outfit, and any number of other names and titles. Call it what you will, Roselli was an integral part of it all most of his life, from a young teenage boy in the 1920s to his ultimate demise under their aegis in 1976. Even though he was never a don in the classical sense, he carried a huge amount of sway, influence and stature ahead of himself in the mob, most certainly well beyond his made-man status.
I wasn't even ten years old the first time I met Roselli. One day my stepmother drove up to Santa Barbara to visit him in a hospital and took me with her. At the time I didn't know who he was, what he did, or how the two of them knew each other. All she told me was that he was a longtime friend and was recuperating in the hospital after having been in the army and she wanted to pay her respects.
While it is true Roselli had been in the army, he only served until he was arrested on federal charges, found guilty and sentenced to ten years in federal prison. After serving roughly three and a half years he was paroled. Roselli had tuberculosis and the time in prison only aggravated the condition. As soon as he was released he immediately put himself under hospital care. When my stepmother and I saw him in the hospital he may have been recuperating alright, but not from the army, but prison. From that day forward, continuing on-and-off for another twenty-five years, mainly in connection with some aspect of my stepmother, I had a variety of interactions with Roselli.
The man in Laguna Beach, asking me to wait, being in those days a time long before cell phones, went to a nearby payphone and made a call. The person he called had to call someone else. When he called back the man handed me the phone. The man on the other end said he was a friend of Roselli's and to prove it he was told to tell me not to ride any more trains to Sacramento.(see) Knowing full well what he meant I asked what he wanted and he responded with wanting to know if I remembered delivering a letter to a lady in Long Beach for Roselli. When I answered yes he asked me the name of the lady. I told him I would give him the first if he gave me the last, which he did, the name of the lady being Brenda Allen, the onetime infamous Hollywood madam. Apparently pleased with the results the man said on behalf of Roselli he needed to meet with me.
A few days later, feeling compelled to take the man at his word, especially since his Sacramento comment and knowing it wouldn't be known either by law enforcement officials or members of the mob other than Roselli, as instructed I met the same man who I had talked to in Laguna Beach in the downtown Greyhound bus station in Los Angeles. He inturn took me by taxi to the L.A. Chinatown district. I was hustled through the back door of a scummy little restaurant off a pig sty of an alley and pointed to a very narrow wooden set of steps that led upstairs to a surprisingly sunshiny and immaculately kept small room just above the kitchen. In the room were two extremely fine looking skimpily dressed, albeit notably high class mid-20s Asian women sitting on a couch and close by some obviously recently used drug paraphernalia spread out across the glass coffee table in front of them.
Also in the room was a burly older white man in a dark sports jacket with a white dress shirt opened at the neck and no tie standing with his back to the door staring out the window. The man kept his back to me most of the time while he continued to stare out the window and I continued to stare almost exclusively at one of the Asian women who had not long after my arrival, propped both her feet and long bare legs up on the coffee table knees together. When I glanced over she immediately spread her legs wide apart revealing she was clearly clean shaven all the way up a la a Brazilian or Hollywood wax with no underpants. The man asked if I knew Roselli as well as how, why, and how long.
By this time in my life I had been a lot of places and done a lot of things, but catching me off guard almost as though I was out of my league, the young woman placed the index finger of her right hand in her mouth slightly wetting it as she turned it, then wiped it across the residue of white powder on the coffee table. Almost like a Miami Vice episode of ten years later without the background music she gently rubbed the powder along both sides of the up-and-down outside edges of the fold at the top of her legs all the while looking at me then down then back as though inviting me try some. Redirecting my thoughts as much as I could I told the man I had known Roselli since before I was ten, had interacted with him several times, primarily on behalf of my stepmother over the years, but as far as I could remember, had not seen or been in contact with him in over a decade. The man said that was perfect as I would be "clean." Explaining further he said Roselli had helped me in the past, now it was my turn to help him.
On August 26, 1973 Roselli was transferred from the prison at McNeil Island, located in southern Puget Sound, northwest Washington to the prison on Terminal Island, located in the harbor a few miles south of Los Angeles. A month and a half later, on October 5, 1973, he was going to be released from Terminal Island and placed on parole. The man told me he wanted me to visit Roselli in prison prior to this parole, but since only relatives or approved friends could see him I needed to be put on the visitor's list. He handed me an addressed business-size mailing envelope with some papers inside to fill out which, when returned to the prison, if cleared and after Roselli's OK, I would be put on an approval list to visit . He said after I was approved to go see him, but be advised that during the visit I may be not be left alone with him, possibly monitored or even recorded. He will already be prepped so don't try and give him anything or take anything from him that might raise any suspicions. Just be an old friend and talk to him about anything and everything --- the old days, my stepmother, whatever --- but, somewhere along the way, after talking for a while swing the conversation around so I could insert the following sentence in the exact words:
"One more thing before I forget Mr. Roselli, I was going to see your sister in Florida, but can't because of traffic. She is still upset because Uncle Sam treated you so badly when you were in the Army."
JOHNNY ROSELLI: MAFIOSO
Whenever either of the two women in the small room above the caf� in Los Angeles' Chinatown as so described above come to mind, I cannot picture anything other than The Infamous Madame Toy as characterized by my favorite artist/cartoonist Wallace 'Wally' Wood in his spy-story series Cannon and so depicted in the graphic below. For more regarding Madame Toy et al, and any potential comparison thereof, please visit the following:
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In 1971, before a government instituted raid and the falling apart of the Brotherhood, the seminal book Be Here Now by Ram Dass, which Steve Jobs mentioned as being influential in his life, was published. In the book, which became a wildly popular best seller and a bible in the counter-culture, Dass mentioned a highly respected young white American he met in India called Bhagavan Das, a follower of the venerated Indian saint Neem Karoli Baba, that was fully and deeply ingrained into the spiritual culture of India. The two of them traveled around India together partaking of a variety of religious and spiritual undertakings as well as indulging in a lot of LSD. It just so happened Bhagavan Das was originally from Laguna Beach and, even though it was known on an underground basis locally, because of his stature given him in the Ram Dass book, although NOT affiliated in any fashion because he had been in India during all the years of the Brotherhood, had become a growing sort of hero amongst the local LSD crowd associated with the Mystic Arts World and the Brotherhood of Eternal Love.
KERMIT MICHAEL RIGGS
- HIGH BARBAREE
- THE SHIPWRECKED SAILOR
MEETING THE PIRATE QUEEN:
The person I call my merchant marine friend died during the summer between my sophomore and junior years in high school. During the early part of that same year the person that I call my Mentor bought and moved into the house next door. In almost every room of his house the walls were covered floor to ceiling with natural wood color knotty pine --- all of it, wall after wall, in need of refinishing, a job he decided to take on himself. In doing so he hired me to assist in sanding, scraping, and varnishing all the wood, working together side by side for weeks.
After a sort of awkward start we slowly began talking about all kinds of things. Man's place in the universe, philosophy, existentialism, religion, his travels and his life. As it turned out my mentor was the primary role model used by British playwright and author W. Somerset Maugham as the main character in his book The Razor's Edge. In the novel Maugham calls his main character Larry Darrell, and although not my mentor's real name nor not even coming close, the following refers to Larry, thus then my mentor:
"In his novel Maugham pretty much focuses on Larry's travels in Europe and India. However, in the spring of 1931 Larry's former fiancee' Isabel mentions she knew the bank manager in Chicago that handled his account and he told her '...that every now and then he got a draft from some queer place. China, Burma, India.' My mentor told me he had been to China, Japan, and the Philippines, even mentioning he had a son in the Philippines."(source)
And that's how I came to know about the real life Chinese pirate queen, Lai Choi San. My mentor, in his travels from China to the Philippines in the mid to late 1920s, got hooked up with her in some fashion, either working in some capacity in exchange for transportation or paying his own freight. Now, while it is true my mentor's interaction with Lai Choi San was never really our only or single major topic of our ongoing conversations during that summer, she did take on a life of her own and a lot more meaning with me later in life when I discovered and read a book completely outlining her life. While reading the book I continually came across any number of things that refreshed my memory and totally paralleled what he told me he had experienced. Those so similar life and adventures related to Lai Choi San are covered quite extensively in the book written by a man of the same era named Aleko Lilius, who, under similar circumstance and time period, traveled with her as well. Lilius' book, linked below in PDF format, besides all the inside dope and adventures traveling with the pirate queen, is as well, loaded with a whole string of photographs of the pirates, their haunts, and ships.
THE DRAGON LADY -- AS SHOWN IN
CANIFF'S TERRY AND THE PIRATES
Further back up the page is a click-through link to a page about a renegade World War II P-40 pilot called The Lone Tiger. The panels on the page so mentioned depicting his adventures were drawn by master artist-cartoonist Wally Wood. Although the Lone Tiger and the P-40s are drawn and presented in a serious tone, Wood was a one-time major cartoonist for Mad Comics. One of his most famous stories is a spoof on Terry and the Pirates called Teddy and the Pirates. In it Woods draws my all time favorite visual presentation of the Dragon Lady he calls the Dragging Lady:
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TERRY AND THE PIRATES
I SAILED WITH CHINESE PIRATES
Although the dates and times are such that it could not occur, and NOT a Dragon Lady in any classical sense of the word, Woods could have modeled his 'Dragging Lady' almost directly off Madame Ky, the wife of the former Vietnamese Air Vice Marshal and onetime vice president of Vietnam, General Nguyen Cao Ky cited in the main text above. To wit:
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The Best of The Maugham Biographies:
MADAME NGUYEN CAO KY (1941 - 2016)
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Although the term STRAC has crossed over into more-or-less standard lexicon becoming a "word", STRAC is actually a U.S. military acronym, the initials originally standing for Strategic Army Corps (US Army).
Originally STRAC was a designation given to the XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, in 1958. The designation was, in reality, the assignment of an additional mission rather than a true designation. The additional mission was to provide a flexible strike capability that could deploy worldwide on short notice without declaration of an emergency. The 4th Infantry Division at Fort Lewis, Washington, and the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, were designated as STRAC's first-line divisions, while the 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley, Kansas --- of which following basic and AIT I, the Wanderling, was, except for a few run-ins with the ASA and being on TDY all the time, a member in good standing up to my ETS --- and the 82d Airborne Division at Fort Bragg were to provide backup in the event of general war. The 5th Logistical Command (later inactivated), also at Fort Bragg, would provide the corps with logistics support, while Fort Bragg's XVIII Airborne Corps Artillery would control artillery units.
With thanks to Mark A. Olinger, Airlift Operations During the Lebanon Crisis, Army Logistician, Vol. 37, No. 3, May-June 2005
The meeting between Warhol and me fell right on the heels of De Acosta's death. Warhol had an obsession with both death and celebrities. The British art dealer and curator Anthony d'Offay once said he remembered being stuck in a lift (elevator) with Warhol one time and looking at Warhol's pallid skin, covered in powder, and thinking to himself, "This is the image of death." The Wanderling had heard such things about the artist, but did not know him. He did think that Warhol seemed rattled during their time together, although it could have been one of his regular traits. Because De Acosta was their only mutual connection and she and her passing was on the forefront of almost every conversation, Warhol continued to bring up the Wanderling's Near Death Experience and what happens to a person after death.(see)
Interestingly enough, for Warhol, the topic of those conversations, almost as if in premonition, became more that just talk. Within days of his departure from California, on June 3, 1968, he was shot in the chest at close range after arriving at his New York studio. The bullet ripped through one of his lungs, tore up his esophagus, then passed through his gall bladder, liver, spleen, and intestines before exiting his left side, leaving a huge hole in its wake.(see) At the hospital Warhol was pronounced clinically dead. He remained dead for well over a minute pushing into two before the medical team was finally able to revive him. He was in the hospital for two weeks followed by a few more weeks at home. Sometime after that an unusual sized package, about three feet by three feet square and around three or four inches thick, arrived in care of the Wanderling at the studio of an up and coming artist he knew in the Santa Monica/Venice area of California, somewhat west along the coast from Los Angeles. In that package, in honor of De Acosta through Andy Warhol's studio in New York, was a three foot by three foot signed by Warhol artist's proof print of Marilyn Monroe similar in color, tone and texture to the following:
MERCEDES DE ACOSTA AND ANDY WARHOL
SCENE FROM THE ORIGINAL TERRY AND THE PIRATES AS DRAWN BY MILTON CANIFF DATED JANUARY 27, 1935.
At the end of the summer of 1953, just as I was about to start the 10th grade or so, the August - September #6 issue of the comic book Mad came out. Inside #6 was a story, drawn by my all time favorite non-animator cartoonist Wallace Wood, that spoofed or satired big-time the long running comic strip Terry and the Pirates, with Wood in his spoofing, calling it Teddy and the Pirates.
Although I had followed Terry and the Pirates a good portion of my life, and knew how Milton Caniff, the artist-cartoonist of the strip, presented Terry's world that he and his so-called Pirates lived in, Wood's top-half opening drawing below, showing his version of an underbelly far east like milieu, real or not, that exemplified the Asian atmosphere along with the rest of the story hit me like a hammer, with me, the teenager that I was, sucking up his version as my version and as my version, the real version. Ten years later, thanks to Uncle Sam and his friendly Selective Service, found me in Rangoon, Saigon, and Chiang Mai, as well as other such places, even meeting warlords. Those ten years after high school, especially in and where I traveled, having gone from a teenager to an almost mid-twenties GI, my vision not only didn't wane, but was bolstered and grew. Notice the tommy guns, stabbings, hand grenades and exotic women. So too in the second panel, i.e., lower left hand corner, the two crashed P-40 Flying Tigers.
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