Henry, one of my oldest friends, phoned me yesterday. We hadn’t talked in seven years, and he lives only a few blocks from me. He said he had received reports that I had put his personal information on the Internet.
I was at work and couldn’t talk, so I told him not to worry, and I’d call him back that evening. When we talked, he was all business like. I explained that I was writing my life story, and he played a significant part in that personal amazing experience. I apologized and justified the violation of using his full name and home address on the basis that my writing was stream of consciousness.
I get many calls with complaints about my photographs, asking me to remove them, but this was the first instance arising from my on-going Paradise Life story. Even today, as I checked my voicemail, a surprisingly bizarre message was waiting for me. With Ashcroft/Bush/Rumsfeld in office, everyone thinks they have control over what you can and cannot do.
The message was: You photographed my daughter in Lords Valley. I am going to call the State Police on you, weirdo creep. I had pointed my camera at a gasoline stop girl without clicking the shutter. She wasn’t model material for an interesting shot. However, I had photographed the dude behind the counter in the same Lords Valley gas pit stop, and gave him my business card because he noticed my Leica camera right away.
Henry called me again at 7:00 a.m. the next morning and we Googled his full name. It came up as a number three entry, showing a listing from my live journal drugaddict site.
One great thing about Google is that people I have lost contact with contact me when they Google their own name. Most often it’s other people discovering mutual acquaintances and alerting their friends to their discovery. Most people reaching me are friends of lost friends, exuberant and happy to have stumbled upon and located some little bit of information about a mutual friend.
However, a few are horrified after learning that they are associated with my web site. I first tell them that it’s an ego thing. People do change, grow up, and lead different lives. Some are not comfortable about their past and don’t appreciate being a part of my daily on-going social documentary artwork.
I assured Henry that I would eliminate his last name and address, which I did. He was worried that some spaced-out junkie in need of a fix might come to his house and break in to get the drugs that are stashed there.
What they might find is his dead, rare, and almost extinct frozen Mata-Mata turtle preserved in ice instead. Henry didn’t mind the fact that I had written the story, and reminded me of a funny event, of the two of us in Nairobi, Kenya, which caused me to think of David this morning, as I was waking up.
Both Henry’s and David’s parents are dead. Henry’s mother died of Alcoholism at an early age and his father died of old age. The amazing thing about Henry’s demeanor was that at the beginning of our conversation he was seriously distant and all business like, as if we hadn’t been close friends for 31 years. By the end of the conversation our friendship was as it had always been. I witnessed the mask of Henry’s persona change, in a matter of minutes.
As I was removing Henry’s middle and last name, he was asking me over the phone if I lived in the same place, if I parked in the same place, what kind of car was I driving, and the make and color of the vehicle. He went on to say he could afford the best lawyer in town, and my car windows would be smashed, and the tires sliced and punched with a knife by an associate in need of quick cash.
Hopefully this was all said in jest and with humor, but my suspicions were that he wasn’t expecting my immediate response of willingness to remove his name. I said: Henry, I still want that mint condition Rolls Royce convertible that you rarely drive and have no need for now that you are a Hare Krishna.
Henry went on to say that it is a two-door coupe and only 37 were ever made in 1936. Henry said that he won the best mint condition award for any Rolls at the Rolls Royce club event. I didn’t remind him that he told me the same story when we last spoke seven years ago.
He stated that his father taught him early on not to flaunt his wealth, because that could be a dangerous thing, but that he now lived a simple life, comfortably. Henry said, so you want me to leave the Rolls to you in my will, and I said, no because I may die before you, and that would be no fun.
I asked Henry if I should remove the portrait that I had taken of him sitting in front of his Endangered Species Zebra Warhol print wearing his Krishna robe, looking humble like a Beastie Boy in a meditative trance. He said no.
Henry’s Nairobi story is funny. This was his first exposure to Africa and we were on the way to the Island of Mauritius, traveling with my mother. We had an overnight stay at the New Stanley Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya.
I had lived previously in the New Stanley a few years earlier when I was evacuated from Uganda, living life in luxury for four months while my father closed the American Embassy in Uganda. President Idi Amin had threatened the lives of Americans, and had expelled the embassy’s Marine Guards, saying they were a subversive military threat to his regime.
When we arrive in our hotel room I tell Henry to give me some cash so I can get some weed. I have this adrenaline rush, because I haven’t had any African weed in a few years, and I want to take advantage of being in East Africa, even if it’s only for a few hours. I slip out even before we unpack, and I am back in fifteen minutes with a garbage bag full of Marijuana, 10-inch-long tops.
The weed has a pink tinge to it and is so powerful that we got paranoid. Henry was in utter amazement that I had scored so quickly, such powerful stuff, and such a huge quantity, for pocket change. I told Henry that we had to smoke as much as possible, because I could only smuggle a small amount for our journey to the Island of Mauritius. We actually had to flush most of the weed down the toilet. A first for me.
Two nights ago Henry left a voice mail message for me, saying that it was thirty years ago today that he bought the most expensive airline ticket of his life on Pan American Airlines, a first class ticket to Mauritius Island. It was with gratitude he was thanking me for the opportunity of introducing him to exotic parts of the world.
I first met David when were evacuated from Uganda and I lived at the New Stanley Hotel in Nairobi. We first stayed in his house, with his mother and twin sisters. He was 10 years old at the time and I must have been 15. I feel bad because I may have had some influence on his corruption into Juvenile Delinquency. David’s life has been more tragic than mine. His father was an American diplomat and had died young of a heart attack. So he didn’t have a father when we met. He was already addicted to cigarettes and Marijuana at the age of ten.
David would visit me, and other friends, at the various hotels where we would hang out in Nairobi. One day he purposely burned cigarette holes in some curtains in the cocktail lounge lobby of the Nairobi Hilton. This was so uncool because as a result we were all banned from the hotel. This was after David threw some rocks off the rooftop onto cars passing below. David was so out of control that we didn’t know what to do about him except feel sad for him, because he was fatherless.
A few years later, when were both in Washington, I was witnessing David turning into what now may be called these days a Thug. He was more grown-up but now a young criminal. He had a large trench coat and a bong. I wasn’t any different but at least I was discreet.
I was selling drugs at the time, practically giving them away: Marijuana, Cocaine, Bi-Phetamine, Psilocybin Mushrooms, Microdots, Opiated Hashish, and Hash Oil. I was a terrible businessman. Even to this day I give my photographs away. I had the hippie, free drugs, free sex, free world mentality. My goal was to stay high all the time. I was selling at cost, to keep people high. I had Plexiglas bongs in every psychedelic color for sale, at one dollar a pop. I noticed that David was trouble, indiscreet, and maybe he would bring the heat on my activities.
David’s mother was a Consular officer at the U.S. Embassy in England. She denied some Jamaican drug dealers visas to travel to the United States. She was found mysteriously and violently murdered in her apartment in London. David had been missing for many years prior to that, and some people immediately thought he might have been involved.
However, we know it was the Jamaican drug gang that murdered his mother in retaliation for her preventing the Jamaican drug mafia dudes from gaining entry into the United States. I later learned that David was in jail in California and I talked with his sister, who had contacted my mother. My mother says she is a darling young woman.
I told Lisa to have her brother David call me, because life had completely changed for me. It was uncomfortable and she really didn’t want to talk about David, as he had been an embarrassment. David always looked up to me and I was hoping I could share with him about the miracle of recovery and the incredible journey that I have had along the way. I really wanted to know what had happened with his life.
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