The End of My 3 Year Thailand Vacation
(This was written as a Post on a Facebook Group called “Save Bumdog” that was created to crowd fund my release from a Thailand Jail. I had been off Facebook for two years prior, so I had allot of splainning to do)
First I want to express the fullest of my gratitude to everyone here. But anything I could say would be a total understatement of how overwhelmed I was to find out this group even existed. If what I say does not seem to convey enough appreciation, it is because what has been done for me here, is still quite difficult for me to grasp.
For those of you who don’t know exactly what happened as to why I was in custody, no it was not anything as glamourous as drug smuggling, nothing as sleazy as being caught with underaged girls, and it was no where near the level of the mentality it takes for human trafficking. Although I was actually living in the middle of all the above.
My problem was much more boring….I just didn’t have enough money to pay for a renewed visa. I was technically an illegal alien in Thailand for the majority of the three and half years i was there. And unlike a illegal Hispanic in blending into Los Angeles landscape. I STOOD OUT. Up front I owe 20,000 baht in overstay fees, which is somewhere around $600- $700. That plus traveling and getting a new visa it would have taken me close to $1000 to clear up everything, but I couldn’t go out and get work because I couldn’t be SEEN working. I was stuck and on the run at the same time. Or as my frined Brian Beker accurately put it, I was often “on the run and in your room”.
I survived by doing odd jobs, family and friends back home and the kindness of women. But all that only went so far. I couldn’t get a full-time job without a visa. I got tired of hitting up my family and friends (one of the reasons I stayed off Facebook, was to resist the temptation of broadcasting how much trouble I was constantly in). And although I could have gotten “certain” women to support me, I may be a bum but I ain’t no pimp.
People had wanted me to come back to LA. But there was nothing for me in Los Angeles. At best it wouldn’t be any different. Every where I go I take myself with me. And there were much more possibilities of doing things in Thailand. If I could just get something going, there were a bunch of irons in the fire, but I needed time, and some luck. But the window of opportunity was closing. In the end it closed shut with a shocking speed.
It got to the point where I was out of options. Although at the time overstaying your visa wasn’t that great an infringement, as there were foreigners in Thailand who regularly overstayed their visa for months and even years anddecades. The Thai government was very lax on the subject. But in the last few months the Thailand government was overthrown by the military. And things that had been tolerated before were put to the sword. And one of many of them was overstaying your visa.
They gave a date and an ultimatum, that if you gave yourself up by this date they would go easier on you. I was living in the south of Thailand in Hua Hin, when I decided to turn myself in. I wasnt looking forward to it, because more then likely they were gonna put in prison for while. And a Thailand prison isn’t anything to fuck with. A friend of mine who had done time in the “Bangkok Hilton” prison describe it as Auschwitz. Although I thought that was an exaggeration at the time, nothing I heard about it afterward contradicted what he said.
But I didnt see any other way. Then just as I was about to go in (I had given up my beautiful tin roof shack and gave all my stuff away), a friend of mine in the northeast of Thailand in Nong khai, offered to pay for my Overstay and visa. So I made the trek up north, but when I got there my friend said he talked to immigration and they said even if I PAID the overstay fines, they were STILL going to arrest me. And that just having me around was a risk to him and I had to go.
I decided to turn myself in again, I walked to the police immigration office, I was about twenty meters away from it when I decided to sit down on the bench outside and enjoy my last few moments of freedom. I was just gonna wait there until one of them asked me what I was doing there, and then I’d let them know why I was there. It just so happened that there was sporadic Internet. And I was Skyping people, and when I Skype a friend of mine living in the South of Thailand whose name was Penguin, that I was going to turn myself in, he told me it’s best to go in with with a monk or someone Thai, or the police could do whatever they wanted to me.
I took the advice and left. I didn’t have any money, so I called up a tuk tuk driver (which is something like a motorized rickshaw taxi in south east Asia), that I used to use all the time when I live in town a year before. I was always very generous with him when it came to money. I asked him if I could stay with him until I got this straightened out, he said yeah sure.
I tried to find someone to go with me to immigration. But it was difficult explaining exactly what the problem was, and what I wanted from them. In English it would have been hard, in my pigeon Thai it was impossible.
I stayed with the tuk tuk driver and his wife in their shack that was literary built on stilts, on a pond of water. I slept in the small partition that was for their 16 son, who at the moment was doing time in jail for selling marijuana. While I was there they also fed me everyday. I was really humbled by their hospitality. Although I also knew he expected me to eventually pay him back for his generosity. And sure enough after a few days, he got drunk and demanded money from me. I told him I didn’t have any, and he called the police telling them he had a American here who had overstayed his visa. But it was late at night and they didn’t care. They told him unless there was a fight it wasn’t worth their time. So I left.
After that I bounce around the city for several days sleeping next to the river Mekong as far out of sight as I could. One day I stayed a whole day at a Buddhist temple, trying to them get them to come with me to immigration. It was the largest monastery in the city, very long sprawling land. They told me to wait, and while I was waiting I fell asleep. When I woke up it was dark and I couldn’t find anyone. The gates were locked, and I went around the grounds yelling “HELLO!? HELLO!?” . I gave up, found a couple discarded orange monk robes, used them as blankets and slept until three in the morning, then hopped the fence and took off. As much trouble as I was already in I didn’t want to add trespassing on a Buddhist monastery to it.
The next day while I was sleeping in the afternoon in a local park the tuk tuk driver that called the cops on me found me, he begged me to come back to his house. I said no way, no how. He said everyone was mad at him for kicking me out. He had lost face with his whole family over it. Although his family barely knew me, they knew what he was like when he got drunk, therefore gave me the benefit of the doubt. I told him I wasn’t going back to his house and that was that. He literally followed me down the street pleading with me to come back with him. People were staring, it was embarrassing. Finally he called his sister in law who spoke English and asked her to talk to me. She said she wanted me to come over to her house and stay, and that his brother wanted me to teach him English. I tried to explain that there could be problems for them. But they didn’t understand and just wanted me to come over. I just couldn’t refuse them, so went to their house where I would stay for the next week. The brother gave me his room and they fed me everyday. It’s hard to describe the genuine generosity and sweetness of the Thai people if you have never experienced it. Even after three years it still left me in awe.
But what now? The only possibility open to me, was getting to the Cambodia border going across the river and bribing with $100 the Cambodian police to give me a visa. That was what allot of the Russians were doing. But I was nowhere near the Cambodian border, I didnt have anything near $100, and I had no where near the Russian mentality to corrupt law enforcement. So what do I do? I realized I did not have the genetic disposition to walk into a police station and give myself up. Although most people were very nice to me, allot of the neighbors gave me the evil eye. And I knew it was a matter of time before immigration came knocking. Brian accused me of waiting around for magic to happen. He was right, but at that stage of it, “magic” was the only REALISTIC solution to what I was facing. That is what a dead end of a maze I was at.
This being a small town eventually immigration came calling. It was really a routine check. They had heard there was an American here who was broke and had no where to go. The officer honestly said he was there to help me out. And I believed him. However when he saw in my passport that I was ONE YEAR over my visa, he said he had no choice but to take me in.
At the immigration office they let me check my email one last time, and I sent one out to a few friends titled the “The jig is up”. Telling them immigration had me. They booked me, and took god knows how many pictures of me with their smartphones. In fact not just of me, but took picture of me WITH them as well. (that was always an American stereo type of the Japanese: their constant picture taking. But apparently it’s embedded in Asian culture in general).
Next stop jail. The cells were about 4 feet by 12 feet. Which meant you had to sleep in a fetal position or standing up. The bathroom was in a larger separate cell that an old man was in. He told me it was best to crash out here because I wouldn’t be able to fit in the other room. He was only medium height and even he had problems with the smallness of the cells.
Apparently they didn’t feed you in jail, if your friends or family didn’t bring you food you didn’t eat. I saw friends, girlfriends and family bring the other prisoners food, that they happily shared with me.
The old man was in there for stealing a bottle of whiskey from Tesco. He was looking at 8 years. He said if he had money he could get himself out. To wit he keep asking me for money. I told if I had money I wouldnt be here either. I asked him where we were gonna go after this? He said without money they would send us to the Bangkok prison. Had he ever done time there? He said yeah. What it was like? His eyes got wide as he looked up directly at me and said Thai “NOT GOOD AT ALL”.
The way he said it, with his eyes filled with the horrors of distant memories, gutted me.
Then to my shock I heard “Bumdog! Bumdog!”. I looked out and saw the whole family that I was staying with outside the bars. They had brought me a bunch of food and some money. I truly had this notion in my head that they would be upset that I didn’t let them know they were harboring a fugitive in their home. But that didn’t even seem to occur to them at all, and we were all laughing and joking between the bars. I was SO SO happy to see them all. Only my mother had ever come to visit me in jail before. They had even brought their 8 year old daughter to say goodbye to me. It was like a going away party there.
When they left I looked around the cells and everything seemed brighter. No matter what happens to me after this, the whole thing was still worth it. Yeah.
Back in the cells I was hearing more stories about prison. No prison uniforms, strip naked all the time. 300 men in rooms that hold 50. Sleeping sitting with your knees around your chest, or standing up. And other things I don’t even want to repeat here. Then I saw something that REALLY freaked me out. There were some prison transfers, and these men, mostly kids, came in with these IRON CHAINS around their ankles. I’m talking slave ship type iron chains, they must have weighed ten pounds at least. Just looking at them chilled me to the bone. I started thinking about how in LA County Jail they could chain you from waist to ankles. But it was that sliver lightweight stainless steel. It was a fashion accessory compared to what I was seeing now.
The next day things got more UNCLEAR as to what was happening. All the “official” statements contradicted each other. When I first got there they said I was going to prison because owed 20,000 baht, which was true. Now they said I owed a 2,000 baht fine (about $70), which was ridiculous. But they told me if I paid the 2,000 baht I would stay out of prison. Ooookaay if you say so. I manage to call the friend who had invited me up and had him talk to the officer. He came to the jail and gave me three thousand baht. I was sitting on the floor of that jail cell….no actual the floor of the TOILET OF THE JAIL CELL, thinking how does life get better then this? Having such good friends is what it’s REALLY about.
However legally speaking I still had no idea what was going on. What exactly they were going to do me was never explain to me with any assurance. Now they said I was getting deported. But then my translator said I could ask a judge to allow me to stay, in which case they would let me go, and I would have three days to pay the 20,000 fine and my visa would be extended. He said the same thing happened to another american he was translating for a few months before.
I grabbed onto that last ray of hope with all my might. If I could some how get out of this without getting deported meant there really was a God. Angels did exist. That this universe is truly built on the foundation of divine love and wisdom, and I am a part of it, I am connected to it, protected and loved by it. And the fact that I was going to be allowed to stay in Thailand was proof of it.
They transferred me to an immigration detention center. When I got there I asked when I could see the judge about letting me stay?
They looked at each other confused and said “No judge….we send you to Bangkok, then deport you to America.”
“What about asking a judge to extend my visa?”
At that they all laughed. “You Overstay ONE YEAR. And now you want extended visa? Hahahaha!”
“But I was told I’d be able to see a judge?”
They shook their heads no, they had had enough of this conversation, and just pointed me to the door that lead to the cells. They put me in a large dorm with a bunch of Bangladeshis refugees, many of whom thought I was from India (?!?!?). Later I was given proof positive that I was going to be deported back to America, no ifs, ands, or buts about it.
That’s when I realized I was connected to the universe alright. And it was obvious what end I was connected to. “Angels looking after me” and my rosy Irish ass!
FUCK!!! Deported….. AGAIN! The same thing happened to me years ago in Europe. They caught me in Spain with an overstayed visa, and no money, and deported me all the way back to Los Angeles. Such complete and humiliating defeat is hard to describe unless you’ve experienced it. Absolutely nothing ever fuckin changes. I’m always gonna be the same fuckin loser. Everywhere I go I take myself with me. Europe, Thailand, America no matter where I go it’s always gonna be the same shit…always, always, always….the same, same, same, same, same…..hmmm…Then I began to have an epiphany. If it doesn’t matter whether I’m in Thailand or Los Angeles, why should I be upset about being deported back?
The thought of “Everywhere I go I take myself with me” was always a kind of never healing open wound I had, that I would periodically pick and poke into in my self pitying phases. Now the invincibility of that statement struck me. That’s actually why I deliberately became a bum in the first place. “Everywhere I go I take myself with me.” Meant I could go anywhere without fear. True I was a loser, but I could be a loser anywhere, in any country. It’s not like those people who peak in high school, or college or in their early 20’s. Or people who can only be winners if they stay in their own town, or city, or job. And Ive accomplished way more as a loser, then most people who think of themselves as “winners” ever have or will do. And if I get thrown in jail and deported so what? I just get up and go be a loser in another country. It’s all the same. The “same”. The “sameness” now had an endless variety to it. The iron chained fate of “nothing was ever going to change” now made me dizzy with possibilities. Behind these bars I now felt strangely free, and more, and more ok with what the future held for me. I was already planning my next adventure. Next I’m going to India and get deported from there.
But for now, what was the immediate future? Brian Beker had apparently gotten in touch with the American Embassy, and let them know I was there. Which I was latter to learn was a godsend, because I met others Americans the embassy had lost track of. The embassy called me and It was explained to me that they would first try to get money from my family and friends, if that didn’t work they would loan me the money, and confiscate my passport until I repaid them. Sounded fine. They faxed the detention center I was in with a form to fill out of three people for them to contact for money. I wrote down two people who I knew didn’t have money, and one who I knew didn’t give a fuck. That should make for a quick investigation. From what I was hearing from the my cellies is that as an American I would get out pretty quick probably a few days after the American embassy realized I had no one to get me out. I was imagining getting back to LA with no money, I would either panhandle or collect cans dumpster diving, depending on where I ended up. I was actually looking forward to it.
Before this went down, when i talked to some of my friends about the problems I was having, they talked about starting a fund raiser for me, but I always told them DON’T DO THAT! A “Fundraiser for Bumdog” was the last thing I wanted. That was one of the reason I got off of Facebook (one of the considerations anyway. There were many reasons). The nature of it was I was constantly broadcasting how bad I was doing. And of course my friends would always help me out, which I greatly appreciated, but it was happening too regularly. So now, no fundraisers, nonononono, is what I told those who brought it up.
The embassy called me back and it turns out they had three wayed the line so that Brian Beker was on the line with the embassy representative listening.
“Hey Bumdog. How are you?”
“Fine, all things considered I’m ok.”
“Well I think we are gonna be able to get you out. We started a group there are already 30 members and fundraiser to get the money to get you out.”
WHAT?!?!?!?! Then I remembered I never told Brian I didn’t want any fundraisers for me, because he was on of the few who had never brought it up. I was instantly grateful that so many people cared about me, but at the same time I wanted to tell him to STOP THAT and give everyone their money back. But the embassy was listening on the line, and if they thought I wasn’t doing everything I could to get up the money, they wouldn’t loan me the money for the flight. I was between a rock and hard place. So I couldn’t do anything but go with the flow of it.
“Thank you, Brian. I mean really, thank you.”
A couple of days later I got transferred to Bangkok Immigration Detention Center: IDC. They took me up to one of the dorm rooms where it was 80 men in the one room, everyone sleeping on the floor, striped down to their underwear. People slept almost shoulder to shoulder, but since I had heard of it being much worse, I figured I had gotten lucky.
I got a spot next to an old dutchman. Surveying the room I ask him how long he had been there?
A couple of days. But there are people here who have been here for months, one for two years, another for five. There is one man here who has been here for 9 years.
9 YEARS?! In this one room? No way.
Yah its true.
And that’s where I stayed. For 23 hours out of the day we all just laid there on the sheet like blankets, in our shorts (although they let us out for two hours, three times a week for exercise). They didn’t feed you here beyond what was prerequisite by the Geneva Convention. Breakfast, lunch and dinner was the same thing. A handful of rice, and a palmful of some sort of vegetable. The rice was terrible. I think it came with a label AFTER THIS DATE THROW AWAY, OR FED TO PRISONERS. And I have no idea what the vegetable was, but I can tell one thing: it was cheap. What first kept me looking on the bright side of things, were all this guys with Overstay violations, who unlike me didn’t escape prison. Arrogant egotistical Brits and Germans who came out of those prisons BROKEN. Describing conditions that made where they were now look like a summer camp.
There were a couple of readable English books there, over 600 pages each, that I went through in a few days. And then I started losing it. It wasn’t the confinement, that I could deal with. It wasn’t that it was particularly uncomfortable place. I’ve lived in worse. It was the sensory deprivation of lying there 23 hours with absolutely nothing entering my mind. No music, nothing to watch, nothing to read, no one to talk to about anything other then what we were both looking at. My mind wasn’t receiving any thoughts. As a result it was starting to feed on itself. One thing that saved me was that my friend Tracy Williams Western Unioned me $50, so I could buy things while I was in jail. I don’t remember when money meant so much to me in my life. I was able to buy food for myself and some other people around. It was my only relief.
For various reasons it took the American embassy five days before they came to see me. They were doing the best they could, but I’ll tell you they didn’t inspire allot of confidence. This all seemed to so…NEW to them. In fact I don’t know how many times I heard them say things like “That’s new, when did they start that?” “I didn’t know that.” “I’m just now learning about this.”
It’s like if you were flying in a plane over the middle of the pacific ocean and the captain came over the speakers and said “Well I was sitting here with nothing better to do, so I decided to look at this FLIGHT MANUAL, for the first time. And you know what? There’s allot of useful information in it!”
The lady from the embassy said the cheapest ticket they could arrange for me was for $560, but that I would have to be in there over another two weeks. Great…She also said that my friends still hadn’t gotten enough money to get me out. Which didn’t surprise me, I really didn’t think most of my friends had more then $500 spare cash put together. The lady said then when they were SURE it wasn’t possible for my friends to raise the money, the government would loan me the money for the ticket. Exactly how long it would take before they were “sure” wasn’t clear. I told her Id rather borrow the money from the government then my friends. Because Id rather stiff the government then my friends. But I didn’t say that to her. I went back to my dorm, to my place on the floor determined not to lose my marbles. I hadn’t lost any yet, but they were definitely starting to shake loose.
The next day I was surprise to be told I had a visitor. My friend Nesi from Hua Hin, who had taken a day off from work to travel up to Bangkok to bring me some food and money. We yelled at each other across the gates, with everyone else around us yelling across the same gates to their visitors too. He was telling about the group that had been formed for me, and that there were all sorts of crazy fights going back and forth over EXACTLY what to do. Oh god are you kidding me? Then he told me…
“But they did manage to raise $1350 for you.”
There was no way I heard that correctly
“They raised $1350.”
I yelled back “What?!”
“$1350!” he yelled.
“No! ONE THOUSAND…..THREE HUNDRED…..AND FIFTY DOLLARS!!!”
Right there I suddenly had a flashback to a few years ago when the side of my mouth blew up with an abscess tooth. I called a dentist and the receptionist said it would cost $500 to pull it out. I had $600 on me at that moment, but I had said no thanks. She warned me that an abscess tooth could kill me. I thought about and decided my life just wasn’t worth $500…. And now someone was telling me there were enough people in this world who thought I was worth $1350. It completely blew my mind.
Nesi told they were holding on to get me enough money to get situated when I got back to LA. I said FUCK THAT! GET ME OUTTA HERE!!!! I entertained the thought of still telling the embassy that my friends weren’t able to get enough money, loan the money for the flight from the government, then when I got back to America I spend all the that money on a new computer, then I’d be able to work and I wouldnt have to panhandle or dumpster dive when I got back. But that was too cut and dry, and if there was one thing I learned about Thailand, is that NOTHING happens so orderly. The money came to me a few days later. By which time no amount of money was worth my freedom, or more to the point my sanity. I bought the earliest ticket which was four days later, for about $1,000 and I was off.
As of this writing I’ve been back in LA for 6 days. I’m in my element again. But thats another story.
Its not that Itake this for granted, it’s that I didn’t expect anything like this, so I just don’t know what to say now that it has happened. The meaning of it goes far beyond money or getting out of jail, or any other of that three dimensional stuff. What you’ve all done for me means allot more to me then what you’ve done for me….can anyone understand that?
And yes while I thank you all in general. I want to specifically thank (and this is not in order of importance) the people who help me get out of jail.
Brian Beker….who always takes it to the extreme ends. And if he is your friend and you need help that is exactly what you will get.
Tracy Williams….one of those people who it is simple impossible to express the actually amount of gratitude I have to. And that was true long before this even happened.
Nesi papoushado….you are the type of friend that makes me want to be a better person.
Britney Andrews…..there’s nothing you can ever ask me that I wouldnt give you (except starring in any of those “Bitch Boys” videos).
Shelly Fontaine….I have still dreams that you quickly roller skate in and out of.
Chris Lowenstien….I wish I could somehow pay you back, but all I do is write and make movies. And I know those two occupations don’t have any interest to you.
Flame Schon….Chris wanted me to help you with one of your projects. Please contact me about it.
Bill Barker and Cecilia Belletti …I have no idea who you two are, but you got a friend for life with me.
Special thanks to Lilliana Braico, Amanda McWilliams, Cat Asche and Chris Bava.
Chris and Cat were very good friends of mine. They were killed in a car accident along with Mark Bava in late 2012. Their deaths really struck me really hard. Neither one of them believed in any kind of spirit world. I used to have violent arguments with Chris about the existence of God and a life after death. And Cat refused to look at anything I sent her that whiffed of channeled material like Ramtha, Abraham Hicks, or Seth. “Wingnuts” she called them.
What is ironic about this is that since they were killed, more then any other of my family and friends who have also died, I feel them around me the strongest and most consistent. They always helped me when I needed it most. And through all this I could feel that same energy that they exuded. “Don’t worry we will get you out of this.” I kept FEELING Chris say to me, with Cat always in the background nodding in agreement. Their spirits were too uncomfortable in this world. Theyre in their element now too.