Thursday, July 16, 2009

Just Another Monk Week

So, let's see... the Internet went down this weekend, that's why I've been out of touch... oh, and the fact that I spent last night in a jail cell on charges of indecent exposure... but I suppose that's just par for the course at this point.

I went to the beach yesterday; actually, I never set foot on the beach... I went back to this nifty meditation spot I had found on Sunday, about 1/2 km from the beach, just behind the sand dunes. Here's some pictures:

Trees on the Hill

These are the trees I went to Sunday; yesterday I was looking for something a little quieter...

The Sand Dunes

Here's the sand dunes; the beach with the streaker is on the other side.

At the Foot of a Tree

Here's the tree at whose foot I sat to meditate for a while and make a video about impermanence, suffering and non-self (uploading as I write...). Little did I know, the impermanence joke was on me. As I walked out of the copse of trees to head back up the road to my rains-residence, a state trooper comes walking up to me and asks to talk with me. A little bit puzzled, I said sure, and he asked me some questions about where I'd been, etc. Then two more troopers show up and they're on their radios, and then telling me that there was a streaker on the beach, and that he had been wearing an orange towel. Or blanket. Or robe, it seems, because they then proceeded to get a positive identification on the sorriest Buddhist monk in Grover Beach, frisked and handcuffed me, read me my rights and put me in a state trooper down to the county jail.

I should note at this point that they probably wouldn't have taken me to the jail had I been carrying identification... silly me, why didn't I think I might get mistaken for a over-exuberant nude artist that close to the beach?

Anyway, so I get to the jail, and I'm treated quite a bit better than a pig in a slaughter house, which description is by way of kindness towards my captors. First they made some jokes about me having a video camera (again, I should have foreseen that a monk carrying a video camera means he's obviously taking videos of himself exposed to little girls), then about my water flask which of course looked from the outside to be "full of whiskey". One older warden-guy comes in and says, "You arrested a monk?" (Yeah, that's what I was thinking...) One of the younger guys turns to him and said, "well, what would you do if [the rest in a whisper]?" His reply, "I would have kicked him in the nuts and let him go." Ah, Americans. After they've had their fun, I'm put in a cell with five guys who turned out to be a whole lot nicer than the kaki-clad jail-warden dudes glaring at us through the glass door. They (my fellow felons) ask me, wearing only my lower robe, "what're you in here for?" Ah, real people. I start, "I'm a Buddhist monk..." and by the time I get to the part about the streaker, they're all "aw"ing in support, as miffed as I am that anyone could make such a stupid mistake.

Then, I guess somebody remembers that I requested a private cell (actually, they asked, I expressed mild approval, they radioed in that I was asking for a private cell because I was a Hari Krishna and was worried for my safety). They pull me out, put me in another cell with no phone (I hadn't noticed that yes, indeed, the first cell was the only place to make our rightful phone call). Two hours of shivering in my undergarments under a bright light and a strong fan later, with brief respite for mug shots and fingerprints, I'm brought to some guy-in-plainclothes's desk for what I can only assume is interrogation (d'oh... forgot to ask for a lawyer). Our conversation is something like:

He: So what are you doing here?
Me: I was invited by the owners of the Thai restaurant in Grover Beach to stay here for the rains; it's a tradition.
He: How long have they been here?
Me: About 10 years.
He: What are they idiots? Don't they know it doesn't rain here at this time of year? (Ah, inter-religious dialog)
Me: it's only a tradition, we have to stay put for three months.

Then I tell him about what REALLY happened to me today, and tell him I haven't even been given a phone call. He quickly helps me locate the number of the Thai restaurant and puts me back in the first cell, this time alone, to make a phone call, or two, or... I lost count at twenty. I spend the next two hours calling bail bond agents (yeah, I didn't know what they were either... don't let me ruin the surprise, just get arrested yourself) and the Thai restaurant, interspersed with shivering on the cement seat ("Can I have a blanket?" is apparently not an appropriate request in such a circumstance, believe me, the answer is "no.") and doing walking meditation back and forth to the toilet. (As an aside, I found the cell itself to be almost perfect as a meditator's cell - will keep it in mind for future meditation centers...)

Anyway, bail was set at $5,000 and our choices were a) pay the $510 bail bond agent's fee and put up collateral for the $5,000, b) put up the $5,000 in cash at the jail and get it back at court, c) stay in the jail and forfeit the rains.

At this point, I have to express my appreciation for the people who have supported me over the past five, six months. There've been a lot of people upset or at least unsupportive of my choices in life, but in the end, when the chips are down, it's amazing how people can just come together and pitch in to help a guy out of a jam... even a monk-guy. Thanks everybody, you know who you are.

So I get off the phone with Patrick with his reassurance that someone is going to drive from Los Angeles to post bail. When I told the "are they idiots?" guy, his "small heart grew three sizes" and he promised to get me a room. After another hour of shivering and irregular heart palpitations (no food since morning) they made me change into jail clothes (at least they were orange), gave me a few blankets and a paper bag and sent me to another cell. I made my bed, opened the paper bag and started reading the "So You Want To Be An Inmate" booklet with lots of interesting rules and regulations in case I should decide to: get married, make a religious confession, and so on. After that, I slept. I was woken up by Mr. Smiley who led me back to my robes (oh dear, I'll never take them for granted again!) and stuff, took me to a door, made me sign some papers and said, "I guess the best thing to say is make sure you go to court." Then the door slides open and there are twenty-or-so of the most beautiful people I've ever laid eyes on. I could have cried.

Okay, so it was only a misdemeanor, but I'dn't a clue what that meant anyway, and it was almost morning, so to me it felt exactly like Silvester Stallone in Lock Up... without the body-groping-lip-smashing-saliva-sharing stuff, and I didn't try the "amazing smile" routine on the dude with me:

Turns out no one had to drive from LA; they managed to scrape the bottoms of everyone's bank accounts and bail me out without foreign aid. We made the hour drive back to Grover Beach in good time and went to the restaurant to celebrate with food (they fooded, I drank ginger). Now I need a lawyer. Court date is on August 11th.

Documents From Hell

Go To Jail Free Card

Another day in the life of me.


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  2. gabor9:28 PM

    I'm glad it all ended reasonably, a sack of trouble falling on your head like this... Apparently many great friends care about you!

    Also... plenty of ammunition for fututre dhamma talks in there!

    Hands in Anjali,

  3. [...] Wednesday, July 7th, 5 PM, at the Los Angeles Metropolitan Detention Center, see the monk go back to [...]