Dag 120; Mandrem II

I’m having my usual milk coffee breakfast at the Arambol German Bakery. They make wicked baked vegetables, but today I settle for avocado/tomato bread rolls. Phoenix and Dogdog enters, have a look around and decide to join me.

They’re an unlikely couple, I met them through my tai chi class. Dogdog is about my age, Phoenix a couple of years younger. He looks older, though. Stubble for hair, wide shoulders, one big fucking tattoo covering his back; a bit quirky but quite the nice guy. Dogdog looks far more docile, totally like a family man. Apparently they joined up some time ago and now they’re travel mates.

"So," Phoenix starts, "you skipped chi kung yesterday?" "Yeah," I answer, "you know, for me it’s really strong, I mean, I’ve been kind of manic-depressive since it started, lots of stuff surfacing, I’m feeling kind of happy now so quite frankly I didn’t dare do it. I have enough processes going on, you know?"

Phoenix gives me one of his enigmatic smiles and say, "Sort out the ones you got going before starting up new ones. Sounds like a good idea. Myself, my biggest problem is the new age fluffy stuff Panda teaches. It’s not that I don’t understand, I just don’t agree."

Panda is our tai chi teacher. Phoenix pauses, prepares himself and offer anyone to take over, nobody does, so he continues, "I mean, I think he’s kind of making to much of simple techniques. It’s like when a teenager find drugs and turn it into a spiritual thing. I do agree that these are great techniques to get to know yourself, prepare and strenghten yourself, but I don’t think you can infer what he’s inferring from it."

I raise my eyebrows.

"Well," he explains, "the bit about the essence of man being unity, beauty, truth, peace and love. That is to say ’one half of the yin-yang is more essential than the other’ - and that is to belittle the universe. I think separatedness, deceit, discord and fear are also integral parts of the human experience. Some, probably most, people strive for unity and peace, that is true, but to derive from that that that is the essence of man, is just too much."

This is way to heavy for a breakfast conversation. The table falls silent. A waiter passes, Dogdog orders breakfast for them both.

"Anyway," I change the subject, "I didn’t sleep well the night before last night. The dogs kept me awake, yapping and howling."

In his slow, considerate voice, Dogdog say "Yeah, remember the dog some nights ago?"

He looks at Phoenix, explains to me, "I woke up in the middle of the night, about two o’clock in the morning, a dog was in our hut village. It sounded terrible. It howled and mewled like it was in some sort of physical or emotional pain. And it must have had some thick heavy fucking chain around it’s neck, because the dog was walking up the stairs to our hut veranda and you could hear the chain rattle. It was like a fucking horror movie. And it just wouldn’t stop sounding this horrible fucking howl, totally deranged, like the dogs gone crazy from pain. And I thought to myself, is this the movie where I get up, comfort the creature and ease it of its chain,"

"Or is it the movie where you get up, comfort the creature and die from rabies," Phoenix interrupts. Dogdog takes no notice, continues,

"or is this the movie where I just throw a water bottle at it?"

"And add to its pain" I suggest,

"And add to its pain," Dogdog agree, "Anyway, I just lay there, waiting for it to go away, and finally it did. Phoenix just turned over and slept thru it."

Their coffee arrives. It’s the Nescafe variety, even though some places serve perfectly good filter coffee.

"They have depressingly good western food here in Arambol," I say, "have you had the Pizza at Fellini’s yet? It’s marvellous. Real Italian pizza."

"I had real coffee and apple pie with ice cream for lunch at Double Dutch the other day," says Dogdog, "Disgusting, but delicious."

"Not to mention their steaks," Phoenix intercedes, "real steaks, with mashed potatoes. God, when I came here, I hadn’t had real steak for four months... you know how food can taste delicious the first few mouthfuls, but then it all just becomes food? Well, this steak, I tell you, I enjoyed it to the last bit."

I remember something funny, smile and chuckle to myself, they turn their attention on me.


"You know, in the Double Dutch, they have nets all over the place to protect people from falling coconuts?"


"Well, this Irish guy, I think his name was Tim or something, he told me he once was six feet away from coconut death. Think of it, he said with his Belfast accent, when they ship you home in a coffin from Goa; ’What did he die from? Overdose? Motorbike accident? No... coconut...’"

They smile, then Phoenix go

"I think more people die from motorcycle accidents than from falling coconuts though. I mean, Jesus, with all these foreigners driving like mad, most of them without a proper license and a good deal of them high like kites, stoned or drunk... especially in the dark. When I was wearing the cling film to protect my tattoo, people asked me if I’ve had an accident. That’s apparently the first explanation that springs to mind."

"By the way," I catch on, "how did you have the tattoo done?"

"In Anjuna, a couple of weeks ago, It’s a real good studio there, Andys tattoo. I knew directly when I looked thru his books that, ’this is the guy!’"

"It’s one big fucking tattoo," I comment, "I remember first seeing it, I thought ’fucking hell’, then ’that’s scaaary’ and finally, ’wow, that’s cool!’"

"Yeah, I didn’t see it myself until a couple of days after it was done. A friend of mine took a picture with a digital camera and showed it to me."

"You mean, you didn’t see the design on paper first?"

"No, I just told the man, I want a Phoenix and flames over the whole of my back, he drew it directly on my back, and then tattooed it in."

A moments awed silence, then I say,

"That’s... trusting..."

"Kind of reckless," he admits, "but that is how I am. And it worked out fine, didn’t it?"

"Yeah, it’s beautiful."

"Not finished though," Phoenix adds somewhat thoughtful, "It’s just the outline. I’ve got to find another tattooist to do the filling in. It’s probably another five or six hours job."

"How long did it take?"

"Five hours in total, about two and a half hours of it tattooing. Halfways thru, Andy put on some real good Goa trance on really high volume, that helped. I was mentally moving the pain from my back to the middle of my head, converting it into a lightshow and letting my mind trance dance to it. It was way cool. Left me in a seriously fucked up state, though, trancing into pain like that. God, I was primal afterwards."

"It was that painful?"

"Hell yeah," Phoenix smiles, "of course it was. Half the fun. But what’s the most interesting is that I never knew you could feel so many kinds of pain over your back. This is my first tattoo, you know. There are places on the back, particularly along the spine, where I just had to stop myself from screaming like a lady. The body twitches and moves involuntary. It’s like when I had my first piercing done - it’s not the pain in itself, but the kind of pain."

"I don’t know if I could do that to myself," I say, "I mean, I’m trying to think like, ’In what way is this supposed to make me happy?’ I can’t see it. I mean, I try to treat myself as I would a loved one, someone I care for, maybe like I would a trusty dog, I mean, I would never make my girlfriend do something like that, so why should I do it to myself?"

"I didn’t think that much about it. I just thought it would be another cool thing to do. I consider it a birthday present to myself."

Dogdog’s been silent for a long time, finishing his coffee.

"Sometimes," he adds seemingly out of context, "you take pain for the whims of the one you love."

Phoenix and I exchange glances. Clearly, he’s been somewhere else.

Outside the cafe, on the beach, dirty children play with garbage in the shade of a fishermans boat. Three boys, three girls, ranging from two to maybe nine. The girls are all clad in beautiful dresses despite their obviously poor living conditions. Their colors are cyan, yellow and green against the dry khaki and tea of the sand.

"You know that girl I told you about," Phoenix starts, "the girl I assaulted during my acid trip, said to her, you’re my message in a bottle? And she gave me water?"

"Yeah?" I say, Dogdog clearly already knows whatever it is Phoenix is going to tell.

"For some days after the trip, I always looked for her on the beach, waiting for somebody to come say ’hi! remember me?’ but nobody did."

A moments silence, then,

"Well, it turns out it’s Anja. In our tai chi-group, german Anja."

I half-open my mouth in surprise and smile wide,

"Ahhh, then I understand why you brought her water the first times!"

Phoenix nods,

"Repaid in full. She’s clearly infatuated with Panda."

"Yes, I saw that too, from the start. She’s obviously swallowing him whole."

"I told her about the state of man not being solely unity and bliss," says Phoenix, "and she sincerely answered, ’but he’s living in that state all the time’, her eyes big blue and wide. Poor thing. He’s just as fucked up as the rest of us."

"There’s a blurry line between self-mastery and self-slavery," I nod.

"I think", Dogdog abruptly states, "Panda’s a good teacher of good things."

Nobody disagrees, really.

The children outside are putting garbage into a grocery bag, the youngest boy meticulously hands over a coke bottle to an older boy. He first accepts it then reconsider and throws it away. The younger boy picks it up again, fiddles with it seemingly trying to decide if it’s worth it since the older boy disapproved. Cooperatively, they hang the bag on the handle of a rusty bicycle, then fight over who’ll sit on the saddle. None of them are big enough to do it but that doesn’t keep them from wanting to.

"Have you seen the blind dog," Phoenix asks me.

"You mean the dog with the scary, white eyes? Yeah. All the other dogs hate him. They always bark at him."

"Of course they do. In order to survive, he has to be over-aggressive. He has to take every fight, or else he will die. I can’t believe he really has survived. You have to admire that."

"That dog must have gone insane," Dogdog adds, "he’s living in a dark world, only scent and sound, where everything in it hates him, he’s completely and utterly alone. But he survives."

"Yeah," I add, "that’s why I find the pack of dogs that that couple always bring with them to class is such a refreshing comment on Pandas preaches on love and unity - their hostility to everyone outside of the group proving that the essence of dog is dog, the essence of human is human."

A thought strikes me, while we’re on the subject, I look at Dogdog, asks, "By the way Dogdog, how did you get that name?"

Dogdog stays silent long enough for Phoenix to answer for him;

"I gave it to him. It’s got to do with archetypes. Some time ago, we travelled with a south-african girl, she used to call dogs that looked like proper dogs, likeable dogs, dog-dogs. Dogdog is like that, the archetype of a likeable dog. It cought on. Like you and your ’crabman’."

Phoenix smiles at Dogdog silently contemplating the beach.

A very young mother or perhaps an much older sister comes out on the beach, grabs the youngest boy, dashes the sand off him with violent strokes. When he starts protesting, she lifts him up, carries him away. When the wailing doesn’t stop, she gives him a few good smacks over the face. It doesn’t stop the wailing. The other kids take no notice, they’ve stopped their fighting over the saddle and apparently decided on a division of responsibility. The oldest girl, maybe nine years old, steers the bike, some of them pushes the bike, the rest runs around it. They exit the scene.

Left is only the eternal picture of earth and water making silent love under the warm salty breeze of yet another Arambol morning.

And in this moment in time, only god knows when and how who is going where.

Love, Crabman