Gecko Poker

This was going to be a post for the “other – please post” in muchagecko's Tuesday diary entry poll, but I have no diary entry of my own today (as I have no life) and it's likely going to be a bit long anyway. So both my thanks and my apologies to the lovely Ms. Gecko.
Gecko thought it surprising that a Buddhist would read Tarot cards, but the only time anyone (except myself) has read my cards, it was a Buddhist who read them!
When I was in the Air Force, I spent a year in Utapao, Thailand. Now, to a westerner, going to the planet Mars would be slightly less strange than going to Thailand, at least when I went. A young woman from Thailand was recently an intern where I work, and from her accounts it has changed drastically, and I wouldn't recognize it.
This is NOT Taiwan, now, but Thailand. It is situated between Burma and India to the north, Malaysia to the south, and Laos and Cambodia separating it from Vietnam to the east. It used to be known as Siam. The country is roughly shaped like an elephant's head. The elephant is revered in Thailand, having helped build their civilization some five thousand years ago. Yes, they have a very long history. Elephants were used much like we use heavy construction equipment today. If someone gives you a statue of an elephant, refuse the gift if the elephant's trunk is raised; it is bad luck, a curse. If, however, the trunk is down, that is good luck. The reason is simple – if the elephant has its nose curled upward, it is about to charge. No land animal can survive an elephant's attack, save running away. However, with its trunk down, it is feeding or acting like a piece of heavy construction equipment.
Utapao is in the extreme south, on the elephant's trunk (er, is that “boot” for you British guys?;).
Vietnam is across the water. If you have a world globe or an atlas, you will see “Fuck it Island” (spelled “Phuket” on the map, the Thais have a different alphabet), very close to where I was. They may have renamed Utapao; it was a Thai navy base, and the Americans used it as an Air Force base, with B-52s.
The country was strictly third world, at least outside of Bangkok. No electricity or running water, except in businesses. Nobody had cars. They had these little Japanese pickup trucks with benches and canopies in the back, called “bhat buses.” You could ride about anywhere for a nickle – the American nickle exchanged for one Thai bhat.
Now, Thailand is strictly a Buddhist country. All Thais are Buddhist. They have Wats (what?), or Buddhist temples, all over the place. Also all over the place are priests who wear incandescent orange robes. The Buddhist priests do things that make Kwai Chaing Cane look like a clumsy dork. In fact, I saw a Thai boxing match between Thai boxers and Chinese Gungfu fighters; the Thais love the Chinese pretty much as well as the Arabs love the Jews, and pretty much for the same reasons. Only their conflicts have gone on for over five thousand years. Well, there was blood and broken bones, and the Chinese guys all went to the hospital.
Now, when I was nine or twelve I was an amateur magician; you know, like David Copperfield. Only not as good. I was also a geek, and you have of course heard the statement that any sufficiently advanced technology seems as magic. With this background, you can see where I was a huge skeptic of anything “magical” or arcane.
I have always been a readaholic, and read very fast. Sometime when I was stationed in Delaware, before Thailand, where I did little except ride my motorcycle, fix that God damned piece of shit Mustang, and read (mostly reading), I ran across Aleister Crowley's “autohagiography”. The same Aleister Crowley that Ozzie Osborne sang about in the song “Mr. Crowley”.
Crowley was the self-proclaimed “beast of the Rev-elation”. He thought he was the anti Christ (and oddly, died about the time the real anti Christ, Hitler, was wreaking havoc on the Jews). According to his bio, a book about four inches thick and fascinating, he had been thrown out of the Masons for spilling their secrets. Not only thrown out, but allegedly, according to Crowley, they tried to kill him as well.
Crowley was obviously a very mentally unbalanced individual. He and his apprentices practiced magic and sorcery, calling up demons and so forth, with all of these rituals chronicled in the book in exacting detail. As I said, crazy but fascinating. These rituals involved blood, torture, sodomy, rape, homosexual and heterosexual sex acts, cocaine, opium, hashish, bestiality, and other things that were even weirder than that.
This guy was a pure nutsoid creep. He could well have been Jack the Ripper. I'll get back to Mr. Crowley shortly.
As I said, I went to Thailand a secure and firm disbeliever in anything remotely occult. Besides Copperfield style parlor tricks, the most mystical thing I did was paint and play guitar.
I saw things in Thailand that convinced me otherwise. If it hadn't been for the Thai Buddhists, I might not have developed such a firm faith in God and Jesus.
Not one of you will believe what I have to say next, and I can't blame you. The only “rational”, western explanation would be the cigar I was smoking.
The pot over there came wrapped around bamboo sticks, maybe eight or ten inches long, and tied up with hemp thread. It was three dollars for twenty sticks, factory sealed in plastic. Each stick perhaps a quarter ounce or nearly so. This was incredibly potent stuff; in fact, one of the GI's pastimes was getting a new guy who thought he was a super doper, and seeing how many bong hits it took to make him pass out. Most passed out on the second hit. Few made it as far as four without amphetamines. Er, there were some super amphet-amines there, too.
Now, you could carefully take the hemp thread off, and roll it up in the leaf of a certain species of banana plant, and when you were ready to smoke it, pull out the bamboo stick. It made a wonderfully tasting smoke. It would also fuck you up.
One morning, after I had visited some Thai friends in a tiny village in the middle of a jungle, I stood by the dirt road (all the roads outside Bangkok, as far as I know, were dirt then) waiting for the bhat bus to come by, smoking my cigar. This far out it could have been a several hour wait, so I set myself for some patient waiting (and full of speed). I'd look down the road one way, then the other. And back. And look at the clouds. And into the greenery of the jungle, perhaps twenty or thirty yards on either side of the road.
I looked right, behind, left, right again, and a fat priest in his fluorescent robe was standing next to me. “Hello, er, sawat dee,” I said, and politely did the little bow they do there. He just smiled bigger than before, and bowed back. I thought I heard a bhat bus so I looked – yes, there was one in the distance. I started to say “yep, there's one” – but as I turned to speak to him, he wasn't there any more. He had been standing next to me for fifteen minutes, and now that there was a bhat bus coming he was gone.
The driver, who spoke English, motioned me into the passenger seat of the bus, and I got in. I told him wait a minute, I thought there was a priest that wanted a ride, too, and described him. His eyes got wide. “You've been blessed! He's special. Very few have ever met him.”
Hmmpft. OOOkayy... right... Of course, I didn't say that out loud. I did wonder how a guy wearing a bright orange robe could have snuck up on me surrounded by green, and snuck away in the blink of an eye.
So he's driving, and I'm looking out the window, and I look toward the driver, and there sits the priest between us! The driver saw him at the same time, and almost wrecked the pickup. He slid to a stop and made me get in the back.
I started researching the Tarot, astrology, witchcraft, Buddhism, and every other religion, cult, and whatever I could get information on after that. The fat Buddhist guy in the orange robes really freaked me out.
As to the Tarot, as I said, Thailand was a wonderful, magical place. All my life until then I had been a loser with the ladies. I had a Thai girl friend (all my girl friends there were Thai) who offered to read my cards. She needed only the minor arcana; in short, a poker deck.
She predicted that when I went home I would not marry the first girlfriend I had, that the girl I thought I would wind up marrying would be married to someone else by the time I got home, that I would have no sons and two daughters after being married for ten years – and that I would have my heart broken over and over while married.
As skeptical as I was, every bit of it eventually happened. I was no longer a loser with the ladies, and was married, to a woman who had repeated affairs, leaving me once (not counting last fall), while I would repeatedly be tempted by other women, who I stupidly resisted.
It seems the magic is gone.
At any rate, about the cards: the last leg of the trip back to St. Louis was San Francisco, where I did some sightseeing. I ran across a little place called the Museum of Magic and Witchcraft, where, in the gift shop, I spied a deck of Aleister Crowley Tarot cards. These cards were allegedly designed by The Beast, and painted by the Lady Somebody or other, I don't remember who, some British Noblelady that Crowley allegedly had an adulterous affair with.
I went to buy the cards, and the lady behind the counter wouldn't sell them. She said it was bad luck to buy Tarot cards except as a gift to someone else, and these were special cards. I didn't care, I only wanted them for the extremely cool artwork. She compromised, selling me a hardbound book on the Tarot, black cloth hardbound with red title, and she gave me the cards.
I still have them. They are large, perhaps four by six inches. They are now wrapped in white silk and I refuse to get them out again, they're in a box in the basement. I came to believe that rather than predicting the future, as they did with stunning accuracy, that they actually changed the future. Crazy? Hell yes. I don't care, they scared the piss out of me. The damned things finally scared me so much after a long period of some very, very bad luck that I haven't had them out in over 15 years.
Now if I want my fortune read, I get out old King James and open it to a random spot, and read. It works as well as the Tarot and doesn't scare the bejeesus out of me.
So, lizardlady, the sun card does, indeed, sound like something good is finally coming your way. I hope you placed them in the proper order before shuffling them. What, now, does the “Wind” suit correspond to in a “normal” Tarot deck?
May 15, 2003


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