Trippy Tribe Jive

Buddha Lou, Chava, Space Hippie, Caveman, Earthman, Yaima, and the rest of the gang get down Sundays in the Grove. Let Them Be.

This is their haunt in Babylon, under the palms, oaks, and mango trees. Five years ago they formed a small Sunday group at lush Alice Wainwright Park just north of Vizcaya, but for the past four years they've congregated here at Peacock Park, a block from CocoWalk, to picnic, pray, bang their drums, sing, dance, and smoke pot. Sometimes they'll play duck-duck goose and ring around the rosie.

They do their own thing and no one pays them much mind. Who cares what a tribe of raffish longhairs and a few shaved heads are doing in the park? And if someone does take notice, the likely thought is, When are those people going to get with the program? Their presence in Coconut Grove is incongruous, if not irrelevant. The real program here, as everyone knows, is at Planet Hollywood, Hooters, Banana Republic, the Gap, Tu Tu Tango.

This obscurity is a blessing and a curse for the group's regulars, most of whom identify themselves as Rainbow Family, the counterculture relic that evolved from the back-to-nature movement of the Sixties. It's a blessing because they're not harassed by the law, a curse because they're not attracting many new, sympathetic souls. They gather in the densely populated techno-village in order to be recognized, but instead they are largely ignored.

Still, they're adamant about their vitality. They are not a lost cause, they insist, despite the fact that supreme leader Jerry Garcia is dead and that favored presidential candidate Ralph Nader received just one-tenth of one percent of the vote in Florida (148 votes in Dade County). They take pride in their "regionals" and "nationals," annual pilgrimages to parks or forests where thousands frolic and meditate. Florida gatherings have been held in the Osceola, Ocala, and Apalachicola national forests. The nearest weekly meeting other than Peacock Park is on Peanut Island in the Intracoastal Waterway near West Palm Beach.

These groups are the keepers of the faith, holding out the answer for all who will listen -- that peace, love, and living in simple harmony with nature will solve the world's problems, or at least ease youthful angst. Through word of mouth, flyers, and newspaper notices announcing gatherings for "liberal-minded folk," they try to persuade more people to join them. The majority of the three dozen gathered here appear to be under 25 years old.

This is not a revolution, the group is quick to point out. No one is drafting radical manifestoes or talking politics -- unless you include their call to legalize marijuana. They're hippies, not Yippies. This gathering, they emphasize, is about "community." They want to congregate as brothers and sisters, and the more who show up, the more interesting it all is.

"I don't think it's ever been very popular to love your brother," says Chava, a 22-year-old student at Miami-Dade Community College who actively recruits new family members. "Politics is all about money and power and fucking people over, and I don't really see that changing. So this is for entertainment value right now. Basically to unwind with others that you feel are like you. My ultimate goal is to live on a farm with a bunch of people. Just go off in the wild away from the world and live my life in a peaceful way with other like-minded people."

Before joining the Rainbow Family about three years ago, Chava says, she had no one with whom to share her "hippie mentality." Television reports and movies about the Sixties turned her on to the hippies' laid-back, laissez-faire philosophy. The problem was, none of her peers at the Design and Architecture Senior High School was interested. It wasn't popular to be into the Sixties -- your parents' era! -- or to listen to Hendrix, Janis, the Doors. She was all alone. Until she met Kunga.

Kunga Choedak ran a mail-order business selling exotic plant seeds from his nursery in Coconut Grove. After ordering some, Chava paid a visit to the nursery. Kunga gave her a few free plants and encouraged her to join the Sunday gatherings in the park.

"I've learned a lot from Kunga," she says. "I try to live a life of caring and giving to others and not letting your anger rule your life. I do try to live up to a philosophical standard that is similar to the Buddhist philosophy. But Buddhism is very disciplined, and Rainbow is open to interpretation by whoever. The gatherings are a lot like church. It's where I go to get spiritual fulfillment. That's why I bring food -- it's an offering I'm giving to my brothers and sisters. Not everyone at the gathering is Rainbow, but they're all cool."

Sprawled on bright-color sheets and American Indian-design blankets is a medley of drunks, homeless, hippies, and teenagers. They're settled in between the traffic jam on McFarlane Road, a half-dozen hefty softball players, watchful mothers and carousing children on the playground, a few medieval feudal lords clashing with swords and shields. The cool, clear weather this second Sunday in November has drawn a larger-than-usual turnout. Patchouli and frangipani incense mix with the salty breeze over the bayside park.

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I know this was a while ago but you guys really should do better research. Luis is not only not a Lama, having never been ordained in any Buddhist tradition, but is a convicted criminal with a long record of fraud, drug charges, stalking and abuse charges, including violence against women. Check with Broward County and see his arrest and court records for yourself.

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