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.

"Guess what," says Kunga, proudly surveying the gathering. "Humanity has not been completely extinguished. I see a lot of people playing music. Talking. Loving each other. This is a love-in. CocoWalk is not the real world. It's a business facade. It's for alcoholics for the most part, and caters to people who want to party."

Known as Kunga, Buddha Lou, or Screwy Louie, the 31-year-old (born Louis Riesgo) founded these Sunday gatherings in the Grove. "I started this out with a hot burner, a pot, and potatoes, and said, 'Hey, I've got an open picnic, everybody come bring instruments.' And it worked," recalls Kunga, whose Tibetan names mean "Joyfully Blessed" and "Voice of the True Law."

Kunga's father, the late Armando Riesgo, "a very wealthy philanthropist," was the founder and CEO of American Metal Services in Miami, a huge NASA contractor in the Eighties. His mother Mercedes held meditation and communal gatherings around Miami in the Sixties and Seventies. They divorced when he was three. "I'm continuing here what my parents started, especially my mother," he says. "I was reared to be a benefactor." Kunga recently received a $160,000 bank loan to buy a small farm in Homestead that he's converted into a Buddhist school and operations center for his mail-order business.

"Almost everybody here has taken teachings from me," he says, while sitting on the grass with legs crossed, dirty feet exposed. His skinny frame is topped by a mat of short-cropped brown hair. Moody and self-absorbed, he has the look of a man on a mission, his dark eyes glinting with intensity. "I share with these people points on how to develop a disciplined life, how to prevent their lives from being overrun by neuroses or drugs. And that's what a lot of the kids need. They need positive examples that are not so out of touch. And this is a good way of bringing people together without a cover charge or a ticket.

"I guarantee you that when these people get older, they're going to have fewer problems than those who have never been exposed to something like this. They'll have fewer health problems, mental problems. This is unlocking people. This is getting people out of their apartments. This is like a stepping stone to better things. This isn't a rebellion; it's really not. It's community. Where is the community in CocoWalk?"

The discussion in one cluster of hippies centers on TV reruns: I Love Lucy and Laverne and Shirley. They sit on an orange bedsheet, a Stephen King hardcover -- The Dark Half -- and plastic baggies of homemade cookies lying between them. Some are sharing a bong pipe and working their way through a bag of Milk Duds.

"We have all kinds of stuff here sometimes, like this guy who juggles fire, a drum circle, and last week we made this big pile and I broke my dress," giggles sixteen-year-old Yaima (pronounced Ja-ma), who has been coming to the gatherings since she was fourteen. She's wearing polyester pants and shirt of clashing patterns, a plain barrette in her chestnut hair. "You meet so many people from different places here. Remember that guy from Texas that brought mushrooms last week? Yeah, he was down," she reminds her friends while recalling something herself: "I thought my high school science teacher was going to be here. He's like a 50-year-old Yaima."

More of the family arrives. Up prances Carlitos, a local homeless advocate who has been living in an abandoned South Beach hotel for the last seven months. Loud and rotund and bearing a striking resemblance to Marlon Brando, Carlitos strips off his sport coat, button-down shirt and loosely knotted tie, and singsongs, "Set the table and pour the drinks. But take off avarice and greed." Treading lightly among the group, a tall man with long dreadlocks holds a video camera on his shoulder as if he's a documentarian. Though the camera's tiny red on light shines, and he carefully focuses the lens inches from his subjects, he has no videotape in the camera, according to those who know him. Enter Caveman (a.k.a. Ernie Tamers), an older gentleman who wears a knotted, chest-length beard. A Sunday regular since 1993, he says he performs psychoanalysis "based on archaeology." His services are free.

Striding across the park, Space Hippie (a.k.a. Glenn David Allen) swings a black guitar case in his right hand, plops down, and reaches in his backpack for French bread and a three-liter jug of Carlo Rossi Burgundy. He tears off a hunk of bread and chugs from the bottle. Barefoot and wearing worn-out jeans and a faded T-shirt that reads Sinsemilla. Genus: Gainesville Green, he informs a small group of a hemp rally in Melbourne a few weeks hence. "It's going to be major," he pronounces. At age 33 Space Hippie is one of the elders who have been attending the Sunday picnics from the beginning. He teaches guitar and plays in a local band, Peerless Supereye.

Space Hippie enjoys reminiscing about the national Rainbow Family reunions. The 25th anniversary gathering was held this past July. About 30,000 family members from all over the country hitched rides, car-pooled, and took buses to a park in the Ozark Mountains. Space Hippie saw about 30 people from South Florida. His moist, bloodshot blue eyes exude serenity as he recites a few highlights: mushroom tea parties, a nude wedding in the river, yoga workshops, no money, Krishnas in a big-top tent with all the food, a blind girl handing out flowers. "To me it was like a very way-high gathering," he says. "I was like blissed out. I wasn't even doing drugs or anything -- maybe smoking some kind of bud -- but very kind, very kind energy and very blissful, the way it should be. People getting along and everything unfolding naturally. Finding the positive energy and not all the negativity. It's not like a leftist type thing. The gatherings are more new age."

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1 comments
zenmonk
zenmonk

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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