Ballad of a Traveling Buddha

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I’d been carrying him for more than 10 years — a little rosewood, pot-bellied, traveling Buddha with a big smile and a hobo sack slung over his shoulder on a stick. I don’t remember where he come from, from whom, or exactly when he joined me, but this didn’t matter after our first few years together. Throughout the U.S. and Central America, he journeyed with me through several generations of backpacks, stood guard on many a hospedaje window sill, and, perhaps, protected me from road gremlins as I made my way.

Once, returning to the U.S. from Belize, the screeners in George H.W. Bush Airport in Houston pulled me aside and searched me while my carry-on was re-screened three times because, they said, of a suspiciously shaped dense item inside. They had me empty the bag and decided that the culprit was none other than Buddha, who couldn’t help cracking a smile. I thought they were going to confiscate him, but they didn’t. Man, we had a lot of laughs over that one.

He stuck around for another few trips to Nicaragua, then around the world with me and Tay. When it came time to drive west from New York last month, I decided Buddha-Bomb should, instead of suffocating in the pockets of my computer bag, get some the fresh air. So I super-glued him to the hood of the rat and off we rode.

Two thousand miles later, through rain, sleet, storm, and hail, Little Man Buddha guided us into a parking lot in Littleton, Colorado. The next morning, he was gone.

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Torn asunder from his mount, leaving nothing but a circular ring of glue and paint, his footprint, just like we saw in Bodhgaya. After ten years, he didn’t even leave a note. I laughed. First, because it was funny that somebody would disregard the obvious questionable karma of stealing a Buddha. I mean, come on. Second, I laughed because, whether out of ignorance or arrogance, the culprits’ fearless nonobservance was, ironically, a Buddhist sentiment — like the forest monks in Sri Lanka who urinated on tablets bearing images of the Buddha as a comment on what should and should not be “sacred.” So not only were the wise sages who stole my Buddha-buddy commenting on the impermanence of life and everything in it, they were also assisting him to keep traveling. It was as if Buddha knew that I was, after a decade of motion, coming to Colorado to settle down, and he was not.

The next day, I drove my ornament-less car to Boulder to see an old friend, Sean G. It’d been a long time, and after initial greetings on his porch, we jumped into his truck to go out and grab a Guinness. As I sat down, I had to stop and stare and, again, laugh — at the traveling Buddha glued to Sean G’s dashboard. The exact same Buddha.

“Where’d you get that?” I asked.

From a client, he said, a few months ago. After cleaning her windows and commenting on the long row of miniature icons on her sill, the woman told him to choose one. “They’re for giving away,” she said. “Pick one.” Sean G. chose hobo Buddha-Belly because there were two of them. It’d been on his dashboard ever since.

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Serendipity, fortune, kismet, or karma?

I’m not sure. But this kind of question is common in Boulder County, where events seem to happen on a slightly different plane than in other parts of the world.

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