Buddhaville in Tomorrow's LA Times
“If my name was just Robert Juan, I never would have been anything and it wouldn’t be called Buddhaville,” he said. “It’s my own curse, I guess.” This line ends a feature story in Monday’s LA Times about Humboldt’s biggest raid. During June of 2008 in the midst of raging fires that spread across the North Coast, around 450 law officers from a variety of agencies flooded into the county to bust the owners of Buddhaville.
Robert Juan, also known as Buddha, and the rumored “kingpin” of Buddhaville is someone I’ve known for 30 years. Reputedly, Juan made his fortune in the large-scale indoor growing industry alienating many of his neighbors. Like beads in a broken necklace, I hold four strong memories of Robert from all the years I’ve known him. Four memories that seem to capture something about our area. The first bead formed when my husband was away and a tree fell, punching a hole in the roof. Robert came to visit and I was near tears. I had a new baby, my husband was gone working construction for a week at a time, and the downpour exposed a hole in the roof by sliding down it and drowning my kitchen floor. The buckets I had were inadequate to the task. Robert got on the dangerous steep roof in the rain, and spent over an hour fixing it. A few years later when I picked him up hitchhiking, he told me, “I’m tired of being the good guy. I’m going to get rich.” A few years later, Robert stood bare-chested and big bellied, among a group of young growers holding wads of cash and outbidding each other at a school fundraiser–competing more for the title of community big man than for the items at auction. The last bead was an invitation to his going away to jail party. Somewhere in-between, Robert left shattered dreams and people who felt betrayed.
Like outlaws throughout the west, Robert was/is a colorful character. His nickname, Buddha, spawned by his big belly and good nature, made him easy to remember. His big personality made him even more memorable. Partly through choices he made and partly through the tide of big money that flows through this area, he was swept up, carried high, and then spit out. His curse, like King Lear’s, might be more of his own making than he acknowledged. His tale, like King Lear’s, is worthy of Shakespeare and told today… by the LA Times.
Photo from the LA Times story