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

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29 comments

  • I have written and erased my response to this story 8 times now. His picture makes me smile… & weep. Another child spending years without a father. Another family a rabbit in the snare.
    I feel for those who love him.

  • There is so much good in the worst of us, and so much bad in the best of us, that it ill behooves any of us to find fault with the rest of us. James Truslow Adams

    • But being human, we can’t help ourselves. We find fault and we make our petty judgments and call ourselves beyond reproach but we aren’t…(Ernie, you’ve quoted that before but it really rings home tonight.)

      • ( Itally ) “In 1956, two Mafia-connected officials, Vito Ciancimino and Salvatore Lima, took control of Palermo’s Office of Public Works. Between 1959 and 1963, about 80% of building permits were given to just five people, none of whom represented major construction firms and were probably Mafia frontmen.[62] Construction companies unconnected with the Mafia were forced to pay protection money. Many buildings were illegally constructed before the city’s planning was finalized. Mafiosi scared off anyone who dared to question the illegal building.

        Mafia organizations entirely control the building sector in Palermo – the quarries where aggregates are mined, site clearance firms, cement plants, metal depots for the construction industry, wholesalers for sanitary fixtures, and so on.
        —Giovanni Falcone,”

  • But being human, we can’t help ourselves. We find fault and we make our petty judgments and call ourselves beyond reproach but we aren’t…(Ernie, you’ve quoted that before but it really rings home tonight.)

    • ( Itally ) “In 1956, two Mafia-connected officials, Vito Ciancimino and Salvatore Lima, took control of Palermo’s Office of Public Works. Between 1959 and 1963, about 80% of building permits were given to just five people, none of whom represented major construction firms and were probably Mafia frontmen.[62] Construction companies unconnected with the Mafia were forced to pay protection money. Many buildings were illegally constructed before the city’s planning was finalized. Mafiosi scared off anyone who dared to question the illegal building.

      Mafia organizations entirely control the building sector in Palermo – the quarries where aggregates are mined, site clearance firms, cement plants, metal depots for the construction industry, wholesalers for sanitary fixtures, and so on.
      —Giovanni Falcone,”

  • I never really knew Robert tho I did give him rides in his hitching days. I do know several of the people caught up in the raid and I know that they were doing nothing more than most of their friends.
    The Times fails to identify and investigate the outlandish scope and expense of the raid itself. The government is quite uninterested in providing taxpayers with any information on cost or the peculiar involvement of multiple agencies. This thing was one big overtime party for law enforcement and a huge waste of money.
    Learning more about the raid would be a real story…

    • I’m going to add to this a bit. I heard a program today that pointed out that, according to The Economist Magazine, the US is well down the list when countries are evaluated for a free press. The main reason for our poor standing is a policy of secrecy from government sources.
      In the same period as the Buddhaville bust, there were two gang related raids in LA which used 400 or more officers. Someone knows what the cost of each of these raids was but we will never know. The agencies conducting them will stonewall any attempt to learn more.
      Officers need to have the kind of backup that keeps them safe but there is a limit. I remember Del Frame talking a local guy who was a bit deranged into putting his rifle down and leaving the Deerhorn Market with his hands up. With all due respect, I’d like to suggest that a similar event would draw a SWAT team and heaven knows how much backup today. No wonder the State is broke. Grumble… grumble…

  • Thanks for your history and memories on this story, Kym. You’ve added a lot to it.

    Ben, I talked a good while to this reporter, in fact he called me specifically to discuss the angle that you point out is missing. Believe me, he got it. He brought it up. But he was having a hard time getting the story past his editors, who wanted generic outlaws-in-paradise stuff. So I guess he had to settle for humanizing the subjects. Again, Kym does that wonderfully right from the top, and I appreciate it.

    He got some fine explanatory quotes, didn’t he? I think my favorite was “It was our 40 acres and a mule.” Inflation and economics made Buddhaville, not just our perfect storm of quirks.

    And the article shows that the DEA needs as much edjimacation as LA TImes editors. No news there, I guess.

  • Thanks for your history and memories on this story, Kym. You’ve added a lot to it.

    Ben, I talked a good while to this reporter, in fact he called me specifically to discuss the angle that you point out is missing. Believe me, he got it. He brought it up. But he was having a hard time getting the story past his editors, who wanted generic outlaws-in-paradise stuff. So I guess he had to settle for humanizing the subjects. Again, Kym does that wonderfully right from the top, and I appreciate it.

    He got some fine explanatory quotes, didn’t he? I think my favorite was “It was our 40 acres and a mule.” Inflation and economics made Buddhaville, not just our perfect storm of quirks.

    And the article shows that the DEA needs as much edjimacation as LA TImes editors. No news there, I guess.

  • Pingback: LA Times Follow-Upon Buddhaville Busts « Sohum Parlance II

  • Pingback: LA Times Follow-Upon Buddhaville Busts « Sohum Parlance II

  • “I’m tired of being the good guy. I’m going to get rich.”

    I’ve never actually met the man, and I’ve learned in my profession not to make judgments lest we be judged ourselves, etc. I’m fully aware of the messiness of human nature. But that quote does stand out in my context. I have clients who were burned badly by him – outside of the scope of these busts. I’m not going into details, but these people have their stories too. Fortunately, they won’t be covered by the LA Times.

    It’s good for me to read about the beads. I don’t think my clients are up for it.

    • That doesn’t surprise me. I don’t think there are very many who got rich, or tried to get rich, without burning some people along the way.

  • “I’m tired of being the good guy. I’m going to get rich.”

    I’ve never actually met the man, and I’ve learned in my profession not to make judgments lest we be judged ourselves, etc. I’m fully aware of the messiness of human nature. But that quote does stand out in my context. I have clients who were burned badly by him – outside of the scope of these busts. I’m not going into details, but these people have their stories too. Fortunately, they won’t be covered by the LA Times.

    It’s good for me to read about the beads. I don’t think my clients are up for it.

    • That doesn’t surprise me. I don’t think there are very many who got rich, or tried to get rich, without burning some people along the way.

  • This story is making the blog rounds along with heads-up hat tips to Kym. One of the questions is, “Where did the money go?”– and what was the involvement of the Barnum and Mendes families when the whole scene came crashing down? Those questions are unanswered.

    More comments of the Buddhaville Bust— and a trip down the archival memory lane of 2008– can be found today at
    the Humboldt Herald for interested readers.

  • This story is making the blog rounds along with heads-up hat tips to Kym. One of the questions is, “Where did the money go?”– and what was the involvement of the Barnum and Mendes families when the whole scene came crashing down? Those questions are unanswered.

    More comments of the Buddhaville Bust— and a trip down the archival memory lane of 2008– can be found today at
    the Humboldt Herald for interested readers.

  • After the raid, Juan couldn’t find much work — or even many people who’d say hello to him. He sold some belongings and worked briefly in a grocery store. Someone burned down his house in Whitethorn.

    Somehow, those events don’t square with the commenters here. Seems like lots of SoHummers had no difficult judging Robert, and did so viciously. But only after he was taken down by the Feds. It looks like a particularly meanspirited criminal dominated community where a ‘strongman’ holds sway by intimidation, and violence and revenge immediately results when he’s weakened by law enforcement.

  • After the raid, Juan couldn’t find much work — or even many people who’d say hello to him. He sold some belongings and worked briefly in a grocery store. Someone burned down his house in Whitethorn.

    Somehow, those events don’t square with the commenters here. Seems like lots of SoHummers had no difficult judging Robert, and did so viciously. But only after he was taken down by the Feds. It looks like a particularly meanspirited criminal dominated community where a ‘strongman’ holds sway by intimidation, and violence and revenge immediately results when he’s weakened by law enforcement.

  • I’m going to add to this a bit. I heard a program today that pointed out that, according to The Economist Magazine, the US is well down the list when countries are evaluated for a free press. The main reason for our poor standing is a policy of secrecy from government sources.
    In the same period as the Buddhaville bust, there were two gang related raids in LA which used 400 or more officers. Someone knows what the cost of each of these raids was but we will never know. The agencies conducting them will stonewall any attempt to learn more.
    Officers need to have the kind of backup that keeps them safe but there is a limit. I remember Del Frame talking a local guy who was a bit deranged into putting his rifle down and leaving the Deerhorn Market with his hands up. With all due respect, I’d like to suggest that a similar event would draw a SWAT team and heaven knows how much backup today. No wonder the State is broke. Grumble… grumble…

  • 30 years ago when I moved to SoHum, I was given some advice. I was told “you can make a living wage growing herb, but if you try to get rich you will end up in trouble”. I have often remembered this wisdom fondly as it has served me well, 30 years later I have a clean record, an old truck and a little cash in the bank. I am cool with it.
    Also, CC just turned himself in to do 20 months federal time for his part in Robert’s folly. Unfortunately, he wont be the last.

  • 30 years ago when I moved to SoHum, I was given some advice. I was told “you can make a living wage growing herb, but if you try to get rich you will end up in trouble”. I have often remembered this wisdom fondly as it has served me well, 30 years later I have a clean record, an old truck and a little cash in the bank. I am cool with it.
    Also, CC just turned himself in to do 20 months federal time for his part in Robert’s folly. Unfortunately, he wont be the last.

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