February 11-20, 2006
Reader Andy Page from England reports on this find in my local airport:
Voodoo head found in air luggage
US immigration officials have arrested a Haitian woman after baggage screeners found a human head in her luggage at a Florida airport.
Myrlene Severe, 30, has been charged with failing to declare the head on a customs form and transporting "hazardous material".
She arrived at Florida's Fort Lauderdale airport on Thursday on a flight from Cap Haitien in north Haiti.
Ms Severe said that the head was to ward off evil sprits, officials said.
"Severe stated that she had obtained the package, which contained a human head, from a male in Haiti for use as part of her voodoo beliefs," the US Attorney's Office said in a statement.
'Hair and skin'
A spokesman for Miami's immigration and customs agency told the AFP news agency that the head was not simply a skull.
"It had teeth, hair and skin, and quite a lot of dirt," she said.
Ms Severe, a US resident, appeared in court on Friday in Fort Lauderdale. She could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
The practice of voodoo, an Afro-Caribbean religion whose roots go back thousands of years, is still widespread in Haiti.
The Haitian government officially recognised voodoo as a religion in 2003.
PS: Reader Andy Page helps me fill an uneventful Saturday.
An old friend starts her trip to Nevada.
For the past 15 years ... give or take three or four ... I've thrown my loose change into a brass bowl. When it became full I would separate the pennies from the nickels and the nickels from the dimes and so forth.
Tomorrow I am going to take the whole lot to my local Publix supermarket where there is this amazing coin sorting/counting machine.
Anyone care to guess what the total will be?
Here are some clues:
The total weight of all the coins is 63.5 pounds (minus the weight of the light plastic bucket and the six Ziplock bags).
The quarters weighed 17.5 pounds.
The nickels and dimes together weighed 10.5 pounds.
The pennies made up the balance.
The U.S. Mint uses weight to measure the monetary value of any given number of coins; for example X number of quarters equals Y number of pounds. So, given the number of pounds of quarters you have times this factor you then get the number of quarters. Divide this by 4 and you have the dollar amount. You can do this for all the other coins as well...of course, the factor will be different for each coin. This rule only applies to coins that were not minted in silver or gold....well, maybe there once was a Mint factor for gold and silver coins but since none of these coins are from a precious metal you don't have to worry about it here. Here are the factors:
160 pennies in a pound.
100 nickels in a pound.
200 dimes in a pound.
80 quarters in a pound.
PS: Many readers wrote: "How boring can you get?"
PPS: OK ... how about this ... she is about to try the quarter pick-up trick!
Reader D.W. writes:
"Here is an Excel spreadsheet that I made a while back to calculate the relationship between some coins I had and their nominal value.
"I added the info about your coins and came up with an estimate for you.
The only assumption is the split between the weight of your nickels and dimes.
The reader's estimate was 'off' by only a few dollars...and that error can most likely be attributed to my bathroom scale which rounds everything off to the nearest half pound.
The actual final score was ...
... for a total of 8783 coins worth $525.95.
My two granddaughters (Flora and Ellie) sent me this holiday greeting ... do you remember when they last visited us in Bangkok?
(*) It is ironic that today Cinemax showed "The War of the Roses". Stranger still, Watcharee and I watched it.
I have not opened these drawers in a long time ... it's rather like Christmas.
For more of Ana click here.
This phone kit from Brookstone is great. It attaches to the two struts in the driver's headrest. It has three AAA batteries which powers the loudspeaker next to the driver's right ear (or left ear on right hand drive cars). There is an optional earpiece. The thing plugs into any cell phone.
Our two Bangkok cars (S and SLK) came with already built in phones ... at no extra cost). Our SL55AMG in the States did not come with a phone. The dealer wanted $3500 to install one. Since I do not use a cell phone that much, this Brookstone option looked pretty good (@$120).
Opps ... gotta go ... Watcharee is making dinner.
PS: Safe arrival in Nevada:
Here are a few pics of her as she arrived. What a beautiful car! I did not expect her to be in as good condition as this. Tomorrow will be spent cleaning her after her long trip, and starting to get her mechanicals back into shape. I'm shooting for a Sunday drive. I'll get you some more pics tromorrow eve.
Another home-cooked Thai meal:
Fort Lauderdale traffic vs. Bangkok traffic:
Word from the Fitness Center:
Sa wad dee ka..
At the Fitness Centre so boring everything are same and I'm is alright.How about you ? Everything good ?
The man on the next island is out of this world.
District Attorney General, Shelby County, Tennessee:
ROBERT "PRINCE MONGO" HODGES SENT TO JAIL
(NOVEMBER 15, 2002)
Judge Ruled Mongo In Contempt Of Court For Failing To Clean His Property
Memphis, TN – Shelby County General Sessions Court Judge Larry Potter today held Robert Hodges, also known as "Prince Mongo," in contempt of court for not complying with a court order to remove personal property from in front of his home at 925 Colonial.
Judge Potter immediately ordered Hodges be taken into custody, and fined him $13,875. Hodges posted the ten percent assurance bond, but was taken to the Shelby County Jail to be processed.
City of Memphis code enforcement officers first cited Hodges on July 16, 2002 for leaving personal property including lawn furniture, mannequin heads, golf bags, signs, lampshades, Christmas decorations, cloth material on trees and bushes, and traffic cones, in his front yard.
Judge Potter found Hodges guilty on September 30, 2002 of violating Memphis City Ordinance Chapter 48 Section 38, Failure to Remove Personal Property, and issued a court order that Hodges remove the items in his front yard. On October 21, 2002, Judge Potter ruled that Hodges was in contempt of court for not obeying the court order, at the request of Assistant District Attorney Randy Nevels.
Although Judge Potter today ruled that Hodges could appeal the decision, he placed him into custody saying the treatment of his neighbors and the court were "unconscionable, reprehensible, and intentional." He also told Hodges that the "meter is ticking," and that each day that he does not comply with the court order he will be fined more money.
Another hearing has been scheduled for 10:30 a.m. on December 16, 2002 in Criminal Court Division 14.
The Memphis Flyer:
Mongo Loses Round Two
Controversial Club Denied Beer Permit
BY REBEKAH GLEAVES | OCTOBER 20, 2000
On Wednesday, October 17th, Robert "Prince Mongo" Hodges lost Round Two in his battle to defend The Castle, his controversial nightclub. The Memphis Alcohol Commission indefinitely revoked Hodges' beer license for the Midtown club, located in Ashlar Hall at 1397 Central Avenue.
The license revocation will have not have an immediate effect on the nightclub as it is already temporarily enjoined from having any alcohol on the premises. The injunction, imposed last week by Criminal Court Judge Chris Craft, will be in effect until November 20th, when a full Criminal Court hearing on public nuisance charges will occur.
The Castle has been the focus of negative attention due to allegations of underage drinking, public nudity, and patrons disrupting the neighborhood. A smattering of the most out-spoken of The Castle's opponents were on hand for the Alcohol Commission hearing, as was the club's colorful front man, Prince Mongo. Outfitted in his now standard uniform of a long gray wig, bug-eye sunglasses, and a military-style frock coat that hangs just over his bare knees and feet, Mongo sat quietly in the city council chambers, where the hearing was held, until his case was called.
The outspoken restaurateur, who claims to hail from the planet Zambodia, stood behind his attorneys, Leslie Ballin and Mike Pleasants, and did not respond for several minutes after the board first addressed him, eventually blaming his delayed response on having to "contact my spiritual beings." When asked, Robert "Prince Mongo" Hodges insisted for the record that his name was simply "Prince Mongo" and denied that he operated a dance club, preferring to describe his guests movements as "exercising." (The Castle does not possess the requisite dance permit.) "We do not allow anyone to dance," said Mongo, who claimed that a sign near the DJ Booth says, "Atonement Only -- No Dancing." "They can do exercises, but we do not call it dancing."
Prince Mongo has long claimed that the various bars and clubs he has operated have been religious centers of atonement, rather than night spots. "When they [patrons] cleanse their bodies and souls to rid themselves of demons they do exercises to release the demons," said Mongo. "Sometimes we have music, sometimes we don't." At that point, Prince Mongo himself began to dance an improvised jig in front of the Alcohol Board.
After several more questions from the board about the nature of Mongo's religious activities, the Prince continued to dance and began barking and howling, loud enough for the staccato yelps to echo off the chamber walls. An unidentified board member interrupted Mongo's outburst to ask, "Are we to understand that what is recognized as a dance floor downstairs is actually a tabernacle?" To which Mongo simply responded, "Amen."
Moments later Prince Mongo excused himself from the hearing and left the room, dancing down the aisles, inviting gallery members to his "church," and greeting various spectators with, "Hi, Spirit." After Prince Mongo's departure, the board heard testimony from a young man who claims his girlfriend passed out and stopped breathing after ingesting a drink that had been spiked with GHB (gammahydroxybutyrate), which is often used as a date rape drug. The young man testified that several times he and his friends asked security guards at The Castle to call an ambulance and that the guards refused to do so for 30 minutes, with one guard eventually complying.
After hearing this testimony, the board decided that it had enough information to render a decision and all but one member voted to revoke The Castle's beer license. Ballin and Pleasants say that they will appeal the decision to the Circuit Court. However, there is no need to do so immediately because Judge Craft's injunction prohibits Mongo from having any alcohol on the premises until after the nuisance hearing. In the meantime, neighbors of The Castle say that they enjoyed last weekend, the first quiet weekend they say they've had in two years, and plan to enjoy the solitude for the rest of the month.
The Alien Has Landed
It's Prince Mongo's planet. We only live on it.
By Bob Norman
Article Published Jan 19, 2006
The extraterrestrial sits on a couch in his bare feet, as always. He looks up at a blank artist's canvas hanging crookedly on the wall. Only it's not blank. There are vague grayish shapes and blotches in the white background.
"That picture is transforming right now," Prince Mongo proclaims. "It's the resurrection of the world. The Earth doesn't have much time left. We're on the second run right now. That painting is the tunnel to life."
When will it be finished?
"It won't end until the world ends. Then I will take the people I'm going to save back to Zambodia."
It may sound like the ravings of a demented street person babbling on the sidewalk, but Prince Mongo isn't homeless. He's sitting in his $2 million Fort Lauderdale home near Las Olas Boulevard. With a pool and an elevated wooden deck on the Intracoastal-connected canal in the backyard, it's a beauty of a place. And the home is apparently just a small part of his fortune. He also owns homes in Virginia Beach and Memphis, and he skis in Vail. "He's got more money than God," says his neighbor, Bill Concha.
But when Mongo sleeps, he does it on a little mat in the family room, like a poverty-stricken college student. He wears old T-shirts and shorts and, as mentioned, never, ever wears shoes (even when walking in the snow in Vail, he claims). "I don't need money," he says. "I live off the stars and the earth and the energy of the sun."
Prince Mongo isn't tall, maybe five-foot-seven, and he's got a pretty good-sized belly. He likes to eat. When I paid him a surprise visit last week, he offered me radishes, sushi, goat's milk, vegetable soup, and a ham sandwich. I told him I'd just had some eggs. "You ever have sardines and eggs?" he asked. "They're good."
The first thing I noticed was the change in his hair. When I'd first met Mongo the week before, his hair was grayish and seemed to have some kind of oil in it. Now it was pitch black, looking windblown and sticking straight up like something from a 1980s pop band. "It does funny things all the time," he said of his hair. "Some mornings, I'm blond. Some mornings, I'm a bush. And some mornings, it's black-black. There's great power in my hair; it helps protect me from demons trying to get near me."
Mongo looks to be in his 50s, but he says he's 333 years old. Three is his favorite number – it has some special significance in Zambodia, his original home nine light-years away.
"When I hit Earth, I fragmentized and went all over the world," he explains. "I then began assembling myself and still am."
His first identity on Earth was as a Blackfoot Indian chief in the Dakotas. Since then, he's had 33 wives, all of whom have died. "They can't last like I can," he explains.
His mission is to save the Earth. Right now, he's working on saving hundreds of thousands of people from the coming bird flu epidemic. Such a huge task involves meditation and the use of spiritual dusts and elixirs he's brought from Zambodia. I asked him what he thought of the Bible. "Jesus is exactly what you know him to be; he's in control of our planet too, you know," he told me. "It isn't like I'm a supreme being. I'm only a messenger."
He says he's gone to several universities – including the University of Virginia, Tulane, Columbia, and William and Mary – and has a doctorate, though he won't say in what. He claims that he's been living winters in Fort Lauderdale for 33 years, but county records show he's owned the home only since 1985. When he leaves for parts north, he still doesn't lock the doors. "Anybody can come in here anytime and take what they please," he says. "I don't care. I'll give anything away. People are always walking off with my TVs. I don't mind. I have a terrible phobia about throwing things away. Why throw things away when you can give it away?"
Only those with eclectic tastes could appreciate Mongo's household goods. He's got paintings all over the walls, many of which he's done himself (and he's a very fine artist). There are kites, model planes, fossils, and a few things that can only be described as dried-up sea creatures festooned about the house. Everything on the walls is crooked or upside-down. One room has so many off-kilter paintings and album covers tacked onto the walls (cool old ones like the original soundtrack to The Treasure of Sierra Madre) that I felt a bit of vertigo when I walked inside.
In his living room is a poster of himself walking across the road wearing mirrored welding goggles, a long gray wig, a rubber chicken around his neck – triumphantly holding up what looks like a human leg bone. On another wall are the innards of an old piano keyboard, which he says was given to him by Liberace, an old friend. And then there's the transforming white painting, slowly coming into focus as the world winds down.
On his front porch, six Christmas trees surround the door. "My Christmas doesn't begin like y'all's," says Mongo, who speaks with a light Southern accent. "Christmas changes for me depending on the moon and the energy lines. This year, it's in February."
In the backyard, near the water, an upside-down toilet sits by itself. His neighbor, Concha, says that there used to be 50 toilets on the property but that Mongo has cleaned it up a bit. Mongo gets along pretty well with his neighbors these days, though he's been hit with a few code violations for the "artwork" he's kept outside his home in years past. "We had a war once," he says. "I won. They moved away. I'm still here."
On the water is a yacht he takes out regularly. He fishes but doesn't golf ("I once hit a golf ball so hard it caught on fire, so I quit that game"). He's also a political hound and has a special distaste for George W. Bush and the Iraq War. "Bush is no savior or warrior for this country," he says. "He will be remembered like Lyndon Johnson. He will be a pig in the eyes of people who know what really happened."
Prince Mongo is undoubtedly entertaining, but I kept thinking, "Who is he kidding?" Was he mad, or was he simply a performance artist who never got off the stage? I had to find out who he really is. A news search showed that he's only been mentioned once in local papers. It was a few weeks ago in the Sun-Sentinel in a story about Farris "Baghdad Boy" Hassan, the teenager who traveled to Iraq. The newspaper identified him as "Prince Mongo, a neighbor who has known the Hassan family for years." There was no further explanation.
So, according to the local newspaper of record, he was Prince Mongo. Surprised the editors didn't add that he was 333 years old and from Zambodia.
When I first asked Mongo for his given Earth name, he skirted the question. But he did tell me that he'd run for every political office there was in Memphis. And he said that he'd grown up in Virginia and that his "Earth parents" were named Roebuck and Minnie and had already returned to his home planet. I knew it was rumored his family was wealthy, and I asked him about it. "They liked to own what they walked on," he said rather cryptically.
It was Concha who gave me Mongo's given name: Robert Hodges.
I was off to the races. With a quick Internet search, I found out that Hodges is famous in Memphis, where he has owned several large nightclubs in the town, including the giant Prince Mongo's Planet – three stories and 30,000 square feet of partying – and another called the Castle, which was housed in a century-old stone mansion that looks as if it might have appeared in Nosferatu.
If previous published reports in Memphis newspapers are correct, he's now 58 years old. The first reference I found to the fact that he never wears shoes dated back to a mayor's campaign in 1978, when he was just 30. He's run for office countless times, always losing. Over the decades, Hodges has been involved in an ongoing and quite epic battle with the powers that be in that city. His favorite epithet for politicians seems to be "skunk bat." He's complained that his political activism has prompted the city to target his drinking establishments. Others counter that his bar was a sleazy haven for drunk teenagers for years and needed to be shut down – and all of them, incidentally, were.
Hodges has been jailed a handful of times, mostly for contempt of court. He made national news when he appeared before a judge in 1983 covered in green body paint and wearing a fur loincloth. The Tennessee Supreme Court overruled the conviction on the grounds that Hodges was practicing his religion.
How can you not love that? His stunts made him a household name in Memphis, got him featured on the 1980s show Real People, and gave him a taste of national media attention.
"On the Mongo question, Memphis is generally divided," nationally syndicated columnist Bob Garfield wrote in 1987. "Some regard him as a crackpot, others as a shrewd businessman assiduously cultivating a weird persona for the purpose of selling more pizza and beer."
Hodges undoubtedly can get a bit boorish. He's had numerous wars with Tennessee neighbors over what he called "art" in his yards that was more ugly than funny. Once, he was jailed for dumping trash in the yard of one of his enemies. He was also dogged by lawsuits over the drunk-driving deaths of two teenagers who died after they were served beer at the Castle in 1992.
In 2002, Commercial Appeal columnist Michael Kelley bludgeoned Prince Mongo in print. "I've watched as you annoyed one neighbor after another with yard displays and antics that lack creativity," he wrote. "It has become apparent that you're just a provocateur who lives on the publicity you don't deserve but get anyway."
When I brought up his life in Memphis, Mongo said he's been the victim of harassment for decades there. "When I ran for office and gave speeches, I'd always express myself in a fanatical way," he says. "Even though it's not fanatical. I'd call the other guy a fabulous thief, and every time he'd prove me right. It's real. People are scared to say what I say."
OK, Mongo's definitely not crazy. And he's got his faults. He can be mean and petty, just as he can be funny and inspiring. But he most definitely is one of those rare things on this Earth – a man who lives life on his own terms. And he lives it with some imagination and a lot of guts.
And kindness. One of Mongo's greatest passions is helping the homeless, or street people, as he prefers to call them. Nobody in Memphis ever wrote about that. Concha told me about it, saying it was a secret that couldn't be revealed. But after I spent a couple of hours with Mongo, he showed me the cooler in the back of his truck, full of ice and leftover food from a morning delivery. "I try to help unfortunate families who can't pay their bills," he says. "There is no mercy on Earth to help those people."
Good thing there's mercy on Zambodia. Long live Prince Mongo.
Next: Part III