About Jack

Jack is really a storyteller, international explorer, and humanitarian and everything else rolls out from there. As a writer, its what he does.  As a trial lawyer and trial skills teacher aroud the world, its his most important tool. As a former CIA officer, the only way to truly motivate people is to connect and to tell them a story that they can feel viscerally.  As a media analyst, what better way to make a point.  In the end, he tries to captivate his audience about the world and its people as much as he himself is captivated.

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Entries in thailand (6)


Here I Stand Before this Monk with a Small Red Apple. 

"So, what was the coolest thing you did?" A young friend of the family just asked me this question as I continue to deal with the jet lag, all of the things I missed at the Courthouse while I was gone and still trying to put this entire trip in perspective. "Of all of the things you did in China, Thailand and Cambodia, what's the thing that sticks out most to you?"

Its funny. I want to say a Hmong New Years' celebration in the mountains of Northern Thailand, Angkor Wat in Cambodia, a meeting I had with the Dean of a Law School in Thailand, or an elusive former CIA contact or a whole series of other options. And yet, the only thing that truly comes to mind and springs from my lips is . . . feeding a monk. That's right, feeding a monk.

Every morning, come rain or shine, one will find monks on alms round. They are in full robes and they are out in the community collecting food and sometimes money for their subsistence and for others as well. They never ask, never demand, never beg. They walk humbly, quietly, and only make themselves available to those who approach them.

It is dark, somewhere around 5:30 a.m., and it is unusually cold for this time of year. Nevertheless, I see him quietly walking barefoot up the street and carrying a metal bowl toward where I am standingl. As he approaches, not making eye contact, I say "please" in Thai and hold out what is in my hand.

He approaches, looking at me full in the face for the first time. All I have is an apple, just a small red apple. It isn't much and likely hardly worth walking over to me to get it. But he seems to understand. I am standing here in this spot in the street in Chiang Mai with a specific purpose, to give it to him.

He uncoveres his bowl and looks down, humbly. There is nothing else in the bowl. It is empty. As I place the apple in his bowl, I have a strange feeling of . . . clarity. I think about this monk's purposeful ciurcumstances and his willingness to put himself through this but also the perspective which he chooses to embrace in order to do this.

I then think about my own life, my decisions, and the things that matter to me, as well as the things that I begin to doubt. All of this is due to simply handing a small red apple to a hungry monk.

In our lives, we frequently leave our homes and try to avoid having any contact with those around us out of fear that they will want something from us, something that we possess. As a result, we make sure we don't make eye contact and are frequently obsessed with our cellphones when those who have little or nothing seek us out. Nope, never even see them. 

Strangely, this approach seems to extend into our decisions to travel in the world as well. We stay in five star accomodations and everybody with whom we come into contact speak to us in English. We never want for anything and are never made to feel uncomfrotable. We can say we have traveled to this and that place but in reality we move from one American island to aonther while only looking at our surrounding world from a distance without ever having to step into it, make eye contact or feel the slightest discomfort.

And yet, here I stand in this dirty street with this small red apple hoping it is ok, that it is enough. I'm not at a distance. I am right here in this street staring this monk in the face and feeling . . . what is the word? . . . privileged and a little inadequate. I hope it's enough.

Of course, he accepts my gift. He closes his eyes and his blessings for me begin with an earnest. They continue as he starts to sing softly before me. I am not quite sure what happens after that. It must have started raining and I hadn't noticed because my face is all of a sudden wet.

As he finishes, smiles and goes on his way, I stand there in this street wiping my face, silently. And one thing is clear. This is not about me giving this monk a gift. It is I who have received a gift.

And it is so much more than a small red apple.


Meat Doesn't Come from the Grocery Store

For all those who think that pork comes from a grocery store covered in plastic wrap, not here in this small village in Northern Thailand. This evidence is all around you. Not asking you to like it but don’t be afraid to acknowledge it for what it is. This is how it’s done here.


The Elusive Billy Bird

Deep in the mountains of Northern Thailand & I run into this man, the elusive Billy Bird of Bird Aviation, son of Willis Bird from CIA & OSS days but a force in his own right. The conversation, was complex, fast, & sometimes dark. It immediately took me back to my days at CIA, not all of the memories rainbows and unicorns. I recall a similar encounter with “someone” comparable just after a firefight in Monsour, Iraq some years ago. I was embedded with the 10th Moutain Divison and we were racing through Baghdad to help a group that was pinned down. As we arrived, there he was. I looked him in the eyes and it tumbled down on me like a unstoppable wave. We sat in a corner looking pasty and dirty under fluorescent lights with the echo of AK47s and RPGs and the smell of cordite still in the air. The picture would have been the same. This picture says a lot, too much. 
Just another page in this edition of the Lost and Confused Tour. Just keep moving. Nothing to see here folks!


Lost and Confused in Southeast Asia - My Doctor Means Well.

There is a long standing and proud tradition.  Oh yeah, I know all about it.  The doctor patient relationship. The wise sage doctor guides the patient.  Gives them years of advice and experience.  And the patient, doe eyed, dutifuly and seriously listens, takes in the gospel, embraces it and makes it their own.  The patient then goes forth into the world, safe in the knowledge that they are now protected, in some John Travolta-esque plastic bubble.  Makes total sense.  Yup, totally logical. But, there's a problem . . .   

Ok, this may be a shock but i'm not always the deepest of thinkers nor am I necessarily the best at tradition or sadly taking the best and most earnestly delivered advice.  I'll start by saying that my doc Laurie is much smarter than I am. Amazing, right? Yeah, I know. Not a surprise to me either. I can tell by the big words she uses, the logic in which she delivers them and the general competence which she seems to possess. I'm not even talking about her education and experience.

Of course, the problem is that if I listen to her entirely, I'd have to completely change my general approach to life and the world and I'm not generally competent enough to change my singular approach. Genius is not exactly my forte so better to accept my inaqequacies and drive on.  As I walk into the clinic, I do my best to ignore her only slightlyhidden looks of pity or disdain or both as she laughs at me.  They's not helpful.

"Back again Jack?" She says with a grin.

"Uh huh" ( I say with a sheepish grin).

As I prepare for this next Lost and Confused journey, it starts so simply.  Time for shots, again. Now I should tell you and admit, that I'm not particularly a fan. I know, right?  I have tattoos all over me including sak yat ones which are essentially somebody jabbing at me 10,000 times with a sharp stick. Must be some ridiculous childhood trauma that clings to me like the time I heard the story about the boogeyman when I was six. Nevertheless, I know she's right and this needs to be done. Typical tetanus and more Hep A and B and some other voodoo concoction. Now, I accept these grudgingly but once we figure out what I need, this is where we start to part company.

While waiting for Nurse Ratched to come in with her modern day torture devices, only joking, Doc Laurie hands me a small pamphlet called the Travel Health Companion. I have a bad feeling because I know its likely to include a whole bunch of things that I would be insane to do but have a tendency of doing anyway. I look at her dubiously and try to drown out her suggestions by singing the Girl from Ipanema in my head.  And trust me, the list of do not to do's is longer than I expect. "Tall and tan and lovely . . ."

Apparently, I'm not supposed to eat food on the streets when I travel around the world.  I think about being in the mountain towns of Haiti after the Earthquake and this is about my only option.  I'll take two helpings please.  What about the mystery meat I find in the streets of Northern Thailand?  How about Nan and God knows what in Afghanistan? They all make sense to me.  This ain't going to end. In fact, its usually the best stuff. Just brush the gunk off of it first. Safety first!

How about swimming?  Apparently according to the pamphlet, swimming in dirty disgusting waterways is a bad idea.  Huh?  Really?  Never occurred to me?  She strangely disagrees with my swimming naked in the Nile in South Sudan.  So, the worms and microscopic creatures that will crawl up your johnson or the raw sewage and radioactive material or the 4 meter Crocs aren't good either. She just doesn't understand. This has to happen. Its not my choice. I do it for the children.

And what about the tattoos in strange places administered by highly dubious individuals of questionable repute? I guess this is a bad idea. Who'd a thunk it?  After all, what's not to love about odd strangers stabbing you over and over on a dirty floor?  I don't see a problem. 

Now, this is the final one.  Gun shots and bombs.  Yeah I know. I'm shocked too.  Apparently Doctor Laurie thinks that roadside bombs and people shooting at me is not a good idea and should be avoided.  Weird right? I agree. Makes absolutely no sense to me either.  Why the hell do you think I ended up in war zones in the first place. Damned if I know . . .  

So, as I prepare for this next trip, this time, a little China, Thailand and Cambodia, I have no clue what other of Doctor Laurie's rules that I'm going to break.  Nevertheless, this is how I work. This is how I play. So as I start to ramp up in preparation for this trip, I hope you can join me.  

It promises to be  . . . well, I have no clue what it promises to be. But we will find out together. 



[The Jack Rice Show] Lost, Drunk and Naked on Koh Phi Phi

Life in my little hut in this isolated part of this island has been interesting. There are a few people here but generally extremely quiet. In fact, the only way to get here is by boat even from other parts of the island.  I have somebody to cook great spicy Thai food for me so I'm good. But did I mention that there is a bar here?  Um, yeah.  Really, another hut with chairs. Again, what the hell else do you need. Right?
Well, this seems like such a good idea, as most bad ideas go. Met up with Tony, an American expatriate living in Beijing and Julie, here on holiday from Newfoundland and Julie wants to drink.  Of course she does. She's a Newfie. Oh please. You ever met a Newfie that didn't?
Anyway, we end up at our hut bar about 15 yards from the beach. Its only about 50 yards from my hut just down the beach. I think this will be important to remember.  You can hear the waves beating against the sand and rocks. We had a little rough weather and we were just on the back end of it. Anyway, as we walk in, Julie belts out, "shots, shots shot."  Of course she does. Damn Newfie!
And so it begins  Our bartender Phi, extraordinary guy who survived the tidal wave, knows his business. He comes at me with a bottle. This is supposed to be tequila.  Now, the label says tequila.  I see the label.  I read it three times. That's the only reason I know it is tequila. But I'm dubious. 
Seriously. The first shot is hideous. Its tastes like formaldehyde that they used to preserve those frogs I had to cut open in biology class in high school. The salt in one hand and the lime in the other does not help. By the way, I assume you notice I mentioned the first shot, right?  You can already see where this is going. However, the second one is less hideous and after that, they are quite remarkably good. Well . . . 
At some point, we all leave and go our separate ways. I remember because I remember waiving at them.  Things get a little fuzzy after that. Hey, it was dark.  The next thing I remember is waking up about an hour ago in my hut, lying across my bed, face down, naked.  Damn.  How'd I get here?  
The door, such as there is, to my hut wide open just like I undoubtedly left it. My head pounding in time to the ocean just outside. My insides churning from the so-called tequila. My clothes thrown everywhere as I clearly staggered my way to this spot in my drunken stupor.  Awesome.
Trying to figure out the moral to this story and there is certainly one. Could it be don't drink the tequila?  Hell no. Drink more of it  That's not it. Is it, don't drink when you are in strange places?  That's crap.  That's the best time.How about don't drink with strangers? No way.  Love doing that.  
Somebody once told me if you are too short to ride the ride at Disneyland, you shouldn't ride it, even if you know you'll never come back.  Bullshit. Ride that ride. Always ride the fucking ride.
So, I guess there really is only one moral to this story. Never trust a Newfie.  Damn Newfies.  
PS, Just in case you're getting the wrong idea, my Newfie buddy is here with her equally charming Newfie boyfreind.  

[The Jack Rice Show] Preparing for Southeast Asia

Life is strange. We all struggle to find meaning and a justification for continuing. For some, it is truly about survival. For others lucky enough, including me, it is about self actualization. Why are we here? What is this all about? What the hell are we doing? Why do we continue? I have heard this from people all over the world.  In fact, these are all universal questions that most of us struggle with throughout our lives and I am certainly not immune to these myself.

I leave for Thailand, Laos, Myanmar and beyond in the coming days. While it has been in the back of my mind for sometime now, I had far too much going on on a daily basis to contemplate what it meant too deeply.  In fact, I've tried to ignore it.  Hell, I bought the tickets months ago but life has driven it into the corners of my mind because of my limited capacity to handle it.  Men, or at least me, don't generally multitask that well. Rather, we hit, kill, and eat the thing in front of us and then move onto the next thing that we hit, kill and eat.  Ugh. Jack hungry. Where's my club. Well, you get the picture.  

But this trip is different.  For me, life has spun to a place that I finally needed to stop, just stop for a moment. And this trip is finally about slowing down and just sitting in the dirt and drawing pictures, building imaginary racetracks and using the rocks I find as racecars to imagine how I would handle the track.  It is about sitting across from a group of monks and just laughing.  Its about eating food I don't recognize and tasting things that aren't familar on my tongue. Its about listening. Talking.  Another tattoo.

So, I hope you will join me on this little journey.  It will include video, mostly from my I-Phone, audio, still photos and a lot of writing.  Not too sure if it will be more introspective or not.  In fact, I'm hoping that it will cover a broad spectrum, from introspective, to funny, to ridiculous.  

In the end, I hope that you will hold my hand and follow me down the rabbit hole.  Be my partner and know that we will come out the other side.  I hope to come out with a little more clarity and understanding of some of those questions of life.  If not, the food, the people, the experience is gonna be kick ass.  

But know this, this is gonna be different.  And consider, as I hum along and you see the tears run down my cheeks,  I will feel nothing but glee.   If we flop, it will still be my greatest success.