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Think Good Thoughts

It sounds so simple: “Think good thoughts”. I think, back in my Hippy-days, we used to loosely call it “Om”. It’s really a central theme of my story and I would define it as a mental way to calm yourself in a dire situation. In my saga, 90° to Zamboanga, dire situations seemed to happen with regularity and the quickest remedy I found to address it was simply to “think good thoughts”... however, it’s easier said than done and one of the best examples of how it works can be found on page 133...

“It’s weird, Rick. I made it and he didn’t. You know, there’s a moment of truth when you’re at the customs window and ‘the man’ in the booth is holding your passport in his hand and he starts asking you questions looking directly into your eyes: ‘What is the purpose of your visit? Do you have anything to declare? Are you traveling alone? Etc. He might glance at a computer screen, but generally he stares right at you. He’s measuring you. Seeing how you answer his questions. Your body language. Your nervousness. Now, in my role as a priest, I was totally into the mind-set and playing the role. I was living it and had the backup paperwork in my bag to prove it. I actually looked like a man of the cloth and mentally I believed it with every fiber of my body. It was the vibe I was giving off. I’m sure of it. I think you understand that. I tell you, when you walk through customs, the rush is incredible. Maybe a part of him was scared because Marty just couldn’t see getting completely into character, doing it all the way. From what I heard, for some stupid reason he wanted to get into the Peruvian party scene and now that dumb bastard is in one of the worst possible places in the whole world, Lecumberri Prison in Mexico City. It’s a true hell on earth. Forget him Rick, he’s as good as dead. He looking at thirty years. He’s gone forever.”

Some can “think good thoughts” instinctively, instantaneously and naturally. It’s in their DNA. JQ clearly has it and was born with it. It is deep within his soul and he is able to ‘go to that place’ in a split second and without thinking as seen above in relaying his story to me of his successful smuggling episode as opposed to Marty’s bungled fiasco. Marty’s nervousness gave him away while JQ, who did the same exact thing, remaining totally composed and in the moment and was able to project the serenity and the ‘thinking of good thoughts’ from the depths of his total being and not give himself away. Marty, on the other hand, was under the illusion and false sense of security that he possessed such a quality. In reality... he didn’t and when the confrontation occurred at the Mexico City airport, Marty’s nervous and his inability to convey ‘calm and not project the nervousness and anxiety associated with what he was doing at the time, clearly betrayed him, resulting in his bust and a five year stint in one of the worst prisons in the world and ultimately his premature demise.

In others, such as myself, it’s an acquired skill, honed over time usually as a result of learning from one’s mistakes. I learned that lesson in Chicago and it wasn’t pretty... as I found out shortly thereafter in July of 1972 on page 138...

“We boarded a TWA flight at San Francisco International Airport bound for Chicago. Our tickets routed us through Chicago with a change of planes and onward, non-stop to Munich. As soon as we were settled into our first-class seats and airborne, the stewardess came by to serve drinks. I ordered a gin and tonic while Jordy chose a Cutty Sark on the rocks. I reached into my carry-on bag and retrieved a small bottle containing four Quaaludes, two of which I swallowed, chasing them with my gin and tonic. I gave the other two to Jordy, who did likewise.

Twenty minutes later I nodded out. I was completely unaware of the time and before I knew it, we were landing at Chicago’s O’Hare Field. We both wobbly emerged from the plane and headed down the concourse to catch the connecting flight bound for Europe. As I passed through the metal detector at the security station, a loud buzzer sounded and the uniformed security officer manning the detector ordered me to stop. “Empty your pockets into the tray and go back through the metal detector,” barked the guard. Still loaded from the Quaaludes, I unthinkingly emptied all of the contents from my trouser pockets into the tray and as I turned to go back through the metal detector the guard said, “Stop right there! What’s this?” The officer was holding up a small vial of white powder I had taken from my pocket and placed into the tray along with my keys and change. I blinked twice and paled, suddenly realizing I had inadvertently put my cocaine vial into the inspection tray. “Huh,” I stammered. “Oh, that’s, ah, ah, just some baking soda for my upset stomach. It helps keep my ulcer in check.” “Yeah, right. Just wait over there,” the guard said motioning me to a side bench adjacent to the inspection station. He pulled his two way radio from his belt, placed it to his mouth and depressed the talk button, “Security, we have a code five at gate 19B.””

“Stop right there! What’s this?” The officer was holding up a small vial of white powder I had taken from my pocket and placed into the tray along with my keys and change.

Following that incident and as a result of numerous subsequent encounters at customs, I acquired the mental and psychological skills to be able to compartmentalize the fact of what my real mission was, marijuana smuggling, and project the calm persona of a normal businessman or tourist doing nothing out of the ordinary and projecting complete innocence by “thinking good thoughts” and reacting, sometimes even with a bit of arrogance as I illustrated on page 183...

“I returned home via Pan American flight #2 direct from Hong Kong non-stop to San Francisco, a grueling thirteen-hour flight. Upon arrival at SFO, I collected my military-style B-4 flight bag which was laden with collectibles I accumulated from Nepal, India and Thailand: carpets, thangkas and other Nepalese and Tibetan artwork. The bag weighed almost eighty pounds and was bulging at the seams. I knew I was in for trouble. I presented my passport to a friendly looking female customs agent standing behind the counter who punched my passport number into a computer. All of a sudden all the friendliness vanished, as she stared at the computer screen. With her left hand, she reached next to the computer and pressed an ominous red button, which I noticed illuminated a red lightbulb over the line in which I was standing. She frowned as she looked up at me and then down at my passport and customs declaration forms in her hand. “One minute, please, sir,” she said as three other uniformed customs officers appeared at the counter.

The woman handed my passport and declarations form to a stern looking officer who said: “Bring your bags and come with us, Mr. Bibbero.” The three officers escorted me to a small holding room. “Where have you been?” demanded an agent with a crew cut. He had the disposition of a pit bull. “I see you’ve had some trouble in the past. Any drugs here?” asked a Hispanic officer pointing to my bag. “I’ve been traveling in the Orient, and no, I don’t have any drugs,” I answered. “Right. Now, open your bag and let’s have a look. Sit down and remove your shoes,” the crew cut agent growled. “Look pal,” I said, “you don’t have any right… ” “Yes, I do have a right,” snapped the agent. The mottled red splotches on his face deepened in color. “No, you don’t have a right to be rude. I’ll do as you request. I’ve declared everything I purchased abroad. It’s all here on the declaration form. There’s nothing else. I’ll subject myself to your search. As far as I’m concerned you can turn me inside-out, if you like, but you won’t find anything that’s not listed on the form. The past is the past and I made a mistake, but that’s no reason for your rudeness. I don’t need to listen to your veiled accusations. Just get on with your business,” I said, thoroughly annoyed. The agents backed off at my assertiveness and then quietly proceeded to search my B-4 bag. They examined my Tibetan carpet and the Tibetan scrolls known as thangkas, and all of the trinkets I’d purchased. They cross-checked everything with my customs declaration form and then inspected my shoes. They found nothing. “I’m sorry for the inconvenience, Mr. Bibbero,” the Hispanic officer said. “That’s OK,” I said. “I know you are only doing your job. Have a nice day.” I repacked my bag and left the room.”

“No, you don’t have a right to be rude. I’ll do as you request. I’ve declared everything I purchased abroad.

Recently one of my readers, Pat from Lake Tahoe, told me that as a result of reading my book she realized that “thinking good thoughts” was her prescription for reducing or at least mitigating constant arthritic pain and it’s associated depression. Her story was the inspiration for this blog and my realization that these three words have great significance and can certainly be the difference between life and death!

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