Tuesday, March 08, 2016

My friend, Crazy Richard Fowler, AKA Auckoo, has Passed

Iquitos can be a lonely place. People come from all over the world to Iquitos to soak in the jungle,  the ayahuasca, the beautiful women and handsome men. And a lot of them fall in love with the place and wind up staying there for months. Some wind up living there. But for most, living there becomes a sort of wretched endgame of their lives. If they have work, if they have a reason to get up and go do something there every day, then life is the same as it would be anywhere. But there aren't many jobs for gringos or Europeans or Aussies or Africans, so they end up bored. And if you wind up bored in Iquitos,  you wind up drinking or drugging or sexing yourself to death. I've lost a lot of people I called friends over the years, essentially from boredom.
     One friend who just died was Richard Fowler, known to all as Auckoo. He'd come slightly on the lam from a pot bust in Florida where he was a naturalist working in the Everglades. Prior to that he'd been a snake catcher for Bill Haast's Serpentarium. Settled in Iquitos, Auckoo took to the jungle, learned it, and began taking people out for pretty extraordinary trips sort of to the middle of nowhere. And then he brought them back. Safely.
     Then he married a beautiful woman and adopted her two young daughters and did his best to be a good dad. Oh, and he was also very crazy, and crazy smart. In any given conversation he'd come up with two, three things that you didn't know, which kept conversation interesting.
     Anyway, I heard that he took a bad fall--perhaps after a heart attack--and died a couple of days ago. I'll miss him when I'm in Iquitos in a couple of months. We generally met up a couple of times on each of my trips for a couple of hours. So i wrote something for him on a facebook page that other friends of his were writing on. Here's what i wrote:

  I'll chime in as he was my friend as well. I was asked to write a couple of anecdotes about him. I could have written about the time the BBC asked me to do a TV show where I'd have to go into a pond of muddy water and come out with a caiman. I knew I might get lucky, but that Auckoo could do it blindfolded, so I passed it on to him and he looks great doing it. I could have written about him as a naturalist, because he was a very good naturalist, very quick and knowledgeable. I could have written about his struggles through the lean times and how he always kept his chin up. I could have written about the time he slammed a friend's shotgun against a tree, smashing it, and left me responsible for fixing it even though I wasn't in the country at the time of the tantrum. I could have written a lot of things because I knew him for a long time. Not intimately. I was a friend; I wasn't an intimate friend. So I didn't write those things. What I wrote was this:
    Auckoo was physically dangerous, from both training and experience. He also had something of a chip on his shoulder and so was always up to challenge someone, anyone. One evening on the Boulevard several years ago, he challenged me to go, right then, and jump into the Amazon River. Being Irish myself, I said sure. He took my hand and we ran toward the stairs leading down from the Boulevard to the Amazon River (really, the Itaya at that point, but close enough). We ran 50 feet and then he leaped into the air and into the reflecting pool that's one of the Boulevard's favorite places for both tourists and locals to get photographed. I mistimed the leap and wound up doing a bellyflop into the water, which was, after all, Amazon basin water.
    Another night, not long after I'd had a major operation that left 142 stitches in my belly from my sternum to below my navel, Auckoo approached and asked me to stand up. I did. He then came next to me, took a karate stance, and belted me in the stomach, saying: "Let's see how good this doc's work really is," as his punch landed. I was drunk but responded in kind. The next morning he approached me on the Boulevard with one hand covering his right eye: Underneath it was a huge mouse and a couple of stitches: I'd evidently gotten in a lucky shot at him. Secretly I was glad he hadn't killed me the previous night after I connected with that punch.
    And then one more time: Last year or so, Auckoo, a little bit high, as was I, approached my table and demanded that I fight him then, there. When I didn't move he said: "Okay, you know how serious I am? I want this to be a fair fight this time. No lucky punches. You don't believe me?" And with that he took his automatic out and slapped it on the table. "There. No gun." Then he reached into his vest and pulled out brass knuckles and slapped them on the table next to the gun. "No knuckles."
    He reached into his back pocket and pulled out a knife, putting it on the table with his other weapons. "No knife."
   "What else do you want?" he asked, going through his pockets, pulling out an assortment of coins, deadly weapons and cigarette lighters.
    When he was done he looked at the pile. "Pretty impressive, right? You ain't seen nothing yet!" and with that he pulled out his very tiny pomeranian or some sort of tiny dog like that and put her on the table as well. "Okay, now I'm clean. Let's go."
     I stood, as if ready to go.
     We didn't, of course. He just wanted to make certain you were ready when he challenged like that. As long as you were, you had his respect.
     Rip, Auckoo. Go catch yourself a frog or two up there.


Unknown said...

Dang Peter... That's some sort of dangerous friendship. I'd hate to see what would have happened if he didn't like you.

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