“This is not my life anymore.”

 Lenny Watson – “Rainny” as the Thais call him – has had one hell of a life.

His first tour of Iraq as a US Marine was in 2003.  The same year he got a tattoo across his chest stating “Whatever it takes” circling an American flag with a knife on top.

During his second tour of Iraq in 2004, a RPG explosion blew off his jaw.  While waiting for medical evacuation, he was shot multiple times including once across his head.

The next two years of his life were full of reconstructive surgeries.

1AM          The “Mojito Bar”       Chiang Mai, Thailand

It’s Thailand’s equivalent of a dive bar, with a tattoo shop in the guts of the structure.  Sublime plays on the speakers in the dark, dirt floor bar lit with candles and scattered with a Sunday crowd.  The neon light over the reclining tattoo chair casts a contrasting yet complementary light on the girl trying to teach us how to say “I’m f***ing full!” in Thai language.

He has known the tattoo he was going to get, for quite a while now: a diagonal peace sign,  to mimic a “no-smoking” sign over the past tattoo.

“This is not my life anymore.”

For anyone who has meet Lenny, this tattoo cover-up is incredibly appropriate.  He has been traveling for almost two years, working, volunteering and Couch Surfing across the world. Settling in Chiang Mai until February, he is doing everything he can to “give back” what his travels and people have brought to him.

A week in Chiang Mai was enough for him to track down a 3 bedroom house so that he could host travelers and Couch Surfers.  A weekend in Chiang Mai was enough for him to find volunteer work at vegetarian hotspots: Birds Nest and Tea Tree (he was a cook back home).  He’s already famous for his hugs.

His appreciation and eagerness to give to the world seem boundless.  Which I find incredible coming from someone who has already given so much of himself (literally).

4am – We finally walk out of the bar, and head back to the scooters.  The small backroads of Chiang Mai are bare and the air is cool.  His talk about his tattoos being an evolving “life moto”, circle around my head.

Impermanence being the the commanding thought…  perspectives are so concrete yet fleeting and unstable.  Growth seems demandingly vital for individuals and societies to continue to survive.  Especially in this phase of the world’s life.  I wonder how many hidden heros I’ve met or walked past.  The people in the world, like Rainny, who have seen the absolute worst of humanity and in turn given nothing but the absolute best of themselves right back.

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5 Responses to “This is not my life anymore.”

  1. Paul says:

    great story chris. the photos have strength on their own but wouldnt let the viewer in on the ‘tattoo’ importance without some background info. All the more powerful. Great work!

  2. Kat says:

    thanks for sharing. lenny is a rad dude!

  3. Louise says:

    You article is great ! Your writing is very good measured, not too pathetic and too epic. I like the organisation of the pictures and the texts and I think I can quite good picture what the atmosphere was. You just chose the perfect words to describe him, as far as I know him 😉
    A french secret admirer, L.

  4. Joc says:

    Great subject for a story. I am following you now, and I’m looking forward to future updates!

  5. wow. powerful use of words/images. i think i just found some more required supplemental reading for my freshman comp students.
    great work, all-around.

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