Catching Up with Kai, the Hatchet-Wielding Hitchhiker
May 17 2013
Back in February, a “home free” hitchhiker named Kai (legal name Caleb Lawrence) became a viral sensation when he whacked a dude with a hatchet. That dude, who Kai was hitching a ride with, claimed to be Jesus Christ, then purposefully ran over a utility worker and proceeded to attack a woman who tried to help in Fresno, California. That's when Kai stepped in and with a “SMASH, SMASH, Suh-MASH!” stopped the guy. Then he gave an interview to a local television station that, as you can see above, defies easy categorization. Since then the 24-year-old wanderer has gained a cult following, appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live, and claims to have a reality show in the works. Speaking of, he's looking for a drummer to join him for the show, if anyone is interested.
Kai's background is hazy. He speaks of a fundamentalist-Christian-cult upbringing that he describes as, “The scariest thing I ever saw.” He left his Christian background to live on a Native American reservation, where he earned the name Kai after a spirit walk. He says the one religion that has positively affected him is “witchcraft,” and he carries around a set of voodoo cards, which he told me he had dedicated to Sofia, the goddess of wisdom. He'd spent the two years prior to getting in the car with the man who unknowingly changed his life “living in sailboats, houseboats, going out surfing on islands, hopping in cars with people I didn't know, and traveling the country. Jumping off cliffs into lakes, going to music festivals, playing music in parks. Just random, spontaneous awesome all the time.”
Kai doesn't have a driver's license, a social security card, or a passport. I was told he was impossible to get in touch with, but through my incredible stalking abilities, we became friends. Kai called me up the other day from artist David Quadrini's house in Venice Beach to fill me in on life since moving into the public eye. Oh yeah, and he really wants to go sailing, if anyone has a sailboat they want to invite him on. He requested that I mention that.
As his skills with a hatchet might suggest, Kai has a violent steak. I asked him if he had any negative experiences post-internet fame, expecting stories along the lines of a TV producer exploiting him. Rather, he derailed into a tale of brushing his teeth in a bar bathroom.
VICE: What’s up with this other fight you got into, after the hatchet incident?
Kai: I was washing my teeth, and this dude's like, "What the fuck are you doing brushing your teeth in here?" I was like, "Uh.... When was the last time you got laid?" He was like, "Wednesday, how about you?" And I was like, "II can't call it." And then we got in a bit of a tizzle. He's a 210-pound douche-monkey looking at me thinking he can bully me around because I'm skinny. I weigh 160, 165 soaking wet. And, um, his face was split up to the point where I think he needed surgery. I guess brushing my teeth in a bar washroom just kind of attracts bullies, but whatever.
Tell me about that day you stopped the man with your hatchet. Did you have any sense about how your life was about to change?
I could sense that that dude was fucked up. And I didn't really know how to deal with that situation because I've never met anybody that fucked up before. Sometimes you get in rides, and you sense that the person's lonely or maybe they haven't been around people in a while, but he really changed how I go about things because it could have ended really differently when the cops got there. They could have shot me on sight. If it had been in Arizona or Texas, maybe they would have shot me.
He was on a trip of dominance and control. I think he had a poisoned psyche. I've heard some of the research that people have been doing about his life and apparently he was a high school basketball coach for girls. That is fucked up. That truly sickens me. When I hear stuff about him getting jumped by six guys in a Fresno County jail and getting his jaw broken, I'm not going to lie to you, I celebrate that. People like that need to be fucking stopped.
So he's in jail now? And you testified at his trial right? How was that?
He's in jail. There was this defense lawyer at the trial. She was trying to smear me. And I just threw roses, and she got hit by those thorns. She was like, "Is there PCP in this joint?" And I was like, "Is this Reefer Madness?" The judge had to call a recess. He said so the DA could inform me of the court process, but I secretly think it was because he needed to go to the backroom and laugh at how hardcore the defense lawyer was getting torn down. And at the end of me being on stand, he actually did laugh out loud right at the defense lawyer's face. She was trying to trick me up, and I said, "Excuse me, miss, please don't mistake my hesitation for weakness, I realize you're trying to trick me and I just need to consider what I am saying as not to allow you to trick me." And she said, "No further questions." The judge laughed in her face. So I'm just waiting for that transcript from the court reporter.
So what have you been up to lately? I can't begin to fathom how your life has changed since that viral video.
Yeah, it's been really excellent, I've met a lot of cool people who have been reaching out through the internet, mostly contacting me through Facebook, there is about 10,000 messages in my inbox from people all across the country. There's people from eco communities, there's people from surfing communities, there's people from Rainbow Gatherings, who just got classified as a gang by the Obama administration, who have invited me to come and meet with them.
A gang, really?
Well they've been deemed as “subversive” by the new CIA director, John Brennan. He could have just stuck to telling the army to prepare to destroy the Tea Party, um, that wasn't such a bad idea, considering the ideas and intentions they send out to the world, but then he kind of went and called the Rainbow Family and the Grateful Dead Family a gang, which is way over the top.
So are you going to get involved with Rainbow Gatherings?
Well, I want to know what they're all about. I mean peace and friendly hugs are one thing, but motivation and consideration that there needs to be infrastructure to society is another thing. In order to create a sustainable community, the community needs to deal with things like shelter, food, clothes, and stuff on a regular basis in such a way that they aren't taking away from another community at the same time. So it's kind of just an exploration on how they work with that, you know what I mean?
I'm going to smoke this joint, just a second. Every day I pay the price to live in sacrifice. I love Kaya so much.
[coughs] Oh yeah. OK that's good, that's good.
What has it been like going from living off the grid to appearing in the public spotlight?
Well, I've largely succeeded in any effort to hide myself. I disappeared inside the Emerald Triangle for a couple weeks even.
How did you do that?
I just showed up. A friend came and picked me up, I lost both cell phones that the DA investigators had given to me, and disappeared for a week and then reappeared and did a few radio interviews and magazine interviews and then I disappeared again.
What do you do when you disappear?
I get in contact with a friend who contacts another friend and then show up in a car, I get into the car, change my appearance slightly, get in another car and then disappear off into the woods. I play drums and guitar. I head down to the beach and surf. I skateboard off hills into the countryside, and I walk around in the forest and identify new plants.
Well, new to me anyway. I actually practice herbology in terms of medicine and stuff. I don't have health insurance or a social security card or a birth certificate or a passport or anything. Which is the thing about being home free, when you submit to the authority of pieces of paper, you lose your personal identity and the identity you find through nature. So I've been trying to integrate the market system into my life a little bit more now that there are people I'm interacting with all the time who are kind of obsessed and possessed by it.
Do you feel your “home free” mentality has reached others?
Yes, I'm so thrilled that this message is out there now! There's three and a half million people at least, and that's not counting the three million hits in the first day of the video being up that got to hear the message, that everyone, no matter what they've done deserves respect, that everyone that makes mistakes is still loveable, and that it doesn't matter your looks, skill, age or whatever, you're worthwhile, and that last one is something I've noticed that a lot of people in Los Angeles just haven't heard. In, like, a whole life of 53 years, have never heard that they're worthwhile. They've always been trapped into a mathematical function of the worth of their existence. And that just to me isn't right, I mean we're all divine in some aspect of our being, you know?
What advice would you give to people who aren't ready to go as extreme as you, but want to enter a more “home free” mindset?
Well conspiracy aside, I like what Rob Brezsny said about “pronoia” being the antidote for paranoia. So pronoia is agreeing that the universe wants to interject blessing into our life in disguise, so we choose to explore the mystery of the situation at hand and figure out in what way the universe is trying to grow our soul. Whereas paranoia is the mindset that everyone is out to take a piece of you instead of realizing that each situation is an opportunity to learn about everything that is, you know?
What do you see in your future?
I'd like to sail across the world. I'd like to visit countries that need change. If I could free just one sugar plantation in Haiti, I would feel like I have done something for all the sugar and coffee that I've drank in my life.