Paul Vasquez, AKA Double Rainbow Guy, was in Iceland this past month to spread the word of the Rainbow. As readers familiar with YouTube will recall, Paul’s video, which he posted on January 8, 2010, created a sensation this past summer after Jimmy Kimmel “tweeted” it on July 3rd. The video has since received over 19 million hits and Paul has been nominated for a new category in the 2011 People’s Choice Awards, i.e. ‘Favorite Viral Video Star’. The Grapevine had the pleasure of interviewing the famous Double Rainbow Guy before he set off on his tour of southern Iceland, his first trip outside North America. And he picks Iceland. BUT WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
In line with the popular narrative so dear to the American entertainment industry, Paul Vasquez’ story is one of rags to rainbows. He describes an abusive upbringing in the rough streets of East L.A.: “It was a ghetto…I was born to a woman who beat me so bad that I thought she was going to kill me.” Paul, who is of Mexican and Native American descent, grew up to be a firefighter and it was this that first brought him to Yosemite National Park in 1985. By 1990, after a short-lived marriage that resulted in two children, Paul was living alone, in the same home that features in his YouTube videos, on a remote plot of land about 16 kilometres (“as the crow flies”) from the park’s border. For the following two decades, Paul leads a lonely existence: “I drove long-haul trucks in 48 states and Canada for ten years and one day. Meanwhile I was just living alone on that mountain out in the middle of nowhere, and that put me through a big transformation.”
Paul’s transformation centered on his relationship with women and what he calls “femininity.” In January 2009, after almost twenty years of isolation, “I called femininity into my life” by joining WWOOF, World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, and “all these beautiful, young women started coming to me from all over the world.” Incidentally, Paul is interested in local, sustainable farming and in addition to “breeding dogs for cash,” he has an organic farm with “25 fruit trees, gardens and chickens.” After a year of hosting WWOOF volunteers, Paul arrives at a profound realization: “I had owed a debt to femininity. I needed to learn how to love women without sex because…I was damaged [from childhood].” Paul attaches a lot of importance to his various epiphanies, and claims that they are often accompanied by outward signs, which he then tries to capture on video for YouTube: “My videos are those signs of my spiritual and emotional progression.”
MESSAGES FROM GOD
In this way, Paul interprets the double rainbow as an outward manifestation of a moment of inner clarity. As the WWOOF volunteers’ stay was only temporary, their departure cast a dark shadow over rainbow land: “I gave them all a piece of my heart, and at the end of the summer, I was left with a big whole in my chest.” Paul sought help from various sources, “I was going to a psychiatrist, a psychologist, a doctor, a shaman, and I was doing sweats just to try and figure it all out, and then at the beginning of this year, I figured it out and it was like coming out of a cocoon…and that’s when the double rainbow came, and it was like: I understand and I caught it all on video!”
Paul further interprets these outward signs as messages from God: “It doesn’t show that well on my inexpensive camera, but it was a complete disc of colour. It looked like a giant eye looking at me… that must be God’s eye.” Paul eventually came to the conclusion that God chose him to spread a message to humanity, which he has distilled into three decrees: “Love your fellow man, walk gently on Mother Earth and connect to Spirit.” Yet, besides practicing Native American spiritual traditions, Paul is not affiliated to any religious organisation and his idea of God is expansive: “I think all the rainbows are the spirit of the universe saying: “Look, pay attention to Mother Nature!” There is a spirit to the universe that you can connect into; it will make you more successful and happier.” As it happens, Paul is a big fan of both Oprah and Avatar.
Since his video went viral, Paul has had to adjust to celebrity status. He describes how he can no longer keep track of the number of requests he receives from people wanting to live and work on his farm. “I call them rainbow warriors,” he says laughing. Speaking with Paul at Hressó, where he orders a humble breakfast of porridge, toast and coffee (with an elephant’s share of sugar mind you), I am struck by his sincerity and guru-like charm. Still, he carries more the aura of a harmless, West coast hippie than a zealous cult leader. It may be noteworthy to add that although Paul occasionally uses marijuana for medical reasons (he has a prescription), and admits to having experimented with other hallucinogens, he claims not to have been under the influence of any drugs when he shot the famous Double Rainbow video.
THERE IS A BALANCE
I question whether Paul can use his newfound fame to bring awareness to specific environmental and social causes and thus spread his overall message of peace, love and environmental sustainability in a more direct way. Paul nods his head in agreement and cites some of his political interests, such as Native American rights and his distrust of monoculture in the agricultural industry. And yet, these causes seem overshadowed by such self-aggrandizing measures as his YouTube campaign to get on Oprah and by ingratiating himself to corporations such as Microsoft, Subaru and Sony. But Paul disagrees: “There is a balance. You can’t just live in a hole. We’re living in reality here…everyone’s gotta have some kind of toll. The problem is greed, I mean how much wealth do you need, how many houses and cars? Some people have so much wealth, it doesn’t make sense.” But is there any company Paul would refuse to work with? “I don’t like McDonalds”.
At the loss of some poetic justice, it was not Iceland’s McDonalds-free status that brought Paul here, but rather the student council of a local secondary school, Menntaskólinn Hraðbraut. For the fun of it. Although Paul seems geared up to celebrate with the students, and plans to take lots of videos with his new, underwater camera throughout his stay, he does not like leaving his home on Bear Mountain. “I was called here, I have a job to do, that’s why God showed himself to me.” At the time of the interview, Paul had yet to see an Icelandic rainbow, but if he goes bananas over potential rainbows at Gullfoss or the green rains of Aurora Borealis, I’m confident you will be able to check it out on YouTube.
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