Hello, my friends. I don’t always march 500 miles for freedom. But, when I do, and I am in San Francisco, I end up getting hit on by a drunk thirty year old model at 10:45 pm on a Sunday night after I’ve been walking for over thirteen hours. Stay thirsty for freedom, my friends…
My day began like most others have during this march, with me waking up in the back of my mini-van, sleepily unlocking my car doors and setting off the car alarm. This is followed by my fumbling for the car key, and then reaching over the seat to press the automatic door opener. I then stumble out of the car and do the hot potato dance because my feet are so sore, and I quickly unlock the driver’s side door. This turns off the alarm.
This ritual is a pain in the ass, but, it gets me up and alert.
From there, I went into the gym to shower. Afterward, I put on my marching clothes and rubbed Running Goo on the soles of my feet to keep them from getting blistered. I ordered a protein shake from the gym smoothie stand, and went to move my car to another location. The parking structure I was parked in since the morning before charges $24 for each twenty-four hour period. I thought I might find another place to park that would be less expensive.
When I paid for the parking, I was surprised to only be charged $10. I giggled like a school boy.
WHERE ARE THE DAMN GAS STATIONS IN THIS CITY!?
I noticed that I was on Empty, so I went in search of a gas station.
I drove north toward Fisherman’s Wharf, and then east, along the coast. No gas stations. Anywhere. Just stop and go traffic. I was getting worried that I’d run out of gas and cause a traffic block. And, be stuck in San Francisco with no way to get gas.
I passed many college-aged people who were dressed in outlandish costumes. They ran the gamut from risque to humorous to ridiculous. These people were in a rush, trying to get somewhere.
I continued drive along, not finding a gas station, and getting ever more concerned. Finally, as I was stopped at a light, I gestured to the passenger in the car to my left to roll down her window. I asked her and the driver if they knew where there was a gas station. They said there was one ahead and to my right.
I drove that way, but didn’t see a gas station anywhere. My car started shuddering, and I cursed. Just then, I saw an overpass down the street, and then a Shell gas station sign on the right.
I coasted in, relieved. As I gassed up, I saw a small group of revelers walking by. The men wore silly luchadore outfits. I asked them what the costumes were all about, and they told me that there was an annual race going on, and that thousands of people traditionally donned costumes and walked parts of the peninsula to party.
Once my tank was full, I decided on my day’s itinerary: go to Fisherman’s Wharf, then march to Haight-Ashbury again, and then proceed to the Golden Gate Bridge.
Since there really wasn’t an affordable hotel or motel in the area, I decided to return to the gym parking structure. I parked in the same spot, got my flag and backpack, then left the gym and walked north toward the wharf.
WILLIAM, WAR, AND WHAT ARE THE BILL OF RIGHTS?
Along the way, a man with a wonky eye named, William stopped me. He was sitting at a bus stop, and wanted to know why I was carrying the flag. I gave him my standard responses, and he grew more and more animated as we spoke. He talked about how great America is compared to other cultures that abuse their citizens, and that our citizens have gotten lazy about their rights.
William said that he absolutely believed in what I was doing and asked me if I was former military. I told him no, but my step-father was a Marine who served in Viet Nam. William seemed to love Marines, even though he didn’t look at all like someone who feel that way about the military. Frankly, he looked like a Cheech and Chong character.
I told William what my doctrine on war was: Avoid it as much as possible, but, if it happens, then unleash the hounds of hell and win it as well and as quickly as possible. With no politically-directed rules of engagement that result in needless deaths.
William pointed to my shirt and asked, “What are the Bill of Rights?”
“The first ten amendments to the Constitution that list specific rights that government cannot take away or infringe upon. Like, freedom of Speech, freedom of Religion, the right to Petition for Redress of Grievances, the rights to Keep and Bear Arms-”
“What about the right to a lawyer?” he interrupts.
“That is part of your right to due process, ” I said. “And not to be disappeared as we now can be.”
William of the Wonky Eye and Salty Tongue was so enthusiastic about our conversation, that he kept using more and more profanity. A woman who was standing on the other side of the bus stop partition leaned over and said, “Excuse, I agree with your message, but could you not use profanity? There’s a child present.”
Willie and I didn’t realize that the woman and her twelve year old daughter were there. We apologized. The girl was very pretty and shyly looked at us and at my flag; unsure of what to make of us.
The bus came, and William and I shook hands. “Oh, hey,” he said, “Do you have any papers?”
“I don’t smoke.”
“That’s alright, dude. Keep up the fight. Go all Jarhead on those motherfuckers! Oh… Sorry, ma’am…” Then he rode away.
After that I walked until I reached the edge of Fisherman’s Wharf.
IS THE PARADE OVER?
I stopped walking in order to take out my tablet. I wanted to take a photo of the west-side of the Ghiradelli Building. A Hispanic man wearing a server’s uniform came out of the garage as I was about to take the photo. He was slowly pushing some kind of can on wheels, and he looked at me. He slowed down, and kept turning back. I was getting impatient because I didn’t want to use up the tablet’s battery unnecessarily. Finally, he turned and walked down the hill and around the corner. I took the photo.
I walked down the street to the corner and took another photo; this time, it was of a boat-shaped building. When I turned, there was Stalker McStalkerstein staring at me.
“Did I miss the parade?” he asked.
“I am the parade.”
“Oh, I heard on the radio about a march for civil rights.”
“I don’t know anything about that. I’m marching five hundred miles to stand up for the Bill of Rights.”
“You’re not marching for immigration?”
“Absolutely not. I am specifically marching for American civil rights and liberties.”
He smiled, tilted his head to the side for a moment, then said, “Something for everyone.”
I wasn’t exactly sure what he meant, but I smiled back and waved.
I walked toward the beach area so I could take a better photo of the front of the Ghiradelli building. From there, I walked down an amphitheater seating area to walk along the beach to reach a dock area where several old ships were docked.
NAUTICAL HISTORY AND NICKNACKS
I walked down into the Hyde Street Pier to get a closer look at the ships. They were very old and therefore, historical. I read the placards about each of them, and took more photographs with my tablet. I looked into a building in which a small boat on angled wooden beams was being refurbished.
When I stepped back to photograph the interior of the building, a Chinese man asked me if he could borrow my flag.
“Borrow my flag?” I said, sounding incredulous. He gestured to three older Chinese woman who stood together.
“Yes. For picture.”
I gave him the flag pole and told the woman he handed it to not to let the flag itself touch the ground. She had started tilting it, so I was afraid she would carelessly let it touch the ground.
As the man took the photo, I lifted my tablet and asked if I could take a picture of them holding my flag pole. The women demurred, and scattered. The one holding my flag pole quickly handed it back to me. They smiled apologetically and hurried away.
“Well, that’s a fine how do you do,” I said aloud. “I let you use my flag and then you high tail it…”
A tourist behind me laughed, and I turned around and laughed as well.
I left the pier, and walked into a gift store next to it that had pirate figures out front.
I picked up some postcards to send to my family and to a sick boy I knew about on Facebook, as well as a bottle of Dasani.
I then walked to the beach area, looked around and wondered if anyone would ask me about my shirt. Not a peep. Despite the presence of hundreds of people swimming, tanning, strolling and riding bicycles.
So I walked westward to walk on a long dock that gave a good view of the bay and the bridge. And of Alcatraz.
An Italian couple had been taking photos along my route. I was annoyed, because they were completely oblivious to other people wanting to take photos from the same vantage points they lingered in. The young woman kept pointing her camera at the young man, ever posing with an intrepid attitude, and then panning the camera away from him to capture surrounding areas in the background. I figured it was one of those panorama-stitching cameras. So I would wait. But, the young man would never be satisfied with the results, and they’d repeat the process again. And again.
At the closest point to Alcatraz I could find, they were doing the same bit again. After ten minutes, I walked up, said excuse me, and made my way to where I could take the photo. I then asked a passing young woman and her father if she would photograph me with my flag.
I handed her my tablet and told her where to press. She nervously handed the tablet back to me, and smiled.”
“Did I take right?”
“Oh, I haven’t looked…” I checked, and the photos were fine. Because it was such a windy day, my flag was fluttering beautifully beside me. I gave her the thumbs up and she smiled, relieved.
With that area off my checklist, I set out to get to Haight-Ashbury.
GUNTAR THE AGGRIEVED
It was a beautiful day. People were riding cycles everywhere, including up an old Army base site that was on a hill. I walked up the hill and people looked at me with curiosity and bemusement. I could tell from their manner of dress, hairstyles, and speech that they were almost all foreigners. The Army buildings had been converted to a hostel area. Once I reached the top of the hill, I came to a large park where even more people were lying on the grass, soaking up the sun.
A tattooed woman on the grass asked if she could take my picture. I said yes and she did. Then, I walked on, past the park, and back onto the streets.
That is when I encountered a tall, lanky unkempt man with a backpack whom I shall call, Guntar.
Guntar had very bushy hair and a ragged beard. And piercing, angry eyes. He was walking toward me, then did the same stiffening I’ve seen before when someone’s really pissed about my marching with the flag.
Before he got to me, he suddenly turned right to cross the street. As he did, he took into my eyes and extended his middle finger at me. With absolute hatred in his voice and eyes, he said, “Fuck the United States!”
His voice had a gutteral Germanic tinge to it.
“Ya, ya, ya,” I said in shock and extreme anger. I then invited him to fuck himself. I was furious. I was tempted to confront the asshole, but he loped off like an angry urban sasquatch.
I reminded myself to let my anger go. Even though I still lose it from time to time, I still want to BE a Christian, not just claim to be one.
For the next two hours, I walked up some of the steepest streets I have ever seen in my life. I can’t imagine a Prius has the horsepower to carry anyone up such inclines. Twice, I had to take a moment to catch my breath. But, after marching for so many miles, I was able to walk at a quick pace until I reached the top. From there, I headed west until I passed Alta Plaza Park, and then, Masonic.
TERRITORY OF THE TOLERANT
Masonic leads right up to Haight. So, I followed it up. I entered an area where there were a lot of men walking hand in hand, or arm in arm, or some cases, crotch-in-hand. There were a lot of them around the area. They looked at me with great surprise. I just smiled and greeted a group of them as I passed by. At a street corner, as I was waiting to cross, a male-female couple in costumes walked across the intersection to my left. Just as the girl was directly behind me, she gave a yelp and cursed. She had been hit by a water balloon.
I looked up at the apartment complex windows where some of the gay men had walked into, a minute before. I saw no one. So, I turned around and keep walking.
After five minutes or so, I was two blocks away from Haight-Ashbury. At a nearby park, there were hundreds of the costumed revelers on the grass. They were playing games and laughing. I walked up and reached the famed corner, and the day’s primary destination.
THE DUSKING OF AQUARIUS, OR, PROCLAIMING THE END OF PROGRESSIVISM WHILE STANDING AMONGST HUNDREDS OF PROGRESSIVES
There were hundreds of revelers, tourists, and locals on the corners, and along the streets of Haight-Ashbury.
I took out my tablet, set it on the ground, and turned on the video recorder. I then made my proclamation.
Despite speaking as loudly as I could, the wind was heavy and the chatter of the people walking by muffled me. I may be able to get the audio louder before I post it on YouTube. In any event, I declared the Age of Aquarius dead, and the Era of Progressive Rule over America soon to follow. There is a bit more to my speech, but you’ll have to watch the video.
Several people nearby didn’t look pleased. A young woman raised her eye brows. A black guy with dreadlocks sneered. And three white college fraternity types were too drunk to understand anything I was saying. And, I didn’t care. After seeing the hatred in Guntar’s eyes, not just for this country, but for me, I wasn’t in the mood to care what anyone else had to say.
HERE THERE BE INDIANS… AND HIPPIES… AND PIRATES!
As I was walking down Ashbury, I walked by an open garage. A tall, thin Native American man named, Gene, looked at me and my shirt and smiled broadly. He rushed out and shook my hand over and over. He asked me what tribe I was with. He was a bit drunk. I was taken aback and told him the only tribe I’m with is the American Tribe. When he realized I wasn’t Native American, he waved over an old bearded hippie and his friend to come meet me.
The hippie, named Bruce, was trying to sell his “Hippie’s Cookbook.” He was smoking pot as we talked. Bruce told me that he was a non-GMO type of cook, who once cooked for Ronald Reagan, and for French restaurants, and other places. An unmarked police car drove up the street, past us. Bruce cast a furtive glance and pointed them out to me.
Apparently, Bruce had a felony or two, and was on probation.
“I grow weed. You know, medicinal stuff. So, they keep an eye on me. I have to keep a low profile,” he said, finishing the joint he was smoking.
Bruce went on to tell me about his views on how marijuana should be legalized and regulated, like any other product. He motioned to the garage and said something about a Grateful Dead album showing his house on an album cover. I think. Gene interruptted with something about something. Then, he laughed uncontrollably.
“It’s the drink.” said Bruce, sadly. “It’s no good for him.” Gene said something else incomprehensible, and leaned on me, laughing.
“Here,” he said. “Let me have your flag. Take a picture of me.”
I took a photo of him and of Bruce. Bruce told me that he was one of the two creators of Pirate’s Booty, the snack. My children have that in the past, so I recognized the product.
“My father was a pirate. Our family line were pirates,” he said. “My middle name is Morgan, after the famous pirate.”
It was getting late in the day, and I was worried about getting to the Golden Gate Bridge before it got dark. So I excused myself, and headed north, down the steep street toward the Presidio.
Along the way, I saw a heavy-set curly-haired woman walking toward me. She was dressed all in black, with a giant Feminist symbol on the front of her shirt. At the end of the leash she was holding was a tiny, semi-hairless dog that hunched its back and walked on its toes as it walked. It looked more like an ugly cat thing than a dog. I waited to see if she would react negatively, but she just strolled by as normal.
YOU WANT A SANDWICH?
I trudged northward on Masonic until I got to a busy cross-street. I wasn’t sure what the best route would be to reach the Golden Gate Bridge, so I looked around to ask someone for directions. I saw a man sitting on a curb by a bus stop to my left. So I walked around and asked him.
Andrew was a late-Twenties, early-Thirties man with dark hair who gladly pointed out the route I should take. I thanked him and turned to leave when he stopped me.
“If you don’t mind my asking, why are you wearing that shirt?” He had an expression I couldn’t quite read.
“I am marching to demand that our elected and appointed officials, from the President on down, uphold their oaths of office to protect the Constitution, and, by extension, the Bill of Rights.”
Andrew then engaged me in a conversation about the state of the Union, and how Obama has been dismantling our civil rights. He decided not to get on the bus when it arrived.
“I’m a Moderate Conservative. More, a Libertarian,” he told me. “I like what Dr. Ron Paul has to say.”
“I have been listening to what his son, Rand has to say. I agree more with his stances than the more isolationist stances taken by his father,” I said.
“Yes, I agree. Rand is definitely more in line with my thinking than any other politician. I believe that none of the First Ten Amendments can or should be touched by politicians. Other Amendments might need tweaking, but not the first ten.”
I smiled. “Of all of the people I’ve spoken with over the past five weeks, you’re the only one who has told me that. That is exactly right. Our rights are inalienable. Therefore, they cannot be taken away, nor can they be regulated or infringed upon. They are rights. The Bill of Rights cannot be repealed, or even amended to take anything away. That is what our politicians simply do not understand.”
After further discussion, Andrew saw the bus approaching. “Are you hungry?”
“Yes,” I said. He squatted down and opened his backpack. “Do you want a sandwich?” Inside, I saw several wrapped foodstuffs.
“Do you like tuna sandwiches?” he asked. “Not really,” I said. “But, thank you.”
“Are you sure? How about a pastry?”
“Oh, no thanks. I’m Diabetic. But, thank you. I’m craving spaghetti. So I’ll wait until I find an Italian restaurant along the way.”
Andrew took my card, and told me he would send me an e-mail. He wanted to continue or conversation.
After he boarded the bus, I continued northward to the Presidio.
I eventually reached a summit called Presidio Heights, which was populated with spectacular Victorian houses with manicured hedges, groomed trees, and the same type of permit parking restrictions found throughout the city. This area “felt rich.” There was a gated children’s park. I could see the children laughing and running around while their well-to-do parents watched and mingled.
I walked down Laurel from Washington, and passed down the other side of the summit. As I did, I saw a vast forest below. It looked awesome. I had reached the south-side of the Presidio.
INTO THE WOODS…
There was a road along the edge of the Presidio forest that ran left to right. I looked into the forest and decided not to walk through them as I might get lost and take even longer to reach the bridge. I wanted to cross the bridge no later than 7 pm or so, while there was still daylight. So, I turned left and walked up the road.
Along the way, I took photos. I love forests. I love the greenness and the trees and the open glades in between stands. I love wildflowers and creeks and meadows. I am happiest when I am walking through nature. Which is why I have been so unhappy in San Diego for the past ten years.
I have yearned to move to a place that is foresty. Inland San Diego, of course, has a lot of nature trails and several lakes to walk to and around. But, the area is chaparral; dry and desert-green. I prefer the vibrant greenery of Minnesota or the Pacific North-West, or Hawaii.
When I was a boy, I lived on Oahu for three years. Those were some of the best years of my life and, at the same time, some of the worst. My family life was wrought with alcoholism and very traumatic domestic abuse. To escape the fear and pain of those night-time episodes, I would climb over fences marked, TABOO during the day and wander through the jungles.
For hours, I would explore the environment, gaze at the waterfalls and streams, try to catch catfish or crawdads, and watch insects buzz around or crawl or wriggle. In secluded areas, I would find small pools of maggots, or the dens of wild boar. It was a magical, beautiful playground.
Because I was always a spiritual person, I would climb to the highest branches of swaying trees and sit there, rocking in the balmy breezes, meditating. I pondered about life and death, about God and Heaven, and about who I could and should be. I dreamed of what it would be like to be rich so that I would never know hunger or insecurity or want.
I would also dream about finding my soulmate one day; that one person who would love me for who I was and who would understand my pain. In addition to being spiritual, I have always been a romantic. Which is why I have always been drawn to poetry and art about the Idyllic, and to fantasy and ancient time periods.
As I walked up the road alongside the Presidio, I saw a sign pointing to several trails into the forest. One of the trails led to the Golden Gate Bridge, which was 2.6 miles away. So, I went down the trail, and into the forest.
My heart soared when I saw the sights within. The sun had descended in the sky, and so, rays of sunlight streaked through the canopy of trees and illuminated patches of wildflowers or fallen trees or deep crevasses. The tall pines and leafy trees surrounded me and I loved it. Occasionally, other people walked by, but for the most part, I walked alone.
The trail led out of stands of trees and back in again. A few times, I would have to cross a street and then reenter a wooded area.
I came upon a cemetery dedicated to fallen veterans. There were two plaques on short stone walls. They contained quotes about the deaths of those who served, and that the meaning of those deaths was dependent on what meaning the living decided they would have. Hundreds of white marble crosses spread across a hillside that faced the bay. I could see the Golden Gate from where I was standing, which reminded me to move on.
From there, I walked down the trail to a road with a nearby overpass. On the side of the overpass, it said, Camp Winscott. Red brick colonial-style houses were on a hill on theother side of the overpass. I turned right down the road and then down to where another road intersected. I took the new road uphill.
WHAT ABOUT OUR RIGHTS?
I came upon three high overpasses that stretched out and curved above the road I was on. I looked up at the bottoms of them, and just imagining driving on them made me feel very queasy. I saw a sign that called them the 101 Freeway and I knew I would indeed have to drive over one of them the next day. One of the three overpasses was very old and in the process of being demolished, while another one was newly built. As I was examining the metal girders of the old overpass, two women walked down the hill toward me.
“What are you marching for?” asked the short, slim blonde.
“I’m marching to stand up for the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.”
The taller woman, a plain-looking brunette carrying a Tigger banner on a flag pole looked at my shirt and pursed her lips.
“The problem with the Constitution is that everyone interprets the Constitution differently.”
“There is no interpretation needed with the Constitution,” I replied. “It is based on the Declaration of Independence, which explicitly states that our rights are unalienable. And, so, the Constitution, viewed through that prism, clearly protects all of the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights as being rights of the Individual that cannot be taken away or infringed upon by the State.”
“Well,” said the brunette, “people interpret rights differently.”
“Yes, they do,” I agreed. “Many don’t understand that a right is only a right as long as it doesn’t infringe upon another person’s rights.”
The blonde said, “We’re a lesbian couple. What about our rights?”
“Yes,” interrupted the brunette, clearly upset. “We don’t have any rights. We don’t have the same visitation rights or property rights as everyone else.”
“And, why is that?” I asked. I was wondering if they would bring up the marriage issue, and what they had to say about it.
“The religious right won’t let us have these rights,” said the brunette.
“The majority of people keep voting against what we want. Everytime,” said the blonde.
“So, it’s not just the religious right who are the problem, then,” I said. I was treading on dangerous territory with these two, so I tried to maintain a sympathetic tone.
The brunette unleashed her frustration. “We’re tired of waiting. The hell with everyone else. We don’t care what they think. Damn Americans. They want to keep the country stuck according to laws passed by religious fanatics.”
“Do you believe in separation of church and state?” asked the blonde.
To an extent. But, that’s not-”
“We need freedom from religion,” said the brunette. “So, that even those who don’t believe in what the damned Christians believe don’t have to be forced to live how they want. They’re all warped.”
“Getting rid of the individual’s right to freely worship as they wish, or not wouldn’t be possible in America,” I said. “Not with the Constitution in place. We have freedom of religion. For a reason.”
“But, we’re atheists and we are sick of living in a country that is run by extremists. We shouldn’t have to abide by laws put into place by fundamentals. We should be able to be free to be spiritual or Buddists or Muslim, or not believe at all.”
I thought about what to say next. “You are able to do these things now. That’s what freedom of religion is. You can believe, or not. In the past, when the majority of Americans openly expressed their beliefs, they were Christian beliefs. But, even then, we were never a theocracy. No one can say we ever were or are a majority atheist or Buddhist or Muslim nation. That’s just not the reality. The majority always were and still are Christians.”
“Makes me sick,” said the brunette.
“So, on your march, you’re marching for the Bill of Rights?” said the blonde.
“Yes. Everyone’s rights.”
“But, how can you say that? Do you support our equal rights?”
“Yes, I do. I have absolutely no problem with civil unions. You’re human beings. You’re Americans. You have the right to pursue your happiness.”
“But what about marriage?” asked the brunette.
“No,” I said, bluntly. I knew that this was the point of no return. “Marriage is a term that has a specific societal and religious meaning. It means the sanctified union between one man and one woman, which is a religious sacrament.”
“But what about people who are straight who get married through City Hall or in Las Vegas? They weren’t married in a church. Aren’t they married?”
“Technically, they have a civil union. They weren’t married in the traditional sense.”
“Well, everyone calls it marriage.” The brunette was getting very agitated. “And, they have the same rights as people who were married in church.”
“Well,” I said, “Wouldn’t you get those same rights if you had a civil union, too?”
“We want marriage,” she said, angrily.
“But, that would mean you’d get to force churches to have to marry you, despite their beliefs.”
The blonde put her hand on her partner’s shoulder. “That’s why we need freedom from religion.”
Mi”So, you would deprive others of their right to believe in what they want to believe in, as protected by the Constitution, because you want the word, marriage.”
The women sighed and restrained themselves. “We want equal rights.”
“I believe you,” I said. “But, marriage isn’t a right. At least, it currently isn’t. It’s more a societal privilege.”
“It’s a right,” argued the brunette. The blonde nodded vigorously.
“No, it’s not. At least, it’s not a right that we have collectively agreed upon as citizens as being a right. Right now, even straight people have to go to City Hall, pass some test- usually a blood test– and meet certain standards- like not be siblings– and then they are given permission, vis a vis a license, to marry. So, it’s currently not a right, per se.”
“That’s ridiculous. Government shouldn’t have anything to do with marriage.”
“Not even for the purposes of societal order?”
The blonde shook her head. “No. Not at all.”
“So, anything goes?”
“Let’s go,” said the brunette. She couldn’t restrain herself any longer.
The blonde looked down and then up into my eyes and just looked.
“Good luck on your march. Defend our rights, as well…”
Then, they turned and left. I continued up the winding road.
THE CRISSY FIELDS
I soon reached a point that overlooked the Crissy Fields below.
The fields were once populated by the Ohlone people, and was a wetland. But, the lands were covered over, and stables and warehouses were built on it. In the 1920′s, it became an army airfield.
I looked down at the equestrian buildings, which had equinine symbols above the large doorways. Since it was late on a Sunday evening, no one was down there. I wondered if there were horses in them, or if they were just relics of bygone eras.
There were large abstract scuptures near the shoreline. Beyond them, was the northern tip of the peninsula.
I walked up the road and finally reached the outskirts of the bridge area. Three people in their early-Thirties walked by me, and one of them started singing the “America, Fuck Ya” song from some South Park-related movie I can’t recall. The entire song. He didn’t stopped until they passed me, and disappeared around the bend.
I walked another quarter of a mile, and there it was, the Golden Gate Bridge.
THE WINDY BRIDGE OF FEARS, TEARS AND CHEERS
My heart started beating faster as I realized I was about to walk across the bridge. I had been told that there was a railing and fencing on the side, and that it wouldn’t be too scary. But, I was still getting very anxious.
Before I went on the bridge, I asked a young man from another country to take my photograph with my tablet. I posed, with the bridge in the background.
I put the tablet into the backpack, girded my loins, and grasped the flag pole with both hands. Then, I walked up to the pedestrian entryway to the bridge and started marching across.
My heart started pounding. The wind was so strong, that I thought I was going to be dragged off of the side of the bridge by the fluttering flag. My imagination and phobia were getting the best of me. As I slowly walked forward, gusts of wind would hit the flag and I would lurch a bit to the right, toward the railing. Slowly, terror started to flood over me.
There were people on the bridge who were walking toward me. This forced me to have to move closer to the railing; which, by the way, was not all that high. In my peripheral vision, I could see sky and parts of the bay below. I kept stopping in place, nervously peering to my left at the vista, and then continuing on.
I held the flag pole in the middle, tightly against my chest, at an angle. It was far too windy to raise the flag pole higher, and to be able to hold it by its base as I usually do.
The entire first half of the walk was nerve-wracking. Because the flag was so big, and I was holding it so low, it fluttered in the faces of others who passed by from behind me.
I came to a walk-around point where the wind was blocked by a massive bridge support. I started trembling and so I sat in a corner. After the panic attack I experienced on the mountain road in Tehachapi a week before, I was sick of feeling phobic. In fact, I started crying because I decided to confront this fear and not let it keep me from doing things I’ve always wanted to do. The more I thought about how long I have lived with the fear, the sadder I became, and the more I cried.
I stood up, took out my tablet, and waited until someone walked around to where I was.
Two young men walked by and I asked one to photograph me at the railing, looking down. I asked him what language he spoke, and he said, Espanol.
“Me voy a caminar por aya, y me voy a leer abajo,” I told him. With tears in my eyes, I said, “Tengo muy miedo.”
He understood, and solemnly took my tablet. I cautiously edged my way toward the edge with the flag. I sobbed as I did. Normally, I never would have let anyone see me that way, but I was determined to conquer my fear of looking down.
I took a breath and repeated, “Through God, all things are possible.” Then, I looked down.
For a few seconds, I felt the old familiar vertigo I experience when I am at a high place and I inadvertantly look down. I pressed myself again the heavy metal railing, holding in as tightly as I could. Slowly, my vision cleared, and I could see the waves below crashing into the side of the support pylon’s base. My breathing slowed, and I felt the terror subside.
I turned around, and the young man took another photo of me.
I walked back to the corner, thanked him, and sat down again. I cried again, but this time, it was from a sense of intense relief and accomplishment.
After that, I continued on my march. It was still scary, but the terror never returned. From time to time, I would stop short, my feet planted, and I would turn my head to look directly out at the bay beside me. Then, I’d walk on.
A Mexican family walked toward me, then the father wanted to pose with me. He motioned for his children to join us, and his wife took the picture. He looked at my shirt and smiled, giving me the thumbs up.
Cars drove by and honked from time to time. Across the busy thoroughfare, on the other side of the bridge, I saw bicycle riders headed in the opposite direction. I wondered how they could ride in such windy conditions. People casually walked across the bridge, and I realized this was nothing to them.
Marching across the Golden Gate Bridge, when I first conceived of doing it, seemed like a good symbolic act as part of my Liberty March. But, as I was walking across, all I wanted was to reach the other side. Once I reached the other side, I really didn’t want to do it again. But, by that time, it was after 8 pm, and it was getting very cold.
My car was parked at the gym parking structure miles away, and I was starving. I hadn’t eaten anything since 9 am. I started wishing I had accepted the sandwich and pastries that Andrew had offered me.
I then turned around and immediately marched across the bridge again.
This time, I walked on the side closest to the cars. On-coming vehicles honked and people inside wave or pumped their arms.
From time to time, I would stop and walk to the railing to look down. It got easier and easier to do as I walked across the second time.
Twice, though, a bus would zoom by, and the air wake would pull the flag, which in turn, would lift me up onto my toes and backward. The wind had shifted and so I was leaning into the wind, clutching the flag pole.
Finally, I got across, and went down to an area where there was information about the building of the Golden Gate Bridge. I had done what I came to do, and I felt proud.
It was dark, but I could see some of the information on the plaques and statues and small scale bridge models. Because the wind was so cold, I knew it was going to be a miserable walk back to my car. I kept thinking of a hot plate of spaghetti, and thought about finding a restaurant along the way.
I went to use the restroom, and when I was out, looking at my tablet, a man with an Israeli accent walked up and asked my why he had seen me on the bridge marching with the flag.
“Because I am a citizen, not a subject. And I demand that my elected and appointed officials uphold their oaths to protect our Constitution. I want my rights protected.”
“So, you march with the flag,” he said, impressed.
“Like Forrest Gump,” chimed in the young woman with him. She was smiling.
“Yes, except no one’s following me,” I said.
“You keep doing this,” said the man, who patted me on the shoulder. He turned around and they walked away.
My tablet battery was almost dead, so I turned it off and put it away. I put on the backpack, hefted the flag pole and walked into the dark of the Presidio.
LOST AND FOUND
I walked down the road I had followed before, loudly singing the Liberty March song I wrote (it’s on the Liberty-March.com web site, on the MARCH subpage). I was elated that I had completed the two biggest things I wanted to do on the march: the Haight-Ashbury proclamation and the bridge march. Hunger was starting to make me tired. I realized that I was getting lost as I walked. I had been heading in the general direction of the city proper, but the unlit roads and dark forest area caused me to become lost.
Luckily, I happened upon the Presidio Visitors Building and nearby was a fire station.
I walked up to the front door of the fire station and rang the door bell. A minute later, three firemen appeared. All were dressed in night clothes. I apologized for disturbing them, and told them I was lost.
One asked me in and led me to a wall map. He pointed out where I was at, and which roads to take to get back to the Civic Center area. I was still a long way away.
I thanked them and handed them my Liberty March business card. “This is in case I get lost and die, or something,” I joked.
“Don’t worry,” one of them said. “This is the good part of San Francisco.”
I left the fire station and headed up Lincoln, as directed. Then, I turned left on Lombard and headed east, toward downtown.
It wasn’t too long before I reach the end of the Presidio and was once again on surface streets where houses and commercial businesses were once more present. I found a small Italian restaurant called, Marina Pizza and Caffe, and I went into eat. I ate lasagna and garlic bread. And it was good. I sat at a table next to an electrical outlet and partially recharged my tablet.
By this time, it was 10 pm and I still had another two hours of walking to go.
HER NAME WAS RIA… SHE WAS A MODEL…
After forty-fives minutes of walking, I saw a corner bar that had a sign saying, “Karaoke Tonight.” I love doing Karaoke, though my voice is shot since I stopped practicing, and since I started having serious problems with my Diabetes over the years. I can no longer hit upper register notes. Anyway, the sides of the bar were big windows, and I could see a lot of people inside dancing while someone sang and was being projected onto a large screen television.
As I stood there, a dirty blonde ran out and started talking to me as if she knew me and we had already been talking about something.
“Oh, my god, that girl is so hot,” she told me, about someone inside. “She is the hottest one in there. I want her so bad…”
Despite my confusion, I just smiled and kept watching the action inside. Some guy with a huge blue afro wig and shades was squatting as he danced, and bouncing his ass.
“That’s a big flag pole,” the young woman said. She was about 5’9″, skinny, with no make up and her hair pulled back in a ponytail. She wore jeans and a zipped up hoodie with a light jacket over it. She was very very drunk.”What are you doing?”
I told her I had just marched all day. From that point on, things got strange. She started looking up and down at me.
“That’s tight. You live around here?”
“No. I’m from San Diego.”
“You ever been to Venice Beach?”
“I marched through there just a couple of weeks ago.”
“No shit? I have a house there. I’m a model. I’m thirty years old. I’m signed on with (unintelligible agency name) for five years. My house is the one with the (unintelligible description). You know it? You should come down sometime. Here…” She pulled out a book of matches from an establishment in Venice Beach. “My house is just six houses up from here…”
Before I could respond, she launched into another barrage of questions.
“So, what are you? Mexican? Your skin is really tan.”
“My mother is Puerto Rican, and-”
“Tight!” she said, running her eyes over me again. “I’ve never been THERE before…”
I was wondering if she was playing some kind of game. She actually seemed to be hitting on me. Through the window, a younger woman with make up, who definitely looked like a model, was trying to get her attention. She was holding a camera, aimed at us.
“Uh… excuse me,” I interrupted. “I think someone’s trying to get your attention.
The young woman in front of me turned and waved, then turned back to continue her full court press. I was amused because I knew that the other model was taking the pictures in order to use the to embarrass or maybe blackmail the girl the next morning, when she was sober. At the same time, I didn’t relish the idea of being the “creepy old guy” they would forever be joking about.
“So, my name’s Ria. What’s yours?”
“Roger,” she repeated, using a deep voice. “That’s hot. What are you, like forty-five? What rap singers do you like?”
I stared at her, my mouth open. “Not a music guy? That’s cool…”
I couldn’t believe this encounter, and didn’t think anyone else would, either, so I shrugged off the backpack and took out my tablet.
“Oh, ya! Let me give you my digits…”
“Actually, would it be alright to video you while you talk?”
This sobered her up a bit. “No, no. I can’t. The agency (unintelligible)…”
“Okay, then just talk and I’ll video the Karaoke scene. As I did, she told me what links on YouTube to check out in order to listen to several rappers she liked. She liberally peppered her speech with “motherfucken-this and motherfucken-that.” On the whole, she was pretty hard to follow.
I turned off the tablet and put it away.
“My nieces are all, like, Aunty Maria… When are you going to take us to San Francisco? Well, I’m here now. Not going to bring kids to a motherfucken club. Oh, there’s my brother, waiting for me. Here…” She handed me the book of matches. “See ya… Roger (with the husky emphasis voice).”
Then, as quickly as she entered my life, Ria was gone.
I walked around the corner of the bar and walked on. As I did, a huddled group of models and the men with them watched me go. One of the young men looked baffled. I looked him in the eye, smiled, and strutted off.
I had walked almost four hundred miles by that point, had battled my fears, and after that strange encounter with Ria, I was feeling like a manly man once again…
I got to the gym parking lot without any further incident. It was Midnight. I showered, got dressed, and then got into the back of my mini-van, and quickly fell asleep.
It had been a long day.