California Liberty March Journal – San Francisco (Day Two)

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.”

“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.

California Liberty March – Palmdale to Lancaster (Layover in Tehachapi)

Today, as I was driving down a mountainside road in Tehachapi, I experienced the most terrifying panic attack of my life.

I thought I was going to end up at the bottom of the cliff near me, and roll down to the bottom of Kern Canyon. Thankfully, I held it together, and extricated myself from the harrowing situation.

Before I get into that, I want to report about the California Liberty March on Wednesday May 8th from Palmdale to Lancaster.

Report: It was pretty uneventful.

I had left from a community park in south-east Palmdale and walked across residential and commercial areas separated by stretches of undeveloped desert land. Cars would occasionally drive by and honk, but when I’d look to wave, the people in the honking cars were facing forward, as if they hadn’t honked at all.

Whenever a car within a group of passing cars would honk, I was always unsure of who did the honking. In fact, I wondered if they were honking in support of the flag or out of annoyance.

As I passed a middle school, some boys playing with a kick ball saw me. The first one gathered his pals, and they shouted and waved. The first boy was pumping his fists in the air and shouting. He decided to go all out and bent his knees. He followed this up with hip thrusts. I just laughed, shook my head, and walked on.

Tony A.

The only people I had actual conversations with on this march were both in Palmdale. The first was a thin man named Tony A. who was standing outside a McDonalds. He walked up behind me as I was rolling up my flag. When I noticed him over my shoulder, he said he wanted to see how I did it.

Tony started telling me about the bad nutritional effects of eating at any fast food establishment. He was going to go in and eat a yogurt parfait, he said, but wasn’t sure.

“With all due respect,” he said cautiously, looking at my gut, “Have you ever done a cleanse?”

“No, but I probably should. I want to lose forty more pounds.”

He went on to tell me about faith leader Danny Viera, who is in northern California, and who has a cleanse product that works wonders. Tony and I talked further about faith and religion. His goal is to establish an “Empowerment Ministry” in Florida. He had worked as a para-legal and loan modification agent before the present administration. His wife and father-in-law drove up, and Tony handed me his card.

Ryan

The second person I met was Ryan; a young man in his early twenties, who was wearing a black baseball cap, unzipped hoodie, and saggy pants. He was standing outside of a hobby store miles away, smoking. His bicycle was leaned up against the wall.

I rolled up my flag in order to step inside the hobby store to look around and to get out of the sun. The wind was blowing hard, so the flag wasn’t rolling up correctly. Ryan stepped up and helped me get it under control.

I walked around inside the store to see if they had any cheap plastic figurines of children I could buy to use as playing pieces for the prototype of a board game I am developing called, The Very Scary Cemetery. An artist I know (who was once a 3D animation student of mine), is going to paint the art for the game pieces and board. The store owners told me they didn’t have what I wanted, so I left.

As I was unfurling the flag, Ryan asked me why I was walking with it. So I told him.

He smiled, revealing some chipped and missing teeth. He told me that he wanted the local Sheriff’s Deputies to uphold their own oaths, as they harass him on a weekly basis. Ryan said that because of his appearance (he has neck and arm tattoos), he is pulled over as he rides his bicycle, and is asked if he is on parole or probation. He told me that he continually hands his ID to the deputies, telling them to run his card.

“Check my background. I have no record. I may look bad,” he told me, “But I’m a good person.”

He gave me another lop-sided, toothy smile, and I shook his hand. All I could think to tell him was, “Hang in there…”

I then continued to 10th Avenue West, and turned northward to Lancaster.

Desert, Desert, Everywhere

From that point on, there were very long stretches of open land, with business park developments or mini-malls punctuating the long arid walk.

After several hours, I reached Lancaster. Mike DeGrood, a member of the Sons of Liberty motorcycle club, called me at 4:30 pm to try and find me. He wanted to walk a little with me. He was going to pick me up at the end of the route and drive me back to my car at the park in Palmdale.

I was about three hours away from completing the 20 miles. He walked with me from Avenue L to Avenue K before turning back in his work shoes to get his car. I continued walking to reach Avenue J before me got me.

While the parts of Palmdale I had walked through were predominantly populated by Hispanics, the northern part of Lancaster I walked through are predominantly blacks. The expressions on the faces of people I passed by as I walked in both towns made me smile; because they all seemed to be wondering what type of lunatic I was.

I received a lot more honks and thumbs ups in Lancaster, as well as smiles and waves. The usual battle cry of, “America!” was occasionally shouted.  I even got two “Whoo hoo!” from girls driving by.

Side note: Teen aged girls and college girls almost always shout the same thing: “Whoo hoo!” I wonder why that is. Although, some do occasionally shout, “America!” like boys and men tend to do.

By the time I reached Avenue J, Mike D. was parked off to the side. “You ready?” he asked.

My arches were aching, and my right foot was once again throbbing with pain.

“All you’re going to hit from this point on is desert,” he told me. “No one will really see you and the flag.”

So, I put the flag in his car, and he drove me back to the park. It was a long drive, because of the surface streets route, even though we did take the freeway along the way. Then, I followed him back to the freeway, and then drove 45 minutes north to Tehachapi, where he lives and works.

As I followed Mike’s car, we passed through part of the Mojave. To the West, I saw hundreds of wind turbines in the distance. It was amazing. They were on the plains and on the hills. When Mike pulled over along the way to gas up, he told me that he works for a company that constructs them.

From there, we drove to Tehachapi.

That is where I am now, blogging. He and his wife have offered to let me stay here for a couple of days. Tomorrow, I will leave early in the morning to get the Bakersfield for that march. I’ll return here for tomorrow night. Early Saturday morning, I will drive up to the next route, which is from Tulare to Visalia.

After that, I drive northward.

Tehachapi

I haven’t had much time to explore. From what I have seen of it, it is a very nice rural town. I left at 3 pm today to drive around and take some photos for you guys, but I didn’t get very far. As I passed houses on acreage that had white fences around them, I came to the top of Kern Canyon.

That is where my harrowing experience began.

Yesterday, I had told Mike that I have a phobia of driving on high, curving overpasses and bridges. Driving over the Golden Gate Bridge and others is a concern for me.

I first became aware of my anxiety with driving over bridges in my early Twenties, when I was a Resident Assistant at UCLA. I was driving some students from my floor somewhere along the I-405. When I came to the I-10 interchange,  and was driving onto the overpass, I suddenly experienced sweats and anxiety.

I slowed way down and made it, but was freaked out.

Since then, I have done alright while driving. But last Summer, while I was driving my children over the Coronado Bridge to reach the island, I once again experienced a terrible panic attack.

I didn’t want to freak out my kids, so I remained calm, breathing slowly. All the while, my mind kept seeing the bridge in front of me collapsing, and I was deathly afraid we were about to plunge into the bay below. I just kept talking myself through it, telling myself to remain calm, to check my speed, to look at the road ahead (instead of the open sky above and around the bridge).

We made it. I was so shaken by this, I let my eldest daughter drive us back over the bridge (even though she was still a new driver).

Today, I was trying to find a famous landmark where trains do a turnaround. So, I followed a road Mike had pointed out. That road went through the rolling plains lands of the houses with fences I mentioned. It was when the road started to descend alongside a mountain when the panic attack occurred.

All-Consuming Terror

I was driving down  for a few hundred feet when I was struck by how interesting the landscape in the distance looked. I pulled over on a very slim patch of gravel on the side of the road, on the lane closest to the canyon. I was a little nervous, so I double-checked the parking brake, and that I was in Park.

I got out of my car, walked up the road a little to take a photo of the canyon with my tablet. When I got back into my car and started driving down again, there suddenly was a sheer cliff alongside me. There were no longer any trees alongside me to provide a point of reference for my eyes.

I suddenly panicked and felt my heart race. I told myself to calm down, and I prayed.

“Through God, all things are possible…”

I slowed down and came to another gravel pull-over spot. Luckily, it was twice as wide and long as the first. I hit my Hazard lights and drove slowly onto the gravel. I was terrified. To my right was a canyon far below.

My heart raced and my head was spinning, and I thought I was going to drive off the cliff. From where I was at, on this narrow two-lane road, I was able to see oncoming traffic from both directions for about forty feet each way. There was a hairpin turn ahead of me, while the road had a shallower curve behind me.

I had to get off of that road as soon as I could. The terror was quickly building. It took a lot of talking to myself to keep track of what I needed to do:

Is your foot still on the brake? Are there cars coming from the north? Are there cars coming from the south? Am I sliding into the canyon? How much space is there to turn left into the mountain, so I can back up onto the gravel again and complete turning around..?

I looked up and down the roads again, saw that they were clear, then I went for it. I turned hard left, drove across the lanes until I was facing the mountainside, then I looked back to see where I needed to go as I backed up.

When I looked back, I was completely horrified, all I could see was the sky. I didn’t know how much road there was until I hit the gravel patch. I was afraid I’d accidentally hit the accelerator and drive off the cliff. But, I knew I couldn’t remain blocking the road. Someone could run into me at any second.

So, I drove back slowly until I felt the car roll over gravel. I then turned quickly to see how much room I had left ahead of me. No cars were coming, so I turned the wheel hard left, then accelerated back onto the road, and headed back up the mountain.

I retraced my route back to the DeGrood’s. When I parked the car, I was nauseous and shaky. My head was throbbing and it hurt. I went into the house and into the bathroom. There, I splashed water on my face and I was overwhelmed with emotion. I started to cry.

So I went into the guest room and cried into a folded up towel until the feeling went away. I rewashed my face and left the house. I wanted to go to bed and curl up but instead, I left the house and drove into town along a different route.

There, I saw a Starbucks next to an Italian restaurant called, “Pacino’s.” I felt queasy so I decided to eat something. I hadn’t eaten any other than a protein shake up to that point.

Inside Pacino’s, I saw that it is essentially a shrine to the actor. There are movie posters everywhere, as well as framed head shots from throughout his career, and painted murals of the man and of his work.

I ordered water and spaghetti with salad and bread sticks. I was still shaken but slowly feeling better. Across the aisle from me was a woman named, Darlene F. She and I started talking.

She told me that she is a commercial and competitive Bass fisher. She travels throughout the South fishing and competing. She told me of how the weather conditions were so extreme at times that she and other competitors questioned their judgment in doing what they do. This fascinated me.

She told me that they sometimes band together, sleep over in rented houses or campsites, and share stories of their day’s travails with one another. They compete for money, boats, and sometimes houses. Mainly, for money. But they pay $3000 entry fees to enter competititons!

“It’s all about winning,” she told me. “It’s to be competitive.”

Talking with her calmed me. I told her about my march, and she told me to contact some of her FB friends who are fishermen and who are Conservative. We shared names and then she left.

After I was done eating, I drove around the town for ten minutes. It had started raining, and it was overcast. I felt exhausted, so I drove back to Mike’s house.

Excelsior Henderson Motorcycles

When I returned to the house, I started blogging. After an hour, Mike returned and needed to use his computer. So, I got off and went into the guest room for a while. I then went into the den to ask Mike a question.

He was looking on Google for images of motorcycles that have the same type of windshield he needs for his motorcycle. That is when he began to tell me the story of the resurrection of an American motorcycle brand called, the Excelsior Henderson.”

Apparently, the first American-made motorcycle was the Excelsior. Ignaz Schwinn, the famed German-born mechanical engineer, and bicycle maker, purchased the rights to the Excelsior and another motorcycle brand called the Henderson. He then began producing the Excelsior Henderson motorcycle.

The “X” was the favored motorcycle of law enforcement officers in the Twenties. Charles Lindburgh rode one, and even Henry Ford was an owner. It was the first motorcycle to reach 100 mph.

By 1931, though, because of the Depression, Schwinn walked in and informed his employees that he would no longer be producing the X. Thus, the Excelsior Henderson faded off into obscurity. Until the 1990’s.

It was in 1993 that Dan Hanlon, and his younger brother Dave, reintroduced the Excelsior Henderson. They had spent $50,000 on each of several prototypes that were based on the last known designs of the motorcycle’s previous incarnations. The Hanlons’ designs were supposed to take those designs and extrapolate what the motorcycle would look like at that point, as if it had never ceased production.

From 1993 to 2000, the Hanlons produced one thousand nine hundred and fifty-eight motorcycles. But, the Hanlons needed more money to continue to do so. Each production model cost $1000 more than what they sold for. The Excelsior Henderson name still needed time to build a customer base, and thus, be more affordable.

Despite a push for venture capital, the Hanlons had to file for bankruptcy. While litigation was in process, an outside company came in, promising to revive the company. The principal of that company put down $300,000 as a deposit against the millions needed to finalize the reorganization.

As it turned out, the principal of the investing company was an unscrupulous man wanted in other states. He sold all of the assets and dies and machines used to construct the X. He sold all of the early models from the showroom, and liquidated all holdings.

Hence, the Excelsior Henderson was once again lost. No one knows where any of the machine dies have gone to, nor are there any of the original plans known to be in existence. Whomever has them hasn’t come forward. As Mike said, “It’s a mystery.”

Mike has two Excelsior Hendersons. He proudly showed them to me after he told me the story. They are beautiful cycles. I intend on acquiring one in the coming year, once I am working once again.

Apparently, they are becoming less expensive because original replacement parts are dwindling. They can be modified with parts from other brands, though. From a historical perspective, the X is a collectable. It represents American ingenuity and determination and courage.

I want to be courageous. I want to overcome my fear of heights and of falling. Everyday on this trip, whether I want to or not, I discover something new. I learn something I need in order to be able to leave behind my previous bad habits and fears.

When I Drove Off of a Cliff

I suspect that my phobia and anxiety is due in large part to the day I drove off of a road that ran alongside a ravine. From the center of the ravine was an elevated area on which a train ran.

I was 16, and I was driving a Ford Pinto to the Trestles with three friends. The Trestles was a train bridge over a lagoon in Carlsbad, CA. We would jump from the bridge into the water below. Once in it, the water currents were strong, and wee’d swim against them to reach the shore.

The day before I was driving to the Trestles, I was a passenger in my friend George’s station wagon. He was driving on the dirt road, doing fishtails. We thought that was fun. So, the next day, when I was driving, and George and two others rode along with me, they told me to do fishtails. Being a teenager, I did.

And I did them beautifully! Until I saw an indented patch of sand ahead. So, I stopped fishtailing, slowed down a bit and held the steering wheel straight. For  whatever reason, the car suddenly turned in a 70 degree angle, and we soared into the air.

As George and the others screamed, I was trying to get my foot from under the accelerator so I could hit the brakes. Which would have been pointless, but it gave me something to do as I thought (with a sinking feeling in my stomach), “Aw, damn… And I’ve never ever looked to see what’s down there…”

I thought we were going to die. But, after being airborne for a few seconds, the car landed on the side of the ravine and was about to roll on the side when it hit a large concrete block (the type of block used to support power poles). The front right wheel well was lodged against it, prevent any further movement.

For the first half minute, we all sat there. Stunned. Suddenly, the others started nervously laughing. “Let’s do that again!”

Despite being glad we were alive, I was afraid of my parents finding out. I happened to have $50 in my wallet, so I called a tow truck to pull my car from the ravine. He did and it seemed to run alright. Though my step-father asked me why the front end was elevated. I don’t remember what lie I told him. But, thereafter, I have never been in a car accident that was my fault.

As far as I can tell, that may be the genesis for my phobia. I wonder how to conquer it. I want to be able to ride my future X on windy mountain roads without experience that terror again…

California Liberty March Journal – Santa Barbara

Beautiful, carefree Santa Barbara! Spanish Colonial and Mission Architecture abounds. So do wealthy individuals, college students, tourists, tradesmen, hippies, and homeless…

I arrived in Santa Barbara on Thursday night. I bypassed Ventura County because of the wildfire in Camarillo. I found a parking structure in the heart of downtown Santa Barbara, behind a movie theater. Two blocks away is the 24 Hour Fitness I bathed at, and another block away is the Starbucks I have been blogging from since.

On Friday, I decided to walk around with the flag instead of just resting my feet. I walked slowly, looking around at the sights. Several homeless people gestured to the flag and gave me a smile or thumbs up. Some passersby said, “Good for you,” or “It’s good to see someone patriotic!” or “Look out for that party bus!”

A college girl who was sitting with two of her friends said, “Hey, mister. What’s the deal with your flag?” Don’t you just love how kids speak to their elders these days..?

Our conversation was interesting to me because she nodded in agreement with everything I said, even though she looked like the type who would’ve put out her cigarette in my arm and spit on me for being over Thirty. Instead, she said, “Right on, that’s what I’m talking about. We need to fight for our rights.” Her two friends didn’t seem interested in the conversation, as they got up and wandered away. The girl noticed this and the conversation ended.

For the most part, people who passed me kept their distance or avoided eye contact, or whispered to each other about my flag. I didn’t experience anything negative. I just walked, made sure the flag didn’t blow into anyone’s face, or get caught in the branches of the many trees that lined State Street. Occasionally, a child would be amazed by the flag, and I’d smile at him or her.

Around 1:30 pm, I went looking for something inexpensive to eat. I noticed a pizza place on one of the side streets. There was a crowd in front of the establishment. As I approached, I saw two college-aged men wearing white short-sleeved shirts and black ties and slacks standing there. One of them saw me and asked my why I was carrying the flag. I was not really in the mood to speak with anyone. I was tired, my feet were throbbing, and I was hungry. And, I really missed my family. So, I felt a little sad.

But, seeing that others had turned to listen to what I had to say, I said, “I’m walking a total of 500 miles with this flag because I’m sick and tired of our politicians speaking as if our rights are negotiable, and can be taken away from us. Our rights are inalienable. No one can take them away. And so, I am going to Sacramento to have my voice heard.”

A blonde young woman off to the side came forward and extended her hand. She introduced herself and told me that she was raised to stand up for herself and to believe in fighting for one’s rights. She said she had gone to a march that was held in Washington, DC a while ago. Other people who had been seated on the cafe chairs had stood up and were listening.

I answered other questions, even though I felt pretty discouraged. In a moment of profound sadness, I told them that I had walked through a number of different cities so far, and had spoken with all types of people; including the homeless. I described how those who are least among us, those who have no reason to believe in anything, much less our flag, still lit up when they saw me walking by. In fact, everywhere I looked, I had seen people struggling to survive, to work, to exist with dignity despite the economy. Despite the policies that keep them down.

I recited an impromptu poem that described these people as seeds that had fallen between the cracks in the concrete of our society. They push and struggle to break through to the sunlight, becoming saplings that just want a chance to live free and to reach for the clouds. I said that if the homeless can still believe in America and in our flag, that we should, too.

I must’ve delivered a sermon, because a brunette young woman in the back of the small crowd had tears in her eyes. She softly said, “That is so cool.”

I then said I needed to eat. I handed out my cards, and everyone disbanded. I went in and ordered two slices of Pepperoni.

Later that day, I wandered down State Street and saw a game store. I am a life-long game designer and player. So, I went in to see what was new. The college girl behind the counter, Natalie, told me about the latest boardgames and trading card games. As we conversed, she told me that she was taking a game development class. I asked her what she was going to do in life and she told me that she was going to do concept art for games and entertainment.

Really good concept artists are in demand. I gave her professional advice as someone who has contracted artists for years. She showed me her web site and her work was very good. At this point, a family walked in. It was a young man named, Christian, his girlfriend, and his parents. Christian asked me about games, thinking I worked there. As the conversation evolved, he mentioned that he was an aspiring game producer. His parents beamed with pride about his accomplishments and told me to look at a game their son had completed with a group of college friends.

I introduced Christian to Natalie and told him that she was a very good artist, with an excellent understanding of anatomy. They exchanged e-mails, and he gave me the e-mail of one of his friends who was a game designer.

I went across the street to get dinner, and met an older man from the Bronx. Jerry was alone at the bar counter of Joe’s Cafe. As I waited for my club sandwich, I asked him about himself. He appeared lonely, like me. I figured he might like it if someone took notice of him. We spoke for a while about Santa Barbara, and how it hadn’t changed much since he had moved here in the Sixties. Once my food was done, I thanked him for our chat and walked back toward the parking structure.

I realized that I didn’t want to sit alone in my car as I ate, so I stopped and sat on a bench in front of another movie theater along the way. I ate my sandwich, watching people walk by. I then went to Starbucks and started blogging about the previous march. I hurried to finish it before the battery in my tablet was drained. Then, I went to 24 Hour Fitness, stretched out, showered, and went to sleep in my mini-van.

Thankfully, the parking structure is free if you drive in after a certain hour. I’ve been sleeping on the second story of the structure for two days. I am going to move the car to a different space tonight, just in case someone has noticed it’s been there for two days, and plans to tow it.

Today, I marched from downtown Santa Barbara, down State Street, to the pier. Despite feeling lonely, I wanted to avoid others. I walked to the beach to take a photo of the pier and the buildings that were on it. I wanted to be alone for a while, so I walked south along the waterline.

A blonde college girl was sitting on a towel next to her boyfriend. She asked me if there was a reason I was carrying the flag. I told her who I was, why I was marching, and where I was going. She seemed impressed and agreed that our rights are being trampled on. Her boyfriend nodded, as well, and also said that he was glad I was doing what I am doing. I gave them a card, then walked on.

I decided to get back to the road and continued south. As I walked, I looked at the chat messages my eldest daughter has sent me the night before. I had been feeling very alone, miles from home, doing an insane quest, not knowing if it would make any difference, when I received her first text.

“I miss you.” I started crying after reading it. Tears streamed down my face as I was blogging in the Starbucks. My relationship with Ashley has been strained for years. She has pushed me away and refuses to let me hug her or give her a kiss. My wife and I aren’t sure of what is going on with her, as she has always been a difficult child. But, she is my baby and I love her very much. So, it hurts not being allowed to hold her.

That’s why, when I read her text, I was overwhelmed. I was already emotional. I responded with, “I miss you, too, Shlee. Very much.”

She asked me how I was doing. I admitted that I was lonely but that I was meeting a lot of people and spreading my message. She told me she was texting from a Padres game with her boyfriend. She said she hoped that I was proud of what I am doing.

“I hope you are proud of what I’m doing,” I responded.

“I’m glad you’re doing what you feel is right.”

I asked her if she was happy, and she said that she was.

That is the longest conversation she and I have had in over two years.

When I first left on my march today, I encountered three aged hippies singing on a street corner. They were singing Sixties songs and protesting Obama and the War. I honestly have no idea what they were saying with their signs and songs. I didn’t ask. It was just too comical a spectacle. The woman in the trio was dancing in place, holding up the peace sign. One of the two men looked as if he were a little embarrassed to be there. He kept his sign near his face. The other man was on a magical, mystical, mystery tour of his own. I asked if I could take a photo, and I did. Then, I got on my purple carpet ride and headed west to the pier.

After I had Spoken to the blonde girl on the beach, I walked south until I reached a lagoon preserve. I ate flan at a restaurant near it and checked in on FB. Then, I walked up into the foothills where older residences are, and walked north again, toward downtown. Since I didn’t have a ride today from anyone, Idecided to walk in a circular route. Tomorrow, I will walk from downtown toward the north and back.

Something that strikes me as funny is how people will sometimes yell, “America!” as they pass me. Sometimes it’s, “A-MERica!” Other times it’s, “‘Murica!’ Yet other times, it’s a Geronimo-like, “Ameri-Caaaaaa!” If they follow the cry with a laugh, I get the sense they are just making fun of the dude with the flag. In any event, it’s a funny phenomenon.

When I reached downtown again, I put away the flag and my hat and went to Starbucks to blog.

Tonight, I feel a little less alone. I am almost halfway done. From Santa Clarita on, I will be in unknown territory. I have come to realize that this march, this journey, has been one of rediscovery as it has been one of political defiance and protest.

I had lost myself sometime ago, and had come to despise my “gifts.”I had been escaping from myself and in doing so, had forgotten all of my dreams and goals. I now no longer seek to be anything other than who and what I am:  a dreamer, an artist, a writer, a father, a husband, and a patriot.

I want this march to be over. I want to go back home. I want to fix things back there. But I still have more to learn. There are still more people to talk with, and miles to go before I have my say in Sacramento. The journey is just as important as reaching the destination. So I’m going to continue trusting and walking, and talking to anyone who’ll listen.

End of Day One in Santa Barbara

The next morning, I woke up at 5 am  again, and dragged myself to the gym to shower. I tended to my feet, got dressed, and decided on waiting until after lunch time to finish the last five miles of marching. I have been breaking up my marches into 15-5 mile chunks in order to rest my blistered feet. This has actually been better for engaging people, as I am not rushing to cover all twenty miles in a single day.

Consequently, my feet are healing better, and I’ve been having longer conversations with those I encounter.

After I ate lunch, I got my flag pole and set off to walk toward the opposite end of State Street and then northward.

It was a blustery Pooh Bear type of day. Except I had no Christopher Robin to walk with, and my rumbly tumbly belly was not craving honey. The flag was fluttering wildly again, so I had to keep holding it steady with both hands.

I stopped by a Mexican food restaurant to use the restroom. As I was walking toward the front door, a black-haired Irish woman pocked her head out and asked me if I was part of a parade.

“I AM the parade,” I joked. She smiled then went back in. I rolled up my flag and left it standing against an inner covered area. After I came out of the restroom, the Irish woman’s mother asked me why I was walking with the flag.

After I told her about my demand that our politicians uphold their oaths of office, she said something about what she didn’t understand or like about America. Her daughter shifted uncomfortably. Her mother said that in Ireland, they “open their door to all types of immigrants, and don’t expect or demand that immigrants give up their heritages.”

I told her, that America opens its arms, as well. But, we are not Ireland, or any other country, for that matter. Unlike any other country, we were formed to be a republic of free individuals. While our nation is a nation of immigrants (of which the Irish are an integral part), they have been, by and large, legal immigrants. A republic is a society governed by rule of law, not feel-good legislation.

The woman continued telling me about the differences between our nations, and why she took exception to how we do things. Oddly, she talked herself into a circle, ending up on my side of things after I told her thatthere is no such thing as “free” anything.

“The more in taxes I am forced to pay, the less money I have. The less money I have, the less options. The less options, the less free I am. Hence, a society that promotes the idea that the individual should be less free and live at a lower quality of life so that government can be enlarged in order to provide free things, is an unfree society run by a tyrannical government. I am a citizen, Ma’am. Not a subject.”

From this point on, she decried the social system iin Ireland, where the producers like her are penalized by higher taxation and the depletion of her pension, while those who live off of the system, don’t pay taxes, yet are given a place to live, healthcare, and food assistance.

The woman’s daughter was smiling to herself during this time; as was I. At the end of our conversation, the mother said she was going to go back and fight for her pension.

I left the restaurant, passed several Sheriff’s Deputies who looked at me and nodded when I waved at them, and headed west toward the beach.

It was starting to get late, so I walked toward State Street again after an hour. I  walked through neighborhood streets to get there. On one of them, I heard a male voice yell, “Viva, Mexico!” as I walked by. I could tell by the tone that he was trying to be a smart ass. I stopped, turned, and glimpsed a figure move out of the doorway. I just laughed and walked on.

When Igot back to my car in the parkimg structure, the guitar player was back. I could hear him from half a block away. It was 7 pm. Iasked him if he played there often, and he said he did every Sunday night.

I loaded my car, then listened to him play for fifteen minutes. I then programmed my TomTom GPS car unit to direct me to Santa Clarita, and I left Santa Barbara.

California Liberty March Journal – Day Eight

This California Liberty March was on Saturday April 27th, from California State University Long Beach to Torrance Park in Torrance. Of all of the marches I had done to this point, this was the march during which I felt I actually made an impact on someone’s life.

That morning, I drove from Orange and parked on Bellflower, near one of the university entrances. I got ready, stretched, and headed off toward PCH.

It was a nice day, and I thought it was going to be a pretty boring one; considering the university was closed (and so, there wouldn’t be students around to engage me in conversation). Also, the route I had planned out passed through a very long stretch of industrial zones.

Various Encounters

While I was making my way through the college residential areas, a thin blonde college girl came jogging toward me. She was listening to something on her headset. She had a very serious expression. She looked at me and said, “God bless you,” and ran by.

During every march, I have to continually look up and adjust the tilt and angle of my flag pole so that the flag won’t get caught on tree branches or stop signs, and so that it won’t flutter into other people’s faces as I passed them. This makes my neck and shoulders sore. But, it has strengthened my hands and forearms.

As I marched on this day, a number of cars honked and people waved. It’s always nice when someone does that. It gives me a lift to see someone smile, and it makes walking on sore feet much less arduous.

As I was leaving the apartment building-heavy college area, I reached a commerical area with fast food places, office buildings, and older homes. I was on a corner, about to cross the street, when a man rode up behind me and asked about my “cause.” I told him the abbreviated version. He told he was a Viet Nam vet. I took out a card and held out to him. Instead of taking it, he smiled and held out his arm, his hand balled up into a face-down fist. Awkwardly, I gave him a fist bump and he rode off. I put my card back in my pocket and crossed the street when the signal indicated it was safe to walk.

After awhile, I entered an area with thrift stores, and shabby shops, and even older houses. This led to a low-income business district.

I passed a car wash business where eight Hispanic men were leaning against the gate, talking.  The first one I came to saw my flag and asked me something in Spanish that I didn’t understand. Interestingly, they were all smiling broadly at me and pointing at the flag. One thanked me for carrying the flag.

A block later, I heard someone across the street call out to me. “Excuse me, sir. Do you have a minute?”

I stopped and Ken, a thin, muscular thirty-something black guy with glasses, ran across the crosswalk. He wore a loose blue tank top and shorts. As he approached, he said, “I wanted to engage you and ask why you felt the need to do this…”

I was not sure what he meant by the question since his tone wasn’t aggressive. I handed him my card and told him my objective in Sacramento. Before I had a chance to ask him what his questions were, he saw that his bus was coming, and he ran off.

Dave K., a Tea Party activist who lives in Orange County, and who had called me the day before, called again. He was driving to where I was so he could march a bit with me. I gave him my general location and kept walking. The area I had been walking in was pretty blighted, and had started becoming industrial.

Omar

A young man, no older than eighteen, rode up on a bicycle and asked me what I was doing. He had a heavy Mexican accent and spoke in a lazy manner, so I had to ask him to repeat himself twice. He listened to my spiel and looked amazed. I asked him his name and he said it was, Omar. He pointed to a shop down the road and told me that it was his sister’s sewing shop.

I continued to tell him about what the Constitution was and about the concept of inalienable rights, and how no one, not a president, not a congressman, and not a bureaucrat has the constitutional power to take away our rights. He asked me who I was and I told him I was nobody, just a dad who has had enough of corruption and abuse of power by our politicians. He then told me that he had a son. For a moment, I was stunned. Omar was not much more than a boy. With a boy of his own.

Suddenly, I looked Omar in the eye and told him that he, as a father, had an obligation to teach his son about the Constitution and about his rights. Omar sat rapt, as if I were bestowing upon him a sacred obligation. Omar promised he would. I wished him luck and said good bye.

Dave K.

Thereafter, I walked along a heavily-traveled part of PCH where freight trucks passed and blared their horns for the flag I carried. There were refineries and train yards on either side of the road. As I was crossing I-103, Dave K. drove by, videotaping me as I limped along. By that time, my soles were burning and it felt like I had a large blister on the pad of my right foot.

Three motorcycle riders rode toward me. The one in the middle took his hands off the handlebars, sat up, put his left hand on his hip and extended his right hand straight out for a moment before bending it and extending it out again into a Hitler Salute. Then, he leaned forward and they rode past me. That was a surreal sight and I was mildly disturbed.

I walked down the side of the overpass and met up with Dave a half mile later. He called out my name and I turned to see him walking toward me with an armful of flags, banners and a sign. We introduced ourselves to each other, and then Dave started videotaping me for his own blog. When he was done asking me questions and adding his own comments, we started marching together.

Just then, a city bus pulled over and stopped on the corner, past the bus stop. The bus driver, a large black man with a big grin on his face leaned over and asked what we were doing. I rushed over, handed him my card, and loudly told him and his passengers that I was marching for the Constitution and for all of our civil rights. At this he said, “Right on, man!”

We waved good bye to each other and he drove off.

Then, Dave K. and I walked toward Torrance. As we did, a well-groomed Mexican barber walked out of a business establishment and gave us a look. He, too, asked what we were doing, and so we told him. I wasn’t sure what his reaction was, as he seemed perplexed and perhaps a little intimidated by our act of protest. Still, he nodded and walked to his car.

Dave K. walked about a mile with me, took some photos, then had to head back to his car in order to get to work.

More Encounters

After he left, an old Mexican man, who I shall henceforth call, El Borracho, walked toward me, gestured to the flag and said something in Spanish about “Residents…” and “…the flag…” before muttering in disgust and waving me away in a dismissive manner. That was the first time I actually felt angry about someone’s response to my march. Earlier, two people in cars had driven by and yelled, “Mexico!” as they did. Those were annoying. This man’s response was just plain confrontational and rude.

As I was about to walk over another canal bridge, someone on a bicycle came to an abrupt stop just behind me. I turned, startled and was about to apologize, when I saw that it was Omar from miles earlier. He beamed, as he breathlessly held out a cold bottle of water. I thanked him for his kindness and he smiled before riding back. I was amazed that he would ride all that way to do that.

He must have been following me for sometime, because I read on Facebook after the fact, that Omar had also given a bottle of water to Dave K. as he was walking back to his car.

Later on, as I was walking briskly despite foot pain, I was making good time. A garrulous fellow named Tim J. from Tampa Bay, saw me coming and he gave me the thumbs up. He was talking on his cellphone and when he finished, he ran up to me and said, “Mister Patriot man.”

“I’m making to demand that our politicians and all appointed officials uphold their oaths of office and protect our civil rights,” I told him. After hearing this, he walked along with me for several blocks, and told me about himself.

Apparently, Tim J. felt that his life would have taken a much different path had the Sheriff’s Deputies in Tampa not been #@*&!s. He told about his troubled youth and of persecution by local deputies who abused they authority. As a result of his rebellious behaviour, and, perhaps due to his crack addiction (and other foibles), Tim J. had ended up in prison. Twice. He hqad a boat in Tampa Bay, but is now a fisherman in Long Beach.

Despite his troubled past, Tim J. recited his life’s motto as a rap. I remember something about his future being his destination and that destination was going to be bright.

After Tim J. met up with a man on a bicycle who offered to sell me a cell phone for $10, I continued toward Torrance.

An hour later, a thin sinewy cyclist named, Jeff rode up and stopped next to me. Again, we repeated the cycle of Question and Answer. He told me that he was on mental disability, and he had lived in the area for decades. He told me that the majority of Hispanics in the area were very patriotic. As I told him that our rights are God-given and inalienable, he asked me if I was “Born-Again.”

I said, actually, yes. But I wasn’t sure what I had said to lead him to ask that particular question. He told me that he was no longer was religious, per se, but he felt that the problem with America started in the Sixties, when God was removed from schools.

We walked a long a bit until he finally hopped onto his bicycle. He was wearing cyclist garb, so, as he sped off, he looked as if he was trying to catch up with others in a race.

The Final Stretch

I headed north from PCH to Sepulveda. An hour or two later, after walking west again on Sepulveda,  I finally reached the turn from Sepulveda toward Torrance Park. My feet were absolutely burning with pain.

I limped toward my friend Dan’s car, relieved. He had driven to the park to pick me up. He patted my back as I sat in his car, and then he drove me back to where my car was parked by CSULB. After that, we drove back to his house in Orange.

I took a shower and examined my feet. On my right foot, I saw that my foot pad had a large oval blister with a bubbled blister on to of it. My right heel and Achilles tendon were enflamed. On my left foot, there were small blisters on the toe pads. Both feet have Plantar Faceitis (which makes the tendons in the arches feel tender and painfully stretched out.

I knew I couldn’t continue walking on my feet and risk getting an infection. Because of the Diabetes, it now takes my body much longer to heal when I get cuts, insect bites, etc. If I get an ulcerated infection on my feet, I risk amputation. I knew this going into this endeavor. I just hoped it wouldn’t happen.

It was only 8:30 pm on Saturday night, and Dan, his wife and I were all tired. So, we retired for the evening. I updated FB and Twitter, then went to sleep in the trailer (this time, with the door closed).

Next Stop: Bummersville

The next morning, when I went to blog, I couldn’t. I was so discouraged that I couldn’t walk. I didn’t want to quit and had thought about marching on crutches. But, I realized that that was not really a solution. I would just end up injuring my arm pits and hands. Then, I decided that I would push myself along on a wheel chair. I was determined not to quit until I was absolutely unable to continue.

I spent the day at my friend’s home in Orange, and relaxed. Dan and his friend, Stew (sic) brewed beer in the backyard. I finally started blogging about the march from Newport to Orange. I had received a phone call from Robert P. the day before, telling me he was going to donate money for a Liberty March banner. So, I was online trying to find a company in the area that could do one for me. But, it was Sunday, and almost nothing was open that day in Orange.

Dan and his wife Deb kept telling me not to attempt a 20-mile march on a wheelchair. They pointed out that I would only injure my back and hands, and, I wouldn’t be able to go that distance in a day. After we thought it over, Deb offered me the use of her Townie cruiser bicycle.

After thinking about it, I thought that that was the only practical solution. But, I said I would ride 40-miles per march day, to make up for not walking them. That would also solve the problem I had of not having rides lined up on most of my routes back to my car.

I decided to cancel the Pasadena to Burbank march so I could rest. I was exhausted from the pace I had been keeping over the previous two weeks. I would just add another march day sometime during the next four weeks.

That night, I spent the night in the trailer again, and wondered if I was wimping out.

Palos Verdes

For the past two days since leaving Orange, I have been staying with a high school friend and her husband in Palos Verdes. They live in a magnificent home in an exclusive estate community in the hills of Palos Verdes. It is a beautiful place. There are white picket fences around homes that have horses grazing on grass. And, wild peacock roam freely.

Both Greg and Tracy are Conservative, and have, in the past, invited me to visit with them. I figured that since I was in the area, that I would take them up on it. I had decided to cancel the Pasadena to Burbank march in order to rest my feet another day. I spent the night here and this morning, I tried finding a place to get my banner done.

Today, my feet felt a lot better and I was able to walk on them a bit more. Greg is a spinal surgeon and Tracy is a Pharmacist. Greg examined my right foot, said, “Yup those are blisters,” and then gave me some over the counter medication for pain and inflamation. Tracy gave me moleskin, which is supposed to prevent blistering.

Greg cooked tonight and served up a delicious roasted chicken, asparagus, small potatoes, artichoke, and baked cauliflower. Cooking is one of his passions. It was absolutely delicious.

Tomorrow, when I do the march in Los Angeles from Venice Beach to Hollywood and Vine, I will do so on foot. If it becomes too excruciating to walk after that, then I will have to do eight marches on the bicycle until my blisters dry up and my feet heal.

Tracy works in Little Armenia by Hollywood, so after I am finished marching, she will drive me to my car in Venice Beach.

Good night…

California Liberty March Journal – Day Seven

This California Liberty March was April 26th from from Newport Beach to Irvine, then to Tustin and ending in Orange.

After spending the previous day in San Diego for the last time before heading northward for a month, I drove up to the Old Towne Plaza in the city of Orange. At the center of the plaza is a small, circular park with a fountain, benches, and large trees rising up. Around this park, cars drive around in a circle, with streets leading into it from the north,west, south, and east. My longest friend, Dan Triple D (Diaz deLeon) met me at Two’s Company, a small cafe along the rim of the Old Towne Plaza circle.

Old Towne Orange

This is information about the plaza and the surrounding area, that I copied and pasted from the city web site: The Old Towne Historic District was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997 and includes more than 1,300 homes and other buildings. It is approximately one square mile in size, making it the largest National Register district in California. The district provides a feeling for life in Orange from 1888 to 1940, showcasing over 50 different architectural styles. The complete stock of buildings which are a part of the Old Towne community is complemented by the churches, schools, old Santa Fe Depot, Post Office, packing houses, industrial buildings, clubhouses, and parks which still remain in active use since their establishment in the early part of the century.

Fifteen years ago, Chapman University was a small college. Now, it an accredited university with a sprawling campus that dominates the Old Towne District. It owns many of the commercial properties in Old Towne that display Classical Greek Revival architecture motifs, as well as other architectural styles.

The last time I visited my friend Dan was about four years ago, for twenty minutes. My daughter Willow had a modeling audition in Los Angeles, and so she and I stopped by for twenty minutes to visit with Dan. Because the visit was so brief, I didn’t get to see how beautiful Orange is (Now that I have been staying up here for three days, I am sad leaving it).

Old Towne Orange is the quintessential patch of Americana that one yearns for when thinking of a slow-paced place to move to, where neighbors know you and you know them, and where leafy trees along well-maintained sidewalks provide shade from the blaring light of a cynical modern world. It is the nostalgic Willoughby out of the Twilight Zone episode of the same name.

As soon as I arrived in Orange, I parked my mini-van on a side-street near the town center, and Dan gave me a ride to Newport. As he drove, he told me about his decision to embrace Humanism as a way of life. I was curious about Humanism really was, since I’ve seen the term for years, but had never read up on it. Dan seemed, for the first time in a long while, happy.

How I Got My Faith

Over a year ago, when I was utterly depressed and despairing because of chronic pain, unemployment, and spiritual crisis, I had started praying. I felt really awkward about it, as I would speak aloud and talk to someone I wasn’t really sure even existed. But, still, I prayed. And nothing happened. I kept praying, day after day. And still, nothing happened.

I lived with the symptoms of uncontrolled Diabetes for about ten years before I was finally diagnosed as diabetic. Those symptoms had caused me to become even more over-weight, sleepy, irritable, and miserable. “Irritable” was the medical term, but in truth, what I was was a raging bastard. My emotions fluctuated based on how much pain I was in at a given moment, how loud things were around me, how much sleep I had managed to get despite the insomnia, and how many cover letters and resumes I had managed to send out.

Consequently, I had become the very thing I always feared in life: a failure and bad father.

This led me to feel ashamed and then, despairing. Thus, in the depths of all of this, when all I wanted was for my painful existence to end, I decided to not give up. I loved Life and my children too much. I didn’t want to die and leave them with the memory of a father who gave up on himself and them. Besides, our family motto is: Never give up and never surrender. So, I started praying.

One day, my wife told me to go out a find a job, any job, as my unemployment insurance was about to run out. I had been on it for almost two years (the maximum allowable time period), and still had not found a job. Only three times during those two years had I finally had interviews. One of those interviews required me to fly (on our dime) to Iowa. It was for an Instructor position at a Community College 3D Animation program. Didn’t get it. Another interview was not too far away from home, at a social media game development company. But, the instant I got there, I doubted I was the “right fit.” Everyone there was twenty or more years younger than me. By the time I got home from the interview, I had already gotten the “Thank You for Application But…” e-mail. The third interview was for an Instructor position at an ITT Tech in Tucson, AZ. I drove seven hours only to learn that it was a temporary, part-time position for a program that was going to be phased out.

So, needing more income, I went out and got two jobs: one working mornings at a Barnes and Noble and the other working almost full-time at a digital print shop. I should have been happy about this, but really, I was miserable. And terrified. It had been so long by that point since I was on my feet, that I couldn’t imagine how I could stand for hours on end at a job. It literally made me nauseous thinking about it. So, I kept praying.

And nothing happened. Everyday, when I went into work, I plastered a smile on my face (when all I wanted to do was weep from physical pain and from the knowledge that I was earning minimum wage once again), and I performed mindless, repetitive tasks that only reinforced the deep sense of futility I already felt.

When I wasn’t working, I cocooned. I sought escape from my pain in the oblivion of sleep. None of my coping mechanisms worked for me. In fact, I actively rejected them all. I wanted to change. I wanted to leave behind those things I had up to that point relied upon to avoid reality and responsibility and pain. No more writing stories, or designing games, or animating, or daydreaming. Those were things to be eschewed in place of “adult” thoughts and responsibilities. I was determined to leave Old Roger behind and to become a Man.

But, no matter what I did at work, and how much I prayed, nothing changed. I was lost in a Sisyphean spiral.

Still, I prayed. Because the one thing I had always wanted, since I was a boy, was to be a man of faith; a true believer of God. I had always admired men of faith, and I wondered at the things they accomplished through self-denial and piousness; all in the name of a benevolent and loving God. To me, attaining faith was the pinnacle of human achievement, because it meant having the courage to trust.

Though I didn’t know it at the time, I was changing. One afternoon, when my wife asked me if one of my crummy little paychecks had come in, I excitedly reached for it and proudly held it out to her. I was contributing. I was proud – a feeling I hadn’t felt in years! It was at that moment that I realized that God had answered my prayers: by not answering them.

I realized then that I had finally become a Man of Faith. Because, even though I had been for so many years at my lowest, and all I had wanted to do for a while was to die, I still chose to believe in God. The true test of faith is not when things are good or even when they are bad; but, when they are truly horrible, and you still want to believe.

Since that moment, all self-doubt has vanished. The depression and spiritual anguish has disappeared. Since then, I have felt the capacity to feel something I have never been able to do: To trust.

I have since been trying to make amends to my family for being “irritable” and unemployed. It hasn’t been easy, as they no longer trust me. And, knowing that this breaks my heart.

But this is the New Roger, and I will never again go back to that dark, dark place. I am determined to improve and to use the gifts that God gave me (the ability to write, to design games, to motivate and entertain others, to teach and learn) to achieve my potential. I am going to achieve my purpose.

Sooooooo, all of THAT is what was running through my mind as Dan and I were driving to Newport. As a result, when he dropped me off at the Newport Pier, I didn’t realize I was actually miles away from the actual starting point of this day’s march.

Balboa Island

After Dan drove away, I walked over to the entrance of the Newport Beach Pier. It was a sunny, breezy morning, and I could see sail boats offshore. I lay down my backpack and walked up the pier to take a quick photo. As I walked back to my pack, a chubby, bearded man in a bathing suit, who was holding the hand of a toddler, saw me pick it up. Clutching at his breast bone in relief, he told me he thought it was an explosive backpack. I assured him that it wasn’t, and he waddled off.

I forgot about taking out my tablet in order to get my bearings. I had needed to determine how close I was to Pacific Coast Highway, and the start of my march. But, I was still shaking my head at the over-reaction by the father to whom I had just spoken. So, I just set off on my march, thinking I could get my bearings soon.

I walked and walked, thinking I was on PCH. In reality, I was heading south into Balboa Island. From the street, I could see a multitude of sails from boats just offshore, near the beach. I walked to the sand’s edge and took a photo of the regatta. I then uploaded the photo to Facebook. Then I kept walking.

I noticed that the name Balboa was all over the place, and I wondered if this was the name of a town, or something.

When I stopped to ask someone how close I was to PCH, the young man said, “Oh, you are way off. You have to take a ferry across to the mainland and walk up the hill, past those houses over there.”

Lost and Found

Once again, I told myself to use my digital tablet sooner. But, I was so happy to be walking in Orange County (especially after the dreary walk in Riverside County), that I just wanted to go with the flow. Even though the sole of my right foot felt like a flat tire and it burned, my pace was brisk. I walked toward a ferry port and waited for it to return to that side. As I stood there, I received a call on my cell phone from Dave K. in Orange County. He wanted to march with me a bit while I was in his area. He told me that he had called the Orange County Register and asked them if they would do an article about me. Consequently, he said, a woman named, Kim would be calling me.

I took the ferry across the small bay and walked through a seaside village with cottage-style houses, and then up a main street lined with eclectic beach shops, restaurants, boutiques, and a Starbucks.

I asked an older woman to hold my flag so I could enter the small Starbucks location to get something to drink. She gladly agreed and I went in and bought two Izze orange sparkling waters. When I went outside to retrieve my flag, I thanked the woman, who was clad in cycling clothing and helmet. Next to her, dressed the same way, was her husband. He was very distinguished-looking and reserved.

I sat on the bench next to them, and excitedly told them about my goal to reach Sacramento. The woman was very interested but I could tell that her husband was probably thinking to himself, “Why did you have to agree to hold this nut’s flag..!?”

I opened the first of the Izzes, took a drink, and said good bye. I walked up a hillside with residences until I finally reached PCH, and headed south.

After two minutes, I received a call from Kim at the newspaper. She interviewed me for a half hour as I walked. I had been trying to finish drinking my first Izze but had been talking and juggling my flag and the bottle. So I stopped and continued the interview for another half an hour. Cars drove by, honked, and I waved.

When the interview was concluded, Kim told me that she would try to meet up with me somewhere along my route. I was happy that someone in the American media had finally responded to my march. So, I walked. And walked.

Eventually, I came upon a SUV parked along the curb. Inside of the car was a good-looking, smiling man who lowered the passenger-side window and leaned over to give me a cheer. Behind him was a large dog in the back, that was resting.  I stopped and handed the man my card.

He came out of his car, and asked if he could take a photo of me and of my card for his blog. As I told him what I was doing, he said, “Then you’ll like my bumper stickers…” He lead me to the back and I saw that there were a lot of surfer stickers, Christian stickers, and two stickers about Ronald Reagan. Steve told me he is from Michigan. He has a place in Newport, as well.

Very tanned and relaxed, he was wearing a tee-shirt and shorts. I instantly liked his demeanor and manner of speech. As I explained how I was going to be away from my family for a month, I also told him told him about the effects of my Diabetes on my health, on my attitude, and on my behavior toward my family. I got choked up and suddenly cried for a moment from guilt and shame (fatigue makes me emotional, I guess). Steve gave me an understanding look and walked up, placing a hand on my arm. May I pray for you?” he asked.

I nodded and he said a very beautiful impromptu prayer about there being no coincidences in life, and about how people meet for a reason. He asked that I be blessed and I have a safe journey. After we said, Amen, I thanked him for making me feel a lot better. We parted ways and, once again feeling very happy, I walked.

After a mile, I saw a Verizon Wireless across the street. I crossed the street, escorting a very elderly couple who had praised the flag. Inside, I used my tablet and realized I had walked too far south.

I back-tracked and headed Northeast. I then wandered through the Newport / Harbor Island mall area. I passed by some restaurants and there was a sign outside of one that said, “Employee of the Month: MIA. For a moment, I was confused. Missing in Action..?  I started laughing at myself, and at the absurdity of someone rewarding an employee for being missing in action for a month. I laughed so hard, people who passed me must have thought I was a kook.

I walked until I saw a 24 Hour Fitness that was part of a green-glassed business complex. I went in, used the bathroom and then sat outside, in the business building plaza, where there was a complementary wi-fi area. I updated my progress and relaxed for ten minutes.

Now knowing exactly where I was headed, I walked into Irvine. I received honks and thumbs up and waves all morning. It was about 3 pm by this time.

As I was nearing UCI, a blonde twenty-something year old woman walked around the bend before me, coming from a shopping strip mall, and she called out my name. Kim had found me and wanted to walk for a while with me. As she did, she asked more questions and took photos. I waved at cars and they honked back. After ten minutes, she said good bye and returned back to where she had parked.

I then reached the medical center on the outskirts of UCI. I met a man in scrubs who walked two blocks with me toward the main campus.

University of California at Irvine

I passed some residence apartments, looking for some place to stop at for food. I came across the bronze statue of the school’s mascot, the Anteater, and so I took a photo of it and of the Theater Department nearby. I found a cybercafe and went in. I spoke with an Asian college student behind the counter. He asked me about my flag and tee-shirt (it said: Liberty-March DotCom). I ordered some food and started to tell him about the march, but the discussion was brief. Another customer had came into the line.

When I sat down on a sectional corner couch, there were three college girls near me talking about Grey’s Anatomy. One of them said something about no longer watching the show because of the ridiculous plots. As I was updating FB with my tablet, I smiled at what they were saying. She saw my smile and told the other girls. I told them that my wife used to watch that show, as well, and that I had stopped watching it several years ago, after a non-recurring character was turned into pink mist when the bomb he was carrying away blew up.

When I was finished eating my sandwich, I left to reach the Irvine residential area I needed to cross in order to get to the outskirts of Tustin.

As I walked into Irvine, I noticed how well-maintained the area still looked since the late Seventies. Big houses, broad streets, parks and open spaces. Very nice.

I got to the Irvine Civic Center, took a photo, uploaded it, then and walked until I got to Star Bucks on Barranca and Von Karmen. There, I updated my progress and rested my burning feet. By that time, the flat tire and burning feeling on my foot sole turned into excruciating pain. So, I had been limping along for a while. My right heel and Achilles tendon were very sore.

Since night was falling, I hurried up and finished my danish from Starbucks. I was concerned that I wouldn’t get to Orange until Midnight Outside in the parking lot, a tall handsome young man named, Will was getting out of his car, accompoanied by his very pretty girlfriend, Audrey. Will stopped me and politely asked what my goal was in marching with the flag. I told him about my mission. Both he and Audrey seemed really amazed by this. I gave them my card, and, as I turned away from them, I saw a police officer had driven up and parked nearby. He was scrutinizing me, and probably thought I had accosted the kids to ask for money. I smiled at the police officer but he just gave me the once over.

My Own Paparrazi

I walking for an hour more toward Santa Ana, and has just reached the intersection of Red Hill and Barranca. I was almost to Tustin. By this time, it was 8:30 pm. I was four hours away from my destination. As I was turned to head east, I heard some voices behind me. As I turned to look, I saw Will and Audrey bum-rushing me. Each had a camera with large lenses. Breathlessly, they smiled and told me they had driven home to retrieve their cameras. They wanted to take some photos of me. So, I agreed.

I jokingly scolded Will about chasing down some crazy middle-aged man with a large flag on a Friday night. “This is a terrible date, for Audrey, Will!”

As they took photos, I spoke to each of them about rights and the Constitution and about current events. They asked me what the hardest part of what I am doing this was and I said, “Stopping. Because then the foot pain and muscle aches make it hard to start, again.”

Will and Audrey apologized for stopping me, but I told them I felt refreshed from stopping just an hour before at the Starbucks. They thanked me for my time, and I walked.

My friend Dan called, and said he was coming to walk with me the rest of the way into Orange.  I was bummed because I had wanted to walk down Red Hill in the daylight to revisit my old middle school, AG Currie, and my elementary school, Beswick. I had also wanted to see Frontier Park, where I spent may a summer day playing with friends.

As a side note: As I was planning out this route n Google Maps two months ago, the Review for Currie said, “You’ll get shanked here.” How sad, I thought. Times have changed a lot since 1977.

As I continued down Red Hill, away from the outskirts of Santa Ana, I was walking in the bicycle lane in order for cars to see my shirt and to avoid trees with my flag pole. Suddenly, I saw one, two, then five roaches in gutter. They were about two inches long and they skittered around quickly. In fact, they kept scrambling toward my feet. I wondered if my shoes were roachnip, or something, and if I were  the unsuspecting lead actor in a new Mimic movie.

After another hour, I was almost to the I-5. Dan and Deb drove up, and Dan convinced me to stop marching. I had already march 20-miles worth of distance because of my starting point, and from walking too far south after that. My feet were burning, and they felt blistered. So, I agreed and climbed in.

As we drove the remaining distance to Orange, I was very glad that I did. It would have taken me another four hours to reach the park in Orange.

I showered, iced my feet for an hour, and then spent the night in Dan and Deb’s old Shasta (canned ham) trailer on their property. Unfortunately, it was late by that time and dark and so, I didn’t realize that the outside door was latched to the side of the trailer. So I slept with only the screen door closed. Thus, it was very cold all night. I got up to put on another blanket and finally fell asleep.

I woke up with runny nose and cough. Dan cooked me breakfast (ham steak, eggs), and I then left for the next march from California State University Long Beach.