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.
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.