Saturday, November 28, 2009

A Song For the Homeless of San Diego, and Everywhere Else

What Goes around, comes around, sometimes up sometimes down.
Enough hungry and homeless roam the land. Living in country bounty so plenty (How come they so hungry?)
Enough hungry people go to bed belly empty
Lord, God you know, it hurts so much you just can't cry.
River of tears long gone run dry
The sky is their roof, the ground is their belly.
Upon the concrete slab they lay their weary heads.
Lord, God you know, it hurts so much you just can't cry.
River of tears long gone run dry
You don't know what tomorrow's gonna bring
Life is on ebig road, we livin in a borrowed time

Israel Vibration- On Borrowed Time

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Day 173: November 24th 2009. Mexico on the Mind

At first it was an idea and I thought it would fade away but it kept sticking and kept sticking. I thought, hey, maybe it was downtown San Diego, let me go try something new. So I did. I left my homeless community, Tobey and Ted and all the other people that sleep in my neighborhood and headed about 12 miles north to Ocean Beach.
I got everything I was thinking of when I got to Ocean Beach. There were waves when I got there on the morning of Sunday the 15th. I surfed all day on the knee high waves and I was ecstatic. Two days later the swell started picking up to overhead and I surfed the next 3-4 days until I was completely worn out. From about 6 in the morning until about 11 I would be in the water, until the wind started to pick up and turn the ocean into a mess, then I would go pump around the bowl or lay out in the sand and burn then head back into the water at about 3 until the sun went down at 5. Those were my days in Ocean Beach. The good beach life I missed, but then I realized that I didn't want to be done. I didn't want to settle there. I met some cool people, saw the reggae did it all but for some reason I still didn't feel satisfied. And the Mexico thoughts kept coming stronger and stronger everyday. The bottom line was that Ocean Beach felt like a vacation, and for a week that was great, but in the end I'm not travelling to be on vacation. Obviously that is a tiny part of it, but I'm travelling to learn, to be enlightened and chilling on the ocean, surfing and skating all day everyday didn't teach me anything I didn't already know. I'm gonna keep doing them forever, but why not do them somewhere new?

So I looked into and started researching. From San Diego to La Paz, Baja California is more than another 1,000 miles. If something doesn't start to show by the end of the week of the December the 5th, I'll be on my way to Mexico.

Also, one more thing, it is so imperative that I return home because without going back to the origin and being able to reflect on this knowledge I have acquired, they will be just that; facts that dont mean anything. Returning home will allow me to reflect on the bigger picture and turn that knowledge into important life lessons.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Day 163: Novemeber 14th, 2009. Ted's Story

Another cold ass morning and day in general. Had three layers on all day except after lunch at Vinny's. Thats where my adventure began.

I ran into cool Ted at Vinny's, we converstaed and when I told him I had a website, he got all excited. So he asked me if I wanted to put my shit in his storage, so I can get to the library and use a computer, I said yeah. That's really when I got to know Ted on that walk to storage, and the library after lunch. As he asked me later that day, "so now you really understand how I lost it all."

Ted's storage spot was a little 5x5 room with all that remained of his stuff. First we went through a gate with a keypad, then an elevator with a keypad, then through a hall with different storage compartments that made me feel as I was walking through a hallway with infinite doors in The Matrix. We put our storage, picked up a couple of his laptops, one of which he would let me use as long as I used it next to him, and then headed to the library. On the way there, I asked for his website and he told me.

"You are gonna think I'm crazy"
"Haha, yeah?"
"Yeah, but its the truth."
I didn't really show a reaction, I still didn't know what it was all about.
"I beleive I'm god. I am the resurrection of god in the human form" He didnt send the slightest hint of sarcasm

So wwe walked and he told me of his beliefs, which were wild, but I listened nontheless with curiosity. It was totally a Matrix style belief system where Ted/God created the technology to create humans somewhere else, then brought them down earth on spaceships and stuff. All this was revealed to him by angels on his 40 days/40 nights on his sailboat.

"I understand if you don't want to talk to me anymore. You would probably get a lot of heat for hanging with me. I've had some Mexicans try to kill me once. They cut me up and was bleeding real bad. Had to get 40 stitches."
"Damn, when was this?"
"About nine months ago"
"Its just so crazy to me how you prefer to lose it all, your job, your family over your wild beliefs."
"My family disowned me and they didn't even invite me to my mothers funeral."
"What you believe is what you believe Ted. Im not, not gonna talk to anymore because of what you believe, that would be ridiculous. I think you are a real cool guy and honestly, Im glad I met you. I don't have to agree with your beliefs to like you. There are certain things though, that are universal among humans with any belief I don't like, like arrogance and dishonesty. Those are things that make any human with any belief become unfavorable to me. And thats the truth"

Honestly, I like Ted. His website was a bunch of ramble that even grammatically didn't make sense and was very repetitive. If I had come across it before I personally met him, I probably wouldn't approach hime, that wasn't my first impression of him. He was a very well spoken guy and I knew he wasn't shitting me about anything he said. For now I'm listening to him.

Day 162: November 12th, 2009. Homeless Day 4

It was a cold fucking day. All day. Temps in the low 60s, 50s and high 40s at night. There was a real a real cool ocean breeze that brought a windchill. It was mostly overcast all day. Real crapy day to be outside. I spent the day with Tobey. We did nothing really just tried to stay warm. He kept talking about making money at the airport but having to take the bus there even though its almost 3 miles from downtown and "looking like tourists". He wouldn't share his secret that was "taught to him 15 years ago when he was last in San Diego. "You'll be leaving with a pocket full of quarters after 3 hours. $20-30 in the day. But you can't tell nobody". He kept making me promise, though I dont know why, he never told me anyway. I met a man from Barrington, RI too; he couldn't believe it.

I signed up for an ID to get meals at St. Vincent De Paul's, locally in the homeless community known as "Vinny's", the local dining spot. Bright, red, orange ID. With it I can get my meal a day between 11-12;30 and access to showers, finally. As for storage so I can walk without a pack and get a job, still no luck.

The Situation

So Im here in San Diego and according to the title and my intent in the beginning the journey is over. But for some reason, I just don't feel it complete in myself. I feel like I can't stop here. I will definitely keep travelling, maybe even some more on the skateboard.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Day 160: Nov 11 2009. Homeless Day 3

Today is veterans day and nothing governement is open to honor those who fight to preserve 'freedom'. Its more like those who die to keep the rich in power and make them richer. Somebody is playing us all for a fool.

The day started out real shitty. I slept well but woke up real depressed. Another pre sunrise day before the cops came and harrassed us; gotta make a move on early. So I did and because its Veterans Days nothing was open. I went and laid on a harbor bench and passed out until noon. I got up and had no idea what to do. I sat and watched the ocean and contemplated returning home. I was not really impressed with San Diego. Expensive, overcrowded and noisy. The weather was fine on some days but still. I made it here and that was my goal. As I was contemplating those facts I saw a backpakcer walk past me. He was an older dude with a blond ponytail and a blue LSU hat. He sat on a bench two down from mine. To test the waters, I asked if he could watch my pack while I skated; in reality I would be watching from far.

"How do you know you can trust me?"
"I guess I dont"
"How long are you going to be gone?"
"10 minutes?"
It'll be right there"
"Cool. Thank you. Whats your name?"
"Alright then, I'll be back"

I bought some Oreos and shared. And started a conversation. Tobey called himself a free spirit. He was from 'nowhere' and lived 'everywhere'. He was a 'survivor' and former Army corps of engineers. He wired his own radio together and a light that supposedly goes on forever. I could tell he was definitely a resourceful man, not with his teeth though. The left side at his top pallette was missing, and from the right incisor on, he had teeth that were black from the gums, and became dark yellow at the tips. We had some good conversations, about politics, acid, travels and such. It was good to have a person to really talk to in this urban jungle, and I know and he had knowledge that was useful. I also needed a person to watch my shit when I had to use the internet. So we spent the most part of the rest of the day together watching each others back. And at 730 we headed to the corner of Union and A hoping to score some dinner from the people who come feed us. Instead I had the pleasure of meeting Ted. He reminded me of the old man in Home Alone.

"So how'd you end up on the streets?"
"Oh. haha. It was along sequence of events"'
"What was the initial event?"
"Proabably a divorce. She took about 75% of everything and my two kids. Lost my home in Santa MAria. I used to own a software company that cloned Windows. Had to shut that down. At peak, I had about 35 emplyees. Been homeless for two yeats now."
"God damn, that sucks. Im sorry"

Ted was a real cool. He had crazy stories; the adventures of a computer geek really, but gangsta style. Microsoft was pissed at what he was doing and they tried to steal his source code like they did so many times to others. Even said, that when he was in Seatlle they sent somebody to try and kill him. Instead the guy beat the shit out of him until two people with dogs came and saved him.

That night when no food showed up, he took a bag of food in his pack out and invited me and Tobey to anything we wanted in there. We had a delicous dinner of rock hard onion bagels and ham sandwiches. Those are the homeless of America, at least San Diego

Day 159: November 10 2009. Homeless Day 2

I spent the most part of the day wandering the streets of downtown. I was waiting to hear from Subway but no luck. I went in and after the told me they needed closers the day before they said they weren't hiring today. I came across another large crowd of homeless people by the public library. Such a sad sight to see. It makes it hard for the smiling peron I am to smile. The homeless population here must number in the thousands. Some are mentally handicapped but from what I have seen the most have recently lost their jobs and homes in the recent economic downturn, while their executives enjoy raises and bonuses. What kind of fucked up shit is that? The woman that sleeps on the mattress behind me on A street parallel to the fence of a parking lot was telling me her story.

She lost her job and house on the same week. She lived in her van after and when she couldn't make payments on that too, the police came and took it and her dog from her and put her in jail for fighting back. With the last of her savings she bailed herself out and paid $150 to take her dog out. She carries everything she has left in a shopping cart. When we got up before the sunrise this morning, before people start to show up for work, and we are forced to leave, she apologized if she kept me awake at night because of her cough. When I asked where I coould get some breakfast, she gave me a banana, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a trailmix bar.

Before the end of my night as I was sitting on the corner of 5th and Market a guy offered me a subway sandwich. When I asked him why he did it he said that would hope someone would do the same if he was in my situation. Being homeless completely changes the concept of everyday struggles. Finding a place to shit in privacy is impossible. The public restrooms door is wide open, the toilets do not have their own doors. Fast food franchises make you pay a quarter at the door to enter like a phone booth and no private restaurant will let me in. Showers, you have to sign up for at a place called St Vincent De Paul and there is no provacy there either. I eat once a day and my body is in starvation mode; Im actually gaining weight, storing every meal I take in to the max.

Day 158: November 9th 2009. First Night Homeless

John made it clear to me the night before that because he was a guest at the house he was staying at he couldn't promise another night. Six people already lived in the two bedroom, 1 bathroom apartment of which I felt a very unwelcome vibe from two. The theme of the house was an 1800s style mustache, so long, it was made to curl up. At least one of them rocked it as a sign of arrogance, I could tell, the worst quality a human could possess.

The next morning came and I was awaken by the proximity of traffic to the apartment, as if I was in Cairo again. It was about 630. John invited me to come check out Point Loma Nazarene University which was facing the open ocean; I couldn;t refuse. The 10 minute walk up the hill was tiring but at the top I witnessed my first swell since January. It seemed small at first but then I looked to the left and Boom! Fuck yeah, solid head high waves. I started skipping fast towards it and there was about 10-15 guys on each of the three peaks. I watched for the next three hours. Surf, Im comin to you, but for now Im here. As I watched, John texted me and told me that one of the roommates is brining my stuff, a good hint it was time for me to go. At 3 I said my goodbyes to John and was on my own. For the rest of the day I would be looking for a job, homeless services and a corner to sleep in.

So I wandered the streets of San Diego, applying in Subways, and different restaurants. Its not like I came here without a plan. I applied to every single microbiology position I came across in Phoenix. Not a single one has responded. If this is what God intended for me, the it what it is and like I said before I accept that fate. I sat on the corner of 5th and Market for a while before a San Diego ambassador told me to leave and so I did. While I was headed back to the bay, I came across a corner lined up with at least 30 people laying out. That was where I would spend my night. And as I was walking up a bunch of college kids came up to everybody and offered sandwiches and water. They also came to sit and talk. I got to spend my time with Jaime and Ni Mo a sophomore and a junior at UCSD in La Jolla. Very kind people, they were. I went to sleep at the corner of A street and State.

Day 157: November 8 2009. Mile 26 on CA-98 to San Diego (26 mi)

I made it to San Diego. Not the the going out with a bang I wanted but I'm here, with the Pacific ocean right infront of me and its breeze running through my nose getting me high. Im in disbelief. I can't imagine. Ive seen a car with a surfboard today. Is it real?

I was up and skating at 6 and what a difficult start it was. Texas shitty roads, yes again. Then the heat picked up, then mountains and running of water. Its like everything, every obstacle has been put in my way in the end. During my skate (actually I was walking then because the road was terrible) I came across a cycler who stopped to talk.

"Brian Mc.. (I can't recall the last name). How are you?"
"Omar, nice to meet you"
"Walking across country?"
"Trying to, but actually I can't skate because of these shit roads. How are your wheels holding up on these roads?"
"Horrible. Im starting a petition against these roads. They just repaved it too. This country once had the best roads on earth"

That last sentence stuck with me for a while. Shitty ass fucking roads. Where's all the money going to? I said farewell to Brian and continued. The road was fucking long and hot and if it weren't for the border patrol agents who hooked me up with water, I would have ran out with 15 miles to go. With 8 miles still left, my knees were feeling like they needed to be replaced. My calves and thighs were sore too. I relaxed underneath the shade of a little bush. I kept going again and at about 1 PM was at the Texaco station at the little town of Ocitillo enjoying Flamin Hot Lays, Ginseng Iced Tea and Welchs Strawberry fruit snacks and mentally preparing for the interstate mountain passes coming up. I was sitting on a little curb finishing up my fruit snacks when I saw a really familiar face walking up to the register. As the person walked in I got up to see the license plate on his car; indeed it was an Arizona one. I knew this guy. Oh! It was another pedicabber.

I never even knew his name but on Halloween Saturday we were working in Tempe for the ASU vs Cal game. In the taxi line up, he was infront of me. A crew of six guys needed two cabs and since I was the one behind him I got the rest of the guys. The guys wanted me to race him about 2 blocks up to a bar called the library. He gave me a head start but still beat me in the end. That was all I knew of him. What he was doing in this tiny ass town this far from Arizona, was beyond me.

"Yo, are you a pedicabber?" I shouted as he walked back out of the gas station
"Aaaaah, yeah? Do I know you?"
"Yeah man, remember me? ASU vs Cal game in Tempe....Im a Bumblebee (pointing to the logo on my shirt)"
"...we raced, you beat me.... I was wearing a wig?"
"Oh thats right! I remember you. What are you doing all the way out here?"
"Man Im trying to make it to San Diego. Where are you headed?"
"I have to take care of a pedicabbing ticket I got in San Diego"
"You mind if I ride with you?"
"No, not at all"

And so it was. I took the oppurtunity which was so random in this shit tiny gas station in the middle of nowhere California; I was there at the same time he was. Out of the 40 other pedicabbers that day he was the one infront of me and riders needed two, which was unusual. Eric was his name. And when we got to San Diego he introduced me to some other pedicabbers. I didn't want to ask of anything more of him. I really wanted to see the ocean, not the bay. Now, I was stressin about a place to stay. If it was in my destiny to be homeless, the so shall it be. I accepted that fate right then and there, for I knew it was what was best. But if I was to spend the night homeless in SAn Diego then it would at least be on the beach on the Pacific; the closest was 8 miles north of downtown and so I skated. I got to Point Loma, a suburb of San Diego and the sun was setting. There was no way I was going to make it 5 miles before dark so I turned back and walked into a McDonalds. An old Hawaiian woman came up to me and asked if I was travelling and after interviewing me for a little offered a place to spend the night. She said she would go ask her daughter and commanded me twice to wait on her there. I waited for a half hour and when she got back she apologized for her daughter couldn't take me in. I said it was alright and now really planned to sleep outside. As I was walking back to the bay on Harbor Drive a guy came up to.

"Have you been travelling?"
"Yeah man I just got into San Diego today"
"Did you walk the whole way?"
"Skated, walked, rode"
"Wow! Thats so cool!"
"Yeah man"
"So whats the craziest thing that happened?"
"Man to tell you the truth I haven't even started reflecting yet." I didn't want to talk, just lay out and be warm. I was too tired
"So what are you going to do now?"
"Man I gotta go find a place to sleep"
"I have a place you can spend the night and shower if you want"
"Yeah, follow me"
"Man, you must be angel or something"
"Im John"
"And Im Omar"

And so it was. He saw me walking as he was standing on his apartment balcony and came to chase me down. Coincidence? Nah, I always said coincidence was unexplained reason. First night in San Diego, spent warm, amongst a quiver of 6 road nikes and 7 surfboards, in a house straight from the 70s. 70s style furniture, TVS and an old ass Atari.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Day 156: November 7, 2009 Mile 26 on AZ-238 to Mile 20 on CA-98 (46 mi)

San Diego on the mind. Waves in the soul. So close! Im in Cali, even though everything so far reminds me of Texas/New Mexico.

Early start and a cool morning. The day started real quiet on AZ-238. No cars. Just the desert wind and a train every once in a while on the parallel railroad tracks. After the first five pushes my stomach cramped so I walked the first mile. Things were progressing too slow so I got on the board. Cruising at 8mi/hr, wooo off to Gila Bend and the beginning of the interstate hoping it would be as copless as New Mexico.
At 910 I was in Gila Bend, reloading on water and Poptarts. Then it was off to I-8. 2 miles into I-8...
"Fuck me, already?!"
"Sir, what do you think you are doing? You are not allowed here" said the smartass DPS officer
"Sir, Im trying to get to San Diego. This is the onle road that will take me there"
"Im sorry, do you have an ID on you?"

He jumps back in his car and I wait. Straight up, about 20 minutes later as I was sweating my ass of sitting on the side of the road, he comes back out

"Sorry Omar, you are going to have to find an alternate route"
"But there is no alternate route"
"Thats not my problem"
"Sir, Im almost there, please just let it slide this one time"
"Sorry, state law prohibits you from skating on this road" with not a trace of sorrow in his voice
"Well, I have no idea what to do now"
"I can't help you there, but if I find you on this road again, Ill have to take you in. Consider this a warning"
"Thank You"

So I walked with my head held low. If I must walk this 100 some miles, then so be it. I was pissed. This cop was an asshole and treated me like shit for no reason. Oh well. I walked and so it was. I got picked up by a white Hyundai. Francisco was his name and he was heading to Mexicali to visit his family. To El Centro we departed where I would get off and never have to be on the interstate again. (Since from Yuma, AZ to El Centro, CA there was no alternate route but the interstate)

I left Francisco in Calexico and off I skated on CA-98 a mediocre road. Farms on both sides and scorching heat reminded me of Safford, AZ. San Diego baby. 3 days, here I come

Day 155: November 6, 2009, Mesa to Mile 26 on AZ-238 (42 mi)

Finally back on the road, man it feels good, but exhausting. Its been a while since I skated and I had to push myself alot harder this time around. I left Mesa at 7 after saying my farewells to Keil and Hannah. I have said so many goodbyes in my life that it has just become another part of life for me. As much as it makes me sad to go, I feel like I dont feel it inside. My dad always told me I was cold blooded (in the most loving way).

From Baseline I took Kyrene which put me on AZ 347. It was a little confusing but I was on my Way on 347 when a red jeep pulled ahead and a guy started taking pictures. I didn't bother to stop because I was in the zone and at 10 I found myself at Maricopa. From there I got onto AZ-238 and exhaustion started to kick in. Stomach cramps, sore ankles and a terrible case of ball rash; with every kick an intense buring on the left side. I stopped, rested at mile 38 and was about to admit defeat for the day but decided to keep going. And I forgot about the pain. At 3:47 I decided that was enough skating for the day. Pretzels for dinner. I feel like tomorrow is gonna be painful.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Day 152: November 3rd 2009, Ready for Some Surf!

The journey resumes! I've had some good times in Phoenix, but I'm excited to get out and make the final phase of the continental part happen. I need the ocean; this huge flat desert is so boring. Sunday's Cardinals vs Panthers game was my last day with the the Bumblebee and since the last week, I have managed to save the $400 I needed to get out but not without a struggle. Its definitely not going to be enough, but the cold is moving in quick and the days are getting shorter and shorter and I feel like if I stayed any longer I won't be getting out until March and I'm not about to let that happen. A small window of oppurtunity has opened and its time to jump through.

The same thoughts of leaving have now hit as in every city. The butterflies, the fears of being on the road, the anxiousness of arriving at the otherside...all the things that make leaving real. Its on for Thursday, November 5th. 2 days to Gila Bend on I-8. According to the satellite there is a road that runs next to I-8 for the most part I plan on taking.

The gods of stoke have answered mine and Jochem's prayers!