41.  The bridge over the gulf

After the 14-hour flight across the Pacific (Flight No. QF 107) I had three hours to fill in at LAX (Los Angeles International Airport), before flying to New Orleans via Houston. Outside the terminal the Californian sun was shining brightly, just as I remembered it from two years earlier. My tired body needed a walk. I pulled my tiny black suitcase onto the busy sidewalk of the terminal and walked to my left. 

As one stretch-limousine after another pulled into the kerbside I was wondering, who was hiding behind those darkened windows? Could a famous face be looking at me without me knowing? But if a famous mega-star, even the central character from the latest blockbuster movie were watching me, I probably would not recognize him or her. I wasn’t one for watching blockbusters.

It was a strange feeling of déjà vue, watching an endless stream of taxis, limousines and small buses of rent-a-car firms and hotels passing by. Two years earlier I had taken it all in, played with the data and flagged down a Marriott Hotel bus. This time I knew where I was going. I just ignored it all.

Except some numbers and letters, were obviously linked to my story or a recent upload. I was so amused by it. Good examples were rego numbers ‘Just for No. 9’ or 963 (read on, it's coming). I noticed these and assumed that somebody must have liked my stories. When I saw a girl wearing a CHER T-shirt, my brain triggered an immediate link to the Cher-farewell concert story I had uploaded only two days earlier.

A few hundred meters further on I entered the Tom Bradley Terminal and had a coffee. I noticed how cheap coffee was compared to back home. I also liked the size cups it was served in. I continued my walk and ended up just beyond Terminal 1, where a sign read: “No Pedestrians beyond this point”. Here I admired the views of the district toward the Hills on the horizon:

This large billboard, which I photographed from Terminal one LAX teased my brain somewhat: "If you were here, you’d be you again". The sign was promoting Tahiti as a tourist destination. I belong to Adelaide. Our city’s slogan is: “You are here”.

 

As I turned to walk back, just after taking above photo, I noticed something white on the ground. I would have passed many small pieces of paper like it. I do not know why this one triggered an impulse, which made me pick it up. Before looking closely at it, I knew something would make sense – it was the number 963. I knew I had made the right decision to pick up this piece of paper. Had I not written that the number 963 was one that was following me? (See Chapter 9). I took this as proof, I really did have fans over here, who were probably watching me right there, outside Terminal 1 at LA International Airport. 

 

A ticket to exit a parking station? From Denver? Not just the 963 won, but the 103 Group! Didn't I say that the number 963 seemed to be following me?

 

A short distance back, outside another Terminal, was a commotion of some kind. I walked over, but didn’t see anything unusual happening. In passing a flash of light blue colour caught my eye. My curious mind looked to see what it was. At the top of the nearly full trash bin was a bunch of plastic gloves. (Later I saw customs officers use them). It was exactly the same type and colour I had picked up many months earlier on a street called Royal Avenue (Mind Ch. 52).

I discreetly reached my hand into the bin and quietly appropriated one as a free souvenir. (After finds like these, I revived the idea of a Da Ninci Museum, which would feature a separate section for US exhibits). 

My 4 flights schedule from Adelaide to New Orleans included two domestic flights within the US, the first one to Houston, Texas and the second to New Orleans. During those two flights my observing mind could not stop itself from playing its little games. Seeing numbers on cars on the roads is one thing, but could number patterns be arranged on airport vehicles on the tarmac of a busy airport? This is just what I believed happened at both LA and Houston.  

As I looked through the small oval window I noticed a lady sitting on a small airport trolley. She just sat there, right beside our plane, doing nothing. My diary doesn’t say at which airport it was; only that I noticed her and the number of the trailer T 321. It was as if my brain had become bewitched with 1, 2 and 3.

At the next airport, it may have been Houston, 3 small trolleys were parked beside our plane in much the same fashion, just sitting there for me to read the numbers sequence – BL 1, BL 2 and BL 3. As I write my computer can’t judge me as being crazy. If I had tried to explain my thoughts to the passenger next to me on the plane, I am sure he would have.

 

One day this front page triggered enough codes to make me take this photo.

 

 

Numbers in a sports store. It must be a large team for a player to display number 501. Number 44 is high enough.

 

I had decided to stay overnight in New Orleans, as not to arrive real late in Mobile. The Guesthouse I had searched out online back home had advertised ‘rooms from $ 25’. I should have realized what the word from signifies - a mattress on the floor of the broom cupboard (which was already booked, unfortunately). In the end, despite paying US $ 59 I was glad for a clean, dry room after the long journey.

The weather could not have been more opposite to Australia or LA. It was raining non-stop and heavily. I hadn’t experienced decent rain in months. The weather map on TV showed many areas affected by tornados. They didn’t look far away. It was a new experience, an uneasy feeling to watch tornado warnings for the districts where I was. Thankfully, the city of NO was spared any great damage.    

My bus ticket between New Orleans and Mobile showed the distance as 153 miles. Because of the weather the trip seemed to take forever in the aging Greyhound bus. The Southern skies looked so bleak, it felt like it was getting dark at 2.30 pm. Visibility in places was so low, the taillights of the vehicle ahead disappeared at times. I was seated toward the front of the bus and couldn’t help myself from keeping a watch on the driver. But his driving skills were excellent. (If I had not told him on exiting, I was meaning to). 

My sister and her eldest son, who lives with her, picked me up at the bus station in Mobile. I had been to Alabama twice before. The first time was in 1971 with my new bride Isobel. The second visit was a stopover on my own in 1988, on my way to Europe. I joked with my sister and her son that there is a pattern emerging – I visit every 17 years. But not everybody sees numbers and patterns as I do and loves to play with them.

During this, my final 40 kilometers of my long journey, we stopped for a bite to eat at a fast food outlet. My nuggets cost $ 3.69. My diary also states that I saw car rego 200111 earlier in New Orleans and another, as the bus was pulling out from the bus station. It was a custom plate, the letters spelt my sister’s maiden name. (Hey, as I type I can see something - Bohn - without the 'h' means good - in French).

I would have loved nothing more than to sit down and explain to my sister all these co-incidental names, numbers and patterns, and illustrate what fun I was having. Realistically, could I really expect my half-sister (she had a different father) listen to my strange stories and enter my world of codes, when my own wife couldn’t do it? There was a gulf between us. I didn't try.

We had not been really close in our childhood. I remember mostly fights and arguments and her courtship with her future husband, who brought her to this part of the world in 1964. Since then we had seen each only four or five times. Because I don’t have any relatives in Australia I appreciated my short stay with my sister very much.

The next day the weather had fined up nicely. My sister drove me down to the Gulf of Mexico. The devastation from Ivan, the tornado that had battered this coastline the previous September, was still evident in many places.

 

 

Gulfshores, Alabama. The devastation from hurricane Ivan was still very visible. It had happened seven months prior in September 2004. Further inland, Loxley, where my sister lives didn't sustain as much damage. 

My sister needed a part for her washing machine. While I waited outside the store, it suddenly hit me. The address is number 501. 

Three days later I would be at Magnolia Ave, Riverside. The cross road is called McKenzie, as in Da Ninci. The business in the background is Son Control, sorry Sun C... What is going on here? Who is playing games? 

 

As expected I noticed registration numbers on cars, such as 15J50J, which was pretty hard to ignore, if you know what 155 and J stands for. During my time in the US there were so many licence plates, I couldn’t write them all down or remember them at the end of the day.

Outside the Walmart Store, I think it was on highway 59, I saw 4 large numbers on the wall – 35, 40, 40, 40. It was the price of soft drinks, if I recall correctly. But why bother with one 35 cent item? Unless it was a code and meant to spell ‘love won’? The sum of all four numbers added to a total of 155. (At the time I didn’t see it; only now as I write it came to me).

 

 

Post card of Scacey Rexall Drugs - Historic Drug Store in Foley, Alabama. I noticed OLD TYME Soda Fountain, three and a half chairs, seven armrests, Coffee 10 cents, ICE COLD. Bu twhy me?

Later that afternoon I spent some time at the Robertsdale Library, sending emails and surfing for information about accommodation in Los Angeles. I didn’t fancy sleeping in the back of an old Dodge again, without a blanket or pillow. Parked outside the Library was an automobile from a northern state. I enjoyed the four-letter registration plate - NJOY.

Before being picked up by my sister at 4pm, I squeezed in a brisk 20 minute walk in the district. I marched along the quiet Main Street of Robertsdale and turned right into a side street. The sign read St. Paul Ave. Compared to dry Adelaide everything looked so lush and green. There were no fences to separate houses from the streets or their neighbours. Instead there were lots of tall trees, some of which showed damage from the storms seven months earlier.

As I walked up to a large Baptist Church I looked for the church office. I would have loved to have a chat with somebody about a rumour I had heard of a major doctrinal difference within the US Baptist movement. It was about the separation between church and state. 

As I understood the issue, some Christians still believed that they ought to concentrate on spreading the Gospel and to leave politics alone. The opposing viewpoint was - to come out from behind the church walls, become engaged in the community, including the law making process, and help shape laws to correspond with God’s Word and HIS moral and social principles.

Researching this issue on the Internet I came across an organization in the US, whose aim is to promote separation between church and state. They had not endorsed the Christian's push to have George Bush re-elected in 2004, wanting church leaders to stay out of politics. I didn’t agree with their point of view, since Christian pastors have an important role to play in society. I sent the following email to this group recently:  

 

Subject: What if they are lying?

Hi all,

Separation between church and state works if neither is corrupt. Sadly, when one gets powerful, it becomes corrupt.

If I were a Pastor, discerning that a political Party was misleading voters (e.g. Gay marriage is OK, lets make a law to give them equal rights etc), I would make it my duty to inform my flock. It is then up to them to vote for a candidate, who honours God's Word and stands firm. (I am so glad George W. Bush did that, instead of listening to the trendies - he won again). 

Politicians who only tell half-truths to get elected is a world-wide phenomena.  A church that never speaks out is failing to fulfill their main roll - to be the salt of the earth. This is impossible, if church and state are separated. Politics and Religion both have the same function - to fulfill people's need, both physical and spiritual. We are essentially spiritual beings.

Why should Christians not be actively involved in ensuring that laws are made, which are based on God's Word? If we put God first, the rest will take care of itself.

Kind regards from Australia

Dieter R. Fischer

PS   A nation that honours God will prosper.  

At the time of composing this email I didn't mention my believe that Islam is so strong, because they have no separation between religion and politics. As I understand it, their politics is also their religion. Some Christians in the West ought to study the teaching in their bible and then examine their behaviour against their moral attitudes. It would revolutionize politics in the West, swinging the balance back to what is true and right.  

Islam's is seen to be standing firm in what they believe (which for my liking is too extreme in the other direction). If Jesus Christ had His rightful place in the Islamic faith, the gulf between Christians and Muslims would be bridged. As the song goes, like a bridge over troubled waters, Jesus was willing and laid Himself down to bridge the gap between God and men. 

Jesus is also the ONE to bridge the gap between ALL religions.   

 

I never made contact with any Baptists from Alabama at Robertsdale. Near the front door, which was locked, I saw a flowerpot had fallen over. I put it upright again before walking back to the Library around the corner, to be picked up by my sister.

That evening I took my first trip into the city of Mobile. On my previous 3 trips I had been picked up and dropped off at the bus station, that’s all I had ever seen of Mobile. My sister, her son and partner and I visited the Children’s and Women’s Hospital. Their second child, Chloe, had been born premature at the end of January and was still in hospital 2 1/2 months later.

She was a gorgeous, tiny little bundle. I’m glad I was seeing this new-born relative of mine. The young couple was anxious to take Chloe home, which was to happen a few days later. For the last ½ hour or so, I stepped outside to look after their 5-year old, who was not allowed inside the ward. While waiting I read the posters on the wall. Some were interesting. I suspected an infection by Da Ninci:

A poem about a new-born child to the parents was displayed on a wall.  My hawk-eye spotted a line at the end, which made an immediate connection: a child will follow your example – she will do in (sic.) her way. I used my pen to correct the error, by crossing out the ‘n’ and inserting the correct letter t. I didn’t want to hide that fact, who was responsible for the correction, so I slipped a business card between the poster and the wall. (So far nobody phoned to book for driving lessons).

A road safety poster near the snack machine showed a group of children. The message read: Which of these children need child restraints – ALL of them. The word ‘all’ meant so much to me since 1/2/03. This must be the reason, why it stood out in my mind every time I saw it, and do to this day.

 

       

Street Scene on Canal Street, New Orleans.                       Was the word ALL really necessary here?

 

My sister was surprised that I was already departing again on Friday 8/5/05, after only two nights with them. I was anxious to get to Los Angeles, despite not knowing what lay in store for me. I had no definite plans. My brother-in-law and my sister (they are actually divorced, but still good friends) dropped me into Mobile rather early. I had about ½ hour to spare, so I decided to go for a little walk along the service road near the bus station.

But out of the blue, just in those few minutes I seemed to not be able to just go for a stroll without seeing AL’s Tire place, plus a business named ICT, which I think was a Vet, plus more. What more Da Ninci would I have discovered had I spent a whole hour, instead of 20 minutes? Outside a scout hall I saw a piece of black plastic in the middle of the road. My diary said, I was getting tired of picking up stuff off the road, but did it anyway. I was almost sure that somebody parked in the parking lot across the road was watching. 

A black lady boarded the bus somewhere along the route. It may have been at Biloxi, a town I would have loved to stay for a few days. The huge Hotel/Casino was what I pictured all of Las Vegas looked like. The smartly dressed, slim-built lady sat right beside me. She had a number of smaller bags dangling on her side. After a while I noticed a letter, which was exposed over her small bag. Without any great effort I could read the writing. It was so obvious it irritated me. I would have felt uneasy displaying my correspondence, which anyone beside me could read. And she just left it there for the whole hour or more she was on the bus.

It reminded me of what had taken place on the bus trip two days earlier. A young man, unashamed without trying to hide anything, read a pictorial magazine full of nude woman. I know what you’re thinking, why didn’t I look away. Of course, I did, even made a joke with a fellow passenger nearby. But it’s not so easy to just act, as if everything was as it should be. I prayed a silent prayer for that boy, who was obviously very mixed up in his mind. I suspected a tragic story, manifesting itself in such unsocial behaviour.  

Without trying I read the top of the letter, still hanging over the bag on the lap of the black lady.  It was addressed to a Mr. Mason of ‘Young Lover - Film Production’. The surname and company’s name, which I slightly changed for privacy, made me a little nervous. ‘Am son’ is a simple re-arrangement of this common surname. I had come across this common name a number of times throughout my journey. Was the lady trying to say something to me? Didn’t she know I speak English?

‘Young Lover Film Production’ teased me even more, considering I was on my way to the movie capitol of the World. What was waiting for me there, I wondered? Neither of us spoke a word. I wouldn’t have known what to say. The lady didn’t stay all the way to New Orleans. I was glad to sit again by myself for the rest of the trip.

I reflected back to the time when I was contemplating a documentary about my unusual story. Would anybody be interested? It goes back to Part 2, Chapter 2. I had been lead to a garage sale, where I had bought a video camera, quite on impulse. By fluke (or divine guidance, whichever you prefer) I had bumped into a friend, whose registration number matched the date 315 on May 31st. 

What about this co-incidence? In the same chapter (Mind Ch. 2) I wrote the following:

>>>As Rob and his friend Carol drove off, I just caught a glimpse of their car registration plate – W...315. I don’t know why I developed the habit of reading registration numbers from my youth, but I did. One reasons springs to mind - I love greeting people, just a wave or a hello, if there is opportunity. When people are driving you recognize a friend by the colour and make of their car. The first thing I look at is the car’s registration number, to ensure the green VW Beetle is really your friend. You feel silly waving to a total stranger.<<<

Only the day before this writing (on 25/6/05) I felt led to a Garage Sale at an address in Adelaide’s inner western suburb of Torrensville. When I arrived at the address (No. 10 T. St.) I saw a green VW Beetle outside – I knew, the ladies had read my story. I had arrived at the right place. A large cupboard for sale may have been another reference to my long story. (Mind Chapter 7). To me it all makes sense.   

 

Approaching New Orleans just before midday, I kept noticing cars overtaking our bus and then changing lanes ahead of us. To me it’s almost impossible to watch a vehicle go by without reading the licence plate. If it was a company van, I would read the writing on the side. As we got closer to the city of NO the numbers with messages became more regular and stronger. With the letters UR and the number 7 it was not difficult to read a strong theme throughout. The theme behind it is so scary, the word awesome, which I seldom use, is very appropriate under the circumstances.  

 

Can you see the ‘escape message’ in this headline - and the LA destination? This headline was printed in a recent edition (End June 05) of a major Australia-wide newspaper. The article was about the new Senate in Canberra - as from 1/7 the Liberal/National Coalition Government has a one seat majority. 

Oh, the power of one - and it's not even football!     

In times like these I wished ‘it’ were a mental illness. Then I could just walk away from ‘it’, escape into the land of psychiatrists, tablets and institutions to never be heard of again. 

But I have chosen to stand firm in what I believe in. I don't know what the future holds, except what God reveals to me. The song mentioned earlier in this chapter sums up, what Jesus has already done - willingly HE laid down His life for you. HE not only has the answers to your problems - HE IS the answer. 

 

Bridge over troubled Water   (Lyrics by Simon & Garfunkel).  Listen here

When you're weary, feeling small
When tears are in your eyes,
I will dry them all
I'm on your side
When times get rough
And friends just can't be found

Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

When you're down and out
When you're on the street
When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you
I'll take your part
When darkness comes
And pain is all around

Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

Sail on silver girl
Sail on by
Your time has come to shine
All your dreams are on their way
See how they shine
When you need a friend
I'm sailing right behind

Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind

 

Chapter 42

Index