43.  A walk down memory lane

There is nothing like a late-model motorcar and six-lane freeway to travel from place to place in freedom. Traffic on the infamous freeways of LA was flowing much better than I had expected. It was weekend after all, Saturday April 9th, 05. My plan original plan was to catch public transport to Orange County and find a reasonably priced motel as close as possible to the Crystal Cathedral. But now, having a hire-car, widened the choice of  accommodation.

After getting lost and driving too far towards San Diego I arrived at a T-Junction. I selected the right turn lane, intending to turn towards Garden Grove, the suburb where I planned to go to church the next day. At the last moment I saw the name of the street sign for turning left – Memory Lane! I smiled to myself and decided on the spot to turn left instead. Visitors are allowed to break a traffic regulation or two, I think. The next 48 hours were going to be Memory Lane magic, not only geographically. 

Since I was on Memory Lane, why not stay in the same Motel as I had done 2 years earlier, the Key Inn in Tustin? It was rather late before I settled into Room 444 at the Key Inn, which ironically has a swipe-card to enter your room, not a key.

I was up bright and early the next morning; nothing like a brisk walk on a fresh Sunday morning. Not far, across a main road I passed Main Place Christian Church and was surprised that at 7.30 am the place was already showing action. A free breakfast was set up outside, which I didn’t mind. This was the church, which two years earlier I had stumbled across, after seeing a huge sign ‘Prayer’ on a Kiosk type building.

 

  In the background, Main Place Christian Church, Tustin, California. 

I wanted to retrace my steps to the intersection Redhill/Mitchell Ave a kilometer or so away. The name Mitchell had meant a lot to me, as well as Redhill. It felt great to walk the streets of California without fear or worry, which had been a real issue in 03. I saw a sock on the road. It had a hole in it. For fun I picked it up and deposited it on the back of a pick-up truck. I fancied the registration plate.  No. 1 Fan. Collecting stuff while walking the dog was one thing, carrying rubbish half-way around the world, another.

I purposely entered the Petrol Station and bought a Milky-Way bar at the am/pm gas station, just as I had done 2 years earlier. As if on cue, wanting to get into the action, a bus OCTA went by. A new discovery was a Restaurant at the end of the group of shops, where I had my hair cut in April 03. The letters, slightly changed, to me read: IMANIM. The shops were closed. Just as well, because I may have arrived home with a No. 1 haircut again, in true memory lane fashion. 

 

Either this establishment was not there or I had missed it 2 years earlier. I re-arranged the letters. Those who look very carefully on the right top corner will see two letters. I only noticed them after I collected the photos. 

Originally I had intended to visit the Crystal Cathedral that morning. But something inside changed my thoughts. I felt to attend the 9 am service at Main Place Christian Church instead. I hadn’t sung the song “Because he lives, I can face tomorrow” for a long time. That morning the singing brought tears to my eyes. Certain songs have that effect and I am not ashamed. 

One man read the scriptures from Nehemiah 5. I had to go up to him afterwards and correct a mistake. He read in verse 14 the length of time as 22 years, not 32 years. How could I let a mistake like that go unchallenged? And it was in Verse 14. (The date was 4/10, as it is written in the US). During the course of April 10th, I would be getting more of these 1/4 clues.

On the way back to my motel room I left a business card on the windscreen of a car. It had JESUS on the front as licence plate and ... 513 at the rear. A vehicle rego 531 had played a role in my first visit; it had been parked a stone’s throw away, near the Prayer Kiosk. (Chapter 67, More in number). The Arizona registration reminded me that Ivan and Judy, whom I had met in New Orleans, were from Arizona.

I had no idea what time the Crystal Cathedral held their services. It was still reasonably early, so I decided to drive the few kilometers anyway, even to just walk around the beautiful gardens, which I remembered enjoying on my earlier visit. To my surprise I hadn’t missed everything, only maybe ½ hour of the second service. I’m glad I had decided to come that Sunday, even though I would have another weekend in LA. 

Had I not bothered I would have missed a wonderful lady, none other than the widow of Dr. Martin Luther King jr., plus the guest artist, singer Wintley Phipps. He was equally famous. His song included two simple words, blessed assurance. It meant a lot to me. Dr. Schuller in his introduction explained that Winfrey had sung for every President since … Billy Graham, I think that’s what he said. (It could have been another; I didn’t record details into my journal). Maybe he didn't?    

 

 

What perfect timing for a perfect number in the Crystal Cathedral's Newsletter - 1550+1! Newsletter for Sunday, April 10th, 2005. 

After the service had concluded I checked the displays outside in the courtyard. I found out there is even a Toastmaster’s Group meeting at the Crystal Cathedral. The contact’s name on the brochure was listed as Jack G. (it had a German twist in it, good). Beside the Toastmaster's was a table, run by a group of businessmen. They also met regularly on the Church's premises. I was very interested in making contact with a trustworthy business man, to show our road safety game.

I filled in the visitor's form in the newsletter. One question asks simply: What is your concern today? Without hesitation I filled in two words, Zimbabwe and North Korea, two countries of concern, which needed our prayers. I suppose, if I compared with what I had written two years ago (on another similar form, at the Admin. building) I had made some progress. In 03 I had written I needed two things, a toilet and a glass of water. 

The church newsletter included a voucher for a free Starbucks coffee in the church Cafeteria. I wouldn’t miss that. With it came a free gift, a beautiful small porcelain angel. A very nice gesture and packaged securely, for visitors from around the world, to carry it home safely. 

A young man, Maurice, in a wheel chair, had begged me for a dollar outside. I struck up a conversation and bought him a Pizza, instead of giving him money. We had a good talk about his life. He had been in that chair for many years. I had a feeling he was a regular at the Cathedral. Was he begging to check out my reaction?

I saw another man sitting on his own, so I invited myself to sit with him.  Jerry looked more like a professional business man. He had come from St. Louis for the Men’s Conference, which had concluded at the Cathedral the night before. He was the Marketing Manager of a large cardboard manufacturing Company. Something started clicking in my head. It was only days since I had uploaded the story about picking up cardboard off the street, and emailing a Californian Cardboard Company, making a joke with them. 

Talking about a glass of water, after Jerry had left the table I suddenly noticed he had left a full glass of water, standing in front of me on the otherwise empty table. 

It would probably have been logical for me to explore new territory that afternoon, but I had not forgotten that I was on memory lane. Therefore, I was planning to visit Riverside, where two years earlier my dramatic 10 day US-stint had concluded spending a night, freezing  in the back of a Dodge Van. I headed in my Cavalier towards Riverside, about 40 kilometers from Garden Grove.

Before taking off I asked an usher, if he could tell me, where to find a statue, which was  mentioned during a broadcast of the Hour of Power on TV, a year or so earlier. It had been erected at Riverside. I remember clearly Robert jr. mentioning those words: “This afternoon a statue will be officially unveiled at Riverside”, or words similar. Nobody knew anything about this, so I explored on my own.

Traffic flowed beautifully, apart from one minor crawl for a few minutes.  A sign read: Riverside, next 12 exits, which indicates how big the place is. I didn’t know, which one would lead me to Magnolia Avenue, where I wanted to have a peep at the Days Inn. It was no problem to find it.

As I strolled around the parking lot I started to imagine. If I was really being monitored, which is very simple to do with modern technology, perhaps somebody had read about my previous adventure. Would they play a little game with 2 copper coins? A crazy thought, but it would not have surprised me. I walked over to the spot where I had found the two coins in 03 and looked around.  There was nothing. I was mildly disappointed. But the day wasn’t over yet!!

My next stop, the CAL Baptist University looked very different. Their new facilities had been completed. I wondered, if the security guard at the entry booth of the parking lot had any idea, who I was. I walked around the deserted premises, right out to the baseball ground, where I had sat and watched a team from Westmont College, Santa Barbara play CAL Baptist. 

 

 

Riverside from the hill behind the cemetery. (The long buildings in the foreground, beside the freeway, are self-storage units). As I looked to my right from this small hill, I saw mountains, which still showed a white capping of snow. 

 

Why not phone Isobel from here, I thought? I made a point of using the same phone box as before. As I talked with my wife, about everything and everyone at home, my observant eye spotted a tiny tablet on the ground. It was smaller than a headache tablet. I picked it up not knowing why, really. Still talking with Isobel, I read the tiny lettering on the tablet - M 4. Was this another 14 clue on April 10th? (M = 1 000 in Roman Numeral).

Having to find my own way into the centre of Riverside was not easy. I remembered seeing small hills from the parking lot of the Riverside Inn. I ended up climbing a hill behind a large cemetery and taking a photo.

Eventually I found my way into the familiar part of Riverside near the bus station. I walked around all the places I remembered from those eventful, worrisome days. Across the road the supermarket looked just as I remembered it. I stocked up on some healthy foods. The packet of baby carrots lasted me for four days, almost. One can overdo healthy eating. 

Outside the Riverside Inn I picked up an empty can of Sunkist soft drink. The lawyer’s premises, in whose parking lot I spent the cold night, looked just the same. I scribbled on the back of a business card -  Hi, April 03, April 05 - and left it at the back door.

I was sure, a couple of ladies were watching me from upstairs next door. The place was a kind of religious order. They appeared to be wearing red, yellow and blue clothing. One of the parking bays, where I had slept the night in the van, was marked Driving School. New discoveries by the minute.

There were more discoveries in my 'spot the difference' game. The Los Angeles Times office had moved from the first floor to a ground floor office. I looked though the window; a girl was sitting at a computer screen. While two years earlier I had been desperate for a listening ear to hear my incredible story, my mind was at ease. My attitude had changed. If nobody wanted to know my story, it's their loss.

As the shadows on this sunny Sunday afternoon grew longer, I decided to not rush and return the hire-car, but phone to say I would keep it for another day. I was in tourist-mode and enjoying it. Looking for a coffee fix I walked to the end of the Mall to the McDonald’s store, another stop in the walk down memory lane. Two years ago I had a Hamburger. This time I ordered just a coffee and was told, surprise, surprise, they only had decaffeinated coffee left. So I left and walked back toward the car. 

A flash in my brain pictured the lovely, historic Mission Inn nearby. Why not have a closer look, they may even serve coffee there? This thought made me turn and walk back in the other direction. After only a few steps I spotted a one-cent piece on the ground, picked it up without thinking and walked on. I was conscious of somebody near McDonalds watching me. I was mildly disappointed there was only one, when a only a second later I found the second one, less than 5 meters away. Voila!

Would a mathematician please work out for me the probability of finding 2 copper coins in the same city, at two different locations, during 2 different visits, years apart? Perhaps it wasn't remarkable, magic is in the eyes of the beholder. To me it all makes cents.  

                        

The actual coins I found at the end of the Mall at Riverside, Ca. April 10th, 05.

My diary says: "the two coins were ‘in line’. I knew it, I am watched probably 24/7". I kept the two copper coins as a souvenir. (I also have kept the two originals, found at the Days Inn in 03, but they got mixed up with other coins).

 

Standing in the courtyard of the Historic Mission Inn, I felt more like inside a European castle than an American hotel. The tables, all set for luxury dining, would soon be occupied by the rich and famous from Hollywood down the road, may be? My baby carrot’s main course, followed by a fresh apple in my motel room, would be just as healthy as their $ 100 plus three course spread. Or was I just a little envious to talk like that?

On asking, where I could have a coffee, I was directed to go either inside the Restaurant or to the Presidential Lobby. I chose to sit in the lobby area, ordered a coffee and sat on a table by the wall. Looking at the dark timbers, used extensively throughout, I could picture this to be an ancient, German Gasthaus (pub). As I looked up to the ornamentally framed, large pictures decorating the wall, I realized quickly where I was.

I had sat down, without realizing at first, under a portrait of none other than … The rugged, handsome face looked familiar. Wasn’t this the Presidential Lobby? So the face must be an American President. But which one was it. In Germany I would have expected Kaiser Wilhelm. It came after a bit of thinking, of course. I knew it all along, it was Billy Graham. I didn’t know he had other Christian names (George W.), unless I'm ...

The name Washington crossed my path as I walked out of Mission Inn. The bust of a man was that of ‘Booker Taliaferro Washington’ (1856-1915). An unusual name, perhaps the Rebok company saw something in Booker? The man came from a humble, poor background and became an Educator in the state of Alabama. I knew he and I had something in common. I don’t wear Reboks, but I am an educator, of a kind, and only just been to Alabama. Plus I was also from a poor background.

Washington obviously had a very positive attitude, despite probably seeing some blatant discrimination against people like himself (half white). To show a healthy, positive outlook on life, despite strong opposition, or persecution, is the hallmark of true heroes, real winners in life. Inscribed at the bottom of Washington’s memorial, was one of his sayings: “It’s not what position you have achieved, but what obstacles you have overcome”.

Was this the statue Robert Schuller jr. had mentioned in his broadcast and I was looking for? (I may leave this question open as an excuse to again visit California).

On the way to my car I had to pass another historic looking building. There was some activity in the otherwise quite streets of Riverside. An arrow was pointing to the ticket pick-up desk. I made enquires. The Las Vegas Theatrical Company was performing the Musical Hair. For a moment I contemplated - why not? But I knew it wouldn't be a ten-dollars per ticket show.

I couldn't find justification for the $ 35 ticket. Plus I didn’t want to drive home real late at night. Baby carrots were waiting to be consumed in my motel room.

        

I would have loved to attend this show,  just to congratulate the trumpeter on his name and/or his playing. But I felt a rogue to come here, let alone spend money on luxuries, like live theatre. May be next time and with my wife?  

Exiting Freeway 55 back at Tustin I had to stop at a red traffic light. A young man, selling flowers on the sidewalk, looked at me and I at him. No I didn’t want to buy flowers. But I felt good about myself, when I read the brand of flowers he sold – Red Gem. Perhaps I had done something right that day?

The exit ramp from Freeway 55 is only a few hundred meters from my accommodation at the Key Inn. By sheer fluke, on the very morning of writing, 17.7.05, my Bible Study in the booklet Every Day with Jesus, is titled - Christ has the keys.

On the internet, preparing for this chapter, I noticed something funny about the location of the Key Inn. I have no doubt God is having some fun too. Just look at this:

Street name Camino Real: Change the o to an e and we read: L-came in, Real.

Suburb Tustin: Add an R (as in R+) Tustin becomes - Trust in.

If somebody thinks I am trying to rival ‘Harry Potter’, please, let’s not make comparisons. My characters, events and places are all Real.

Please note: The account of my USA trip continues in Part 4, Candles and the Wind, Chapter 6).

Chapter 44

Index