67. Win the war and sell dot coms.
It was rush hour in Orange County. The freeway traffic flowed surprisingly fast. The paramedics left me in a small hospital after a 20 minutes ride. On the way I had explained to the officer sitting in the back beside me that I faked the pain to get out of the motel unseen. I gave the usual story that I was a whistleblower with sensitive information; I was not sure, if I was under surveillance. What did he think, when I asked for his assurance that we were not being followed, which he gave with a reassuring gesture?
The next five hours I sat on a chair in the emergency department. I was interviewed by a man, who said he was a doctor. Later the same man was in a nursing outfit, which I found puzzling. I had blood taken, went to be x-rayed and underwent all the procedures of a casualty; except I wasn’t one. Physically I was in better shape than I had been in a long time. Since going off tablets a year earlier I had lost the little pouch surrounding my belly button.
Various staff questioned me, but not as much as I would have expected. A lady in uniform brought me a sandwich and a drink. I was told a psychiatrist was on the way and would interview me. The young lady arrived around 10 pm and asked the same questions as the others had. As always I believed telling the plain truth; it would set me free. I explained that I felt unsafe in Australia because I was whistleblower. I had not only pointed the finger at what I perceived to be injustice, but broadcast it to the world via the internet. I thought that I was possibly under surveillance; I did not even feel safe in LA. The ambulance ride was to break the trail to my pursuers.
The psychiatrist took notes, made phone calls and eventually gave me a list of shelters (nothing new) and the phone numbers of two motels. It was now past 11 pm. I phoned the second contact on the list, the Key Motel. The hospital staff organized the taxi. It was just before midnight when I slumped onto the bed in my room. What a relief! From now on it would only be friend, no more foes, I thought. I remember distinctly that night, before picking up the soap to wash my hands, thinking – I wonder what the brand name is? The wrapping said: fine choice. Whoever was directing this play surely had a fine choice of humour. On CNN the miracle of the (almost) bloodless takeover of central Baghdad continued. “It can’t get better than that”, I thought to myself.
Check-out times in the US are later than the 10 am requested in Australia. I made use of the comforts and safety of the motel room. Around 11.30 am I walked outside to find a place for a coffee. Denny’s Restaurant was right next door. With a name that includes Y, D and N how could I not choose this place for breakfast? While eating brunch I contemplated, where next? I was virtually back at square one, except I figured I had broken the trail to my pursuers.
Had there ever been anyone in pursuit of me? I honestly didn’t know. Did I imagine the whole story to provide a little excitement? All I knew is that I had made some outrageous public statements back home, and there were people who had reasons to hate me. This was not my imagination. My feelings of vulnerability were a natural reaction; this trip was the mechanism to protect myself.
I contemplated various moves while eating fried eggs and crispy bacon slices. People were coming and going. I regarded each customer as a potential contact person. Should I ask someone for a lift? But who and where to? I had no plans. It was Friday, so I sat down to write a letter to the media. It was good therapy to take stock of where I had been, where I was at and what I was trying to achieve.
Various people had asked me, why I was in the US. It was difficult to explain; I was not one hundred percent sure myself. I said to people I was on a two-fold mission. One was to support America in its war against Iraq and two, to sell my domain names. I still held three top-shelf driving-school addresses and two others. Had I sold those names it would have financed my US stay for a few weeks.
The letter I wrote in Denny’s Restaurant was explaining this two-pronged mission. I hinted that I would appreciate some help in selling my domain names. As I did with my traditional Friday emails I included a little humour: “I don’t know what is harder - to win the war against Iraq or to sell to my ‘dot coms’? I had no idea who to send the note to. During the ½ hour of writing a yellow cab had parked right outside the window. Was he my next contact? Just as I got up to leave, the taxi drove off around the back.
I asked the cashier: “There was a taxi parked here, did you see where it went?” He pointed around the back to indicate I could probably still catch it. I hurried around the back but it was gone. Instead of the taxi I was overawed by an unusually large four-wheel-drive vehicle parked there. It belonged to a government fleet. The registration number was 4LNR531. The stars and stripes were mounted on the top and a ladder stored in the back. This seemed almost too much, the registration number (for learners), the number 531 and the ladder in the back. I decided to wait near there and see what would transpire.
As I waited my eyes scanned across the huge car park, which was adjacent to a large shopping complex. I read the word “Prayer” in letters so large, they made the kiosk underneath look small. It did the trick. Forget the government, this was my clue. I walked over and was welcomed by a friendly, snowy haired gentleman. Bill explained the kiosk’s aims - assisting the needy with bread and bottled water, and to pray for any needs. They also gave out bibles. I welcomed the listening ear and he asked me what he could do for me. If anyone needed prayer, it was me; why knock back a freebie? He prayed God to guide me and to bless my mission. I also specifically asked him to pray for Steven.
Steven was a man in his late 30’s who lived back in Adelaide. He was a relative of a family friend. During driving lessons the student had been telling me of Steven’s diagnosis of incurable cancer. Before Christmas 2002 the doctor had given him six weeks to live. Hearing such sad story became an immediate challenge to pray. I believed in earnest prayer, because I had experienced it so many times in recent years. My little basket for the politicians of South Australia said it all: Nothing is too hard for God. Bill and I prayed for Steven right there some thousands of kilometres away. I did not know Steven, who had already survived until that day, April 4th 03. God had already worked this small miracle. I believed for a big one. Steven had a wife and two children.
Bill told me that a pastor would be willing to talk to me. The large church that ran the prayer kiosk was just across the road. Before that he gave me direction to the office of the LA times, where I was going to drop my letter to the media. Bill agreed to look after my luggage while I did my little chore. I walked into the direction Bill told me to. It felt great. I was free and loved walking along the busy main road in perfect weather - sunshine, the temperature in the mid 20’s. One of the first cross roads I arrived at was the corner of Mitchell/Red Hill Ave. I took a photo of my “Ben Mitchell” backpack” together with the street sign Mitchell Ave. Right were I stood was a sign “Make-a-wish”, which I could not work out what line of business it was. My mind was flabbergasted at the spot where I felt God had led me to.
The backpack Ben Mitchell gave me on Mitchell Ave. Tustin, CA
The bus was not intentional. I only discovered it after the film was developed. (c the t, a & o?). In the back the ampm Petrol Station.
Should I knock on the door of that business and make a wish? I was going to ask for a bicycle, probably the most suitable mode of transport for me at the time. But the place looked more like an old-people’s home, not a bicycle hire depot. I continued my walk beyond Mitchell Ave. Suddenly something prompted me to not venture any further! (What it was I will not say, all I knew I had to turn back at this point. I crossed the road and walked back to the corner of Mitchell Ave. Then I noticed the name of the petrol station on the other side – ampm. I bought a Milky Way bar.
Outside I tried unsuccessfully to reach Taxi 31. I would have trusted the driver with the turban to take me to the LA Times office. Instead, I walked back towards the prayer kiosk. On the way, passing a hair dresser with balloons outside, I remembered a dream I had. I had my head shaved off. Right there, in the shops beside the ampm petrol station, I had a number one.
Feeling somewhat lighter on the top, I continued the 10 minute walk back to the prayer kiosk. At 1 pm another, younger man named David, had taken over, so I didn’t have to explain my haircut. We talked the usual themes of family, church etc. He seemed a little puzzled about me. After about 20 minutes I pulled my small suitcase across the road to find the office of the pastor. The young, bearded man, about 35 years old, gave me the impression that he had heard about my story (from the internet, of course) and believed it.
Sitting in his little office I shared with him my dream of April 1st. He seemed amazed at the incredible events unfolding before our eyes. He told me that a church down the road believed that ‘the second coming’ had taken place. I laughed and made it very clear that I believed God called me to be HIS messenger, nothing else. He would have noticed the hat I was wearing. The inscription in red read: 50 years Messenger, 1951 -2001. It was the black hat I was given at a seminar the previous September by the ‘Messenger Press Newspapers’.
The pastor had to pick up his daughter from school. He shook my hand firmly and warmly and asked if I wanted a lift to the railway station. If he really believed that I was God’s messenger, why did he not offer any kind of assistance? I wondered. I was getting tired of running and longed for a place I could feel at home. Where was home? I still wanted my letter to reach an LA Times journalist before the weekend, so he called a cab for me. He said I could trust the driver; he had used him many times before.
While I waited for the cab I updated my diary. Conscious what an incredible journey I was undertaking, I recorded details often and as accurately as possible. The taxi driver who picked me up was another look-a-like. The middle aged man, wearing a white shirt and tie and a little moustache, resembled a local politician, a Liberal Member of the SA State Parliament. I could not get over the likeness and told the man so. His name was Steve. Without me specifying, he drove me not to the LA Times, but to the Orange County Register, located in the Freedom Orange County Information Centre on North Grand Ave. Santa Ana. At least I thought I was still in Santa Ana, I had no map.
During the conversation with Steve, I overhead him mention the word fruit. It didn’t make any sense at the time and I couldn’t be bothered probing. As I paid the fifteen US dollar fare (with guilt feelings), I was glad Isobel didn’t know about my extravagance. I walked up to the counter of the Orange County Information desk and handed the receptionist the letter I had written. Could she pass it on to a journalist, please? I said I would wait for a response. So I waited and waited in the large foyer. After repeated enquiries to speak to a journalist I realized I was not getting anywhere. Did they already know about me and my journey? Had I already created a reputation in the region, the mad Australian thinking he is on a big mission and were closing the doors?
It was getting late, so I phoned a couple of “homeless shelters”. It was frustrating, because either a machine answered or they were full. The most unhelpful answer I received was that you had to arrive at 8 am for a bed for the night! That Friday afternoon, on the 4th of the 4th, I had reached a low point in my effort to find a listening ear and some sympathy. Why did the media not jump at my unusual story? Surely, there was something worth reporting? My immediate need for a bed for the night was more prominent in my mind at the time. I could not keep spending big dollars on motels and taxis. But if nobody locally would give me any kind of assistance I would be in dire straights. “Lord, you did not bring me this far and then let me down”. How often had I prayed that prayer in the past few years!
A tall man walked from the lift through the foyer towards the exit. He pulled along a little black suitcase, almost identical to mine. I was too slow to get ready and to follow him. If he was my contact, I missed him; a horrible thought! The next moment another man rushed along the corridors towards the front door rather hastily. He carried a small backpack. “This is your man”, something inside me said. I quickly grabbed my backpack and suitcase and followed him. At the crossroad, a hundred metres away at the red traffic lights, I caught up with him. Then I spotted the street name of the crossroad. It read, Fruit Ave. Had Steve, the taxi driver, mentioned the word fruit for a reason?
The young man, obviously an office worker on his way home, smiled at me and we started conversation. I didn’t know where he was rushing towards. I asked, if I could follow him. He was trying to catch his train home, wherever that was. We walked very briskly along Fruit Ave. which was to lead to the railway station. (The pastor, that afternoon had mentioned - railway station). On reaching the busy platform, without making a fuss, the young office worker named Richard, assisted in purchasing my ticket from a machine. I asked if there were reasonably priced motels where he was going. He said I’d find something; where he lives was cheaper than Orange County.
We sat in the crowded train and shared common values. He was a devout Christian, a family man with two kids and also supported the need for a stand on Iraq. My brain couldn’t ignore the scheduled train departure time, 5.04 pm, as well as the number of the train carriage we had boarded, No. 153. Had I finally boarded my ride home? He introduced me to a colleague. This dark-haired, Spanish-looking gentleman worked in the factory of the newspaper. His name tag read Jesus, not an uncommon name in that part of the US. The train took us east though a broad valley amongst hills almost high enough to be called mountains. I had no idea where I was going. My chaperon, Richard, seemed to have everything in control and I trusted him.
The train trip lasted almost an hour. We disembarked with the rush hour crowd that was heading home for their weekend activities. What would mine be like? I followed Richard, who offered me a lift nearer into town. On the way he briefly stopped at a shopping mall. As we drove to the outskirts of the city, he pointed out a ramshackle motel: “Is this one suitable?” It looked dirty. I asked to drive on. After a U-Turn and a few corners I spotted a larger one called “Days Inn”. Without any doubt, as soon as I saw it, this was the right choice.
Before leaving Adelaide a teenage road death had occurred on the corner of Days & Regency Roads. I had only by chance found out about it when flicking through the newspaper at someone’s place. The names of the two roads spooked me. This is why I chose this motel.
"Sinn" in German means "mind, sense".
(This photo turned out like this by
Outside the Days Inn, Riverside, CA.
What's this all about, the n sin? No,
Rich insisted I take one hundred US dollars to help pay for the room. (The earlier stop at the mall must have been to withdraw the cash from an ATM). I was overwhelmed with his generosity. He really meant to give it; so this time I accepted.
Why had Richard been so generous, yet not offered a bed at his house? It would have been cheaper. I never saw Richard again. The motel looked more inviting than the previous one had. I bargained the price down by 15 dollars. When I tried to phone later the number he supplied, it was disconnected. Was he, or people in general, afraid of being associated with me?
This was truly a strange journey. Where was life taking me? Will there be a place called ‘home’?
Autobiography - Dieter Fischer
1. More in number 2. A sound mind 3. Now I'm found 4. Candle and the Wind
5. Realm of Nature 6. All in his Hand 7. The Wonder of it All 8. To Think God loves