(Continued from Chapter 43 - Now I am found - USA trip April 05).
6. The Merc named SAN
When I first knew that a second trip to the United States was shaping into reality, I should have considered that God loves hat tricks. This didn’t mean that I was not expecting much from this trip, only that it did not resolve the dilemma between my family and myself. I fact as the year 2005 dragged on, the families attitude toward me hardened. It may indeed be third-time lucky?
As far as my family was concerned I went and returned to the US in a state of mental instability, repeating the folly of 2003. The only difference was that there was less trauma and heartache, and I had not gone in secret this time. Despite my openness I was still reminded occasionally after returning that my travels were an indulgence, and I would do well to seek treatment.
But I have stopped long ago, letting anybody load me up with feelings of guilt and regret. God's word says that there is now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8,1). If I did not know deep down that I could trust my Lord one hundred percent, I would not have been able to continue this mission to this point. A lot of my writing is humorous, but that did not mean it was all a joke.
Top right: In Chapter 57 (Sand) I mentioned the name of a singer (Nina) I enjoyed during a broadcast of the Hour of Power in 2002 . How co-incidental, the same artist preformed during my 2005 visit. Without realizing at the time I snapped a photo of her talking outside.
Bottom: The choir master (and his wife on left) and organist and his wife shared a joke and a photo with me after one service. Thanks also to the other family, who allowed me to take their photo in front of one of the many statues of Jesus. There are a number of inspiring works of art on the extensive, beautiful grounds of the Crystal Cathedral.
On Monday April 11th, 05 I sat at Denny’s Restaurant, which was right next-door to my motel, the Key Inn, in Tustin, California. I only ordered coffee; too many baby carrots the night before, perhaps? I sat at the same table as I had two years earlier, when I had written a note to the LA times newspaper. It was never delivered.
Now, just over two years later, I sat and thought about the incredible events of the day before. I had enjoyed singing 'Because he lives I can face tomorrow' across the road at ‘The Main Place’ Christian Church. Somebody had made a mistake in the bible reading. Was that really just to test, if I would pick it? Later in the evening I picked up two copper coins. Would somebody really place two coins, just for me to collect by remote guidance? I was glad the second cup of coffee was for free. I had a lot to think about.
The decision to keep the hire car for another day was a good one. It gave me the option to continue my journey down memory lane, which by bus I may not have bothered.
My first stop, after checking out of the motel, was to the Tustin Hospital. I wanted to pay a visit to enquiry about my 2003 visit. A crazy series of events that April (Sand, Ch. 67) ended in me being admitted to this facility, perfectly healthy physically. The numerous medical tests, which had been totally unnecessary, in my opinion resulted in a medical bill of around A $ 3500. It was still on file back home, making me feel uneasy, every time I thought about it.
Thankfully, apart from an offer to pay in installments, there had not been any threat of stronger action, for which I was thankful. That morning I wanted to be sure the debt was completely wiped, not just suspended. It only took a few minutes for a clerk to look up the record. There was no debt under my name. I walked out with the blessed assurance that all was forgiven. It felt great.
My next destination was the Orange County Register, the regional newspaper. A man named Richard and I had quite magically linked up together after he had finished work. We had travelled on the train to Riverside. His co-worker Jesus, his real name, travelled with us. I felt in safe hands that afternoon. It was this remarkable incident, which originally led me to the Riverside area.
Without knowing me, or anything about me, he had not only helped me onto the train, but driven me to the Day’s Inn and handed me a hundred dollars before leaving me (More in number, Ch. 67). The present visit was not just to say hi, but to check, if the money had been a loan or a gift.
Poster in the foyer of the Orange County Register. I liked the name Hilla. In most of my general emails I use the greeting “Hi all” to address the recipients. There is a sad story associated with Hilla (ask Mr. Google).
The receptionist at the Orange County Register tried to locate Richard unsuccessfully. While waiting I recalled how anxious I had been on my previous visit. It was approaching 5pm and I had had no idea, where I’d be sleeping that night. In the end it all had worked out perfectly. (Doesn't is always, I don't know why we worry so much?).
This time I didn’t wait as long or wasn't that anxious. (I wonder why?) There was no driving compulsion to whistle blow to a journalist, to tell the world what incredible story I held in my head. The story was there OK, but not the urge to be heard. I had learned one lesson in life: Everybody is interested in themselves and I am the only one, who is interested in me. (Except Richard, but he never showed up). )
Even after I had told the receptionist that I came to repay some money there was no sign of Richard. Likewise at my next stop, the Citibank Orange Grove, not far from the Crystal Cathedral, I failed to make contact with two girls, one was called Dana, to repay them.
Those two young people had each given me 5 dollars on my first day in the US in April 03. I had been in a real dilemma, after being knocked back by churches and other agencies and very little money in my pocket. When I had trouble withdrawing funds from our account, those two young people really touched me, with their service and generosity. I had not forgotten. Dana I was told was working at another branch.
The rest of the day was filled with two more whistle stops. One was a short drive away, to the nearby Crystal Cathedral, the other to 701 Sunkist Ave, a landmark address, which also played a role on the first day of my 03 adventure. I wanted to find out, if either church had in any way changed their attitude towards me, and if they knew anything more regarding my story, perhaps via my website.
Nothing seemed to have changed, nobody was interested in me any more than any visitor, who just shows up unannounced. (I only had to fill in a form at one of the places).
The Baptist Pastor in Sunkist Ave, was at his church working, despite walking on crutches after a sports injury. He listened attentively as we recalled our brief encounter in April 03. I remember attending a prayer meeting back then with a handful of his flock, praying for the troops in Iraq.
My diary summed up my general feelings about it all: "My views and thinking are so different; people don’t know how to handle it".
I would have liked a brutally honest conversation, a kind of ‘tell-it-as-it-is’ reality check. Even if I were told: “There is only one difference in your folly from two years earlier – this time you have your own transport”, I would have accepted that. Better an honest, open opinion than beating around the bush, or denying there is a bush. The truth may have hurt for a while; but after waking up, one can move on. I had lived in a state of limbo for quite some time and was wondering how much longer this would last.
The encounter that Monday afternoon, just before I was returning my hire-car, made me wonder - could it be years before people believed (in) me. What’s another few years when compared to eternity? After my first trip I had an offer of a reality check by a Pastor, but neither he nor I pursued the matter. I am not sure if either of us was really serious at the time.
I left the Baptist Pastor's office late that Monday afternoon, knowing I had to return the hire car before closing time. Instead of heading for the Anaheim depot, it came to me to return the car near a beachside suburb. I was hoping to find a backpacker's hostel to keep the cost down. I headed for Long Beach.
During an hour's cycling I enjoyed the wonderful waterfront district of Long Beach. I crossed a bridge to take a look at the historic ocean liner Queen Mary, berthed at Long Beach since 1967. It has been in use as a floating city with chic restaurants (baby carrots on the menu?), plus shops and a hotel. I took this photo 1/4 mile (approx) north of the Queen Mary.
After returning the hire-car I looked for a cheap Motel. Nobody seemed to know of any backpacker's hostel. I figured that accommodation was cheaper away from the sea and walked for a fair while. It was getting darker, when I finally asked a man walking his dog. He said on 7th Ave was a cheap motel, which may be suitable. It was not far away; I was glad when I arrived, tired of pulling my little black suitcase along.
It was right near the corner of Martin Luther Street, plus the day before I had heard Mrs. Coretta Scott King speak. Judging by the name King’s Traveller, and the location 7th Avenue, I thought it must be OK..
Extract from my diary:
My diary tells of the frustration - did people really know my story (about the white beanie rapist) or is it just co-incidence that one guy ran around the motel grounds wearing one?
The veggies? You guessed correctly, baby carrots. The washing? Yes, it included underpants.
The TV was another matter. There were so many channels to choose from. After getting a sore finger from the remote, I usually found something interesting, the last 2 minutes of it. One night I enjoyed an episode, sorry the last 15 minutes, of Colombo, the unassuming, clever detective, whose Peugeot had as much character as Colombo Peter Falk. It was the episode, where the guest actor was none other than the late Johnny Cash.
Another time I watched ‘Larry King live’. His guest was Jane Fonda, who looked more like 45 years old than 65 – at 41 you’d expect that. One thing bothered me during the interview: The world map in the background showed Australia in the centre. Yes, I’m sure it was Jane Fonda and not Olivia Newton John. I’m not blind – how could I get those two mixed up? Olivia is nowhere near 41.
One TV bracket, it only lasted a few seconds, really amused me: A quiz show had as candidate none other than the current President himself. Billy, sorry George W. was asked what secret he would want revealed, if given the choice? (I can’t recall the exact words). His answer was: “I’d like to know what the inside of the bat-mobile looks like.”
My plan for the next day, Tuesday 12/4/05, was to walk to the nearest McDonald's store, have a coffee and then visit the library. Sightseeing could wait until later. As I walked west on Alamitos Ave, I got talking a lady monitor at the traffic lights. She was from Samoa; a very nice lady to talk to. She not only said she was a born again Christian, I could tell she lived as one.
Our friendly chat was suddenly interrupted by a big, semi-trailer. The driver went against the red traffic light, stopped a short distance away and performed a 3-point turn, as if it was a stunt in a movie set. Learner drivers would take three times as long in a small car than he did with his huge rig. The truck was sign-written RALPH, it rang a bell. The name of the Samoan lady was Lima. I started wondering…
Almost opposite McDonalds was a bar called CHERI. This name fitted perfectly into the CHER farewell concert story, plus it's sequence days later at LA International Airport - around the corner I saw a parked car rego – 4SKU963 (I altered 1 letter for privacy). Something else about this automobile made me wonder - the console between the front seats was filled with what looked like hundreds of copper coins. (This was two days after I had found two 1-cent coins in Riverside).
I liked the logo of the Long Beach Library very much. It was a perfect match to their motto: Knowledge gives us wings. (Only half of the card is shown here).
What knowledge would my wife need, before spreading her wings and taking to air with me?
I know - kissing lessons.
At MacDonald's that morning I had read the newspaper, the LA times. Maybe I should have and given my DaNinci brain a rest. My observing mind registered data, which in turn started a familiar process. I read certain facts, chewed over the ones that didn't make sense, and offloaded my thoughts to the media concerned. Sometimes it included humor, but not in this case.
In my email to the LA times, I commented on the story where somebody had died at Kings/Drew Hospital through negligence by the doctors. My diary doesn't tell the full story, only the figures - 21 months, 35-hours later, the company's name, NAVIGANT, plus the amount of compensation in question, 13.2 million dollars. This data had tickled my brain immediately and strongly.
A further headline story, I included it also in my email to the LA Times, had me bugged that day: “New areas north of LA were now clear for expansion after a bridge opened, which connected to the Ritter Ranch”. Ritter is German for ‘Knight’. I told my diary: How stupid is that? (To think of a sign on a truck I saw first thing that morning, and a headline later in the newspaper and letting it worry you?)
I had no idea who read my emails. Why would anyone be bothered with a seemingly pointless email by a crazy visitor. At times I was doubting my own actions: My diary says: “I commented on all these stories, not made fun of it. Why would God want me to do it?”
T-shirt in a Long Beach souvenir shop. (My name is nono, but nana calls me precious). It came to me sometime ago - the little word 'on' had played a pivotal role during a bitter confrontation at work. Now I hear - Na-na-na-na-na - na-na-na - quite often in an ad on TV.
How ironic also that those two letters 'no' are the abbreviation for number!
Before returning it, I was meaning to take a photo of the Cavalier’s HI U… registration plate, but promptly forgot. It was a beautiful day, as usual, in California. I didn’t really miss the car. I hired a bicycle instead and had great fun cycling along the well laid out tracks around the harbour. At one stage a film crew was a work. I could be in a show without ever knowing.
Toward the end of my hour's cycling I decided to take a loop through downtown Long Beach. Had I not done this or, indeed never hired a bike, I might have missed something outside the box. (Fasten your seatbelts).
As I cycled across an intersection I noticed some coloured markings on the ground. The large writing looked just like MC1. That's odd, I thought, remembering the letters MC as those, which played quite a role in Chapter 34 of part 2 (Mind). But this was thousands of miles and eight months away from all that. How could there possibly be a connection? Was it possible that …the whole word had to know?
I cycled on and returned the bike. For a coffee fix I headed towards a modern looking shopping complex, which turned out to be the Long Beach Plaza. I was glad of the rest as I thought about where to next. I had paid for 2 nights at the King's Traveler Motel. It felt relaxing not having to find a place to sleep that night.
Moments after exiting Long Beach Plaza on 5th Street, I saw a pair of walking boots, including a pair of socks on the sidewalk. It looked like somebody had just taken off boots and socks and neatly placed them there for ...what? Nobody barefoot was anywhere to be seen.
I was just standing there looking, when a Mercedes Sport car drove by. A lady was driving it. How could I have missed the registration plate - 4 SAN?
It all went so fast.
It may have been this rego plate and the boots, which made me decide to take a closer look at the MC1 markings I had seen earlier. I have a good sense of direction and found the corner easily. This time it all clicked – the address on the opposite corner was 333 W. Broadway, the name on the sign read 'Seaspray Gardens'. Doesn’t that sound like - sees pray?
I was well aware that MC stood for Municipal Council. I still liked the letters. Just as I write I can see MC1 as 1101 - those Roman numerals again!
But there is more - moments earlier I had seen a Merc - Re: MC? Oh, what fun...!
I know I have a vivid imagination. If this discovery near the Seaspray Corner was indeed nothing, forgive me for making a song and dance about it – but remember – the location was on the corner of W. Broadway!