Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Strip, Chaos and Mountain Hippies

And so I headed down 'the strip'. Apparently, this
is one the most famous 'strips' in the world. The one
thing that got to me, right off the bat, was
the amount of people EVERYwhere. You just can't
get away into aquiet place. It's as if people don't
really come here for the scenery
or the beautiful beach or the ocean but to be submerged
into a sea of people. People who are all...searching...for

People with mohawks, faux-hawks, piercings, tats,
jewelry, cell phones, (cell phones like you've never
SEEN or want to experience of multiple
colours, sounds, LED lights, etc.). Throngs of people
rubbed shoulders with and sometimes walked directly
INTO me as I made my way through the masses. The
sun was beating down in what I'm told is 'classic
Californian' style - dry, hot and direct. It felt like my
head and neck were starting to get baked so I pulled
my non-brand name black umpire hat out of my bag
and slapped it on. The feel of my black
hat has weathered to a point of no return and it
probably wouldn't fit on anyone else's head in the
world. Giving me a little comfort along with random
thoughts of Angus, I realized I had almost walked
the entire strip and was coming up to a long pier
surrounded by some channel markers. I decided to
brave the hot sand of Long Beach and walk out
towards the water. The beach was more crowded than
the boardwalk and sidewalk - it was indescribable. It's
almost as if the beach itself is a different city or
continent - complete with merchants, customers,
hippies and more hippies. I decided to save my
non-existent money and make my way toward what
seemed to be a hippie grouping. They were somewhat off
the beaten path, closer to the pier and the water
where the rusty, barnacled underguts of the pier shone
out. I wasn't sure what I was going to ask them or what
I would do when I got there so I just walked. There
were a group of about eight of them. 2 of them were
playing guitars and the other 6 were
just listening intently.

Observing the waves.
and possibly...praying?
Whatever they were doing, they were kneeling and facing the
ocean. There was a thickly black and grey bearded man wearing
a sort of dashiki thing who seemed to be in front of all of them,
perhaps...I guess...'leading' them in prayer. Wow. It's been
a while since I ever wrote anything about prayer or any of
that spiritual type jargonese. The leader was playing guitar
and dancing a little as he strummed. He caught my eye.
He put the guitar down and instructed another guitar
playing bearded dude to keep playing and leading the rest
of the bearded dudes in their...prayer-type thing.

The leader approached me and although every sensibility
and fragment within me told me to 'RUN!!', I stood still.
He strode towards me, locking me into his deep green eyed
stare and smile. He stopped 2 feet in front of me.
A tear rolled down his cheek. His arms spanned out like
wings, as if he were about to take off. 'Friend' he said
smiling. 'Welcome here. We've been waiting for you.'

What? Okay...let's back up for a moment. Me. Waiting for
me? This hippie ocean guitar freak was waiting for me?
Me who spent a few weeks in the Pennsylvania wilds trying
to find some lame-ass town from the movie The Deer
Hunter? Me - a telemarketer jockey from Niagara?

What, in the name of all things living and yet to be born,
is he talking about?

I came back to earth. 'Wh...What?' I clenched my bag
to my back.

'Yes, You! We've been expecting your arrival for years
now.' His arms were still outstretched and moving with
his speech. 'And I'm sure, if you search your heart of
hearts, you will find it to be true.'

I didn't know what to do - I was totally taken aback. Why
didn't I run when I had the chance? Why is he talking
about expecting me? He coudn't have known...could he?
There's no way he's talking about me.

His arms were outstretched for a long time. I figured it
was time for him to put them down. I took a deep breath
and smelt his petuli dreaded hair...and then I hugged
him. He embraced me and laughed for what must have
been three minutes.

By this time, the others had left their oceanfront spot
and were standing around us in a circle. Some of them
were clapping and some were laughing. Some of them
were yelling out to the skies in a language I didn't
understand. Finally, the hug ended and the leader
eyed me up again, smiling and shaking his head.
We all started to walk as a group away from the
boardwalk and towards a deserted parking lot that
contained only one rusted-out, yellow VW van.
I didn't say a word. I walked with them. I felt many
hands on my back, patting me in re-assurance.
I got in the van.

I know what you're thinking - 'Why the fuck did you
hug some weird beach hippie who thinks you are
fulfilling some kind of prophecy?' And my answer to
you, friend, is that this is exactly what I came here for -
To experience life and immerse myself into something
real. I worked at a call centre for years and I can smell
bullshit. And the leader was not bullshitting. I could
see it in his eyes and smell it in his actions. He was
waiting...for me. For me. Not someone else. Not some
other hippie-lookin dude. Me.

Maybe he is dead wrong...and I'm sure I'll find out
if he is...but he fully, honestly and genuinely believed
that I am who he's been waiting on for so many years.

But it gets better. Oh man, it gets better. And I'm sorry
I cursed earlier. I know I said I wouldn't swear anymore
but I've come to realize that I made a stupid flash
decision not to swear and that although swearing is
juvenile, it can be used effectively when it is done well.
So that's what I tried to do there.

So yeah, the 'getting better' part. Here it is. Right
now, I'm nowhere near the strip. Nowhere near it.
I'm probably about 95 miles a range of
Mountains atop of the Napa Valley. I wish I could see
your face right now - I realy do. Your reactions have
always been awesome. I miss them.

Sorry - my brain is sky high right now. I'm in a
new cerebral stratosphere. As you can tell, this
journey has affected my writing style. Anyways, I'm
in the mountains. And that leader dude and his cast of
hippie dude buddies? They're not hippies. They
actually just refer to themselves as 'mountain
dwellers' (much like Gimley from Lord of the Rings)
but they are a massively spiritual people. And I
mean spiritual - I don't mean religious. You see, for
a long time I though, spirituality and religion were
one and the same and all based on a set of rules
that tried to get people to do stuff. That ain't the case with
these dudes - the dwellers. They say 'Jesus' probably about
800 times a day. But they do it in a way that's not
swearing or ridiculous. It's almost as if they breathe the
word 'Jesus' sometimes as they just walk around. And look -
for some reason I capitalize the word 'Jesus' even though
I've never been to a church in my life. Weird.

Man - so much has changed. There's so much I want to tell
you but the words come faster than the pen hits the paper.

Okay - sorry. So the leader dude - his name is 'Guy'. He's
the only one with a name. They all have apparently stripped
themselves of what they call 'worldly nomenclature' as they
are preparing themselves for their 'home world'. It's
weird and freaky...but I love it. They grow everything - and
I mean EVERYTHING! The soil is so rich in this range that
you could probably put plastic in the ground and it would
grow into something (note to self: bury some plastic in
garden 9 tomorrow for kicks). All of their gardens are
numbered - there are so many friggin gardens that it seems
almost unreal. Almost 350 acres and 90% of it is gardens.
You name it, they grow it. Carrots, celery, bananas (yes
bananas!), oranges, grapes, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers,
mushrooms...I'm not even coming close to doing justice to
all they grow. I've been working in their gardens. Harvesting.
Corn, mostly.

And you know what? I love it up here. I absolutely love it.
I wake up in the mornings and Guy speaks a few words as
we all sip from a freshly brewed monster carafe of mountain
grown coffee. Sometimes I hear what he says - he talks a lot
about 'Jesus' and the 'harvest'. Guy is pretty incredible. His
wisdom is something I'm not sure how to take somedays.
It's always so poignant and relevant to me. Me. Wow. Those are
two letters I don't like putting together - M and E.
Sometimes he's kinda eerie, though. A few mornings ago, I
swore I saw him in the big camp tent (where we all meet and
eat in the morning and at night when our day of work is done)
talking to a few dudes. The tent is about 500 yards away from
the garden I tend to. And then, as the mountain sun beat down
on me, I realized I had left my spring water thermos at the tent.
Two seconds later, I turn my head and he is beside me - holding
out my thermos with some extra ice cubes with a big smile.
Sometimes I'm just amazed by the view of the sun cresting
above the Napa Valley. It's actually beyond description. Then we
all take on a garden or two for the day. There are 15 of us (well...
16 including me but I don't fully feel a part of things yet) and
it is what Guy calls a 'Spirit-filled community'.

They garden.
They eat.
They play guitar and smoke pipes by fire at night.
They work.
They pray.

But most importantly, they live. As surely as I write this to
you, these people are living and well.

I can't write much more - it's almost sundown and we are
having a big tent meeting tonight (some sort of meditation
deal) so I should get going. But there is much more
I want to tell you. I hope you can read this.

I'll be in touch.