8. Monica without Santa
“One of us will one day wake up and get a real surprise", I said to my wife one day. She thought it would be me.
I experienced and observed with my own eyes every day, incredible links or strange co-incidences I could never have arranged or invented. Even if the accounts of my life's stories were fiction, it would have been a rather clever plot. This makes it all even more magic or spooky or both. What I have seen and heard I have seen with my own eyes and heard with my own ears.
Occasionally, when I tried to share what I saw, the latest small episode only hours ago, she protested that she was just too tired and didn’t want to hear it. I explained, saying that she ought to check with somebody, if they really thought I was crazy and they would tell her. She then asked: "They would tell me what?" Two years ago this answer was a joke at the end of a chapter. In 2005 it was becoming a symbol of the stalemate we had gotten into.
The battle to prove my sanity was getting harder after my son moved back to live with us. As before I was heavily criticized for the US trip Mark II. Had I returned from the US with something tangible, a business interested in the road safety game or a report that many people heard about our story, it may have led somewhere. Everyone thought I was check-mate!
But God had given me a dream. In part it is being fulfilled this very month, August 05. On billboards, on TV in the newspaper etc. a campaign under the motto - "Jesus - all about life" is in full swing. In these ads, sponsored by Christian businessmen and private donations, people are encouraged to think - is there more to life than simply work, eat and sleep?
But my dream had not stopped in Adelaide. I had prayed for 2 million Australians, 20 million Americans, and many more around the world, to change from lies and panic to Love and Peace - 200 million altogether. What a dream, what a mission for an unemployed, depressed social welfare recipient on tablets (as I was at the time).
But God ... (As I look back I can't stop shedding tears and I am not ashamed).
A CD holder I won in a radio phone-in competition. Why did I read ReDFwar?
After I experienced extra-ordinary encounters, such as MC1 markings on the pavement at Long Beach, California, it often took months before the full impact hit home. On the day of writing, over four months after this incident, five days after publishing it in my autobiography, a news item on radio raised the antenna of my mental awareness. I heard the word Merc and remembered immediately that I named a recent chapter after a Merc (the Merc named SAN).
The story on radio was about a lady from the Texas town of Allison, who had won a ¼ billion dollar compensation claim in court. Her husband had died after taking the drug Vioxx, which had been taken off the market in 2004. The words Allison and Vioxx also stirred my brain. At the time I didn’t know Merc was referring to the manufacturers of Voixx - Merck.
On TV the story was repeated. The victim’s wife had the surname Ernst. This fitted right into my larger picture - I’m serious and ernst is the German word for serious. As you can perceive a polarization was taking place. My madness was either getting worse, taking me further into LALA land, or the message of my autobiography was indeed spreading, and was having an impact beyond my wildest imagination.
Either option was difficult to fully grasp. My wife assumed that I was only a little mad and my thinking could change with a small dosage of tablets. To think that after all these eventful years I would one morning wake up in an institution, totally out of my mind, was unthinkable. Had I not prayed earnestly, morning by morning on my knees, calling out to God in desperation? How could my mind slide into madness for no reason? Wouldn't HE have woken me up long ago?
Friends, I know I sound repetitive, but if this piece of writing were fiction, believe me, I would have moved the plot to another level by now. Real life takes a little longer than Hollywood.
On Wednesday April 13th I woke up at the Kings Traveler Motel in Long Beach California. It was the start of my second week of my unusual journey to the southern USA and California. Over breakfast at the same McDonalds as the day before, I again chewed over the many events that seemed to be happening around me.
The newspaper headline that day was: “Gas prices rising by the day”. My diary records the way I read the first two words – Sag (German for tell) I see it PR. The price of 3 pancakes was $ 1.50. After breakfast I spent some time again at the LBPL, the public library, to check my email. I also found a hostel in Santa Monica, where dormitory accommodation cost $ 31.50 per night. I headed that way.
Traveling on public transport in LA made me realize how big the City of Angels really is. On the streetcar from Long Beach into downtown LA I got a bit of a shock. The amount of rubbish beside the railway track really highlighted, how such a huge concentration of urban development creates its problems.
On the positive side, the fare was extremely cheap – a three-dollar-ticket paid for travel on the whole transport network all day. I made good use of public transport while in LA. After a brief stop for a meal I took the 720 Rapid to the beachside suburb of Santa Monica. The bus took another hour, going from memory, and was crowded.
As my bus turned south at the final T-junction before Santa Monica beach, I noticed on the left what looked like journalists, waiting for an imminent event. Around that time the trial of entertainer Michael Jackson made headline-news worldwide.
My quick brain deducted for a moment that the building must be the courthouse and the people the reporters waiting for the Jackson circus to exit the building. I walked straight from the bus back to this location. A photo of Michael Jackson, taken with my own camera! If that didn't impress the folk at home, what would?
I asked a young man with headphones and wires dangling from his shoulders, if this was the Jackson trial. It wasn’t. I had the name Santa Monica mixed up with Santa Maria, a place 70 miles further south, according to the film-crew member. I wasn't that desperate to impress anyone at home.
I asked, what film was being made on this location. The title sounded a bit strange – Santa must be destroyed. It this was a code, it came to me the next day during an interesting bike ride, read on.
I found my hostel easily a few blocks away in Second Street. It was situated in the heart of Santa Monica, a few minutes walk from the Pier, the major tourist attraction. I spent a few days there, mainly because the accommodation was affordable and there was so much to see and do.
Top left: Author with artist on Santa Monica Pier. I had a finger paining made, while I looked on. Top right: Another artist on the Pier, using his index finger skillfully.
Below: This group of cheerleaders were from Australia. They were en route to a championship and gave an impromptu performance at the end of the Pier. The writing on their uniform pants - CHEER (CHER plus E!!)
On a map I had picked up from the tourist office I read a motto ‘Santa Monica - Rocking it’. I didn’t know how to feel about this, knowing there are earthquakes in that part of the world. Sure enough, three days later, on Sat. 16/4/05, on the TV news I heard that LA had been hit by an earthquake, measuring 5.1 on the Richter scale. It fitted well into the picture - Hurricane in New Orleans, earthquake in LA. I was glad neither bothered me.
A picture on the map showed a street named Montana Street. It was an up-market shopping area, a few blocks northeast of the main tourist precinct. One photograph showed a shop, but not the full name; all that was visible was - enlife. This was sufficient reason to take a walk and explore a little further. I was not disappointed.
No, I never found the enlife shop, but made another, interesting discovery. In a lane-way beside a restaurant I noticed 2 stacks of pallets – five in one and three in the other. Here is one photo scanned three times; each tells a story.
Look carefully on the far right. Two stacks of pallets, five and three high. But there was more ...
The word 'Pallet' includes a PL an T. So did the name of the Restaurant ...PLATE. That's why! But there's more. Only now, as I compile this chapter, did I notice the colour scheme of the diner - red jacket, yellow shirt, blue jeans. But there's more ...
I only realized when writing this chapter - what a fluke - can you see it? The sun is shining, otherwise you would barely be able to read the three letters MAN. I found it marvellous the way this bit of magic happened - in Santa Monica!
Do you want more, well - how about a star with five ...?
Not even after picking up the photo from developing had I noticed the two clues - the colour of the diner's clothing plus the three letters MAN, the last letters of the shop next door. If I had thought up all this and carefully taken the photo that way, I'd be a genius.
It seems I can’t get away from the extra-ordinary. The further my story takes me, the more I discover. Unless it is all just speculation? How could I be sure? Should I have made sure there and then, on the spot go up to the couple, who was having lunch and ask:
"Excuse me, why are you dining right here at this restaurant,? The reason I'm asking is because my letters PTL are included in the name ...Plate and you are wearing my colours red, yellow and blue. I only noticed it after seeing the two stacks of pallets, one five high and one three high, in the lane around the corner. The word pallet also has the letters PT and L. You follow me? By the way, is that your car parked over there - rego number CLP?"
Friends, this is how it really was and really is. Even the rego number CLP is a fact. I saw the car parked as I walked along Montana Ave (not outside the Restaurant, however).
Above entry in my diary is from an incident in Santa Monica. The timing intrigued me - as I write the date is 22.8 - I decided to include it.
Plus another little twist amused me – Last night as my wife went to the toilet I woke very briefly and looked at the clock radio – it showed 2.31. I sensed that the number 3 would come out that day. It did.
Among the 3 or 4 pieces of mail received today was one by a phone company called 'Three' (Website www.three.com.au).
Back in Santa Monica I had gotten myself a coffee and was looking for a table outside. I chose the first available one. Before sitting down I saw three copper coins, two US cents and one British pence. Could anyone blame me for thinking my story was following me around? I understood the two one-cent coins (after Riverside), but was wondering about the UK coin. I wrapped all three into a serviette and kept them as souvenir.
Another serious LA problem, as I saw it, was the large number of homeless begging and living on the streets. I saw dozens just sitting on the foreshore or in the mall. As one who experienced a night (one only) of homelessness in the US myself, I felt for these people. I am sure, many tourists and locals also feel challenged, just as I did, and question, what can I do about it?
Dropping a dime is a drop in the ocean. Yes, the ocean does consist of many drops, but there is a limit as to how many dimes how many times. In passing many of these unfortunate people I was reminded of a homeless woman in Rome 2 ½ years earlier. I had felt compassion for her, bought her a slice of chocolate cake and dropped it at her side while she was sleeping.
With this thought in mind I headed for a nearby shopping centre and entered the sweets shop nearby. It was self serve style. I filled two bags with chocolates, the kind I would have liked for myself. At the counter I found out that it was about twice as expensive as I had guessed.
I walked back to where I had seen two homeless people sitting on benches. Both were asleep, so I just quietly placed it; they would see it on waking up. One did straight away almost, I walked away quickly and looked back. I could see him scanning the surroundings, trying to see who was responsible.
Left: Homeless man resting under his mobile mountain of plastic bags on the foreshore in Santa Monica.
Right: The gentleman on the right, sitting on the bench, was one of two recipients of a bag of sweets I had bought. Note his sleeping quarters just below! On the left (not visible in the photo) is the car park of the Holiday Inn and the freeway. Imagine sleeping under a bush, just above a busy freeway!
Over the period I was in Santa Monica, on three different occasion, I got to talk to a particular homeless person, Paul. He looked so normal, so full of potential, it made me sad to see a life wasted, just sitting in a shopping mall, waiting for a penny to drop. You know what I am saying.
I was suggesting to Paul, why a small group of these homeless doesn’t get together and share some kind of cheap, affordable accommodation? "Isn’t anything better, than sleeping on the streets?"
He said the homeless hate each other. They don’t go near each other or speak to each other on the streets. My easy, theoretical solution obviously wouldn’t work.
Another simple solution my naïve brain came up with was to build more homeless shelters; enough so nobody would need to sleep on the street. One homeless lady enlightened me on that score. She was standing in the mall, right outside where I was having breakfast, holding up a sign: Trying to survive, please help.
I talked with her after finishing my coffee. She said that she wouldn't go into a shelter, criminals were running them and she feared of being raped. Another worry in the shelters, according the begging woman, was the 51/50s. This is the name, or should I say number, given to the mentally ill. I may have to re-write my previous chapters and delete any reference to 1550. (Then again, to some readers this may explain everything!)
Now I know how they raise money in the USA for scientific research.
While waiting for a bus on Chapman Ave in Garden Grove, I was curious about a piece of cardboard littering the street. I finally picked it up, leaned it against my luggage and snapped this photo.
Everyone living on the street no doubt had their own story to tell. Talking to a few I saw a threat going right through. (If the following thought sounds judgmental, I don’t mean to be). Where I would be looking for a solution, they focused on the problems, usually caused by somebody else or circumstances. Paul had told me, he couldn't live without cigarettes, so did the lady, begging in the mall. She also said she is a Christian.
My diary says: " ...it can make you cry, especially when you hear that the US budget for Iraq is 88 billion." I don't want to know what the budget is for space exploration, unless they are exploring where to best build homeless shelters?
Many passers-by, no doubt, in the name of Christianity, would give advise such as - God loves you, He can help you; just believe etc. Whilst this is correct, telling someone God loves them is less effective than letting them feel loved – genuine love for them and for God. This is in essence the mission of every Christian.
One evening I was walking through busy Third-Street Mall. Already from a distance I could hear that a Christian group did their bit. As I got closer a large doll, such as those used to demonstrate first aid, was lying on the ground in front of a young man holding a microphone. (While I was watching it was never referred to, or used in any way. If it was just to attract passers-by, I found it confusing).
The well-groomed young man on the microphone asked the audience, if they had any questions (on Christianity, I assumed) to step to the microphone and ask. Surprisingly, some people did so. I can’t recall details, but this young man had an answer for everything. I couldn't help sensing a degree of superiority, bordering on arrogance. I have no doubt this budding preacher man meant well, but Christians who know it all, every time on every subject, can be off-putting.
I should have asked the question: "Have you ever argued Christianity with anybody, who became convinced that you were right and he was wrong, who then fell on his knee and repented of his sin?" You cannot manipulate a sinner into God’s kingdom by making him or her lose an argument with you.
As I sat on the foreshore at Santa Monica my eyes suddenly opened - there were five of these columns, one each for the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard, plus one, standing alone. All were inscribed ... they gave their all.
As I took the photo I noticed the five cones. The place in the background in cryptic is 'for the son sees' the address contains my numbers 5 and 153. So much Da Ninci, so little room.
On another occasion, also in Third Street Mall, I stopped and listened to another evangelizing group. I knew the songs they sang. Between the music they proclaimed the Gospel. Again, forgive my analytical view, I am sad to say, I was more intimidated than attracted by their presentation.
I didn't feel uneasy about what was said, but the way it was presented. When it was the drummer's turn to speak, he neither stood up nor looked up. He spoke and looked at the the microphone the whole time. Much of what he said I didn't understand, he spoke too fast and to soft. From what I did understand, he covered many subjects and spoke in a specialized language - Christianese.
The group sang a song that I knew well, but changed one word. Their way made me feel very uncomfortable: "Open the eyes of their hearts, Lord!"
Without realizing it Christians often display an attitude of 'us against them''. This is how I remember my early days as a Christian - don't get too close to them, you may become contaminated! (Not as blunt as that, but the message came through).
Christians, I urge you, please pray this way – "Open the eyes of my heart, Lord". When you feel confident that you can see clearly, pray that the Lord will open the eyes of others.
Don't use your own human expertise to argue them open, force them open, scare them open or manipulate, intimidate, condemn to make a non-believer see. Rather examine your love toward those you are trying to reach, then approach them with a fair-dinkum, genuine love that says - we're in this together, let me walk beside you.
At the same time pray and God will gently nudge that person's heart in the right direction, by HIS Holy Spirit. Remember, in the end, if their eyes will be opened, is not entirely up to you. To do God's will is entirely up to you.
The following Santa - sorry Santa Monica - tale is described in my diary as a fantasy. The facts, however, are one-hundred- percent accurate. If there were any doubts about an intelligent power behind it, they were dispelled hours ago, on the day of publishing it.
There are similarities between the Long Beach Seaspray MC1 excursion and this complex chain of events; judge for yourself:
Considering the Californian weather, the beach, the occasion - how could I not have hired a bike? There was a hire-place just south of the Pier in a small group of shops. This is where I went. The attendant suggested taking the track, which follows the beachfront to Venice Beach, then loops around the harbour and back to the beach. He gave me a crude map and off I went. The bike went much faster than my 12 year-old Wheeler 2600 back home.
Cycling is a great aerobic activity, meaning it takes a lot of breathing, unlike say, Golf or Billiards, which take skill and concentration. Many ideas, solutions to problems or inspirational thoughts came to me during bike riding. The occasional bike ride, plus a moderate amount of walking, ½ hour per day average, helps me to stay as fit as I want to be at age 55. When under stress or feeling low, vigorous exercise lifts my spirit. Often a flow of inspiration follows.
On the afternoon of April 15th 05 I was not under stress or feeling low. I enjoyed the short cycling trip south along the seafront from Santa Monica towards Venice Beach, when it came during a Da Ninci moment: ‘Santa must be destroyed’ was the title of the movie being produced on the set I had seen the day before. If Santa is taken away (destroyed) from Santa Monica, all that's left is Monica – I see a man! To me and Mr. Da Ninci this made sense.
About 1/2 hour later I was still moving very briskly along a main road near the marina. I thought of nothing particular, except, perhaps, what Christmas would be like without Santa. I passed a parked truck, surrounded by orange cones securing the hazard. My diary doesn’t say, if it was the cones, which made me suddenly become aware of my surroundings. But I felt my level of awareness switch to a higher level. This is the best I can explain it.
A moment earlier I had passed a large, ancient looking building. I stopped pedaling and turned back to have a look. I found out it was a world-famous restaurant with a maritime theme.
This replica pier is part of a Restaurant complex just out from Venice Beach, California. Of course I would have preferred my wife in the foreground, instead of a hired two-wheeler. Better still - wife and 2 bikes in the photo! Dream on!
I parked my bike on a replica pier and took a photo. From where I was standing I suddenly got a glimpse inside a container, a flowerpot or the like. A small white card took my attention or should I say, the number written on it - number 19. In bold print it read – Please bring this card to the souvenir booth.
This gave me an excuse to explore further along the replica pier and to enter the reception area. I asked an attendant at the bar where the Souvenir booth was. He said there was none. I showed him the card. He explained that it had to do with somebody having a photo taken.
What was this all about? Why did I pick up this card? Was there some meaning to it?
I was curious, why I was meant to be here? The place didn't look suitable to stop and have a coffee, which I had contemplated. I wheeled my bike back onto the road and continued cycling.
On the return trip I kept wondering, if the little interlude at the world famous restaurant was a clue I was meant to see, but missed it? Was the number 19 card part of it and I missed the rest? Nine I read as the code for en in – as in Lindy, not Liddy. Had one nine really won?
(By the way, I recently had contact with a distant relative of Mr. Liddy. I was told the family did not for a moment believe the man was guilty, but couldn’t do anything more for him, after the courts convicted him).
Before returning the bike I did what I had done in Long Beach, take a loop through the main town. If indeed there was some connection to the number 19 it came on Ocean Boulevard. Minutes before the end of my ride a bus overtook me and braked sharply. I also braked and negotiated around the big bus (I think it was a charter bus?). As I did I read the registration plate 19 001.
Was the bus 19 001 a fantasy – the timing certainly was fantastic!
But there's more - the latest twist, which convinced me one hundred percent that an intelligent mind was behind all this. On the morning of writing, just before publishing this online, I read 'Every Day with Jesus', my daily bible reading. I was a day late (sorry, Selwyn) and read yesterday's (23/8/05) Verses. I had already written the whole of this chapter and had no idea what was coming:
The bible reading was Ecclesiastes 11, 9-10.
The 19 card, the 19 001 bus soon after, and the even more incredible timing (over 4 months later) of 11, 9-10 were all part of HIS plan.
Santa shouldn't be destroyed. He should step aside and take back stage. There is a real MAN coming.
Have you any room for Jesus (D.W. Whittle, G.C. Williams).
Have you any room for Jesus, he who bore your load of sin?
As he knocks and asks permission, sinner will you let him in?
Room for Jesus, King of Glory, hasten now His word obey.
Swing your heart's door widely open. Bid Him enter while you may.
Room for pleasure, room for business, but for Christ the crucified.
Not a place that He can enter, in your heart for which He died?
Have you any room for Jesus, as in grace He calls again?
O to-day is time accepted. Tomorrow you may call in vain.