April 26, 1998
San Juan Capistrano, California, USA
I just pulled the last stitches out a few minutes ago. There were fifteen in all. My left knee is still sore and swollen. Its agonizing just to stand up. That is why Im sitting down, with my feet up, eating Star Spangled Chips Ahoy with milk, and punching this in on my keyboard, instead of being outside enjoying the sun-shine and having more adventures. This is how it happened - starting back at the fire station, one week ago today:
We didnt get another call the rest of the night. Our shift finished at 8am on Sunday. From the station, Mark and I picked up two Russian chicks and we all went to church at the Calvary Temple. After a rockn church service we dropped off the young ladies, than drove to Marks house in San Juan Capistrano(near Dana Point), where we picked up his room mate, Mike, and his "Little Brother" Casey(Mark is a volunteer "Big Brother" for the Big Brothers & Big Sisters Foundation), before heading to Anaheim to see an Angels game. The Angels got their butt kicked - seven to zero.
When we got back to Marks place, Mark got a phone call from an old flame, asking us to meet her at a bar in Laguna Niguel. "Theres lots of people here...," she persuaded, "Youll have a good time!" After a 20 minute drive, we arrived there to find that she really just wanted a chance to speak with Mark. He had other plans, so after only ten minutes, Mark split to attend a blind date - leaving Mike and I with Jerry.
Jerry is a good lookn woman, but my first impression of her was that she is a total flake. I figured Mike and I would bail quick to catch a flick, but the more we talked to Jerry, she appeared more intelligent than I had originally assumed. After an hour or so at the bar, I hopped in her car, and we drove back to her place(which happens to be four doors down from Marks house), where Mike met up with us again. I gave Mike and Jerry a tour of my website, and then we hung out together in front of her fire place for the rest of the evening. Jerry gave me a book, and invited me to come to work with her and watch her perform cosmetic surgery. At midnight, I woke up beside Jerry, still asleep on the carpet in front of the fire, and went back to Marks to crash on the couch.
The following day, I join Mark on his Meals on Wheels route. Meals on Wheels is a non-profit volunteer organization that delivers hot meals to shut-ins(usually the crippled and the elderly). I am impressed with Mark. Guys like him are rare. Hes young, attractive, and has lots of toys(including a stylen Harley-Davidson), but always makes time to help others, whether its being a Big Brother, delivering Meals on Wheels, or going on Christian mission tours in Russia.
That evening, we went out to see City of Angels at the movie Theater. A long time ago, there was a fire in an Edwards owned movie theater, and a couple firemen who happened to be in the building at the time, were able to save the theater. Since then, Edwards movie theaters have allowed firemen and their guests free admission. In the past week we have gone to the movies three times. While staying in Costa Mesa, Diane and I also went out to the movies often. I have gone out to see more movies over the past nine months, than I have in the other nineteen years of my life.
Its fun to be watching a famous movie and say "Ive been there!", or even better, "I know him! Hes a good friend of mine." In the City of Angels, there was even a shot of several angels sitting on top of the Hollywood sign. I think people around here just take it for granted. At home, it would be a big deal if there was a film called "S.J. Confidential" being shown in movie theaters around the world. But here, "L.A. Confidential" appears in the theaters, and its just another movie. Yesterday, I was watching Beverly Hills Cop on the television, and when I heard Eddie Murphy say, "Wilshire Blvd.", I thought to myself, "Ive driven down that street". Maybe its not such a big deal, but I still think its kinda cool.
The following day, around 6pm, Mike and I drove down to the beach for a sunset surf session. It was my first real attempt at surfing. The waves were small(2 - 4 feet high), but there was still over forty surfers on the water competing for waves. It was a reef break, so all the surfers accumulate in the spot where the waves are breaking the best. Like almost everywhere else in southern California, it was too crowded. I kept away from the main pod of surfers, and practiced paddling and staying balanced.
After 45 minutes, and still not a single wave surfed, I paddled in closer to shore where the waves were breaking smaller, but more constantly. The first wave I caught, was also my last. The wave was too small to stand up on, so I rode it on my belly, like a bogie board. It was a fun ride, but when the wave hit the beach, the nose of my board dug into the sand, and the skag(the fin on the bottom of the board) was thrust into my left leg.
I limped out of the water in a great deal of pain. There was a hole in my wet suit on the inside of my left leg, above the knee. Below the hole was open flesh, two inches long, an inch wide, and a quarter inch deep. I hobbled up the beach, with the board under my arm, insisting "I need someone to take me to the hospital!!!". Considering the possibility of a great deal of blood loss, I didnt want to take the time to try and get Mikes attention over the constant sound of the crashing surf, so I asked a young lady. When we got to her truck, I wrote a note to put on Mikes truck, which read, "Mike... Im at the hospital!" As I placed the note on his truck, I realized it would be stupid to leave without him. I had no clothes and no identification. I limped back down to the beach and began hollering at the forty black bodies two hundred feet off shore.
A half-hour later, I was in the ER at San Clemente Medical Center. The laceration was deep and gnarly lookn, but it didnt bleed much. My doctors and nurses were very cool. I took lots of photos. Two hours, 15 stitches, and $300 bux poorer, I was released.
Two days later, I was required to go back for a check-up. The Doc looked at my wound for ten seconds, we talked about my journey for ten minutes, and my check up was done. "You arent going to charge me for that are ya Doc!?!"
"Dont worry about it..." he replied as he walked out of the room. He didnt return, so I limped out to the front desk and asked the nurse if I could leave.
"You need to sign these papers first.", the nurse insisted.
"If I sign them, are you going to make me pay a fee?"
"The minimum fee is $80.", the nurse responded.
"Im not signing those papers! I want you to rip them up and pretend I never walked in here today. $80 is a months worth of food to me. I cant afford that!"
After arguing with the nurse for five minutes, the doctor came out, and I asked him to promise me that I wouldnt have to pay the fee. He promised, and I left without signing the papers.
Yesterday afternoon, Mikes friend, Shawn, picked me up here, and took me over to his house in Carlsbad(just south of Oceanside), where he lives with his brother, Wade, and two friends, Bubba, and Ray. Their house looked like a cross between a night club, and club house. They had a full bar, with beer on tap, two stand-up arcade games, a pool table, a dart board, and condom dispenser over the toilet. It was Wades and Rays birthday, so they had a barbecue, and as the day turned into night, the festivities turned into a full scale shin-dig, which eventually lead to the highlight of my evening, fire breathing. One of the other dudes gave a demonstration, then I gave it shot.
First, I made a torch from a piece of paper, then lit it on fire, and held it as far away from me as possible. Then I got a mouth full of 192 proof sugar cane alcohol, took a deep breather through my nose, rolled my tongue into the shape of a tube, and powerfully blew all the contents of my mouth over the flame in a mist. The result is a huge flash of fire which lasts less than a second. Because the alcohol was so strong, it made my mouth tingle a little bit, but other than that, it was no big feat. The most important rule is not to spit on yourself. On my fourth successful attempt, some of the alcohol landed on my hand, and my hand was on fire for about four seconds. I dont have much hair on my left hand now, but I wasnt injured.
I spent most of the evening playing pool, and chating with the locals. I was kind of surprised to find out that gang warfare is a constant threat in this area. This is just an average suburban neighborhood. David, Rays brother, was even carrying a loaded hand gun. The three main gangs are The Bloods, The Crypts, and The Samoans. The Bloods and The Crypts are mainly Blacks and Latinos, and The Samoans are natives from the Samoan Islands, south of Hawaii. Gangs seem really stupid to me. I just see it as a bunch of people who have too much time on their hands.
I also spent quite awhile talking with Stephanie, a 19 year old chick, who is 8 months pregnant, and kicked out of her house. Stephanie gave me a long talk about how she is accepting responsibility for her actions by keeping the baby, and that she will be the very best mother she can be. Later, I was told that she had been kicked out of the party because she was caught smoking pot in the back yard. At three in the morning, Shawns buddy, Tofu, a massive Samoan dude with lots of tattoos, took Shawn and me out to pick up some grub at an all-night Mexican food joint. He treated me to a wicked Burrito. I slept on the floor in Shawns bedroom.
This morning, on the way back here to San Juan Capistrano, Shawn took me down to the marina in Oceanside to check on my Kayak. The kayak was still there, and nothing was stolen, but the entire bottom of the boat was covered with barnacles and funky lookn allege. Ill clean it off before I leave. Also on the drive back, we stopped on the side of the rode so I could take a few photos of a uniquely southern Californian highway sign. On the highway, 40 miles north of San Diego, there is a permanent US immigration check point in place to bust people trying to smuggle Mexicans into the country illegally. Many illegals have been run-over attempting to avoid the check point by crossing the highway on foot, so the authorities put up these amusing signs.
Any spare time I have had lately has been spent polishing my website, and writing emails to companies trying to get deals on equipment. The most expensive piece of equipment I am looking to get help with purchasing, is a satellite phone which is priced at $4000 retail. Magellan, the company that manufactures the phone, is will to sell it to me for $2700, and have asked a large oil company from home to purchase unit for me in exchange for corporate sponsorship recognition, and free slide shows for their employees. Even if I can not get help paying for it, Im going to have to buy it anyway. I dont have any other option. I dont want to go into Mexico without it. If I get shredded on a coral reef in Baja, or get my leg blown off by one of the 80,000 land mines in Nicaragua, I need some way to get immediate emergency medical assistance. So far, I have had mixed response. Some companies get seven thousand proposals a year from people asking for sponsorship. I am just one of the seven thousand. My main advantage is that I have now paddled some of the toughest coastline in North America, and have proven myself. I have I couldnt say that ten months ago. At that time, I had never even paddled a kayak on the open ocean before.
Marks leaves the television on in his room so his parrot, Coco, doesnt get bored. Seinfeld is on, and Coco is laughing. It appears as though Coco understands the jokes, but he is just mimicking the studio audience. Its funny to watch him.