Day 18: Motorcycle Helmet Irony, Mindlessness, Santa Monica, Venice Beach, Tattoo, Met a Nice Woman, Lost in LA


Since I was back on the bike yesterday I feel I am justified in writing another entry. It’s taken a few days to get adjusted to not riding the bike every day. The first night here in LA I had a dream I was walking by the side of the road at night and a car was trying to hit me. I had to jump and roll to get out of the way. My dreams are pretty real sometimes. In this one I actually did roll to get out of the way. Rolled off the bed, and whack, hit the floor. The irony was that I hit my head on my motorcycle helmet! I tell you they need to put padding on the outside of those babies.
Yesterday, I took the bike out on the freeway to Santa Monica. It was probably around 11am and the traffic was already lethal. Everyone in a hurry to get somewhere. Mindlessness, not mindfulness. My traffic skills had grown soft because of the back roads I’d been on, the rolling hills, the snowy mountains, prairies, and deserts. It’ll take some time and it’s an adaptation I don’t want to make.
And folks on the sidewalk are in a hurry too. I don’t want to judge them because that makes it harder to love them. Still, I’m used to the ways of the deep south where you make eye contact and say hello to folks. Even in Ireland you’d get that weird head shake I never could master. (When I tried it I think people were worried I was having a fit.) But I still say “hey” here as I walk the streets and some people respond. The friendliest people I’ve met have been the homeless folks or the one’s digging around in trash cans. But that’s just life here, neither better nor worse.
In trying to maintain mindfulness Barbara Brown Taylor says: “If someone walks by or speaks to you, you may find that your power of attentiveness extends to this person as well. Even if you do not know him, you may be able to see his soul too, the one he thinks he has so carefully covered up. There is something he is working on in his life, the same way you are working on something. Can you see it in his face? You are related, even if you do not know each other’s names.”
I walked out to the end of Santa Monica pier and had some Mexican food, and listened to an impromptu high school jazz performance. The sea was a beautiful sapphire color and folks were fishing. Then I rode over to Venice Beach. Lugging my helmet and my laptop bag, and in my motorcycle boots I walked across the sand to the Pacific and felt the cool warmness of the water. Back in Ireland the water would still be freezing. I walked back a hundred yards, laid down, listened to the gulls, kids playing, laughter and folks chatting and soon fell asleep. I have a sunburn to prove it. Then I went for a walk down the Venice Beach boardwalk and admired the glorious diversity of humanity. I decided to mark the occasion of the trip by getting a tattoo! I found the one I wanted: a yin yang sign-to emphasize the trusting of the God and the universe and the balance I’m trying to maintain on the trip. I’m so brave I went with the henna tattoo which might last three weeks! By this time I needed a beer and found a bar called Larry’s where they had an amazing assortment of beer, including my favorite, Czeckvar/Budvar. I had hoped to watch a baseball game but all they had on was girls’ softball and a biography of Bo Jackson. Still, it beats the sheep herding shows I had to sometimes settle for watching back in Ireland.
Then a nice woman came and sat down beside me and we got to chatting. She was delightful with a warmhearted smile and dancing energy in her eyes. She was waiting to get a massage from the Chine man around the corner. We swopped stories about our kids and our jobs (we both teach college) and it was fun.
Then back on the bike and heading back to my daughter’s house. The traffic was still heavy and I this time I only got lost three times.
My daughter laughed at me because the first words out of my mouth were: I want ice cream. What’s so strange about that?

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