Posts Tagged ‘ Adventure ’

WITHIN EVERY ‘THEE’ HIDES INSPIRATION!

ARE YOU SOLELY YOU, TOO?

Proudly I am solely me.

My search for understanding

is a never-ending spree.

The gift I treasure most is

the wisdom that belongs to thee.

If your thoughts are only dubious,

that’s enough to stir up

a ruckus in my tuchis.

Sure, I’m somewhat of a

gullible fool who

failed in school.

Through life, dyslexia

has been my anchor.

No way can I take reading

comprehension to the banker.

Yet I’ve always felt free

to think as I please,

soliciting knowledge from

you modern day Socrates.

Even when reliability

turns to dust, I trust.

For me, believing in the

worthiness of others is a must.

Writing essays, poetry and human

interest stories about people

such as thee, has proved

to be my fait accompli.

Despite society’s judgemental rule,

a learning disorder has always

been my inspirational tool.

It’s a stubborn confidence

I have found. At times

I’ve run it into the ground.

Listening to the rantings of others,

you might discover thoughts so profound.

Naturally, there’s no guarantee that

such philosophies will astound.

If it happened to me,

it could happen to thee!

 

 — Boots LeBaron —

I AM ME!

THE HUMAN RACE

 

     THERE’S MEANING IN EVERY BRIEF LIFE

 

I am searching

I am lurching

I am caring

I am daring

I am hellish

I am selfish

I am hypocritical

I am satirical

I am realistic

I am spiritualistic

I am beat

I am obsolete

I am abrupt

I interrupt

I am radical

I am lackadaisical

I am long-wedded

I am embedded

I am bent

I am spent

I am adorable

I am deplorable

I am dyslexic

I am artistic

I am curseless

I am hearseless

I am heathenistic

I am egotistic

I am headstrong

I am woe-be-gone

I am ancient

I am patient

I am quick-witted

I am dip-shited

I am non-racist

I am essayist

I am happy

I am pappy

I am my children

And they are me!

     — Boots LeBaron —

A STARK VIEW OF LIFE, HOPE, MIRACLES AND DEATH THROUGH THE EYES OF TWO HEART SPECIALISTS

NOTE: I WROTE THIS STORY TWO DECADES AGO. IT’S ABOUT TWO GREAT CARDIOLOGISTS WHO ARE STILL SAVING LIVES, INCLUDING MINE.

 

CARDIOLOGISTS JACKSON AND KISSEL REVEAL INTIMATE REALITIES OF THEIR PROFESSION

 

by Boots LeBaron

                                

     Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, even Muhammad Ali, couldn’t take the kind of punishment that Gary L. Kissel and Bruce K. Jackson have endured over their 18-year partnership in Redondo Beach.

     God knows how many times they’ve been on the ropes, or found themselves flat on the canvas, struggling to get back on their feet, trying to save a life before the ten count.

     Rolling with the punches simply doesn’t work when you’re in the business of invasive cardiology.  

     Whenever Jackson, 48, is asked what he does for a living, rather than talk about the trauma of a Code Blue, or the frantic seconds of trying to save the life of a person who’s in the midst of a massive heart attack, he prefers to tell strangers that he’s a pump mechanic.

     “We fix broken pumps and broken hearts,” he’ll say. Besides, who wants to hear about implanting pacemakers, intra-aortic balloon pumps, angioplasty or other intra-cardiac procedures at a cocktail party?  

     Jackson, a man with an outrageous sense of humor, confesses that “in this business, you’ll go nuts if you don’t have a sense of humor. Cardiology is stressful. It’s painful. It’s a hell of a lot of fun. I’d pay good money to do this. There’s absolutely nothing in life I’d rather do.

 

     “During my second year of practice,” said Kissel, 53, “I felt a real burnout. I wept for a couple of days. I didn’t know if I could cope with so much life and death. I still break down when my patients die. Crying is a way to relieve grief and express your own sorrow. But I feel truly blessed to be in this business.”

     “Double ditto for me,” said Jackson. “Sometimes when a patient dies, I go home; shed a tear for them; toast the ghost, and wish them off to a better place than they’ve been. I try very hard to leave the sorrows and heartaches back in the office. Sometimes that doesn’t work worth a hoot.”

     Unlike people suffering from cancer, AIDS or other fatal diseases, Jackson noted that cardiac patients “have a notorious habit of dying at very inconvenient times. Very suddenly and dramatically. It’s like god suddenly snatches them away.”

     For Kissel and Jackson, practicing cardiology is like flying through hell on angels’ wings. The view is miserable but enlightening, tragic but captivating, mystifying but miraculous.       “Almost every day of my life, I see tragedy,” said Jackson. “Tragedy is dying alone, being sick without anyone to hold your hand to comfort you. Ironically, people handle stress best under pressure. When we’re squeezed against the wall, we’re forced to be courageous.”

     Many times, says Kissel, as a patient is dying, “when they are gasping for breath or are on a respirator and are incapable of talking, they speak with their eyes.

     “Looking into their eyes, you know what they’re thinking. Their eyes tell you, ‘I know you’re trying, but I’m dying.’ Their eyes show compassion, fear, resolve and courage. They say, ‘Thanks,’ or, ‘It’s okay, I’m ready to go.’ Or, ‘To hell with all this. I give up.’

     “Eyes, soul, spirit,” said Jackson. “When people die, you can almost sense the physical departure of the soul from the body.    “In our business,” said Kissel, “you have to be blind not to recognize that there are unexplainable powers. There is a god!

     “Bruce and I sometimes joke about situations where patients, with no help from us, seem to miraculously regain their strength. After that, we say we gave them an injection of Lazarine mixed with a dose of Resurrectine,” said Kissel, referring to the biblical account of Lazarus being brought back to life by Jesus Christ.”

     “There are factors that go beyond our ability to heal,” added Jackson. “Many times, we could sure use a nice little vile of Lazerine and Resurrectine to make this experience more productive.” “We have a number patients who are walking miracles,” said Kissel. “For reasons we can’t explain, they have survived despite technology and expert opinion.”

     He recalled an elderly man who “already looked like a cadaver when Bruce and I admitted him to the hospital. We thought for sure he would die there. Next day, he was walking. Finally, he left the hospital and went on to live for a long time.”

     Jackson remembered a Code Blue when “This lady was in full cardiac arrest. She wasn’t breathing.

     “Had no heart beat for four minutes. We worked on her for about a half hour. Couldn’t bring her back. As I was telling her surgeon there was nothing we could do, she started breathing. Her heartbeat restored. She came into the office three weeks ago. Walking slower, but she’s fine now.”

     Kissel also had patients who are too busy to die. He recalled a middle aged stockbroker whom he admitted to the South Bay Hospital suffering from a heart attack. “He insisted on having a phone in his room. He acted like his heart attack was nothing more than a major inconvenience, seriously interfering with business. It was like, he simply could not afford to die.

     “When I visited him the next morning, he was on the phone chewing on a cigar. The bed was cluttered with papers. He actually waved me off, telling me to come back later. What a character.” Kissel laughed. “I’m sure he did just fine. Never came back.”

     Kissel believes that “people have a right to die. And under certain circumstances, withdrawing all treatment is not only logical but compassionate. If our culture reaches a point where it’s considered okay for a physician — like Dr. Jack Kevorkian — to assist a patient in dying, I’d find that extremely difficult.” The most neurotic patients, observes Jackson, are physicians themselves. “You run across one in the hall and he’ll say, ‘Got a minute? I got this pain in my chest. Make it go away, will you? “You have to grab him by the wrist and put him on a treadmill. “Believe me,” he went on, “doctors are more neurotic than regular patients who have no medical smarts. Of all people, they should know that denial will kill when you have heart disease.”

     Do the partners ever feel that since they literally hold the fate of their patients in their hands, they possess god-like powers?

     “Every day we are reminded that we are all in the same boat,” said Kissel. “We are no more invincible than our patients. We share the same feelings, we get just as sick as they do, and there’s no doubt that, inevitably, all of us will die.

     “I can only hope that what I do as a physician,” he continued, “will enhance the quality of someone else’s life and will give them a few extra years of happiness.”

     Although Jackson says that his wife, Susan, is his best friend, Kissel is more than a pal. “At 2:15 in the morning, when you’re double teaming, trying to bail a patient out of a deadly tailspin, and you look over and see your partner in action, that’s another view of the soul. No doubt about it, Gary is also my best friend.”  

     Some physicians, says Jackson, believe that the MD after their names stands for Minor Deity. “Luckily, Gary and I have made a clean getaway” from the god syndrome that plagues some physicians.

    “When I get up in the morning, I put my trousers on one leg at a time. I don’t know about Gary, but I’m getting old with as many twinges in the hinges as anyone else.

     “I can testify that I’m just as mortal as the next guy. Maybe even more so.”

     With partners Howard Abrams, Eric Castleman and Steven Weinstein — all cardiologists — Kissel and Jackson operate Cardiology Associates of the South Bay with offices in Redondo Beach, California.

     It wasn’t until Kissel was attending the University of Washington on a football scholarship that he decided on pursuing a career in medicine. He began his medical career working in a M*A*S*H rescue unit as an Air Force flight surgeon in Vietnam. The only thing he found tougher than his two-year stint in Nam, which included flying into combat zones, is practicing cardiology in the South Bay.

     Vietnam, he admits, wasn’t easy. “But private practice is a different world. We are part of the community. We make lasting friendship with our patients. Unlike Vietnam, they are not strangers when they die.” Kissel is the father of two grown children.

     Jackson, also an Air Force surgeon, and his wife, Susan, an accountant, are both working on second marriages. Between them, they have five children and six grandchildren. “The reason we’re so young and have so many grandchildren is we started mating in grammar school,” he joked.  

     “I never realized it would require such personal sacrifice,” he said. “Yet, I feel blessed. I believe that what I’m doing is very important. It seems like you spend half of your life learning to become a doctor.”

     What he’s learned about life facing death is: “Whatever you do in life, whatever livelihood you pursue, it should make you happy. Don’t go strictly for the money, fame, power. None of those can buy happiness! I’ve seen too many people who realized that too late.’

     “Life is very fragile,” agrees his partner. “Very short. Very precious. It should be treated accordingly.”

     On Friday, May 6, both Kissel and Jackson, Associate Clinical Professors at the UCLA School of Medicine, will be honored by the American Heart Association at a fund-raising banquet at the Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza.

     Unless their beepers go off over the weekend, on Monday Kissel and Jackson will be back in the ring, dancing on the canvas soaked with their own tears, jabbing, weaving, bobbing and punching; hoping for a miracle and trying their damndest to knock their ominous opponents on the ropes one more time.

          ————————————-

Boots LeBaron is a freelance writer who lives in Manhattan Beach.

 

End

The Human Race by Boots LeBaron is available on Amazon

https://www.amazon.com/Human-Race-Boots-LeBaron/dp/1494218526/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1465608125&sr=8-1&keywords=BOOTS+LEBARON

PERSONALIZED OSCARS TO BEAT PREJUDICE!?

THE WILD AND WOOLLY HUMAN RACE

 

     DIVERSITY has many faces. They come in

different colors, creeds, genders, logic, ethnicity,

religions, prejudices, levels of narcissism and

variances of naivety. As the Academy of Motion

Picture Arts and Sciences proved with its Oscar

show on Sunday, we are an unpredictable species.

Each of us, in our own inimitable way, is a little

goofy. We tote these eccentricities wherever we go:

Showbiz, Wall Street, politics, the workplace,

into personal relationships, even sports. While

watching the Oscars and listening to comic Chris

Rock’s one-liners, the thought, loony as it may

sound, occurred to me: Why not create a dozen

golden statuettes each individually honoring white,

black, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay and

lesbian artists and technicians? Sure it’s a

logistical challenge. But the film industry has

a year to cope with it. To get them started, I

did a quick sketch of what these golden statuettes

might look like. Granted, it ain’t migraine proof.

But at least it’s a thought that might save the entire

celebrity industry from going bonkers.

 

Boots LeBaron

GET A LIFE: SAY HELLO TO THOSE WHO IGNORE YOU!

THE HUMAN RACE

 

WILDEBEESTS NEED RECOGNITION, TOO!

As we trudge along the wild uncharted

trails of civilization, there’s nothing

more refreshing than recognition

from another Earthling.

You know, a little eye talk, a smile,

a nod, a wink, a pinch, a salute,

or simply a pleasant, “Hi.”

It’s invigorating to encounter a

stranger smitten with acute benevolence.

After all, our journey is quite brief.

It can end abruptly, or painfully

last far longer than expected.  

So what’s the sense of traipsing

through life as sour-faced

scaredy-cats or pompous schmucks?

The laws of civilized-jungle-survival

are obvious: Steer clear of

grizzly bears in dark alleys.

Don’t tweak a werewolf’s snout.

Even at safe havens like

the Coffee Bean or Starbucks,

never fall for a line delivered by

an amorous silverback sporting a Rolex.

That beast wants nothing more than

to drag you off into the brush.

Predatory creatures definitely exist.

But that’s no reason to curl up

like a porcupine trying to hide your

very essence from pass’ers-by’.

If you bump into a wildebeest,

try not to be intimidated

by his scraggly demeanor.

Pounding beneath that gruff exterior,

you might discover a caring heart.

As those mousy mortals with

their deadpan pusses parade by,

startle them with a harsh, “Boooo!”

While they’re scurrying away,

eyes cast downward and

tail tucked between their legs,

howl after them, “Hey!

I’m just a fellow traveler

in search of a kind word…

I don’t even bite!”

— Boots LeBaron —

LISTEN TO SUSIE! SHE’D CUTER THAN A GREYHOUND BUS!

 

THE HUMAN RACE

img_1503

MEET SUZIE, A HORNY SPINOSAURUS FROM EGYPT

My name is Suzie. I’m bigger and more voluptuous

than a Greyhound bus. Paleontologists gave

me the name Spinosaurus aegyptiacus. I prefer

Suzie. Some 90 million years ago, during

the Cretaceous period, I hung out in the

river beds of Egypt in northern Africa.

And that’s where they dug me up in 1912.

Interested in my measurements? I’m 50-feet

long. That adds up to a statuesque 6-to-7

tons of girlishness. Scientists say that

I was the largest of predatory dinosaurs and

the only one of my kind who thrived in water.

Problem with having webbed feet is I could

never wear stilettos. My favorite tidbits

were huge fish, alligators and turtles.

You might say that among dinosaurs, I was one

primeval cutie who didn’t need eyelashes to

flutter or pouting lips to entice boys.

It was my glistening seven-inch fangs and

flirtatious glances that turned them on.

My fashion plate was my six-foot sail-

like fin that sprouted from my back.

Girls envied it. Guys adored it!

Surprisingly, I don’t miss the days of my

youth when my species were struggling for

survival. It didn’t come close to what you

power-hungry, self-righteous Homo sapiens

must cope with in today’s troubled world.

Don’t take my word for it. Just read the

news or watch the talking heads on TV.

There were no mortals anywhere when this

horny Spinosaurus was on the prowl. What

does that tell you about your superiority as

Earth creatures? Evolution might be fascinating

to ponder. But it doesn’t guarantee perfection.

— Boots LeBaron —

http://www.amazon.com/The-Human-Race-Boots-LeBaron/dp/1494218526

WHO LURKS BEHIND THAT FINAL DOOR?

CONTEMPLATING MORTALITY

What’s behind that final door?

Do I have the courage to open it?

Will I find a congenial St. Peter?

Or a menacing Satan ready to cuff me

and send me to the brimstone pit

without reading me the Miranda Act?

Or will there be a sorceress

with a ravishing smile sporting

a Miss Universe type sash with

OBLIVION printed across it?

I’m really not prepared

to leave this troubled World

where I’ve battled defiantly

over the past eighty-some years.

I still have unfinished symphonies

to complete before I open that portal

 to Valhalla where Odin might honor

me with a glimmering diploma for

a lifetime of writing meaningful

prose and creating soulful art.

Narcissistic as it might sound,

as a writer and artist, I’m proud of

of my work. So I’m not ready to take

that final step. My favorite Woody

Allen quote just about sums up my

feelings: “I don’t want to achieve

mortality through my work. I want

to achieve it by not dying.”

When I’ve finished my memoir

and published my illustrated book

of essays and human interest stories

that took me a half century to create,

I’ll  give ODIN a high-five and

welcome MISS  OBLIVION  with

open arms.

— Boots LeBaron —

HEY KIDS: LISTEN TO THE ROAR OF A LONELY LITTLE LEOPARD CUB

Roar Roar Roar… Friends for Evermore!

JUNGLE WILDERNESS

‘ROAR-ROAR-ROAR!’ SAYS THIS LEOPARD CUB

image

Roar Roar Roar… Friends for Evermore!

There once was a little Leopard Cub

Who lived back in the wood.

He went growl, growl! Roar-roar-roar!

Whenever he felt he should.

He chased beetles in the tall grass,

Romped and frolicked all alone.

He skipped and jumped and rambled

‘Till his mommy dragged him home.

He loved to snap at butterflies

That perched on his fluffy tail.

He’d run in circles chasing them

Until his tongue turned pale.

Then he’d sit upon his little rump

And look up at the branches.

If he saw a mouse or squirrel,

He’d start his stalking dances.

Growl, growl! Roar-roar-roar!

He’d call out in his tiny voice.

The animals would scamper away.

They felt they had no choice.

He’d find a shady place to nap,

And close his big blue eyes.

He’d snore and whistle in his sleep,

Which of course was a surprise.

And when he would awaken,

Bouncing up like a lively spring,

He’d let out with a ferocious snarl,

The cuddly little thing.

Growl, growl! Roar-roar-roar!

He’d bellow wildly to the wind.

Telling all the little animals

He just wanted to be their friend.

Boots LeBaron —

                  http://www.amazon.com/The-Human-Race-Boots-LeBaron/dp/1494218526#

NAVAL COMMANDER LOCKS HORNS WITH GEN. PATTON

THE HUMAN RACE

 

WORLD WAR II MEMORIES OF GEN.’BLOOD-AND-GUTS’ PATTON

 

     Naval Commander Lloyd J. Ellis wasn’t about to let “Old Blood and Guts” intimidate him. As Gen. George S. Patton boarded

the troop carrier, anchored off the coast of Southern Italy, Ellis

stepped forward and snapped a salute.

     Only then did he notice that Patton had a pit bull terrier on a leash. “Hey, sir! You can’t bring that dog aboard this ship. Dogs are nothing but bad luck!” barked the husky young officer.

     “Is that so?” growled the legendary general pleasantly.

     “No animals allowed aboard this ship, sir! That’s the rule.”

     “Let’s you and I go to your office and we’ll talk about that… rule,” said Patton.

     Ellis was 78-years-old and living in a convalescent home when he told me this story in 1989.

     Of course, the confrontation with Patton took place aboard the USS Thomas W. Hyde, a troop carrier. It was in the midst of World War II and marked the beginning of what Ellis described as a shipboard friendship with the famous general, transporting him and hid Third Army troops across the Mediterranean.

     Twice, recalled Ellis, he brought Patton into two major battles in Southern France. As he stood barring Patton and his bull dog from boarding the ship, he recalled these words of old Blood and Guts: “Let me tell you something, mister Admiral. A smart man will sometimes change his mind. But a fool never will.  What are you????”

     “I gave in,” said Ellis. Let him keep the damn dog, but made him promisethat he wouldn’t let it eat in the dining room. That was a laugh. He fed his dog scraps at his table.

     “It was quite a sight. Patton marching around the deck with those pearl-handled Colts with that dog at his heels. I think he called him Willie. It was the ugliest pooch I’ve ever seen. A steward would follow them around, cleaning up its messes.”

     Ellis said he developed a “close friendship and respect” for Patton. On land and aboard two troop carriers, he transported the general and his GI’s into two invasions in Southern France. He also helped evacuate Patton’s troops from Southern Italy.

     “We did get into a lot of quarrels. But he always chose to ride on our ship. I guess that was because he liked to argue. We did a little bit of drinking, too. He drank nothing but Scotch — White Horse — out of the bottle.”

     Ellis recalled teasing Patton about his pistols. “Aboard ship, he usually wore a campaign cap, infantry boots, with them guns on his hips. One time I told him something like, ‘I figure the only reason a man would carry two pistols is that he’s scared!’      “He didn’t appreciate that. He told me, ‘If you’re so fucking brave, how come you didn’t join the Army?'”

     Having seen so many of his shipmates die, and having lost a younger brother in the war, Ellis a times was embittered about the mounting Allied death tolls.

     When he brought the subject up, he quoted Patton saying, “Don’t tell me any stories about death. I’ve seen too much of it!”

     Another time Ellis laughed when Patton told him that he wanted to personally shoot Hitler. “He said, ‘Don’t you laugh! That son of a bitch gave me trouble in North Africa, Sicily, and all over Italy. I’m personally going to shoot his ass — in Berlin.”

     Aboard the USS Thomas W. Hyde, Ellis and Patton were present when a dog,smuggled aboard by Patton’s troops, gave birth to three pups — a male and two females.

     “The next morning at breakfast, he named the male Thomas, and the females, W. and Hyde after the name of our ship. When we landed the troops in Naples, they [infantrymen] took them ashore.

     In Toulon, a seaport city in Southern France, Ellis claimed he brought Patton and an Army lieutenant to brothel. “It was above a bar. There were two armed Germans hiding in a closet. The lieutenant wounded both of them. I don’t want to say anymore.

     “After they hauled them away, Patton called me a sap and said they could have killed us. Then he joked: ‘It wouldn’t have mattered if they shot you. But I’m not ready to die.”

     Ellis described Patton as “an intelligent man, He cared about his troops. He was hard headed with a good sense of humor. Told a lot of jokes — the kind you’d never tell in a Baptist Church. He had this thing about being the ancestor of ancient warriors. I never took him seriously about that.

     The last time Ellis recalled being with Patton was aboard the Hyde. “We shook hands. I told him that I was going to try and get

a pass to Berlin; that I wanted to go to Hitler’s funeral. He thought I was serious. But I was just ribbing him.”

     General Patton, whose military career under his “mentor” John J. Pershing fighting Poncho Villa in 1916, died in Germany on December 21, 1945. Ironically, the cause of death wasn’t from a bullet or bomb. He suffered fatal injuries in an automobile accident.

     The reason I met the retired Naval and Maritime commander Ellis was when the then-mayor Katy Geissert) of Torrance, California, told me about an old serviceman in a convalescent home who had his American flag stolen. She said it had been autographed by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt. So I never saw the flag. And I’ve always wondered about the creditability of Comdr. Ellis’s story. Yet, during several long interviews, the old salt convinced me that truth was his weapon. And I loved every hour of it.

     I know you’re no longer with us, Lloyd, but it’s Veteran’s Day,  commander. Wherever you are, keep talking about those war experiences. Hope you  got your American flag returned.

 

         — Boots LeBaron

TWO UNIQUE VIEWPOINTS ABOUT HOMELESSNESS

HOW TWO VERY DIFFERENT MEN SAW LIFE ON THE STREETS

 

     I’ve had the opportunity to spend time learning about life from two very different homeless men: The late Mitch Snyder who spoke for our nation’s homeless, and Doug Grindeland, who spoke for himself.

     Mitch, in his forties, was a tough, angry, pensive activist. He had gained notoriety when he went on a 51-day fast losing 60 pounds, reaching an emaciated 118 pounds.

     That same year, 1983, the CBS-TV show “60 Minutes” made his plight famous. The objective of his fast was to force the Reagan Administration to renovate an empty federal building into an 800-bed shelter for homeless people in Washington, D.C. It worked.

     Several years before he committed suicide (1990) he told me: “Human beings are basically decent and caring creatures. But because we are a highly competitive and individualistic society, we’ve learned how to step over the broken bodies of our neighbors without seeing them.”

     The gaunt face and those dark, narrow-set despairing eyes bore the conscience of a man who had slept with hunger and degradation. Mitch literally walked in the shoes of the homeless.

     When I asked, if there was one meaningful statement he’d most like to make to the American public, what would it be? Here was his reply:

     “I was about 48 days into my hunger strike and was prepared to die when ’60 Minutes’ asked me a similar question. I knew I had millions of people out there listening to my last words. After I thought about it, I realized it was something we always say.

     “The public must reduce the distance between themselves and the suffering and lonely. The next time you see somebody sitting in a doorway, on a curb or wandering aimlessly, someone you know is alone and hurting, do something. Reach out in your own way and say to that person, ‘I care about you!”

     Mitch, at least in my book, was a rogue angel and the voice of America’s homeless.

     Doug Grindeland could have beat Mitch handily in an arm wrestle. He was a tall, thick-shouldered man with a graying goatee, clear blue eyes, and a salty sense of humor.

 When I met him, he was sitting at the counter of a Manhattan Beach restaurant having a cup of coffee. He was in his mid-fifties and had a “Want to Neck?” badge pinned to his sweater.

     The two men had never met. Each had their own skeletons to rattle. Mitch was riding a newswave while Doug, with his own set of loose marbles, lived on the beach. After he was layed off as a packaging designer at Hughes Aircraft Company’s Radar Systems Corp., the twice-divorced one-time B-29 Air Force crew chief with three years of college, “just gave up.”

     He blamed some of his woes on industry bottom liners. The saying he quoted was this: The purpose of life is finding your gift. The meaning of life is giving it away.

     “Because of greed,” he said, “the financial community today is too busy lopping off heads not really considering what’s inside of them. Sure that bothers me. Sometimes in life, you are given no alternatives. I put my time in grade. I want to enjoy life. For me, being homeless is still an adventure. I have no complaints.

     “People come to California on vacation to sleep out under the stars. I do it every night. I live off my bike. It’s not that easy. I don’t think a lot of people could handle this. When I’m out of money, I’ll go into a bin behind Winchell’s and pull out about 30 pounds of doughnuts. I’ll eat a few and feed the rest to the sea gulls.”

     A few years ago I ran across Doug at the beach. He was no longer homeless. He had spent a year at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in West Los Angeles being treated as a manic-depressive. He was drawing disability and taking medication for what he describes as his “mental short-circuit.” But his opinion about the human race hadn’t changed.

     Here’s what he learned after living homeless for more than three years: “Before the VA took me in, I looked at people going to work every day, putting up with office politics, job abuse and other social pressures. They had to make a living wage to pay the rent. Me, I didn’t have to answer to nobody!”

     He admitted that surviving as a homeless person on the beach wasn’t Paradise. “I was mistreated, even bullied. One time three young men took my bike and the cans I was collecting, and threw them off the pier. Then they tried to egg me into a fight. I might have been a little touched, but I wasn’t crazy!” He laughed at that.

     As a homeless person he discovered that humanity has different faces. “You find good and bad. There are people who detest the fact that you’re not working. There are many more compassionate people than vindictive ones!    “So you learn humility. You learn how to survive on doughnuts. When you dig into a trash can because you’re hungry, you learn to discard your ego. Ego is such a handicap. When you’re homeless you see life from the streets on a day-to-day basis. The pretty little house with the white picket fence is like shooting for the moon.

     “There were a lot of things I appreciated,” he continued. “Every single day at the beach, you look up at the sky and it’s like a beautiful picture. Every day is different. People will see you digging for cans. They’ll come up, talk, give you some change. There were people who gave me twenty dollars. Despite the rotten eggs, you see a lot of caring people when you’re down.”

     Today, whenever Doug runs across a homeless person, he might say a few friendly words. “Usually, I’ll give them some money. Maybe a few bucks. Whether they spend it on food or booze, that’s up to them.”

     One time, during his homeless period, he met a woman in a saloon. “When she asked where I lived, I told her, I live at the beach. When I brought her home with me, was she surprised!”

 

              — Boots LeBaron

 

 

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