For the “About me”; this is a paper I wrote in a English comp. class which gives a little background about myself, the author of this blog. I also added a short postscript, to bring it up to date.
In the Sierra Nevada, 1963
The Day I Left California
There are a lot of important days in a life and the day I left for Washington State probably is a pivotal one. It marked the beginning of a new start in a new territory. But that day was itself a product of an even more important day or night, a time when the recognition of a need for change would be catalyzed within me.
The year was 1971. The location was the city hall and the jail and parking lot surrounding it of a small town on the coast of southern California, in western Los Angeles County. The door from which the prisoners are released swings open and a wiry young man of about twenty walks outside into the sunlight. That young man with the defiant look in his eyes and long greasy hair hanging down below his shoulders was me. As I strode quickly away from the place of my recent captivity, a uniformed officer stuck his head out the door and shouted with obvious glee, “See you again next week, Hodges!” To my own surprise and that of the law enforcement officer, I spun around and answered, “ Oh, no you won’t!”, then turned on my heels and walked away.
. After three weeks in the L.A.County jail, the bus ride back to the coastal town and the release into the fresh smelling air and sunshine brought welcome feelings of warm relief. Yet, as I walked swiftly down the street towards the sea, I couldn’t help but reflect back on my most recent trip into the bowels of the L.A. jail system. Something different had happened and some kind of change had taken place inside me, which was difficult to fathom.
The experience had started routinely enough, as this was about the eleventh time I had been booked into the county. Only this time I didn’t feel the fear and anxiety I had previously experienced, and in fact was feeling quite macho. As I entered into the mainline for chow, voices from up and down the halls rang out and greeted me in recognition and shouted questions about what it was like out on the streets. When I sat down on my bunk and prepared for the nights sleep, I was gloating about how well I had learned to do what old timers called, “playing the part”.
But the booking process had taken a long time, almost twelve hours in that big jail, and I was exhausted. Before I could sort everything out, I fell into a deep slumber, totally oblivious to the all night voices of the guards blaring on the loudspeaker. As I slept this night however, I had a dream, and not the usual jumbled dreams one can ordinarily expect under those kinds of circumstances. It was one of those rare dreams, the kind that stand out as strikingly different and in some ways more real than reality itself. I dreamed that I was back up in the Sierra Nevada, the mountains that make up the border between a large part of California and Nevada. The beauty of the country was almost surreal and the running brooks and rocky crags were just as real and pristine as if I was actually there. The dream brought back memories of my boyhood when I had been fortunate enough to make horse packing trips and fishing expeditions into the mountains with family and friends. My heart seemed to swell as I dreamed and I was filled with a sense of longing.
When I awoke some hours later, I was covered with sweat, and no longer the self assured, would be homeboy that had hit the bunk the night before. The loudspeakers jangled my nerves, the quarters seemed cramped, and the air smoky and stale. My whole inner being was shaken, and as I looked around I was confronted with the awful reality of the kind of life that surrounded me. I was forced to ask myself if I really wanted to spend the rest of my life, “playing the part” as so many of the men around me seemed willing to do. The answer from my heart was a fervent, No. And even though I had been raised an atheist and had never thought about it much except when poking fun at Christians, for the first time in my life I felt as if God had been trying to speak to me in a personal way.
From the day that I walked out of the city jail to the day that I would climb into a car and begin my journey to Washington, there would be many other days, almost two years worth.. There would be any number of set backs and miss-steps, and certainly no one really believed that I wanted to change. But the sense of purpose and determination born by an experience that seemed to come from outside myself would propel me forward. The day would come, just as the handle of a whip once set in motion sends all the proceeding braid forward until the last knot unwinds itself with a pop. It would bring with it a whole new set of problems, but also promised a whole new sense of possibilities. And something we all need at times; a fresh start.
Post script: Since that time over thirty years ago, I have been married and worked a variety of jobs. I’ve buried a beautiful, young and very earnest and tender Christian wife, and made an attempt to raise her children to the best of my very limited abilities. I’ve been in two nasty car wrecks, one which very nearly killed me, and one which just cracked a rib and punctured my lungs. I’ve spent the better part of the last 15 years cutting firewood to make a living and have recently been working at college online. But while all that sounds somewhat dramatic, I really consider myself just one of the “idiotes”, Greek for one of the marginalized unlearned. (See Acts 4:13), and before I placed my faith on the risen Lord Jesus Christ, just a semi reformed, “dirty dog drug addict” from the streets of western L.A.