Passing Thoughts…

I’m taking my cycling more seriously these days.  I’ve been taking advantage of the long summer days and recommitting myself to improvements in conditioning and fortitude.  Due to my work schedule and my responsibilities around the house, I’ve been riding early in the day, often just before or at sunrise.  And no, this isn’t about how I pass all the other cyclists I see on the road each morning as I ramp up my training intensity.  Actually, it is about that, kind of.

I pass between 5-10 cyclists each morning as I sprint around the perimeter of Fallbrook.  I blow by them these days.  When I pass by these other early morning riders, I feel like I’m on EPO.  I spy one ahead of me, push a little harder with each stride, and within seconds I pass him as though he’s a mailbox.  It’s as though they aren’t even trying.  Well, that’s because they aren’t trying—not to beat me anyway.

You see, the cyclists I blow by each morning could give a frog’s fat ass about me passing them.  They have no idea what a PR is, how fast they are going, or if they’re going to beat their time from the day before.  The riders I pass each day are on their way to work, and if they’re on one, a bike is the only transportation they can afford – if they are so lucky to get one from a thrift shop or a garage sale.

These are the grove workers and day workers that help support my community.  From the agriculture here, to the aesthetics of homes and businesses, my community owes much of its riches and beauty to the men who ride rickety bikes through the hills each morning at sunrise.  In their denims, long-sleeve shirts, and work boots, and with backpacks weighting them down even more, they ride early because their workdays begin early.  They don’t pedal fast because they need their energy for the physically demanding work that awaits and occupies them until the day’s light fades.  And when it’s all done, they ride home again.  It’s not exercise for these men, it’s transportation.  They ride The Tour De Opportunity.

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In truth, I take no pride whatsoever in passing these men each morning.  In fact, I feel equal parts shame, guilt, and humility.  Shame, that I complain about so much in my life in comparison to theirs.  Guilt, that my life is so sweet, so free, so and easy in comparison to theirs.  Humility, that I am reminded by them all I am and all I have, as I glide by grateful for it all.

Each morning I ride my bike by choice, in pursuit of achievement, thrill, and satisfaction.  Almost immediately though, and throughout my ride, I am reminded just how little achievement, thrill, and satisfaction matter in the scope of putting food on the table.  I bow down to the men I pass each morning, who pedal the same roads I peddle.  They do so for more noble reasons, and with much more fortitude…  Jhciacb.

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Onion knife

David Lynchbrook…

I’ve often said that that living in Fallbrook is like being in a David Lynch movie.  It’s as though an invisible cloud of dream-state hovers over this town made from particles of whacky.  At any moment, at least a few of the personalities or situations which surround me are peculiar, if not out of place altogether.  When these personalities and situations collide in front of me, it makes me question my own reality.  Last night such a collision took place.

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Fallbrook sits on the eastern border of the Camp Pendleton Marine Base and the Naval Weapons Depot.  It is common to see low flying attack helicopters and large transport aircraft overhead all-day long, and often into the evenings.  Fallbrook residents are so accustomed to this that seeing and hearing these aircraft is just a natural part of living here.  We are also accustomed to hearing and feeling explosions in the distance, from live mortar fire and occasionally larger explosives.  The larger explosions can cause the walls of houses to shake and pictures on the walls to vibrate.  The house I live sits on a hill less than one mile from the Camp Pendleton fence.  My neighbors and I feel these explosions regularly.

At the bottom of my hill, about 1,000 yards from my house and on the other side of Main Avenue, is a Pentecostal church.  The church is charming; an old building with a dirt parking lot and all the signs are in Spanish.  The congregation is exclusively Guatemalan.  Fallbrook has many Guatemalan residents and guest workers who make up a portion of our population.  They live here for work in the avocado trade.  This church plays live music 7-nights per week, and the music is always loud enough to be heard from my front yard and inside my house.

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Higher on the hill above me, are two halfway-houses where addicts transition from court-ordered rehab situations back into the workings of society.  The residents usually stay for a month or so.  These houses are here near the center of town so that residents are within walking distance to most necessities.   Because of their backgrounds, many of these folks don’t have driving privileges.  If there is a single archetype for the halfway house residents, it is this: Caucasian male, 25-35 years old, lots of tattoos, baggy pants, long hair or no hair at all, but rarely with a common haircut, no shirt, and often with skateboard.  They skate down my street all day long heading into town, and return walking up the hill, carrying their skateboards in one hand, and their supplies in the other.

So last night, as I was watering the garden in front of my house, I stood fascinated, if not confused, by the confluence of all the personalities and situations which collided around me.  I was immersed in a cloud of peculiarity.  The tinny sounds of drums and out of tune guitars emanating from the Guatemalan church band down below echoed.  Simultaneously, attack helicopters were flying low overhead, chopping the air loud enough to cause the bones of my chest to rattle.  In the distance, large explosions from the Marine base could also be heard – and shook the windows of my house.  All the while, a steady stream of tattooed stoners transitioned up and down my street on skateboards, and walked back up again with grocery bags of Gatorade, cigarettes, and Little Debbie oatmeal treats to take the place the of drugs or alcohol they are here to leave behind.

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As I was taking it all in, the Asian prostitute walked by.  Everyone in town has seen her.  She walks the streets of Fallbrook all day long and has for years.  She’s always in a mini-dress, carries a large duffle bag over her shoulder everywhere she goes, and most days has an umbrella to keep the sun off her head and shoulders.  I have no idea where she goes or what she does – she may not even be a prostitute, that’s just an assumption I make because of the dress and the duffle bag.  She has nice legs, but they do have that lived in look.

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Last evening all of this took place around me.  I just stood there, garden hose in hand, watering my succulents and taking it all in.  It was as though they all knew a secret and nobody was willing to share that secret with me.  The pilots of the aircraft overhead, the prostitute, the dudes from rehab, the people of the church – even my neighbors on their porches also taking it in.  Everyone here is very nice – outright gracious, but I just know they all know something I don’t know, and nobody is ever going to tell me what this town’s secret really is.

Nothing big happens in Fallbrook, but for the eccentricity.  The eccentricity here – the peculiarity is quite large.  It’s the best part of living here, and why I stay.  Jhciacb…

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Peek Peak Pico…

The Pico…

Each morning I walk with my dog roughly 3/4s of a mile down a nature trail that runs through the middle of town.  By nature trail, I mean it’s a well planted and maintained trail where locals can navigate through town without the hassle of cars, traffic lights, too much noise or too many distractions.  It’s a path where people like me walk their dogs, while others amble along to be alone with their thoughts.  Others still, sit in an escape from the employee breakroom at work, and enjoy a brown bag lunch on a hand painted bench under a Jacaranda tree.  It’s a quiet place.

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Fallen tears of Jacaranda…

A creek trickles along the trial.  For three years, I lived in a little blue house directly in front of the creek.  Today I live one block to the east.  It’s a dirt path lined with bougainvillea, Brazilian pepper trees, wisteria, Jacarandas and a variety of grasses and succulents.

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The hardest working woman in town, Jackie Heyneman, oversees the maintenance of the trail.  Jackie has been a major financial contributor to the project, and continues to be the director of volunteers who maintain the trail.  There’s even a small park beside the trail that bears Jackie’s name.  Every so often I’ll see Jackie, now in her mid-80s, on her knees replacing a sprinkler head or planting new flowers.  Because the trail parallels Pico Avenue, it’s known as The Pico Trail.

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My old house…

Resident Non-Evil…

Pardon the contradiction, but The Pico Trail is home to a handful of my community’s homeless population.  Because the path is well hidden, these residents go largely unseen by the public and the police.  The Pico Trail intersects with three streets, each with a small bridge passing over the creek.  Those bridges make great shelters.  Look close enough and you’ll see mattresses for sleeping, pallets for burning, and the occasional trash bag or shopping cart full of clothes.

I speak to more homeless people by 6am than many people do in a month, or even a lifetime.  For their part, they are always respectful, if only loosely coherent.

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Shelter for a few…

The Pico Trail is also a gathering place for teenagers dressed in all black, carrying skateboards and wearing obvious disdain for authority figures.  I’m sure they feel more comfortable there, smoking weed and talking shit about their parents and teachers than they would hiding at home with their shades down and their bedroom door locked.  At least they’re outside.

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The trail is also a passage way, each morning for many of the Fallbrook’s day workers, casually peddling garage sale bicycles with their shirts tucked in, and saying please and thank you to everything that moves.   Some of them will stop on the trail after a long day of picking fruit or grooming properties, and will enjoy a taco and a beer on one of the benches as they make conversation with each other about the events of the day.  To me, this is the embodiment of the third-world charm that is a part of living in Fallbrook.

Curious Eyes…

For my part, the Pico Trail is a place disconnect and observation.  I disconnect from my job, and observe a handful of subcultures.  I greet everyone I meet, from dog walkers, to the homeless, to the day workers and even the wasted kids.  Without exception, my greeting is always returned.  Occasionally a slacker kid will just nod.  That’s oaky.

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A creek runs through it…

As far as these homeless go, it’s hard to say if they are here by choice, and that’s not for me to judge.  I have never been asked for money, they always call me sir and I have never felt like I was in danger in their presence.  When I think of the Pico Trail, it is the homeless who live there that I think of first.  Some I have seen there for many years, and I know them by name.  Others, they come and go.

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Names withheld.  long-time residents of the benches along the way…

I have long appreciated and felt kindred with the culture of homelessness.  I have lived my life close enough to the edge financially, as well as in matters of stress, that I can relate to both streams of homelessness; those there by circumstance and those there by choice.  My only real Plan B in life, should it all collapse or become too much to take, is to be a most aggressive bottle collector, and an astute connoisseur of good bridges, should I ever need to make one my own.  If it all comes undone, look for me first at the Pico Trail.

A Place For A Breeze…

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Nature’s better use of a storm drain…

Nothing big happens on the Pico Trail.  Occasionally some misplaced teen energy will break off a tree branch or paint graffiti on a bench.  Occasionally an argument takes place about who gets the last sip of Old English 800.  Mostly though, all passers by are respectful of the space.  It’s a 3/4-mile bridge between several worlds; the one beyond it, and the ones within it.  It’s beauty mark on the face of a small town…  Jhciacb

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A gramma and her boy under a jacaranda tree…

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Occupational Hazard…

I make my living as a fitness trainer. I have worked a small town 17 years, Fallbrook, California.  Because of what I do, the size of the town, and my time in place, many people know me here – know who I am and what I do. Wherever I go, at least a few people always identify me as Roy, the trainer guy.

And then there’s the local market. Because I work from home, I go to the market daily. It’s a reason for me to leave the house – which is important when you work from home. Every day, whether I need something or not, I enter the market, pick up a handheld basket and stroll the isles, to justify leaving my home.

As a fitness trainer, I tend to be a conscientious eater. Still, there are times when I might breach from that, and enjoy a treat or five. I might also pick up something for my mother; Oreos, Betty Crocker frosting, Milano cookies, or Fritos. These are the daily rewards one is entitled to, should they make it into their late 80s.

If at a given time there are 40 people in the market, pushing carts, carrying baskets, and seeking out the best lambchops, strawberries, or baby wipes, at least 5 of those people will know who I am – and what I do for a living.

Without fail, when I run into somebody I know or who knows me, no matter how hard they try not to, their eyes always break contact with mine, immediately peering into my basket – to see what trainers eat. And just as quickly, as though they were a dog caught drinking from the toilet, their eyes break from my basket and rejoin mine, trying to look not guilty for their examination of my stuff.

Yesterday this happened several times. In my basket were Saltine crackers, some Progresso soups, and cough drops – my mom has been in bed sick. One client I ran into saw the cough drops, and I swear I’m not making this up, said to me…

“Oh, cough drops. A candy you can justify…”

Yes, I said. You caught me. Sugar and menthol – the two things I crave most when I’m i bodybuilding mode.

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If I’m going to cheat, I assured her, I would get the wild cherry cough drops, and have them with ice cream – lots of and lots of ice cream…  Jhciacb

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