SideWalk Ghosts / Interview 145: “I’m Not Homeless, I’m On A Retreat”

My first view of David and his dog Tivo

I won’t say I’m homeless tonight, or heavily suffering, but I will tell you that I am wandering the streets.

Car travel really sucks when you are trying to interface with the world. I’ll call it, “The next worse thing to texting.” And other than road race, or the preferred road courtesies, there is really no opportunity to interact with people.

So, and I should know better by now, after one hour of meaningless driving I stop in neighborhood one. I wander thirty minutes… all rejections.

Off to neighborhood two… You got it… I’m looked at like the angel of doom.

Neighborhood three… “Out of here dude!”

Neighborhood four… “Leave!” Shopping center one… “We’re running from you now.” Ah! The Psychic… “Closed.”

I’m exasperated… I’m letting go… I need food and I need it now…

Saved, to the left, Panda Express… eggrolls… peace… relief.

The lot is packed, of course it is, whatever is going on tonight, nothing is easy.

Look!, the suburban family mover is pulling out, blocking my view of travel, but I’m a thrill seeker, I’ll pull the secret Radstone blind turn and the parking spot in mine, I know it!

Ripping the turn I come to a stop, eyes peeled down in nervous energy. A deep breath, time for a leg stretch and a snack.

The world comes to a settling pause and my view clears and as it does, I spy a man and his dog, sitting, quietly watching the world.

Because of my haste in racing to park, my headlamp interruption has slammed his eyes into squint mode. Yet, even though I have unintentionally stepped on his space, he is not affected, other than his reserved self-protection of eyesight. In fact, his reaction is quite the opposite. Wearing this Aussie looking hat, he looks at me and with the flick of a hand on the hat’s brim, gestures me a warm hello as I shut down my car.

I lock in to his  non-verbal communication and connect with a, please forgive me for the shocking light, head nod and smile.

My first impression: he is homeless, and seeing that we are silently communing for a moment in time, I decide to check my impression to verbally inquire, “Are you homeless?”

He responds, “No, I’m on a retreat.” He laughs hard, and his laughter invites me to sit on the ground in front of him to tell him of 365.

Within minutes, David, no longer a stranger, divulges this council: “In order to get out of suffering you have to illuminate ignorance.”

“Great council,” I compliment. “Can you expand?” I carefully challenge.

He talks of Buddha and the children of Maya; twenty minutes of fascinating and well-constructed dialogue, all filled with questions that beg one action, “Self-reflection”

Our conversation is captivating and, other than the occasional hello, or laughingly grotesque stares of condemning passer-byes, the world around seems to stand still.

David expands his wisdom, “People need to learn how to meditate and be mindful and aware. Feel what they feel, label it, watch it arise, and watch it fall. It all happens within, nothing is permanent.”

“The belief in the permanent self is the course of all evil; the me/my stuff that causes all the conflict in the world.

“To do that, they must purify their minds, and get rid of the imperfections and defilements.

“You read the negative effects through the Karma of others.”

Laughing he says, “’I’m thinking of writing a book, ‘Guerilla Buddhism.’”

I must know, “What will you write about?”

David gives us this synopsis, “The most radical thing we can do is meditate, and get away from the programming. We need to deprogram, or at least get out of the idea that permanent souls have free will. It’s the Buddhist theory of relativity, there is no such thing as free will, that is divorced from reality, and is a fantasy.”

We exchange stories of life and talk of Karma, and the results of both good and bad actions or thoughts.

He expands on his reasoning for his retreat. “I’m divorced. I was in a marriage that almost killed me, and that is when I started my retreat. I knew it was getting bad when, while I was sleeping, my wife beat me in the face with a brush. She admitted to the police that she did it. They arrested her and that was the beginning of the end of that chapter.

“A marriage that almost killed me…”

David reaches into his jacket, pulls out his wallet and shows me his driver’s license photo. “She broke my nose and I got an MRSA infection, it ran through my body, to my lungs, heart and kidneys, it almost killed me. I’m still pulling out the scars.”

The photo is shocking. His face is swollen and warped. He is overweight and tired. And looking at the much better condition David is in now, I know he is telling the truth.

David’s divorce was finalized in 2009, and he has been on his street retreat ever since. He is very specific, “I am not homeless, I am a Buddhist, and am on a retreat.”

Why Los Angeles? David elaborates, “LA is the energy spot in California. I used to live in Northern California, I came here to heal.”

We talk of all the good in Los Angeles. “Too many people reflect on all the bad things, and not the good.” David exhorts.

We talk about politics, the influence of the media, and their combined effect on humanity and his perspective on the greed of the rich.

David expresses his prediction for the fate of society: “’I see something different to what everyone thinks it will be. I don’t know how people are going to react, they might blow everything up. ‘The skull and the crossbones would rather rule in hell, than to serve in heaven.’ I think Plato or some Greek guy said that.’”

Time is getting late, my family is waiting for me to pick them up from a social event and I must go.

One hour with David has opened my eyes wider to the world of the street. And David’s world is in order, to quote him, “People need to learn how to meditate and be mindful and aware.”

David, you may be wiser than us all. Thanks for the time my friend.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. heljblack says:

    ..and so your dedication was rewarded, great story!


  2. jorbin says:

    Good one mate! He is added to one of my favorite characters you’ve captured.


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