Metallica ride with the homeless

Ever wonder what to do with yourself on a sunny day? I’m sitting here thinking of something witty to write when actually, the thought crossing my mind is to see if there’s time to hang out at the beach.

“Don’t all Californians hang out at the beach every day anyway,” you ask?

Umm … no.

The San Diego Trolley Green Line
The San Diego Trolley Green Line

Sometimes we’ll sit at desks with computers, working and doing stuff that has little or nothing to do with hanging out at the beach, snorkeling or otherwise enjoying life. I was just told to change my Facebook profile picture because it shows up on our GoFundMe campaign and the current photo looks unprofessional. It shows the top of my head and face rising out of Mission Bay. I’ve just changed it into a more business-like photo.

But enough of the travails of running a small business.

You know what really blows my mind? How in the 21st Century we still have poverty and homelessness. It blows my mind that we, the wealthiest nation in the history of the world, with more than 500 billionaires, has absolutely no compassion for those in poverty within its own borders, especially if those poor and homeless people are mentally ill. We have a large segment of society that considers poor people “moochers” and think the best way to deal with the mentally ill is to ostracize and stigmatize them.

This crossed my mind because one day I was traveling by trolley, bus and Trusty Trek home from the beach. Usually, I prefer sitting in the front of the bus, being as close to the Trusty Trek as possible. People admire that bike, even with its chipped paint, spots of mud and blood and the Greenpeace sticker. It’s a Trek, people notice.

On that day the #20 bus, coming up from Fashion Valley where I got on, wasn’t all that crowded so I was up front, sitting comfortably in one of those sideway bench seats. Across the aisle were two homeless gentlemen, at first discussing the general ethnic breakdown of Mira Mesa, which has a large Asian-America population and quite a few Hispanics. Their conclusion on that topic: Blacks and Whites would get lynched were they to get off the bus at Mira Mesa Blvd.

  • Not the #20 bus, but a reasonable facsimile
    Not the #20 bus, but a reasonable facsimile

    I was thinking, “I’m getting off on Mira Mesa Blvd. (again), wonder if I’ll get lynched.” As you are reading this you can guess I haven’t been lynched.

But then, and this is what really blew my mind, they linked the former discussion on race relations in Mira Mesa to the philosophy of the epic World War I novel, Johnny Got His Gun — I kid you not.

The jump from race relations to Johnny Got His Gun took a skip on the rock of Metallica’s “One,” which was inspired by the book and featured clips from the 1971 film version starring Timothy Bottoms as Joe Bonham.

It’s an anti-war novel written by Dalton Trumbo in 1938, based on the Prince of Wales’ visit to a Canadian veterans hospital shortly after World War I. The main character, Joe Bonham, is left without his legs, arms and face, unable to communicate, a prisoner in his own mind and body.

Sadly, I got off the bus on Mira Mesa Blvd, just as the two homeless guys started getting all fired up about the book and the Metallica video for the song “One.” Apparently, according to these two guys, there is a hidden message in the song and video, censored out so the song could be heard on the radio and the video broadcast on MTV. The hidden message, I would assume, has something to do with immigration and race relations.

Google Books
Google Books

Intrigued, as soon as I got home I Googled it — just Google it! Google everything!

Got all sorts of information on the band and the song — and some information on the book I couldn’t either remember or didn’t know — but couldn’t find anything about any hidden messages in the song or video.

That’s the thing with some of the poor and homeless. Many have excellent educations, have a great grasp of those topics they may have studied, but then off they go into tangents that get you scratching your head.

“What the Hell are they talking about,” you ask yourself? It’s best not to ask them or get involved in the conversation. The two doing the arguing will take umbrage, mob up and turn their vitriol towards you.

“How do you know they will turn on you,” you ask? Well, I once was caught intently listening to a couple of guys on the #20 bus ranting about the evils of higher education. They got on the bus at the City College stop in Downtown San Diego, which must have spurred the discussion.

Back to the other two guys on the #20 bus.

Usually, as one is trying to make points over the other, the volume and tone of their conversation gets elevated and more excited. You’d think they were about to get into a fistfight — and sometimes the bus driver has to tell them to STFU.

But usually, the debaters calm down, go back to just staring off into the void and sit quietly while they wait for their stop to arrive. Actually, the bus, with passengers, arrives at the stop. But, as a passenger, sitting there waiting, the perspective is turned around. The stop arrives.

Strangely, that phenomenon doesn’t occur when I’m either driving or riding in an automobile. I’m traveling and will arrive at my destination. Riding public transit though, one develops an entirely different perspective on commuting and travel in general.

The author hanging out at the beach with his Trusty Trek
The author hanging out at
the beach with his Trusty Trek

Most of the bus ride arguments fade off as the two antagonists lose steam. Once in a while though actual fights break out on the bus. That sucks because then the bus driver has to stop, call it in and have the Police intervene and the rest of us are stuck on the bus for what seems like an eternity. Been there and done that twice now.

For a while I was thinking how unfortunate it was to miss the rest of the discussion about Johnny Got His Gun, but on the other hand, maybe it was a blessing. Crazy people acting crazy encourage other crazy people and most people who know me know I don’t need much encouragement.

(Top photo from Metallica’s “One”)
(Photos by Tim Forkes unless otherwise noted)