Iíve come to a point in telling my story where Iím unsure what and how much to include. So far, Iíve come to Parker, Arizona. I know that I want to eventually write down step by step every part and place that I can remember; however, I donít necessarily think I need to write an entire book for the purpose of sharing my testimony on your website. The whole purpose is to glorify God and to tell about this life changing experience of mental illness and homelessness. First of all, let me say that these years and this time alone with God was life changing even though the experience was extremely painful. Several things happened to me during this time that truly changed who I was. First of all I learned to really depend on God for everything and I fell in love with Him because I so desperately needed Him. The pain of what was happening and the fear of those things that my delusional mind imagined made me exist in a place of constant prayer. God was the only person there was. I was alone both literally and spiritually and the love I received from Him is beyond words. The other thing was that as I read the Bible, and even though my schizophrenic mind twisted some of it, I began to genuinely understand what sin was and how it separated us from a Holy and Perfect God. I truly repented for much of the sin I had in my life and I really understood that God loves us and wants to protect us from the pain and destruction that sin causes in our life. So, to a degree I was really transformed by these years I spent alone with God; However, there were still delusions and lies that came from the enemy that persisted and haunted me for years after I came home. SoÖ. let me be more brief for now about where I traveled for the next few years.
I went from Parker, Arizona to Lake Havasu in the pouring rain. From there I went to Kingman where I stayed in a shelter. From Kingman I hitched a ride outside of Prescott. I was there for a little while. I was so uncomfortable with all the people in the shelter that I slept outside in the snow.
I walked during the day and then again that night because I was hungry and in a hurry to get to Lake Havasu. It poured that night and I had nowhere to seek refuge. No bridges or buildings to take cover. I put my army blanket over my head and just walked in it. This was a new experience for me. I had never really been so alone in such a dark and cold place as I was that night. I cried out to God and prayed and just kept moving.
A cop stopped and picked me up. Thatís how it was with the cops on the road. Some of them wanted to harass and arrest you and some of them genuinely wanted to help. This officer took me to a gas station on the outskirts of Lake Havasu and gave me $5. I got a burrito and hung out outside. I was cold and wet but it had stopped raining, so I hung my blanket out to dry. It was really late and pretty soon I decided to start walking again towards Havasu hoping I would dry out quicker if I walked.
I spent a few more days hanging out in Havasu walking around town. I searched for food and read my Bible and day old newspapers. I stayed really informed while I was on the road even though I got the news a day or two late. I camped out by the river out in the open and I remember trying to stay dry with some plastic tarps I had found. It seems like I stayed wet while I was in Havasu. I remember a couple of kids had followed me into the woods near the river taunting me and throwing rocks. It was something I had never experienced before and I felt really low.
After a few days I knew it was time to leave Havasu, so I headed north towards I-40. It took about two days and there were truck stops and businesses along the way with garbage cans to eat from and water hoses to refill my jug. I started heading east on the Interstate and got picked up by another cop who wouldnít let me walk on the highway. Itís pretty much forbidden to walk on the interstate anywhere but I got away with it a lot on the road, just not this time. He took me to Kingman and called ahead to the shelter to see if they had a place for me. It was a Catholic shelter and I was paranoid about the Catholic faith; but on a personal level I was polite and grateful towards my benefactors. I got a shower and clean clothes. There were two other transients staying there that night. One was a cowboy from Wyoming heading to Prescott for work. The other guy had been in a really bad accident and his leg was all mutilated and scarred, but he could still walk. They gave us free reign in the kitchen, so we prepared our own meals and hung out. The next day I headed to the truck stop in town, I didnít want to hang around. I got a ride with a husband and wife truck driving team. They were pretty friendly and they took me all the way to Ash Fork. I hitchhiked to Prescott with an older couple in the back of their pick up.
Prescott was at a higher elevation than where I had been and naturally a bit colder. The first thing I did when I got there was to look for a shelter. Somehow, someone gave me a phone number and the change I needed to call a homeless shelter. They gave me directions over the phone and I walked until I found it. It was a small place with only a few bunks. There were 5 or 6 other guys already there. The guys wanted to know my story; but I was skittish and paranoid so the best I could do was try to answer their questions and pretend to be ok.
One guy asked if I was a veteran and I laughed and said Iím too young. Then he told me I didnít have to go to war to be a vet and I felt a little foolish. I really didnít like being in a crowd, so I stayed one night and never came back. The next morning I went to the Salvation Army downtown. They were serving breakfast really early and people were lined up outside. I got there late and all that was left was some cheerios which I gratefully accepted. Afterwards I met a homeless Native American, who was hanging around outside. He seemed friendly enough and we talked for a bit. I think he told me some other places to go for meals.
That afternoon I found the city park and I found myself a comfortable tree to sit under; and I lay there and read and napped in the warmth of the afternoon sun. I remember watching a very rough looking older homeless guy rummaging through the trash cans in the park and I watched him and wondered how I had come to be just like him. I was in Prescott for a week or two Iím not sure, but I stayed outside the rest of the time sleeping mostly on cardboard boxes behind the strip mall near the park. It was a bad idea to sleep in the park. I stopped going to the soup kitchens but I met a guy who delivered donuts early each morning and he would give me day old pastries. Usually a bag full of them, and then I would head to the park or the public library to pass the time.
There were a lot of homeless people in Prescott and I would see a lot of them at the library. I didnít get too friendly with anybody; but I did enjoy reading books on religion and spirituality. The books never took the place of the Bible; but some of what I read fueled the fires of my delusion and imagination. There was a park across from the library too, with a baseball field and bleachers. One afternoon I fell asleep stretched out in the seats and was awaked by the same Native American guy I had met earlier. He started getting really aggressive with me and kept asking me where I was from.
ďWhere are you from anyway?Ē he said. ďJerusalem?Ē He kept shoving food in my face saying ďeat, eat.Ē I didnít know what his deal was but some of the things he said seemed to reinforce my paranoid, delusional thinking. I was ready to get out of Prescott; there were some other creepy looking homeless people around that made me feel uncomfortable as well so I left right around that time. One more thing I remember, Brother Peter, was that one night before I left it snowed and I couldnít find a dry place to sleep, so I climbed the fence to a McDonalds playground late at night and I slept in one of the plastic tubes that the children play in. I left early enough in the morning that no one saw me. After all that I decided to leave Prescott. It was too cold there anyway. So I decided to head south towards Phoenix.
I walked for a few days toward interstate 17. I scavenged for food along the way. Nothing memorable comes to mind but I do remember a few people trying to help me with money or food. At some point, I completely stopped accepting anyoneís help. In fact, I was about to accept a ride that would be my last for another year or more. As I was walking south on Interstate 17, I was offered a ride by a man in a pick up truck. He carried me all the way into downtown Phoenix; and Iím pretty sure that my intention was to get through Phoenix as quickly as possible because I didnít want to be anywhere near a big city. So when he dropped me off, my anxiety was really high and I walked nonstop away from Phoenix. I walked until I got to Casa Grande, which is kind of like a Phoenix suburb. I didnít stay very long there either, a few days. Peter, I want to explain too, that I believe it was the Holy Spirit that made my heart beat so fast whenever I was in a place He didnít want me. The need to keep moving in pursuit of God is a feeling I canít quite explain, especially when at the same time Iím dealing with a mind tormented by lying spirits and mental instability. All I know is, I was in search of God and I was compelled to keep moving until He told me to stop.
After a few days, I began my trek along the Interstate, heading south towards Tucson. To avoid being stopped by the police, this time on the interstate I was walking about 20 0r 30 yards off of the highway. I stayed on the other side of the barbed wire fence. The terrain was a little harder to walk on than the shoulder of the highway, but it kept me from getting stopped or forced to ride in a cop car. I really donít remember how long it took to get to Tucson but I do recall as I approached the city on the outskirts I was searching for food in the usual way. There were plenty of places to go and one night for whatever reason I decided to sleep on some cardboard behind a fenced in a dumpster at a gas station. I thought it would be a good place to hide. About 5 oíclock in the morning I was awoke when the men picked up the dumpster and scared the stuff out of me. I scattered and they yelled at me. I took off and walked a few miles before I realized I had left my bible back there. I went back, and when I got there I could see the bible was directly underneath the dumpster and wouldnít be easy to retrieve. Somehow, I managed to fish it out and I was relieved. Just something else I remember I thought was worth mentioning.
I headed into Tucson where I stayed for about two weeks. Itís a big city, but itís sort of spread out and it had a different feel than Phoenix, which had that big city feel with all the high rises and congestion. I spent most of my time on the east side of town near Speedway Blvd., sleeping behind strip malls and just walking around during the day. I probably wouldnít have stayed as long as I did, but I would get real comfortable in places where there was food and distractions like newspapers and magazines to pass the time. Not that I was having fun, far from it, I just sometimes preferred to eat and forget about everything than start walking again out in the desert where there was no food or water. It didnít take that long though for me to get bored and I didnít feel as though God wanted me to stop walking either. My visions and delusions were very heavy at this time too; and I was paranoid of everyone and I feared for my life. So, like I said, after about 2 weeks I headed southeast on I-10. There was nothing between the towns, just desert. Nobody bothered me on the Interstate. I went through Benson where I refueled and afterwards I wandered away from the Interstate on a smaller road towards a town named Dragoon. I really donít know why I headed into no mans land. I really donít remember that well what my thoughts were exactly, but you could say I was semi suicidal. I just never intended to survive. I wandered out into the dry, dusty landscape and I think I followed some old railroad tracks for a while and the conductor saw me and threw water bottles to me. I kept moving and I remember seeing dead livestock out there, a reminder of the harsh environment. Somehow, I ended up hitting the I-10 again somewhere around Wilcox and from there I headed north towards Safford. In Safford, I found a couple of supermarkets that were throwing away an abundance of packaged foods so I set up camp right behind the stores in an alley. I stayed there for about ten days reading my Bible and praying. No one noticed me for a while, but then one day the cops showed up and asked me to move on. From Safford, I headed east until I was back on the I-10 in a little town called Lordsburg, NM.
Lordsburg, New Mexico
It is May 2000; Iím not sure exactly what day of the month it was when I arrived. Iíve been on the road since California in mid February. I am now in Lordsburg, New Mexico. I have arrived here via highway 70, coming from Safford, Arizona. Iím now back on the Interstate in this little town which seems to exist in the desert as a resting place for travelers on the I-10. There are several hotels, a few fast food places, and some other businesses between the two exits off the highway in Lordsburg. The exits are about two miles apart and I am at the second exit heading east at a big truck stop called Loves. Iíve been having really strong visions since Iíve gotten here. Itís as if Iím being told to stay here until God tells me to leave or they come to take me by force because as you know in my mind I knew they are hunting me.
I want to take a moment to explain a bit more about my delusion. I know you understand, Peter, very much about what is happening in the spirit realm that causes these delusional thoughts, the voices and hallucinations, the distorted thinking and perceptions. I know you understand and believe as well in the supernatural, the visions, dreams, and the promptings of the Holy Spirit. I know you are familiar with it all. Honestly Peter, I was experiencing both, Wheat and tares growing together until the day of harvest when all the lies would be gathered up and thrown into the furnace.
Part of the vocation of the enemy was to speak lies to me and do you remember, Peter, me telling you about the girl in the beginning of the story, who I believe was a witch and was somehow involved in the demonic possession that I am tormented by? Well, since the beginning of my walk I have been thinking about her all the time and I am under her spell. At this point I donít think she is a witch but an angel who is my soul mate. We will be reunited here in Lordsburg, just before they carry me away to filet me alive and eat my flesh. I am waiting in Lordsburg for these two things to happen.
Peter, as far as I can tell everyone is either an angel or a demon and they are shape shifting, or body hopping. I am convinced that the spiritual and physical realms are not really separate realties to every one else and that I alone am perceiving only the physical because I am in a sort of mental box. Peter, do you understand what I am saying? I have discarded the idea that everyone else perceives the same reality as me and that the secret world that everyone else exists in is one that I alone am being prohibited from seeingÖ. Peter, if you understand where I am coming from with this then perhaps you understand how the devil has forged these lies that I believe. I want you to know too that I believe God understands my confusion because He knows I am being fed spiritual lies as well as spiritual truth and I cannot discern yet between the two. My reality is distorted, sometimes I donít know which way is up and which way is down. Iím very sick in my mind, Peter, at this time. I hope this explains a little bit about what is going on in my head. I am waiting in Lordsburg until they come to kill me. I am paranoid and delusional.
I stayed in Lordsburg for almost a whole year. I read the entire Bible during that year. I had nothing but time on my hands and even though my delusional mind and the demonic oppression within me twisted some of the Word of God, a lot of Godís truth got through to me; and it was during this year alone that I really understood Godís love as well as His holiness. I understood how God views sin and I was truly repentant for much of the sin in my past. Peter, God showered me with His love over and over again while I was on the road and I fell in love with Him as well. I cried a river of tears to Him and I felt His presence continually. He was the only friend I had and I held onto Him with all I had. I know the Holy Spirit was leading me and had a plan to bring me to the foot of the cross to receive the salvation of Jesus Christ. This revelation didnít come until the end of two separate very long walks.
Back to my year in Lordsburg. The town is small, only about 3500. Itís flat, desert landscape; but I can see desert mountains on the horizon. There is a train that runs right through town, right along the old Interstate 10. I have no
Sometimes I would see a brave hobo wave to me from one of the box cars. On both ends of town there were new businesses and I would walk back and forth between the Loves truck stop, Days Inn hotel, and Dennyís on the one side of town to the other side where there was a McDonald, and a few other restaurants and motels. Instead of walking along the sidewalks and streets, I cut a new path through about a mile of desert and then through the city park, which was like a back way; and I rarely saw anyone. Twice a day I would walk back and forth on this path and try to avoid contact with others. I studied my Bible and prayed daily. There was enough food that had been thrown out to sustain me just about every day; although there were days when I went to bed hungry.
|idea what the history of this road is but it runs right through town and it is littered with abandoned hotels, gas stations, and restaurants. For whatever reason, whatever bustling traffic that used to go through here was abruptly cut off and with it, obviously a lot of peopleís livelihoods. I am telling you about it, Peter, to describe the setting in which I lived during that year, for I walked back and forth on part of that highway everyday for that entire year. That part of Lordsburg was like a ghost town. There was barely a soul around the old businesses, just rusted old skeletons of buildings, with broken windows and weeds growing high in the parking lots. On the one side of the highway were all the abandoned buildings, on the other were the train tracks and that train ran through there constantly. It was a stark contrast, movement on one side, stagnation on the other.
I passed a lot of the time sitting in the McDonaldís parking lot. I read my Bible and any other literature I could get my hands on, like newspapers, magazines, or paperbacks that others threw away. There was a giant Mcdonaldís sign about fifty feet high or so, big enough for people to see it from the highway, which was located on the far end of a large gravel parking lot for truckers and trailers. I would sit propped up against the sign and watch as the Greyhound busses pulled in packed with people. I would watch as 50 people would go into the restaurant and then sit and half-eat their hamburgers and fries. I was about 40 yards away sitting apart and largely unnoticed. I was rarely approached or bothered by anyone. When the buses left, I would jump up and go scavenging in the trash for the hot fries they had just thrown away and you would be surprised by the abundance of what had just been thrown away by the fifty or so people who had stopped for 15 minutes on that bus. I did this pretty much every day and what I didnít eat myself I threw to the sparrows and starlings that were hanging out too. I loved those birds. I can remember what great company they were to me as I lived in isolation in that town. They were a blessing.
For five or six months I slept in the parking lot of the Loveís truck stop. I slept behind a concrete barricade on a piece of cardboard. I still had my green army blanket that I had found in California. I stayed there all summer and then part of the fall. Then, one night in October, it got really cold. It was around the time when the USS Cole was bombed, thatís how I remember it. I decided to check out one of the abandoned hotels that was close by. I found a room that was unlocked. I went inside. The room was dark and filthy, but it was shelter from the wind and rain, so I slept there for the next six months - from October 2000 until April 2001.
The room was so dark and depressing that I only stayed there at night or when it was raining. The rest of my days were spent walking, reading, feeding birds, or digging for food. I didnít fly completely under the radar in Lordsburg either. The sheriff had checked me out and found out who I was and contacted my family. They sent him stuff like socks and blankets but I wouldnít accept anything from anyone. Iím pretty sure, too, that he occasionally put food in the dumpster for me. I think that he was a good man and that he understood in some weird way that I needed to be left alone. There was another schizophrenic too, who walked around town like me. I ran into him a lot at the dumpsters; but he wasnít looking for food. He was looking for aluminum cans. He spoke to himself but never to me. We basically avoided each other, but I saw him more than anyone else while I was in Lordsburg.
I want to mention too, Peter, that at some point my cousin Christopher, flew out to see me. He was hoping to bring me home and he spent a week in Lordsburg with me. I hung with him, but I absolutely resisted his attempts to get me to stay in a hotel or abandon my walk. But honestly, I was grateful for the company. He left and I stayed.
A lot happened in LordsburgÖ dreams , visions, signs. One time, it had been raining for four days straight and I couldnít even go outside to look for food. I was just stuck in that filthy room in my filthy clothes feeling wet, cold, and depressed. Then one morning it started to clear up; so I went outside to begin hunting for food. As I walked away from the building, I looked back over my shoulder and there appeared the most brilliant rainbow arching over the building. I smiled to myself, believing that the bow is a promise for me from God, just as it was for Noah, and my soul was reassured. On another occasion I had the most amazing dream Iíve ever had. In fact, it was in April of 2001 at the end of my time in Lordsburg and there were a bunch of significant dreams and visions but this one stood out. One night, just before dawn, as I lay sleeping on the floor in my abandoned room I felt a presence hovering over me singing in a voice that was hard to describe because I didnít hear it with my ears. I felt it in my chest as a kind of vibration. It was the most beautiful voice imaginable and an experience I will never forget. I really didnít get a look at the angel, they were there only for an instant. I caught only a glimpse. It was kind of like a hummingbird. It just hovered and then whisked away faster than I could look. I woke up crying because of what I heard and felt.
A year went by really fast and in May the visions and dreams were constant. I wonít try to recall them all but I started to feel God prompting me to move on. The vision for me was that it was time for me to die, and I believed that God was with me no matter what was ahead. After living in solitude for almost a year, I started talking to some of the homeless people who I encountered. Most of them had come in on the train, and it felt as though there were more than usual. One day I meet a guy at the Loveís truck stop and I spoke to him a little bit and that was it.
Later on that same day he rides by in a station wagon with a guy who stops and asks me if I want to go to the mission that had just opened in town. It was the Holy Spirit who told me to say yes after having refused every offer to help for almost a year. Ö So I got in and we drove to the outskirts of town. The shelter was just a little place and there were probably 3 others besides myself and a guy named Manny who ran the place. I was filthy. I hadnít showered for over a year and after I took a shower and put on new clothes they made me take my old clothes outside. I donít think I realized at the time just how bad I must have smelled. I was in disbelief at how good the shower felt. I guess I had thought for some time that I would never have that experience again. There was a poster on the wall of Ephesians chapter 6 about the armor of God and I had the delusion that soon I would be killed. It was what the demons had been telling me all along, but God was also present and I felt assured that no matter what happened, my merciful Creator would see me through it. I went to sleepÖ in a bed.
The next day, the man who had picked me up in the station wagon asked me if I wanted to go with him to Silver City where there was a larger rescue mission.
Silver City, New Mexico
The town was about 50 miles north through the desert. Silver City was like an oasis to me. Itís at a higher elevation and right in the Gila National Forest. Itís a beautiful town with a little bit of history. Billy the Kid lived there and itís an old mining town. They still mine copper I believe. Itís home to about 20,000 residents and thereís a nice
The next day I explored the town and went back to the rescue mission, which also had a soup kitchen. They served one meal at 12 oíclock and that was it; but it was a really hearty meal. There was always a prayer before the meal and the presence of the Lord was near to that place. I found out that I could spend a few nights at the menís shelter too, which was a little house next to the mission. I met a lot of characters at the mission and shelter. There were quite a few transients living in Silver City and a lot of them showed up at 12 at the soup kitchen every day. There were a bunch of interesting characters there. There was Bobby, who always wore a buck knife on his hip. Spirit, who had long hair and always wore army clothes and looked like he just got back from Vietnam. I think, too, that he was into some Native American shamanism.. There was also a guy named Billy, who was tall, gangly and walked with a limp. He was missing a lot of teeth and the ones he had left were rotten. He was really out there too; and I thought at the time he may have had some mental handicap, but Iím sure now that he was also demon possessed. He rambled and was hard to understand. There were homeless people all over the town, drop outs who preferred living in the woods and being free from social norms. In some ways it was an attractive lifestyle, if all you had to think about was yourself; but the truth was most of them were alcoholics and drug addicts and some of them were mentally ill, like Billy and me.
||downtown area with lots of art galleries and gem and mineral shops. I got dropped off at the Silver City Gospel Rescue mission which was located pretty much right downtown. I went in and got some new clothes and a bag full of groceries. I stepped outside and went over away from all the other transients hanging around. I sat down and on the curb and just wept really hard for about 20 minutes. I was relieved to get cleaned up and to get some real food, but I was still heavy into the delusion that I was soon to die. Itís really hard to describe what thoughts I was having. I left the mission and found a bridge nearby over ďthe big ditchĒ, which had something to do with a big flood that had occurred in the town. Anyway, I went down into ďthe big ditchĒ and sat by the stream to pray and read my Bible. The first night there I slept underneath that bridge.
I was having some really intense delusions when I first got there and that first night I could hardly sleep. I was under heavy attack from the enemy and I was having hallucinations and paranoid thoughts about being killed. The next day, I got up and went into town with Billy. We had no money, so we panhandled a little bit for coffee money and we found a pack of cigarettes. I hadnít smoked in a year and a half, but I fell into temptation and sat there with Billy and smoked three cigarettes, then I puked all over the street. Itís kind of hard Peter, to explain why I fell back into old habits. At the time I thought that it was the Lord telling me to smoke with Billy. I know now it wasnít the Lord but I also understand that because the Lord understood my immaturity and confusion that I didnít feel the heavy conviction for sinning back then as I would today if I were to do these things. I just thought Iíd try to explain. I loved the Lord with all my heart but I didnít feel guilty for some of the sins I committed back then the way I would now. Anyway, I picked the cigarettes habit back up and soon I would start smoking marijuana again.
Billy and I split up and went our separate ways for the day and I headed into the mountains to pray. I hiked a few miles out of town and then I headed into the woods. I hiked a while until I found an old levee built of stone. It looked like an altar and I felt the presence of God there. I sat down and ate the food that I was given at the mission the day before and I prayed and worshipped the Lord and I could feel his holy presence as I sang to him. I was still very scared and paranoid that I was about to die.
I stayed a few more nights at the mission. The last night I was there I was having such intense hallucinations that I got up in the middle of the night and left. I walked around the city all night crying and praying. It was so painful mentally and emotionally. Itís way too complex to explain what was going on in my mind, who I thought I was, or the imaginary soul mate that was part of my delusion. Or the nightmarish thoughts that invaded my mind as I fantasized about being tortured and eaten alive. I just want to tell you Peter what was going on in my mind was very real to me. As real to me as what I was going through every day physically. Honestly, what was going on in my mind was by far more dreadful than the physical abuse I was putting my body through on the road.
At sunrise I started walking out into the mountains. I walked all morning until the sun was high in the sky; and I walked towards a big sign that had been erected on the side of a very big hill. It was a sign of the letter W made out of white rocks. It stood for Western University that was there in Silver City. From a distance, as I was walking in the valley below, I could see two figures standing above the sign waving me to join them on top of the mountain. It was like a vision of angels cheering me on, calling me to the Lord, but when I reached the top they were gone. At some point at the top of the mountain or on the way back down I realized that no one was coming to kill me and I was released from that delusion. I was still sick but I was no longer living under the fear of my imminent death. Why or how my mind was changed on that day I really donít know. Nothing else really changed, just that I was going to die. I still loved the Lord and I was still schizophrenic but now I could live my life and make plans for the future.
I went back to the mission that night and got my stuff. My three days were up, so I had to stay outside from then on. At some point I made the phone call home to my parents. My family was glad to hear from me and my father wired me $500. When I got the money I went to the Army/Navy surplus store to get some clothing and camping gear. I got a backpack, sleeping bag, radio, flashlight, clothing, and some other stuff. I spent about $300 of it. Then I got a hotel room. I relaxed, got a pizza, took a bath, and watched some T.V. The next day I went to the soup kitchen and there were a bunch of people hanging around; but we found out that there had been an emergency and there wasnít going to be a meal that day. I thought I heard from the Lord that I should use the last $100 I had to buy pizza for everyone. It was a blessing for me to do that and everyone was very kind and grateful. Everyone was friendly with me and I felt like I belonged.
I decided to look for work so I went back to the Army/ Navy surplus store and asked the owner Steve if he had any work he needed done. He said yes, at his house for $5 an hour. It wasnít much but I accepted and I was thankful. I worked every evening from 5 until 8 either landscaping or working in his garden. We even built a pond to put fish in with a little water fall on the side of a hill. Steve was really cool to me and I started smoking pot again with him. I made $15 a day, enough for an evening meal and a pack of cigarettes or rolling tobacco. The other tramps had taught me to roll my own cigarettes and I thought it was really cool and a lot cheaper if you didnít have enough for real cigarettes.
Things were really good again. During the day I hiked, read my Bible and socialized with all the homeless people at the soup kitchen. I met so many people and I enjoyed an inner peace again for a little while even though I was smoking pot again with Steve and some of the other transients like the Rev. Bear -. an older hippie who camped on Bear Mountain with his two dogs. He rode a bicycle and towed a little bike trailer to carry his dogs in. He had gray dreadlocks and he professed to be a Christian. He was very kind to me and I felt like he was a sincere believer even though he smoked pot. He even bought me a new Bible because my old one was so worn out. I liked Bear and I still have that Bible he gave me.
Some days and nights I spent at an old house just on the edge of the city. Billy had taken me there and introduced me to Wobbles, Brian, and Bobby. I think it was Bobby who rented the place from some old woman who owned the property. I know he didnít pay much to stay there because the place was really run down with trash all over the place and no running water or electric. Outside the house was set up like a homeless camp with old sofas, tarps hanging from trees and a fire pit. People would come and go all day. There were always people hanging around drinking or smoking pot. Wobbles and Bobby let me stay there because I bought them beer and cigarettes. They never demanded these things from me; I did it as payment for staying there especially on rainy days. I became friends with all of them. Brian was an older biker dude who was a very gentle but huge guy with long hair and a beard. Bobby, who rented the place, was an unemployed mechanic on disability. He liked to drink a bit. They all did, especially Wobbles, who was like Bobbyís full time drinking buddy. Wobbles was an interesting character. He was small and greasy. He had wild hair and a beard. He used to wear this black vest with a rose pinned to it and a cross around his neck. He was a collector of gems and rocks and he was kind of mystical and mysterious. He was dying though, I was told. I donít know for sure what from but he was skinny and frail and he looked like death. I spent some afternoons hanging out at that old white house with him. He used to tell me he knew where to mine for gold and other precious stones and we made plans to go prospecting. He may have been telling the truth because he had a jar of all sorts of precious stones. At some point I had gotten some weed from Steve and I knew Wobbles liked to smoke so I spent a few afternoons smoking with him and listening to him tell stories and ramble on about stuff. I bought him beer, too, and I had a little portable radio that I ended up giving him. We smoked and listened to classic rock and roll.
One day Wobbles gave me a purple and green rock. I became sort of obsessed and fascinated with it and intrigued with Wobbles. In retrospect, the things he was into were a bit like sorcery though I had no idea at the time what I was messing with. I found out later that the rock was fluoride. It was a beautiful piece of translucent colors and its shape conformed to my hand when I held it and I began to imagine that the Rock had been forged just for me. For a couple of days I walked around holding it sort of mesmerized by it and the pot that I had been smoking.
Then one night at the house, Wobbles, Bobby, and I sat smoking and listening to the classic rock station. As I held the rock, I fell into the most intense hallucinogenic trance. My schizophrenia, the rock, and the marijuana combined produced a trip that by far exceeded any of the acid trips of my youth. I looked over at Bobby and heard him speak. A candle on the table threw a shadow of Bobby on the wall which looked like a 12 foot tall demonic figure and I listened to it speak to me in a deep and hellish voice. I looked into the rock and saw a multitude of black and white people like photographic negatives trapped inside screaming at me.
There were voices in the radio and hallucinations on the walls like films from a movie projector and one was of myself surrounded by people in blue and green surgical outfits trying to revive me or something. There were images of a cartoon-like woman who was changing shapes and it impressed upon my imagination that this was an image of my angelic soul mate. The whole episode was like a delusional climax from the pot and the sorcererís stone. Somehow, I made it through the night although Iím not so sure I slept at all.
The next day I was still filled with a lot of negative energy in my body and I knew that some of that energy had come from the rock. I stood in the doorway in front of Wobbles, enraged screaming about how I was supposed to die and how I believed it and how I had even wanted it. I got my stuff and left the house. I walked outside with the rock in my hand and I threw it against the curb and it shattered like glass into a million little pieces. I packed up my gear and I left Silver City.
I spoke with my brother Matthew on the phone. He said he was coming out to see me. I told him I would call in a few days when I knew where I would be. I walked and hitchhiked for two days towards Truth or Consequences, N.M. I spent about a week there waiting for my brother. He never came. The weird thing was I sort of knew why. Back at Wobbleís place I had seen a guy shoot up for the first time in my life and something inside me knew that that was what my brother had been doing. I prayed it wasnít so. While I was in T & C I was in a lot of emotional pain and my delusions were really strong. I believe that the energy I had received from the rock and the marijuana was part of what was affecting me and one day I found myself behind a building where I began cutting and burning myself. I heated up rocks with a lighter and seared them into the skin on my arms. I began burning the shapes of arrowheads on my arms influenced by the fact that I was near Geronimoís trail in New Mexico. Burning myself didnít really hurt, in fact it felt good to me because it was purging the negative energy inside of me. I continued to burn symbols into my arms with a metal file and other objects - a heart on my left arm and a diamond on my right. What I thought the symbols stood for changed over time but at the time I was thinking about a deck of cards. Anyway, after about a week of camping on the banks of the Rio Grande and realizing that my brother wasnít coming, I headed back to Silver City.
I walked and hitchhiked back through Las Cruces and Deming. I ditched my army back pack consolidated all my things into a sweatshirt. I then tied the sweatshirt to my back using the sleeves as straps and tying them across my chest. This was how I had done it before when I was walking. A sweatshirt made a good makeshift backpack if itís all you have and it was a lot lighter than the huge military pack I was carrying.
When I got back to Silver City, I started hanging out with Michael Cooper. He and his dog which he named ďroad dogĒ used to hang out at Wobbles sometimes. Michael was a cowboy from San Antonio who rode bulls or so he said. He was one of the guys who liked to drink but he was trying to quit. We hung out for a few weeks and set a camp up together. There was another kid named Marcus who camped with us for a while; and we used to have Bible readings around the campfire. On Sunday we had a big gathering at our camp and people brought food and we had a big pot of hobo coffee. There were three guys with guitars who played for us and one of them was the Rev. Bear. Before long, Michael started hanging out more with the crowd who liked to drink, so I was flying solo again for the most part.
Around this time my parents had decided they were going to use their timeshare in Tucson to pay me a visit. I think it was the middle of June. I had two weeks to kill before I met my parents in Tucson, and I decided to leave a little early so that I had plenty of time to get there. I made a sign and sat just outside of town on the highway that heads south back to Lordsburg and the I-10. Michael Cooper was supposed to go with me but he decided to hang out and drink that day so I traveled alone. I waited for a few hours and it wasnít looking good for getting picked up. I think I decided to start walking with the hope that I would eventually get picked up.
At some point, not long before I started walking, a beat up little gremlin of a car pulls off ahead of me and rolls down the passenger window. A young man tells me to get in and I gratefully accept and we are on our way to Lordsburg. Michael Lucero strikes up a conversation and I find out heís just been released from the state hospital. The story is kind of vague but I guess the diagnosis is similar to mine. He is very strange. He breaks out some Guinness. I decline but he insists so I take a few swigs and just hold the warm beer. The subject turns to God and the spirit realm. Heís a Believer who has a lot of crazy ideas like me and he decides that we should stop and pray. I know it seems a little strange and hypocritical to be drinking and driving and at the same time be talking of God and prayer. The situation feels a little strange, but Michael is pretty harmless and I need this ride. We stop on the side of the road in the desert. We recite some prayers from a Catholic prayer book and perform some senseless rituals. It was a little unusual for me but I play along and just like any other prayer I direct my heart to the Lord.
When we get to Lordsburg, we pull into the McDonaldís parking lot where we meet another traveler whoís down on his luck and Michael buys us all a meal. I donít remember what his story was but he was a big overweight fella who was much older than the two of us. I told them both about the old abandoned hotel I used to stay at so Michael drives us there. Michael had to be back in Silver City that night so the big guy and myself set up camp at the hotel and Michael says farewell. I spent the rest of the evening carving some rocks that I had been given in Silver City. I had been working on carving some arrowheads for my brothers. I was going to send them some necklaces. I missed them both a lot.
The next morning Michael surprisingly shows up early. Heíd been dropped off and he says he wants to travel with me. At first I was O.K. with it. We got coffee and a jug of water at the truck stop, and then we started walking with our thumbs out. Michael likes to talk a lot and before long his domineering personality begins to annoy me and I want to travel alone. So I told him we must part ways. I returned to the Loveís truck stop where I quickly hooked up with a trucker who carried me all the way back to Tucson. He was an easy going guy who didnít say much and the ride was peaceful as I looked forward to seeing my parents in a week or two.
I arrive in Tucson and I know my way around from being here before. As it gets dark, I find a convenience store and I sit outside carving my arrowheads and panhandling for cigarette money. I had a week or more to kill before my parents would arrive. The first few days I spent walking around town panhandling for cigarette and food money. I continued to work on carving my rocks to pass the time. I hung out at a park where there were a lot of other homeless people hanging out. I think there was a lot of drug dealing going on there as well. One time someone gave me some weed and it made me sick from being outside in the heat. June was hot in Tucson.
I went to social services to get a list of all the soup kitchens and other resources in town. I went to homeless shelters to shower and wash clothes, but I spent most nights outside. There were a lot of homeless people in Tucson and there were always long lines at the soup kitchens and shelters, so I avoided those places unless I had no other options. I also spent a lot of time at the public library downtown using the computers to email my family.
One day at the library I ran into a guy named Edgu, who I knew from the mission in Silver City. He was one of the guys who camped in the Gila National Forest. He was another hippy dropout, who wore sandals made out of old tires and never changed or took a shower. Not to criticize, after all, I once went an entire year without a shower. Anyway, I didnít know him that well in Silver, but I was glad to see him. He was kind and pretty easy to be around so we ended up hanging out and camping together for those last few days before my parents arrived. We panhandled together and hung out and met a lot of other homeless people. There were quite a few of us hanging around the library.
The last two nights before my parents arrived in Tucson, Edgu and I camped out with some other homeless people near a bridge and a Burger King. One of the guys wasnít homeless at all. He had just taken to the road after his wife had died and there was a girl who was on the run from an abusive relationship. It must have been the beginning of July because everyone had gotten their disability checks and they sprung for a hotel. The four of us spent the night in a cheap motel. A warm bed and a shower the night before my parents arrived.
The next day we all parted ways and I headed to the airport to meet my folks. I spent a week at a nice condo with my parents. We went sightseeing, ate out, and had a great time. I was very happy to see them. At the end of the week we said goodbye. I had decided to go to Flagstaff to look for work. I thought maybe Iíd settle down there. My dad bought me a bus ticket and gave me a hundred dollars.
The northern part of Arizona is like a different world from the dry desert landscape in Tucson. There are forests of huge Ponderosa Pines and you can see the snow capped peaks of the San Francisco Mountains. The cool, crisp air is refreshing even in the summertime at that elevation. I love Arizona. It has so much natural beauty. I wish that someday I could spend some time photographing the different landscapes that I saw while I was there. The mountains and forests in the north and the barren deserts in the south are truly breathtaking.
When I arrived in Flagstaff by bus it was raining. I asked around to find the shelter. It turns out that the Sunshine Gospel Rescue mission is right downtown. When I inquired at the mission, I found out that they were pretty strict about check in times and curfews. I met a father who was traveling with his teenage son. They were checking out the mission as well and at first I thought the father looked a little threatening, but I ended up talking to them and we decided to go in on a hotel room together rather than stay at the mission.
I remember sitting up late talking with them about how suspiciously corrupt our Govít was. Somehow the youngest got a hold of some kind bud and we smoked fueling the dialogue on conspiracy theories. I had my own paranoid thoughts about the Govít, which I rarely shared with others and I do think I kept most of my more outrageous thoughts to myself. Somehow they convinced me to head up to Idaho with them to the Rainbow Gathering. I had already considered going. I had hoped that my brother was going to come out and meet me there, but it was looking as though that wasnít going to happen because his girlfriend was pregnant.
The next morning we packed up our gear and headed to the outskirts of town to hitch a ride north through Utah. I stayed with them for hours as we waited for a ride. Finally we got a ride to Tuba City on the Navajo reservation. For some reason I got cold feet about traveling with them to the Rainbow Gathering. As usual I needed to go it alone and to be alone with God. I also wanted to get back to my original plan which was to settle down in Flagstaff and get a job. So we parted ways amicably, and I hitched a ride back to Flagstaff and the father and son duo headed north.
I caught a ride back to Flagstaff right away, but by the time I got dropped off on the outskirts of town, it had gotten dark and rain clouds were moving in. I went into the forest behind a gas station and began making a shelter from fallen limbs and branches. In a dumpster nearby there were pieces of old carpet remnants that had been torn up that I used to cover my tent made with sticks. I stayed the night in my shelter and I stayed dry and slept well. I thanked the Lord for his provision.
I headed back into town the next day. I decided to stay at the Gospel Rescue mission. I checked in that evening, had a good meal and attended chapel service. Bedtime was early and they were very disciplined and strict about things. After about an hour of trying to lay there and fall asleep, I began to feel panicked about being inside. I got up and asked for my gear and left. I remember asking for and receiving a blanket from a man named Alan Strand, the supervisor who I would meet again at the very same mission years later.
I camped out in the forest for the next three weeks. I worked at Labor Ready, which kept me out of the dumpsters. I put in applications at some other places hoping to land a job that would restore me and help me get my own place. I spent the rest of my time praying and carving my rocks. I also started drawing and making little pieces of art from rocks, feathers, insects. Just about anything interesting that I had found along the path in my travels I collected.
Discouraged because I couldnít find a real job, I guess no one wanted to give a long haired transient like myself a chance, I decided to go home to Maryland to be with my family. I went to sleep in the forest that last night and awoke at like 3 AM. I headed for the I-40 truck stop. It took a few hours, but I eventually got a ride with a trucker. He was a really cool guy. He bought me a meal and a couple packs of cigarettes for which I was grateful. He carried me all the way to Oklahoma and then he was heading north to his destination. He got on his radio at the truck stop he was dropping me off at and asked if anyone could take me further east on I-40, but we got no response, so I set up camp at the truck stop for the night.
The next morning I headed to the exit to catch a ride. I walked along the interstate with my thumb out. I have never seen as many dead animals on the highway as I did on that stretch of I-40. Armadillos, snakes, birds, turtles, there were a lot and I collected Armadillo shells and snake skins to add to my collection of feathers, rocks, and other paraphernalia.
I had no luck hitchhiking that day. I walked until sometime in the late morning when I noticed St. Matthews Catholic church on the other side of the highway and it was Sunday, so I decided to go to church and pray. I went inside and went to the bathroom and changed into the cleanest clothes I had and washed my face. I attended mass and I prayed to God to help me get home. Some people said hi to me, but no one asked a lot of questions, so after mass I went back to the highway to continue my quest to get home.
It was August and extremely hot. At some point, a cop picked me up and took me to a shelter in a town I donít recall. It was a Christian shelter and a welcome relief from the blazing heat of the highway. They gave me food and clothes. I showered and spent the night. I told my hosts the next day that I was eager to get home and one of the guys gave me a ride back to the nearest exit on I-40. I had no luck again for the longest time. I was so desperate for a ride on that scorching strip of highway that I was on my knees at an underpass, Bible in hand, begging and praying for someone to pick me up. EventuallyÖ along came Paul Parker.
I was in Americaís heartland praying for a little mercy and kindness of a stranger and along came Paul with one of his three sons. The Parkerís were good people and I know God sent them for me. Paul picked me up under that bridge I had been praying under for its shade. He was a little bit leery of me at first, but I could tell he had a big heart. He wasnít going very far so I asked him to drop me off at a truck stop where I could try to get a ride further east. I figured that was it. I made a cardboard sign with Baltimore scrawled on it and waited at the eastbound ramp. I waited and waited with no luck. I was there for several hours in the extreme heat. It was getting late in the day when Paul showed up again with his younger son Kyle. They invited me to their home and I accepted.
I spent three days with the Parker family in Oklahoma, Paul, Patty, and their three sons. They were the coolest people. The kids were great, especially their youngest, Kyle. The kids took me to the library and showed me how to use the computer and they took me to the movies and to shoot pool. I am forever grateful to them for their kindness and hospitality. I called my parents and they sent me money for a bus ticket.
So I headed back home.
I hadnít seen most of my family for two years and I was eagerly anticipating the reunion. It was a very long three day trip on the bus, but I met a couple of people and I continued to draw and work on little art projects. This was when I started making collages which would become an obsession for me while I was at home. My brother met me at the bus station with his pregnant girlfriend who I had never met before. I was so glad to see him and so glad to be back home. It was August 2001 and I would be there for about one year before I disappeared from them and got back on the road again for another 2 years.
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