So... I'm raking, weeding, sweeping, painting, and hanging... Wind chimes, a long strand of em, 18 bluebells with sunflowers painted on Sanskirt style. At least 18 angels must be hanging around me as well. I need the cash. I'd found em a week earlier in an alley behind Pescadero Avenue during one of my plastic bottle-aluminum can tours, my main source of income. Okay... It's my only real money maker. Yah... I'm houseless and challenging reality, almost seven years now.

All this stony zen work had bounced my glorious way through Jimbo's friend Crystal. Jimbo is this cat I used to surf with and Crystal is a former neighbor/friend of Jimbo's. She got to know him and his on again, mostly off again stripper girlfriend through the San Diego Police visits to their apartment behind Crystal's place over on Long (Bong) Branch Av.

Jimbo liked to get real drunk and beat his girl and Crystal, who was also an alcoholic became his drinking buddy and a place for him to cool down after the alleged domestic dispute. Later, back in those days we'd catch a sunset surf-sesh down at 'Fence-lines' and in between lip bash's the early 20 something Jimbo would share all the sordid details regarding the make-up sex.

Crystal was over-paying me for the work today but after Jimbo had gotten 86'd when she caught him breaking into her house and raiding her vodka and Cali-Chronic stash, well what can I say, the Lord work's in Obecian ways.

The timing couldn't have been better because I too was being severely challenged by a raiding of another kind. The 'can-game' competition, the beachy 'Blue-Bin' shuffle was growing fierce. An influx of homeless dudes, just like Snow White's 7 inebriated Dwarf's, only grubbier, could literally be heard singing:

"High-Ho, High-Ho... It's off dodging feral cats we go... We'll leave garbage strewn... Morning, night, and noon... High-Ho, High-Ho...

Lately, these dudes had been acting like every alley was a K-mart 'Blue-Light' special. Yes my friends, like sand, reality sifts downward through an hour glass of hope, dreams, and promises of change for everyone these days. I was not getting much aluminum love.

So... Crystal's keeping the bong generously loaded and I fall into a nice So-Cal rhythm of working twenty or so minutes and then taking an hour or two break to play WII Nintendo bowling with her. She's good people and she makes lots of money. Crystal is probably in her mid fifties and very lonely, so the companionship, regardless of the origin is good for her. While obviously the cash really makes eating a lot more pleasant for me.

The ocean's tide come's in, goes out and as I'm finishing up I get this 'Rasta' inspired idea to paint an old broken skateboard that Jimbo had left behind. She had some neon paints and I had the time. That's basically how urban art happens. Crystal had recently bought a little Jack Russell terror and the little girl was pooping everywhere. She's getting tired of putting her out in the front yard as punishment because she's digging holes and trying to slip under the fence.

There was a small concrete patch in the yard that I surround with some white wire fence I found in her garage. Of course I'm pretty stony now and after giving it some orange-green-red and yellow swipes I print-paint 'Grrr...acies Penalty Box' across it. I find a stake, a drill, and holy tune in, drop out Batman, my imagination has gotten the best of me. There it sits, stuck in a corner of front yard.

Crystal likes it. She thinks it's funny and a good way to train Gracie. I break her high score on WII bowling. She kicks my ass in baseball, pays me and I'm gone.

About a week later, touched by the woman's authenticity (their is a lot of this in OB) I go back just to say hello and maybe getta a game of WII.

Crystal has had a rough day. First she spilled coffee all over these important reports. Then she left her cell phone at the office and Blah, blah, blah... When you aren't holding on to much of anything, these 'problems' can surreally bewilder you. I'm searching myself for empathy when suddenly a bong magically appears from nowhere like Aladdin's Lamp. Gurgle... Gurgle... Gurgle... And just when I'm finding some compassion Crystal adds,

    "And on top of all that Free, I get home today and Gracie's pooped all over the couch.  So I am spanking her and then I go to put her in the penalty box and this, this, bitch walking by says that she's calling animal control because of that damn sign you painted."

I'm nodding, half listening, and half giving her the casually amused look like the 'Dude' from the Big LeBowski. I make the only suggestion I can think of.

"You wanna play some WII?"

Crystal starts crying and by now I seriously need another rip. Obviously I'm not understanding something. Meanwhile Gracie's still in the Penalty Box. Crystal's forgotten about her as we both barely hear over a vicious pint-sized snarling,

"Anyone home?"

Gracie's trying to rip a limb off of the city's Animal Control policeman, a pet detective is now standing outside the house. Gracie, perhaps 'Hogan's Heroes' inspired, is tunneling, digging furiously to escape the clearly inhumane confines of the Penalty Box.

I can't believe it and I can! Stressed out Normals turning in other stressed out Normals, Neighbors! Good citizens! Bringing the Storm-Troopers into your business, all KGB beach-town style. Another up and coming reality show called, 'F%*# Your Neighbor'. As this is all running through my mind I hop off the couch, ROUSTED, and I Keystone Cop the stashing of the bong. Spillage... A Cover-up...

Crystal walks outside crying and explains her day: the poop on the couch, the coffee spill, the cell phone... To high to join in, care, or even fathom whats happening.(It's all my fault) I watch from the window like a psycho Mr. Bates, a lerker, listening to the gold badged mundane rapport. Surprisingly, this Storm-Trooper has a sense of humour.

"This is ridiculous...", he says. He laughs at the sign, shakes his head and I can hear him asking himself,

"Hmmm... Deal or No Deal tonight?"

Seeing that it's all going to work itself out I find a Nestle Crunch bar on the coffee table and start munching. Crystal walks in and says,

"Youuuuuu... Free, the worst day of my life and now you're eating my Nestles?"

"Well... I... uh..."

I watch Crystal walk into her bedroom and close the door. I take one last nostalgic look around and wonder where the last six years have gone. I smile, and I 'm about to go out the screen door when I suddenly remember that I've recently found a small piece of jade in my travels. I pull it out of my pocket and place it on Crystal's kitchen counter. I slowly walk away, back into the OB darkness. Ocean Beach, San Diego... Six Sunny Miles Surrounded by a Salty Reality...

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