It Never Rains in Southern California. . .

We left San Francisco Wednesday on a cold, rainy morning; arrived to a balmy, sunny Los Angeles afternoon.

It was great to be back in the City, and surprisingly great to hang out with our Area. We have all gotten pretty tight and it was fun having a staff of 13 and only 14 youth. The first two days of programming went amazingly well; since I’m alumni, I got to be on the acting team, which meant doing Club, leading meals, and getting to go out in the community with the kids. They were a fantastic group — quite young, some only going into 8th grade — but by last night they had all opened up, loosened up, and grown up quite a bit. It was cool to see that change in them, and it got me excited about hanging with 8 more groups of high schoolers this summer.

I got to go to the Food Program both Monday and Tuesday. Walked into the office Monday morning to see Dean and Seamus sitting at the table! I thought they were both gone for good, since I didn’t see either of them last summer and Judy was weird about their whereabouts. Turns out they went on a 7-month bike trip to Northern California on the advice of some guy who told them about a great town — but Dean said when they got there, they realized it was “the armpit of California.” So they put Mijah back in her basket, hopped back on their bikes, and came home to the Haight. But anyway, it was great to see them; they told me they’d get me a job at the Food Program and said they were happy I was thinking about coming out there for good, since they tried, unsuccessfully, to kidnap me before. I talked with Judy a bunch — she’s still wonderful Judy — and hung out with Keith on Tuesday, trying to do damage control on both sides for a group of youth and adult leaders that just weren’t getting it. I don’t know if YW is going to continue to work at the Program — it takes a lot of effort to make that place work for us, and it can cause many headaches. But if a group does get it, and they usually end up getting it, it is an amazing place for them to be. I also realized that not being in San Francisco again with YW was absolutely the right decision for me this summer. I got really ticked when the group wasn’t enjoying the Haight — I took it personally, that they weren’t even giving it a chance — this place that has meant so much to me, has changed my life, has changed so many lives. They said they didn’t feel like they were doing anything to serve, and I’m like, who are you to judge what service is? If they would sit on the perimiter of that dining room for 10 minutes, they would get more out of it than if they worked for 10 days at any other “urban ministry.” So I don’t know, we’ll see what Ross and Carissa decide to do, since it’s their show this year. I was happy to be there for a few days, and solidify (as if I need to) the feeling that San Francisco is a place where I need to be.

So now we’re back, with a few days to detox and get settled before our first group comes. I feel ready. We’re a complete team — we picked up Becky from SFO Friday, and she’s great. She’s 24, teaches ESL at an elementary school in Fort Collins, did YW in West Virginia two years ago, and is an incredible guitar player — we’re both excited to play together a lot this summer. And, in this small YW world, we realized that we both went to the same site, the same summer (Welch, WV, 1999) for our first YW trip. I’m happy to be sharing a 15×20 room with her for the next 2 months. Nadine is coming here Friday to help us finish everything up, and will be here for our whole first week, which will be fun.

One thing I really love so far about LA is the weather. In the mornings it is always dreary and smoggy. Then it gets crazy hot during the day, sunny and gorgeous. Then at night, it cools down so you need to take a sweatshirt if you go anywhere. It’s pretty much perfect.

I finally got down to Skid Row last week before we left for San Francisco. I was floored, to say the least. It was the craziest thing I’ve ever seen — whole blocks packed with people, blocks lined on both sidewalks with tent after tent set up. And I felt uncomfortable — very uncomfortable — going to the Haight this week just reaffirmed that. There’s something different here (or maybe something different there) that is going to take some getting used to. But it’s a learning experience, and if I really do want to pursue some kind of homeless ministry/public service/soup kitchen type thing, I’ve got some learning to do. Carl, the homeless guy that hangs out in the ampitheatre outside our church (where we’re going to have Club) is also a part of it — I went out to talk to him last week, and felt uncomfortable, like I didn’t want to be there. I think it was because he was so close to home — before, I could go hang in the Haight, then go back to my nice church in the Mission to live and eat and be safe and happy and removed. But here, it’s in your face, it’s in your back yard — literally. So, it is going to be a challenge, but a good one.

We went out to Santa Monica last nite; it’s weird how close all these “famous” places are to us, but they are all their separate cities, communities, everything, and none of them are in LA proper. The 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica is quite interesting — a combination of St. George Street in St. Augustine and Walnut Street in Shadyside. There are lots of ritzy shops, movie theatres, coffee places, street performers doing Beatles and Hendrix and Dylan covers, and a plethora of homeless people camped out on benches and fancy fountains. We also went down to the Pier, kind of a cheesy amusement park/carnival, but there was beach access, so we walked along there for a while and I dipped my toes in the Pacific. It felt quite symbolic to be in front of the Pacific Ocean again. The last time I saw it was with Jut in Big Sur last summer, and the last time I was actually init was my San Francisco YW summer. So it felt good to be back but in a different place, still carrying both those things with me, but in different capacities.

Made our first Costco run of the summer today. Spent $873.90 — not bad, considering we had nothing here, and even though we only have 25 people to feed next week, we have to buy bulk. It only took about 2 hours, and was fairly stress-free. A good start, for sure.

We went to this awesome warehouse in Hollywood this afternoon that gave me a new appreciation for that poor rundown part of town. A guy from our church is the warehouse manager at Grosch Scenic Rentals, a company that has been making backdrops for movies, commercials, concerts, etc for 60-some years. They used to do work for Walt Disney when his studio was in Hollywood; they made and still rent out the beach backdrop used in Jaws; they are currently working on backdrops for Eminem’s fall tour and wallpaper at the Cheesecake Factory. So I think we’re going to take the kids there for an evening activity, show them a little about Old Hollywood.

Becky and I went to the Y to play beauty shop this afternoon — we took long, leisurley showers and even used the blow dryers there to dry our hair. Then we drove around Burbank for a bit and finally decided to eat at a good Mexican place called the Green Cactus — I ate a burrito the size of my head, and it was delicious.

So, I’m going to go downstairs to post this (finally, it’s like a 3-day-long entry) and then come up to jam a bit with Becky, get to bed early, and enjoy my last day of freedom tomorrow — probably celebrate with a trip to Amoeba. . .

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