Samson Johnson got up early to ride his black mountain bicycle from his home on 8th street up  to the north side of town. When his friend Sam Casalte had told him he had become a believer, Samson felt something deep inside that made him want the same for him and his wife Tilly Johnson (his high school sweetheart).

About a year after Casalte became a believer, Samson and his wife began attending the same church as their friend, the former detective.

Samson loved riding his bicycle everywhere in Stockton and it was a relief from all the time at his job digging through the sewer pipes at his job. At least he could pedal around, instead of smelling the raw disgust of the job. Don’t get him wrong, Samson loved being able to provide for his wife and family, but he had no intention of staying in the position he had digging through pipes all day, coming home smelling foul. The pay was great, but he knew he should apply for the supervisor position, doing this grunt work since graduating high school. He was qualified.

Riding through town he knew when to cross certain streets. There were sections of sidewalk that had too many rough patches, too many bumps and potholes. Also, growing up in Stockton, there were sections of area that he knew were infested with drug addicts and trouble. He avoided certain places at his morning 6 am bike ride. This was Samson’s day off, he didn’t want drama for this morning. Just smooth rides.

Samson always divided his route in sections. From his home on 8th street to Charter Way was one. Section two was from Charter Way to Miner. Section three was Miner to Harding Way, and Harding Way to March Lane was the final point. Then he would turn around and head back home. Roughly seven miles give or take. His sports buddies said that was foolish to be riding a bicycle that early in the morning, but Samson liked the exercise.

As he grew spiritually in the things of Christ, he read his bible verses. Him and Casalte would go back and forth quoting scripture verses. Samson would say a part of the bible quote, to see if his friend knew the other end of the scripture. It was cool to have a friend who he grew up with, going to church too. His co-worker couldn’t relate to half the things he spoke about now, since everything was about a bible verse or how it reflects in terms of spiritual discernment. Samson rode on through Weber, passing his father’s old fishing spot. He never could understand how his dad caught fish in that nasty water. It looked polluted at best. But his pops continued to fish that downtown waterways for years.

It was 6:25 am, when he hit Miracle Mile. A side of town blessed with boutiques, small businesses, and other shops. But being so early in the morning, nothing was open yet.

Out from behind him, the whisper of a voice called out to Samson.

“Say Black! What up?!” says the voice

Samson is cautious, but aware of his surrounding.

He continues to ride on.

“You gonna stop Black!, you gonna dis me like that, huh?” the voice continues on. The sound of a bicycle is behind him. Samson realizes it is someone he kn0ws.

Samson stops. The pedaling gets closer to him.

He looks at the person calling him. He realizes it is an old classmate from elementary school. Jerry Livinston.

But something is wrong.

Jerry Jones 5th grade class president. Jerry Livinston, the middle class kid, winner of Hazelton Elemetary School spelling bee. That same Jerry Jones. Is a thin, skeleton of a junkie now. Pedaling his bike towards Samson f0r nearly  a block.

“You got a bubble you want to sell me?” Jerry Livinston.

“Hey, no sorry Jerry. Sorry I didn’t recognize you. How long’s it been man?

27 years No man, I don’t use man”

“What you doing down here at 6’clock riding a bike past Harding Way. Telling me you ain’t got nothing to sell me! C’mon dude! Stop playing like that. I followed you almost two blocks an yuse got nothing. ” Jerry  Livinston spits out angry, biting words of an addict.

“I got something better than any drug, Jerry. I got living water. You aren’t gonna thirst any more.”

“Get outta ma face with that nonsense man!” Jerry  begins to cuss Samson out.

Samson tries to tell him the gospel,but Jerry Livingstone rides off.

Samson rides on his mountain bike back on his journey with the Lord, praying for the soul of his former friend.

 

A knocking at Mid-Day

April 11, 2016

Samuelito “Lito” Arroyo knocks on Pastor Rodger Jr’s door and the preacher welcomes him to sit down.

Pastor Rodger notices a very visible black eye, but tries to get beyond it. Lito had knocked another man out in a fight a day earlier.  The circumstance was confusing to say the least, but the man of God leaned on the Word, when he was counseling others, especially men he knew very little about, whom knocked on his office door on a Monday mid-morning visit.

As he listened to the details about the fight, all that flooded his thoughts were of the scripture from Philippians 4:8.

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

The Holy Spirit kept downloading that verse into his spirit as he listened to the “disrespect” Lito was dealt with. Lito exchanged those foul words of his opponent with a discussion with his fists, elbows, and kicks outside the grocery store parking lot. He ran off before the police got on the scene. Officer Melecio Elustrado had gotten the dispatch, but only a knocked down man was laying on the ground when the cops arrived.

Lito didn’t want to hear the pastor’s advice to turn himself in and do the time for the crime, even if the man was only hurt. Lito walked out of the preacher’s office with no shame at the assault he had committed. Pastor Rodger silently  prayed as Lito walked off smiling.

 

 

 

 

 

There was much to say and so little time. Billy Jasila still didn’t get the answer he wanted from his interviewee. But he knew that he shouldn’t press the issue with someone willingly volunteering their time for free to shove a voice recorder in front of their face. He was gracious that things as a freelance podcaster went this smoothly this month. No crazy arguments or getting cussed at by folks who thought his show was lame and foolish. Billy didn’t care, this was just as much his time as the guests he would wrangle week after week. Why did he do this show, he wasn’t even getting paid for it. Was it for the sheer joy of independent journalism or some other high minded goal of improving society. It definitely wasn’t a wrestling or movie review program, but it wasn’t Masterpiece Theater either.

The interview now complete. He thanked the city council woman for her time, and began to pack his equipment back up, heading to the bus stop.

He hated waiting for the bus. A full grown man waiting for the bus. It was hot too. Too hot to wait in line for a bus that would take 45 minutes to come to this stop.

But he stood there in the sun, sweat dripping off his forehead.

Waiting at the bus stop, he had a million thoughts in his mind.
Things were quite baffling for Billy when it came to interviewing people, especially public officials, local politicians, or even the occasional rapper who wanted to promote his latest digital download. Billy thought about the days of actual music he could hold in his hand. Not the loud noise and cuss words blaring from a phone or out the car speaker from an mp3 file. The actual cds, cassette tapes, or even the old vinyl he loved collecting. Everything was a 99¢ online download now. Billy often thought of the days of mixed tapes, and how he missed his cassette tape collection, yet there was no modern day equivalent in this digital age.

For Clyde Perry, he never saw the women of his life as notches on his belt nor conquests to be had, but merely women he was fortunate to spend a little time spending with. There was much to be learned, much things to be thankful for, namely that with all the women he slept with, not one STD amongst the 57.

When he told his buddy Sam Lirenzos this, Sam merely laughed it off and could not believe such fables.

When Clyde Perry was 29 years old, he was taking his truck down towards Livingston to pick up some haul for a local grocer. On his way there, he had a few hours to kill, so he decided to stop by the local Turlock college campus and get a soda.

As he sits in the lobby of the drama theater drinking his soda, a cute Japanese co-ed walks by smiling at him and sits at the chair across from him.

Clyde Perry is a no good dog.

He smiles back at her and she returns the favor.

Within a half hour of this exchange, Clyde Perry finds out her name is Haruka Akamatsu, she is 21 years old and from a small village 80 kilometers outside of Tokyo. She is a foreign exchange student who has traveled to CSU Turlock to study International Business, and will return to her family’s fishing business when she graduates.

He asks Haruka if she wants to show him a tour of the campus, which she complies. After a 20 minute tour of the small college, he asks if he could see her dorm area. They sit in the living room area and begin to watch a video on his phone. Clyde Perry gets a phone call from his girlfriend in West Virginia, but he swipes left to ignore the call, and the two new “friends” share a movie on his phone.

One thing leads to another, and an 75 minutes later, he has accomplished his task with another young woman. Giving and receiving temporary pleasures to cover up emotional hurts and pains.

As an older man recalling this tale to the local pastor, the preacher is outright disgusted at Clyde Perry’s lack of shame nor remorse at what was just described.

It would take much time, and discipleship for Clyde Perry to learn to be a man after God’s own heart. Instead of carnal flesh.

Oracion Pasig loved to dance. When she was just 8 years old, her mother enrolled her in ballet lessons at the dance studio near her
house.

Everyday after school, she would do pirouettes in her room along with other moves she learned in dance class that
week.

When she got older after college her life long dream of becoming a ballet dancer in the Rosevelt San Francisco Dance company was slowly coming true.

She was excited at the news that she would be a part of the troupe, she told her boyfriend Roger Daniels the news over
the phone. That night they would go to dinner to celebrate.

On the way home from dinner, all laughs and happiness at the good news they drove home at 10:47 pm.

On the road, Roger turns on his music. Oracion is looking at his reflection through the glass automobile window.
She is at peace with the world. Their car passes Nethco department store, where her cousin Agapito Elustrado worked.
He turns to her and says “Rae-rae, you did it babe. I don’t know why you doubted. I always.” With one hand on the steering wheel, the
other hand gently caresses her arm. He puts both hands back on the wheel to go back to driving.

oracion thinks about the traveling the Rosevelt group would go. The dancers performed all around the entire world. From Beijing to Moscow, London, and everywhere
in between. She thinks about being a little girl in her room performing for her stuffed animals. Her parents would walk into her mid-performance and
Oracion didn’t care. She would continue dancing away.

Roger looks at the road ahead.

“I love u Rae-rae, you know that. The momemt I first saw you dancing on stage at that one thing 4 years ago when we were freshman.” Roger is trying to remember the name of the
fundraiser.

Oracion rolls down the window, the crisp cold air hits her face. “I know.”

Roger grins. “Hey, can you open up the glove compartment and get the envelope?”

Oracion gets the thin white envelope out and just looks at it.

“What is it?”

“Open it.”

“What is it?” She says again.

Roger persuades her to open the envelope.
As she proceeds to use her key chain mini-pocket knife to open the envelope, she 90% knows what that circular object is. She is horrified that
Roger is proposing to her, not now. Not when her career is about to take off. Can’t he wait until 3 years down the road, when things get a bit more established and her foundation is more rock solid?

She is silent though.
“Oracion Julia Pasig, what do you say? Will you marr…..”

A set of semi-truck high beams and the blast of a truck horn blasts out towards the young couple in love. And then total blackness. Oracion never even got
the chance to hear Roger’s full proposal.
Darkness.
She opens her eyes slowly and sees the ceiling tiles. Everything is sore. Her head hurts, she wants 10 billion ibuprofen to stop the pain. A nurse approaches her bed.
Oracion Pasig calls out to Roger. The nurse looks at her with sympathy and runs to get the doctor. She slowly reaches for the hospital bed cover and painfully removes the
blanket.
In horror, she sees that her left leg is gone.
It had been amputated below the knee.
The doctor tries to explain that she and her fiancee had been in a terrible truck driving accident. The semi-truck
operator had been sleep deprived and ran head long into her and Roger. Oracion is screaming in agony. She calls out to Roger, but the nurse and doctor
are trying to calm her down.

Roger didn’t make it. He died instantly.
Oracion is quiet now.

She feels guilty for not answering his proposal. She was selfish in that last instance of his life.
Thinking only of herself and career as a balerina. Now that future is gone, aloneside the only love of her life.
The doctor and nurse leave her room after she becomes quiet. The stun and shock of it all.

In the next few hours, her family and friends trickle in to visit. But Oracion is silent.

She thinks only of the what ifs in her mind. Even as her mother talks to her, her thoughts are elsewhere.

Things become bitter inside.

The days become weeks/

Even with hospital visits from loved ones. Oracion still faces those lonely days and angry nights.
She looks down ocassionally at her stump.
She cries and cries.

In the 15 years since that tragic accident, Oracion Pasig became a bitter woman. She gave up on her dream of becoming a professional dancer and became a angry 5th grade teacher in a local elementary school. She had to survive, it was grueling being her student. All the pain she felt that night losing her boyfriend Roger, her leg, and her love of dancing went out a symbolic 50 story apartment window in one moment.

There have been major improvements to prosthetic legs since her first fitting, but she still limped wherever she went. Going to work as a teacher was a chore. She hated the four walls, it was her prison cells with nagging kids that smelled weird and made too much noise. Every part of her remaining body still hurt. Every thought and feeling in her heart and mind wanted to just crawl into a hole and die with Roger. But she had to pay bills, rent, cover costs of the medical bills, all these years later.

All her students called her limping Lucy behind her back. Children can be the cruelest of all creatures when they  know they will get away with it.

Her cousin Agapito tried to encourage her with weekly visits, but she drowned every free moment away from the classroom in Jack Daniels whiskey and soda. She never was one for beer.

How could this happen to her? Oracion would repeat over and over in her mind. She had everything going for her, and in an instant, all taken away.

One day, a young student with a note goes to the the classroom door. The smiling little girl looks at her new teacher and tells her good morning.

Oracion looks at the little girl and thinks that this kid looks just like her when she was a little girl. That same little girl who loved to dance and be full of joy. Her new student Isabella Fidelis takes her seat at the first open desk and listens intently to her teacher. Being in the fifth grade is a grand experience for Isabella Fidelis.

The teacher tells the young students to open their books to page 158.

Oracion Pasig is a miserable human being at this moment in her life. What she doesn’t realize is that Isabella is gonna lead her to Christ by the end of the school year.

The student is happy and all smiles being in a new school. Making new friends.

 

 

 

 

 

Fat City Lumpia

March 21, 2016

 

Reggie and Marina Elustrado had started their business small. First inside of their kitchen table, then a food cart on weekends, up to their own
small restaurant on the southside of Stockton.El Dorado, one on the upper north side on Pacific and one towards Victory Park.

Things had been very successful for the couple, but it took much planning and hard work.

Cassandra & Siobhan Elustrado were enjoying their coffees. The young women thought of their time as children, playing and enjoying playing  outside. For the young twenty-something women, those moments were hidden treasures now. Now, these two ambitious souls had careers and such to look on. Siobhan had been planning her wedding for nearly 3 months, while Cassandra was so busy working at the television station as a news reporter, she had no thought of relationships. For a woman covered nearly entirely in tattoos, she managed to achieve her dream job of reporting for the local station. Her cousin never quite understood Cassandra’s obsession with television news, most everyone on her generation hardly watched tv, it was an old person hobby. Every one of her age, got their news/entertainment on demand, via phone or tablet. Not passively watching a box in the living room  like her mom or step dad.

eternal Bliss

March 10, 2016

You bring me
Joy Unspeakable, eternal Bliss
Contentment
Words will not do when
I’m really, truly in your presence
Devoid of distractions or guilt
All the days of my life
is this feeling of wholeness
when I run to You

Plastic Gods and Mangoes

March 10, 2016

Plastic Gods and Mangoes

The plastic gods of Visa and mastercard

Tried to be my masters
Ruled my soul, pocket books, every drop
of sweat from brow, went to feed the
altars of the plastic gods

For way too long…

While the times
went by

A wasteful transactions
Consumerism of everything not bolted
down

Buying time
Wasting lives

To pay these digital debt scolders
Leaving no peaceful soliloquies

Reaping

March 9, 2016

Reaping

Anger & frustations
at what I had done

Consequences that will last a
lifetime

People says that these experiences

will mold me into your image

Yet my carnal self

Cannot see the vison You
attempt to
present me
Needing You more and more

Help Me Lord!
not only with prosperity
but with power, strength, and grace.

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