How she found us I have no idea, but what was exceedingly clear was Ray's reaction to the sight of her van. He resembled a child meeting his mother at the airport or as though he had seen a friend who’d gone missing years before emerge from a volcano!
Based on his reaction the night before (“I’m sooo glad to be out of that fucking van!”), it was not the reaction one would expect. Watching him scamper like a Dune Deer across the sand toward her van, after Saturday’s repeated declarations, snapped things clearly into focus. He was presumably going to see what she wanted but I had seen enough to know what HE wanted.
By now, I knew the drill: this would take awhile. I held out hope that he would return announcing that Karen had continued on her way, so in the meantime I began my first video update for the blog. Ray was in Karen’s van long enough for me to shoot several takes- each 4-6 minutes long.
An interesting conversation sprouted when he aptly used my words against me and asked, “What about seeing Karen as part of the experience?” Well, shit.
To retort, I asked why it was that he could not just tell her to move along and catch up later. With an unmistakably desperate look in his eye he quietly yet emphatically answered, “Man, she’s got my Kryptonite!”
Apparently, Karen had THE thing that he seemed to acknowledge owned him: pot. "Great!" I thought. I came to California thinking I had found someone with whom to explore ideas; someone with depth, insight and a commitment to something larger than life. Instead, I found the unholy spawn of Spicoli, Sally Struthers..., and The Sham-Wow Guy?
Ray insisted it would only be for breakfast in her van and implied that we would not be leaving the beach, so I finally (and fatefully) relented.
I should have stayed in the sand. As soon as we were back at the van, rather than “cooking right there” we were climbing in to "find a level spot”…and then toward town to “find water”.
Oh, fuck NO! I was NOT going to be part of yet another scavenger hunt encompassing the greater Monterey metropolitan area. And, voice shaking and quickly rising, I told her so. We had barely gone ¼ mile at this point when Karen said something that still astounds me today, “Todd, maybe it’s time you and I should part company.”
Say it aint so!
At this point, my temper was in charge and had released the Kraken: the obnoxious radio-guy, whose job is verbally attacking everything Karen said, deserved or not. When she asked me where I would like to be dropped off, I said I didn’t give a damn; I had food, water, and two-feet… “Wanna drop me in the middle of a field? Go the fuck ahead!”
Naturally, Ray just sat there. I did hear him say, “Aww, come on dude…” in a tone implying that perhaps I was out of line. Maybe, but, why exactly was I here again? All of this over the course of just another ¼ mile. This was to be quite the legendary ½ mile!
When I finally calmed down and resumed civility, I asked Karen to drop me at McDonalds. I told Ray that I would wait while I charged my phone and if “breakfast” took all day, would just meet him back at the dune. Ray had that now-familiar, embarrassed, timid, expression on his face when (addressing Karen because Ray isn’t “allowed” to use a phone) I said, “If something changes, call and let me know so I’m not sitting around waiting for a ghost.” Taking the totality of everything into account, I felt justified in my frustrations and figured they would just spend the next few hours getting high, or whatever, and we would move on from there.
I returned to the dune only to discover someone had pitched a tent on it in the middle of the day! No matter. I was content to read & write until Ray returned. I had to laugh when, on the return walk I discovered that the bike trail just yard from our campsite was actually part of the California Coastal Trail-- the trail running the length of California that he was interested in learning about. Six-hours after the McDonalds Meltdown, the sun was plummeting with no sign of Ray or call from Karen. As the afternoon progressed, while I found it inconceivable how ANYONE could do it, let alone Ray, it increasingly seemed likely I had been ditched! I refused to accept it because I thought Ray was a decent person, and I had left half of my food with him! He wouldn’t have lured me 1,000 miles (have I mentioned that?) only to ditch me at a McDonalds and steal my food… would he?
My girlfriend saw the writing on the wall long before me, and implored that I call Karen to get confirmation AND... my food! Muttering, “What kind of piece of shit does this?” I called and predictably got no answer. Leaving an obnoxious message requesting my food, I began to process what was likely happening, and needless to say, I was pissed but not to the degree one might think!
Through the day, I’d had time to reflect and write. Many previously unnoticed indicators now poked me in the eye; things beginning the moment I had arrived in Cambria. I sensed them, but was not interested because I wanted to believe both his published hype, and the narrative I had published in my mind. Nevertheless, when my call went to voice mail, reality struck and I became mobilized.
I had lost a full day needlessly waiting around, and now needed to find a spot to sleep. I began gathering information on buses and trains in the event I decided to bail out. What was the point in being out here now? Then the phone rang. It was Karen returning my call. In a happy, matter-of-factly tone, she told me that Ray had left my food in a plastic bag on the dune we occupied the night before.
Remember the tent? There was a plastic bag sitting next to it all day long, but I paid no attention assuming it belonged to whoever was inside. Seeing that the tenters had left it when they had gone, I trekked over to see that it was indeed my grub. I also now realized that, knowing my whereabouts, they must have dropped it off almost immediately after leaving McDonalds so Ray would not have to deal with me face-to-face.
Karen, ridiculously, claimed that Ray had left a note with it, but of course there was nothing but food. What would he have said in a note? That he found the consideration to leave a "Dear Todd" was, and still is, pathetically laughable! With any integrity, conviction, or belief in his actions, Ray would have held his head high, looked me in the eye, and severed ties in person.
As Chris has astutely pointed out, I can handle anything as long as I know where things stand. After his "kryptonite" comment, I probably would have just written it off, wished him well, and maybe asked for a ride out of Monterey! Had he treated me like an adult and shown consideration for the fact I had come out here to see him, I would have held some respect for Ray. Instead, he chose to drop my food in the sand, run away, hide behind Karen, and leave it to his 60-something year-old caretaker to both lie about "the note" and act as his over-the-phone hatchet man.
To this point, we'd had no apparent problems whatsoever, and even if we HAD, an 4-year old knows that this NOT how you treat people. Sure, I had acted far from perfectly, and perhaps I should have dealt with Karen differently, but THAT merits a lack of common, basic decency? It would seem that a man feeling truly justified in his actions, and one with the morality he's staked a claim to in newspapers, would have walked into McDonald's with his head high; setting an new example to go with his old-story by walking a quick & simple yet honorable & noble path. A path that required the "Courage of his Convictions."
Instead, Ray chose the coward's route: slinking away either out of guilt or to avoid unpleasantness. In retrospect, "why" matters little after-the-fact, and becomes little more than a run-of-the-mill excuse... and you know what they say about those?
“Since he’s doing this for charity, [Ray] thinks that your behavior was inappropriate and doesn’t reflect well.”They abandoned me "for charity!"
Bwaaaaaahahaha! I wondered: What exactly was so criminally "inappropriate" about my behavior, and how would that reflect on his "charity" as compared to, say, perpetual pot smoking? Which reflects more poorly? Ray never conveyed to me that my "behavior" was abhorrent, and was in fact playing along, so I never asked if this was in fact what he thought. Rather than rendering immediate judgment and offering an instant "fuck you," I instead offered a final opportunity to regain command of his vocal cords, and the story, via an email sent that night:
Todd The official Karen verion (sic) of what happened is that you decided to move on because "youre doing this for charity and my behavior doesnt relect (sic) well" or something similar. Is that accurate? Are these your words or Karen's? I thought things were ok with you and I and was looking forward to things. If I was wrong, at least say so to my face; dont dump my food in the dirt then hide behind an old woman. If Im missing something, Id like to know... Sent via Facebook MobileI never received a reply. Yet, a few weeks later, I got an immediate answer when I emailed about his passion: W.R. Hearst and Cannabis legislation!
Hearing Karen’s reply, I adopted her uber-obnoxiously friendly tone, wished her well, and that was it. Things quickly reverted to habit, and I climbed up some higher dunes, made camp, and stumbled toward Monday and beyond. I was back within my familiar comfort-zone, what bothered me the most was my faulty judgment, the lack of principle as compared to the marketed rhetoric... and being in Monterey!