By Amy Hall
About two weeks ago, I did it.
I finally shot myself out of the LA cannon sailing straight for San Diego. Ten long years was spent clawing and scratching my way through to my goals in the Music Industry. I had a nervous breakdown just to end up taking a good long hard look at who Amy was becoming, in the mirror, in my room, at Motel 6. My two dogs and I were through with rat race and struggle.
Last March I had been invited to perform in a showcase where I was the headliner for major and Indie Label Reps. Yet I decided to turn my highly successful anticipated outcome hour of opportunity in to a benefit concert for Victims of Domestic Violence. All front door ticket sales, my autographed guitar, a donated Lords of Dogtown skateboard and a few articles from my several wardrobe changes’ proceeds were all donated immediately following the benefit concert. Every penny went to the representative from a local charity in Burbank that helps Victims of Domestic Violence to include women, children and men.
I have always believed that as an artist of any kind you are given a great gift. “The gift”, is one to be shared with those that do not have your talents and therefore; you must simply “give back”. An artist’s platform becomes power in great responsibility.
However; the Music Industry that night did not see it my way and instead of applauding my efforts for helping a cause very painful and personal to me and many others I knew, I was shunned.
Suddenly I was out of the loop of the Big Wigs who could have launched my music career forward at the speed of light. Although I was celebrated for my good intentions by my fans, the local press and the general public, I felt frustrated.
I finally saw the truth of why so many other artists, singers and songwriters have marched to the beat of their own drums. Now a year after the concert, I was in Mira Mesa living in a bedroom with my two mutts and scrubbing toilets for a living. With fifteen accumulated years of housekeeping behind me and a dead in the water lifeless me, I surrendered my only other guitar to the pawn shop in Poway. There were just too many bills I had to catch up on and I knew I would also be starting life completely over, again.
A month and a half upon my arrival in Mira Mesa, I was kindly asked to relinquish my room for a family member who was coming home from the VA Hospital in Utah. I was given a one week notice and with a positive attitude, was sure I would find someone with a huge heart to take Marley, Pepe and myself into their home on a temporary basis. By the end of that week, no offers came forth. I packed up my little Saturn with whatever would fit and my Marine Corps survival training kicked in immediately.
Having served almost twenty three years earlier as a Firefighter on the Crash Crew, I knew this short homeless stint would be a piece of cake. But where would I go?
Only one answer came to mind, Dog Beach. I rationalized that summer was coming; my dogs had all ready fallen in love with their own sandy paradise, so it seemed logical.
What a change! Where tension and stress had become an everyday routine, three weeks later, my senses were awakening to breathe in peace, harmony, tranquility and real life. I had stumbled upon a town with down to earth real everyday people. Pretentiousness and narcissism were miles away somewhere from where I was standing.
A town on the beach sprinkled with “to thine own self be true”, and steeped in its unique grounded appreciation of human and animal life, had instantly won me over. Some might define the aforementioned expressions to be contributed to a throwback to the 60’s. All my forty three years I have had a nagging feeling I did not belong in this present era. I finally had a place I could call home. Even if it was going to be using the beach public restrooms, at least I had a huge backyard for my dogs and my piece of mind.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not bashing LA.
For a time, it served a purpose. Yet there is something very different going on here in OB.
Perhaps it is the ocean so close by reminding the locals and visitors alike of a calm and powerful nature. Some are hippies here and others, yuppies. Of course, there is also your generation X and all that follow.
What fascinates me is the initiative these good people of OB take in keeping it peaceful. Sure, I’ve seen my fair share of disagreements, found myself involved in the smack dab middle of religious discussions and even witnessed a drunk vagrant in handcuffs singing at the top of his lungs, “oh what a wonderful world” as if he was Louis Armstrong in the flesh. As one very willing interviewee who was a yearly returning visitor and a combat videographer so eloquently put it, “people here are dignified.” I wondered privately if that was the key to keeping the peace here in OB.
I took my own self guided tour with Marley and Pepe right by my side this past week all around OB. Two weeks in to a new chapter of Amy, I stopped off at a few of the local pubs. Most of the local bars allow dogs on their patios.
In LA, you will be lucky if you can reach over the balcony to give Fido a pat on the head whilst he sits on the busy dirty sidewalk avoiding foot traffic.
I spoke with amazing people who had their own interesting stories to share. Marley, Pepe and I listened intently. One woman whom I recognized from my family’s outing at the OB Farmer’s Market, gifted me with a hand crafted copper ring. The stone inside the ring was a purple heart. Her retail value was a mere $15. I felt honored that she would have given me such a priceless item because I had no money to pay for what I easily thought should have been double. She was homeless and had only asked for a cigarette in return. We stood and conversed for a while as I inquired how she had actually made her jewelry. I wondered as we parted if her craft was more of a passion in which to hone her talent or more a matter of ensuring her street living survival.
Upon further curious research, I became a great fan of the jungle. The Jungle Java, that is. The staff is really cool. Jeff and the crew always greet me with charm, wit, and a very heartfelt welcome and yes, dog biscuits. Some days, I wake up earlier than the crows to watch the surfers rise and fall in the flow of the sea. Like the skaters here, they too are a breed all of their own.
As I said, there have been many interesting conversations so far here in OB. A local photographer who merely introduced himself as “Michael” enlightened me on the issue with last year’s potential removal of the fire pits down by Dog Beach. My floppy eared furry characters and I have been to the fire pits approximately five or six times and we are in heaven. A bag of marshmallows in hand, we politely approach each blazing fire pit to ask if we may join. So far, no one has argued with my genuine offer of a bag of marshmallows. Then again, who could refuse?
Life is good now in OB. I mean really good. We are still living in our car while I continue to do the housekeeping. Thankfully, all those jobs have been at the homes of dog lovers. I am beginning to regain my sanity from the experiences even in everyday survival in LA and so are my dogs.
Everywhere I go in OB there are faces becoming more and more familiar. New ones arrive each day. Just like Scott and Amy’s newborn, another young couple will soon have a new face to add to OB. One day they too will have their own tales to tell of a great place to call home.
A town full of life and the unexpected are ready for discovery. This place is magical in a way. For each it holds a specific reason as to why you either stay, or you come to stay. You have to take the journey here and ride it out to see where it leads. All I know is that it will lead you to exactly where you need to be whether finding yourself inwardly or finding yourself in the right place in OB, or both.
The word “hope”, can lead to in-depth discussions regarding the vitality and the very survival of the human heart. I watched a documentary on this subject which in its conclusion, stated that, “without “hope, we die”. Well, I am very much alive here in OB. I do have renewed hope in the amazing adventures to come my way, Amy and faith once again, in my fellow man.