Finding “Hope” – Another LA Refugee Discovers the Streets of Ocean Beach

by on May 13, 2013 · 13 comments

in Culture, Homelessness, Ocean Beach

Amy Hall n dogs

Marley, Pepe and Amy at Tiny’s.

 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.

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Lester Burnham May 13, 2013 at 4:25 pm

“Safety. Obscurity. Just another freak, in the freak kingdom.” – HST


Amy Hall May 16, 2013 at 2:09 pm

Amy’s Take- (on life in OB- “Freaks”)
By Amy Hall
I’ve heard it said that for every negative, there is a positive. Whether it is an opinion or a circumstance, there will always be an upside and a down side.
I thought sharing my heart and journey with a community full of “freaks” ,as one commentator so tastefully used the word to describe me, would lead to an eye opening view of how really great OB is in trying to ride out the journey of self discovery. No worries, the following comment below it was way more positive and uplifting. Why do we cut each other down, I wondered? We all know how difficult it is to start over and face change. Instead of seeing one another as we see ourselves, we pass judgment. I am sure there are at least 3 clichés to fight back with, but the only one that comes to mind is, “misery loves company”.
My goal is to rise above my immediate set of circumstances. I choose to do so because I have a lot to offer this community and visa versa. Born in Miami and adopted as an infant, I was taken to be raised in five Latin Countries until I turned eighteen. I speak and write Spanish fluently. I genuinely love people. I am a singer, songwriter, performer and a journalist. The list goes on and on as to all of the talents I have also acquired throughout my forty three years on this planet called earth.
So why am I a little bummed out when I read a comment on an online publication where I am the author of my own journey and am called a “freak”? Well, I shouldn’t be I suppose. But it sort of reminded me to be careful in believing that this town is a Mayberry and Sheriff Andy Taylor is going to come to my rescue. Not that I was expecting OB to be a Stepford Wives community either, but I had higher hopes of this very kind and hospitable town. That kind of thinking is how bitterness begins which can lead to contempt and move on in to intolerance.
The word “freak” is by definition a noun meaning, “A very unusual and unexpected event or situation: “a freak storm”.” When used as a verb, it means to “react or behave in a wild and irrational way, typically because of the effects of extreme emotion, mental illness, or drugs.” Obviously if I am coherent enough to articulate in a definitive expressive way without”freaking out”, I am not anyone of the listed, “effects of” list. Perhaps the commentator meant it as a noun. I would like to think that person meant I was a rarity; something unexpected and taking it a step further, that I was someone to be praised. Yes, praised for being brave enough to take everything that I am and be a productive member of a community. Yes, I am sure that is what they really meant.
When I was a kid, I would often hear kids at school calling Christians “Jesus Freaks”. When “Jesus Christ Superstar “was launched on Broadway, it was an instant hit. Did that make everyone who ever saw it a “Freak”? When the 60’s came and went we were ushered in to the 70’s full of Cocaine and revolving sparkly disco balls. If you frequented a club, you were known as a “Disco Freak”. But when the 80’s came rolling in, you were a “Freak” because you loved rebellion in the form of a music genre called, “Rock n’ Roll”. Punk Rockers and Meth Heads have all been called “Freaks” at one time or another because well, let’s face it, labeling is easier than being understanding or compassionate.
Some folks just are not willing to change with the times. They fight it every step of the way. However; that is what makes OB a great place. On the surface you see calm, but under the layers of years of change, the undercurrent is slowly moving forward.
As I was taking my dogs on their evening stroll, I walked past a paint peeling white picket fence where an old timer hippie was complaining about the loud twenty one year olds across the street at a local bar. I stopped to listen to him rant and rave for a moment as he sat glued to his well worn out plastic lounge chair. Then he stopped his ranting and looked at me square in the face. With a beer in one hand and leaning back in his half smile said, “I used to be that young once too ya know”. Then he winked at me. We both laughed and I waved good bye as he went back to his beer and petted is old dog.
As ten o’clock p.m. is approaching when I am writing this article at the Lazy Hummingbird on Santa Monica Ave, I have seen all types of “Freaks” come in for a cup of Joe or hot tea. Amongst the patrons, there have been the hippie dude and the hippie girl, the guy who looks like he is either still in the Military or was, the yuppie housewife and some version of a college couple busy studying away. So I say this with respect and love to the commentator I mentioned before who ended up being my inspiration……


Lester Burnham May 16, 2013 at 3:30 pm

Glad you didn’t totally freak out :) I mutter that Hunter Thompson quote occasionally as I drive past the OB entry sign on my way home from work.


Amy Hall May 16, 2013 at 3:37 pm

Thank you, Lester :),
I really appreciate your good sense of humor!
Amy Hall


Derek May 13, 2013 at 4:30 pm

May hope, peace, serenity continue to surround your life… Yet another story of why things are not important to true happiness!


Amy Hall May 16, 2013 at 2:10 pm

I love your comment! I am definitely not going to give up and your positive reinforcement helps! Be sure to follow my journey into success here in OB.


Nancy Marston May 19, 2013 at 11:33 am

We enjoyed your excellent article, Amy. It was very nice to meet you and your beautiful dogs at McP’s Pub last night. We were missing our own dogs while on our vacation and it felt good to be able to say hello to yours and get a little “dog fix”. Good luck in your journey. We wish you the very best.
Nancy & Bob, Newtown, CT


Amy Hall May 21, 2013 at 11:06 am

Hi Nancy and Bob!
It is so good to hear from you!
Lots has happened and one of those is that I have been offered a job at the OB Chronicle writing for bucks. I must say that it feels good to be recognized for my talents, but the outpouring of positive affirmation that I am on the right road by support like yours, is even better.

When I do return to the stage, I hope to see you all on my tour and hope to include the east coast!

Peace and love to you both,
Amy Hall


Jenna May 19, 2013 at 2:45 pm

Hi Amy,
I left some information for you at Jungle Java re:housing and other things. Hope you received it and that Ocean Beach is continuing to treat you well.

All Best,


Amy Hall May 21, 2013 at 10:39 am

Hi Jenna,

Yes, thank you so much for your outreach! I did receive the information and I will be able to go there this week. I had tried once before, but the VA had stated that I did not qualify for any benefits as I was not in “long enough”, yet I served during first Gulf War.

I was blown away that you and many others are rooting for me. It keeps me focused and positive.

I hope to meet you soon and you can always catch me down at the Jungle Java on Newport in OB. I appreciate the staff here.


Kathy May 20, 2013 at 2:27 pm

Amy: Michael and I thoroughly enjoyed our “Amy and dogs” encounter. You exhibit such a positive attitude toward life. Your story shows what a remarkable person you are. We so appreciated you taking the time to share your thoughts with us and show such interest in our lives. And, we love that you took the time to interview Stranger at Winstons Saturday Night and stayed to listen to their wonderful music. They were grateful for the attention. We wish you the best Amy.


Amy Hall May 21, 2013 at 11:00 am

Hi Michael and Kathy,

I am so grateful and happy to have met you both and Nolan and the gang!
As I sit down this morning to write up the interview and article, which will be published in two weeks w/ pay for me at the OB Chronicle, I am happy to have heard from you.

I felt inspired to stay positive, focused and motivated.
This will not be the last time we meet, I am sure, as I see how supportive you all are of one another and of me. Music has a tendency to do that, especially if it is from the heart.

If you get a chance to go to you tube, look up Amy Katherine Hall and you will see the interview I was given moments before my big concert last March. You can also see a few songs I have performed in videos too.

When I woke up this morning, I did feel slightly bummed. It is just human nature to when we put our best effort forward that we want to see things change around in an instant. However; I listened to,”Thank You” again and “Universal Love” and I felt positive and happy. That is the power of music and the responsibility that we have as Artists to create those emotions for those that feel down at times. I am excited to begin writing this article and music review.

I’m back at Jungle Java to write it as Marley and Pepe recover from Dog Beach outing yesterday!
See you all soon!
Peace and Love,
Amy Hall


m.e.clark May 25, 2013 at 11:59 am

hey! great dialogue & discussion Lester & Amy! carry-on the rapport please 4 it’s enlightening & enlivening 2 all. Perhaps “freaks in the freak kingdom” can aptly an amicably describe most inclusively our modern “brotherhood of man / sisterhood of woman” that is us ; the crazy diverse human race on the 3rd orb from a star –suspended in infinity. But i ramble on a bit too much. Anywho, it { freak } is just a word of descript that i might have to reconsider henceforth as a compliment . Thank you very much for allowing room 4 my 2 pennies! & now , where’s my cup of honey,cinnamin & creamed java? love & happiness, PB2G, sincerely,, mike


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