by Samuel Orona
This is what happened to me after I got released from San Luis Obispo county jail in 1995
It was late at night when I got released, and a letter from my mom with about a hundred dollars had arrived on my last day there. I walked down Highway 1 for the five or so miles into town. I marveled at all of the thousands of stars I could see as I walked, because I couldn't see even one single star the entire time I was locked up.
I remember when I got to the Shell station in San Luis Obispo on Santa Rosa street, the first thing I did was buy a pack of Marlboros. I had started smoking at the age of 16, and I was 24 at this time. I walked over the hill and went to the 7-11 on Marsh street, and I remember I bought a lottery ticket or two, and I won fifteen dollars. I hung out at 7-11 all night, because I didn't want to waste my hundred dollars on a motel room. The guys who worked at that 7-11 were really friendly, and kept me company throughout the night.
When daylight broke, I walked down Higuera street so I could walk to Madonna road and hitchhike. When I was at the top of the Madonna overpass, a homeless man with a shopping cart full of recyclables asked me if he was going the right way to get to the recycling center. For some reason, I told him he could go down Madonna the way he was going, then turn at Los Osos Valley Road and walk up Higuera to Prado road, where the recycling place was, instead of telling him to double back and go down Higuera to Prado, which would've been quicker and closer. I did give him the fifteen dollars I won from the lottery ticket the night before.
I hitchhiked into Grover Beach (I'm not sure if it was still called Grover City at that point in time; at some point in the 1990s they changed the name from Grover City to Grover Beach), and I walked to Vince's house. I had been living at his house and paying rent before I got locked up, and he had said I could store my stuff at his house free of charge. When Vince came, he gave me my stuff, but he wanted to keep the most crucial piece of equipment that I would need that day: my green backpack. He said that as payment for storing my stuff, he wanted to keep the backpack, and I let him talk me out of it. It was the most heartless thing anyone has ever done to me. I was homeless, and he was taking the one thing from me that I needed the most.
At some point I had called my dad collect and asked him if I could stay with him; my mission was to take my belongings to San Luis Obispo, check in at the probation department and let them know I was moving to Sacramento, then walk to the Greyhound station and buy a ticket to Sacramento. While I was walking to the bus stop to catch the Central Coast Area Transit (CCAT) I threw the box I had been carrying away. It contained my dad's Marine Corps. photograph with the frame, and all of the stories I had written when I was locked up.
When I arrived in Sacramento, I moved in at my dad's, and my stepmother's mom was living with them. I tried restarting my SSI, but was told over the phone that I would have to check myself into a locked facility to get my SSI started. I went there and got on medication, then I came back to the house and Betty's mother (Betty is my stepmother) became my payee.
What happened next is something I don't remember clearly, but I remember I was walking around Sacramento without food or money, and at one point I called 911 because my feet were bleeding. When the two paramedic chicks picked me up, I flipped out in the ambulance and they dropped me off by the side of the freeway. I spent several days living on grass and sleeping beside some railroad tracks under some trees. It was a strange experience, but it was peaceful, too. At some point, I ended up back in that locked mental health facility, and I got released to some Asian people who ran a board and care house for people on SSI.
It was while I was living there that I ran into an old acqaintance. I was at the mall, and a guy named Scott who was once one of my dad's neighbors when I lived with my dad when I was 17. He bought me a burger from a fast food place and drove me home. The thing I didn't like about this place I was living was that I didn't get enough food to eat. The lady who cooked the food kept it locked away in a back room, and fed us three strict meals a day. If I was hungry and wanted a snack, I was out of luck.
One night I was hanging out at a Circle K and I met a black man who invited me to a house, and a black woman there offered me some food. By the end of the night, I had agreed to move in with them, so the next day, I told my stepmother and I moved in with these people. After I moved in with them, things went good until I met a friend of theirs who was a gang member.
I can't remember the name of the gang member, but one day the white guy and the black woman I was living in got into a fight, and the white guy walked over to his parents house. The gang member told me to go get him, and that if I returned without him, he would kill me. I walked over and tried to get the white guy to return home, but he refused; so I had no choice but to leave Sacramento and hitch-hike back to San Luis Obispo wearing only a pair of swimming trunks and a tee-shirt. I can't remember if I was wearing shoes or not.
After walking to a highway, I hitch-hiked and got picked up by a Christian. He told me that God wanted him to pick me up, and that he had disobeyed a feeling like that before, and someone had died, so he always obeyed when he got a feeling that God wanted him to do something. He took me to his home in Angel's Camp, California. In his living room, there was a shelf that made up an entire wall, and there was a hidden door built into the shelf with a secret room behind it. In the garage/basement he was in the process of building a flying car.
In the morning, he gave me breakfast and a few dollars, and took me into town. There was a thrift store where I bought a pair of pants, and I might have bought something to wear as a jacket or sweatshirt. There was a tourist center where I read about Black Bart, a notorious outlaw who lived in that town in the 19th century.
I hitch-hiked to the next town over as I tried to make my way to the 101 freeway. I remember I actually tried to pan for gold at one point, but all I found was a piece of Fool's Silver. As I hitch-hiked, I got a ride from a group of people who were in their early 20's, and they dropped me off in downtown San Jose. I caught the light rail to Snell road, and walked to my cousin's house. When I got there, my cousin Wendy was there with her boyfriend. I ate a large hot dog link and some other stuff, but when I was done eating my cousin told me I couldn't spend the night. She said her dad was tired of people sponging off of him. She said if I came back in the morning, she would give me $10.
It was a hellacious night, I was sleeping in a park near my cousin's house, and it was cold. When dawn finally came, I went and got the $10 from Wendy, and went to a nearby donut shop and had breakfast and coffee. I took a bus to the city of Morgan Hill and watched the movie "Clueless" because at that time I was obsessed with Alicia Silverstone.
After hitch-hiking to San Luis Obispo, I stayed at the local homeless shelter for a while. At some point, I got tired of waking up at 6:00 AM seven days a week, so one night I got my duffel bag and tried to walk to Atascadero, a city over 20 miles away up a steep grade. I followed the train tracks around the California Men's Colony, a state prison where I would later be incarcerated in 2002.
I did something very dangerous, I would walk through the train tunnels, and sometimes a train would come within a minute after I left the tunnel. At some point during my trek, a meteorite came screeching out of the sky and landed on the other side of a mountain where I was located. I heard the sound of it and everything, but I decided not to go look for it because I didn't have a canteen with me. I had walked a great distance without water.
I spent the night on a trail at the side of the grade, then in the morning a road worker gave me a lift into Santa Margarita, and I walked the rest of the way into Atascadero. I called a board and care facility called 4KC's that I lived at in 1992, and they gave me permission to move in there. Before long, I was sharing a room with someone and living a decent life. I was able to wake up when I wanted to, unlike the homeless shelter.
Between Summer time and October, I was traveling back and forth between Atascadero and Grover city, to visit Nick and Vance. They are two really good friends of mine whom I've known since I was 17. Nick, Vance, and Nick's girlfriend Talisa were living in a garage of a house of someone they knew. The house was on Ramona street, not too far from 9th street. Nick's girlfriend Talisa was pregnant at the time, and one day while I was there, Talisa hadn't returned home in some time, and when she did, she brought her baby with her. Talisa had given birth at San Luis Obispo General Hospital, and she had given birth to a baby girl named Leilla Rachelle Vasilievich.