Dealing with Death

Startling as it seems, I spent over an hour on the phone with my best friend, helping me to understand life.

Brad helped me understand that I am powerless to change the situation in which I find myself in, regarding my Dad.

There is no going back to the halcyon days of yesteryear. It is, after all, what it is. Dying is a process I am just beginning to understand, as I myself, enter my 6th decade on this seemingly rotating ball of boredom at times.

I am learning that time is perhaps the most precious commodity we humans have. Memories are fashioned in the context of time, whether they be good or bad.

I have not been here. It is painful. It is powerful. The lessons being taught, are not what I desire. Control. It is an illusion, to an extent. I want control of the situation, but it it not mine to orchestrate.

Perhaps as we look back at our own life, and understand the necessity of brokenness and barren spirit, we begin to understand the essence of life itself. We sequester that which is painful. Which is tedious. Which is dull, and mundane.

It is in these things, we find the true meaning of life. Simply to love, and to be loved.

Thanks old friend, for reminding me of the value of friendship. “To rejoice with them that rejoice, and to weep with them that weep.” (Romans 12:15)

“A joy shared, is a double joy. But a burden shared, is half a burden.”
— Jewish Proverb

Original text,

Wayno

Mojave Road four wheel drive trail (1989)

Kenny Grobe at Soda Dry Lake

Kenny Grobe (guide) at Soda Dry Lake, circa 1989

Mojave Road Trip, May 20-21, 1989
from San Diego Offroader Magazine, July, 1989

By Wayno Guerrini

The Mojave Road originated in the 1800’s as a wagon train trail and is now a recreational trail that spans 130 miles across the Mojave Desert from the Colorado River (near Needles, California) through Afton Canyon. Our two day four-wheel drive journey back into time, covered most of the same trails use by early settlers.

Although I have journeyed the Mojave Road many times, it was my privilege this time to share the beauty and diversity of the California desert with Takeshi Sakai, a 21 year old Japanese foreign exchange student.

Our trip began in San Diego on a beautiful, sunny, Friday afternoon. Together with Bernie Ruth and Mike Lullo we caught up to Kenny Grobe, the Mojave Road Guide, along I-40 east near Needles, and the start of our journey.


A NEAR DISASTER AVERTED

At a quickie mart in Needles, we picked up some ice and cookies and then headed off to re-fuel. As Kenny was backing out of the parking lot, he heard a crunch! A snap! And then he knew something was wrong! He had snapped one of the bolts holding the A Arm assembly on his 1983 Nissan truck. Luckily for him, this happened in Needles, and not along the Mojave Road. But where in the world was he going to get another bolt at 8 pm on Friday night in Needles for a foreign truck?

We decided to leave Kenny and go enjoy the fine eateries and entrainment in Needles, and then headed off to the start of the Mojave Road at the Colorado River. We set up camp and enjoyed one of Mike’s taste tempting treats for dinner: canned stew. It was even hot! I don’t know if Takeshi was prepared for roughing it, but he took everything in stride and never complained.

Takeshi and I returned to Needles around 11:30 pm to check on Kenny’s mis-adventures. To our surprise, we found Kenny and his truck ready to go, albeit $450 poorer. We made it back to camp around 12:30 a.m. and managed a few hours sleep before we began our trek.

THE SOJOURN

A cool morning sun and slight breeze promised good things to come. We enjoyed another of Mike’s fine breakfasts (what was that stuff called again?) and gathered together along the banks of the Colorado River while Kenny explained some of the early history of the Mojave Road to our group, which numbered about 20 people in 12 vehicles.

Our fist stop was Fort Piute; one of the first outposts established by the U.S.Government along the road, also the first day’s stop for the wagon trains coming across the desert in search of water.

Kenny led a group around the ruins and showed us some of the early picto-graphs that adorn the area. We took a short hike up the trail and saw the deep ruts worn into the rock by wagon trails coming across the desert. It’s difficult to imagine how rugged these people must have been as they made their way across this vast unforgiving wilderness.

By now, the temperature had reached a comfortable 97 degrees (F) and it was only 11:30 a.m. We journeyed on to Lanfair Valley and enjoyed the beautiful view, as we snacked on our lunch. Thanks Bernie for a great lunch! (Even if it was sandwiches.)

I let Takeshi take the wheel at this point and was quite surprised at how well he did. Takeshi has an International Driver’s License (valid in this country), but I’ll bet he never thought about taking a four wheel drive vehicle into the middle of the Mojave Desert. It’s an experience I’m sure he’ll not soon forget.

As we traveled down the road, I pointed out many things to Takeshi. Subtle variations in the plant and animal life. Topography changes, altitude changes. Yet there is more. There are things which we cannot see with our eye; rather we must experience with our heart. The freedom to explore the vastness of the desert the historical perspective and the importance of the road; the joy of being outdoors with friends; the pleasure of sharing good times and good memories. This is all part of the sojourn. If only one thing, I hope Takeshi takes back with him, it is our love for our freedom, and the openness and joy in sharing the beauty that is America.

SPELUNKING

We finally all made it to the Mail Box, signed in, then continued on to our next adventure.

Near some of the old cinder cones in an old lava tube, that formed as lava was cooling. It was quite cold at the very bottom of the tube, and very dark as we explored this fascinating mystery. It’s unreal to imagine that these caves wall were molten lava. Continuing on we came to the remains of a plane that crashed a few years ago.

NIGHT’S PAUSE

The evening destination was 17 Mile Point, so named because it is approximately 17 miles (one days wagon journey) in either direction to water. Some of our weary travellers opted to leave our group and venture into Camp Baker for a hotel room. With tents pitched and beds made, we were ready for a good meal. Mike let me tell you, those were the best dog dogs I have eaten! (And they were well cooked too!)

SODA DRY LAKE

Sunrise in the desert is a beautiful experience and worth getting up early. We settled down to an interesting sort of meal: Breakfast burritos. Eggs and bacon wrapped in a tortilla, smothered in salsa. Ahh! (The indigestion last only a few hours! Sigh!)

We finally got everything packed and set off for Soda Dry Lake. We didn’t encounter any mud on this trip, but we did have one vehicle that got stuck in a deep rut at the entrance to the lake. Warning! Never under and circumstances, attempt to cross Soda Dry Lake after it rains. You may never find your vehicle again!

We proceeded on to Razor Open area, a haven for any type of off roading: dirt bikes, sand rails, quads, ATVs, etc. can play to their heart’s content.

AFTON CANYON

Onto the Mojave Flood Plains, and eventually to the train trestle and the entrance to Afton Canyon. At the trestle we enjoyed another of Bernie’s fine lunch. (Oh boy, sandwiches again!) We also encountered the carcass remains of four very dead, and odoriferous cows. Whew!

Afton Canyon, called by many a miniature Grand Canyon comes near the end of a very long trek across the desert. It somehow makes enduring the last couple of days,worthwhile. To see and experience God’s own handiwork, so close, is a memory that truly last a lifetime. I don’t know if Takeshi will ever get to see the Grand Canyon in Arizona, but if not, he certainly got a chance to experience the beauty and serenity of the California Desert.

Our deepest thanks go out to everyone who attended our annual spring Mojave Road trip: Jeff Brodsky (Covina, Ca.), Greg Maleski (Cupertino, Ca.), Takeshi Sakai (Japan), Ian Robertson (Laguna Beach, Ca), Paul and Mary Hamilton (Lakewood, Ca), Kenny Grobe (Los Angeles, Ca), David and Carol Curran (Monrovia, Ca.), Bill Burt (Morongo Valley, Ca.), Art Smith (Needles, Bureau of Land Management), Wayne Guerrini, Mike Lullo, Bernie Ruth (San Diego, Ca), Joe Maleski (San Jose, Ca), Walt and Jean Trygstad (San Juan Capistrano, Ca), Stephen and Dalva Dwyer (Seal Beach, Ca.)

Till next time, take care and look for our upcoming Mojave Road Trip in late August (a night run) and this coming fall.

Wayno Guerrini

Maybe it’s NOT the end

Maybe it’s NOT the end

I was lamenting to my friend Jeff earlier today, how I feel so un-accomplished. So alone. So isolated. I stand on the precipice of 60 in less then a year. As I look back, there seemingly is nothing of importance that I have accomplished in my life. Sure I have had my successes and failures like everyone.

But being disabled/retired is not what I thought it would be. Many hours spent toiling at nothing of significance. Finding creative outlets from the boredom and tedium of the day. Autism makes it especially difficult for me, to relate to other people. I crave friendship and fellowship, but it seems to come less often. Gone are the halcyon days of social banter and interaction with fellow co-workers. Instead, I find myself talking to my cats. Companion animals. They are the only ones in this stark corner of the universe it seems, that fully understand me, and my social awkwardness.

Jeff took the time to say: “Wait a minute? You really think the best part of your ministry is in the past? Let me tell you….” and he proceeded to explain how many of the greats in the Bible, did not start their ministry until very late in life.

Abraham was 100 years old, when he had has promised son, Isaac. (Gen 21:5). Moses sat idle for 40 years (Acts 7:23 and Acts 7:30) before God called him to lead the nation of Israel out of the bondage of Egypt. He was 80. The Apostle Paul was about 50 when he was called. John wrote The Book of Revelation near the end of his life, about 92. Jesus didn’t start his ministry until he was 30 years old.

It seems God has to train us, and strip us of self pride before we are ready to be used. Jeff carefully reminded me, how my life has impacted his. “I look to you, for guidance, wisdom, and understanding. I can not find that in someone that hasn’t experienced life.”

I had to understand that God may have me on the sidelines at the moment, but He is working in me something far greater then my mind can fully conceive. God will still use me, even if I am in failing health. I just have to be available.

“Therefore we do NOT lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed, day by day.” (2 Cor 4:16 NIV)

Wayno

 

One of My Most Unforgettable Characters

This is a very personal story. How one person changed entirely, the person I would become. Several people have impacted my life. This is but one of them.

Wayno

—————————–
Kenny Grobe at the monument on Soda Dry Lake
(Kenny Grobe at the Monument on Soda Dry Lake)

Few people come along, that change the elements of the person you will become. But one person I knew did just that.

Born on March 16, 1960 into an impoverished home, he become one of the greatest friends in this life, I would ever have.

Growing up in Los Angeles County, he would look for ways to escape. Not through reading or writing. But other things. An interest in things of a mechanical nature. Motorcycles, and off-roading. He was working to become: A Real-Estate Appraiser.

We first met at an off-road event near Borrego Springs, California. We both had the same 4WD truck, 1/2 a year apart! And we both had the same problems. Ah misery really does love company. For me, this was my first time ever four wheeling, and he would serve as a guide into this venturesome world of the unknown.

We would go on to do several trips along the beloved Mojave Road. Times spent chewing the fat, watching the scenery, or hearing him guide a tour on his CB Radio. We always signed in at the Mailbox. Camping, being outdoors, and being free, were the essence of his character. He taught me how to do many things I thought I could never do on my own. How to pack wheel bearings, how to change brake pads, how to do a top end job on a 2 stroke motorcycle, and on and on. He invested time, in ME! He believed in ME, even though I often doubted.

His love for off-roading would eventually lead us to Motorcycles. Dirt Bikes of course. And some of his friends. Crazy Dave. Hot Dicky. Too Tall Bob. I didn’t know a Motorcycle from a bicycle. But he patiently taught me. I’d drive up from San Diego, we’d meet, and go dirt-biking. Mostly off to the dry lake bed around Victorville, California, or to Gorman, California. But perhaps the most beautiful of places, were Pismo Beach and Kennedy Meadows, California. I stuck to the newbie trails, and he to the advanced. I always enjoyed being with him, but I never knew why.

His love for the outdoors, turned into making videos. Three all told. Crudely edited on 2 VCR’s, but set to music that matched the action. The tapes unfortunately lost through the perils of times and several moves. But the memories are well preserved in my mind.

One day he found a lump on his neck. He called me and said, “I don’t know any doctor’s here in LA who can diagnose this do you?” Indeed I did. So he came down to San Diego, and my doctor examined him. A few days later, the doctor called. It wasn’t good news. He had cancer of the lymph nodes. The doctor said, “Do you want me to call him?” I said, “No, that’s something a friend should do.”

And so with much reserve, I made the trip up to LA to see my friend. Of all the things I’ve done in life, telling a friend he has cancer, has been the toughest. He took the news calmly, and then he decided, “I can beat this!” So he underwent radiation treatment. I had never seen him look so green in my life.

I saw on the outside, the shell of the man I knew. But inside, nothing had changed. After one of his treatments, I came up to see him. He loaded his dirt bike onto his truck. I thought to myself, “Have you lost your mind?” He wanted to go to Ascot in Gardena, California to go Motocross racing. “Surely you are out of your mind!” “I am not out of my mind, and quit calling me Shirley!” And so we went. He didn’t do very well, but he did finish. Later I asked him, “Tell me why you decided to go racing tonight, even though you’re as sick as a dog.” He said, “Yes, but for a few moments I was able to forget how sick I am.” I hadn’t thought of that.

We talked for some time. I said to him: “Never be ashamed of where you came from. You had no control over that. But you do have control over where you are going.” I was able to lead him to Christ.

He fell in love with Oregon and a woman, and moved there. He made his 3rd and last video on the beauty to be found there. Truly a labour of love. He played in the church band, at the First Baptist Church of Beaverton, Oregon.

Later, he had a re-occurrence of the cancer. I knew he was a fighter, and he fought hard. I spoke to him just a few days before Christmas in 1995. He was on the last rounds of Chemo-therapy.

But, he didn’t make it. He died on Monday, January 8, 1996. On Thursday of that week, all his friends gathered in that church to pay respect to a person that united us. He was the glue that kept us all together. Now his life cut short at 35. Yet he did more in those 35 years, then most people do in 3 lifetimes.

I went to Oregon, to pay homage to one of the greatest persons I would ever know. I had one last task: to do his funeral service. He lay in a closed casket, dressed in what was appropriate. Motocross gear: Helmet, Jersey, Leathers, Boots.

After that, we all scattered to the 4 corners never to come together again. The glue had let go.

Kenneth Stanley Grobe will not be remembered for the things he did, rather for what he gave. His friendship. His patience. His sense of humour. And for me, the greatest gifts he gave were his acceptance and the courage to believe in ones self.

Rest in Peace, Old Friend!

Original Copy,

Wayno Guerrini
July 27, 2010

“The Little Things”

“The Little Things”

Wayno Guerrini

October 14, 2009

Steve N. (crica 1977)
(Steve N. Circa 1977)

Is it possible to measure a man by things he did in his youth?

I am re-acquainting myself with someone who is definitely an “Old Friend” after several decades.

This person, while on the sideline of my life for years, made profound influences. Not by doing something great, wonderful, or earth shaking. It was in the tiniest, most fragile of things, we often find memories which remain as indelible as ink.

I met Steve while I was working with the Federal Aviation Administration in Palmdale. Not unlike my present surroundings here in Tucson, the Antelope Valley in California is also a desert environment.

The things that I remember most about Steve, were his un-yielding smile and enthusiasm, attention to God, and prayer. He always had a smile on his face, rarely a frown, and a kind word on his lips. Steve was neighbourly. He was also, quite humble.

Steve seemed to have three passions: A love for the outdoors (especially climbing), painting, and tea.

I have shared in all of these passions.

The only time I’ve ever been rock climbing was with Steve at a place called “The Devil’s Punchbowl.” While I nearly passed out from exhaustion, Steve was able to get me to safety, and I survived to tell the tale. I still have a rope burn scar on my right hand. A reminder of the incident.

I remember hiking through the Yosemite Valley with Steve and some friends. Hours of what seemed like arduous and tedious driving. Made worth it in the first few moments upon seeing one of the natural wonders of the world.

Steve’s passion for life, drove me into a life long involvement of doing Youth Ministry. (outcastpress.org and a Facebook group I help moderate: Christian Goths) I have always worked with kids. Steve was far from being a kid at the time, but that impish grin of his sometimes betrayed his appearance.

Steve’s second passion is painting. I never knew if Steve would become a successful artist, but he showed remarkable talent. I’ve been fortunate in having one of Steve’s early paintings, adorn the living room of every place I’ve lived for over three decades now.

A daily reminder of my youth, and time well spent with an “old friend.”

But in the most humblest of offerings, Steve’s true nature was born.

Tea. Steve had what I surmised, to be the largest collection of loose Tea. We’re not talking “Lipton” here.

The very first time I’d ever heard of “Earl Grey Tea” — was not someone saying: “Tea! Earl Grey! Hot!” Rather it was Steve saying: “You ought to try this!” And so with care, he brewed a couple of cups. We sat and talked, and I enjoyed my first cup of “real tea.” Ahh. The little things. The one’s that you never forget.

To this day, when I have a cup of tea, I am always reminded of Steve’s humble circumstances, and this precious gift.

“I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward.” (Mark 9:41 NIV)

And so it goes…..

Wayno

Purposes in Life

Simple question really. Why are we here? Have you ever thought of that? What is my purpose in life? Why am I on this rotating ball of boredom? The answers may surprise you.

I had made acquaintance with Mike Williams eons ago. I never really knew him well, but he stood out in a crowd, with a long mop of red hair. I guess it must have been the Irish in him.

Mike was a singer in a Christian Band. And he was good at it. Kids from all walks of life, would gather to hear his story. He would tell them stories from the Bible, and of his friend Jesus.

One day, I found out Mike had AIDS. How he acquired it, is of no concern. That he had a deadly disease, is what mattered.

Some of the other members of his band were going to drive out to Tucson from San Diego to meet with him. Since I wrote for a Christian Heavy Metal Magazine at the time, (“Gospel Metal” aka Keith Day), I was invited to tag along.

I asked Judd flatly: “Aren’t you afraid of getting AIDS?” “Well” I said, “I sure am. I am not sure this is a wise idea.” Judd said: “No, I’m not afraid.”

“Why aren’t you afraid Judd?” I queried. He said, “Because I know that God will protect me.” Ahh a 23 year old guy had just taught a 43 year old guy, a valuable lesson. But this would not be the last lesson learned on this sojourn to the Sonaran Desert.

As we approached Tucson, I said to Judd, “What do we do now? I don’t know how to treat Mike, I don’t know what to say.” And about one million other excuses seemed to exude from my tongue.

I watched Judd closely. I had a strange feeling God would use him again, to teach me. I just had to be open to God using anyone in my life, even if that person was younger and less “experienced.”

When we arrived, the door to the trailer flew open. There was Mike, with that long mop of Red Hair. Well, at least that didn’t change. But, what do I do? Do I shun this guy as a modern day leper, or do I welcome him as a brother in Christ?

Ahh the next move was Judd’s. Judd embraced him warmly, and nearly hugged the stuffings out of him. I had to make a split second decision? What was I going to do? Maintain a “safe” distance, or greet him as a brother?

I watched what the 23 year old kid did. He didn’t judge. He was just glad to be with his friend. Then I remembered what Judd had said earlier: “I’m not afraid, because God will protect me.” I turned to Mike, and warmly embraced him.

In that instant, God transformed me. From being a cowardly lion, to a person of compassion and mercy. It is one thing to see death, but to see Mike, whose body was literally wasting away, was quite a shock. This sure didn’t look like the normal healthy person I knew from a year ago. He looked emaciated. Ahh but do we “judge books by cover, or by
content?” as Martin Luther King so aptly said.

I decided to judge not by what I saw. It was revolting. In that instant, I saw Mike as a brother. One deserving of my love and compassion.

I was not finished with Mike. About 4 months later, I drove back out to Tucson. This time to say “goodbye” as he was suffering so. I asked him, “What can I do, to help you?” His answer surprised me. “You’ve got a car, right?” “Yes,” I said. “Let’s go see a movie.” “What? do youwant to go to a movie? Okay, but you’re buying the popcorn!” So we got in my car, and drove around Tucson, for awhile, and arrived at the theater.

“What movie do you want to see, Mike?” “Tom and Huck (1995)” was the reply. So we watched the movie. I spent more time watching Mike then the movie. He enjoyed just getting out, and doing “normal” things. I was glad I was able to distract him for a few moments, from all the suffering I knew he was experiencing.

When we returned, I asked, “Is there anything else I can do for you?” “Yes” he said. Please massage my feet with some of that olive oil over there. I was quite humbled, and crying inside, as I massaged his bony feet. That image has never left me.

The last night I was with Mike, I said, “Mike, I want to ask you a very hard question. It is hard for me to even ask this question. You don’t have to answer if you don’t want to.”

“I’ve seen you suffering with this affliction, and there is nothing I or medical science can do to alleviate your condition. You WILL die. Mike, what has stopped you from putting a gun to your head, and ending it all? The words just spilled out of my mouth. I gasped. I thought, “Oh my God, what did I just say to him?”

Without hesitation, Mike said, “Because I know that God will heal me. Either in this life, or the next.” Mike found the ultimate healing a few weeks later. I had learned yet another valuable life lesson.

I have faced many adversities in my life. I am facing one not unlike Mike’s. I don’t have AIDS, but I do have a life threatening condition. “Lord” I’ve prayed. “Mike never gave up on you. My faith is wavering. All I want from you is to emerge from all this with my faith intact, just like Mike showed me.”

God answered the question, of why I am here in these scriptures:

2 Cor 1:3-4 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. NIV

That’s why we’re here. To show God’s love and compassion, to any of those God brings into our life.

E. Paul Ryan —
August 29, 2007
19:31