Saturday, April 27, 2002

San Francisco to Sydney - Day 13

Day 13 : San Luis Obispo to Long Beach (via Los Angeles)

Our sole reason for visiting San Luis Obispo was to see the San Luis Obispo de Tolosa Mission, established in 1772 as the fifth of twenty-one missions across California. The Mission's church is still in use for regular services, as well as being available to the general public. There's also a garden, a gift shop and a small museum displaying a range of religious and other historical items, such as photos of the Mission across different time periods.

SLO Mission The Mission has undergone substantial renovations during its 230 year history. In the mid to late 1930s, substantial work was done to restore it to its original architecture, including the recreation of the belfry (see photo at left).

The Mission bookshop included a small, hardcover book of the Rosary, the front cover of which explained that the book's content would "help you to pray the Rosary with fewer distractions". I gather it was a slimmed-down version of the complete Rosary, which makes it a neat blend of religious tradition and the American desire for efficiency and time-saving in all things human.

SLO Flag Court In a park near the Mission, there's a monument called Flags Court that depicts the development of the US flag. This photo shows three of the stages that the US flag passed through. From left to right, the flags are :

  • The Grand Union flag - the ensign for many of the so-called rebellious states
  • The 15 Stars and Stripes flag - adopted with the addition of Vermont and Kentucky to the original 13 states
  • The 43 Stars and Stripes flag

Our Greyhound bus trip from San Luis Obispo to Los Angeles featured a cast of passengers plucked, it would seem, straight from a poorly-written play entitled Bus Trip. The cast included :

  • three or four prisoners on weekend release, one of whom was drunk or otherwise chemically enhanced
  • an aspiring actress who was "like, totally looking forward, like, to the weekend"
  • a woman who was convinced that she was God's "chosen one", who sang, cussed, cried and spoke loudly for the entire journey

In Act I, Scene I, the Chosen One asks an Asian passenger whether he knows God. He explains that his religious beliefs are Hindu. She tells him that he might "learn something" from these other religions, but that he won't be permitted entry to Heaven unless and until he "accepts the Lord as his Saviour". The Chosen One also singles out a black American passenger to let him know that Jesus loves him.

Act I, Scene II features the Chosen One in a variety of musical pieces and soliloquies from which we learn of her Chosen status and of the hardships in her life. Towards the end of this scene, the Drunken Prisoner enters stage right, careening off passengers and seats as he heads upstage to the rear of the bus. The curtain falls on Act I as we pull into Santa Maria and the Chosen One exits stage right for a cigarette by the side of the bus.

Act II opens with a tearful exchange between the Drunken Prisoner and the Chosen One, the exact dialogue of which is difficult to make out among the crying. The Chosen One believes that she had foreseen a man needing help (don't we all?) coming into her life. Simultaneously with this exchange, the Aspiring Actress is explaining to her friend in the seat beside her how "like, drunk" she got "like, last night, on some drink which was, like, 10% alcohol" and how she "had only had, like, a few hours sleep".

The Act and the play ends with the Chosen One, her husband and the Drunken Prisoner exiting the stage together, presumably to share a meal and life stories somewhere in LA.

It was a surreal experience. I thought, for a time, that the woman who believed herself to be the Chosen One was an actress getting in character for an upcoming role. If that's true, she was disturbingly convincing. If it's not true, she was just disturbing. Religious conviction is one thing, but she used her belief that she was the chosen one to justify all her actions and to explain everything that happened to her and to others around her. She was even, I think, going to confiscate the drunken prisoner's medication because she "had to".

Anyway, the trip from Los Angeles to Long Beach was uneventful in comparison and our hotel was both closer to the Greyhound station and cheaper than we expected. It seems that we've re-entered the real world.

Originally posted by TC

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