It’s been nearly eight months since we met Bobby in Powderface 2, a New Orleans-style coffee bar in San Jose.
Outside of my crazy Navajo friend Herbert, who apparently wants me to be his unemployed sugar daddy, Bobby is the only road eccentric I’ve kept tabs with. And this only because he openly shares his pain on Facebook.
That’s the glory of the Age of the Interwebs.
I’ve had a bit of this written for a long time, but I hesitated to post it. Something about it didn’t seem quite fair, and I didn’t want to add to his misery.
Bobby quite obviously has mental issues.
He’s sick, and he needs help. But he’s out on the streets, living in a beat-up RV, self-medicating, scuffling along on the mean streets of an indifferent world.
He’s just one of many struggling on the underbelly of the corporate colossus, desperate folks who cling to the rim above the abyss, trying desperately not to fall but feeling their grip weaken as the days unravel. It is painful to watch, so we avert our gaze.
Or maybe I’ve got that all wrong, and he’s just mired in a run of incredibly bad luck.
That day we met, he was hopeful. He was excited about the prospect of a new girlfriend. She was stuck in the southwestern desert somewhere, but she had plans to join him in northern California. It all sounded like fantasy, but he believed.
The hope for love, and the company of his two dogs, Precious and Journey, were all that kept him above the water line.
Bobby’s 27 years old, and he’s a mess.
This is the story he told me in October:
He has spoken to God in His own language.
(That conversation ended when God stabbed him in the heart with a bolt of electricity.)
He lives in a 33-year-old motorhome with pit bulls named Journey and Precious.
His girlfriend is an ex-sheriff who is on disability due to a gunshot wound. She’s stuck in an Arizona desert with a 4-foot monitor lizard and a cat.
His cousin and best friend was killed in Iraq in the fall of 2007.
Welcome to Bobby’s world.
We met at Powderface 2 in San Jose, a New Orleans-style coffee emporium that seems as if by accident to have found its way int0 Walmart’s concrete orbit. Usually, Walmart is surrounded by the usual corporate suspects, McDonald’s, Burger King, Home Depot and the ilk.
Bobby happened into Powderface while I was hunched over the laptop. I offer to get him a cup of coffee, and ask if he’d like to tell his story.
He has a story to tell.
He doesn’t drink coffee, but says sometimes he gets a hot chocolate and stays long enough to charge his computer.
I ask if he was traveling.
“I’m, uh,” he says, tilting his head and lowering his voice, “homeless.”
He comes from a family of stagehands. His grandfather was influential in the IATSE (International Alliance of Theatrical State Employees) Local No. 16 in San Francisco. He once was a union man himself.
“I was a $35-an-hour stagehand,” he says. “My great-great grandfather got his union card 1900 in San Francisco.”
His dad is a rigger and gaffer in the movies. Bobby says his father worked on “Return of the Jedi,” “Flubber,” and “Mrs. Doubtfire,” among others. I consulted IMDB, and it seems right on target.
“I remember growing up my dad was gone all the time working on a show called ‘Midnight Caller,'” he says. “I was 12 when I met Johnny Depp.”
According to his own narrative, his life started to go sideways after Nick, his cousin, was killed by a suicide bomber in Iraq (newspaper accounts attributed the death to an improvised explosive device).
“When I was 22 I found out my cousin died in Iraq,” Bobby says. “I kind of spiraled downhill from there. My parents caught me smoking weed. They told me to get a job or get the fuck out. I chose to get the fuck out. I became homeless that day.”
He hasn’t spoken to his father in more than two years.
“He doesn’t like marijuana smokers, and I don’t like cigarette smokers” he says. “That’s the gist of it. I honestly hate the smell of Marlboro reds. It makes me sick.”
Bobby makes a little money as a traveling herbal medicine man. He cleans glass storage jars for a medical-marijuana dispensary.
“All the dispensaries have little glass jars to keep the weed fresh,” he says. “They come in from China dirty. I get 100 bucks for every 120 jars I do. It’s funny. They’re actually creating a lot of business, a lot of tax revenue they want to shut down. They want to criminalize large groups of people that are in support of medical marijuana.”
He says the vagabond life suits him fine.
“This is basically basically my fuck you,” he says. “All my life I was giving rides to hitchhikers and envious of their gypsy lifestyle. I always thought you had to live indoors.
“I’ve been treated better by people who smoke pot than I have been by the cops. If you’re not spending money, you’re not paying their salary. If you’re not paying their salary, they’ll put you in prison.”
Then there’s the mind-altering substances he’s ingested, and the shamanistic visions they’ve produced.
He’s dabbled in dimethyltryptamine (DMT), the naturally occurring psychedelic that Harvard ethnobotanist Richard Evans Schultes stumbled upon in the 1950s during his studies of Amazonian Indians. That may explain the primordial visions.
(There’s a documentary, “DMT: The Spirit Molecule” that’s available on Netflix and other Internet portals. I should’ve watched it by now. I will soon, I promise.)
But first we must go back to Nick.
“We were born 17 days apart in the same hospital,” Bobby says. “We had the same great-grandmother. We loved each other to death. He came back from Iraq for a week leave of absence to visit his daughter and wife. I said, ‘if you die out there, I’m going to kill myself.'”
Bobby says he was already trying to make DMT when he heard the news about Nick.
“I tried to overdose on it,” he says. “I learned two things: They call it the spirit molecule for a reason. You can’t overdose on itm and your body metabolizes it naturally.
“When you ingest it a chemical’s released in the brain, and what follows is like a near-death experience, like birth,” he says. “The brain is flooded with DMT when you’re going through the canal of birth.”
When he smoked DMT, the hallucinations followed. So did the visits from his dead friend. Nick came to him with a message. He saw, he says, some pretty weird stuff.
“He told me not to go through with my promise,” Bobby says. “He showed me, actually showed me, how he died. And so it was a really weird out-of-body experience. When you smoke DMT, you just lay down and you close your eyes. Every single time I’ve done it, he’s showed up. A 16-year-old girl blew up in front of his face, a suicide bomber.”
So you or I might say he’s crazy, DMT has further fractured his psyche. So what, he says.
“I’ve come to accept what I have seen,” he says. “If anyone else doesn’t want to, that’s fine. One of the most illegal substances in America helped me see what has happened. I think it’s absolutely stupid that what I’ve seen in my brain is illegal.”
He’s seen more stupendous things in his hallucinogenic visions than are dreamed of in most philosophies.
“One time I had a dream … this is how I know everything is connected,” he says. “I saw the sun explode. It wasn’t my sun, not this one. It was a foreign planet. Here on earth we won’t see that sun explode for another 100 years. Right now there’s a world in panic. … There’s a higher collective consciousness. The people who can tap into it are drawn to it. They come to me. I can’t explain it. It’s coincidence or fate.”
Oh, the things you’ll see on DMT.
“After the first hit it feels heavy like Vicodin,” he says. “I don’t have energy to move. After the second hit I finally feel this sense that time goes for infinity in both directions. There’s a memory in my brain when I started in this world to this time. You finally understand the concept of infinity. Absolute infinity. Time exists in both directions. It never starts, it never ends. You have a sense of reincarnation. Your energy has to go somewhere.”
And the things you’ll hear.
“I also have auditory hallucinations,” he says. “You hear songs you’ve never heard before that are brand new. Waves of sound your brain hears.”
He used to make money selling DMT. Then God told him to knock if off.
“I thought everyone needed to experience it,” he says. “I was deeply mistaken. I took a hiatus for six months. I took it six months later, and God Himself spoke to me. In a foreign language, either Hebrew or Aztec, very ancient, I want to say it was the first man’s tongue, he told me, at least this is how I perceived it: ‘You and I know you brought people that you and I both know don’t belong here.’
“Then he stabbed me in the heart with a bolt of energy. When I came to I couldn’t understand English. I tapped into an energy that made me speak God’s language. I’m not even religious. It was a very powerful spirit.”
And that was that.
“He always let me go into magic land and see all these beautiful colors and magic sounds. One time He pulled me aside and said, ‘You’ve had a spiritual journey. Your spiritual journey’s over. Stop bringing people into my world who don’t belong here.'”
His lovable pit bulls have helped him cope with some of the stress in his life. They’ve given him a renewal of strength.
“I was always unhappy with my life, always pissed off,” he says. “I was pissed off at myself and projecting that anger at everything around me. Journey helped me gain responsibility over the power of self-loathing, I’ve always hated myself.”
He once lost his dogs for a two and a half months.
Then he nearly lost his mind. They were impounded after Precious, the puppy, bit a 69-year-old man and left him bleeding.
“It cost me three grand to get them both out,” he says. “I still owe my mom two thousand. I need to pay her back. I don’t tolerate any anger or aggression from my dogs.
“I was in torture every single day. Those dogs are my life. With out them I have nothing to care for.”
Now he waits for his girl, Sierra, to come from Arizona. When she’ll arrive he doesn’t know. She broke up with her boyfriend recently after she found out he’d been smoking meth.
“She’s a mulatto with beautiful blue eyes,” Bobby says. “Hopefully we’ll get a place for $300 or $400 a month. She’s 23 years old, and she’s an ex-sheriff. She’s been shot. Smokes weed, too. She has a heart of gold.”
For now, she’s stranded in the desert with her lizard, her cat and her heart of gold. She has a 16-foot tank for the lizard that’s eight-feet tall. She told him she paid $1,000 for it, and can’t afford to abandon it.
“I get 15 miles per gallon, otherwise I’d go get her myself,” he says. “I just don’t have the money. I want her to get here, but I don’t know how to get her here.”
Once she gets here, and they move in together, he hopes to go back to working on the stage. At least that’s how it plays out in his vision.
“I’m a good worker,” he says. “I made a good reputation as a hard worker. I know I’ll be welcomed back if I talk to the right people and kiss the right asses. But I don’t brown-nose, that’s not my style.”
Postscript: Since this is the age of gratuitous public disclosure of what were once private lives, and since I’ve given him the generic name “Bobby,” I figure it’s OK to share some of the history he’s shared with Facebook “friends” like me since our meeting.
His girlfriend eventually arrived, providing a blissful interlude in a time of misery.
Through the wonder of Facebook, I know their relationship ended yesterday, June 2.
It began on April 18.
Seems like Bobby’s world has broken apart.
No dogs, no girl, no hope.
Here are a few sorrowful updates Bobby has shared:
November 27: rest in peace precious. 11-27-2011. san jose police shot and killed her. journey (her mother) was taken from my RV, because i didn’t have her in the proper kennal. precious jumped out my broken RV window because she has seperation anxiety and was looking for me.. she couldn’t find me cuz i was in starbucks charging this stupid fucking computer… i absolutely hate myself.. why should i be alive? the one thing that loved me the most in this world is dead.
November 28: i’ve never hurt this bad in my life.. i can’t sleep. i want to die. i want to sleep forever. i don’t belong on this planet. i hate people. i am people. i don’t want to be people. my dog is dead. i should be dead. why not me? why her?
March 17: i will no longer be able to own journey. since i failed to prove to the san jose animal shelter that i have a current address in the city of san jose, they will not let me have her back. i tried.. i even have enough money. but because i’m homeless. they wont let me have her back. i’m sorry journey. i tried. i really did.
March 25: called 911 last night after my heart started hurting. ambulance picked me up. brought me to the ER. i told everyone that i felt like i had a heart attack… they took an Xray, did an EKG test. they found nothing so they prescribed cough syrup. really? fucking really? because my heart attack didn’t happen in front of their machines, i was told to leave the ER at 2 in the morning in the rain. with no way of getting back to where i was picked up from. i am so infuriated.
June 2: Bobby went from being “in a relationship” to “single.”
June 3: “whatever i do, it’s never good enough. i give up. the world is bleak to me. life without love is really not worth living.”