Sunday, June 14
Finally on my way to Shasta! I start about an hour and 15 minutes late, but not doing bad all things considered. There’s still time to get to the campsite, set up the tent, relax a little, and have dinner while it’s still daylight.
I’m on the road less than five minutes when I see a little convenience store that I hadn’t noticed before, on the side of Highway 1. I need ice, so I pull up the car and go in.
The guy behind the counter, in his 30s, black hair, brown skin, short, slender, smiles at me pleasantly and shows me where the ice is. I grab a bag, bring it to the register, and he rings it up.
“That’s pretty expensive,” I say.
“What do you mean?”
“Four dollars for a bag of ice? Last year it was $2!”
“Well, I don’t know. This is what we’ve been charging for a while.” He shrugs and smiles. “Everything’s getting more expensive, you know? But the pay for people like me stays the same.”
I nod my head. “Yeah,” I say, “I get it.”
“I’ve been working almost 15 years. When I started, you know what I was making?”
I shake my head, no.
“$20 an hour. That was good money man! I could get married, have a couple of kids, find a good place to live, raise a family. You know what I make now?”
Again I shake my head, no.
“$20 an hour. Same thing man! Everything keeps getting more expensive, more expensive, but they keep paying me the same. And I can’t find any jobs that pay more. My family, we can’t live the way we used to.”
The strange thing is, he’s still smiling as he tells me this. This is tough! I think. What’s he smiling about?
“I’m sorry,” I say. “I’m sorry about what you and your family are going through. This country has become very messed up.”
He shrugs and shakes his head. “It’s crazy, isn’t it?” Looking into his smile, I can see that he has no bitterness. Has he managed to detach himself from life’s vicissitudes and observe the world with serenity? Is he a hidden holy man?
“What’s your name?” I say.
“Angel,” he says.
I look at him a moment. “Mine’s Aryae,” I say, reaching out my hand. “It means Lion of God in Hebrew.”
We shake hands, and talk for another 20 minutes.