We met many interesting people in our on the run adventures, one of them being a homeless woman in the Kmart Parking lot in the ghetto of San Diego that I only remember by the name of Auntie Tia, which is what she called herself. She was a Mexican American woman wandering around the parking lot of the Kmart we happened to be killing time near, and she immediately took an interest in us. She was dressed in many layers, darkly tanned and singing loudly with a raspy voice.
I went into the store at a certain point to wash some dishes we were using to eat cereal along the way, and she intercepted me on the way in. It was a bit frightening at the time considering the situation and she was speaking absolute gibberish at that moment. She left me alone and wandered around the parking lot some more, as I returned to the truck.
Eventually, she found her way over to us. There was no small talk, no real start to the conversation. Like many people in her situation, she just talked about anything and everything, sometimes gibberish.
The thing was though was that she was kind and she seemed to notice that we were waiting for something big. As she was bored and borderline crazy, she kept herself and us occupied with her antics.
We didn't complain, partially because it was nice to have a distraction. We were waiting on money and other things so realistically, we didn't really have anywhere to go.
Many people are put off by interactions with homeless people, often because those interactions can be uncomfortable for many reasons. Many people don't like being faced with having nothing, as it's really something that is very scary to face.
Often these people are in pretty tough emotional, mental and financial situations that make them very interesting people to spend time around. Considering I had just spent a week begging my way through California while on the run, it wasn't hard for us to empathize with her on several levels.
So unlike most people, we didn't find a way to get her to leave us alone. We were on guard, as she was wandering around the truck, often touching it, but we were friendly and conversational.
And a great distraction she was. She's evidently loved in the area, as someone stopped with a whole Little Ceasars pizza for her. She didn't need the food as she'd already been fed so she damn near force fed us.
She also passed it around to several other homeless people in the area; we weren't in the best part of San Diego. Then she returned to the truck with the pizza and leftover chicken nuggets, feeding them to Rebel Dog bit by bit, finding him absolutely adorable.
She had a cart nearby with all sorts of things, from an old card from her niece, which is where I remember the name Auntie Tia (which literally means Auntie Auntie technically, as tia is aunt in spanish). She took a liking to us and just did whatever she could to keep us distracted, and I appreciate her for that.
At a certain point she even gave us a dollar with tears in her eyes, saying she knew we needed it. She refused to take it back, and that dollar did help us in our journey.
There were many points in her nonsense babble where she became very lucid. She'd tell an old story that explained how she ended up where she did, or something like that.
One time she went on a five minute rant about police, ending by saying that the area we were in would be safe at the time from police. She said they never come most of the time, save for sweeps where they clean out the homeless and throw them in jail for a few days. She said they were nearly routine and that we would be safe at that time.
She actually reiterated repeatedly that there would be no police, for us not to worry. She told us the directions from which they come, and how we can escape because we have a vehicle. Then she assured us they wouldn't come, and she was right. We didn't see one cop in that hood.
Another time she went on a bit of a speech that could have been interpreted as nonsense to anyone but us, realistically. I'm not one for believing in oracles, but if they exist, this woman was one. We didn't tell her our destination or that we were on the run, but she picked up on both.
The speech was using terminology that John had used in an argument with me the day before. Things were stressing our already stressed relationship and there was much fighting in that time. She went on a sort of speech using the same terminology but in a motivational manner, including Rebel Dog too.
Then she'd snap out of reality and start counting.
And then she'd stop suddenly, stare you dead in the eyes and say something like...
"When you get to Mexico, go to Tecate. That's where I'm from. Teh-Cah-Teh. Remember that. You'll be safe there"
It got so weird that at one point John looked at me as she was wandering around the parking lot, using a palm leaf as a broom, and asked "Did you fucking tell her we're on the run?"
But I hadn't. I'm not sure I said anything to her when she approached me when I was going into the store, I didn't know what to say and that was the only interaction I had with her alone.
As the day continued, more and more comments were made.
"They'll take care of you down there"
"He's the pilot and he needs you to be the copilot, and Rebel, you're the co-co-pilot"
I'll never know what was quite up with the homeless woman who felt the need to give us money. That wasn't the only thing she gave us, and we gave her some weed that we had with us as she told us she liked medical cannabis.
She mentioned that occasionally, people will drop off an edible or some high grade for her to use, which I think is awesome.
Some of the most memorable people in my whole life have been homeless, believe it or not. I've repeatedly bonded with homeless people throughout my life, as I've repeatedly been homeless.
Everyone has a really hard story for how they got to where they were.
And they almost always have huge hearts to boot, willing to buy you things or give you things if they've got them to give.
Why would a homeless woman give one of her last dollars away?
Because she know's what it's like to truly go without.
This woman is one of the best stories in my opinion from our on the run adventures, partially because it's borderline mystical in nature. We never told her where we were going because she never asked. She didn't ask our names either, but she did ask for Rebel's, and she called him Rebel Dog.
And sang songs about him in the parking lot, laughing as he barked at her from afar.
She fed him food bite by bite, getting tears in her eyes whenever he gently nibbled a bite from her fingers.
While this was going on, there was the climax of the Oregon conflict happening, in which an innocent man was shot in the back by police. At one point during the day John ended up watching this video on youtube, as it had just been released. She came and watched it too, and when she realized what was happening, she lost it.
Seriously lost it.
Like sobbing, screaming "You fucking pigs" and things of that nature lost it. It was a beatiful human reaction to an event that truly was horrible.
Yet anyone that witnessed it from afar probably thought it was a totally different situation.
She didn't give a shit who he was, she mourned for him like he was her brother. And from what I can tell about that situation, he deserved it (the mourning and respect, not being shot).
We left that parking lot with a fondness for that woman, realistically speaking. We got our money and a few things from the store and headed out into the countryside to try and camp.
The rest of these ventures from here on out have been covered.
I think about this woman on a nearly weekly basis, for some reason.
I wonder how much she really knew. I wonder if she knows we made it.
This woman was unique, as many street people are. Next time you're approached by one friendly, consider spending a few hours to get to know them.
Often times they're extremely interesting and kind people.
A guy named Backwards Bill in my hometown was known for giving money to children to pay their library fines, including mine.
Another nearby was known for giving Shakespear novels to kids, hanging out with them on the steps of the court house while he drank his donated beers.
Don't even get me started on the people I met in Detroit.
I'll never forget this woman, and one day I'll tell my kids about her just like I told you, that is if they don't find this article first.
Thanks for reading, for the support. This has not been an easy tale to tell overall, although this little tale here was. I have very fond memories of this borderline crazy woman.
Auntie Tia, I hope things are good for you in Sunny San Diego.