Saturday, December 10, 2005

Embraced


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Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

Since returning home I have felt embraced by the people around me...both figuratively and literally. A reality of being transient is that hugs are few and far between. So when I came home I soaked up the loving from everyone around me, especially the unexpected ones.

One of the "Old Timers" in the neighborhood who hangs out in front of our house was in jail when I left back in May. So it had been almost a year since I had seen him. When I saw him the first morning I was back he hugged me dead on, then stepped back saying "Ahh man" and hugged me again about 5 times.

When I walked into work on Monday morning, my boss got up from his chair embraced me and said, "Glad to have you back."

I even noticed a difference in the way my loved ones hugged me. It seemed like everyone held me for an extra second, as if to internalize the reality that I've physically returned and I'm in one piece.

Don't tell my brother and sisters, but I noticed my grandma gave me a bigger hug than them when I went home for Thanksgiving.

The Little Things


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Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

Since I've been back from my journey, a few people have said something to the effect of, "I enjoyed reading your blog, you did a nice job of extracting the details of everyday life and making them interesting." I appreciate the compliment but it wasn't something that I was consciously doing. Now that I've returned to a "normal" over-stimulated lifestyle, I realize that such writing was really just a product of living a simple life. The simplicity of my life boiled down to two major categories: 1. Surviving 2. Pushing the pedals of my bike for 8 hours a day over the course of 6 months.

Thankfully I found great meaning in these 2 tasks. Such a life allowed me time to notice people...their actions, their weird patterns, and their words. For me, these acute observations are what help me make sense of humanity and provide a source of peace. Today I realized that since returning to Camden one month ago, I haven't allowed myself the time to do these things.

When I got out of bed this morning, my mission was simple: To walk alone through the streets of Camden and Philadelphia with a spirit of mindfulness and reflection.

My soul was filled by the little things that I was able to experience...A young mother in the train station putting her nose on her baby's head and taking a wiff. I could practically smell the 'new baby smell' as I watched from 10 feet away. I took the time to pick up trash on the street as I waited for the walk signal at an intersection. I sat in unofficial 'homeless section' of the Philadelphia Free Library and was serenated by a chorus of snoring. These are the things that remind me of the beauty of being human. I need more days like today.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Where Do We Go From Here?


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Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

It's become very natural to sharing sharing my words on this blog. As the end of the journey was closing in I wondered if I could just stop writing cold turkey. After all, everyday life isn't as exciting as biking across the country.

On the plane ride home, Fr. Michael passed me a note. It started with a poem that read:

For oft, when upon my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude

He clarified that "they" for William Wordsworth referred to daffodils. Yet for me "they" are the scenes, situations, people, feelings of the pilgrimmage from Camden to Mexico by way of Canada and the Pacific on a BICYCLE...The blog should go on with the Reflections of Jeremiah.

How can I pass up the advice of a great writer. So now that I am stationary and I have the time to lay on the couch in pensive mood, I plan to still write when I "they" flash upon my inward eye. I'm not sure how often this will be, but please check on me now and again.

Newspaper Articles

Check out 2 newspaper articles that were written about my return to Camden:

Courier Post

Philadelphia Inquirer

The Importance of Community


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Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

I had the chance to say a few words to the congregation on Sunday. I tried my best to express how crucial their role was over the course of my journey. On May 22nd I was sent out of Sacred Church annointed by God and also a cloud of witnesses. For this reason I was able to travel for almost 6 months by myself and yet never feel lonely. It's a paradox that's hard to explain. Knowing that this community and many others were following the words that I wrote and responding with prayer, was a daily source of comfort.

I also wanted to communicate that I never questioned whether I would return to Camden. My journey presented my senses with some beautiful things. Yet I realized that beauty is a very personal thing. Camden and the community of people that I have found there reflect to me the Kingdom of God...which I have found to be more attractive than anything else.

Lastly I am truly grateful for the way people have financially contributed to the 'healing of Camden'. Over $30,000 has been raised. This money will go towards efforts that allow the people of the Waterfront South neighborhood breathe air that is as fresh and clean as the air that I took into my lungs throughout this country. It's ultimately a matter of loving our neighbor...the second greatest commandment.

Washing of the Feet


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Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

As I mentioned earlier, Fr. Michael doesn't take milestones lightly. As such, he wanted my entrance into Sacred Heart Church on Sunday to be as special as my exit. He told me to show up for mass late with my bike and wait for him to announce my arrival after the homily.

I showed up late waited outside the church. Two photographers from local papers were waiting for me. One was a Dominican fella who works for the local Catholic paper. I remember him from the day I left the church on May 22nd. He brought his whole family to meet me. He had me posing with his sons and gave them strict instructions to tell all their friends about me. I felt like a celebrity.

This picture is the only way I can describe my reception from the congregation on Sunday. I walked down the aisle with my bike surrounded by smiling, welcoming faces...is was like being consumed by a cloud of love. Father had me sit down and he washed my feet..."the very feet that pushed the pedals for 7,100 miles". It was a humbling and honoring moment.

Home Sweet Home


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Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

Saturday I flew back to Camden, accompanied by my good friends Elissa, Andrea and Fr. Michael. I was greeted at the Philadelphia airport by a group of my housemates and wisked back into the loving arms of America's Most Dangerous City...home sweet home. I must say it felt great to be back. I toured myself through the house, noticing all of the improvements that had been made since I left. We all sat down to a feast prepared by my housemate Cassie. It was great to look around the table at so many faces that I had missed. Not to mention, the opportunity to talk and laugh and celebrate with a group of people who care for me understand me so well.

Mexican Fiesta


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Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

After the parking lot celebration Fr. Michael, Andrea, and I walked across the border into Tijuana, Mexico to make it offically a three country journey...U.S., Canada and Mexico. We were in search of the best fish tacos we could find. All of a sudden the fella with us in this picture, Pepe, welcomed us into his restaurant, bicycle and all. We asked if he had fish tacos and his answer was, "The best!"...we had found the spot.

We toasted the occasion with Tequila and Corona. Fr. Michael got a kick out of the Tequila shot ritual, with the salt and the lime...but he learned quickly. He said, "So I lick the salt like a deer?" I mentioned that Corona translates to 'crown' in Spanish. Father lifted his glass and said, "To the crowned prince of cylcing." I'm not sure if I deserve such a title but in the grandeur of the moment I gratefully took it in. As I sat at the table it felt like the whole world was celebrating the moment...it was anything but anti-climatic (which I had thought it might be). At one point I got up to go to the bathroom and I realized that we were the only ones in the place, but as soon as I sat down again, I was consumed again by the 'cosmic celebration'. And for the record, the fish tacos were "the best" as Pepe promised.

The End of the Line


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Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

Andrea, Elissa and I left San Diego Friday morning on bicycles, making our way south to the border town of San Ysidro. Fr. Michael, Helene and her daughter Alissa, met us there via the trolley. We chose to celebrate the moment in a rough looking corner in the parking lot of the Greyhound Bus station...it reminded us of Camden. I popped open a bottle of champagne 'championship style' and we passed it around, everyone toasting and drinking straight from the bottle. This picture shows 'the poet himself' gracing us with his words. When he was done he took out his pen and very meticulously captured the moment on the newly boarded up wall behind him...holy graffiti. He made sure to document the final number of miles...7100. We talked a lot about that number throughout the day, trying to grasp how far it really was. We ended up calculating the number of times my wheel turned...each one a prayer for Camden. Over 7 million for those who are curious.

San Diego...The Final Stretch


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Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

I was greeted Wednesday night in San Diego by a friend named Helene, who is the executive director of the Heart of Camden (our neighborhood's non-profit housing ministry). Her daughter was wearing a bright yellow shirt that said, "Camden Will Heal---Jeremy's Journey 2005" (a shirt you will see a lot in the pictures I am posting). Helene gave me the king's treatment and took care of all the details to make the celebration special.

Thursday afternoon my housemates Elissa and Andrea arrived from Camden. Thanks to their encouragement I mustered up enough courage to plunge into that chilly water that I had been looking at since October 4th when I reached the coast. It was good to feel the power of the Pacific as the three of us body surfed. They were also committed to joining me for the final 30 miles of my trip into Mexico. I finished my ride the way I started...surrounded by my community.

Thursday night, Father Michael Doyle arrived from Sacred Heart. He's a man who believes strongly in honoring milestones. He is also knows the importance of manifesting the spiritual into the physical...a man of sacrament if you will. As such, he flew across the country to be physically present to celebrate the end of the journey. His presence meant a lot to me. When I came out to greet him he embraced me and kissed on the cheek 'Godfather' style, saying in his Irish brogue, "Now look at you, still in one piece...and these are the legs that carried you all this way."

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

It's All Coming to an End


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Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

Tuesday and Wednesday have been threatening rain and windy. It seems like when the weather's crappy the wind comes from the south. In other words, "When it rains it pours." As you can see from this picture, the kite surfers are making good use of the wind.
I camped out near the beach in San Clemente Tuesday night. I'm currently writing from UC San Diego. I have a sweet hook up in Mission Beach. A woman from the Heart of Camden, Helene, happens to be vacationing here. She's offered me hospitality. I'm also looking forward to the arrival of two of my housemates, Elissa and Andrea, along with Fr. Michael who are flying in tommorrow to be a part of the culmination of this journey. Andrea and Elissa will bike with me to Tijuana tommorrow.
It's hard to believe that it's all coming to end. I definitely have mixed emotions but this journey has offered me things that will hopefully always stay with me. More reflections to come later.

Back to Reality


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Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

To balance all the high rollin' I've been doing in Southern California, I dipped into the bowels of LA around Long Beach. I found a great hispanic market where I was able to get some cheap pan dulce at the bakery.
I also went through a strip of polluting industry on the edge of the neighborhood. Interesting that I had to visit a minority neighborhood in order to discover such things. I took in some deep breaths in an attempt to condition my lungs for their return to Camden...they didn't go down as smoothly as they used to.

Venice Beach


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Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

I had two good nights in Santa Monica thanks to a hook up from an old friend. One of my teammates/friends from Marquette, Andrea, went out of her way to connect me with her sister, Anne Marie in Santa Monica. Anne Marie gave me free reign of her place while I was in town...many thanks to her.
After taking a rest day Monday I got back on my bike Tuesday morning. I started off on the boardwalk, taking my time to take in the scene at Venice Beach. I had a good chat with the "World's Greatest Wine-O", shown in this picture. He told me a joke about Bill Clinton. He has roots in Philly, in fact he was just back there for his mother's funeral. He still remembers his mother's church on 22nd and Bainbridge.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Dave


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Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

Today I met up with my buddy Dave from back in Crystal Lake. He's lived in LA for about 8 years. Dave spent a few days at the Camden House this summer during a trip to Philly for a sociology seminar. I was sorry that I missed his visit, but glad to catch up with him on his turf. Dave toured me through the city so I could take in UCLA and Hollywood. We talked about some important stuff, a lot of which revolved around the tension between recognizing privilege and engaging the suffering of this world. This tension was very real as we drove through Bel Air and talked about Camden. Many thanks to Dave for his hospitality.

Malibu


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Originally uploaded by jeremysullivan.

I spent Sunday biking from Santa Barbara to Santa Monica. The water was full of surfers, braving the chilly ocean in search of any swell they could find. I met a kid from Rhode Island at a hostel in Santa Barbara who said that the water is in the 50's...luckily he brought his thick wet suit that he uses in the Atlantic.
One of the more interesting stretches was through Malibu. I picked up a copy of the Malibu Times Magazine to study up on local culture. I read a very interesting article entitled, "Pet Palaces". It highlights a pet boarding facility where dogs can play on Astroturf-carpeting (flushed hourly for cleanliness), nap on Ultrasuede beds, have a massage or enjoy aroma therapy, or work out on a treadmill immersed in warm water.
It's scary that there's such disparity between the people of this world/country...but it's even scarier when I consider where I am on the spectrum.