An unexpected run-in

12 Jun

So, yesterday I celebrated the fact that three years ago I didn’t die. And it was a totally awesome day, filled with bacon, bikes, beer, and blessings. But it was also kinda complicated and fucked up.

I took my #1 priority (sleep) REALLY seriously during the night that became my anniversary day, so I got a really, really late start on things. I was “supposed” to be on the road, on my bike by 8:00am so that I could finish my 60-mile loop, eat, clean up, drop off my Coach’s “thanks for helping to repair me” present by 1:00, and be in front of the computer by 2:00 to do some solid writing of both blog and term papers.

Yeah, none of that happened.

Instead, I woke up at 10:15 (nice!), took a leisurely walk to my go-to purveyor of bacon, enjoyed a very hearty breakfast, walked home, assembled Coach’s gift pack, got a surprise visit from my former gym trainer, jammed over to Bike Effect, getting there <10mins before Coach was scheduled to leave, except that he was running long with his fit client, so I took a nap on the massage table for nearly half an hour, and then there was some ooh-ing, and ahh-ing, and picture taking relative to the gift, and then I realized that I’d forgotten something at home, so I wasn’t able to head out for my ride right away…

Nothing was going according to plan.

Which is, of course, awesome.

Because if things had gone according to plan, I would not have run into (almost literally) Bobby Boppo.

This is not his real name, but the real person’s real name is equally adorable/comical and he totally looks like what you’d imagine a Bobby Boppo to look like (i.e. round and dopey and preternatural happy — kinda like a big ol’ teddy bear). As I approached the Bundy and Pico intersection heading south-bound, the light was transitioning from yellow to red. I considered gunning it, but out of the corner of my eye I saw Bobby Boppo inexplicably speed-waddling across the crosswalk from east to west. I don’t know how he wasn’t hit by the northbound traffic. And I certainly wasn’t going to be the one to clock him from the south-bound side.

Holy cow. Bobby Boppo. I hadn’t seen him in, oh, you guessed it — three years. The last time I saw him was in May 2011. It was approximately his 19th visit to the legal clinic for homeless veterans that I ran. Bobby Boppo had a l-o-n-g set of legal issues and a very short attention span. This made our usual “self help” clinic experience a little more challenging (understatement), an a LOT more protracted than usual. Bobby Boppo was my longest-running project. He also was a very long-term project for the facility that housed him. It took all kinds of creativity to extend his stay for as long as we did. By the time I finally returned to guiding our clinic efforts, post-brain-bashing, Bobby was gone and no one could say where he went or why.

Over these past 3 years I’ve often wondered and worried about him, and now here he was, right before me, in the middle of Pico Blvd!

Bobby Boppo! Is that you? Do remember me?

I startled him as he was dashing across the intersection. He looked momentarily petrified. But I smiled broadly and because I was on my bike, I was able to easily pull over and up onto the curb next to him. I took off my helmet. He scrunched up his chubby little face and peered at me quizzically. Suddenly his eyes lit up with recognition.

Lawyer Lady, Z? From the VA?

Yes, Bobby, it’s me! How are you?!?

Me? Oh, I’m fine. How are YOU? I heard that you almost died!

I gave him a quick run-down of the situation and then asked again how HE was doing. This is what he said:

You know, attorney Z, I had a lot of problems. I’ve still got problems. You helped me solve a lot of them when you were working over at the VA. It didn’t really work out for me over there, but I will be forever grateful for what you did. Even though you weren’t able to fix everything for me. I know some of the things I have to just work on myself. So, I’m trying. That’s what I’m doing now. I still don’t have my driver’s license back, but you know one of the things I always remember you saying is that bicycles can solve a lot of problems, so I got a bike. I ride it almost everywhere, even though I’m still fat. I really like donuts, you know? My bike, it’s tied up over there right now….

He pointed to where he chained his bike and I asked him where he was going now. He said:

You know, I’m glad you asked that, attorney Z! I think you are gonna be really proud of what I’m about to tell you. I’m going to my graduation right now. I’m graduating from West L.A. College today, at 4:30. This is where I catch the bus to go there. I don’t ride my bike there because lots of bikes get stolen on our campus. Here it’s safer. I’m graduating today at 4:30. I’m getting my certificate in counseling. I still got problems. My life isn’t perfect, but I know how to make it better and I’d like to try to help other people get better lives too, you know, especially older veterans like me. You know I’m 58 years old and I’m graduating today. And I’m riding my bike. I learned a lot from you, attorney Z. Well, that’s my bus, I gotta go! Good bye. Ride safe. God bless you, attorney Z. Thank you for everything. It was good to see you again. Good bye. I’m off to my graduation now!




Yeah, I needed a lot more mental space than what the above inch of white space represents…

<deep sigh>

Bobby Boppo. My biggest project. A guy whom I, in a way, abandoned when I smashed my head. A guy who was so often in my mind and heart, and now here he was, on my 3-year anniversary, telling me that what I did for him made a difference. Maybe even transformed his life.

That. Is. Awesome.

And awful.

What do you do with that kind of information? You changed lives for the better when you were a lawyer and now here you are just galavanting around for a 60-mile ride on your bike in the middle of the work day and playing around with college classes like some sort of kid. What are you doing?!?

To outrun these thoughts, I rode.

And as rode, I came to the following conclusions:

  1. Riding bikes in the middle of the day is actually a really good and productive activity for the soul — I will keep it up.
  2. My current scholastic interlude will result in greater good for many people, it is a necessary and important transition — I will keep it up.
  3. Delivering transformative, free legal service to veterans like Bobby can be done by anyone, not just lawyers, but all kinds of lay people as well — I think we ALL can keep it up.

And then I thought: Maybe my readers would be willing to contribute to a cause that would enable us to do just that, together — that would be a pretty cool “we’re glad you didn’t die / thank you for continuing to entertain us via this blog” kind of commemoration.

So, what do you say, dear reader?

Will you please join me on a (virtual) JustAdventure to deliver free legal services to low-income veterans like Bobby Boppo?

Here’s the donation link:

No pressure.

… but if I don’t hit my $5,000 goal, then you won’t get the story behind why my backyard looks like a health hazard.

Your choice.


One Response to “An unexpected run-in”


  1. Morning Links: 55 years to life for drunken hit-and-run, arrest in Eastdale hit-and-run, Fig4All drags on… and on | BikinginLA - June 13, 2014

    […] read from a survivor of a cycling collision, who’s glad she didn’t die — not just for herself, but for the difference she’s made in other’s lives. And she wants […]

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