SM PIER — After a journey across the country and back, Armand Young, of West Virginia, is stuck, like the Israelites on the border of Canaan, at the Staples on Wilshire Boulevard.

Young, who has marched from Santa Monica to New York City and back again, promised his mother, who died in his arms, that he’d collect one million signatures on a bamboo pole adorned with American flags, before completing his journey. After more than seven years, he’s gone the distance, on foot, but he’s 320,000 signatures shy. So he’s sleeping on the beach, collecting about 300 signatures a day, and waiting to cross into the Promised Land, the Santa Monica Pier, so he can finish his journey and return home.

“I really, really want to get back to my wife,” said Young, who sounds a bit like Elvis Presley. “I want a shower. I want to make my wife breakfast in bed. I thought I’d be home by Thanksgiving but that’s obviously not happening.”

Young started his journey on April 16, 2007, walking from the pier to Plymouth, Ind. where he got word that his mother, back in San Diego, was dying. He flew back to be with her and 19 days later she died.

Before she died, Young promised her that he’d collect a million signatures – promises from the signers that they’ll complete an act of kindness – on his bamboo pole.

Eventually, he returned to Indiana and continued his journey to the site of the collapsed World Trade Center towers in New York City.

He toured the city, filling his bamboo pole with 80,000 signatures. He began adding American flags, each one covered with 1,000 signatures.

He went to work in West Virginia for several months before returning to New York City to begin his walk back to Santa Monica. He made it to Gettysburg, Pa. before getting word that his sister was in a car accident in Ohio. She, too, died with Young at her side.

Young continued from Gettysburg to Iowa, where the cold winter weather knocked him out. He took a break, returning to West Virginia. When the weather warmed, he trekked from Iowa to Santa Monica, hoisting the bamboo pole adorned with hundreds of signed flags on his back like Sisyphus’ boulder.

He got to Santa Monica a few weeks ago, he said, but he can’t end his journey until the signatures are gathered.

He’s been walking back and forth between Venice and Santa Monica, or sitting outside the Staples, a company that, he says, has sponsored him during his walk.

“I can’t believe I didn’t get a million signatures while I was walking across the country,” he said. “I can’t keep doing this forever. I want to see my wife so bad.”

dave@www.smdp.com

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