This account of my life is in no way intended to insult, berate or denigrate anyone at all. It is an attempt by me to tell a story, to possibly resolve issues in my own life and lend a bit of inspiration to others who may have similar issues in their lives, to find solutions for their problems as well.
From Aberdeen to Seattle. 1973 to 1980.
Something I have heard time and time again, “There’s no excuse for homelessness. If you can’t find work, you’re not trying hard enough” and “There’s no excuse for homelessness. There’s plenty of work out there.” “You don’t look homeless” is a stunner for obvious reasons.
“You don’t seem to be oblivious to others’ needs or problems.” Being misinformed or uneducated about things you comment on does not hit a home run for you or your cause.
Here is a fact:
“While there is no one agreed upon definition, one definition originally developed as part of the McKinney-Vento Act of 1987 federal legislation describes a “homeless” person as being:
An individual who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence;
An individual who has a primary nighttime residence that is–
- A supervised publicly or privately operated shelter designed to provide temporary living accommodations (including welfare hotels, congregate shelters, and transitional housing for the mentally ill);
- An institution that provides a temporary residence for individuals intended to be institutionalized; or
- A public or private place not designed for, or ordinarily used as, a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings.”
Notice no reference to employment, although, the above is a definition, not an attempt to ascertain a cause.
Most often the cause is attributed to “unforeseen circumstances.”
Sure, that changes everything. Personally, I decided to become homeless due to not wanting to be subject to a circumstance that was undesirable and harmful to myself and the other person. Yes, I said ‘decided.’ No one decides when they wake up in the morning, “Today I am going to throw my life away and live homeless for the rest of my life, or maybe a year or so.” No, that’s not how it happens.
There are programs in high schools across the country which allow the students to live as ‘homeless’ for a week or so at a time, to allow them to ‘get the feel’ of being homeless. To understand what homeless people go through. (I really don’t like the word “homeless.” It doesn’t define the situation as thoroughly as ‘dispossessed.’) There is one major flaw in this thinking, however. These students have the promise of a resolution at the end of a determined amount of time with full knowledge of when that ‘time’ ends. Even that does not deliver. As a homeless person, you do not have a date for resolution, nor do you have the promise of returning to a successful life even if you did have a promised date for resolution. Just because one resolves their dispossessed state, they do not walk into a ready-made successful life. It is a hard climb to get back to comfort, then to productivity. To accept dispossession for a week just to ‘get the feeling’ is by far a failure to deliver.
I’m getting ahead of my story. Back to the intro.
In many cases, a person may not have an ‘on the spot’ remedy to a situation that threatens to bring on dispossession. An accident, an argument, a car parks in your living room, a plane crashes on your house, then there are natural disasters which are much more final. Earthquake, flood, tornado, etc. They may have a relative or a close friend who can help and it may take a day, or maybe just hours, to stay away from dispossession. In other cases, an immediate remedy to a terrible living situation is to accept becoming dispossessed. Yes, dispossession can be better than some living situations. It happened to me, as well as being victimized by domestic violence. Having said that, I must also say, I am a heterosexual male, and at the time I became aware of the situation described above and in this three part account, I was single. A situation similar to this is portrayed in the movie “Men Don’t Tell” starring Judith Light, Peter Strauss and James Gammon. Yes, women do hit men. Men with wisdom walk. If you haven’t seen the movie, do attempt to view it. If this story has captured your attention, the movie will be inspiring and will also educate.
“Men Don’t Tell,” tv movie at IMdb.
So, here we go.
I’m sure by now you are wondering, or, guessing where this is leading. After finishing High School at Lincoln High in Seattle in 1972, my father sent me back to glorious Aberdeen, WA. I had previously been sent to Seattle from Aberdeen by my mother because I was a troubled little kid and completely, mindlessly, lost. Oddly, after what I had been through with my father in Seattle, this was a welcome move. I was pretty much on my own. Again, I lived with my mother when I got back. At some point, I ended up staying with my late aunt Lois and Kenny Ashlock. They couldn’t take it, so they had me hand delivered to the Harvester Foundation in Brady, WA. About 30 miles east of Aberdeen on Highway 12. It was a Christian drug rehab center overseen by two resident lesbian (unbeknownst to us at the time, however, it was actually obvious,) Pastors. I stayed for about a year, got out on my own and went back to what I knew best. Getting high and drinking beer with my buddies. No one advised me to continue my education through college, and I was way too naive to think of such on my own. At the time, to me, college was for people who wanted to become astronauts or wanted to split atoms.
During this time, I started working for Saginaw Shake and Shingle in South Aberdeen. I met a guy by the name of Mike Rand who worked there as well. Really nice guy. A lot of this is hazy but I can remember a bit. We used to burn a few in the day. He had a magic room in his house in Hoquiam. Yeah, “magic.” He eventually quit the mill and went to work for Shakey’s Pizza on Sumner Ave. and Thornton St. in Aberdeen for a while. We would hang out after the store closed and drink beer and eat pizza and play air hockey. Like I said, many foggy years ago. We still talk on Facebook and I was on the phone with him, after 30+ years, today. Mike Rand, a great guy.
One night I went out to John’s Place Tavern in South Aberdeen and got drunk. It was the desired watering hole for Saginaw shake rats. The next morning I had a severe hangover and went to work. I was ill, went down under the deck and hurled, slipped and fell and cracked my left shin bone, which ended up breaking. My mother rode with me to the hospital in Olympia by way of ambulance. When I was well enough to go home, she took me in and took care of me. She couldn’t stand me though. As soon as I had received a compensation check, she told me, in no uncertain terms to leave. Kevin and I (we were both living at my mother’s house) took an apartment in Cosmopolis, the town on the other end (south-east) of Aberdeen.
So, at 21, I had a broken leg that took a year to get over. First was the cast from my toe to my hip. I HAD to use crutches to get around. Then a cast from above my knee to my toes. Crutches still. Next, a walking cast. At the end of the walking cast period, I had broken the rubber pad loose from the cast by walking on it and bike riding with it. Yep, bicycling. It was a silly sight, but I survived. I never went back to the doctor to be released.
A friend from the Harvester Foundation years before, Pat McGarrah, used to come around to the apartment often. We would go down to the local tavern and buy a gallon of beer at a time. We got it at some ridiculously low price. A dollar and a half per gallon or something. Anyway, we would pour the beer into those plastic margarine cups that were day-glo. They held ten ounces I think. Most times we would buy as many gallons as however many of us could hold in two hands, which, of course, was two, and we had to walk, so two was a limit per person. One in each hand. Three guys, six gallons. Pat and my other buddy, Bob Adams, would bring some pot around and we’d all just chill drinking beer, smoking doobs and watching our pet albino rat, “Fred.” ‘RD’, my cousin, brought him to the apartment. He was clean because we would put him in the bathtub with us when we bathed. Didn’t have a shower.
So, we were all happy living in my little apartment. The land lady lived right under me and was always nice. One day Kevin and I got in a fist fight in the bathroom. I forget what the reason was, but it brought everything to an end. I couldn’t support everything on my disability checks, and so we all packed up and left. Pat had a girl friend, her name was Jane Ritchey, and I had finally received a check from the state concerning my leg. We all three, Pat, Jane and I decided to take a road trip. Jane had a daughter who was around ten I think. We all grabbed some clothes, etc. and jumped in her Rambler and hit I-90 east. We drove and partied for days. We had plenty of “smoke” in the form of blond hash. It was potent too.
We drove to Billings, Montana with no particular purpose in mind. Just to see things go by and to sleep till noon when possible. Somewhere around Spokane, WA. Jane came on to me. Wow, what was Pat going to do? He and her argued quite often, so I don’t think there was much to worry about, other than me losing a friend. Well, it didn’t turn out that way. Pat didn’t care, so we stayed on the road, all three of us. Together. This was one of the best times, or memories, of my life. I’m 58 now (at the time of this writing) and this happened when I was around 21, maybe 22. Yeah, it was a great experience.
Well, we got to Butte, an ugly, tall, way up on a plateau, town. Snowing and cold. We did a “U-ee” and made our way back to Aberdeen.
I moved in with Jane when we got back to Aberdeen. Still limping around, but doing better. No casts. I stayed with her for I can’t remember how long, but we parted as friends. It was another good time.
The next thing I can remember about Aberdeen was meeting Sis. A girl I got along with really well. I went to school with her two brothers, Donny and Gary. They were the first kids to have Schwinn Sting Rays in the neighborhood, like normal kids. Sis and I used to swim together, took mushrooms together, drank little split bottles of Mai Tai together. (Those were really good.) I was living at the Asher Apartments in downtown Aberdeen across from the Police Dept. Yeah, weird. We ‘dated’ for six months before. Thinking back now, she was always too shy to make the first move, and I just thought of her as a friend. It really wasn’t even dating. More like brother/sister hanging out. Anyway, I lost my lease on the Asher Apt. and Sis asked me if I wanted to rent the upstairs apartment in hers and her mother’s house. I said “Sure.” I stayed there for a bit.
One night, after being out drinking beer with some friends, I made my way to her house and upstairs to my bed. Put some Supertramp on and fell asleep. Next thing I remember, I was awoken by kisses on my face. Sis was making the move. I relented and we were an item for nearly the next four years.
About this time, a school buddy, Joe, asked me if I wanted to play the drums in his band. Sure, I’d love to. It was around 1975 or so by now. I played for “Black Rose” which became “Jess ‘n’ Us” for at least five years. Anyway, we played a lot of gigs around Aberdeen/Hoquiam for all of those years. Many musicians went through the band. We even had Craig Wells in our band for a while. He went on to be an original member of “Metal Church” out of San Francisco/Seattle. Melodic metal. We even had a college cheerleader as a vocalist for a short stint. Deborah was her name I think. We all had a good time. Played some great rock classics and stayed close to the top of the ladder in our small town.
We drove down to Portland, Oregon for a gig for Joe’s aunt. What a hoot that was. We played a couple of days, no nights, at a house. The second day we went to a local disco later in the night before departing back to Aberdeen the next morning. Everyone partied and had a good time. I met a lady who asked me to a party just a block away. I said sure. I asked if I could get the rest of the band but she said just me. Huge smile. We partied. Enough said. Naturally, I had forgotten to say anything to the rest of the band before I left the club. I hitch hiked home the next day. The entire distance from Portland, Oregon to Aberdeen, Washington. 143 miles.
So as time moved on, Sis and, my band and my Saginaw Shingle Mill job co-existed placidly. My relationship with Sis, however was always one-sided. Through my early years, not having a functional family kept me taking care of my two brothers while my mother was out making money and keeping the household on its feet. This whole scenario pretty much kept me from developing any ‘people’ skills, resulting in me being very self-centered and self-absorbed. To me at that time, women were just a ‘thing.’ Wow, that hurts to type. I am not that way at all today. All are equal on the highest level. I am so glad I abandoned such thinking. So, ‘placidly’ meant I was getting my way.
Anyway, because of this ‘stunting’ of my social skills, I had no real clue regarding how to respect anyone as a good human being. Eventually, as our relationship moved along, we became distant. We were always together, but never completely happy together. We went to concerts together, Supertramp being one of the coolest. Eventually, I left Saginaw and went to work for Grays Harbor Shake and Shingle in Hoquaim, then to Neilton Shake and Shingle in Neilton, WA. up near Lake Quinault. I was running the deck then. A tough job. I took an apartment in Hoquiam across the street from Thumper’s Tavern on 6th and Simpson. The mill started losing money and laying people off left and right. Another failure.
So, I decided to do something different. I applied to a glass and paint shop on the corner of Market and G Streets in Aberdeen. Jack’s Glass. It was a franchise of Neiman Glass out of Seattle. Jack hired me and taught me from the ground up how to handle glass. Residential, auto and industrial. This was a good job. I worked for, and learned from, Jack for a couple of years. It was a natural ability for me.
Sis and I moved into a house in east Aberdeen, just across the Wishkah River from downtown, 805 Summit St. I don’t remember how long we lived there, but it wasn’t very long. Jack, my boss at the glass shop, had to drop his franchise. He couldn’t manage money or hold on to it. He went into business with a guy by the name of Dale Poor and moved the business to Raymond, WA., 25 miles south of Aberdeen. Sis and I stayed in Aberdeen for a bit, then we moved to Raymond, to the apartment above the shop, so I wouldn’t have to drive down and back everyday. The lot is empty now as the building has been torn down, as is the original shop in Aberdeen. This was the end of 1978. We lived there for a year I think.
I was doing well. Playing music, running a glass shop, and living virtually rent free. But Sis and my relationship was falling apart. She eventually started seeing another guy in Aberdeen behind my back. Tom somebody. A guy I went to High School with in Hoquiam I think. She dumped me about the same minute 1 + 1 became 2. She decided, and a smart move, to move back home with her mother. Really, this was one time when I was glad it was over. Really glad. I wasn’t mixing well with two bosses, and eventually, decided to leave the company. I also left “Jess ‘n’ Us” behind. I could write a great story about that whole deal too.
I packed and left for Seattle.
In preparation, I had contacted my father and step-mother and set up a temporary ‘flop’ situation with them. I would never live in Aberdeen or Grays Harbor County again or hear from or contact Sis again. We thought, when we started, that we would be together for the rest of our lives. I am sure, when it ended, that her and her mother were really glad that didn’t happen. Jan never did like me. I think it was because she had known my mother and father in school and held their reputations against me. I don’t have proof or knowledge of such innuendo, but it’s easy to ascertain from my years as a kid.
For the next twenty years I would live in Seattle.
At this point of the story, things take a big turn. I will continue in “Hitting The Streets. Part Two.”
All links and references were obtained from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.