True Color-Part 6 Homeless in Seattle/Sleepless in Detroi

A few months before again seeking work with the National Park Service

A few months before again seeking work with the National Park Service

As I got close to finishing the tiny cabin on my sister’s farm near Corvallis, Oregon, family and common law tensions mounted. My sister and the father of her child were on the war path with one another. That path became a turnpike for hard feelings between everyone. Just a couple days after moving from the hayloft to my new little cabin, my sister asked me to leave.

Now I remembered I had come west to find work with the National Park Service. It was March, 1974, and my applications should have been submitted by December of 1973.My girlfriend seemed unperturbed by the news that I was leaving to look for work. Her roommate was dumping her boyfriend, so my girlfriend recommended I take him along to seek other fortune.  We had some money budgeted for gas and some money for beer which, along with air, seemed like necessity.

We had less money budgeted for food and no money allocated for anything else. We slept in a tent or under the stars as we made a march of the National Parks and Monuments of the Pacific Northwest. About a week after my human partner’s gas and beer money ran out, I told him that the time had come to go separate ways.

I gave him five bucks and left him by the side of the road and continued the trip with my canine partner, Woodsie. Woodsie never acquired a taste for beer, but there were nights we ate kibble together. I would pull into a Park headquarters and ask to see the Superintendent. That is how I met Superintendent Daniel Tobin of Mount Rainier.

There was nothing he or any other superintendent could do, since I had not filed an application during the appropriate window. Superintendent Tobin suggested I apply as a guide to Rainier Mountaineering, Incorporated.  He even arranged an interview for me over the phone with a lawyer in Tacoma who sat on R.M.I.’s board.

A few hours later I announced myself to the receptionist in the lawyer’s office.  A man came out of the office behind the receptionist looked at me and said a few words to the receptionist before leaving.

I waited an hour more and then the receptionist walked out.  At 6pm I was the only one in the office besides the cleaning crew. Based on my physical appearance, I had not even rated an interview to that tug and tow outfit.It was the first time I saw the Olympic Peninsula and resolved that it would one day be my home.  In Port Angeles, I met with legendary ranger, Jack Hughes, and offered my services as a volunteer. But the Park cupboard was bare, with no funds to house volunteers.

I was sent down the road.I ended up on the streets of Seattle with less than a hundred dollars. I knew from my hitchhiking experience that colleges were a great place to seek food and shelter.  For a few days I put out my bed under the steps of the TV and Film building of the University of Washington. One morning I slept in and students were coming to class as I crawled out from under their steps.

I called my sister’s ex-husband (from before the common-law husband) and asked him for advice on finding work. We met for a beer and he suggested I find money and travel.  My parents had left me with some investment assets before expatriating from the United States in 1971.

But when I came out of the tavern my car was being towed with my dog in it. Bailing out my dog and car left me with $40. It became increasingly evident that I wasn’t going to find work as easily as I had back east. I headed in that direction. The forty bucks got me to  Helena, Montana.

I parked outside a bank and walked in. I asked for a hundred dollar loan. The teller asked if it was my Toyota Land Cruiser parked in front of the bank.  I announced proudly that it was my rig. The teller told me I was getting a parking ticket as we spoke.

I ran out to keep my car and dog from being towed again and came back into the bank holding a violation notice. It seems hard to believe, but the bank loaned me the hundred bucks. It was enough to get to Detroit, Michigan.

I had a friend from first grade there. He loaned me enough to pay back the bank, pay the outstanding parking ticket and get by until I could convert some old investments into moolah. On a cold day in March, within a day of my 24th birthday, I went with my friend to buy beer at a liquor store in Detroit.

Along the upper wall towards the ceiling of the store were several gun slits.  Muzzles of guns protruded from the slits. This is how the people of Detroit, Michigan bought their libations in the mid-seventies. To me, it was like being in a foreign country…which is where I would be in less than a month.