Work And Progress
By Arif Michael Vega
Abridged Rough Edition
Table of Contents
I. Life. 1
III. Apocalypse. 10
IV. Anarchy. 15
V. Travel. 21
VI. Drugs. 42
June 25, 1979. Altoona, Pennsylvania. My parents, siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles were all, for the most part, born in Seattle. Two uncles were born in the Phillipines. Basically, I come from a big family, and I grew up in what has grown into a big city. To that city, I owe fealty. My father was the unlikely Filipino in the medical community. He was the first Filipino to graduate from the University of Washington School of Medicine. He never told me this, but having put myself through many protracted and stressful work environments, I know that in 1979, in an emergency room, fresh out of college, a minority will always find another to partner up with. Every man, regardless of race, needs dedicated support in those situations.
My father partnered with a Pakistani, a Muslim named Arif. He is the man who delivered me, during their residency, in Altoona, Pennsylvania. He is the man for who I am named.
My mother gave me my middle name, Michael, for the Christian angel of health and healing. They say he will also punish all sinners left on earth after the apocalypse. wWth pestilence, I suppose. I see him as a sort of passive-aggressive character in the story of apocalypse.
Catholic conquistadors gave us our last name. I find it interesting that many Filipinos can use the first letter of their last name to aid in their genealogy. The Spaniards had trouble pronouncing Filipino names, so they had a book full of acceptable last names for the indigenous brought in from Spain. The administration sent a page of the book to all provinces of the Philippines. As the book was in alphabetical order, the first letter of everyone’s last name in most areas were the same. We got Vega.
Pregnancy ends, and this time, I was the result. My father had the stars read. They say I am a quadruple cancer. Both the mysticism and the name “Arif” are a fitting glove. “Arif” means “sage” or, as I like to say, “crazy old man who wanders in the mountains.” When the modem was invented, I took on the alias of “Anchorite” for the BBS’s and newly forming internet, ignorant of the meaning of my name. The Cancerian is an (over)emotional, highly sensitive empath. The three concepts seem synonymous to me. I’ll let you make your own conclusions.
Back in Altoona, 1979. My mother, who is white, was getting threats by phone in the middle of the night. They didn’t want a woman in town who had “black babies.” People tripped her in the grocery store—even in late pregnancy.
After I was born, my mother decided she couldn’t take the stress anymore. She left my father to finish his residency in the hospital. Alone, with three screaming children and pregnant, she took a bus home to Seattle, Washington, with all of twenty dollars to her name. My father rejoined us within the year.
I am told that we were poor. I remember not being allowed to have friends over for dinner, “because we can’t afford to feed the whole neighborhood,” my mom said. I don’t think that necessarily made my childhood difficult. Perhaps it has made my mother’s raising us difficult, or even my parents’ relationship difficult. But not mine.
Medical Doctors are supposedly automatically rich in our society, but my father did things differently. He spent more time conversing with his patients. He did house calls in a time that the tradition was declining. When an uninsured patient could not pay, he did not charge. My mother recalls trying to drive up “Pill Hill,” a 10-block incline that leads to the hospital district in Seattle. “Every time I was caught at a red light, I prayed no one came up behind us. The clutch was so worn out that you had to fall ten feet back before you could go forward.” She said.
His generosity earned him a place in society that yielded great power, however. Later he translated that power into wealth. The poor sick people who he tended to became healthy, and with that health, became successful. They never forgot that, and he never lacked any financial or communal support when it was wanted. Annalise Callo, who is as close to family as a non-biological relationship can be, worked for my father for 20 years, and continues to. She says my father drove across the Cascades at 3 am to tend to her when she was thirteen, ultimately saving her life.
Much later, this generosity meant million-dollar loans, investment partners, dedicated employees, and trustworthy advisors. My stepfather is one of them.
My father bought a house, when I was young, though he couldn’t keep it. We just call it 529. Back then, Seattle was relatively unknown. Basically, we were a hazy grey combination of Boeing, a drizzle and Jimi Hendrix (my dad went to school with him). The house is now worth close to a million dollars. He first bought it for twenty-six thousand.
He had to sell the house to his mom for fifty thousand dollars, before I can remember it. Due to mortgages, he wound up losing money on the deal. He later bought it back for $100,000, and still owns it. I asked him not to sell it when he moved out, as there are both subtle and not-so-subtle energies about the place that need to stay in responsible hands. He is renting it out to a commune in beta-testing stage right now. If I ever manage to get home, I hope to spend my life in it, or at least a large part of it.
I grew up in that house. Most of my memories are based there. It is probably the only stability I have ever known.
The house was always full. When my mother left, my father opened the rooms for rent. Anyone who was in school or bettering their lives somehow didn’t have to pay rent. Most of my cousins went to The University of Washington or Shoreline Community College, and my father’s house was the perfect location for both schools. His office partner, Bruce Milliman, moved in part-time with his two boys, Khidr and Daschel. It was their city home. They owned a large property in North Bend, as well.
On any given day, the living room would be packed with both music and musicians. On entering, the first thing to catch your eye would be a wall of exotic instruments that household members had collected on their journeys. Another wall was covered in a more practical manner—guitars and basses. Eventually, a baby grand piano dominated one corner, a drum kit dominated another. Backing the sofa was a smaller stand-up piano, and the couch was always littered with all manner of horns, woodwinds and strings. Oh, and cases.
Upstairs was generally civil. The basement was not. Walls were erected on a whim, and painted in the same manner, often with bare hands. At one point, my bedroom door was three feet tall. At another, the walls were entirely covered with either murals, giant psychedelic mazes, or glow-in-the-dark paint.
My father practices western medicine., and Bruce practices naturopathic medicine. Naturally this was a house of healing. Other than college kids, and office partners, he took in battered women; recovering—or at least attempting to recover—drug addicts, one of which who would stab her boyfriend with a letter opener and have the cops arrest him; a schizophrenic; and all sorts of other characters.
He wasn’t a big fan of rules, and the rest of us followed suit. We had meetings, and the house generally operated on consensus. Any rules that were in place were regularly broken. My father was rarely home. Even when I was an adolescent, and my mother was living 20 miles away, my father left for work at 7 a.m., 7 days a week, often returning as late as midnight.
Much later, in my thirties, I ran into a psychological report my parents ordered when I was seven. It recommended that, to address my behavior problems, I spend more time with my father. I passed college entrance exams for English in the same test. The IQ test was not completed because “Arif grew silly and refused to cooperate for entire portions of the test.” They could say that my verbal IQ was at least 123 and non-verbal at least 128, but the actual number was “certainly much higher.”
That may have had consequences—the father absence thing—but he remains my most trusted elder. His methods, while eccentric, get results. I don’t agree with him on everything. Today, we are in severe disagreement on two issues—what college I should go to, and whether I should be active and open as a Men’s Rights Advocate (MRA). But I take everything he says with more seriousness than any of my professors to date. Incidentally, he currently teaches in the University of Washington School of Medicine.
He was also always teaching us about medicine. Very early on, he taught me how to give my grandmother subcutaneous shots for something she had to deal with. My siblings and I were all his Medical Assistants (MA) at different points in our lives. That was back when an MA could do all kinds of stuff, if a medical doctor told them to. Early on, I was lectured on how to behave around people that are stressed out, like people who are pending operation, or are sick. He had demonstrations on how to set a bone, or get a dislocated shoulder to pop back in. Then I learned how to prepare his instruments for him when he operated. I filled hypodermic needles with an injection, careful to turn my back and block the procedure from the patients view. I practiced putting on and taking off gloves. I practiced offering him gloves, a procedure done with a strikingly surgical order. Later, I was cutting open frozen chicken and sewing it back up. Then I practiced injecting it with lidocaine. Eventually I was cutting out tumors and cysts from his patients that were doctors, or close friends. The stress, however, was always on compassion, and how to constantly express it, not just to patients, but to all.
So, while my father was always adamant about teaching us to have an open mind, to think for ourselves, and be independent. He also taught us about compassion, something that always informed my actions, whether I was getting in trouble or not. He taught me, and I am assuming my siblings, different meditations from an early age. Books that lay around his house had titles like “The Little Zen Handbook,” “Hands of Light,” or “The Nine Faces of Christ.”
Two of us have stayed at Dhamma Kunja multiple times, a monastery where they teach Vipassana meditation. For ten days, you must maintain a strict silence (among other precepts, like not killing bugs or eating meat and spicy food), and meditate 18 hours a day, 16 and a half of while sitting motionless. My father did this when he was young, and the benefits of the practice have never left him. He encourages anyone who indicates they are interested in going.
The confluence of independence and compassion had some interesting effects, as you will see. While it led me to movements like The Battle of Seattle, the No Iraq War protests, Impeach Bush, Occupy Seattle, Black Lives Matter, various Men’s Rights Movements, and even to risking my life in the third world combating poverty, I also got in a whole ton of trouble. Some of this trouble was the bad kind, where I was clearly the bad guy, like running around dressed like a girl and stealing peoples potted plants. Some was the good kind, where I was clearly the good guy, like smuggling drugs in rural Africa. Most of it was incidental, and you can view it with the kind of eye that shows I had brought about the best the situation could yield, like hitching a ride with a con-man and playing along with his games. It also led to a lot of early engagements with the police.
By the time I was ten, my parents were divorced. I had lost an eye—it became discolored, giving me a totally groovy new look. I started dressing in all black and had a big head of super-curly hair that made all the girls jealous. My grandmother literally kidnapped my siblings and I and had us baptized. My mother was furious.
After a ferry, a short drive and a two-mile-hike, you get to obstruction pass, a six or seven site campground, mostly frequented by kayakers, the occasional sailboat, and us. It had a typical northwest feel, spongy forest floor, clear of debris, mossy boulders jutting out into the sea. At the highest tides, the trees would lean out over the water. Otherwise, a mile or more of sandy beach awaited exploration.
A cove at the north end of the site boasted hundred foot cliffs, a magnificent battle between water and stone, carved from the land by glaciers thousands of years ago. The south was bordered by someone’s vacation home. We used to use their dock as a sort of play fort, and at one point, raided their shed for nails, to build kayaks and rafts out of driftwood.
My mother was also furious when my father outfitted me, a brother and three cousins, Francis, Waldo and Lester, for a week long camping trip. I was around thirteen and the others around fifteen. He dropped us off at the trail-head there on Orcas Island, with a wave and “I’ll be back in a week!” He came back after two.
We loved it, though. Early on, a raccoon got into our supplies, and effectively left us with just a jar of peanut butter to eat.
We made fishing poles, and crab pots. A pair of Kayakers landed and stayed the night—we traded fish and crab for wild rice. Waldo horrified us all with his “proper Filipino way” of cooking shellfish. He put the crab in cold water, and put it on the fire. He slowly brought up the temperature until the crab was dead. The sound of the legs skittering about in the steel pot made my mind reel. Crab was my favorite food until that day. Now I refuse to eat it because I have no way of knowing how it was cooked.
But I survived, as many ocean-going creatures did not, and we all had a blast. We wondered why he hadn’t shown, but we were happy where we were. Perhaps we were learning independence.
I later returned to this same island to try to rough it alone, as an experiment. I wanted to see how long I could last without society. I lasted two weeks. It wasn’t for lack of skills. It was because even anti-social me couldn’t go more than two weeks without anything but trees to talk to.
My father was always teaching survival skills, but not like the boy scouts. We went to places like Northern Lights, an aboriginal camp, where you learn how to knap obsidian arrowheads, spears, wooden compound bows, rope, baskets, shelters, fire, etc. A lot of Native Americans hung around our events, especially at company retreats. We often had his native friends offering blessings and prayers at programs. My first singing lesson was from ____. He taught me “Cedar Tree.” I can hear it as I write this. I remember standing out in the woods with the two of them, singing. Largely because of this, choir was the one class I took seriously in my teenage years.
Here, I will leave you with a good example of how this has informed my adulthood. I wrote this literary analysis of the movie “A River Runs Through It,” my first semester at Piedmont Virginia Community College:
A tree falls in the forest; no one hears. With a mighty snap, a boom and magnificent cascade of whooshing water she begins her journey to the sea. No one heard, perhaps, but they did make it into a movie.
A thousand years later, the mountains are still young. An equally young author sits to the side of Sunset Falls, where a million gallons of river roar through a channel so narrow it tempts his mind into a death defying leap to the other shore. The image is rendered sharp by the contrast to a sure death that would lie in failure.
Maybe it was a fleeting thought, perhaps the conversation was held in eternity, but he saw that tree on her journey to the sea. Saw her floating through churning rapids, bark and limbs shorn from her body, trunk pulverized by boulders and ultimately ground to mud by an endless stream of sand, whiling away her grain and structure.
On a late evening in 1910, the city of Missoula, Montana, slumbers peacefully, and a river runs through it.
“Droooooop, Plunk!” A solitary fern has survived the swell of recent rains, its roots anchored fast to its submerged island paradise. The pressure of current builds behind its foliage and with a drawn out “drooooop!” it bows its head beneath the surface of the river. “Plunk!” with the miracle of kinetic energy stored, and the inherent strength of the vegetable family, it throws its head back in defiance, sending droplets of river water from its fronds spraying into the air. Again the pressure builds. “Droooop, Plunk!”
Below, water cascades into water with a reverberating and percussive roar. Currents are lapping on stone to every frequency of sound, and the constancy of the minutest interval. A billion bubbles dive into the basin, to rise again to the surface, each with its own indistinguishable “Pop!”
All faculty of aural perception is inundated by sound. No wavelength—or perhaps even thought thereof—is left undisturbed, leaving the observer only with the homogeneity of silence, the rushed static of entropy, and perhaps to the lucky, the vision of awesome power thrumming in repetition.
Somehow, almost impossibly, a voice drifts in from the forest.
“I guess it’s just us McCleans!” (A River Runs Through It). Paul’s voice quivers with the madness of the mountains, a madness that will not—or cannot—expect to survive the day.
Norman pauses for a moment, and with a dubious but growing confidence begins to remove his excess clothing—the cotton that kills—and clambers into the rocking boat.
The author keeps record from his seat at the falls. Two sets of fleet fly by, their enormous girth, density and weight softly compressing a millennia’s worth of peat moss and pine needles. Their forester’s constitution leaves a series of gravity wells, slowly diminishing dimples on the soft and springy forest floor. If they notice the man, pen in hand, they do not pause to take heed.
Following shortly is the boat, gaining speed in the narrowing current, glancing off racks and boulders that have stood unmoved by the centuries. It comes through unscathed, bearing the two fragile souls of McClean toward the precipice of annihilation, the fulcrum where nature collides. There they hang, for a single instant, half afloat and half in flight, as the sailor who tacks upwind on tempestuous seas.
The boat plunges in to the froth and foam and with a sharp crack and a splinter it is torn asunder.
The scene pictured here is perhaps an entire sixty seconds of the movie “A River Runs Through It”. Conversation is minimal. The director instead chooses to display the scene through imagery and carefully contrasted volume in rapids, versus the awesome thrum of power where it is compressed through granite and galena. A study of nature is found here at its clearest, from ‘Shooting the chutes” to the death of young Paul McClean, to the recital of the poem “Intimations of Immortality” by William Wordsworth. This film shows again and again we should be no more concerned with the frailty and temporary nature of human existence, than the awesome and godly power of nature incarnate.
He had also taught us about chemistry. To us, that meant “How To Blow Things Up,” and later, “How To Blow Things Up Real Pretty, Like, By Adding Aluminum Oxide To The Gunpowder,” and “Useful Characteristics of Thermite.” My favorite was sealing aluminum foil and muriatic acid into a plastic soda bottle, and getting away, fast. A loud explosion and a large cloud of acidic gas results. Don’t do this without other adults around, please. Basically, I became a walking, talking, pre-teen environmental disaster.
My grades started falling. By thirteen, I decided I was an anarchist. Nearly twenty years later, in October of 2011, I followed a writing prompt from Kellie Elmore’s “Free Write Friday.” The challenge was to write a letter to yourself at thirteen years of age. Having recently left the dry, technical writing world of business, I was pleasantly surprised at the result:
Nineteen years have passed since that fated day. The day of reckoning, when that small town finally caught up to you. They really did tell you to go away, didn’t they? The teachers, the police, then even the judges and lawyers. Aye, I know what you are going through. I was once there myself.
Would you like to know more about you? You are still an anarchist, still a sorcerer, hold the robes. Things have coalesced however. Anarchy has become an ideal. Your work is gentler now and it is performed not for you, nor even often the people around you. Instead it is done for the next generation and the generation after.
It is good that you do not listen—already you know better than most. Even today they still consider you a radical. Your existence, punctuated by explosions and flying debris will evolve, and give in to personal power. The fires you create will temper you. The harshest climates you will seek, the places no others will go is where you can live in your utopia, alone.
It is this loneliness, along with biting cold and searing heat that will make up your inner strength. And when you stand fast and the wall of steel batons and soulless plastic shields advance on your line, aye, there will be others like you, too. The tempered, the soft, the loud and the quiet. They have been there all along, all waiting to come out of their hermitage to stand fast with you, even as the clouds of pepper billow in the wind, bringing the teary eyes and mucous choking unto you all. You will need your training there, for a better world.
Now, how to pass wisdom along in such a belated horoscope? Is there some benefit to be gleaned from this ink I lay? Maybe not but I will tell you anyways to soldier on. I know, as you assume, your studies will gain you no popularity. What they will do, however, is give you the vocabulary to describe your work. You do, in the end, become a magician, though it is in no way you could have imagined.
And one last thing. I am glad you stayed on the good side of the field. There are evil people that are watching you. Do not work for them. You are the perfect demographic for evil works, and your flagrant display of explosives and incendiaries will draw them, not like flies, but like a herd of elephants or harem of seductive women. Stay true, do not give in to the hate. Follow your father’s wisdom as I know you will and everything will turn out great.
It was an apt description, but fails to note that the evolution is still changing me. These days it seems obvious that there is no “Anarchist,” just as there is only the illusion of government. If I am an anarchist, it is because I can see the truth of the matter. Jamie Dimon is an anarchist. Donald Trump is an anarchist. Bill and Melinda Gates, Warren Buffett and the Queen of England are all anarchists. These people make rules, but they know the rules are not for them. They follow no rules.
If anarchism is anything like an institution, first, it is a personality.
I know from studying the civil rights movement that if you tell a group what it is, whether it be cool, violent, or untrustworthy, and you do so constantly, they will tend to identify with it. If entertainment, advertising, and other media constantly saying that black men are violent, you can expect violence from black men. Right now, I am working as a men’s rights activist, and I am seeing this happening to men, as well.
It leaves me wondering about my youth. If Anarchy is less of an “ism,” and more of a personality, did I fall into that trap? I know now that anarchism is about peace and harmony. I see the history of the movement as a positive force, but at a younger age, what was I seeing? The Anarchist Cookbook was a book about bombs. All the media had to say about it was violent.
I wrote the piece on evolution while sitting at an Occupy Seattle rally. Eventually I got more active, and signed up with OSSM, the Occupy Seattle Street Medics, but at the time, I was mostly there to help keep things safe. I had seen the anarchist group the “Black Bloc” operate in Seattle before, at what we know today as “The Battle of Seattle.” They were there, a younger generation this time, but they were there, and they were dangerous. But the interesting part to me is that, say, around 24 you are beginning to get old for that group.
There is always a strong anarchist presence at any protest, but usually quiet, the anarchist masses don’t advertise its tactics. At one action, there was a group of folks that aimed to basically reclaim foreclosed homes for anarchist communes. They shunned the Black Bloc. I worked with them for a bit, and they were all older, and only insiders knew it was an anarchist collective. They were successful.
Is this why younger anarchists are always more violent? I faced off with the Black Bloc at one point. Twenty or thirty of them had organized themselves into a line, facing the riot police, which was a force of the same size. What had been a forceful chant about the cops going home, The Black Bloc had turned into “Kill all cops,” and successfully turned hundreds of people in the crowd to chanting the same. There was an aisle of 5 feet in between the cops and the Black Bloc. I occupied it all. The high energy of the action left me. My mind went still, and my body went numb. Pulling out all the training I had ever had for my voice, I belted out with my best drill sergeant voice, with every decibel I could muster. I paced up and down between the two lines. Police batons and “non-fatal” shotguns on one side, and improvised stabbing and bludgeoning instruments on the other. Both sides, decidedly violent, and all of them giving me a pretty ugly look. But, I won the crowd back over. All thirty of the Black Bloc were not enough to stop my voice from winning the mob. To this day, I have no idea where I had found the courage to do that.
But anyways, by the age of thirteen, in the eighth grade, I was spraying anarchy signs on the side of the school—after lighting the aerosol on fire—coating signs in flammable liquids and setting them on fire, generally blowing stuff up, and tossing muriatic acid and tin foil bombs all over the place.
This got me in trouble of course. The school bully informed other students that he was going to beat me up, and that I had better show up, so it wouldn’t have to be worse. He never showed. I had been telling people that yes, I was planning to show up, and on telling, showed off the explosives I had brought that day—A cherry bomb, an M-1000, a seal bomb and a pipe bomb. When it looked like he wasn’t going to come, someone still wanted a display, so I gave him the seal bomb, and left. I was maybe 500 feet away when it went off. I was told seal bombs aren’t designed for anything but noise—they are for scaring away seals in a humane way. I turned in time to see a mushroom cloud rising from the bleachers. It was huge.
Later, in court, I found out that the guy had put it in a glass bottle, and that the track team just over the hill had seen the explosion.
I told the authorities that I was the sole perpetrator, which was far from true. The police came, and after cutting off the razors I had attached to the zipper-pull, found gunpowder residue in the back pouch. I left school in handcuffs.
My parents were horrified, I am sure, but my stepfather was furious. He ransacked my room, first (as I remember) confiscating a bottle of Drano, an army manual on improvised munitions, a copy of “Pyrotechnics (good book),” and ultimately all my fiction as well.
I was surprised that they only put me in jail for an hour. My stepfather is a lawyer though, and Brier is a small town.
I don’t recall if it was the prosecuting attorney or the arresting officer, but someone on the other side told me a story wherein they packed a lightbulb full of gunpowder and installed it in the garage. When his mom turned on the lights, it blew. Nobody had been seriously hurt, but he did share this wisdom that I will pass on to you: shrapnel travels at thousands of feet per second, and kills people. I got off with 16 hours of community service.
After this, my brothers and I were living with my father full-time. Bruce Milliman and his kids were living with us. My father and Bruce were active in the integrated medicine movement. Bruce’s brother was the president of the Washington Association of Naturopathic Physicians. I took my first job for that company, doing data entry, along with Tyler. By the time I left, the name had been changed to the Washington Association for Naturopathic Physicians. We always worked at night, in a tiny room with a lot of boxes, a desk, and two computer terminals. Our job was to do our best reading petition signatures, names, addresses, and phone numbers and enter them into an excel database. This was my first real encounter with grassroots activism. It was dreadful work, but I remember it with fondness. Somebody had to do it.
While I occasionally made a physical appearance at high school, My education was entirely informal for over twenty years after leaving the eighth grade. Instead, I roamed the globe, fought evil dictatorships and generally raised hell.
I had travels prior to those years. I spent months at a time in New York City, Boulder, Colorado, Vancouver, B.C. I had made day trips into Mexico and Canada, and lived in La Jolla for six months.
After I was expelled—not sure exactly when—I was sent to Lebanon, Oregon. I lived on a 1000-acre farm with my grandparents and two of my grandfather’s second brood of three, Lester and Leah. They were the same age as me. Waldo had moved in to my father’s house, and was attending the University of Washington.
Ostensibly, this was so that I couldn’t hurt anyone. I was given access to my grandfather’s laboratory, and told I could order anything I wanted from the chemical houses on his license as a marine biologist.
We lived in a three-bedroom single-wide trailer. My grandparents shared one, Leah had one, and Lester and I shared a bunk bed in the third. We made it work. There were always stacks of books and papers, everywhere. Lola Pat worked with women’s issues, and Lolo Mel, obviously, worked as a scientist. There were a lot of desks, and they were all covered with research projects.
It was then that I found out that both my father and my grandfather had literally blown walls out of their childhood bedrooms. They saw it as a family tradition. I see it as a good reason to teach my son safety and the philosophy of compassion, before I teach him how to make explosives. (my father did this, but I will put more stress on it)
My grandfather was farming koi for money, and brine shrimp to save the world or stop poverty or something. The back yard was filled with defunct refrigerators lying on their backs full of water, and teeming with the colorful fish. Weeds dominated any place he did not need to walk. The lab was in an abandoned barn. The lamps were all below eye level, so you could see your work, but the ceiling reached up into a mysterious darkness. Each side was lined with giant 500 gallon tubs all connected with PVC piping, and there was a constant hum of pumps, electric motors, and fluorescent work lights. Down the center ran a 50-foot work bench, cluttered with, well, stuff. Vials, decanters, big jars of powder, more fish tanks. In back there was a gigantic desk area, also covered with clutter, and shelf after shelf reaching up into obscurity, stuffed with jars of chemical.
It was a lot easier to get me to go to school when I shared one thousand acres with eight people, a bunch of sheep and a mountain lion, but I was still able to get into trouble. I found a solar panel, high up on the butte one day, carried it halfway down, got sick of carrying it and left it there. It had been powering a weather detection device. I thought it had been abandoned. Is that stealing? I never got in trouble, they just went up and put it back in place.
Half of the butte was forested, and hosted a mountain lion. I usually spent an hour or two before I had explored my way to the top. The views are fantastic. There is nothing but farmland as far as you can see, flat as paper, all muted greens and browns, bisected by the occasional fence-line or road.
It was bare on our side, mostly boulders and scruffy grass and groundcover, but we did have a stand of trees. I wound up in this stand of trees, once. The first thing I noticed was a creepy feeling, like I was in danger, or being watched. The second thing I noticed was that I was surrounded by bones. This is where the mountain lion took its prey to eat. I half-ran and half-walked to the trailer that the caretaker had just at the foot of the butte. I considered telling him, but decided to just walk back to our trailer. I could see for two hundred feet in any direction at this point. Later I was challenged. They wanted to know what I was doing snooping around his house. I told him, he was cool.
I also had a tree fort built out of ropes and netting, sort of like a giant multi-story hammock. I put a rope to the ground some ways away as a zip line and rope bridge, like Tyler and I did back home, but it failed. I fell 30 feet or so. I don’t know if it was the soft ground or an angel that saved me—I often get that feeling, thank you angel—but I landed on my behind unhurt.
There were other ways to get into trouble too. Shocking ones. I wasn’t allowed to have Japanese friends there. Not that there were any Japanese around. We were the only color in the entire school—and it served three towns. But having brought up the beautiful flute music played by a Japanese friend back home, Ken Moriyama, my grandmother told me rather sternly that no Japanese would ever be welcome in that house.
The Japanese sided with Hitler in World War II. They were horrible to the rest of Asia, and my Lola Pat and Lola Ruth both remember it. I can’t say I blame them. There must be a form of post-traumatic stress issue that makes hearing a Japanese name difficult. Could even be painful. I can’t hear the word “deadbeat” without feeling like I just got punched in the gut. It is physically painful. The things those two had to see in the death marches eclipses what I have as an American father for sure. I am happy to report that my generation holds no grudge against the Japanese, at least among those I have met.
I returned to civilization 6 months later. My father sent me to Mexico with my older brother directly after. This was my first real contact with a developing country.
It is necessary to understand Anthony to make sense of our travels together. Anthony is four years my senior and one of us is completely nuts. He is no-holds-barred. When he participates, he only participates to excess. When he is angry, you can hear him from four blocks away. When he is happy, it is the same. In fact, you pretty much can always hear him from four blocks away. He makes it work, though. He is extremely charismatic, as is most of my family, and he can use his popularity to maintain a respectable position in whatever society he has enjoined in. Even despite some pretty severe handicaps.
So, we found ourselves screaming off the tarmac in Cabo San Lucas. Typical tourism wasn’t particularly attractive to either us, so we walked off the airport, stuck out our thumbs and hitched a ride to La Paz. That was my first experience hitch-hiking. My father religiously picked up hitch-hikers, so I knew what I was doing, but I had never been the one getting picked up.
I had also never had liquor before. I had been drunk on beer once prior, and hated it. I will never want to repeat that night in La Paz. I probably drink a little too much when it comes to beer and wine, but other that which I have made myself, you will rarely see me drinking hard liquor or mixed drinks. I know it doesn’t make sense, but that is just my reaction.
We took the prisoner ferry to Mazatlan—it doubles as prisoner and domestic transport.
This is one of my early experiences to how different cultures work. Everyone had brought bedrolls, and sorted themselves into rows of bedding. It was perfectly symmetrical, practical, and, well, comfortable-looking. There was no leadership, save the security provided by the crew.
We spent one night in Mazatlan, mostly sitting in a bar called “Pacifico,” drinking Pacifico, and wondering if it was better than Corona—Anthony wondering quite loudly, and in agreement with the other patrons.
The next day. We took a series of busses to Mexcaltitan. This is an island town. You can only get to it by boat. I don’t think you can even swim there, without some risk of getting eaten. The Lonely Planet guide made sure to note that the island only had one hotel, and it was neither safe, nor comfortable. It also states that the last boat out was at 5:00, and referring to the mosquito population, you should be sure to catch it, “lest ye be sucked dry.”
Walking around the town was downright creepy. There were no doors or windows, but you couldn’t see inside. It was like a sheet of darkness covered every portal. There weren’t even any faces peeking out of them. Other than a few people at the restaurants, the town seemed deserted. The streets were packed earth, and used only for foot traffic, but no one was walking them.
We missed the boat out, of course. We had dinner at La Casa de Camarones, which is Spanish for shrimp. It was one of the two restaurants options on the island. Neither had walls, and neither served anything that did not include shrimp.
During our dinner, we were approached by a man who said he knew our father. He had details. This is when I learned about the dangers of travelling outside one’s own safety net. He accurately described my father, his profession, and his accomplishments. I thought it was cool. My brother was freaked out. We holed up in our room the rest of the night. Security became intuitive after that night. People know these things, but it doesn’t always sink in until after your first good scare. Even the poorest Americans mean a small fortune to third-world bad guys.
The next day, we continued down the Nyarit to a town Anthony had heard of called San Blas. It was supposedly a best-kept-secret of the surfing community. If the surfing community part was true, they did a good job of it. The town and its denizens had a warm, welcoming feeling. It consisted of a dirt road, several cinder-block dwellings, an open-air restaurant, and a beach. There was an alligator farm outside the town. Why you would farm an alligator is beyond me. There was only one guy in the whole town that could speak English. He was an older man, and happily showed us around. I still don’t know how Anthony and I learned to judge character, but we are both good at it. This Jose guy was all right, if a bit old and boring to a fourteen-year-old.
Except some biking, hair-raising cabbies, a lot of alligators and more heavy drinking, those are the highlights from that trip. We had to rebook our flight by two days, having missed our plane out. I think this is a good way for a fourteen-year-old to develop. I am taking my son to Italy this summer. He is 10 years old. I don’t think a protracted third-world visit is a good idea yet, at least not the kind where there are a lot of starving children, and potentially violent situations. I think first world travel, for now is adequate. Around 14 he will go to places like Mexico.
My 16th Birthday was in the Philippines. My father, three siblings, Anthony, Tyler and Karina, my uncle (Waldo, my age), two cousins, Nick Mayer and Nicole Johns, as well as Nicole’s boyfriend, David Huntsperger, came along as well.
We spent some time exploring family history and meeting with cousins. Our guide, a cousin of my uncle Waldo’s, sporting a black shirt with a big red Anarchy symbol slashed across his back, took us through places like Oas, Los Banos, Naga, and up to the lip of the caldera at Mt. Pinatubo.
I think it was at a small town across from Mt. Pinatubo that I had my first experience with Filipino racism. For some reason, I had wandered off alone, a was heading back to the hotel on a dusty, deserted dirt road. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a swarm of kids had surrounded me, tugging at my clothes, jumping up and down, chanting “Negro Puto, Negro Puto!” Later, I asked my native-born cousin what they meant. He said they were calling me a traitor. Much later, I got into researching the problem. When the US soldiers arrived in the early 1900’s, they began having children with the local pinay’s. When the soldiers left their children behind, the mothers were branded as whores, and shunned by the community. The children, who were either too light or too dark skinned, inherit the title. They are not given an opportunity to work. They are shunned out of primary school. The only work for women is prostitution, who have more negro puto children with tourists. The only work for boys is to pick up plastic bags and sell them in the market. The parents often die before the children are grown, and they are left to live on the streets. Human traffickers know of their condition and will often take them, and sell them in Bangkok, Japan, and even the United States. And now we are re-opening the very military base that started the whole affair.
I can only imagine what would have happened if I had been three feet shorter.
People who identify me as a Men’s Rights Activist are often surprised to find that I have an equally huge project defending women’s rights. By targeting the Negro Puto in the Philippines with genetic testing for ancestry programs, we can literally scare the lust out of the customer base that human traffickers rely on to fund these programs. It can also scare the new generation of US soldiers that is flooding into the area into either practicing safe sex, or abstinence. I also think it will help to get attention for this little-known problem, and perhaps get the US government to address it. I can start the project with $20,000 and ten volunteers.
When we returned to Manila, my brother Anthony and I started off on our own.
The first thing we did was get on a bus bound for Baquio City. It is terrifying. In the Philippines, and especially in the mountains, anyone who is perceived as valuable, or could have valuables, travels in a convoy. Our convoy was three busses, each with armed security.
Much of the drive was on a two-lane road, each lane exactly big enough to accommodate a bus. The right lane was bordered with a cliff leading up to the sky. The left lane, besides being for oncoming traffic, was bordered by another sheer cliff, this one plunging straight down into the jungle. And the bus drivers were racing. Like, the kind where they cut each other off and speed along neck and neck until a car comes down the mountain, and the guy in the left lane must retreat.
Anyways, I was reading up on Baguio City. Drugs were common there, but that didn’t worry me. We had all signed the waiver on the plane. Even for Americans, the penalty of getting caught with drugs or pornography was death. If you don’t sign, you don’t get off the plane, so I knew my brother had read it.
The Lonely Planet guide also said that this was the kind of place that people wake up missing kidneys. To avoid such an operation, it advised to certainly, definitely, do not even dream of walking into a bar, because you will get mickey’ed and wake up in a bathtub full of ice water.
Arriving in Baguio, we got off the bus and went to a bar. Later, we found a room, a shabby two-squeaky-cot hole-in-the-squeaky-wall with flaking blue paint over lathe and plaster walls. High on a hill, though. We could see rooftops and shanties for miles. Anthony declared he was bored, and we went out into the city.
Lines of coolies hauled huge bags of rice up a steep hill all day. Their lines—one going up, and one going down—were perfectly spaced, perfectly symmetrical. Very organized, almost military. It constantly amazes me how the people who are poorest, and least protected under the law can constantly exhibit the highest forms of organization.
We were aimlessly wandering the grimy, trash-littered streets, when two young pinoy’s came dashing down the sidewalk opposite us, and hid behind a car.
This was exactly what Anthony was looking for. He grabbed my hand, we ran across the street, and hid behind the car with two astounded kids, and Anthony loudly whispered, “Hey, where can we get some cocaine?”.
They took us to their mom’s place, which was on a military base. Their mom treated us to Adobo, which she cooked in the same style as my own family—no coconut milk, just soy sauce, vinegar, black pepper, garlic, bay leaf and brown sugar. Anthony was sure that it was cooked with dog meat. We usually use chicken or pork in our family.
We told them where we were lodged, and we parted ways. When we met later, they had not found any cocaine, but did have a cigarette that had been emptied of tobacco and re-packed with marijuana.
It was good weed. We got stoned. Anthony got paranoid, and kicked out the two other kids.
I don’t remember much more about that leg of the trip. Dogs were howling all night—like hunting dogs here, but these ones were ultimately eaten.
We couldn’t find a caravan to the rice terraces, though we didn’t look all that hard. I want to go back, just for that. Maybe the adobo.
We rejoined the others in Manila. David had sat on an ant-hill or something down in one of the southern islands, so he and Nicole had to go home early.
The last of this trip was spent in a beach resort, to decompress from the wilder parts of the trip, and a week in Hawaii, to re-Americanize before rejoining western society. I put the Hard Rock Café Makati shirt away, and resume wearing solid black every day. I do not recommend dressing like this for Hawaii.
I did, however, maintain a regular schedule of cultural excursions. Not just around the globe, but locally, as well. In Seattle, I lived on a sailboat for two years. The liveaboard crowd is divided on the definition of homeless and liveaboard. I always liked hanging out with the homeless crowd. The first moorage I had was solitary, with some rough weather in the winter. But I loved the rocking of the boat, the clanging of the halyards. The moorage was exposed enough that one of my bumpers was shredded while scraping against the dock. That was what we call a sneak-aboard dock, where the administration ignores the fact that someone is sleeping in their boat every night.
The second moorage was beautiful, at least in the springtime. I didn’t have to sneak. Some pretty polished and wealthy liveaboards lived there, but most of us were considered homeless, and many had obvious mental health or drug problems. It was one of the wealthiest towns in Washington State, but they took great care of the homeless community. I spent most of my time with a guy I called “Captain Joe,” and his shipmate, whose name I cannot remember. His friend, who slept in the V-berth was a crack addict. Captain Joe was a Vietnam Veteran. He had a problem with his back, and had to stay prone for days at a time. He had to wait for the tide to go up, so that the ramp off the docks was level enough for him to ascend. He was also a recovering heroin addict. I brought him beer and kept him company. He enjoyed cooking, and was good at it, always welcoming a dinner guest.
Liveaboard life can also be a distinctly spiritual enterprise. Sailing, for one, is like riding a really big horse. Maybe that is what it is like to ride an elephant. You become one with the boat, you think like a boat. And you realize that the boat is very much alive. While I am not so in to poetry, I do try from time to time. I wrote “Mountain Index” on September 21, 2011.
We were at anchor
The sky gray and gloomy
A light drizzle hung in the air
Coating my skin, not getting me wet just yet
My legs are drenched
From kneeling in a leaky dinghy
A mystical approach
Our tiny rubber craft heaving in the tides
One hundred thumps disagree… thump
The wind howls to them a thousand lonely tunes
Paddles fight to bring us nearer… thump, thump.
Closer, there she lies
Joints creaking, moaning
She lives for the gloom, as do I
She is invisible from shore
Just a tree in the forest
A ghost ship
A passing fancy
When made as are the elements
So close to nothing you are
Our souls grow nearer
Paddles clatter down the steps
On board now, in the salon
Oak and pine, polished
Gleam in the candlelight
There is a glow that heats the water
That place they speak of
Where there is no space
It is hidden in darkness
There are books back there
I use a flashlight to read the titles
She is heaving in the sea
Pointing in the wind
She sends me dreams now
That is when we talk, while I sleep
She warns me of coming dangers
Leaves little notes on my floorboard and in the sheets
I also enjoy living in different states. They are all so vastly different. In Arizona, everything either bites, stings or stabs. That affects personality and culture. It is also incredibly lonely. You can stand on a bluff there, and see for miles and miles, without any sign of habitation. When my ex left me, I tormented myself like this for hours, just staring into nothing but blue sky, a vast desert of scrub, and dotted with chapparal, far below.
In small-town Oregon, people always want to get together, to do drive in movie nights, or sit in a car and compare musical taste. In Virginia, everyone has a place. Everyone is on a hierarchy, and it is nigh impossible to move about in it. In New York, if you hold the door for someone, fifty people go through it before you shoulder your way in yourself.
In Alaska, race and caste are paramount. I worked in a cannery up there. In 500 or so employees, 7 or 8 different jobs prevailed. The slime line was entirely male Filipinos, maybe 50 or so. The canning lines were entirely female Filipinos. Case up was entirely Mormon, Freezer was only heavy-set white girls, Fresh Market was only Male Filipinos. Egg House was only the employees that were barely employable. Strangely enough, with few exceptions, the Machinists Union was almost entirely employees from the Teachers Union in a small town in Washington State. Only my crew, called Clean-up, or QC, had a representative from every section of the cannery, and only my crew was allowed access to the entire cannery. I guess they weren’t sure where to put a one-eyed half Filipino. The dock was also mixed caste.
But everyone got along. We were all working 18 hours a day, 7 days a week. We weren’t thinking about caste. We were thinking about $1500 weekly paychecks, and we all got them.
Having a good attitude was the most important part. After a single month of this kind of lifestyle, you are hallucinating, and working with extremely dangerous equipment. One wrong move, and you will wind up wrapped around the seamer, or being spit out of the filler in half-pound chunks. If you let yourself get pissed off, depressed, or any other sort of impulsive, you put yourself and others in danger. You need to check your attitude regularly, and help other people do the same. People are very nice in those situations. It is hard enough work as it is. There is no time or energy left over for negativity.
At night, I was responsible for three machines, the filler, the canning lines, and the seamer. You turn on the machines to clean them. I inherited the filler when my predecessor lost a glove to another part of the machine. He almost lost his hand. The machine had caught the tip of his glove, and ripped it off his hand, spitting it out the other side, mangled.
To clean another part, you lie on your back, in two inches of pulverized fish, detergents and other liquids which seep into your rain gear. 12 inches above your face, claws come out of the bottom of the machine. If you get caught in these claws, you are dead, or at the very least, you lose whatever got caught in them. They will not stop. They are cleaned using a high-pressure hot hose, that, when turned up, can reach temperatures far beyond boiling. You spray the claws and the plate behind them, and the water falls back on your face and into your hood. And all this is with 6 hours off a day, during which you can choose to sleep, shower, shit, and eat breakfast or dinner.
I got blood poisoning at one point. At first they thought I was a junkie, but someone who had authority said she knew what that looked like, and I was not a junkie. I had about 12 inches of vein turned black leading from my elbow joint towards my heart. They said if the black reached my heart, I was dead. If I went to see the doctor, the company policy was to not let me back. Because I was on QC, and especially because I was assigned to the filler (and the seamer—it is hard to find someone trustworthy enough to clean the seamer), they let me have a second pair of rain gear, so that my gear could dry for more than 6 hours a day. It worked. The blood poisoning went away.
At night, there are only a dozen people in the cannery. That was my crew. We all took our 6 hour breaks during the day. Everyone else slept at night. The cannery is vast, with four wings, canning, which I cleaned, Fresh Market, which was mostly concrete floor, and the filler bins and dock. Each wing was thousands of square feet. At night, the machines are running on slow, and parts that are usually moving too fast to see now can be seen working. Clouds of steam mark wherever one of us might be working. They also come as a hallucination. You will see clouds of steam rising out of nowhere, in places nobody should be. The slow-moving parts grow personality. There were times that I grew delirious. I could swear that the machines were alive, and the true masters of the company. That the machinists were only puppets that they used to communicate with the slaves. This was my reality working an incredibly dangerous job.
It was worth seeing. It was worth experiencing what it is like to work in those situations, to be able to report on it. And to know that such an edifice is possible to build. In Machu Picchu, workers carved huge stones out of the mountains, and hauled them to the top, to create the king’s stronghold. The air is so thin there, I ran out of breath, and grew dizzy after walking only a block. The work must have been intense. Standing on the edge of the cliff, I looked down at lazy clouds drifting above the jungle canopy, and condors circling thousands of feet below. I thought of how dangerous it must have been to work in that situations. In this picture, you see the kind of terrain these people would traverse to maintain their king’s sovereignty. They would roll around 50 ton stones, eight thousand feet above sea level, they would drag boulders up cliffs and steep inclines, probably with people doing the same beneath them. This was the edifice of Incan society.
International activism is important to report on too. In Cusco, where they built another city like Machu Piccu. I witnessed the most beautiful protest action I have ever seen there, and I have seen a lot of protest action. I am tall compared to the typical Peruano. Standing at the top of a boulevard, I could look over a sea of black-haired bobbing heads, for blocks. They packed themselves into the street, shoulder to shoulder, from wall to glass-paned wall. The crowd was perfectly peaceful, with individual policemen—not even in pairs—mingling with the crowd. I can only estimate, but it must have been around 20,000, and it may have been the whole town. That was the August 24 Fujimori vs Toledo protests.
The next night, I watched live coverage of Toledo and his gang burning something like 200 people alive, in Lima.
When I got home, the entire front page of the newspaper was covered with a local parade. Peru was nowhere in it. I do believe that is the importance of international travel. America needs to get out more.
For example, when I was invited to go on an activist safari into Africa, I immediately accepted. I was excited. I hadn’t had the kinds of scares, or seen the depth of poverty that Africa offers yet. It wasn’t until I was on the government owned plane that I realized how deep I was. My travelling companion had informed me in the Europe layover that when we were seated, he was going to ask the stewardess to move me, because she worked for the government. He didn’t want them to think it was me if he got caught smuggling the tractor parts and whatever else he was smuggling. I shrugged my shoulders. What he didn’t know was that I hadn’t packed any clothes. Instead, I had packed my bags full of medi
|Dr. Livingstone, I presume? He’s taller than I thought.|
cine. Steroids, antibiotics, vaccines and the like.
When we were seated, he called the stewardess, and started yelling at her. What he yelled was that I smelled like cigarettes, and was ugly, and why would she dare sit a person like me next to him. What she heard was “do you really expect me to sit next to a colored man?” And she understood. And she agreed. And she sent me to the back of the plane, which was good, because you could smoke there. And I was terrified. I wanted a cigarette. I realized they may well kill me when they searched my bag in customs. But you cannot turn around an airplane once it is in the air. Maybe if you are a terrorist, but not if you are a young, naïve egalitarian.
I never got caught. I didn’t plan the bribes, or network with anyone but the people on the ground. Now, however, I swear to you, I will not do anything like that again without knowing exactly who is protecting me, and how. It is nice that I can sit at the top of a valley, and see acre after acre of corn, where without this kind of activism, corn would not be growing. But it certainly is not safe. I need to know about the planning.
On the importance of travel: Now I can relate this story to you. Americans simply do not travel enough. I ran into one other American on that entire trip, and he was an exiled activist himself. In fact, come to think of it, the only American I ran into in the Philippines was an exile, and the only American I ran into in Cusco was a journalist.
I never did do Europe the right way. I had two weeks of partying in France after my brother sold Mercury Couriers—more on that later. Hopefully I will get to remedy that when I take my son to Italy this summer. The anarchist capital of the world is there, Carrara, and the headquarters of the International Federation of Anarchists.
By sixteen, I had been smoking pot for years. But this is where the Acid kicked in. I don’t think I have ever had a great trip, like the others described, but I had some moments of bliss. I enjoyed it because it engaged my curiosity. It raised interesting questions.
My father introduced us to interesting characters, like Mark Stefurak, who had spent the last 40 years studying and taking LSD, or taking us to lectures at the University of Washington with Terrance McKenna, the mushroom guy. He built the botanical garden of hallucinogenic plants and fungus in Hawaii. When he died, my father tried to get me to go work for the garden, but at that point, the worst had happened and I was in recovery mode.
The trips had been interesting, but there was always a tension. I was always having to remind myself that the tension went away with time, that I would be able to sleep in the morning.
My first warning was late at night, walking to the Aquatheater on Greenlake. Mike Moore, Mike Roberts, Tony Hines, Kristen English, Josh Abbey, my brother, Tyler, and probably others were there. Time stopped. It was almost suffocating, in a way. I was not alarmed, but I was completely encased in time and space. In this state, I ceased existing as an entity. I was also encased in the heartwood of a nearby tree, as if I was being held in a womb. I was one with that tree, the grass, the path. I became a moment in time, I had lost all sense of identity. As a moment in time, I had encompassed all existence within my own.
The second warning came when I was gone. Tyler flipped out, and chased all the guests out of the house with a hatchet. The weekend after, he had another bad trip. Most of it, he was lying on a blanket pissing himself. I occasionally got him up for a walk—we both liked that. There is something about cold air that helps to temper a bad acid trip. Simon and Garfunkel and the Moody Blues also seems to help in general. He was talking about some pretty gnarly stuff, but didn’t go after a weapon.
It was bad for me, too. I woke up my father, and told him what was going on. He talked me through the worst of it, and got me to care for my brother. For me, it had become a literal and permanent hell. Time had frozen again, only this time, I wasn’t with nature, I was with demons. Their claws were coming out of the walls, threatening to reach through my eyes and down my throat to tear the soul from my body, all as an eternal entity—a moment in time.
In a way, the demons were successful. It took years to get normal. For one, the trip didn’t end the next today. I continued to hallucinate for months, and it wasn’t the fun kind. Everything was either dark, or horrifying. I noticed that marijuana triggered the flashbacks, and for the most part quit smoking. After about 2 years, I was starting to notice color again. A blue sky, or a pretty flower. After 7 years, I had declared myself mostly normal, but after 20 years I still refuse to take any drug lightly. I am on Adderall, now, and it makes me nervous.
Around five years later my father and I went down to the Amazon to engage in the ayahusasca rituals with a well-known shaman, named Don Augustin. I accepted this one, because I trusted the shaman, as well as the other health professionals that were in the group, including a psychiatrist, several naturopaths, homeopaths, and three Australian Aborigines curious about other shamans. A handful of folks like me came along. Some to be experimented on, some to learn, and some to heal. Some had come for all the above.
But really, don’t do drugs, or at least don’t take them lightly. Use a proper shaman-someone you trust, or are comfortable awarding a Ph.D. I know two people that went to a psych ward, and likely spent longer than the 2 years it took me to recover in there. I have seen a guy knife all five of his own tires and wind up picked up by the police when they found him pawing through his own feces in a tavern bathroom. From other drugs, I have seen people die horrible deaths, after doing horrible things, because they were literally slaves to horrible people. Men are told to commit crime by the people that control addictive substances. I know one guy, Elliot Cole, who was arrested for far theft, put in jail, medicated with Thorazine, and died of an overdose after being released. I knew him when he was a kid. When he was released, my father took him in, to live with us. He was the kid that had everything. He had every gaming console. The NES, the Sega Genesis, and all the games. His mother was a radiation oncologist, and his stepfather was a wealthy landowner is Seattle. I believe his father was a lawyer. But he tried meth once, and it took him.
Women are forced into prostitution until they die, or miraculously, escape. In case you don’t know what happens behind those closed doors, I will tell you. They are beaten, mutilated, gang-raped and humiliated. And this is done until they are dead, find help if they are in a western country. I will make a note here, that some women are kidnapped and forced to do these drugs—that is one way women get into this situation, too. Many enter voluntarily, but there is the danger of kidnapping, as well. I know women who have gone through this.
And then, some people get taken by the government, which is worse. All they know how to do about these problems is experiment on the “criminals” which they have taken in. And that is what they do, to the detriment of the prisoner.
Moving forward, I take serious thought into what gets into my body these days. I do not expect to take any more psychedelics or uppers, save this Adderall stuff, ever again. But if I do, I will have spent months planning it, and would expect to pay thousands for whatever facilities and professionals I would need to complete the project.
I also began my career as a writer on LSD. I was writing short fiction and poetry at a young age—I passed college entrance exams for English when I was 7. And as for reading, well, for most of my childhood my room was a large storage closet behind my brother Tyler’s room. There was enough room for my bed, which was a mattress on a piece of plywood stretched across two shelves. a chair, and my books. If you imagine a box the shape of an RV, and cover all the walls with books, put a bed in the middle, and a chair in the back, that was my room. I had a single light, with no cover, and a chain pull-cord. The floor was concrete, the ceiling exposed beams. One wall was of gray-blue painted concrete block, and most of the others were unfinished drywall, behind built in storage shelving. All the wood was rough-cut, and unfinished. Nail-heads gleamed at every joint. It was my heaven. By the time I was a teenager, Tyler and I had amassed hundreds of science-fiction and fantasy novels, I didn’t need finished drywall, it was covered with the spines of R.A. Salvatore, Douglas Adams, Margaret Weiss and other authors. I had read well over a thousand books by the time I was 18.
When I was 16, I discovered the wildest, coolest, most individual style I had ever encountered—The Prospectus. In pencil, I wrote a business plan for a several hundred-acre mountain resort, with all kinds of cabins and lodges, a hotel, groomed pathways, hiking trails, gardens, wild areas. Rivers and ponds. All guests were assured that we held the highest ethical standards, and this would sell the product. I costed everything out, down to the nails and lumber for the building, the number of shovels to dig out water features and tend the gardens, to the spoons with which the guests would eat.
When I was 17, I co-founded Mercury Couriers with my brother, Anthony. He couldn’t afford to pay a dispatcher, so he asked me to sign on for a stake (no, not stock) in the company. I worked from waking to sleeping, rarely leaving the downtown Seattle apartment for months at a time. The bike couriers brought food and coffee, and I took calls and clicked away orders on the paging machine, or, later, chatter addresses and times at the bikers through the Nextel radio.
I quit before he sold it, after it had grown to the point that he could afford traditional employees. Its value was at $100k, he offered right of first refusal at half off for any employee who wanted it. A man named Brady Radley decided to take the deal. He ran it for two years and sold it to the Elliot Bay Bike Company for $200k.
When I was 18, I filed my first company “Mixed Nuts Enterprises.” The company later became a landscaping company. In the spirit of my first business plan, I had decided I should go into hospitality and landscaping until I had the money and skill to embark on the resort journey. I worked 25 hours a week at Taco Del Mar, as an assistant manager, and 40 hours a week at Magnolia Lawn and Garden Services, as a ground-man. After two years, I renamed Mixed Nuts and go on to have a series of names like “Emerald Lawn and Garden Services,” “Arif Michael Vega and Groundskeepers,” or “The Emerald City Transplant.” I sold my equipment and the client list to Ben Mathisen for $4k when I first moved to Virginia. I was supposed to get 15% of the profits from those clients for two years, but I never pressed the matter.
I never was the greatest business man, but I continued to write great plans. Plans that worked, with strong, well-researched ideas. I had an uncle on wall-street to guide me, to advise me on how he would feel if I was asking for money. My stepfather, a contract lawyer, read them and judged them. Eventually, however, people started talking funny in regards to my plans. I started to get the impression that people thought I was a flake, and that made me feel like a flake. I stopped sharing my plans at this point, but did continue to write them. By the time I was 30, I had written a pizza delivery service, a desert training facility for troubled kids. Several factories, several farms and agricultural projects—one of which was an NPO that offered work and space for non-custodial parents that lived out-of-state, and needed an accredited space with which to spend time with their children. This plan included a therapist, and a lawyer if certain pecuniary goals were met (a lawyer in North Carolina recently did almost exactly this, except she has no temporary work for them).
Eventually, at 18 years of age, I hitchhiked to New York City, where I stayed with my cousins, Melecio Vega, Francis Vega, my Aunt Pura, Uncle Pong, a wall-street-type money guy. He had visitors come to his house, who tried to sell him a prospectus. I was told to make two very specific drinks, one with coffee, and one with alcohol. I brought them to the group when they were called for. When they all had refreshments, I stood nearby and listened to their conversation. In the evening, he gave me the prospectus they offered, and asked me to write notes in the margins.
At night, I roamed Manhattan, and wondered why people liked the place so much. Eventually I ran into a bar called The Wetlands, a noisy place, filled with long heads of hair and earth-toned dress, made murky by the lack of lighting. You couldn’t see past five feet, certainly not a wall. The bar was packed, but it felt like it was just me, the bar, and a man with a conga drum between his knees. When he heard that I was from Seattle over the drumming, he dragged me into the basement, where, ironically, they were planning the 1999 WTO Protests There wasn’t much to do for them though, so I quickly left and promised them I would show up to the protest, which now is known as “The WTO Battle of Seattle.”
I got my first dose of tear gas at that protest, at 19 years old, and I have been addicted ever since.
More recently I have written two great plans. One is to put a “stranglehold” on the local coffee market (It is one of my more brutal plans, I like to make sure I branch out). The other is a fresh squeezed juice stand, complete with the vapor from liquid nitrogen roiling off the work area and onto the patterned brick of the pedestrian mall on a blazing hot day. I wrote the latter for someone else, which is something I occasionally am inclined to do.
I am planning on buying a coffee stand, even if I don’t want to strangle anything. It is a lucrative business, and relatively easy to run.
But I never was a businessman. I was thirty years old, when I met Kelley Rose. She liked making poetry and short fiction. It was her who first helped me to realize that I was not a businessman, and that I was engaged in was creative writing. I think it was a traffic analysis that she read first. She said she loved it, and I said I loved her.
Anyways, she convinced me to get into writing fiction again, and I was happy with the result. Poetry is still not my thing, but I am glad that she exposed me to it. I wrote this one about our relationship:
“Once there was a sailor. Though he was born to an influential family he had never lived with a great amount of power or fortune. He was intelligent and had an education that surpassed most of his peers, but his power was in silence and solitude, in his ability to survive an apocalypse he knew was sure to come.
This man was a spiritual man. He believed in the elements. He knew that the same wind that pushed his little boat about the waters whispered to the craggy peaks high up in the mountains. He knew that the streams and rivers that were the lifeblood of the forests were the same currents that held him aloft in rocking cots and mattresses.
He spoke with the mountains this way, and heard their distant reply through water lapping against his hull. Thus, grew a desire to spend some time visiting in the mountains, to bring greetings from the sea and give thanks to springs and streams.
And he did, and chance had it that on one of his sporadic mountain escapes he chanced upon a mountain girl. This girl told him stories of flora and fauna, of living alone, not relying upon the conveniences available only in the small communities at the foot of the mountain. She told him of her own silence and how it had taught her the ways of the forest.
His visits to the mountain became more frequent as they grew accustomed to one another’s company. After delivering his greeting from the sea to the imposing peaks he always stopped to see the mountain girl, each time of course thinking it would be the last.
The sailor had fallen in love with the mountain girl. For years, they continued their tryst, though she swore she would leave him. “For I am married to my mountain, you silly sailor!” she teased.
She liked to watch him burn, he knew. But he knew of love, and knew the commitment she had drawn from him. It was no longer his place to forget his debt to her, and her mountain. He thought perhaps one day she would be ready and either way that he wanted to be there for her. He would offer up what friendship was accepted.
Their love continued to grow of course. They were lovers, cousins, siblings and parents to one another. They fought and argued and made love. Offered unsolicited advice. Eventually they went for months without seeing one another, but in the end one always broke and sent word intending communion.
Every visit ended up the same however. “Go away, for I am married to my mountain!”
And he would stand tall and shed his grievance and leave.
Came a time when their secret desires came to pass. Shorelines receded and cliff faces crumbled. Roads washed out and the docks were crushed under the might of their shared deities, those of the ocean and the mother earth.
Death came easy to most, as they disappeared under the weight of their own creation. Others struggled on for years before they succumbed to disease and starvation. The sailor was swept out to sea, his charts rendered useless compared to the ravaged horizon. The mountain girl was sealed into the wilderness, with roads demolished, then quickly overgrown.
Both survivors were stricken with grief, not knowing of the others welfare. The sailor lost at sea and the mountain girl finally entombed in complete solitude. So then in desperation, to one another, they each made a solemn vow.
The sailor gazed east from the mast and whispered into the wind that he would not rest until he had found the woman the gods had charged him with. And the winds took the promise as true.
The woman, from atop her mountain, prayed that the river deliver her to the sailor at sea as she plunged off the heights into the rivers below. And the river accepted her in flesh rending rapids, sending her crushed and broken body down the valley and out to the sea far below.
And that is the story of the immortal man and his haunted ship. The gods held their intentions as true. The stricken man, unable to die and driven crazy by lack of reprieve, forever lost in an unending ocean. And the poor woman, having delivered her spirit at the sacrifice of life, drifting bodiless and unseen, except to the few who know to watch, in the sailor’s wake.”
Anyways, we broke up (yeah, that was her jumping off the cliff—she lived in the mountains, and I lived on a sailboat on the Puget Sound), but we are still great friends. We only email a few times a year, but they are important ones. They are usually about something one of us has written.
There was too much between us for me to abstain from writing about it. Kelley Rose’s childhood had been horrible—she wrote her own book about that—and she had spent most of her adult life married to another woman. She had a few men in her life before, but generally, she qualified as a separatist feminist. This is important, because when we met, I had just started identifying as an MRA (Men’s Rights Activist), and seriously considering the philosophies of MGTOW (Men Going Their Own Way).
She was a wilderness girl. Not a country girl, but a mountain girl. Not an Appalachian mountain girl, a Cascades mountain girl. Rugged, fierce and comfortable with danger. She lived 5.6 miles up the road from running water and electricity, and had for most of her life. It said as much on her driver’s license. No address, just 5.6 miles up the road.
She was also the kind of girl who could punch through a brick wall. I ran a landscaping company at the time, and she was a freelancer for the nearby town, and good at her job. Especially with hardscaping. We worked together for around a year. She took care of all the hardscaping, and I focused on what I liked to do, which was soil-based maintenance schemes, moss and mushrooms. All the soft stuff I guess. I also ran the machines, and helped haul around stone, brick and mortar. But she did the laying of the material.
After work, we either stayed on my sailboat, or at her cabin in the woods. It was a two-story plywood cabin. It had a proper door, and two proper windows, a proper ladder leading up to a proper hole in the ceiling to the bed-floor. We shared stories by candlelight in the freezing cold. There was no insulation, and no heat. In the morning, we put on our shoes under the covers. Even then, your feet went numb the second they hit the floor. In the winter, you often had to either drive through a fallen tree, or cut it up with a chainsaw, to drive to her place.
She also had a black-belt.
Basically, we are talking about a hardened warrior here.
I was a bit of a zombie, when we met. I was well on the way to being fully healed from the trauma that most MRA’s go through. But I was still hurting. She often told me of her wild escapades in the City of Seattle with her former wife. She described the lesbian bars, the people in them, the attitudes and behavior they exhibited.
These descriptions often left me saying “That is what we call a man-hating lesbian.”
It took her two weeks to convince me to stop using that term. What a beautiful soul this woman has. To come from where she did, and still have the patience to put two weeks into bettering my attitude. “It is not man-hating, Arif.” She said. “It is man-fearing.”
And she was right. I see all the trash-talk in the MGTOW forums now, and, while I don’t have a ton of respect for it, I do know that is what healing sometimes looks like. Either they will stabilize and stay MGTOW, and start shunning the internet like most of the MGTOW I have met in person, or they will rejoin society as healthy heterosexual men. A lot of it is counter-productive though.
It’s kind of funny, in a way, Kelley Rose was more MGTOW than me, at the time. She refused to commit to any kind of relationship. She wouldn’t kiss me if there was even a slight danger of someone seeing, or if she was drunk. In the latter case… well, never mind. Other than the miscarriage, which was horrible for both of us, I think my tendency towards commitment and her rejection of it was what broke us up. I still wear the hat she gave me when the weather is right, even though it has a giant hole in the forehead.
We still email several times a year, and I still consider her one of my best friends. Funny, while both of our philosophies were based on the rejection of commitment, it has turned into the longest, healthiest, non-biological relationship I have had. Now she lives in Hawai’i, having completely forsaken the life she was raised in. I hope she reads this.
So, I was getting into a lot of trouble in my later teenage years. I wasn’t blowing stuff up, or lighting things on fire, but I was not on a glamourous path. There was never any ill-will, I think I qualified as a nice guy, psychologically. I was just massively naïve. It just seemed like it was the normal thing to do. I look back on it with fondness, as I learned a lot of things, and connected with life in ways that most people will never get to explore.
Instead of going to school, I wandered out into the woods and read. Instead of going to sleep, I stayed up until two or three in the morning and read. Unless I was travelling, I read a novel a day from the ages of ten to eighteen.
In the mid-teenage years, I roamed around the town of Snohomish, checking for unlocked vehicles with Damien Ferenti and Eric Webster. One of them had a brother who bought the stuff we found from us. Once, we got a can of gunpowder out of the deal, but usually it was loose change, and maybe speakers. It didn’t matter to us. We were just having fun. I also went into grocery stores and walked out with cases of soda, without paying. I eventually got caught. Didn’t do that again, but it lasted quite a while.
|Imagine the three of us in drag.|
When I was seventeen, I moved in with two friends, Tony Hines and Kristen English. They later married, and now have two children. We partied. We drank a lot. Tony was one of those popular football player types, and had a lot of friends. He was ok with my weird metal, punk and alternative friends. There was a lot of acid, and smoking pot. Me, Brad Cline, Tony, and their footballer friends all dressed in drag and roam the town stealing potted plants and lawn decorations. I made a beautiful woman back then. The football players were quite a sight to see. They certainly have confidence. Anyways, we turned our living room into a veritable jungle, complete with a smashed television, in which we placed a smaller potted plant.
At one point the cops busted up a party at the apartment. I will never forget one of them pointing at me, and asking Tony “who did she come with?”
A nearby apartment was occupied by a similar group of girls. My first girlfriend, Emily Steadman lived there with her sister, Rebecca. Emily and I hitchhiked up and down the coast a bit. On one occasion, we visited Portland, and got into trouble with her there. We had put cans of beer in soda cups, to disguise them. The cops noticed. I got busted, she didn’t. A month or so later, I had to go back for court.
I hitched my way to Vancouver, Washington the day before the court date. I met another guy sleeping in the park I was in, and he seemed like a nice guy. The park had a meth problem, and I think he was a part of it. He woke me up early in the morning, and asked if he could play my guitar. I said yes. When I woke up the next time, both my guitar and the guy were gone.
In court, I told the judge I had no money, but had hitchhiked my way down to make the date. I told him about my $200 guitar getting stolen, and pointed out that the fine, also, was $200. He threw out the charges.
It is interesting to note, the guy before me had gotten a DUI for bicycling drunk, and had thrown a fit, insisting on maximum charges. It took the judge quite a while to convince him that he had already thrown out the charges, and there was no way he was going to sentence the defendant. I wonder if that had anything to do with him throwing out my charges as well.
In Seattle, I drank coffee, and wrote at Beth’s Café until late at night. I often purchased beer with Anthony’s ID, after he turned 21. If I wanted to be alone, I found a bench at Greenlake to enjoy. If not, I sat on my father’s porch with friends and roommates. We had amassed a lot of musician friends at that point, and the house had become less like a household and more like a well-funded college dormitory, or frat house. My father was dating a lot then, and spending a lot of time away from home. With his eccentric and accepting views, he absolutely abhorred three things I liked, and that was sugar, alcohol and cigarettes. We got away with a lot, there, but those were three things that were hidden away with care.
On my 18th birthday, I announced that I was hitch-hiking to New York City. I had hitchhiked up and down the Washington and Oregon coast a bunch of times, with Emily Steadman, but no long-distance stuff, and only a handful of times alone.
We threw a party, at which my most respected elders all gathered to share old hitchhiking stories from the 60’s and 70’s. My Uncle Terry Doyle, Esteban Ryciak, and Bruce Milliman were all there, I remember that much. I got a lot of advice that day. Dangerous places to avoid, like Chicago, and Texas. Attitudes that could mean trouble in the south. To be confident in turning down rides when you have a bad feeling.
The next day, my father’s girlfriend dropped me off in the desert near Wenatchee. I started walking and was immediately picked up by public transit. It took me into downtown Spokane, and that was the first time I had gotten seriously stuck. I think I spent two nights in Spokane. The street kids there were violent. Not threatening to me—they were friendly—but they had weapons, and liked to talk about using them.
Eventually, I just walked on to the interstate, which was illegal in Washington State. As was hitch-hiking. I had been “pulled over” for hitchhiking twice that day, the cop saying “you saw me coming and you didn’t put down your thumb.” I had already walked across Spokane, trying several on-ramps, and had no other way to get to Couer d’ Alene except by the interstate.
This is in Aryan Nations territory. Those are the guys that keep bombing the abortion clinics in Seattle. So, when a shaven-headed cop stopped me on the interstate, and asked me “Where do you hail from?” I was worried. But he just checked my info, called some people, and gave me a ride to the border. From there, I got a ride to Couer d’ Alene and stayed the night in a park there. I chatted with a couple of local homeless guys for a bit, and decided they were cool. I didn’t want another guitar getting stolen. And it didn’t get stolen. A ranger woke me up in the morning and informed me it was illegal to sleep in that park. I said “ok,” and moved on.
Back on the highway, a beat up old one-ton pickup truck pulled over. I had already walked into Montana, and was feeling like I may have to walk out the other side, too. So, I bolted for the truck, tossed my things in the back, looked in the window, and said “hi!”
It was an older bearded fella, with a thick, guttural mountain voice. He had no intention of picking me up. He had pulled over to secure his load, a plastic playset he had bought for his daughter. Still, he let me ride in the bed, and took me into a small town, the name of which I regret forgetting. I have some fantastic stories about it, even fictional stories. I have daydreams of being there, and all the heroic deeds I might do while living there.
The town, as I saw it, had a grocery store with a large parking lot. It was bordered by the Interstate on the back side, and three paved roads on the other three. Across the three roads were rows of the typical northwest craftsman style homes, and, presumably, a church somewhere.
I went in the grocery store to gather some intelligence. I asked the clerk about hitchhiking in Montana. She couldn’t help me. I bought a bag of chips and went out front.
A man was walking across the lot at me. He was over 6’4”. My roommate is 6’4”, and this guy would tower over him. And he was dressed in all black, and staring at me.
I initiated evasive action, successfully losing sight of him, and settled into an alcove to munch on my chips. I was mostly calm by the time he walked around the corner. He talked to me about Christ for around three minutes, which is something I had learned to appreciate, even if I already had my views. It was also expressly welcome, when compared to the hill-billy ass-kicking I had been expecting. He offered me a cross to take with me, which I declined, not out of rejection, but of not wanting to burden him with the cost of gift-giving. That is one of the few decisions I regret making, in all my crazy life.
I started walking again, and eventually started feeling like I would be walking forever again. Montana in June is hot during the day—blistering hot, to a Seattlite. I was dressed in all black, and had ripped the sleeves off my jacket, and left the front un-buttoned, so I was bare-chested.
I am sure I was looking particularly punk at that point. My hair had started falling out in patches a few years prior, so I had big bald spots all over my head. I looked like a dairy cow that had forgotten to eat that month. The contrast with my almost black buzzed head got a lot of attention in those days. People generally liked it, but they put me in a category while they did.
I was picked up by a guy from the Canadian Navy. He was being re-stationed on the east coast. The drive on the Canadian side was significantly longer than the USA side. So, he decided to come down here.
He drove like a madman. There is no speed limit on the interstate during the day in Montana. A cop pulled over anyways. I don’t know how fast we were going—the driver spoke in kilometers, and it just didn’t stick in my brain. The cop gave him a pretty huge ticket, and insisted that if he didn’t pay cash, he was going to jail. We drove to an ATM, and the Canadian paid. Apparently, Canadians are known for not paying US issued traffic tickets. I think the cop pocketed the money.
The Canadian offered to split a hotel with me, but the concept was not in my budget, nor my intentions. When we arrived at the hotel, I kept walking, eventually sleeping on a space under a bridge.
Montana is cold at night. Like, drain-your-blood vampire cold. There was already a sleeping bag under the bridge, as well as some canned goods and a steel pot for cooking. It’s common to see this, but if you don’t have every disease in the world, it is usually advisable to avoid using them. I was seriously considering using them around my own sleeping bag.
The noise of a train echoing off concrete is another consideration to have as well. Maybe it was the thin air of the Rockies, but I have never heard such a racket. I got rest, though, and woke up refreshed the next day. I left a few beers I had been packing around since Couer d’ Alene, which, now that I think about it, probably froze solid. Now that I think about it some more, someone was probably quite frustrated when they found them. Anyways, I then climbed back on the interstate, and resumed my walk.
The next ride I got was from another priest, or at least he said he was a priest. The clerk I had been talking with the day before told him I was on the road, and he had been keeping an eye out for me. He had almost given up.
He said he was a priest, but he certainly didn’t act like one. He found it incredibly immoral and insulting that a judge had thrown him in jail for stealing a television. I mean, it’s only a television, right? Well, he had just gotten out, and was headed east for better prospects.
I wanted to stop in North Dakota, because it was so breathtakingly beautiful. Even at that naïve age, I was smitten with the land. Multicolored spires of rock in layers of muted purple, red, and blue hues jutted up into the sky, and canyons of the same nature fractured the landscape everywhere. I must declare, it is a shame they couldn’t find a different place to put an interstate.
We picked up two more hitch-hikers as well. Billy-Rae and Laura. They had gotten in a major fight recently, Laura had stabbed Billy-Rae with a pen, and Billy Rae had already earned warrants for domestic abuse in all the surrounding states. They figured they should find a new life in New York City, like the priest. I smoked weed with them, not wanting to offend. Those were the days that people thought you were a cop if you refused to smoke with them. It was quite potent, and did not give me a bad flash-back. The only hallucination that day was of a beautiful, luminous woman, about six inches tall, dancing on the dashboard. I had a good feeling about Billy Rae and Laura. They were both genuinely nice people.
The priest, however, had massive issues, and Billy Rae and Laura called him out on it. He was a con-man, and for whatever reason, had decided to take me under his wing and teach me his tricks. I could have done without, I had no desire to be a con-man, but it was an interesting experience, and he was giving me a hot ride across the country.
The first thing he checked when entering a town was the steeples. He could tell what kind of church he was looking at just by the angle of its roof. On week-days he gave the pastor a sob-story. While I was with him, it was usually mine, or Billy-Rae and Laura’s. They were usually fictionalized, as there was nothing to sob about in my story, really. The ugly parts of Billy-Rae and Laura’s story wasn’t usually revealed. But he made himself out as a good guy for giving us a ride. Sometimes, he announced he was a priest, and often got food and gas vouchers, or even cash.
Sundays, he often said, are his paydays. At one point, we stopped at an assembly of god, and after some convincing, got Billy Rae, Laura and I to go in with him. The guy at the door warned us that once the doors shut, they stayed shut for the service. The con-priest led us to the front, and had us sit down. He told the local priest all our sob-stories, and implied that he was a good guy for getting us where we wanted to go.
I don’t remember how it all started, maybe with a sermon, but eventually it was singing and dancing. I was frozen as stiff as the wooden pew I was sitting on. Not because people were screaming and jerking around, and lying on the floor in spasms, but because our driver was embarrassingly loud and obnoxious. It seemed a valid ritual to me, and our driver was clearly insincere, clearly bringing foul energy in a place that should be kept clean.
I was aghast, and probably looked it. At one point, I looked up at the pastor. He was staring right at me. I believe my face told him what I thought of the situation. He nodded, and that nod meant that he knew exactly what was going on, and that he had a plan of his own. That made me feel better. I was not the one who brought foul energy, I brought the truth.
They passed around the tithing plate-thingy’s, and the pastor said all tithes that day would go to us. Hundreds of people were chattering away in the hall. He must have taken over a thousand dollars that day.
Another thing he did was steal a specific light bulb from a K-Mart, and have a hitchhiker return it, as you can only return three items a year without a receipt.
There is a more common con that people use, but I still find it interesting, because of the response Billy Rae and Laura had to the proposal. The priest wanted to go through a McDonalds drive through, and yell at the clerk until she gave him food. Billy Rae and Laura protested, saying they refused to be in the car while that happened. In the end, it became a contest. Billy Rae and Laura went in the front door, and asked for free food. The priest and I went through the drive-through and the priest did his screaming routine. The two methods had equal results. The priest received two big bags full of food, and the others received the same.
In other regular cons, he disconnected his gas gauge and pulled off the interstate until a cop came and gave him gas. He asked to mow people’s lawns, after a sob story, of course, and not follow through when they gave him cash.
He was also a pretty major asshole to strangers. If he found a woman attractive, he made a lewd advance. After they inevitably rejected his offer of sex, he started screaming at them. Even in broad daylight, and in busy public places. Never from anywhere but inside his car, though.
I never got my share of the money he promised me, of course. I didn’t want it anyways. I don’t know if Billy Rae and Laura wanted to, or even could, get theirs. They dropped me off in the town of my birth, which I hadn’t seen since I was an infant.
The town was odd. Very odd. Everything was way off, and I was getting scared. I called my mom, and that is when she told me her stories about being tripped up and threatened, that I wrote about earlier. I met the old neighbor, Dr. Duncan, who was still working in the hospital. After that I promptly walked straight out of town.
I caught a ride on 99. I was enjoying my walk, and was way off the interstate, not particularly wanting a ride—walking in the brush on a nice spring day. An SUV pulled over, and the driver told me I shouldn’t be walking in the brush. He offered a ride, I got in. After he pulled back onto the highway, he immediately proposed that I stay the night at his house, so that his wife could give me a blowjob while he was having sex with her. I declined and asked him to let me out. He started screaming horrible things at me. “You could have had a blowjob and a comfortable place to stay for the night.” He screamed. Not so horrible in text, but that is all I remember from that conversation. The insults were harsh as well, though.
After that, I walked most of the way to Philadelphia. A woman had stopped me and asked me if I had seen her son because “I know you kind of people hang out together.” Crosses leaned out over the road everywhere. A freaky bar, a bizarre jumble of neon, lack of doors, and muted yelling lay about half-way through the walk. That night was my introduction to fireflies—we don’t have them in Seattle, really. Given my state of mind after the last ride, and the apparent number of deaths due to drunk driving, they kind of freaked me out (I like them now). Eventually I caught a ride that wound up taking me the wrong way, past the interstate, to a town called Lock Haven. It was just getting light, and I hadn’t slept in two days. I was harassed by newspaper boys early in the morning. They kept driving by me, and hollering and yelling unintelligible things at me. I had been there, though, it didn’t concern me, they were just being silly. I stashed my guitar in the bushes so I could explore the town more freely in the morning. A cop saw me, and wanted to know what I was up to, as well as make sure it was a guitar, and not a weapon. I was forthcoming, it was a nice conversation, and he bought me a ticket to New York City.
After three month’s there, I returned home. I took up a job at Taco Del Mar, and later a second job as a landscaper. I hooked up with some old friends, and we rented a six-bedroom house, within which we found we fit around 10 roommates, as well as guest bands, and what often seemed like the entire punk scene. Typically, it was kegs every Friday and Saturday night, and cases of beer every weeknight.
We had an open-door policy. Anyone could come inside. It was an anarchy. A lot of hard drugs came on to the premises, and the abuse thereof, but not from the kind of people who try to get other people to get addicted. They told the kind of stories that kept people away from it. A lot of people brought food, and a lot of people desperately needed to eat it. There was usually free beer.
There was also an open window policy. One of the roommates had a giant flat-screen television, on which we let pornography run any time there wasn’t a show, or someone wanted to use the TV for something else. Across the street from us was all parking lots—for two blocks. The result was you could clearly see the television from several blocks away. I first noticed what they had done from about a block away, and my vision is terrible.
Out-of-town bands came every weekend, and many weeknights. We also had a house band, Cervecirrhosis. Hangfire Disaster members lived there too. It was a commercial zone, so we got away with it.
This is where I learned how to play “Battle Chess.” A guy named Chris Beigel and I had equal interest in the game of chess, and played often. We both got way too drunk to play, generally haze each other by describing how obvious it was we are going to win, and verbally threaten each other’s pieces. Whenever I got ahead, he cursed and throw a bottle of beer or a glass of wine at the wall behind me.
Next door to us was an ethnic club. When we moved in, it was an all-black club. It switched ethnicities as often as owners. Shortly after, it was Filipino club. They parked in the grocery store lot across from us. My room, at the top of the house, with a window as big as the wall, had a perfect view of anything that happened out there, and many things did happen. I have seen people try to run each over with cars, baseball bats, and one time, two of my roommates, big guys, in a fist-fight with a sea of Filipinos.
One of them was one of the football players I used to run around in drag with. The other was his elder brother. They both dwarfed everyone else in the crowd. All I saw was a pale-skinned arm go horizontal, and fly forward, and it was chaos after that. The two came back unscathed.
It was also a Mexican club for a while there. We got along at first, but things turned bad. When you are dealing with punks, it is important to understand that a lot of them like to dress and cut their hair like Nazi’s. This tends to offend people, and easily offended people are usually fascist Nazi’s, according to the then-punk paradigm (the new view seems a little too easily offendable). It is easy to get in a fight when you find a group of punks congregating.
These Mexicans had come over a few times before, and partied with us. Eventually someone gave someone a hot pepper, and a joke was made about it, and some folks left angry. A while later, the club had closed again, but people had come to the neighborhood to attend the cancelled show.
They didn’t go home, though. One of our regulars, Chris Beigel, and a roommate, Jason Schmilski came in from the front. Beigel was saying that the Mexicans were messing with our cars, and Schmilski was telling everyone to not go outside for the rest of the night.
Joy was the first one out the door, followed by Devin Wardien. Schmilski and Beigel were next. Trying to get the others to come back in. Shelley Bossert was next, I believe. I followed them, very drunk, and feeling like I was going out there to say hi. Joy was curled up on the hood of her car, and getting stabbed in the back when someone got to her, and dragged her back in the house.
I don’t remember who got me, I think it was Schmilski. What I remember was someone yelling “Dog!” And someone else grabbing a piece of the fence and smashing it over my head. It was one of those double rail farm looking fences—not the usual lightweight cedar planks. It spun me around, and when my eyes focused, there was a pit-bull on a leash. The owner let go, and the dog locked on to my arm, and tore my wrist open. I still have a pretty huge scar. I am lucky I am alive.
Anyways, I think Schmilski grabbed me and dragged me back in. Joy was bleeding on the couch. She had been stabbed 6 times. I sat in the middle of the floor, and Schmilski brought a bar towel and wrapped it around my wrist. When Novak brought Devin in, he laid him out in front of me. I was the only one with any kind of medical training in the house, and he knew it. He landed on his front with a thud. Novak pulled Devin’s shirt up, off his back, and 6 little wells of blood were burbling up out of his back, and little rivers connected and disconnected, to run into the carpet. Novak asked if he was going to live. All I could say was “if he is still breathing, he will live.”
They missed some vital organ by 1 inch. Joy was well enough, her and Novak now have a son together, eventually. Somehow, I didn’t bleed to death, even if I didn’t go to the ER. The next day, my father hooked up an irrigation tube and made me clean it out myself, then did plastic surgery to try and minimize the scar. Every doctor in his practice had something serious to say to me. I learned then that rabies is irreversible after three days, and it takes three days to airlift it to Seattle. I also learned the importance of having that kind of animal put down. It also takes 30 minutes to die, when you sever the arteries in that area. I got lucky. Thank you again, my angel.
The next day, everyone had a weapon, shotguns or knives or bats. And everything was a weapon, from the computer monitor to the 5-gallon mead carboys. The steep, narrow staircase that led to the four rooms in the renovated attic had a pile of such heavy items nearby, in case we needed to throw them onto people attempting to ascend. And everyone was moving out. I stayed the last night alone, just to see what it felt like alone. I locked all the doors, turned off all the lights, and ducked under windows, to make the house look empty.
529, 6, 21, 47
Aaron Cline, 69
Abbey, Josh,, 42
Activism, 20, 38, 41
Africa, 8, 39, 41
Alaska, 35, 37
Alcohol, 24, 25, 26, 29, 32, 49, 58, 59, 67, 68, 69
Altoona, 1, 3
Americans, 26, 29, 41
Anarchy, 6, 15, 16, 17, 18, 25, 27, 29, 41
Angel, 23, 71
Arif, Psychology of, 7, 57
Baguio City, 29
Beigel, Chris, 68, 70
Beth’s Café, 59
Black Bloc, 18
Bossert, Shelley, 70
Boulder, Colorado, 21
Business, 5, 15, 35, 41, 47, 48, 49, 50
Callo, Annalise, 4
Camping, 10, 11, 10–11
Captain Joe, 32
Cascades, 4, 54
Cervecirrhosis, 68, 69
Childhood, 4, 21, 54
Cline, Brad, 58, 69
Cole, Elliot, 6, 45
College, 1, 5, 6, 7, 47, 59
Community, 1, 5, 20, 26, 28, 32
Cooking, 10, 11, 30, 32, 63
Court, 19, 59
Cross-dressing, 38, 58, 69
Death, 1, 52
Dhamma Kunja, 8
Doyle, Terry, 60
Drugs, 8, 29, 30, 42, 43, 45, 58, 59, 67
Edens, Joy, 70, 71
English, Kristen, 42, 58
Europe, 39, 41
Evans, Mike, 42
Explosives, 15, 16, 17, 19, 20, 21, 22, 57
Family, 26, 27, 48
Family Tradition, 22
Feminism, 28, 45, 54, 55, 56
Ferenti, Damien, 57
Filipino(s), 1, 10, 27, 35, 69
Finances, 5, 22, 48, 49, 59, 62, 66
Fire, 10, 11, 19, 57
Hallucinogens, 6, 15, 37, 42, 44, 46, 47, 58, 64
Hangfire Disaster, 68
Hawaii, 31, 42
Hawkes, Roger, 5, 19, 20, 48
Healing Arts, 4, 6, 7, 16, 20, 44, 66, 71
Hildebrand, Lisa, 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, 10, 52, 66
Hines, Tony, 42, 58
Hitchhiking, 24, 59, 60, 61, 64, 65, 67
Homelessness, 31, 32, 59, 60, 63
Huntsperger, David, 26
Jensen, Jack, 45
Jensen, Sharon, 45
Johns, Nicole, 26, 30
Landscaping, 48, 51, 55, 67
Lawyer, 15, 20, 45, 48, 49
Learning, 5, 11, 19, 21, 22, 50, 57
Lebanon, Oregon, 21
Love, 51, 52
Manila, 28, 30
Mathisen, Ben, 48
Mayer, Nick, 26
McKenna, Terrance, 42
Medical Assistant, 7, 40
Meditation, 7, 8
Mel Vega, Sr., 21
Men’s Rights Advocate, 28, 54
Men’s Rights Advocate (MRA), 7, 8, 49, 55
Men’s Rights Activist, 54, 55
Mexico, 21, 24, 26
Milliman, Bruce, 5, 6, 20, 60
Milliman, Daschel, 5
Milliman, Khidr, 5
Moore, Mike, 42
Moriyana, Ken, 23
Music, 5, 6, 11, 18, 23, 35, 43, 49, 59, 60, 65, 67
New York City, 21, 35, 49, 59, 64, 67
Novak, Kristoffer, 70, 71
Orcas Island, 10
Oregon, 35, 58, 60
Pacific Northwest, 10, 61
Personal Power, 16
Peru, Jungles of, 44
Peru, Mountains of, 38, 39
Philippines, 1, 26, 28, 41
Police, 6, 8, 15, 18, 19, 20, 38, 45, 58, 60, 61, 62, 64, 66, 67
Protest actions, 8, 18, 22, 38, 49, 50
Punk, 58, 62, 67, 69
Racism, 2, 3, 17, 23, 27, 28, 35, 41, 60, 69
Radley, Brady, 48
Reading, 8, 47
Religion, 1, 8, 9, 35, 44, 45, 51, 52, 53, 61, 63, 64, 65, 66
Roberts, Mike, 42
Ryciak, Esteban, 60
Sailboats, 10, 31, 50, 51, 52, 53, 55
Schmidt, Kelley Rose, 31, 50, 54, 56
Schmilski, Jason, 70
Scmidt, Kelley Rose, 56
Seattle, 4, 5, 8, 18, 31, 45, 48, 49, 55, 59, 60, 67, 71
Steadman, Emily, 58, 60
Steadman, Rebecca, 58
Strole, Emily, 35
Strole, Micah, 22, 26, 41
The Battle of Seattle, 18
Tocher, Andrew, 6
University, 1, 5, 7, 21, 42
Vancouver, B.C., 21
Vega, Anthony, 24, 25, 26, 28, 29, 30, 48, 59
Vega, Fernando, 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 17, 20, 21, 22, 24, 25, 26, 42, 43, 44, 45, 59, 60, 71
Vega, Fortunato, 49
Vega, Francis, 10, 49
Vega, Karina, 26, 27
Vega, Lester, 10, 21
Vega, Liah, 21
Vega, Melecio, 49
Vega, Melecio Sr., 21, 22
Vega, Patria, 21, 23
Vega, Pura, 49
Vega, Ruth, 5, 7, 9
Vega, Tyler, 20, 23, 26, 27, 42, 47
Vega, Waldo, 10, 21, 26, 27
Virginia, 35, 48, 54
Wardien, Devin, 70
Washington State, 1, 4, 5, 7, 20, 32, 35, 59, 60
Webster, Eric, 57
Writing, 6, 11, 15, 26, 47, 48, 49, 50, 54, 58