There are a few constants in my conversational life:
- I will get asked if my hair is naturally curly, and when I answer yes, the response will be various levels of envy which I do not understand in the least
- If the fact comes up that I was born in New York, I will get asked how I came to be out on the left coast.
So here goes. Once and for all, for posterity’s sake…here is The Story.
The year is 1989 and I was living in Syracuse, NY, after a miserable bout of trying to go to college. I was working for the Syracuse University Parking and Transportation department, a job laden with possibilities, all of which end up with me being sub-poverty level. My friend, co-worker and roommate, Judy, her friend Al, and I were all hanging out outside our apartment one day around October, bemoaning our circumstances. We were all three of us obviously meant for much more than this, we decided. And we all knew that Syracuse is the armpit of NY State, so that is certainly no place for such gifted young artistes as ourselves.
What to do, what to do. We decided that Out West was the place for us. And wouldn’t you know, Judy’s parents lived in Vancouver Washington, just a hop over the river from the quaint little town of Portland, where we could certainly find some work. From there, it was just a few miles down the coast to San Francisco, and on to Los Angeles, where our gifts and talents would surely be appreciated.
That was the plan, in a nutshell. Judy would leave for her parents house and grease the wheels. I would go home, say my goodbyes, and meet her after Christmas in Vancouver. We’d stay with her parents until we could find a place in Portland; by then Al would have finished his schooling up and would come out by bus. From there, we’d continue to work until we had enough money to head down to San Fran or LA. What we did at that point I don’t think we really considered, but what the hell, it was a big city with big city life and big city prospects. And the streets would be lined with gold.
It was all going according to our plans….until Judy and Al started getting a little cozy in the one bedroom hovel we were sharing. I was completely repressing the issues of my sexuality, despite the fact that I had already dated the same sex once. I wrote it off to the probability that I was bisexual. But when my jealousy of Judy and Al’s growing relationship started to cramp their style, they kicked me out. Boy was that ugly. They wouldn’t let me take half of my stuff. That guy Al could be damn intimidating.
So, let’s analyze the situation. I had no job, no money, no friends or family and no place to stay in a strange town. Pretty bleak outlook, to say the least. So I hailed a cab back to the train station, the only other place in Portland I knew, where I could collect my thoughts and figure out my next steps. Of course I had no money to pay the cab driver, and to her credit she didn’t press charges or beat me up when I started crying over the fact that I couldn’t pay for the trip. (yeah I do that sometimes )
I called a friend of mine back in Syracuse. He happened to be going to college in West Virginia, being one of those few people I met who actually *live* in Syracuse. A wonderful man, he set me up with a job, a place to stay with him back in WV, and he wired me some cash for food. Since my train ticket was round trip, I talked the Amtrak people into letting me go to WV instead of back to Boston, and I figured things would work themselves out. I checked my luggage at the station so I wouldn’t have to worry about it. The only problem left was the train didn’t leave for about 3 days. I had to find a place to stay.
So I figured I’d hang out in the train station, maybe hide out in the bathroom and sleep there at night. That didn’t pan out, since I didn’t count on the security being as efficient as they were, so I faced sleeping outside. Yep, it happened, I slept in a parking lot. For maybe a few hours at least. I couldn’t handle that for very long, and I just started walking around. I ran into these obvious heroin junkies who were very nice to me, and informed me of the homeless shelter just around the corner. So without any delay I made a beeline for there, and got to sleep inside in a cot. Yay!