Part Three: Shoes
By the time I hit Broadway I didn’t have any shoes. I remember that clearly, however the events leading to my shoelessness are kind of vague in recollection. I know I had been wearing some canvas slip ons to start out with, but I don’t think I was wearing socks. Or, I was, but had gotten rid of them at some point. This was when I was hanging out with the wino’s downtown for a few days. I was more or less insanely drunk the entire time, and with that brilliant certitude that comes along with protracted periods of inebriation…I’m sure I just figured it was a good idea to lose the socks. Though they may have developed sentience all on their own and just decided to make a break for it while I was passed out in some bushes or in a parking garage. But at some juncture it occurred to me that losing the socks left me with some quite abraded feet due to the rough canvas of the shoes. Somewhere, at some time, I just decided to lose them too. I don’t remember where, or exactly when. But it happened. I was shoeless in Seattle.
But after Sam, my vagrancy mentor and the finest drunken homeless guy I ever did meet, left me to catch worms and flap my fledgeling wings on the streets on my own…well, I was kind of befuddled. A whole big city lay out before my teenage eyes. And I had no fucking shoes. So immediately I considered beating a hasty retreat back to Auburn from whence I came. Trouble was, I had no fucking money either. This seemed like the perfect time to play the Travelers Aid card. I’d heard about it, heard it was a good hook up if you got stranded somewhere. This kind of counted as stranded. The whole l’esprit d’aventure had sort of been left after wandering around downtown for a whole day with no shoes.
So I found out where Travelers Aid was, and I went there. They didn’t seem to want to aid me much. I think they just gave me a list of shelters, like “Here you go, beat it.” However there was a skinhead there at the same time for whatever reason, and he recognized my apparent punknitude by the Mohawk, trench coat and Dogtown Skateboards t-shirt. And being a skinhead, well you know how they are, sort of aggressively friendly and all…he took it upon himself to start talking to me. He tells me they probably won’t do nothing for me here, but he can take me up to Broadway and that’s where all the punks hang out ( which is what Sam had told me before departing too) and there’s a church up there that will give me some shoes.
I don’t care how anyone feels about skins. I’ve run into some who were patently fucked up, I’ve brawled with some skinheads in my day because they were just dicks. However, I’ve met some who were decent people. I had some friends who were anti-fascist S.H.A.R.P. skins…and, yeah, I’m gonna fucking say it, I’ve known a couple skinheads with really dodgy politics who turned out to be alright people when the chips were down. You can’t judge a book by it’s cover, and putting people in convenient little boxes so you can hate them over something as fucking stupid as politics…I mean, human beings are more than just the sum of their pet ideologies. When you forget that you become just as bad as what you hate.
And this guy was just an alright person. He was maybe a couple of years older than me, sporting the DM boots, white braces, and flight jacket uniform with a White Power patch on the shoulder. You know, the aryan cross thingy that just looks like a big crosshair target. And he walked me up to Capitol Hill, pointed me down the way to the 7-11 at Broadway and Republican, told me the church was the next block up…and he cut out. Basically because he didn’t want to get rat packed by the punks or SHARPies. He never tried to tell me how Hitler was right, or how I need to think of myself as “proud to be a White American” or anything. Didn’t try to recruit me, nothing like that. We talked about punk music (I remember him saying he was a big Exploited fan) and where we were from while walking. Then he split.
So I see the punks there at the seven-eleven, all looking the part. And I’m embarrassed, right, cause I’m rocking the hippie shoeless bit here. So first thing I go to the church. The church was (is still?) right on Broadway basically. The place was extremely destitute friendly. They used to let homeless people just sleep right there in the church courtyard. I think they got in some shit with the city over that a few times. From what I’ve heard the entire area is now hyper gentrified, so I’m sure either the city just kicked that whole church to the curb or forced them to stop letting people with nowhere else to sleep stay there. Thats the compassionate progress of the city fathers there, for sure. All these people have it fucked up in their head that Seattle is like a hip, cool place-but the city government are as big a motherfucker as anywhere. And we all know about Seattle cops. Never mind all that shit that happened in 99 at the WTO, I’ve seen those bastards nightstick people for falling asleep drunk on a city bus. One of these days I’ll recount the days of the Gasworks park antiwar occupation back during the time of the first Gulf War. Had some nice run ins with the authorities there. Once, the fucking director of the Seattle Parks and Recreation Department was standing there telling me to “Get the fuck out of my park” after I got kicked awake by like ten cops at six in the morning.
Anyway, I go to the church. One of the people outside directs me where to go, around the back, through the door, down the hall and take the left. It’s like a big opening in a wall, like a window or service desk. The guy there is super nice. He wants to help. He’s not giving me any Jesus rap. I tell him my feet hurt and I have no shoes. He asks me my size. 9 ½. Of course I must have one of the most common shoe sizes, right? This has plagued me for years when trying to find shoes at thrift stores-everybody else with that size already got them before I arrived. And that’s what happened. He says the closest they have is 10 ½. I’m like ok. I’d take size 17 at this point, it doesn’t matter to me. Getting shoes on my feet is what matters.
He pulls up the shoes. Reebok high top basketball shoes that had certainly seen much, far, far better days. And that was previous to their former owner obviously wearing them when doing roofing work. Because they’re coated in roof tar. Fuck it, like I even cared. I was grateful to have shoes, and I thanked the shoe provider graciously.
Sporting my not at all new, but new to me, kicks-I left the church, and walked katycorner across the street to the Seven Eleven. Time to “make friends and influence people.” And it was time to get loaded. Sold the pair of Johnny Rotten style specs I unbent after retrieval from my trench pocket to a gutterpunk named Joe for enough for a slice of pizza at the Broadway market and a forty ouncer of Old English. Met a kid with a bi-hawk called Bash, his girlfriend Laura, another couple Trip and Sky-Sky pushing their infant girl in a stroller while they panhandled, this Swedish looking kid named Blond John who could have been Duff McKagan’s doppleganger, Jerry the weird hippie speed freak kid and another kid I think his name was Tom. All I remember was that he had fantastic growths all over his face and he could recite the entirety of I’m The Man by Anthrax at the drop of a hat. There was Donovan, and his sister Tree. And Radio, Radio Danny up from California. They called him Radio because he carried a portable cassette player/radio around with him everywhere. And whats a crew of punk rock street urchins without a motherfucker with the tunes?
There were many others I met and hung out with that summer and beyond until I moved out to the University district, and there were at least fifteen other kids staying in the abandominium we called the Orion squat, but pretty much the kids I met that first day made up the core of the crew I rolled with back then. It wasn’t a “family” or “street family” or whatever those after school specials and news magazine docu’s term it as. Nobody ever talked about it like that. Least of all nobody ever talked about it like some “gang” or something. We weren’t fucking Crips or whatever. They were just my friends. Turned out we had each others backs and looked out for each other. Had to, wasn’t none of us really had anyone else.
But that, my dear reader, is a whole other can of paint for the next time I feel like writing about this stuff.
So yeah, to sum it up: I got some shoes. And some malt liquor. The l’esprit d’aventure had returned.