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  • When I was 17, right after graduation from high school, I left home for the first time. I lied about my age (had to be 18) and joined the California Conservation Corps (certainly not the military!). I was sent to the foothills of the Sierras for training, and met many people and made many friends, one was a 23 year-old girl named Jodie. After training, I was sent to Humboldt County on the north coast, where I was promptly fired for getting caught shoplifting. I went home.

    I corresponded somewhat with Jodie, while I didn’t last long with my mom and moved in with my grandmother and got a job doing dishes and busing tables at a diner. The next year Jodie wrote me – she had went back home to Kansas City, and was buying a van and driving back to California. Did I want to join her? I quit my job, though with the $160 dollars I had, could only afford a $49 plane ticket to Albuquerque. (This was 1985.) I took a bus to the airport.

    When the plane landed in Albuquerque, my next step was to catch a bus. I stepped out of the plane terminal in the darkness of night, saw the tall buildings of downtown in the far distance, and started walking. I have no idea how many hours I walked, and I know there some scary neighborhoods I walked through, but I made it downtown and found the bus station. I had enough to get to Guthrie, Oklahoma. I bought my ticket and slept for a few hours in the station.

    In Amarillo, Texas, me and some guys I met had some time between buses, and we went to a bar and had a beer. You could legally drink at 18 in Texas then, and that was the first time I had got a beer in a bar. One guy salted his beer.

    In Oklahoma City I switched buses again. I had only a few dollars to my name, and did not have a ticket to Kansas City. My plan was to sit in the back and fake sleep, hoping that the bus driver would forget about me when we arrived in Guthrie, and I could continue on. That didn’t happen, and I ended up broke in the middle of Oklahoma at night.

    I followed the signs and found the interstate, and started walking north with my thumb out whenever someone drove by. This was my first time hitchhiking. I must have walked for hours down that freeway, with the few cars and big trucks which passed not slowing down. But I kept walking, and eventually someone pulled over, and I got in. Two guys were in the front seat, and they could take me as far as Wichita. The passenger pulled out a big gun (which I learned later was a MAC-10), and said they were going to blow the balls off a guy who was screwing his wife. I was so dumb, I wasn’t even scared. I was tired. I fell asleep.

    They woke me in Wichita as dawn approached, and I once again began walking down the interstate. After maybe a couple hours I was picked up again, this time by a guy going to St. Joseph from Texas because his son had been in a car crash and was in bad shape. He wanted someone to keep him company on the drive, and he stopped at every exit on the turnpike to buy the both of us coffee. I tried my best to stay awake for him, but couldn’t. He dropped me off at a truck stop in Kansas City.

    I had arrived - with no money, nowhere to stay, and a phone number.


    Photo – My senior school picture. What I looked like as I began my life.
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