Unpublished pieces

Voyage Haikus

Manaus, 4/21/12

Portuguese sounds smooshy

even "x" says


Manaus, 5/10/12

the rainstorm never hit

my new shirt is already stained

sewing requires patience

Manaus, 5/23/12

firecrackers wake me

boys in white uniforms wander in the garden

from an eve falls a curtain of rain

Manaus, 5/28/12

death comes

to a


Manaus, 6/3/12

bathed and primped

a fifteen-year old girl

emerges from the slum

Manaus, 6/3/12

on Sundays few people are about

shipyard dogs gather in the shade

of an unfinished ferry

Manaus, 6/3/12

fish bone in the street

jangalanga music

the women wear sparkly jeans!

Manaus, 6/3/12

puppy nosing in the garbage

in my dreams I sneak down dark


Manaus, 6/8/12


a new noisemaker toy

sweeps the neighborhood

Manaus, 6/12/12

sweat glistens on Ginny’s temple

a radio left on all night

on my birthday I eat mangos

Rio Madeira, 7/3/12

Ginny scrubs the oatmeal pot

brushes and floss scattered on the cockpit floor

swerving parrots catch the sun, glint green

Rio Madeira, 7/3/12

the motor clanks

a new vulture spreads its wings

in my dreams my belongings are scattered all over

Rio Guapore, 7/21/12

the sun fires

a spider´s thread

from our mast streaming

Rio Guapore, 7/26/12

where all is strange

(our American flag flaps faded on the foremast)

one´s outlook remains fresh

Rio Guapore, 8/14/12

where all is strange

(a bird that folds its wings like a butterfly)

one´s viewpoint remains fresh

Rio Guapore, 8/14/12

a barge loaded with yellow bricks

had sunk in the shallows

on the Pimenteiros waterfront

Rio Paraguay, 8/16/12

Thurston catches the southern trades

mongst the pointy hills of


Rio Paraguay, 8/25/12

bills with five zeros

a soldier with a French Foreign Legion cap

new country!

Rio Paraguay, 8/25/12

whir (with each oar stroke the)

whir (little white wheels of my)

whir (sliding seat make this sound)

Rio Paraguay, 8/25/12

burning fields

a nap while The Other steers

the water is cold now

Corrientes, Argentina, 9/17/12

balding men shave their heads

women kiss each other's cheeks

the yacht club has two cats

Corrientes, Argentina, 9/17/12

cats are much alike everywhere

but some have better fur

than others

My Failed Libertarian City Planner Experience

Libertarians tend to denounce the government for meddling in our private lives, but governments are just reflections of their societies. Nations usually get the government they deserve. For example, democracy doesn’t take root in the Middle East because the people that live there lack the tolerance of other creeds that is a prerequisite to democracy. A short-sighted or misinformed body politic is unable to recognize good government, much less demand it. Samuel Konkin speaks of this in A New Libertarian Manifesto (on page 18) where he says that the State is everywhere, even “in the individual mind.” That thought is confirmed by my recent experiment in libertarian city planning.

As a city planner I worked for various small cities and a couple of counties in Western Washington. City planners deal with land development, environmental protection, and citizen participation. Planners are technicians who draft and administer the land use regulations. The elected officials make the major decisions, but the planners run the regulatory machinery on a day-to-day basis.

Some planning is necessary. Take addresses for example. Every community needs an address system so that businesses and residences can be located. Address systems are based on coordinate grids. Somebody has to decide what the coordinate grid will be. It only works if there is just one grid for the entire jurisdiction. Competing addressing systems wouldn’t work because addressing is a natural monopoly.

Some land use regulations are justifiable, but I came to realize that many of them are unnecessarily burdensome and complicated. As a budding libertarian I was out of place among my fellow city planners. Without drawing attention to myself I worked within the system to alleviate some of the excesses. For example, whenever the state legislature required local governments to adopt new regulations, such as the Growth Management Act, I drafted those regulations with much less verbiage than other cities and counties used, and I took the opportunity to weed out the regulations that were no longer necessary. I streamlined permit processes and sympathized with the land development industry, because jobs and affordable housing depend on entrepreneurs and builders.

As I stated in a previous talk entitled “The End Is Near And It Will Be Awesome,” people have to coordinate more and more as society becomes more complex, and there are two ways coordination can occur: either through cooperation or coercion. You see free cooperation in many expanding spheres, such as social media and Bitcoin. But coercion is the default approach to city planning and government generally. This is a shame, because good ideas should sell themselves. For example, if somebody comes up with a visionary new plan for their community that gets everybody excited, why not implement it through cooperative means which are acceptable to all? But this is unlikely to happen when the popular assumption is that the government’s role is to decide such matters by legislative fiat.

After retirement I moved back to East Bremerton. Not yet ready to quit planning, I undertook an experiment. I got involved in Silverdale because it resembles cities I have been the planner for except that it is unincorporated. That is, it has no mayor or council, relying instead on Kitsap County for governmental services. Because Silverdale is unincorporated I was able to jump in as a volunteer without official approval.

Silverdale is a city in the generic sense because it has a large, concentrated population and its own jobs base. It also generates massive tax revenues, being the county’s retail hub. But it is not a city with a capital “C” because the residents have repeatedly voted down incorporation proposals, feeling that the status quo is adequate. Silverdale is a reasonably attractive, well-laid-out city with decent, though not perfect, streets, sewer, water, storm drainage, etc.

My involvement was simultaneously through two channels: the Kitsap Economic Development Alliance (KEDA) and the Silverdale Chamber of Commerce Government Affairs Committee (GAC).

With KEDA I suggested a new stakeholder empowerment process whereby Silverdale’s downtown landowners and developers get organized and cooperate in their dealings with the County and each other. This eventually became the Silverdale Economic Action Plan, a joint project of KEDA and the Kitsap County Commissioners’s Office. It didn’t go according to my recommendations. No empowerment group got formed. There was just one meeting, then one-on-one interviews with the various stakeholders. KEDA Director John Powers and I conducted 24 interviews, asking each person or group such questions as,

  • “What are your plans for the property?”

  • “What obstacles do you face in developing the property?”

  • “What public infrastructure do you need?, and

  • “What incentives might the County offer that would facilitate redevelopment of your property?”

Overwhelmingly the answer we got was that the County’s permit process is too cumbersome and its regulations are too restrictive. In one case the answer was very specific. That party’s bank was ready to finance their development proposal if the County could grant a basic “yes or no” land use decision within six months, but the norm is 18 months, so funding was withheld.

Secondarily, worsening traffic was a concern. In third place came purely economic issues such as the fact that per-square-foot leasing prices aren’t high enough to justify redevelopment yet. Thus, the two big concerns that county government could do something about were the permit process and traffic.

Mr. Powers and I packaged this input and presented it to the Commissioners’ office. It was their job to devise incentives to spur economic development in accordance with the input. But it’s been a year now since the public meeting and five months now since KEDA completed its work, and the County hasn’t done anything. It appears that the County Commissioners are going to simply forget the whole thing and back out on their pledge to provide incentives for redevelopment in Silverdale. I consider their inaction extremely negligent. They made promises they didn’t keep, and they made a mockery of the citizen input process. A lot of people wasted their time. In summary, this part of my experiment in libertarian city planning was a failure. No Silverdale stakeholder group was organized, and the obstacles preventing new jobs and affordable housing are still in place.

My involvement with the Silverdale Chamber of Commerce Government Affairs Committee (GAC) was very different. The GAC is the Chamber’s committee for dealing with community and government affairs. The Chair is Connie Weisel, owner and manager of Centering Massage in downtown Silverdale. Under her active leadership I offered to write a blog called the Silverdale Snail. Over the course of a year we put out 13 articles of about two pages each, covering topics such as:

  • Silverdale’s early history,

  • how it expanded when the Bangor Sub Base was established,

  • how Silverdale’s street pattern came about,

  • the lack of a community center,

  • traffic problems,

  • non-motorized transportation (biking and walking),

  • women entrepreneurs, and

  • a history of Silverdale’s failed incorporation attempts.

The final article included a suggestion that a non-profit Silverdale Association be formed. It would be similar to a homeowners’ association, only voluntary. The association would act as a mock city government, performing certain city functions but having no taxing or regulatory power. It would serve as a forum for discussing community problems and for developing new leaders. The Silverdale Association could have further explored what governance is possible through voluntary cooperation rather than coercion.

In a way, the blog articles were a sort of informal city planning effort based on voluntary action. The emphasis was on Silverdale’s strong tradition of entrepreneurship and private cooperation. If the pioneers were able to start Silverdale, and if local businessmen and women were able to expand it in the 1980s with minimal government involvement, why shouldn’t they do so again now in order to confront today’s problems? Connie and I also presented this information to the general Chamber membership and I presented it to the Kitsap Commercial Investment Brokers.

Unfortunately, we got very little response. Nobody showed much interest. I fear that Silverdale has lost its knack for solving community problems other than through county government. Everyone assumes that traffic, the lack of a community center, homelessness, etc. are purely governmental issues. People are overly dependent on the government to solve all community problems.

In summary, in very different ways, the two prongs of my libertarian city planning experiment reached the same conclusion: that community planning through cooperative means is very difficult. I can’t entirely ascribe this to apathy, however. I could have done a better job putting my thoughts and proposals forward. I could have talked to more people and stuck it out longer. But I now feel that the experiment is on hold until someone besides Connie shows more interest. In the meantime it’s time for me to move on to other things.

About six months ago I presented a talk entitled, “The End Is Near and It Will Be Awesome.”. Its premise was that the momentum is more on the side of personal liberty, largely due to the democratic nature of information technology. The conclusion of that talk was optimistic This talk has a more pessimistic conclusion, but it’s not over yet. I understand the situation better. I’ve identified at least one ally: Connie.

The libertarian mission isn’t to fight government, it’s to fight the unspoken assumption that government will solve all our problems. Our challenge is to spark a greater passion for liberty and for cooperative, as opposed to coercive, action among our fellow citizens.

The End is Near and It is Going to be Awesome

1. Overview

“The End is Near and It's Going to Be Awesome” is the title of a book by Kevin Williamson. It looks at libertarianism from the standpoint of economics and social evolution. I loved it! It’s optimistic! It helps me believe that mankind can in fact move toward greater liberty.

My talk is based loosely on the book. As the title implies, I have bad news for you, followed by good news. I will be describing for you “The End” as I see it, and the subsequent “Awesomeness.” But first I need to present the evolutionary and economic concepts behind these projected events.

2. Coercion

There are the two means of social control: coercion vs. cooperation. Both have always existed, but coercion usually has the upper hand. Briefly stated, we’ve progressed from tribes to nations, from warlords to kings to President and Congress. But government at its core is still coercive. The people in power pick winners and losers. They enforce their preferences through their monopoly on the use of violence. If you withhold taxes because you don’t believe in what the money is used for, you will be arrested. If you persist in your disobedience even trivial acts will eventually cause you to be arrested, like selling lemonade or building a partition wall without a permit.

3. Evolution

The human race seized mastery over the planet not only through biological evolution but through social evolution as well. Our institutions have changed over time. But not all institutions evolve with equal efficacy. Those based on cooperation have improved. But those based on coercion haven’t improved. They don’t improve because they doesn’t have to improve, because they enjoy the monopoly of violence. Ask yourself, “Is our political system better now than when you were young? Does it function more smoothly, with greater respect for all?” You will probably answer “no.” Institutions based on coercion don’t get better. They are an evolutionary blind spot, a dead end. With coercion in control the vicious cycles are stronger than the virtuous cycles. There are times when coercion makes sense, like when your village is under physical attack and everyone is needed to repel the invaders. But that is rarely our situation. The powers that be have more power than is necessary to protect us. That power corrupts and the sphere of coercion grows.

4. Growth of government

In the U.S. the sphere of government has quadrupled in the past century, from about 10% of the economy to 40%. Some of that money goes to legitimate purposes like a minimal defense, but about 60% of the federal budget now goes to entitlements and wealth transfers: pensions, welfare programs, tax abatements, protectionism, the whole gamut of government interventions. Special interest groups get their laws passed. Sometimes the effect is progressive (take from the rich and give to the poor). Sometimes it is regressive. Progressive or regressive, the government takes form some and gives to others while constantly growing as the middle-man. The government takes money from A and gives it to B to spend on behalf of C, and with each removal from its source the money is spent less wisely, because the only people who fully appreciate the value of money are the people who earn it.

5. Government monopolies

When the public sector provides services it does so as a monopoly. If the goods are shoddy or overpriced there’s nothing you can do about it. The government has little incentive to satisfy the consumer’s individual preferences, be it in the big-ticket items like education or retirement, or the bewildering array of benefit programs for special interest groups. If you buy gas it has to contain ethanol in order to subsidize the corn farmers. Through your taxes you subsidize solar manufacturers, sugar cane farmers, and, maybe even affluent Bremertonians that work in Seattle and want fast ferries but don’t want to pay for them! Supposedly the Republican party is for small government. In reality, both the major parties pander to special interest groups equally. Why? Because they can’t resist the corruptive power inherent in a coercive state.

A statist is someone who advocates for the coercive state. They want a small set of individuals, people who believe like them, to run the society’s systems. They oppose voluntary, diffused decision-making such as exists in the market place. They want everyone to have to buy the same product. They want to set the price artificially. They oppose competition and choice. That such central planning doesn’t work is obvious from the way East Germany failed while West Germany succeeded, likewise in how North Korea has failed compared to South Korea. In a free system everyone votes with their pocket book based on their unique preferences. Each economic transaction imparts a small amount of information into the system. Collectively these minor actions determines prices. In turn, prices determine how money, natural resources, and manpower get invested. Free individuals cooperating voluntarily are vastly smarter in aggregate because they gather more information than the technicians can, and because the information is more reliable. The individual knows his or her wants and needs, whereas a central planner can only guess at overall averages.

6. Unfunded liabilities

The federal deficit keeps growing because it’s to the advantage of politicians to spend more money without collecting more taxes. It’s an arms race of vote-buying, a vicious cycle spinning out of control. The unfunded liabilities of the US Government, including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and pensions now exceed $100 trillion. That’s more money than exists in the entire world, which is a problem because most of the other national governments are in the same predicament. The End will be a global financial meltdown of a sort that has never occurred before.

7. The End

When the End happens will depend on things like interest rates and inflation. Even the top economists can’t predict these things. It may be years off, but it’s inevitable. The trigger will be the U.S. default because the global financial system is based largely on the dollar and U.S. government debt. Many other national governments will default as well. Several local governments have already gone into receivership. Whether it comes suddenly or gradually, whether the chaos is short-lived or long, it will be a general failure of government causing people to see more clearly, allowing healthy trends that are already in place to rise to the top. It will push the reset button on what people expect from their society. All over the world fragile balances will fail and new balances will be found, new arrangements for dealing with wealth and power, new accommodations for the weak and disadvantaged. Out of chaos will come a new order that nobody need fear because it’s based on consent rather than coercion. It will be an on-going competition between alternative ideas for how to cooperate voluntarily.

8. Optimism

Why I am so optimistic? When the End comes the government will need more money than ever, but its options will be more limited than ever. If they print more it will just devalue the dollar that much faster. If they raise taxes people will find ways to avoid paying. If Detroit doubles its taxes to avoid defaulting on its public employee pensions people will move elsewhere. If the U.S. government tries to dispossess the 1%, they will transfer their citizenship to Singapore or Switzerland. The government will try to block this but due to increased mobility of people and capital many will find escape routes around these hurdles. All the information on how to do it will be on-line! As governments double down on their extractions they will find themselves in competition with each other for market share as to where people live and park their money. And that’s just the beginning of The Awesomeness. When the End comes coercion will waste away and cooperation will come into its own. The phrase “the consent of the governed” will gain new meaning.

9. Spontaneous order

The reasons for my optimism lie in the evolutionary dynamics I discussed earlier. Spontaneous order is nothing new. Science is one example. It works due to peer review and information-sharing. It’s an intense competition of ideas from which we all benefit, because competition in a free environment is actually a form of cooperation. Another example is economist Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand. Free enterprise has already given us 900 makes and models of shampoo! Now, that may seem trivial, but only the individual can judge what’s important for them.

The financial crisis will kick the props out from under failed corporations and banks. Only the fittest will survive. Without government interventions squandering our labor, capital, and natural resources, new fields of competition will spring up. Productivity and standards of living will rise. Consumer prices will drop. By letting society organically decide what it values most, and second most, and third most, in real time, from moment-to-moment, we will make super-efficient use of our resources.

10. Social Technology

The Awesomeness will be powered by innovative social technology. Organizations and capital formations will evolve faster. Already, corporations on average are getting smaller and living less long, due to increased specialization, financial innovation, and outsourcing. Everything will be experimental. There will be no one answer, but there will always be an exit for those who march to a different drummer.

New technologies are emerging based on mutual interest, trust, and reputation. The internet is tipping the balance of power in favor of the little guy. Private currencies like BitCoin are waiting in the wings to take over when the government-monopoly currencies go bankrupt. More and more services are “off-the-books” because they can be performed in a way that evades the tax man.

11. More social technology

On-line consumer reviews are revolutionizing product quality. Social media facilitates new forms of reputation networks. Communities of overlapping interest are more readily discovered. We benefit from more freebies all the time. We go to Google for our searches and Wikileaks for our watchdog exposés. Government spying is now offset by technologies that allow us to expose them. For reference material we go to Wikipedia which, amazingly, organizes high-quality knowledge by means of volunteers with almost no central editing.

We have good examples from the past as well. Black markets spring up wherever the hand of government is too heavy. Boycotts and social exclusion help level the playing field. The consumer credit system is a form of spontaneous cooperation. Companies share credit information. The result is that individuals are forced to behave more responsibly without resorting to violence. Churches, fraternal lodges, and mutual aid societies used to provide health insurance for the poor. They could do so again. It was efficient because the people knew each other and the power of reputation prevented abuse.

12. Not just commerce

I’m not just talking about commerce. Most of what government does can already be taken over by cooperative enterprise. Private forms of legislating, policing, and justice are growing. Dispute resolution is on the rise because it is cheaper and faster than the courts, and it’s better at maximizing outcomes for both sides, not just the winner.

Profit isn’t the only motive. Philanthropy is alive and well. People like Bill Gates now provide many of the world’s public services. In NYC a non-profit service organization now manages Central Park. They do a great job! Even where the motive is profit, it’s not just profit. Entrepreneurs are often indistinguishable from philanthropists. They have a vision for something that society will value, and the passion to make it happen. When they fail, only they fail. When they succeed everybody wins.

13. Conclusion

In conclusion, it took thousands of years for us to win freedom of speech, religion, and movement. The next wave of freedoms won’t take as long. When The End comes let’s dismantle the coercion-based social order. Let’s have more choices, more right to fail, more respect for the individual. Meanwhile remember the poor, the disadvantaged, and the environment. It’s not about materialism, though increased prosperity may be a by-product. Rather, it’s about freedom and dignity.

Little-Known Things About Me

I used to pledge allegiance to the King of Morocco every day.

I was in prison there for a month for a motorcycle accident and they made everybody shout, "Viva Hassan Deux!" each morning.

I was once given shelter in an old fort that was attacked during the night by Indians.

In 1971 I was hitch-hiking with a French companion eastward through Pakistan. We were about to cross into India when the Indo-Pakistani War broke out. We turned around and started hitch-hiking westward, by a more southerly route through the Baluchi desert. We got a ride from a convoy of tanker trucks going to Iran to get fuel. One night the convoy took refuge in a remote army fort. The next morning everyone was talking about how an Indian plane or planes had strafed the fort. It hadn't woken me up!

I once rode a motorcycle with a deer seated behind me

I lived near Sedro-Woolley then. I motorcycled to Anacortes with my rifle, walked onto the ferry, got off on Orcas Island, and camped on the nearby mountain. The next day I shot a small deer, gutted it, put it in a large canvas bag, and dragged it onto the ferry. Returning to Anacortes late at night, I took him out of the bag, hoisted him into a sitting position behind me, and tied a rope around our two waists. His forelegs were over my shoulders and his head hung to one side. No problem getting home. Don’t know what whoever saw me thought.

At Age Five I Got Lost in the Pasayten Wilderness

A friend of my dad got us included in a pack train into the Pasayten Wilderness, near the Canadian border. There were about ten or twelve people including Dad, Mom, my older brother, and me. Three cowboy hands were in charge of the horses and pack animals. I, the youngest, rode on the same horse as one of the hands, in front of him. The trip lasted several days. We went way in and camped at the end of the trail in a log shelter (closed on three sides) next to a sub-alpine pond. Upon arrival the cowboys let the horses go because they always grazed where they could be found again.

The next morning two older boys decided to go to “the upper meadow where the horses are.” They were very excited. I ran after them. For a while I kept up, but they were stronger than me. Eventually I was totally winded. “I can’t keep up! Wait!” I cried. But they just kept going.

Now alone in heavy virgin forest, I tried to get back to camp. I knew it was downhill but I didn’t know how much to left or right. Soon I was panicky and scrambling. Then a sound caused me to look up in the tree to my right. Just over my head was a black bear cub! I knew that an angry or hungry mother bear would be nearby, so I ran like hell, down into draws thick with fallen trees.

Running and walking, I traversed a lot of rough country. I never had any views because the trees were too thick. At one point I came across an old hunters’ or miner’s camp! It had a plank table and rusty implements sitting around or hanging on nails: frying pan, silverware, lantern, and the like. It was fairly complete, like people might come back there someday. I knew I was lost. Maybe I should wait there? But there wasn’t any trail to it! The camp was closely enveloped in forest, forgotten. It could be years before anybody came there again, maybe never! So I kept going downhill. It was less steep now but real thick.

At about four In the afternoon I came to a trail! I didn’t know which way to go so I went to the right. Soon I came to a lake. I knew where I was! The day before, after arriving at the shelter, we had come there to try the fishing. I had only to go the opposite direction on the trail and after a mile or two I would be back at camp. Before I got there I ran into one of the cowboys coming in my direction, looking for me. Now that I was safe I burst out crying. He pulled me up onto the horse with him and took me back to camp.

My mom had been frantic. They had been looking for me all day. I had angled too far to the right, into a different drainage. That cowboy said where he’d found me. It seemed like he was being credited for finding me, like I was still lost. I wasn't. I'd have gotten back to camp pretty soon in any case. "I found my own way back," I protested. But everybody shushed me up. There were some stern lectures.

My boy Nathaniel Bowie is now the age I was then.

I once located the ancestral village of the Muckleshoot Indians.

I reported it to the Tribe, but they didn’t seem to care.

I was working as a planning consultant for the Muckleshoot Indian Tribe at the time. The guy who hired me was friendly, but had no time for my work because he was busy with power struggles. Nor did he know what I should work on. I offered to pull together a history of the Tribe’s land settlement patterns, especially how the reservation came about and how it evolved over time. This is not what a planner would normally work on, but it interested me, and my supervisor agreed.

I was given access to records. I studied not only the Muckleshoots but the legends, social structure, and villages of the Puget Sound natives generally. Part of my research was at the National Archives office at Sand Point, Seattle. Going through old maps there I found the first survey ever created of the Auburn area, in about 1850. It was done by Ezra Meeker, a famous pioneer. One can still visit the Meeker Mansion in downtown Puyallup.

At that time the local natives weren’t called Muckleshoots. They probably would have been considered a band of the Duwamish. I knew they had only one “village,” meaning a cluster of longhouses inhabited in the winter time, as opposed to the mobile camps they inhabited during the summer. I knew it was on the Green River and that it was called Ilalko, but I hadn’t found any reference to exactly where it was.

Meeker’s map was very neat and meticulous. He must have drafted with a carefully trimmed quill. His tools on the ground would have been a transit, for shooting compass direction, a chain 66 feet long, and a rod 16.5 feet long. His job included extending the survey grid known as the Willamette Meridian from Oregon up through his area. That meant locating and marking section corners. It also included charting the course of the rivers running through the area allotted to him, the White and Green. There wasn’t much else to map. This was just as the first settlers were coming, before the Puget Sound Indian War of 1855.

There was an anomaly on the map, straddling the river in what is now the city of Auburn. It looked like a thumb-sized smudge. Studying it with a magnifying glass I saw that it actually consisted of fifteen to twenty tiny symbols on the west side of the river and a similar number on the east side. (I have since misplaced my study and don’t remember exactly how many.) The symbols were upside-down Vs: teepee symbols such as represent campgrounds on modern maps. This must have been Ilalko! Meeker was a big friend of the Indians. He later employed many of them on his hop farm. He would have been familiar with the village. He didn’t label it, he just showed where the houses were. The native longhouses didn’t resemble teepees, but the teepee symbol conveyed the concept of a native dwelling.

Since Meeker’s map had the section corners and was to scale I could locate the village on the ground. In doing so I arrived at a bridge over the Green River. The village’s location was about 1/8 mile to the north. I had a good view of it from there, but there was no way to get closer, nor any need. Both sides of the river are now single-family subdivisions. The lots back onto the river. There is no trail along the river and no beach to walk on. Of course, there is no sign of the longhouses now. They were made of wood, so they would have been burnt or pulled down, or rotted away long ago. Also, since 1850 the river has meandered. In doing so it would have washed away much of the village site. Any search for archeological artifacts would be further complicated by the fact that the area is now owned by many individual homeowners.

I wrote up my report. It included a rendering of approximately how the village must have looked, from a given perspective, complete with canoes, houses, and people in native dress. An artist friend drew it for me based on representative illustrations I had found. I presented the history to my department head. He liked it. He had me come to a meeting of various department heads.

There was a lot of tension in the room due to the power struggles my guy was engaged in. I gave my report verbally in full. There was no reaction except that one woman offered a minor correction with respect to a person mentioned in my report. He was an early Resident, or Bureau of Indian Affairs agent assigned to the reservation. The woman was part Muckleshoot and partly a descendant of that white man. Aside from this comment there was only silence. Then they went back to clashing over resources and powers. I left.

I handed in the study but I never heard anything about it again. I went on to perform other planning tasks for the Tribe, but nobody ever paid any attention to my work. It didn’t concern them. There was no feedback. Eventually I quit for a different job. I just left a note and walked away. I got no reaction, but none was owed me. How would I have reacted if my entire culture had been snuffed out?

At age three I went bear hunting

This memory is part truly mine and part replay from what other people now departed have said.

It must have been chilly because I wore my heavy red wool coat, which I loved. It come halfway down my thighs and was lovely with its lapels and big red buttons. My armament was color-matched: a red plastic click revolver. You pull the trigger. The hammer comes back and falls down with a satisfying CLICK. I left the home I again occupy, 938 E. 31st Street, headed south. There was no reason not to.

Three blocks away, where Robin tees onto Sheridan, I turned left. My memory is that my run-in with the law occurred after I had proceeded only a short distance east on Sheridan. I was on the sidewalk on the north side of the street when a policeman pulled up alongside me in his black and white squad car. However, he later gave my mom the impression that he had found me east of Wheaton Way, going up the big Sheridan hill. This was in 1956, before the Warren Avenue Bridge. There wouldn’t have been much traffic then, so it’s possible. In any case, versions agree as to what each said.

“Where you going, son?”

“Oh, just hunting bears.”

I didn’t need any help but I acquiesced to getting in the car. He later told Mom that I was initially unable or unwilling to direct him to our house. I had him driving all over the neighborhood. I was too young to know our address or phone number. I probably didn’t even know my last name. Eventually, however, he got me to my front door and rang the bell. Mom answered. Not having missed me, she cheerfully took receipt and thanked him for his service.

Except that when Mom was in her eighties she averred that she had missed me, and that after the policeman left she spanked me for my reluctance in identifying our house to him. I prefer not to believe this. When she spanked me it was with a hair brush and it really hurt. I don’t associate any such unpleasantness with my outing.

In any case she told Dad about it when he got home, and it spread to my grandparents, aunts and uncles. The grown-ups thought it was funny. “Oh, just hunting bears!” used to be the punch line of a favorite family story.

Let it be said again! Call me Steve “Oh, just hunting bears!” Ladd.

I once ate what I thought was a boiled potato and got dozens of tiny spines stuck in my mouth.

Ginny and I were at a restaurant in a small town in outback Brazil. I ordered a bowl of some sort of vegetable stew. Picking up what looked like a small, tan potato with my spoon, I bit. It was firmer than I expected so I bit harder. Half of it came off in my mouth. Quickly I opened wide. Painful things were now stuck all over my tongue, the roof of my mouth, the insides of my lips, even under my tongue in the recessed corners! I spat out the “potato” and rinsed with water. A waiter hurried over. “It’s a pequi,” he said. “I assumed you would know that! You only eat the outside!” For a half hour Ginny picked out tiny spines with tweezers, but she couldn’t get them all. I had to go to a dental surgeon for the rest.

Once my dad confessed to me that in World War II he had

fought on the Japanese side.

When I was little we boys in the neighborhood (remember, Keith Redd and Brian Horch?) used to play a game called Guns. It consisted of running around, hiding, ambushing, and lots of shooting with our toys guns, various plastic models that went "click" when you pulled the trigger.

The rules were as follows. When you shot somebody you yelled, “I got you!” That person was then obliged to be Dead until that round was over. Except sometimes that person would yell back, “You missed!” I did it too sometimes, though I knew it was wrong. How could the shootee know if the shooter had missed or not? There was generally a bit of arguing, then the shooter swallowed his objection and we got back to our war.

There were two teams, the good guys and the Japs. One might prefer to be a good guy, but somebody had to be Japs so there wasn’t any real stigma to it. The terms weren’t morally laden. We were professionals.

One day I asked my dad if he had been a good guy or a Jap in the war. He paused from what he was doing. “A Jap! Yeah, I was a "Jap!” He chuckled and continued on his way.

Clearly, he hadn’t taken me seriously. But I didn’t know how to re-phrase the question. There were things I didn’t understand. Maybe his war was different from ours. Maybe "Jap" meant something different then.

I once accidentally snuck up on a family of mountain goats

and caused them to jump off a cliff.

Kelly Butte is twenty-three miles east of Enumclaw, eight miles shy of the Pacific Crest. Its flat top is 5,240 feet above sea level. It’s a great place for huckleberries in the fall. You get there by driving up a Forest Service road then scaling its flank to the alpine meadow on top.

One winter I skied in and spent the night in the unmanned lookout tower on the butte’s north edge. In the morning I went for a relaxing ski. The butte isn’t perfectly flat. It slopes slightly from its north edge down to its south edge. It was the perfect gradient to maintain good speed in the light powder then prevailing. I telemarked long, gentle turns. It was exhilarating and pristine.

In some places the edges of the butte are sheer granite cliffs. This is true on the southwest edge, where spires of bedrock rim it, like around a crater. In a silent schuss I skied up to one such pile of black rock and stopped a few feet short. The rock had patches of dirty snow on it. Suddenly I realized that the dirty snow was actually five mountain goats! I was looking straight into their eyes! They were a little above me, laying on the rock. Then one of them turned away and launched himself into space! One by one the others followed suit. Some were adults, some were kids. I didn’t hear them land.

I took off my skis and climbed to where they had been. I couldn’t see where they had landed because the outcropping was too rounded on top to see the bottom of the cliff. I surmise that they are intimate with the terrain and know how to leap without hurting themselves.

I once recovered from amnesia in a Kansas City hospital.

In the wee hours of a spring day in 1982 I became aware that I was in a strange hospital. I was not confined. I felt fine, euphoric even. I had my own bed but I seem to have been walking around, talking to the graveyard shift personnel, even helping the janitor mop the floor! But something was wrong with my memory. To cope with this, every minute or two I wrote down, on a notepad, the time from my wristwatch and an observation.

I still have that notepad. Most of the entries read more or less as follows: “I don’t remember writing the above, though it was only a minute ago. Perhaps now I will start to remember.” In several I remembered a young woman with brown hair (probably a nurse). Each time I was surprised to see that I had remembered her before as well. I couldn’t remember having remembered her! A male doctor came up to me and asked, “How many fingers was I holding up?” I gathered that he had returned to check my memory, but I couldn’t remember him, much less his fingers. He made a face like, “That’s not good,” and walked away.

By around 7 a.m. my short-term memory had returned. I was inspected and given an EEG. My head, jaw, and teeth hurt. They said I had been hit on the head and robbed in a notoriously dangerous part of town. They didn’t understand why I would have been there, and had thought I was mental ill even before my injury!

I rebuilt my memory from the past toward the present. I had always remembered who I was. But why was I in Kansas City, Missouri? Then I remembered that my city planner job at that time included being the director of the Skagit Council of Governments. As such I was entitled to attend the annual conference of the National Association of Regional Councils. So I did. Then I remembered that I had stayed at the Schuyler Hotel. Then I remembered that at the end of each day of lectures I had gone for a long walk because the strange city fascinated me. On the final day of the conference I hadn’t make it back. I was unable to rebuild my memory of that final day.

My brother Mike and his wife Cathy at that time lived in Witchita, a few hours away. They came and picked me up later that day. I said, “Mike, I need you to drive me around. I’ll tell you where to turn.” We found our way to my hotel. Then we started.

“Go that way,” I said. Mike complied. “Now that way.” And on and on. I never remembered anything in advance, but once I saw it I remembered it. There was never any doubt which way to turn. The city was fantastically run down! Entire neighborhoods had grown over in weeds. Vast areas of red-brick industrial buildings were vacant. We were amazed at how far I had walked. For miles and miles I had cruised through the central, western, and southern portions of the city. I’d had a map and knew where I wanted to go.

They had said that I walked into a convenience store and told the clerk that I had been robbed. And they had told me the name and location of that convenience store. Suspense built as we approached it. I had been walking north on a famous parkway. It was beautiful, but it passed through the infamous “Projects.” It had gotten dark. (But with Mike and Cathy it was still daylight.) When we reached a point on the parkway where the convenience store was only a couple blocks away, the recall stopped. Nothing! Total erasure! They had hit me with a blunt instrument on the back of the head. I had fallen on my face and broken a molar. I probably lost consciousness, then regained it and walked to the store.

“Park the car,” I said. I walked into the store. It was totally unfamiliar.

“Do you remember me?” I asked the clerk.

”Yeah, you said you’d been robbed!”

From this I conclude that there are three kinds of memory.

1) My long-term memory I’d never lost.

2) My middle-term memory, of the past few days in Kansas City, is divisible in three parts: a) that which I reconstructed on my own, b) that which I reconstructed only by driving around with Mike and Cathy, and c) that which was permanently erased, starting with the blow to my head and ending with my first notation at 2:31 a.m.

3) For at least five hours I lost my short-term memory. When this happens you may feel OK, but you can’t function properly.

An Iranian hostess once offered me her daughter to sleep with.

Frenchwoman France Senglat was 28 when we met in Afghanistan in 1971. We were both over our heads. She was brave and fierce, but for a woman to travel alone in those countries was madness. I was 18. We agreed to combine forces. It was more like a business partnership than a friendship. Certainly not a romance. We were serious travelers.

Thwarted from crossing into India by the Indo-Pakistani War, we turned south, then west, back toward Europe. In the cities she was often groped by men in the crowds. This put her in a rage, but she could never tell which man was the culprit. I’d have defended her. Fortunately the need never arose.

If you’ve read Little-Know Thing About Me #2 you know I survived an attack by Indian warplanes while sheltering in an army fort. France was by my side. It had woken her. The truck convoy that was our ride made us get out at the Iranian border, so from there we took a bus. We were both new to southeastern Iran. It was mostly deserts and mountains.

As in Pakistan, we were sometimes treated as honored refugees, guests of the country. We would arrive in a new village. Somehow people would already know about us, and escort us to a place to stay. So it happened soon after entering Iran. The evening was chilly. The home was ill-lit and primitive but solidly built. We were given a room to ourselves with two beds. Our hostess was a middle-aged woman who wore the traditional scarf and long, drab skirt. We had no language in common with her but we communicated the basics somehow.

She made a final check to see that we were okay. Noting that we were in separate beds, she asked, “Not married?” “No,” we answered.

She left, and returned with a girl. She too was modestly and drably dressed. She impression I got was of sturdiness and intelligence. She stood impassively, meeting no one’s gaze, beside and slightly behind our hostess. The woman, presumably her mother or aunt, addressed me with gestures meaning, “Do you want her to sleep with you?” Her manner was respectful and direct.

I was surprised. “No,” I shook my head. She nodded and withdrew, taking the girl with her.

“You should have taken her,” said France.

“Naw.” Everything was going well. Refusal seemed the safer course. To this day I have no idea why that offer was made.

I once ate in a restaurant made out of sticks.

Shortly after the events described in my last post, France Senglat and I hitched a ride from a trucker in southeastern Iran. There were no roads, but the ground was level and firm. It was a baked plain scattered with small shards of rock. There was no vegetation, hills, or landmarks. Occasionally we plowed through a drift of sand. It was early winter, neither hot nor cold.

We’d been going for hours if not days. It was a cross-country route. A great many tracks all ran the same way. Sometimes our driver followed a track, sometimes he drove over virgin ground. He avoided the ruts where many had followed the same track. We had no map. The tracks seemed to span a great distance from left-most to right-most, possibly miles.

We sat in the cab with our driver. When it wasn’t too bouncy I stitched on the Baluchistani pants I was making from red cloth I had bought. We knew a few words of Farci. He knew a few words of English. We were hungry. He implied that refreshment was at hand. We wondered how soon that might be. We hadn’t seen a habitation all day, nor other vehicles.

An object appeared on the horizon. As we got closer we saw that it was a small dome made of sticks or dried brush. We parked and got out. At one spot on the dome’s perimeter a small cloth hung down. Pulling it aside the driver hunched over and entered. We followed, duck-walking into a depression roofed over by sticks. Inside there was sitting headroom. The only light came from the gaps between the sticks.

A woman was there. There was just enough room for the four of us. She had a small fire and a couple of pots. She cooked while we sat on the ground. Nobody said much. Pretty soon we had tea, then small portions of rice and stew. We paid her a trifling amount, then continued our journey.

How could she exist like that? Where were her people? Where did she get her supplies? How did she get water? What happened to her in bad weather?


I never spent more than ten cents for a hotel room.

In Afghanistan a hotel room always equated to ten cents U.S. The standard dinner was also ten cents. The deluxe dinner was a whopping twelve cents; the standard one was good enough for me. Prices were similar in Pakistan as we traveled east to Lahore, then south down the Indus valley, then west to Iran.

Upon reaching the first sizable Iranian town, France and I came in for a shocker. There was a brand new public square with cement sidewalks and a brand new tourist hotel. They wanted fifty cents each per night! We were indignant. “Are you kidding? We don’t have that kind of money!” We protested until they gave us a free room.

It was a big, modern government facility. There weren’t any other guests. It was a huge waste of taxpayer money. They must have figured, better to have non-paying guests than no guests!


France and I were stoned in Turkey.

Continuing west and north, France and I spent Christmas of 1971 in Teheran, and New Year’s Eve on the bleak, frozen Anatolian plateau in eastern Turkey. When we couldn’t get any more rides we simply walked a bit off the road, rolled out our cheap sleeping bags, and slept without pads or tent. You can only do that when you are young!

The next day we got a ride in a truck that took us through the night. At one point large, dark canines followed alongside through the snow. “Wolves!” cried our driver.

As we came off the plateau, dropping toward the Black Sea, it got warmer. But we didn’t have much luck with rides.

Eventually we walked into a village, a minor place with no traffic. As we trudged through boys gathered, yelling, taunting. They threw stones at us. We yelled and cursed and waved our arms. We pegged a few back, keeping them at bay. The rocks flew thicker. They were hostile and excited, but too young to hurl big rocks with good aim. We jogged on through, shielding our faces, our backpacks bouncing up and down. They didn’t pursue us into the countryside.

Home boys one, invaders zero!

I kept a journal and took pictures but everything I owned was later stolen. These stories are isolated memories.


A Turkish mother tried to give me her little boy.

After being stoned in a Turkish village, France and I continued to the Black Sea shore. The weather was now cool and damp. We slept on a beach similar to the Puget Sound: sand, black bedrock, and gentle lapping waves.

We had heard that a shipping line sells cheap passage from the ancient city of Trabzon to Istanbul, so the next day we went in search of the port. Our path took us through a grassy field full of stone ruins. We couldn’t tell what it had been. It was too splintered and broken. As we rounded a large piece of stone we came upon a young woman and a boy about five years old.

I stopped, frozen, in front of the boy. A mysterious emotion overwhelmed me! His eyes were large and brown. His short hair was also brown. His clothes were old-fashioned and worn. His face was beautiful but sad. There was something ancient and mysterious about him. A holy child! I loved him! France stood by watching.

His mother also watched us, from atop a stone behind the boy. She had fine features. By her clothes she may have been a gypsy. We had no common language. She gestured good-naturedly with her hands: “Take him! He’s yours!” She was ready to give him up then and there! She must have thought France and I were a couple and that we could give him a better life.

I shook my head. Seriously? Become a father at age 18? On the spur of the moment? She nodded and departed with the boy. The whole scene lasted about a minute.

What had happened? Surely I was too young for paternal feelings. Now, fifty years later, I do have a five-year-old son! In my mind I juxtapose that boy and Bowie, and see a lot of resemblance. What a strange sensation!


My travel partner used to keep a fetus in a jar on her window sill.

Sure enough, it cost only $1.66 each to board the big ship from Trabzon to Istanbul, a two-day passage. It was supposed to be $2.50 but our fake student IDs got us discounts! From there we hitch-hiked back into Europe, sleeping on doorsteps in cities like Sophia and Budapest. The people passing on the sidewalk pretended they didn’t see us. Those Communist countries were deadly dreary that January and February of 1972. When we split up, in a train station in Bavaria, I had to suck it up and be alone again. My new destination was Africa. A German I had met in Afghanistan especially extolled the beaches of Kenya.

But before I leave France Senglat I need to say this: she was a good sort but seriously twisted. An early partner had forced her to have an abortion, then to keep the fetus in a jar on their kitchen window sill where she had to see it every day. That would twist anybody. Short and feisty, she became an anarchist in the revolts that roiled Western Europe in 1968. Then the road to India called. That’s where she met me.

France taught me to never say “please” or “thank you” because such banalities cheapen honest feelings. And when I say taught I mean like how I teach our cat not to get up on the dining table. I’m not nice about it. It took me years to say those words again. I still hate the insincerities and white lies society demands of us. Thanks, France, for making me the morbidly self-conscious man I am today!

I was a dilemma for France. She wanted to revile me, but couldn’t. Wanted to like me, but couldn’t. She ditched me once I had served my purpose, but it was no picnic for her either. A year or two later I wrote her a letter. We had experienced so much together. She was like a mean but beloved older sister. “It’s a long road to Kabul,” I said. I never heard back.


I tried to cross the Sahara Desert on a BMW 750

This began as funny things that have happened to me and has become the story of my journey to India, except that I started in the middle.

I first went to Europe with Bart Bruckman in the summer before my senior year. We bought BSA 175cc Bantams and toured. I returned after graduation with Judd Black. He got a Triumph Bonneville and I got a BMW 750. But after riding them a while we decided to leave them with a family we knew in Holland. They were too much responsibility.

We hitch-hiked together to Istanbul, where we split up. I continued to Afghanistan, where I met France. When we were stopped by the Indo-Pakistani War I decided to return to Holland, get my motorcycle, and explore Africa. I was ready for it! In February I got the bike and rode down through France and Spain, equipping myself along the way.

In Rabat, the capitol of Morocco, I got the visas required to cross the Sahara. It was tedious. The embassies of Niger, Chad, and the Central African Republic could only initiate the paperwork. I had to wait weeks for the visas to come from their capital cities. Meanwhile I camped in the outskirts of the city.

When I finally got the last visa stamped into my passport I left that office in a rage, which I vented by riding like a madman, wanging on the throttle. As I zoomed down the Avenida Imam Malik, with the Royal Palace on my left, my way was blocked by two jeeps of the king’s Force Auxiliare. They were driving slowly, head to toe, in the same direction as me. I put on my turn signal and passed. At the last second the leading jeep turned left to enter a small opening I hadn’t noticed in the wall of the fortress. I smashed broadside into the jeep. It was like an explosion. I screamed “God damn it, god damn it!” while flying through mid-air.

When I came to a stop I looked back and saw that my turn signal was still flashing. I hobbled back and turned it off, which was silly because with my beautiful motorcycle wrecked the least of my worries was running the battery down. Then they took me to a hospital.

I hadn’t been ready for the responsibility after all.


They discovered the broken bones later

A couple hours after my accident outside the King’s Palace I came to. I was a on a bed in an odd corner of a crappy public health hospital in Rabat, Morocco. My left hand and foot were bandaged. Nobody was in charge of me. Nobody knew what was going on. Finally someone indicated that I could go.

The street was about a hundred yards away. It took me a half hour to get there, stopping frequently to manage my faintness. I took a bus downtown and found a fellow American traveler who had a pickup truck. It had a canopy on the back and a mattress. I slept there for four hours. When I woke up it was still daylight. I felt somewhat normal.

In the following days I located my broken motorcycle (they had moved it to a repair shop), got my stuff, and found a construction site closer to the center to sleep in.

With another group of travelers I went to the Spanish Circus, which was passing through town. We got there after dark. The others went in first. When I got to the ticket window I saw that I couldn’t afford it. I didn’t want to be alone. I raised my bandaged hand so the clerk could see it. He grimaced and waved me in. I hadn’t meant to beg, it just came natural after living in a society with so many beggars. I sat with my friends, but my hand and foot hurt too much to enjoy the circus.

On the fourth day I went back to the hospital. A lawyer had advised me to get my medical records for an insurance claim. It took a while. Finally a guy came out and said that they had X-rayed me but had never examined the X-rays. Now someone had looked.

I had three broken bones: my thumb bone where it passes through my palm, my little toe where it passes through my foot, and my heel! They put casts on me. I was wearing my red Baluchistani pants and an East High Knights jersey, white with black lettering. The casts were too fat to get my clothes off so I wore them for the duration.


An international band of hippies supported me while I was penniless

The casts on my lower leg and forearm stopped the pain. The spring of 1972 was rainy in Rabat, and my leg cast had no protective pad on the bottom, so the sole of the cast melted. This caused me to leave left white left footprints wherever I roamed, including the polished marble floors of the American embassy! After a couple of weeks I went again to the hospital to see when I could get the casts off. Nobody was available to talk to me. An old guy in line said he’d been waiting there for three months. So I had a friend remove the casts by chipping away with a knife. Finally I could remove those clothes and take a shower.

A mechanic had fixed my motorcycle but I hadn’t the funds to pay the bill. My savings were exhausted. My parents wired me $300 but it got lost in transit! The money appeared to be in permanent limbo, impossible to track down. Fortunately, help was around the corner. Like India, Morocco was popular with long-haired “freaks,” and I was a social butterfly. Pretty soon a hippy van adopted me.

The owner and his buddy were from California. They were Vietnam vets. The buddy confided to having fragged his commanding officer. If you’re squeamish don’t look up that that word. Nam wasn’t cool but growing your hair out and driving a VW bus around Morocco was, especially since it allowed them to collect a menagerie. Besides me they now had a South African guru, a wise older Israeli woman (to me twenty-eight was old), and a beautiful, tiny French chick, all traveling around the country together: Marrakesh, Fez, Essaouira, even Goulimine, source of the famed ancient beads. It was also the last stop before crossing the Sahara. At least I got that close.

That I had no money was not a problem. Somebody always paid for the vegetables we cooked in our earthenware pot every night. Nobody ever made me feel bad or implied that I owed them anything, but that interlude was a temporary expediency. When they circled back through Rabat I got off and starting looking for that $300 again.

Little-known thing about me #20

This time I hit a shepherd

On a long-shot I hitch-hiked to the nearby city of Casablanca and tried the banks there. I found the $300! That was enough to get my motorcycle out of hock but not to explore Africa. Time to start thinking about going back home. But first, together with some buddies, I rented a boxy shack on a beach near Kenitra for a month. We split the $14 rental four ways. It was on stilts in case storm waves should wash over. You walked up outside steps into a single room. The upper four feet of the walls were wide open. The openings had plywood panels attached at the top by hinges. During the day you propped the panels open with sticks. At night you let them down. We played Frisbee endlessly on that broad, beautiful beach, often running out into the Atlantic surf to catch.

Finally the day came to head north, ultimately to fly home via one of the European capitals. I packed up my BMW motorcycle and drove to the border with Spain.

Spain has a toehold on the south shore of the Strait of Gibraltar called Ceuta, so the international border is still in Africa. The highway there was two-lane, with moderate traffic. A mile before the border I flashed my high beam at an on-coming car that was swerving toward my lane. For some reason the flasher stayed stuck in the high-beam position - this hadn’t happened before. Before I could manually toggle it off, two oddities of that motorcycle’s design combined to create a disaster. First, on the 1970 R75 the high-low-flash switch is integral with the horn. To change the beam level you rotate the knob, to honk the horn you push it. I saw a man walking across the highway from left to right in front of me, not looking. I tried to honk but my horn didn’t work because the flasher was stuck. I was going sixty miles an hour, too fast to slow down appreciably. I swerved to the right edge and at the last instant shouted “Watch out!” My bike’s other design oddity was that it was so quiet he hadn’t heard me coming - since he never looked I assume he relied on hearing to detect vehicles. Upon hearing me yell he still didn’t look, he just leaped like a cat for the shoulder. We collided at the pavement’s edge.

He was a shepherd and it was his lunch time. He had his jelabba (the all-purpose robe) over his right shoulder. In his left hand he carried a plate full of food. He hit my front fender, headlight, and turn signal, smashing them, and my handlebar, bending it. His jelabba caught around my neck, like I had a big scarf flying off me. The food went flying in all directions. I deflected onto open ground beside the road, skidding left and right, struggling to regain control. Finally I stopped. My bike still worked. I rode back to him.

He was laying unconscious on the roadside. Somebody driving the same direction as me had already stopped. A relative was also standing with him. Soon a crowd would form. I made a split-second, and very wrong, decision. “Je vais pour ambulance!” I said (I’m going to get an ambulance!), and zoomed away. Actually I hoped they would wave me into Spain, and that there I would be free from the consequences of this second motorcycle accident. I’d already had one in Morocco, and couldn’t face up to another.

A minute later I arrived at the border. The man at the post, seeing my smashed-up bike, pulled me over for questions. With that my chance of escape disappeared, if it ever existed in the first place. A second later the car behind me pulled up and told the officer what had happened. A higher-up came. “Imbecile!” he muttered (it’s the same word in French and English), and put me in a jail cell. I was in the gendarmerie on the Moroccan side of the Ceuta border.

Little-known thing about me #21

The cell-boss adopted me

To be deprived of freedom was a torment. They put me in a small cell by myself. It had a window but it was too high to see out of. They didn’t give me any food but I could pay to have some brought. They kept saying I would be released the next day. I eventually concluded that they told me what I wanted to hear out of misplaced pity. Captivity was easier once I had resigned myself to a long stay.

On the fourth day I was transported to the “tribunal” in Tetuan, a small city not far away. When it was my turn I stood before a row of judges. They discoursed in Arabic, of which I understood nothing. Someone whispered that I was being taken to the pension. In northern Morocco and Spain this means a hotel. That would be an improvement. Actually they took me to the Tetuan prison.

We arrived at night. From a dark street I was taken through an entry into a long, dark corridor with masonry walls. We seemed to be underground. At intervals on either side were massive wooden doors on iron hinges. At one of the doors we stopped. The jailer opened a hatch over a tiny window at eye level and yelled inside, perhaps, “Stand aside, he’s coming in!” They already knew I was coming and were in a commotion. He opened the door, pushed me in, and closed it behind me.

A mob of sixty-some men engulfed me. They were excitedly yelling and pushing. In the blink of an eye one guy plowed through, grabbed me by my shirt front, and pulled me back out through the mob. He took me to an enclosure formed by bunk-beds and blankets.

The mob died down. The room was about twenty feet wide and forty feet long. Bunk-beds sat perpendicular along the left wall. The first and last bunk-beds were against the near and far walls. The other bunk-beds were doubled-up and pressed against each other with blankets hanging at their junctions. The effect was of “cells” consisting of one bunk-bed, then a space of three feet, then another bunk-bed, with blankets providing privacy from the other cells.

The man who had claimed me introduced himself. He was the jefe, the top prisoner. He didn’t look tough or talk loud yet his authority was unquestioned. He lit up a pipe of kiff (the local cannabis) and gave it to me. I was under his protection.

Little-known thing about me #22

I forgot my nineteenth birthday.

The large communal cell terminated in a no-frills bathroom. The “toilets” were a couple of two-inch-diameter holes in the floor and matching faucets set low on the wall. You squat, go in the hole, and clean yourself from the faucet. Not everybody got a bunk – the right wall was lined with men as well. By day those without bunks sat with their backs to that wall and by night slept close together on the floor, perpendicular to the room. Between the their toes and the ends of the bunk beds there was room to walk to the bathroom.

Every morning, when the warden came, we lined up and sang out our allegiance to King Hassan II. Then we got a loaf of French bread. For lunch and dinner we got a bowl of soup, often containing fava beans. The beans had black beetles the size of peas inside, but everybody ate them whole anyway. We all loved Thursdays, when instead of soup we got couscous with a bit of mutton.

My arrest occurred around June 1, 1972. I was to have met my parents in Paris on my birthday, June 11. They were coming over with my sister Susan and Mom’s best friend, Louise Mong. It would be their first time to Europe except for my dad, who fought there in World War II. I, the accomplished traveler, was going to show them around then go back home with them. That wouldn’t happen now. Worse, I hadn’t been allowed any communication, so nobody knew what had happened. When my family didn’t find me in Paris they wouldn’t know where to look.

I tried to stay cheerful by visiting with my fellow inmates, especially with the four other foreigners because they spoke English: two Germans, a French Canadian, and an Italian. My best friend was a roly-poly German. He was usually jolly but sometimes even he became sad. Then he would say, “Prison is shit,” and sit glumly. He informed me that the French Canadian had been raped. I was unable to confirm that, but the Italian was obviously in a bad way. Though intelligent and conversational he had somehow gotten on the wrong side of a clique of Moroccans. They were always cuffing him, throwing things at him, and sticking burning cigarettes into his skin. He then cowered and whimpered while they laughed uproariously. He had exposed a weakness and they had tasted blood. He had puffy sores on his arms and was losing the will to live.

My own trial, trivial in comparison, came when a Moroccan fell in love with me. He gave me little gifts, which was alright, but he also kept stealing caresses and kisses. I wasn’t a natural fighter, but I ramped up my self-defense, finally punching him in the face. Oddly, he commended me for this. He had my best interest at heart, and had helped me learn an important lesson.

One day I was called away. A jailer led me through a dark, jumbled storeroom to a cardboard box. I didn’t understand. It contained items like soap and food. And a birthday card! It was from my parents! They were in Tetuan! Suddenly I realized it was my birthday! In my despondence I had forgotten. They weren’t allowed to see me yet, but they had found me.

Little-known thing about me #23

Mom and Dad’s story

The story of Mom, Dad, Susan (then a sixteen-year-old beauty with long, blonde hair), and Louise Mong is as strange as mine. They’d been looking forward to their momentous trip, but four days before their flight Mom got a call from the U.S. State Department. They said I had been in an accident and was in prison in Morocco. Every three months the consulate checked the prison roster for American citizens. Fortuitously, they checked during those few days in which the information would avail my parents. However upset, at least they knew. They flew into Paris and immediately got a forwarding flight to Tangier.

When they got off in the Tangier airport they just stood there not knowing what to do next. A man noticed their disquiet and offered his assistance.

“Excuse me, I sense that you are in some kind of trouble. Is there anything I can do for you?” He was Zobair, a wealthy Moroccan playboy who raced cars in Europe. He had slicked-back black hair and wore a silk scarf tucked into the open collar of his dress shirt. Dad, ever trusting, divulged their problem.

“Is he in for drugs?” Zobair asked.

“No, a motorcycle accident.”

“Then we have no problem!” he declared, and threw himself into the challenge.

Thus began a whirlwind of arrangements. Zobair was constantly taking them places in taxis, lodging them in his apartment, and taking Dad to government offices to pay bribes. Wherever they went everybody knew Zobair, the debonair man-about-town. Every morning Zobair told Dad how much money would be needed that day. They methodically covered all the necessary bases. Ultimately Mom and Dad even met the brother-in-law of the king and the attorney general! During this time numerous Moroccans fell in love with my sister, and were disappointed at how well chaperoned she was. A lawyer was hired. He and Dad visited the shepherd in the hospital. He had been in a coma for two weeks, but was recuperating. He settled for $800, though his people urged him to hold out for more. In all Dad disbursed maybe five thousand dollars.

I finally saw my family. The visiting area had two lines of vertical bars running from floor to ceiling. The two lines were several feet apart. The prisoners stood behind one wall of bars, the visitors behind the other. Everybody grips the bars, sticks their face close, and tries to communicate with their loved ones over the general hubbub. With the semi-darkness, harsh Arabic voices, and dungeon-like appearance my sister was frightened. She thought I looked like Jesus Christ, what with my long brown hair, sparse beard, and the camel-hair jelabba (robe) I was wearing!

The Tetuan tribunal wasn’t scheduled to meet again until fall, so they decided to get me transferred to Tangier. I had been in the Tetuan prison for two weeks.

Little-known thing about me #24

In the Casbah I read In Search of the Miraculous.

A policeman escorted me by commercial bus to Tangier, an hour or two away. I was embarrassed to be wearing handcuffs, but nobody stared at us. We got off downtown, in the old city with its narrow, winding streets. The prison was called the casbah. It was originally the city’s innermost fortress. In a later period thieves would find sanctuary in its labyrinths, hence the phrase, “Come with me to ze casbah.” But in 1972 it was a large, ancient prison full of dusty, arabesque stonework.

For a week I was in a cell for boys thirteen to eighteen years old. Many of them were there simply for drinking alcohol, which is prohibited in the Moslem religion. The room had no windows, just a covered vent in the ceiling. It was always dark. Though only the size of a typical bedroom there were thirty-two of us. We slept spooned together on the floor. Hordes of lice crawled over us. By day we picked them out of our clothing. They were usually on the folded-over seams on the inside of our garments. We were provided a coffee can of white powder, presumably DDT, to combat them, but nobody bothered to spread it around. Lice dropped into that can didn’t seem to mind it.

It was decided I was too old for that group, so they moved me to a cell maybe eight feet by ten with six other prisoners. It was equally crowded, but it had great light; it was high in the structure of the fortress and had a window overlooking roofs.

Two of my companions were murderers. They were nice but susceptible to rages. Once the only other non-Moroccan, a young German, shook his small rug in the air to clean it. This was a no-no because it puts dust in the air. In a flash someone had shouted ding ding mek (mother fucker) and was pounding head onto the floor. Just as quickly the other Moroccans pulled him away. No harm done.

The German’s name was Didi. He was slight of build and artistic. He drew erotic pictures that were admired. He had a long, drugs-related sentence. He planned to escape by having a girlfriend blow up the “patio” wall while he was exercising, then escape through the breach. I doubted that would happen, but understood his need for hope. The “patio” was a large square yard with tall, white-washed walls. Everyone enjoyed a half hour per day there. We walked around the circuit of the walls in pairs or threes.

I sometimes walked with a political prisoner, a tall, slender man with glasses. He was a communist. He loaned me a book: In Search of the Miraculous, by Ouspenskii, the disciple of Gurdjieff. It was full of crazy, imaginative abstractions, with diagrams of celestial hierarchies extending into outer space. I didn’t take it seriously, but the elaborate mental constructs soothed me somehow. It was forbidden to read books, or play checkers, but enforcement was lax. They called checkers Domo. We played it with bottle caps on a hand-drawn piece of cardboard.

Little-known thing about me #25

The guy who gave me my last ride asked where I was coming from.

My Moroccan prison companions often said, “Tu pense beaucoup, Estefán,” (You think too much, Stephen). I was brooding as usual on my thirtieth day of captivity when a rolling call of “Ola Estefán!” echoed upward until it reached our high cell. I was being released! I yelped with glee, for which the jailer who opened the door admonished me; such exuberance was strictly forbidden. Soon I was in bright sun on the sidewalk outside the casbah’s ornamental arched entry with the dear people who had gotten me out. What bliss to be free! They had a rental car parked nearby.

Mom, Dad, Susan, and Louise’s return flight was only ten days away, no time for the grand tour originally envisioned, but sufficient for the five of us to drive to Madrid, then fly to Rome where we visited friends Art and Elaine Woodland, then by rental car again to northwest Europe. I split off there. I had to get my BMW motorcycle sold and ship Judd’s Triumph home to him (after we split up in Istanbul he had had his own adventures in Syria and Egypt), so I stayed a couple weeks longer. Then I caught a cheap flight from Amsterdam to New York City. From there I hitch-hiked home. That took a week, mostly on trucks.

My second-to-last ride was to Seattle, where I took the ferry to Bremerton. From the ferry terminal I walked north on Washington Avenue with my left arm sticking straight out and my thumb up. That was my method of hitch-hiking half-heartedly, whenever I mainly wanted to walk. You are less likely to get a ride, because the drivers can’t see your face, but it’s still possible. A car promptly pulled over. I put my pack in his back seat and got in beside him.

“Where you coming from?” asked the young man.

I considered dodging the question. No way he was going to relate to my travels. But there was no sense concealing them either. “Europe, Asia as far east as Pakistan, and Morocco,” I blurted.

He shot me a frown and said nothing as he crossed the bridge into Manette, where he dropped me off.

I walked the last couple miles to our house at 938 East 31st Street, my cheap, dark blue backpack bobbing behind me. Judd and I had bought a matching pair at a discount outfitter in downtown Seattle before we left, sixteen dollars each. Mine was now travel-stained and its lower aluminum bars were bent from getting stepped on. It was August 9th. I’d been gone a year and a day.

This concludes the story of my first major travel, but I still have a few more “little-known things” to relate. Thanks for reading!

Little-known thing about me #26

I broke my back and didn’t know it.

In 1997 I hurt my back snow-boarding. My sacroiliac now tilted the wrong way so I went to a chiropractor. He took an X-ray. "When you were about fifteen years old you broke your back, didn’t you?” he asked. He pointed to a dark line in a lower vertebrae.

I had to think. At that age I did hurt my back! Judd and I were at the house of a friend, I don’t remember who, on Halverson Avenue. They had a zip-line, though it wasn’t necessarily called that then. You climbed up a tree where a cable was tied off about twenty feet up, held onto a bar, and glided down and across their back yard. We saw it being done.

“Let’s try it you and me together,” I suggested.

“Sure!” said ever-agreeable Judd.

We climbed the tree, held onto the opposing ends of the bar, and counted down. “Three, two, one, go!” We launched off, and immediately fell. It wasn’t strong enough for two people. The tie-off broke. I landed sitting down. It hurt, but I carried on as if nothing had happened. I didn’t tell my parents. After about ten days it stopped hurting. Ah, to be young!

So evidently it was true. I broke my back and didn’t know it.

Little-known thing about me #27

I toured Japan on a 50cc motorcycle.

The year was 1989. I’d been going with Tammy Haldeman for four years. We had more-or-less broken up, and she had gone to Japan for a summer course of cultural studies. But she missed me, so she urged me to come visit her.

I normally wouldn’t have considered it, but my grandmother died just then and I received a thousand dollars from her estate. That’s what the plane ticket cost!

So I flew to Tokyo and got myself to Naboya, where her university was. It was a small school. Not many people were around. I stayed with her in her dorm room.

A colleague of hers, a young woman from Ohio, was also there. She had bought a new 50cc Suzuki motorcycle to get around on. It was a street bike with a tiny four-stroke engine. That model was never imported to the United States. The Ohio lady had never ridden a motorcycle before. “Will you please teach me how to ride it?” she asked. So I gave her lessons in the parking lot.

She putted around a bit but didn’t like it much. “I need to go back to Ohio for a while,” she said. “Go ahead and ride it while I’m gone.”

The reasons for Tammy’s and my breaking up had promptly reappeared. I wasn’t enjoying her company so I decided to accept the Ohio lady’s offer and explore Japan on her motorcycle. I had a week before my return flight was scheduled. “I’m going cruising on that little motorcycle,” I announced. Tammy wasn’t happy, but she couldn’t stop me.

I had a sleeping bag, a map of Japan, and a compass. I strapped the sleeping bag on back, bungeed the map onto the gas tank in front of me, and secured the compass next to the map with a string. I set off with no particular plan. It was very challenging! For one thing, the roads there are extremely chaotic. They are like a bowl of spaghetti that has been spilled on the floor! It is an ancient and densely developed country. The roads came about before cars were invented. They go everywhere based on how people used to walk or drive their beasts. It’s a drive-on-the-left country too, something else to keep in mind.

Also, I didn’t know Japanese at all, and the script is different. Not only couldn’t I read the words, I couldn’t sound them out. So I chose an approximate route per the map, noted the cities along the way, and watched for those city names on the large overhead traffic signs. But here a new problem presented itself. Because I couldn’t sound out the pictograms, I couldn’t remember them! So I made up my own place names based on what the pictogram reminded me of. If it brought to mind a beetle landing on a leaf then I called it Beetle Landing On Leaf and looked for that pictogram on the overhead signs. I never knew exactly where I was.

First I went west into the mountains. There I met a group of young men touring on enduro bikes of about 500cc. They were very friendly. We had a picture taken of us all together. But I didn’t join them. With one tenth their engine displacement I never could have kept up. I couldn't go fast but that didn't bother me

I got to the Sea of Japan and followed the coast north. At night I camped in out-of-the-way places. The bike was so light I could wrestle around and hide it behind cover. I spent one night in a bamboo forest, another night in a field hidden behind a cart.

Nobody spoke English. The restaurants had menus but I couldn’t read them. Rude though it must have been, I would look around at what other people were eating, point out a suitable dish to the waiter, and gesture for her to give me the same thing. They were patient with me.

In a restaurant in the town of Mikuni, on the west coast, I met an old man who did speak some English. When he learned I was American he asked if he could sit with me. He explained that in World War Two he had been stationed on an island in the Pacific. He was in the civil administration, not the military. When the Marines landed his arm was injured from a shell fragment. He was one of the few Japanese taken alive. They took him to a hospital. The American doctor was going to amputate his arm. He asked the doctor to please save it. The doctor granted his request, and restored much of the arm’s function.

The old man had a debt of gratitude. It weighed on him like a burden. He thanked me as a representative of the American people. In that strange capacity I basically said, “You’re welcome,” but he wasn’t done yet. He pulled money out of his pockets until twenty-some dollars worth of yen were on the table. He pressed me to accept. I refused, but eventually gave in. I don’t know if I was the first American he had approached to expiate his gratitude, or if I was the last. Maybe it was something that would always bug him.

I re-crossed Japan, riding through what they call the Japanese Alps, and returned to Naboya. There I parked the motorcycle, visited with Tammy a bit (we were never boyfriend and girlfriend again), took a bus to Tokyo, and flew home.

Little-known thing about me #28

I shot a gun in a hotel and nobody noticed.

For a couple years I lived in Enumclaw’s Lee Hotel. Enumclaw is very middle-class EXCEPT for the Lee Hotel. It rented tiny rooms, with a shared bathroom down the hall, for $165 per month. Enumclaw’s poorest lived there. They were substance abusers, borderline homeless people, a prostitute, a mentally ill woman, a certified sex offender, a cult leader, and a city planner, me. I found it interesting. There was always something going on. One of the rooms even housed a meth lab until it got busted! We called it the Flea Hotel because Flea and Lee rhyme, but actually it was infested with cockroaches, not fleas.

It was Friday evening. I had heated something in my microwave, eaten, and was now packing to go away for the weekend on my motorcycle. The last thing I grabbed was my .22 caliber revolver, for target shooting. It was empty, so as I shifted it from its hiding place to my bag I pulled it from its holster and dry-fired it at a soft drink bottle seven feet away.

Except that it wasn’t empty and it wasn’t a dry fire. Somehow one cartridge had remained in the cylinder. The report in that tight space was loud! I was mortified! I opened the window to let the smoke out and hastened to clean up the evidence.

Oddly, the pop bottle had disintegrated into a dust of glass crystals! There were no chunks, just slivers and specks all over the room! The bullet, having expended its force on the bottle, lay on the floor. It took a half hour to clean up. Even odder, nobody knocked on my door! The police didn’t come. No one ever mentioned having heard a gunshot, though there were rooms to both sides and above and below me. The manager lived next door but she didn’t say anything either.

Proof positive that anything goes in the Lee Hotel.

Little-known thing about me #29

I shot a duck so far away I couldn't see it.

This is the second of three little-known things that involve guns. Some may want to skip over.

A Russian friend had gifted me a surplus SKS, a moderately powerful semi-automatic rifle with a flat trajectory. I put a scope on it and zeroed it in, out in Weyerhauser land near Enumclaw. When I was satisfied with the accuracy I climbed up on of a pile of slash and looked around. I was on a timber landing. Per usual the landing was at the top of a slope. (They always drag logs up, not down).

The slope had been clear-cut a couple years before. At the bottom the land leveled out. In the distance I saw a pond. In it was a V of water ripples such as a swimming duck or beaver would make. It was too far away to see the animal, even through the 4X scope, but the V was distinct. So I put the cross hairs at the point of the V and let loose. A splash occurred in the right place. No more V. Now to go there and see what had happened.

It was a booger getting there. The slope was covered with several feet depth of slash over which Himalayan blackberry had grown. There’s nothing worse for getting over. At the bottom of the slope was a broad creek bottom. I got onto a beaver dam and followed it. (If you’ve never walked a beaver dam, it’s easier than you might think. It’s composed of sticks and silt. Its top is only slightly above pond level. You get your feet wet but it’s pretty stable.) At the other end of the dam I came to a pond. It had taken me a half hour to get there.

A dead duck was floating at the edge of the pond. It was brown, medium-sized. I don’t know the species. I took it home and ate it.

Speaking of shooting something so far away you can’t see it, here’s a joke. Mountain man Jim Bridger was once shooting the bull (pun intended) with a band of friendly Indians. He had a Kentucky rifle about a mile long. They said, “Come on, Jim, show us what you can do with that thing. Shoot something!”

Jim had good eyesight. He looked around, seemed to spot something, and got himself into position. Bang! The Indians couldn’t see what he’d shot at. “Let’s go see what we got,” Jim said.

He led those Indians up through some foothills and into a range of mountains. At sunset they arrived at a high meadow. Sure enough, there lay a dead buffalo! They built a fire and made a pow-wow out of it. The Indians were so impressed with that shot, they ate that whole buffalo, hair and all, until nothing was left but a spot on the ground. Then they ate that too.

“You must be mighty proud of yourself, pulling off a shot like that,” said one of the Indians.

“You kidding? I’m disgusted! I was aiming for his heart and there he was, plain old gut-shot.”

That duck was gut-shot too.

Little-known thing about me #30

I ate a vulture.

For a while I hunted rabbits, grouse, and crows with a pistol in the hills around Enumclaw. It was just a .22 LR, but it had a 4X scope, so I got the most out of it. I carried it in a holster on my chest, concealed under my jacket.

Once I brought it along on a motorcycle trip. Outside Bickle, in Eastern Washington, I was cruising down a minor road when I saw a turkey vulture eating a road kill. He flew off at my approach. I continued seventy-five yards past the road kill (I paced it later), parked, hunched down behind my bike, and waited. The vulture flew about a mile away and circled.

After ten minutes he came back and landed next to the road kill. His left side was facing me. I rested my left hand on my motorcycle saddlebag and with it cupped my right hand, which held the pistol. It was blowing hard from the left so I gave it three inches windage, and three inches bullet drop for distance. When I squeezed it off he twitched. He raised his wings to fly, but he couldn’t raise his left wing all the way. I had hit the muscles controlling it. He stood there wondering what to do. He didn’t know what or where I was until I started walking toward him. Then he ran away. But it was open country and they can’t run fast.

I finished him off and cut out the only parts worth eating, his two chest muscles. Each powers a wing. They are the size of fists. I made a fire where I wouldn’t be seen, roasted him, and ate him ketchup-less. The blood was red. The meat was firm and gristly.

Is there an emoji for eww?