Washington DC: Chapter 1
During the mid 80’s I lived in Washington DC. I’ve recently been reminded of this and would like to recount my time there for your entertainment. I had a blast while I lived there and I also gained some serious insight into street life and earned some hard learned lessons while there. Let me just say that my time in DC culminated with my ending up in DC jail as one dumb country bumpkin, one of the two only white girls on the block of 440 women. I told them that I had killed my whole family and hung the dog…it kept them thinking I was outright fucking crazy and kept people away from me. True story.
I was involved with a young woman 5 years my junior when I went from Maine to DC at 26. She was in college at the very prestigious American University there in the city. When I got to DC I had just the clothes on my back, my Toyota SR5 pick up truck and $50 in my pocket. It was a spur of the moment thing. My girl and I had spent all that summer doing stupid things like a ton of cocaine and partying our asses off spending most of what we earned at our jobs. So when it came time for her to return to college I decided to go along with her. I thought I was in love, hell I was at the time. I was exactly where I wanted to be and with who I wanted to be with then. She was a hot young blonde woman and a lot of fun. We had met through a mutual friend here in Maine. The mutual friend, Nano, also was going to college in College Park MD, just outside of DC so she also made the trip down to DC with us that fated August in the pick up truck, along with my ferret, Spike. Yes, a ferret.
The truck had a bed in the back and a cap on it. It was all set up for me to sleep in when I had to do so. And going to DC on a whim I knew I would be sleeping in there more than one or two nights! When I got there on my $50 I realized I had forgotten a few things, mostly like what I was going to eat and where I would put the truck that was safe for me to sleep. It turned out that I was a pretty hungry young Butch for a couple of weeks. I did the normal shit like sold my blood at the blood bank for $30 a pint (I have a rare blood type and back then they wanted it). My girl Jaye, went to school days and I went out job hunting in the metropolitan DC area.
After a week of sleeping in my truck, or in her dorm room – which totally freaked out her roommate and caused her to move out. Turned out that she was a very homophobic young Jewish girl from New Jersey. Our mere presence in the dorm made her very uncomfortable especially when Jaye hung a rainbow sticker on the dorm room door! Anyway, I finally landed a job at a plant nursery in Gaithersburg, just outside of College Park Maryland. It would be two weeks before my first check came in, but at least I had a job, had the promise of money to come and now I just needed to wait it out, survive the streets until I got paid and could find a place to live. It was grueling work for the most part. Hot and sweaty, in the direct sun and in September in DC land. Still a very warm time of year there.
I was still stealing food from college dorm kitchen to survive the hunger. I all but gave up smoking because I obviously couldn’t afford cigarettes and I was showering in the dorms when no one was around, like late at night when I would sneak in with Jaye. Things were pretty tough, but I was a tough nut to crack and I was making it – just barely. It didn’t occur to my young brain exactly how much danger I was in on a daily basis living on the street of DC and the surrounding suburbs. I was too young to understand the depth of it all, but I was also too in love with the girl and too into just flying by the seat of my pants to care.
After the job got going and I roughed it out for two weeks I finally got paid. It’s the most memorable pay day in my life – still. I took that check, took the girl and my bestie and went to a Greek steak house on Dupont Circle and ate until I couldn’t move. I shall never ever forget that meal. And how damned fucking hard I had worked to get to that dinner plate.
The next thing on the list was housing . I was about burned out with all the sneaking around college dorms, churches and public buildings to use their facilities, shower, raid refrigerators and find safe places to sleep. With the type of work that I was doing I was pretty dirty and sweaty at the end of my 8-9 hour day in the nursery gardens. The place was on 880 acres of land. We had every plant you could think of growing on the east coast. So after work I would generally go to AU and find Jaye and figure out who was around so I could sneak down the dorm hall to the gang shower room. Thank God this was decades before 9/11 and security in those places was quite liberal. Jaye would wash my clothes with hers in the laundry room and so for the most part I figured out how to survive while I was waiting for money to start coming my way. Sure I felt a little bad about how I had to go about doing some things – like raiding refrigerators when no one was around or jumping in and out of dorm room windows to escape the dread of trying to get past the “guard” at the front desk where the normal people entered and exited the building.
I usually slept in the back of my truck, good thing I had put that cap on it. and I would park in places like the Wesley Theological Seminary parking lot. I figured who would bother some truck parked in a church school lot? No one if they believed in God! Hehe Except the cops one fated night…but I did manage to talk my way out of it. I left the lot and he left. After an hour or so he was gone and I re-parked my truck and went back to sleep. It was the safest place in NW DC for me to be sleeping at the time.
Looking back I can see how crazy this all was and how I’m lucky I made it out alive and in one piece. I don’t talk much about my drug addiction, but believe me it played a huge part in all of this as well. Just understand I was probably high most of the time so I was more prone to taking chances and risking my life and limb. I am never sure of how to incorporate the fact that I was a drug addict for many years. I was a fully functioning one, I never let it get in the way of my working or doing what needed to be done to survive and thrive.
There are many many stories of times in DC. I am going to write about a couple of them for your reading entertainment. This piece you just read is just the preface, so that you have an idea of how I got to DC and why I lived there. I will make an effort to dig up some of the photo graphs of my time in DC for you to see….and what a wild time it was!