Old Split-Lip Lee was a real homebum. I met him when I was 18, we both lived in these old chicken coops that got sort of converted into shitty little apartments. $350 a month rent, dirt driveway, sagging ceilings, real shithole, but I was glad to have my own place, in fact it was my very first apartment.
The place was owned by a King County Jail guard who looked just like Ernest Borgnine, but was named Jack Stone. I still remember his name. That’s how Lee got the place, Jack told him he’d rent him a place when he got out.
Lee had an old lady named Nan, probably around 60, white haired, but still had a nice figure. She’d work all day while he drank. Lee was only 35 but looked like he was in his fifties. He ran away from a reform school in Michigan when he was 15, and never really looked back. He told me when he ran away, he hopped a train to get as far away as possible. Some hippies took him under their wing for awhile, before he devoted his life to riding the rails. He said his group of hobos were called “The Wrecking Crew”. His name, Split-Lip Lee, was bestowed upon him after surviving an attack by the claw end of a hammer. His lip was pretty well split, alright.
He spent his life on the streets, drinking cheap hooch, shooting smack, and riding the rails when it was time to find a new town. Living indoors was a new thing for him. I’d go over there and drink beer with him, “Hey, cop a squat!” he’d call out when I came over. We’d listen to old Jimi Hendrix records, Robin Trower, Frank Zappa, it wasn’t so bad, just drinking cheap beer and listening to music, this homebum telling me his life story
He was kind of funny, he told me about sitting on a sidewalk in downtown Seattle, jacking off with a beef liver that he shoplifted just for that purpose, and how it was the “best piece of ass” he’d ever had.
Lee got drunk one night and scored some smack, only he hadn’t done any for quite awhile, so of course he overdosed and died.
I lived in my apartment next door for another six months without paying any rent before I finally just felt guilty about it and evicted myself. Jack Stone never said a word to me, until the next time I got locked up, there he was, looking all serious, wanting to know where all that back rent was, and did I know how hard he can make life for me in jail? Before I could reason with him, he smiled and said he was just kidding and not to worry too much about it. I guess he was an ok guy.