Apache Princess

It was a strange night.  Bad vibes were in the air, that calm before the storm feeling.   Being a Friday, me and another guy drove into town to get drunk and see what we could get into.  As we were sitting in the small western style saloon, we both commented on the atmosphere, and decided there was something to it.  Out of the blue, the bartender jumped over the bar and began to beat the bejesus out of a large Nordic looking fellow.  The bartender had helped me out one time, making sure the crowd didn’t pummel me while I, (a stranger to all)beat up a guy at his own birthday party (a stranger to me), so I kept my eyes on the action, in case he needed a hand.  It was over quick.   The bartender reprimanded me for not pulling him off his enemy.  I wasn’t quite sure why I would have, but I was still new to small town customs.

My drinking partner and I headed off towards one of the casinos, where I was soon to meet one of the most beautiful, evil and crazy women I’ve ever known.

Her name was Amber Lopez, and she told me she was the great great  grand daughter of Cochise.

We started seeing each other pretty regularly, and man, she was fun to be around.  Total alcoholic, but very sweet, and the more I got to know her, very crazy.

She was staying with a lady in town who picked up strays, stray dogs, stray people, you name it.  This lady already had six kids, and her brother living in that trailer, along with I don’t know how many dogs, cats, turtles, lizards, whatever the kids could catch out in the desert.   The lady also had a badly burned face, as her husband had knocked her out and attempted to burn down her last trailer with her still in it.  He was still in town and showed up at the new trailer periodically to blacken her eyes, or break one of her arms, she was scared of him, really traumatized.  Her brother came up from Georgia to try and protect her, but he seemed pretty meek.  They were poor white hillbilly trash, and really kind hearted people.  After Amber was gone, I’d still stop by there now and then and give the lady rides to the grocery store, do little things here and there to try and help her out.

Amber had a little two year old daughter, and a husband who had left them both and gone back to Mexico.  She told me she had a total of seven kids, but was such a bad alcoholic, the state and her parents had custody of the other six. (You never would have guessed that this soft skinned half breed beauty had birthed 7 kids.)    We were both 27, and I knew I wouldn’t be with her for long.  She was just too much for me.

I started noticing a guy hanging around the trailer when I’d go pick her up.   He was some kind of hood from New Orleans, got arrested on his way to Las Vegas, and was now stuck in this small Nevada town.  I already told Amber she wouldn’t be moving in with me, so when I heard she left town with that guy, I wasn’t surprised.  The last time I saw her, I left her on the side of the road in the middle of the desert, 20 miles from town.  Her car broke down and I had to be to work the next morning.  I hitched a ride with a car full of drunk Mexicans headed east, and left her thumbing for a ride west.

The lady she was staying with told me the circumstances surrounding Amber’s departure.

The guy from New Orleans showed  up at the trailer with a big knot of cash and a new Lincoln Mark IV, and invited the lady to accompany him and Amber to Las Vegas for a night of fun.  Half way there, he announces that the real destination is New Orleans.  They stopped at a rest area and the lady said she would just catch a ride back home from there, she wasn’t going to New Orleans.  Amber for some reason decides that she wants to give her daughter away, and begins trying to pass the kid off to people at the rest area.  The lady who always takes in strays offers to take the kid, take care of her until Amber comes back from New Orleans, but Amber doesn’t want that, she wants to give her to a stranger.  The lady finally catches a ride back home, she’s got her own kids to fret over, and her last glimpse of Amber was of her approaching another stranger at the rest area with her little daughter in tow.  That was August 18, 2005, a week before hurricane Katrina made landfall, which was the second big disaster to hit New Orleans that week.

 

Split-Lip Lee

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.

The McNugget Factory

You ever know anyone who works at the factory that makes McDonald’s food? Everyone knows someone who’s flipped burgers, but what about the place that manufactures the stuff before it’s shipped to the restaurant?  You’d think with all them millions of cheeseburgers served, you’d at least know one person, right?  Well, I did.

He was my girlfriend’s father. A tall muscular convict, heroin addict, boiler maker, commercial fisherman, he was a tall and very muscular man who had spent almost 20 of his 47 years in prison.  He said the heroin “petrified” him, that was why he looked younger than his age, despite his hard life.   He had a real deep, slow voice that seemed to always sound somewhere between retarded and on the nod. This guy would pass out behind the wheel of his pick up truck constantly, just a stone cold junkie. Thing is, he was real athletic too. I used to race him up the hill from Richmond Beach on 185th, me in my old 74 Volkswagen bus, and him on his 10 speed bicycle. He’d always win. The motherfucker was like a Viking. He showed me newspaper clippings from up in Alaska, his crab boat sunk, and they found him frozen, clinging to some rocks on a cliff, and he had the record for the lowest body temperature ever recorded in a person who lived. He was a beast.
His daughter was nuts. I almost married the crazy bitch, thank the gods I didn’t. Her mom was high on smack in the delivery room when she had her. She spent most of her life in foster homes, ward of the state. We were both just homeless teenagers who didn’t have anyone else. We lived in that van, empty houses, slept in bushes sometimes. Ignorance and poverty…
Anyway, after one of his last stints in prison, he told me he was making McDonald’s food out at Airway Heights, a minimum security prison in eastern Washington. Said they start you out on McNuggets, you put a  boiled chicken carcass on a centrifuge, and it spins the meat off to the sides, then you scrape it off, load another one on there…..
After that, you learn fries I think he said.
He died not many years later, dopesick in the King County Jail, he rolled off the top bunk and landed headfirst on the concrete floor. They say he was doing the fish for awhile before the guards finally answered the distress call and got him on a stretcher. He wasn’t a bad guy. Just a stone cold junkie.