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.