I had a somewhat oddball upbringing (huge understatement) – but in a good way. And in 1974, my mother and father (in their late 20s at the time), together with my mid-20s Uncle John and Aunt Lulu sold much of what each young family owned and loaded up their VW buses, left sunny SoCal, and headed off en masse for life unknown in the Pacific Northwest.
My parents had three children – my younger brother ( age 4 at the time), my sister ( age 6) and me (age 7). My Uncle John and Aunt Lulu were parents to my cousin James, then age 4. Uncle John and Auntie Lou went on to give birth to my youngest cousin, Thomas about 18 months later, while we were all living in Washington State.
The 2 or 3 years (Mama, can you clarify?) that we spent doing the 70s back-to-nature homesteading thang in the rainiest county in America, which also happened to be the #1 Sasquatch sighting county in the country, on the edge of the Quinault Indian Nation were so bizarro in so many ways that I honestly couldn’t make it up. Example: Kurt Cobain was in my 3rd grade class (yes, really). I spent all of third and fourth grades petrified that Bigfoot was going to come in my bedroom window in the dead of night and snatchy me or my little sister.
I remember that entire period of my life in sepia tones or black and white. Maybe there was color, but I honestly don’t recall any. The photos we have from that time in our lives seem to corroborate my belief that I spent more than two years of my childhood living in a world of gray scale and monochrome. It was a huge contrast from the technicolor early childhood I’d lived previously, in a cute beach town outside of L.A.
My parents (that’s Hank standing at the head of the table), and my Uncle John and Aunt Lulu, plus Uncle Roger and Aunt Delphia. Thanksgiving 1975 maybe?
James (front and center, a rockstar even then) with Betsy and me striking a pose on either side of him.
We were poor, very poor. My father had left his quite promising job as an up and coming young news reporter with KFWB in Los Angeles to do full time freelance writing from our ramshackle farmhouse in the wilds of Gray’s Harbor, Washington.. Some of his more memorable article sales during that period were a story titled “Mastering the Lowly Hoe” for Organic Gardening, and “Perry Como Tells You How to Relax” for the National Enquirer. My mother – also a writer – kicked in as much freelance work as she could during that period, including a fantastic interview with Ken Kesey.
My Uncle John also did some freelancing while we lived in Washington State, including penning what I am told is still the lowest selling Rolling Stone cover story of all time. The topic: Pat Boone (a close friend of my grandmother’s)
Uncle John’s Rolling Stone cover piece on Pat Boone
Another way that Uncle John brought in some cash was by playing guitar and singing live in the bars of Montesano, Olympia and Chehalis. His stage name was “Stark Naked,” because he hoped that this eye-catching name would lead the depressed, alcoholic loggers who were the main clientele for these venues to at least pop their heads in and have a beer or two.
I’ll have to ask him if it worked.
Here he is, my Uncle John, around age 25, standing in front of one of the spots where he played. It looks to me like his show “poster” was made out of a brown paper grocery bag.
STARK NAKED FOREVER!
Addendum from my mother regarding the bar in front of which Uncle John is standing in this picture: “Your daddy and I toyed with the idea of buying the bar. Louise was pushing us to do it because she wanted to wear fishnet stockings and work in it. There was a lovely apartment upstairs. Lovely.”