The Man in the Kilt
March 8, 2019 – Dash Point State Park, Federal Way, WA
Yesterday, we packed up and headed back to Federal Way. It’s closer to civilization and easier to do things from here. The hotspot on my phone has stopped working, so the only way to get internet access is a trip to the library or Starbucks. I’m sorry to leave beautiful Deception Pass, but at the same time it can be very noisy here. The sounds of nature are frequently lost in the roar of jets flying from Oak Harbor Naval Air Station.
Before leaving, we drove down to Rosario Beach to watch the sunset. There we met an interesting man. Said he was German, though he didn’t talk with an accent, He looked to be in his sixties, and he wore a kilt-like gray skirt which fell to just below his knees. His legs looked cold and chapped, but his torso was swathed in a padded windbreaker. Gloveless, he gripped a small briefcase containing all his photographic equipment which he was anxious to set up before the sunset waned. “Better than sex”, he exclaimed (referring to photography) as he pointed his lens to the sunset. I could tell by the look on Brent’s face that he didn’t agree.
I didn’t take him for crazy, the man in the kilt, though some might have. He talked to himself on the way to the beach, but it wasn’t gibberish. it was me, alone in the house, having a one-way conversation. As we stood on the beach taking photos of the sunset, he explained this was no normal lens. It was a zebra lens, no doubt named because of the regularly spaced, striped black markings. Between taking photos, he explained the intricate workings of his German-made lens, though none of it sank in. All I could think of were my hands, red and sore from holding my camera with no gloves. After the sunset died, the kilted man closed his briefcase and walked back to the car, leaving behind an aura of sadness. As he pulled out of the parking lot in his vintage Mercedes, I wondered where he came from, what kind of life he led, whether he had anyone to go home to.
Before we met, Brent was floating, trying his best to survive. He’d been homeless off and on for three years, since the forced closure of his medical marijuana shop. In the past he’s worked diverse jobs, from computer support (Honeywell) to carpentry, DJ, deck hand, among others. When my computer is acting up, I give it to Brent—he can solve problems I’ve long given up on.
He has a slew of medical problems from decades of rough living, and most recently from life on the streets. Yesterday, he showed me his medical report, a page of ailments ranging from sciatica, elbow problems, sleep apnea, fibromyalgia, and asthma. Among this list of ailments was “homelessness,” and I had to laugh, though it wasn’t funny. Since when was homelessness a disease?
Now Brent could add one more item to the list, his shoulder. He fell on the left one a couple of times and it’s causing him constant, severe pain. It hasn’t improved over the last month, though he tries not to use it, and that concerns me. In jail it was x-rayed, but they found nothing. I’ve known people with similar symptoms, and I’m convinced he tore his rotator cuff. The only way to know for sure is by doing an MRI, but Brent’s insurance is making things difficult. His old doctor refuses to recommend the MRI until he does a course of physical therapy, but that seems ass-backwards to me. Physical therapy is based on the nature of the injury, so without that information, therapy can do more harm than good. He just changed doctors and is waiting for them to retrieve his records—hopefully they’ll approve an MRI. Meanwhile he medicates to alleviate the constant pain—the doctor won’t prescribe pain pills, so he relies on weed and the occasional beer.
When I adopted Loki, Brent’s dog, back in January, I didn’t foresee complications, but of course there were. One condition of the adoption was that Loki be neutered. I knew Brent wouldn’t be happy—he wanted to breed his Siberian Husky, but to me it was a small price to pay for saving his dog, and maybe it would stop Loki from roaming. I had no home for Loki, and that meant paying for a kennel until Brent was released from jail. I found a place right down the street from my son’s house where I was staying, a vet with kennels in the back. It was the perfect place for him to heal from his surgery and I visited regularly with my granddaughter, taking him for walks.
After three weeks in jail, Brent was released on condition that he call in every morning before 10:00 to report his whereabouts. I had one thought on my mind—Arizona. I was anxious to escape from this nastier-than-usual Pacific Northwest winter. One thing I love about Brent is that he’s up for almost anything. Two nights into his stay at a Seattle homeless shelter, I kidnapped him and told him we were heading down south. We picked up camping supplies, I threw some clothes together, mostly warm weather clothes since I wasn’t planning on being up north for long, and we headed southward. We didn’t get very far. Just past Oregon, snow moved in and crossing the pass was more than I could handle. In one of my rare “think logically” moments, I asked myself why we were heading down to Arizona when in a couple of months Brent would have to come back to Seattle for his court hearing. It didn’t make a lot of sense. So, here we are, waiting—waiting for warmer weather, waiting for the hearing (scheduled for April 5), waiting to start life in Arizona.
I’m thinking once more about the man in the kilt. In my nomadic existence, I’ve met others like him—once so-called “productive” members of society, now floating, rootless, victims of circumstance, crushed by one too many misfortunes. But there are others who have chosen this life—the couple we met at Dash Point who traveled the country, working along the way to fund their next trip. They were the happy ones, radiating love from every pore of their being. I’m living a nomadic existence, but I’m lucky to have a close circle of family and friends who love me.
Recently I read that the purest form of love is to love someone without expecting anything in return. I’m still working on this one, but I’m getting better every day. When my mind wanders, when I over-analyze, wonder why I’m not getting what I’m giving, that’s when the trouble starts. But when I’m “in the flow”, when I let things go where and when they want to, it’s then that the magic begins.