A Travellerspoint blog

November 1984

Down-and-Out in McKinney

Today is November 1st Thursday. I’ve been working all week at a different Ross store, a closer one in Plano. And it’s been tough. It’s not that it’s strenuous work; it’s just very taxing working in such a mismanaged business. I understand that the store has just opened and that most of the staff is new, but they are so unorganized that hardly anything gets down, especially considering the army of temporary people they have working there (or trying to work there). Most of us temps want to work, but we are continually confronted with the store’s employees who give us no information, wrong info, or are just sloughing off. They are all nice people but none of them really knows what is going on, other than the store manager, and she can only be in one place at a time. I’ve been trying to act responsible and been attempting to organize the stock room, but with the limited information I get and the lack of authority I have it really gets frustrating. Today I told myself not to get so wrapped up in it—after all I’m only temporary. Around lunch time, when we were unloading some trucks in the rain, the store manager asked me if I was looking for a permanent job. I had thought of just laughing hysterically, but I said I was, in a sarcastic sort of way. She said, “I know, you’d want more money.” I said, “It’d take more money and some authority to make some changes,” and we left it at that.

I finally wrote my Mom a letter and sent her some copies of my photos. And for some reason I went into a description of what it is like living here with Dave and his family. I wrote (more or less): I’ve met people that I’ve never seen before on this trip that I’ve been able to talk to and be friends with immediately. And then there have been some that I just haven’t been able to talk with. Dave’s wife Cindy is one of those. Maybe we are two different personalities and sort of clash. But I make attempts to talk conversationally with her, but she says as little as is necessary, usually without looking at me. Although they’ve been hospitable in letting me stay here, I still feel uncomfortable. I come into a house where I have to take off my shoes outside before coming inside; where food magically appears on the table the second Dave walks in the door; Davie gets spanked for not picking up his crayons, and he cries and then steps on and hits the kitten, and then gets spanked again, “You gotta be nice to the kitty,” and he cries even harder, probably out of sheer confusion and/or frustration.

I’ll take the peace and quiet of the camper I’ve been staying in in the backyard (the guest house, as Dave put it). It seems big and roomy after living in my van. The one good thing I’ve picked up from the family life is I’ve taken to settling down after supper, instead of worrying about doing something. I sit and read or write and hope to start drawing. I’m usually accompanied by their “outside” cat Peaches. Peaches is a big old orange tom cat who is starved for affection and won’t let you stop petting him, and Creamy is their white furry kitten that stays inside. (Get it, Peaches and Cream?) I asked Dave the other day if I could take Peaches with me when I go, but he said, “No way.”

The only picture I took while at Dave's house.

The only picture I took while at Dave's house.

I knew I would run pretty low on money before I got paid, and I have. Right now I have seven cents. That’s it besides some bucks I’ve got in savings up in Minnesota. Maybe I should’ve sent for a twenty or so a while back. I guess I figured I could borrow a few from Dave, since he seemed to be doing so good. I finally asked him today but it turns out that he’s pretty broke, too. I was supposed to get a check in the mail yesterday or today for that day I worked last Saturday. Hopefully it will come in tomorrow’s mail. I ran out of gas this evening on the way home from work and had to use the gas in my “insurance” can. That should be enough to get to work and back tomorrow.

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Nov. 3, Saturday. At work yesterday I decided that I’d better ask Cindy what’s bothering her. To clear the air, ya know. Later, I had just finished eating supper and Cindy asked me to come in their room, “I want to talk with you.” I was quite surprised and curious. She proceeded to tell me how Dave wanted to wait until the weekend but she just couldn’t wait. “Now you’ve been here a week, and you can stay until next Thursday; that’ll have been 2 weeks. I’m sorry but we really can’t afford to have you stay here any longer.” I guess I hadn’t made it plain to them when and how long I was going to stay when I called from Harlingen. They thought I was going to rebuild my engine down there and come up this way in the spring. She went into too much detail about how broke they were and how they barely have enough money for their vacation back to MN in a couple weeks. She told how her relationships with Dave and Davy were being strained and she couldn’t even eat with me or look at me, so she finally had to say something. I told her, “I’m glad you did. I wish you would have earlier.” I also said that I didn’t really understand what it takes to keep a young family going. And she said she couldn’t understand wanting to travel like I am. “We don’t want you to feel like we’re kicking you out. After all, you’re family and all. But you have chosen to travel the way you are, just like we have chosen to have a family.” I told her that I guess I’ve made a mistake in not being explicit in talking with them and not planning ahead enough. She said maybe I will learn something out of all this. That’s true.

After this discussion I felt like I had to do something. I called my mom, collect, and asked her to send me a money order for $100, if I have that much. And while talking with her I remembered that my cousin, Paul Shelton, lives in Dallas. So my “plan” was to look him up today. But my check didn’t come in the mail and now I don’t know what to do. I’m out of money and gas until Monday at least. I’ve made a lot of mistakes that have led me up to this point. I guess all that I can do is wait until some money shows up. Maybe I’ll finally do some painting.

So here I sit in Dallas, Texas, after travelling half-way around the country, at a temporary stand-still. I have filled the pages of my second journal and don’t have the money to buy another. Optimism and patience are now necessary.

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Volume 3


Brisk breezes, fresh and crisp, blow fallen leaves across my path. Bright sunlight breaks through after cloudy mornings and is shortly followed by colorful sunsets in colors the trees try to match.

In travelling halfway around the country, the people and challenges I’ve met, the mistakes and memories I’ve made, all seem to have taken longer than the three and a half months since I started this trip. Halfway around and still only scratched the surface. I’ve seen a lot of places, met a variety of people, all living different lives, and placed myself briefly into their worlds. And I think I’m getting a clearer picture of how I want to shape my world. (And definitely how NOT to shape my world.)

I’ve learned a lot, yet I have a lot to learn. I am getting firsthand experience of possible lifestyles to choose from. And I wonder about those who haven’t. Did they choose their lifestyles or did they just let it happen as it may? You only go around once, they say, so why not make it what you like?

Posted by VANagain 12:11 Comments (0)

Imagine That

Nov. 3rd, Saturday. The whole course of events for the next couple weeks has suddenly changed. After making the final entry in Vol. 2 of my journal, I decided to take a walk. I couldn’t make it to my job today because I was nearly out of gas and my paycheck hadn’t come in the mail. I figured I’d take a walk and then do some painting when I got back. I put on my leather jacket, for it was a typical cool fall day (and cloudy), and headed towards one of the busier streets. I had to find a mailbox to mail my time card in, so as to get paid for working this week. It was about the only constructive thing I could do.

I saw a mailbox only a couple short blocks away, but I felt like getting into things a little more, and headed towards the little town’s square. It was Saturday, so people would be about, and I figured getting where things were happening and were new to me would have to increase my odds for bettering my situation. (This same line of thinking was what prompted me to take my trip in the first place.)


As I walked, kicking through fallen leaves and litter, I was reminded of the walk I took just before I left Ken’s place in Harlingen. Then, too, I had wanted to think about my situation and I ended up finding a ten-dollar bill, dirty from blowing alongside the road for who knows how long. I had needed money then to make it up here to Dallas. Now, I thought, I really would like to run across some money. Then I remembered something I’d read in a book called, “Illusions.” (It was a great book; I had even brought it along on my trip to read again, sometime.) It had said if you want something to enter your life, you picture it in your mind, floating on a blue background, and your hand reaching and grabbing it. So I pictured me grabbing a 20-dollar bill, floating on blue. Afterwards I remember how the book had added that you never know how or when it will happen, though. Despite my gloomy mood this morning, I kinda felt sure that this process would work.

After a bit of walking, looking at the nice old houses that lined Virginia St., I finally made it “into town,” and a block later, the square. They were doing a lot of construction there and I thought that without the construction noise, it would probably have a real homey, small-town feel to it. I walked past a painter eating lunch in a nearly-done building. A few doors down I turned around and went back and asked him if he could use any help with whatever he was doing. He said he had enough help, so I asked what the place was going to be when he got done. A theater of art, he said. I thanked him anyway and left, wondering what exactly a theater of art was. Well, it was a good try, I thought. He may have paid me to help him.

I mailed my letter and did some people-watching, went into a couple stores, and was heading back on Louisiana St., the other busy street with nice old houses on it. I stopped and talked to an old man who was looking at a little creek that passed under the road. He had been going the opposite way I was going but he walked with me, back the way he’d come. He was telling me how he was from Virginia and was staying with his grandson in this big old house on the corner, when we both looked down to see a twenty-dollar bill (“MY twenty,” I thought), with a ten next to it. Since it was on his side of the sidewalk he quickly reached down and picked them up. “Can you imagine that?” he said, while my mind was whirling with what to do next. We both immediately started to look around for more, of course. I turned and looked on my side and saw a one-dollar bill, bent to pick it up, and my heart jumped when I noticed it was folded with a hundred-dollar bill! I couldn’t quite believe it. We looked a bit more and the man asked me what I’d found. I showed him and said, “Can you believe that?!” We both laughed and I told him that I thought I might find something today. I laughed some more and showed him my last seven cents and told him how I was wondering what I was going to do.

We casually walked down to the beautiful house he was staying at and he told how his grandson had restored the whole thing. I thanked him for the profitable walk and walked back towards Dave’s house, with a smile on my face and a bounce in my step. I thought about how clean the bills were, compared to the old ten-spot I’d found before. A block away I had to take the two bills out again to be sure I hadn’t imagined the whole thing. I hadn’t.

Posted by VANagain 15:53 Comments (1)