Home to Bed

So my travel plans came to an abrupt end. For the next three months I had enough energy to go from bed to bathroom. I was sleeping 18-20 hours a day. The good side of hepatitis was that I didn't feel nauseated, nor was I in pain. I just had no energy. Gradually my strength came back. I have one memory of this time that was a significant life changer. As I lay on the couch I did a lot of drawing. I was using an old-fashioned quill pen, dipping it into a bottle of India ink and scratching lines on paper. I was drawing a barnacle I found. The barnacle was just half an inch tall, my drawing probably 3 inches. I made efforts to capture all the details. The lines I drew got shorter and shorter until they became dots. DOTS! I didn't know what stippling was but I had stumbled upon it entirely by accident, or necessity perhaps. This was an epiphany for me. I had had very little formal training in art. I drew pictures from childhood, experimented with different media, and studied a how-to book by John Nagy as a 12-year-old. In fact, it was much later that someone seeing my drawings made me aware that I wasn't the first artist to do stippled pen and ink drawings. Hey, I led a sheltered existence! Now life for me became a seemingly neverending outpouring of dots. Here are a couple of examples (also on www.scrimshander.com on the Drawings page):


This style of drawing led to me taking up scrimshaw, but more about that another time. In spite of picking up hepatitits in Mexico, I couldn't wait to hit the road again. No sooner did I get on my feet again than my older brother asked if I wanted to go with him to Mexico. I must have described something that sparked his imagination. This time it wouldn't be backpacks and thumbs and 3rd class train cars. He would drive his pickup and camper down there. All I had to do was share the driving and act as a guide.

We made our way to the border at Nogales, Arizona. We popped into the Mexican customs building to get a couple visas. Up walks an authoritarian "jefe" or boss. In my best Spanish I asked for visas for Dick and me. He asked how long were we staying and how much money we had. "A couple weeks and a few hundred dollars" He said "That's not enough money" I told him I'd just spent a month there on less and it was plenty of money. He shook his head, said no again, then walked away. I was dumbfounded. Then an underling came over, said something about the jefe being a bad man. Oh great, I thought. What do we do? Drive hundreds of miles to another border crossing? Dejected, we walked outside to think. A few minutes later it hit me. This guy wants a bribe "una mordita" (a little bite) as they say. I don't have a problem "tipping" some authorities to move things along. So, back we sauntered into the building. The boss came up and told us we couldn't get visas. I said we'd gladly pay. Whoa! He steps back as if I'd slapped him. "I don't need your money" and to show us he opened his wallet. Sure enough, he had 50's, 100's and Francs and Deutschmarks. Probably a couple thousand dollars worth. Now I was really confused. But he didn't walk away. We passed a bit of small talk, my brother admired his pearl-handled gun and I tried to butter him up a bit too. In the middle of the conversation he said "Cien pesos" or 100 pesos ($8 at the time). How I had the nerve I may never know, but I said.that was too much. So this 19 year old punk tells him 50 pesos! And miracle of miracles, he said OK with a bit of a wink and passed us our tourist cards. We spent a few days driving down to Guaymas so I could visit my friends, Armando, Alfredo and Padre Miguel. Here are a couple pictures of that halcyon time. I regret that I only have one picture with Armando and not everyone.


We spent a couple weeks on Mexico's west coast, camping and as I remember - eating the best watermelons...Then it was back to Beaverton and work.


I got a job at the Oregonian newspaper. First as a "metal man" melting down used metal type into zinc ingots. This was near the last days of linotype machines that spit out metal lines of newspaper type. Besides working full time I took a full schedule of classes at Portland State University. At the University of Oregon I was an art major, now I was a social work major...not exactly a straight path. I took classes in Spanish too, because my friend who induced me into travelling to Mexico had returned from a trip to South America with more and better stories. So for me my short-term goal was to save money for a trip south of the equator.

While on campus one afternoon I ran into a friend from high school. John Ragni played on an opposing tennis team, and we'd see each other at tournaments and on courts around town. I mentioned to him my plans to travel. We were sitting in his small apartment room drinking tea one evening, me regaling him with my adventures in Mexico and imaging even greater adventures in Guatemala and Peru. He decided on the spot to join me. A fateful evening, full of imaginings and promise. For the next six months I worked, saved money and planned. I read books on South America, gathered maps and bought camping gear. When October 1973 rolled around it was time to hit the road.

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