Many friends of Ken honored the multifaceted Slusher in December, January, and February. Condolences have come from near and far. Friends gathered in Lake City, Ellensburg, Boulevard Park, and on Lake Union with a range of organized and disorganized events featuring stories, laughter and music.

Thank you everybody who attended The Ken Slusher Memory Party in February at PSYC. Friends of Ken took up a collection for the facility rental. Friends of Ken (Irthlingz and The Fuzzy Oldbies) made music. Friends of Ken brought crab, chowder, lasagna, sides, cakes, cookies, brownies, and much, much more. Friends of Ken ate and drank, laughed and cried, hugged and sang and shared memories. There was an effort to suggest Ken's presence. Friends of Ken brought pictures of Ken to decorate the space. Many of the friends of Ken in attendance expressed satisfaction with the music, setting, and program. Pictures from the February 21 event by Cliff Wells,

The Extra Fabulous Exceptionally Wonderful Friends of Ken helped with both the inventive set up and glamorous clean up.



K   L   Slusher           1947 - 2014



     

                                                                                           



Ken leaned to the left. That's my best explanation for images that appear rotated.
Credits include:
Sketches by Mary K. Hutchinson and Robin Stewart
Photos by Unknown,  Ken Barroga,  C. Cavalier,  Benny Driver,  K. E.,,  Dan Fear,   Larry Gust,  Paulette Gust,  John Logan Harter,  Mary Jo Heller,  Wes Sauer,  and   KLS.


Mister Slusher died December 3. He was at home, attended by loved ones.

Ken made names for himself as a documentary photographer in silver print and video. He made art his entire adult life using at least six artistic personas (a group show at the Blue Heron in 1990 featured Slusher as K. L. Slusher, Bennie Driver and R. Mutt). He made video, photographs (with a wooden camera, a digital camera and most everything in between), sculpture and assemblage, music with his voice and a variety of wind, stringed, and percussive instruments, with the occasional foray into the written word. He made art all the time. When he wasn't he might be sailing, kayaking, or camping. In his spare time he did things like drive a bus to Vashon and back and curate the OpenMondays gallery. Eventually he turned to planting and landscaping, rewiring, building cabinets, staircases, and other home improvements but he was never not an artist or musician.

      Except maybe a long, long time ago. When Ken was almost eighteen, he was selected and screened, found squeaky clean and became a
      teenage spy. Weeks into spy school, Ken was notified his father was ill. Ken's mother had just divorced Owen. Owen K Slusher died at 39.
      Ken completed spy school while grieving.

      He was told spy school made him a valuable asset. He felt his safety was assured. He would serve on listening posts overseas. In 1967, Ken
      was in Turkey. Before his shift, Ken liked to study the bulletin board. On June 8th, troops crowded around the bulletin board.

      The USS Liberty was under attack. The Liberty was a floating listening post. The troops on the floating listening post sent distress calls.
      Aircraft were half way to the floating listening post when High command ordered them back to their carrier.

      The troops on the floating listening post could not understand why Israel had targeted them. The Israelis, confused by lack of return fire,
      briefly paused the attack to ensure none of their vessels were smoldering. Satisfied by the roll call, Israel resumed the attack on the Liberty.
      The troops on the floating listening post sent more distress calls.

      Another base dispatched aircraft. Again High command refused air support for the floating listening post. The troops around the bulletin
      board shared silent bewilderment. What did it mean to be a valuable asset? How might their listening post be used? There was no debriefing.
      Specialist Slusher was nineteen. He worked his shift.

A trained cook, Ken could earn a living on land or sea. Before he completed high school he spent a summer working on a fish tour boat out of Westport. Stopping on the Pacific Coast after the service, Ken then went on to Kentucky where he held a variety of unsatisfying jobs and also served as a volunteer fire fighter. He went to Petersburg, Alaska for seasonal work fish processing, and lived for a while in Tacoma and Bellingham before finally settling in and around Seattle.

Ken quit driving a bus in 1996. During the 1990s Ken published a web page. He devoted more energy to music making, and he began learning computers and producing video. He has two DVD titles at KCLS and one VHS title sold at the Museum of Flight. He also poured a lot of time and energy into creating his home and garden in Boulevard Park. Ken designed and built his own outdoor barbecue and his own kitchen where he entertained friends for decades.

Increasingly interested in social and economic justice, Ken became more politically aware and outspoken in the late nineties and early aughts. He used his video camera to document lectures, interviews, marches and civil disobedience. He maintained the annual tradition of celebrating his birthday the Saturday after Labor Day. His parties still attracted a lot of artist friends (John Logan Harter until his death) plus musicians, environmentalists, peace activists, and their friends.

Ken continued to use the 5x7 camera and print in the dark room he designed and built. I last remember him developing film in 2004. I carried the camera for him as recently as 2013.

After leaving me in 2006, Ken quit drinking alcohol and later that year suffered a hernia. As a consequence of treating the hernia, Ken learned he had HCV and cirrhosis. Ken attributed his HCV to his military service but the VA repeatedly denied his claim.

Ken did some cognitive therapy and then presented himself to me as owning his biggest mistake. We'd both grown and grown out of the previous relationship, so we named that one Phase One and grew a new relationship which we called Phase Two. In 2008, we both lost our best friends. We comforted each other. At the very least we would live as well as possible for as long as possible because our friends had left the party so early. We talked about our experience of being alive, our expectations of death. He loved life, he loved making art, he loved his home. Art would be his legacy, the memories of friends, and whatever carbon he could return.




Liver cancer was diagnosed in April 2010. We learned the VA's end stage liver disease patients die about a year after diagnosis. Many of these patients never give up alcohol.
We wanted to know the best case scenario: how long might Mister Slusher live with end stage liver disease?
There was discussion about our question.
The VA has a ward for terminal liver patients. Liver patients spend all day in bed. They need help with all activities of daily living. They frequently talk nonsense. They can hang on for years.
The question was resubmitted. The answer: Two to five good years.

Ken entered Hospice in July 2013. Hospice has a Pinning Ceremony offered to Veterans. Ken had his Pinning Ceremony at his home in January 2014.
Two friends of Ken took pictures. Here are their galleries: Donna Andrews and Cliff Wells.

June 21, 2014, Ken and I spent the day in Washington D.C. as guests of Honor Flight. Some photos of our trip above.




2014
November 23 a Hospice nurse (not our usual one) came to Ken's home to check on us. She asked Ken if he knew where he was. He answered he was 'in a safe and happy place'. She pointed to me and asked if he knew who I was. Ken said 'that must be Paulette'.




November 30

Ken needs assistance with all activities of daily living.

Poor balance, weakness and Rx side effects have resulted in Ken falling at home three times this week.

Ken and I went to the VA 11/28 to see Ken's primary care MD. There was nothing the hospital could do for Ken that I couldn't do for him better at home. The decline would not necessarily be linear.
Ken would sleep more and more and become less aware. In the meantime I could provide nourishment and fluids whenever Ken is interested.

(Ken still likes cranberry orange cake and is a big fan of crisp cookies. Favorites are white chocolate macadamia, ginger snaps, and walnut chocolate chip.
He still likes granny smith apple slices and orange segments too.)

Dr B cannot say how many months Ken has remaining.




Wednesday December 3
Ken's MDs weigh in:

Primary Care, letter:
I am so sorry to hear of Mr. Slusher's death. He was a remarkable man. He was amazingly lucky to have you as a caregiver. Even when people have been ill for years, there is always something sudden and unexpected about death.
Please take care and know that my thoughts are with you.

Hepatologist, voicemail:
I heard the news about Ken and I just wanted to call and let you know I am sorry that he's gone but it was really an honor taking care of him and it was a pleasure getting to know you as well.
So I hope that he was comfortable as he passed and if there's anything that I can do [...] please give me a call [...] Thanks again for taking such wonderful care of Ken. Okay. Take care bye bye.



* * *   FROM KEN'S PAPERS  * * *

(circa 1972)
Eulogy of She  [Annotated 2015]
INTRODUCTION

This essay should be non-fiction. It is a description of a day with my wife, whom I love. Throwing roses in her path and quoting Robert Browning to her could never be sufficient to fully demonstrate my affection for her.

There is one very significant drawback, however: I am a bachelor.

In other words, this essay is a work of fiction - - untrue - - a dream.

And yet, it is very real to me. It is the description of a completely altruistic love between a man and a woman. It is my bachelor's concept of what a marriage should be; and, I must admit, it is a very idealistic concept.

Bliss.


EULOGY OF SHE

In the morning, I am awakened by the touch of her soft lips on my forehead. It is not the pressure of her kiss which interrupts my sleep, but the warmth of it. [sometimes his forehead, sometimes elsewhere]

There is a smile on her lips and her eyes are happy as she tells me that breakfast will soon be ready. She asks whether I will sleep all day, or get up to go to work. [sometimes I did ask if he wanted to sleep more]

But I am content, for the moment, to lay on the bed and allow my eyes to grow accustomed to the morning light. And I am content to watch her as she makes last minute adjustments to her hair. Every day, she gets up a half hour before I do so that she can make herself pretty for me. [no] I love her. [He would sometimes admit to feeling fondness for me]

And she is beautiful. Other men might, on seeing her, say that she is plain, or, possibly, that she is cute. But to me, the woman I love is beautiful. [this work of fiction was written in the '70s]

I get out of bed, put on my bathrobe, and, on my way to the bathroom to shave [see, clearly fiction], I pause beside her to give her a kiss and wish her a good morning. For us, the honeymoon has never ended.

I know that by the time I finish shaving and dressing, she will have breakfast on the table. Even now, I can smell fresh coffee perking.

She smiles as I walk into the kitchen and take my seat behind a plate of hotcakes, bacon and eggs, and a cup of steaming, black coffee. We never eat in silence. Breakfast is a time for light conversation - - chit-chat nearly meaningless in content, yet rich and meaningful in a ritualistic sense. Breakfast has become one of our rituals of Life and Every Day Living that have become so meaningful to us.
[B r e a k f a s t   a n d   o u r   o t h e r   r i t u a l s   o f   L i f e   a n d   E v e r y   D a y   L i v i n g   d i d   b e c o m e   s o   m e a n i n g f u l   t o   u s.]

Sometimes, if there is enough time before I leave for work, we push the dishes aside and hold hands across the table as we discuss some trivial item that seems important at the time. But I don't have time this morning. I hug and kiss her, tell her I love her, and, picking up the morning paper, walk out the door.

There is a florist on the corner by the bus stop, and looking at it reminds me of something I must do today. In the six years of our marriage, I have never let more than three months go by without getting her some roses. It has been over a month and a half since the last time I took roses to her. Although it is a luxury we can't easily afford - - I have gone without lunch for two weeks to pay for this - - she enjoys the flowers and I enjoy giving them to her.


It is five-thirty as I walk out of the florist shop with a dozen red roses in a box under my arm. The old lady that works there knows what I want whenever I go in, and only has to ask what color I want.

As I walk in the house, I lay the box of flowers on the hall table, hang up my coat and go into the kitchen where she is busy preparing supper. I squeeze her shoulders from behind and start nibbling her ear. She turns around, kisses me and says in a pseudo-angry voice: "You're distracting me from my cooking!"

I tell her that I have something waiting for her in the hall. She goes into the hall and returns in a moment with the long stemmed flowers cradled in her arms. She is always surprised and pleased when I bring her flowers but she always manages to scold: "Did you skip lunches again to get these?"

She rewards me with another kiss before we sit down at the table. She is a fabulous cook. Tonight, we have a Spanish dish - - arroz con pollo - - which is inexpensive, yet delicious.

I like to cook, also, and on Sundays we both spend most of the afternoon in the kitchen preparing a feast for friends or relatives whom we invite for supper.

After we have finished eating, I help her with dishes. I don't do this because I am henpecked, or because I like to dry dishes. I help her because I want to help her. We enjoy simply doing things - - all things - - together.

She is a wonderful woman: a true lady. She is kind and considerate; strong yet tender. She is intelligent, yet dumb at all the right times. She makes me feel like a man. She knows how to build me up when I'm feeling down; yet, intuitively, she knows the times I need to be alone for a few minutes.

I am a very fortunate man to have her love. She is my world, my heaven and earth.

She is my [unwed for good reasons] wife.

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The Confessions of Bennie Driver as told to M. Charles Bukwus III

      Shakeup. For bus drivers it means a change; new routes to learn; new places and faces to see. For me, it also means new passengers to train. It's the regulars I care about: the ones who will ride with me every day to work for the next four months. And on my bus, there are certain rules all of the regulars will learn - - sooner or later.

      The most important rule is that if I'm going to bother getting up every morning at 4 a.m. to maneuver an 8-1/2 by 40 foot box through heavy rush hour traffic in order to carry one or 200 people to work, if I'm going to do it at all, I will do it with style.

      This rule has to do with attitude. Many bus drivers think that passengers are cattle. Many passengers think that buses are driven by robots, or that the bus is late only because the driver is out to get them. The attitude I prefer is to recognize that we are all people dealing with people. The best way of maintaining touch with humanity is through interaction. So I teach my passengers, my regulars, the second rule: to interact, to say hello. This catches many passengers by surprise the first week or so, and I receive many astonished looks for my offered Good mornings. But most soon catch on; most appreciate it. Once, however, I said 'good morning' to a woman who returned with an annoyed look: "Are you one of those obnoxious bus drivers who always smiles and says good morning to everyone?"

     "Yes ma'am," I replied. "I mean, would you rather I growled? And besides, if I can't be happy sitting in this seat, then I probably shouldn't be here." After a few minutes of silence: "Well, what do you think?"

      She said: "It's O.K. You can say good morning to me any time."

      Of course, most people have no trouble saying hello, but others seem impervious to any greeting. The worst case was an attractive woman on the 17 line. She would ride with me five days a week, and never even look at me when she got on the bus. When I opened the door, she would look first at the steps, then towards the back of the bus, holding her pass in front of her as she entered. Never a nod, never a response to my 'good morning's or even 'good night's or anything else I did or did not say. She never once even saw me. After a couple months of this, I began to tire of my invisibility, so I decided to make her invisible too. The next time I stopped for her, I opened the door and looked out the window in the opposite direction. I waited long enough for her to get to the back of the bus, then closed the door and started to pull away from the curb. But as I turned to look in the mirror I was started to see her still standing there holding out her pass, eyebrows arched in a quizzical expression as she waited for me to acknowledge her 'payment.' Our eyes met for the first time. Stopping the bus (my eyebrows must have been arched too - - they do that sort of thing), I thanked her for showing me her pass. She looked at me for another second, nodded, then went to her seat. From then on, she always had a smile or a nod for me when she got on the bus.

      The next lesson for the passengers is in bell pulling. Of course, the bell on a bus is to inform the driver when to stop to let someone off. But if you're a regular and have been getting off the bus at the same place every day for the past month or two, it is hardly necessary to pull the bell. But there are many people who seem to think that a bus simply will not stop unless the bell rings. They will stand or sit right next to the driver and be engaged in conversation with him and still need to pull the bell to make the bus stop, as if the machine won't function unless the proper button is pushed. Simply telling the driver to stop would not do.

      There was one old fellow who rode with I was deadheading to my next run every day and always got off in the same place. He would always ride up front and want to talk with me, though he never had much to say. He could be looking straight at me in the middle of a sentence and reach to pull the bell cord for his stop. There was nothing I could do to prevent him. I asked him once, while we were still about five blocks away, if he were getting off at the same place that day. He answered affirmatively, but still pulled the bell when the time came. Another time, as he was reaching for the bell cord, I asked if he wanted the next stop. "Yes, please," he replied, and pulled the bell. I even tried 'sneaking up' on him by getting him so interested in our conversation that he might not pay attention to where we were. I actually had my foot off the gas slowing down for the stop when he pulled the bell, but that was as close as I ever got. I finally started turning the bell off when he got on the bus. The first week he dutifully told me it wasn't working; I told him the bell was turned off. After that, he would grin and say "I bet you've got your bell turned off."

      On the newer buses there are dash lights that come on with the bells, so the driver can turn the bell off and still know by the light when someone wants off. I've discovered that leaving the bell turned off is a good guarantee of fifty conversations about bells not working. But once the light is on, the bell will ring every time the driver turns the switch off and then on again. When it comes on, I check the mirrors to see who wants off (half the time I see them as they pull the cord). About the time we start pulling into the bus zone, I'll ring the bell a few times: ding di di ding. Everyone starts to look around to find out who is ringing the bell so obnoxiously (poor driver), but no culprit is visible. To the ones departing I say "Had to ring the bell to let you know it's time to leave," or "This sounds like your stop."

      Fridays I bring my own bell along. I have several that go tinkle and some cow bells that go clank and a good variety of sounds in between. I'll wait for a regular stop or the dash light to come on, then ring my bell like crazy. This always gets a few chuckles, with many passengers curious as to which bell I bring each week.

      One of the company rules - - is strongly enforced on my bus - - is no playing of radios or tape players on the bus. But that doesn't mean no music, for I like to whistle as I drive, a habit that seems to cheer up many of the passengers. The only time I ever had to invoke that rule was with a teenager one morning. He wasn't playing the machine particularly loud, but loud enough to disrupt my whistling. I fixed him with an icy glare in the mirror and asked if he would please turn it off. Then, "I'm the only one allowed to make music around here." The radio went silent to the tune of laugher as I whistled on down the road.

      Another time a passenger got so carried away with my music that he began whistling too. But he wasn't whistling anything similar to what I was whistling. After a few bars, stopped whistling. A few more and he stopped too. I waited a few minutes to sort of let him cool down, and then began whistling again. Solo. I'm glad he wasn't a regular.

      I accompany my whistling meanderings with the air brakes. They make a sound like "psshhh psh psh psshhh." You would expect to hear that only when stopped, but if you're real good and don't rock the bus, you can also "play" the brakes going downhill or coming to a stop. The accelerators are powered by air too, and, on a few of the buses, make a whistling "wsshhh" sound as you let up on the gas. The accelerator can only be played while under full acceleration, again, being careful not to rock the bus; it's no good sacrificing a smooth ride the music - - no style there.

      Playing the air brakes is a good way to keep the rhythm going while I chat with passengers who are getting on and off the bus. And when I pull into a zone behind another bus, the driver doesn't need long before he realizes it's Bennie behind. If I see a driver I don't know, I may do something particularly elaborate - - a triple drum roll with a rat a tat tat, or something - - just to see how he responds. Some scorn the "noise," and look the other way. Others get visibly ecstatic and applaud. A few even try to emulate me, but they're up against a pro, you know; it takes a lot of practice.

  Most people seem to think that the mirrors decorating the front of the bus are for the driver to watch the traffic. They're not. They're designed so the driver can watch the passengers. It's nice to know what's going on behind you, and I've witnessed many true life vignettes through those mirrors.

      There was a young woman I used to pick up on the end of the 15 line who daily performed one of the more amazing feats I've seen. She would always sit at the same seat and, as we bounced and jostled along towards town, she would apply her face makeup. I was most fascinated when she got to her eyes. I would look in the mirror and see this very intent woman concentrating on her own mirror held in one hand while the other hand wielded a three-inch black rod which she used to comb and color her eyelashes as we bounced along at 30 miles per hour. When I first witnessed this feat, I just knew I would soon be using the radio to call for an ambulance to take her, eyeless, away. Not only did she prove my prediction wrong, but I never once saw anything other than a flawless makeup job when she got off the bus.

      It is important to have a sense of humor on this job, and I don't leave it behind when the job's over. I took the day off one time just to get caught up with my chores and knew that the fellow who usually drove me home would be wondering where I was. I needed some groceries, and decided to hop a ride with him from where he usually let me off and go to the store. Before leaving my place, I located a Styrofoam cup and poured some instant coffee granules in the bottom, put on an old gray overcoat and headed towards the bus stop. When he pulled into the bus zone I drunkenly staggered onto the bus, complaining loudly and incessantly about the lateness of the bus and "Don't you guys ever look at yer watches?"

     The driver responded to my harangue with comments about "You stinkin' drunks" and accentuated my stagger by flicking the steering wheel back and forth. As I was getting off the bus five blocks later, I handed him the cup with the dried coffee crystals in the bottom and said "Here, John. You told me how badly you needed a cup of coffee the other day, so I brought you one."

  Looking with wrinkled nose at the dry crystals, he asked, "What am I supposed to do with this?"

     "Just add hot water, John. Just add hot water." I waved and left.

     Two hours later, I was waiting for John as he was making his return trip to town. In my hand, behind my back, was a kettle of hot water. As he pulled into the zone, he looked quizzically at me wondering what I was holding behind my back. I produced the kettle as he opened the doors, and a look of astonished disbelief crossed his face. I held the pot out in front of me as I slowly climbed the steps; John looked me in the eyes as he reached back for his coffee cup. I leaned across the aisle just as he produced the cup - - perfect timing - - and - - for all to see - - poured the water into his cup. Murmurs and whispers came from the passengers: "I can't believe it!" and "He's actually pouring tea!" and "Is this for real?" and "Can I have some?" ("Sure, lady, where's your cup?"). I bowed to the audience and left the bus to general applause. Though speechless at the time, John later confessed that he had spent the previous hour being mad at me for giving him the instant coffee when I "knew damn well there was no place to get hot water out there at the end of the line."

      Once I rode to town with a fellow on his last trip. He was to be relieved on the road, and his relief driver would meet him on route with his car so that he could go directly about his business without returning to base. He jumped off the bus and was getting his car keys from the relief driver and chatting with her. He turned to me and shouted, "Hey, why don't you drive this to the end of the line? Pam and I are going out for a drink!"

      I said sure, and hopped into the driver's seat and tentatively touched the air brakes, testing their rhythm. Of course, it was a joke, but when the relief driver got on she said "Go ahead and drive it, if you want. I'm not quite ready yet."

      I laughed and said "Sure" and drove on down the road. I drove extra smoothly in order not to scare the customers too much, though I couldn't resist yelling to Pam once or twice: "Which way do we go now?" Everyone was smiling and enjoying the joke except one very surly woman who got off the bus last. A few minutes later Pam answered a radio call put through to her. I heard her say into the phone, "That was no passenger, that was another driver." Someone had called and complained!

      But Pam told me an even better story. Apparently an off-duty supervisor caught a bus with an old friend and they started a friendly banter, the supervisor saying things like "Any fool should be able to drive a bus better than this."
      Eventually, the driver pulled off the road and said, "If you think it's so easy, let's see you drive it."

      The fellow jumped into the driver's seat and drove on down the road. It happened that the supervisor was traveling with his wife, a former bus driver, who had quit work to raise a family. She was a very small woman, and very, very pregnant. She stood up and said, "That looks so easy I bet even I could do it." Her husband promptly pulled the bus over and let her into the seat. Though she was as competent as any driver, many of the passengers who had witnessed this decided that they should get off the bus at the earliest possibility, and the bus quickly emptied.

      Of course it's not always fun and games out there. Things happen that can blow the calm off of anyone's day. They never seem to get spread out, but come at you half a dozen at a time. It is never one car which pulls dangerously close out in front of you causing you to brake hard enough to awaken passengers, it is four. We all have our personal nemesis as well.



* * * EXCERPTS FROM KEN'S JOURNAL * * *

October 26, 1970

  At last I am sitting down to something that I've been meaning for years to do. At last I am writing my journal.

  I don't intend to create any kind of work of art, or literary masterpiece. I am, instead, just looking for some- one to talk to, to tell my experiences and feelings, a place to record my experiences, and opinions. I do not intend for anyone but myself to read this, but just something for me to refer back to, maybe to refresh my memory, or maybe even to learn about myself.

  Anyway, here we go! I hope that I can benefit from this "autobiography", "journal", "diary", or whatever one may call it. I would like to tell of all of the things that helped to shape my life, as far back as I can remember, as well as the events that seem meaningful to me from this point forward. Therefore, chronologically at least, this should be a jumbled up mess, but who cares?.....

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October 24th, 1970, Harlan County Jail
4:00 P.M.

  Wow, what a joint!! The smell alone is enough to drive a man to repentance.

  I sit down next to an old colored man, the most harmless looking man in the place. I ask him "What are you in for?", and he says "Murder; I killed a guy." This came as a bit of a shock to me. I don't consider myself a criminal of any kind, and I'm still in a daze as to how I got to this place, sitting next to a confessed murderer. *

  I get up and wander around the two floors that comprise the jail. There is a T.V. set upstairs, a small row of cells separated by bars from the rest of us where most of the really "bad" guys were kept, mostly so called "felons" who may have "uttered" bad checks or any number of "serious" crimes, some of them have sentences of up to six months -- I think I would have gone crazy after six weeks. I walk by a refrigerator with a young mean looking fellow standing in front of it. There is a sign on the refrigerator - - cigarettes 3 for a nickel or a pack for 30c, coffee or kool-aid 5c a cup. sandwiches 30c and so on. One man is walking around picking up cigarette butts off the floor to smoke later on, he lost his money in the perpetual crap game going on upstairs - - I would hate to be thrown in here broke!

  I think I have recovered from the initial shock of being here now, so I wander around trying to strike up conversation with some of the "criminals" I have been thrown in with. Some of these men are clean shaven, though I don't know how. There is not a toilet here that does not need a plunger and the biggest difference between the clogged up toilets and the clogged up sinks is their relative height from the floor. I wouldn't want to stand close to one of the sinks, let alone wash my face in one.

  I have learned from talking to the other prisoners just how to talk to the people I was with, and if I'm ever in jail again maybe I can remember what I've learned. It is always permissible to ask why someone was here, or even how long he was in for, but anytime I asked how long anyone had left to go I [was] met with stony silence.

  I was surprised to note that no one tried to profess his innocence, everyone was guilty as charged. Like the Chicago man who was picked up for "drunk and disorderly" on his first, and last trip to Harlan.

  Nobody complains about the police, or the laws here. But they do complain about Harlan: "The asshole of the earth", "I'll sure leave this damned place faster than I came in!" and a rather cynical "This is God's little acre" were some of the comments that I heard.

  Eight o'clock rolled around and my brother-in-law got me out on bail. We had our chuckles over the incident, but it is one experience, good or bad, that I can never forget.

  A couple of points I would like to add: with an average sentence between 30 days and six months, there was no form of an exercise program, one could see daylight only through the upstairs windows which overlooked the rooftops, the one evening meal I saw consisted of an awful looking form of soup beans, corn and two slices of white bread, nothing to drink. The humor displayed by those that I talked to was of the driest sort I have ever heard.

  So much for Harlan County Jail.


    * [Ed: Fun Fact 1: KLS and Ann Rule and Ted Bundy all answered calls at the Seattle Crisis Clinic. But Ken's volunteering was not concurrent with Rule and Bundy working.]

     [Fun Fact 2: In 1965 Tacoma's Woodrow Wilson High graduated KLS and Ted Bundy. Ann Rules's book, which Ken read in the 1980s, names members of the class of 65.
     KLS recognized the names. 'Ted? That Ted? That was Ted?!' is how he described his reaction. He was aware of Ted senior year. They both liked to wear black. Ken said they
     didn't hang out but each frequently end up alone save the presence of the other.]

     [Fun Fact 3: In the 1990s one of Ken's favored watering holes was close enough to the Kenworth Truck factory to attract the after work crowd. After seeing photos of the
     convicted Green River killer, Ken realized he'd been at the bar with Gary Ridgway. 'Nothing behind his eyes' was Ken's recollection./Ed]

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[Ed: Letter from Owen to Ken /Ed]

    Oct 31 65
    Dear Ken
    I have been waiting to get your address. You know I am not much for writing letters
    I have been here since 26 of Sept. For the past two weeks I have been in the hospital here. I was unable to work anymore and that is why I came back here.
    Seems like all the time people kept telling me I had ulcers and so forth I had a tumor on the stomach. This tumor was pressing on the liver causing the
nervous conditions and all. They finally found it back here. I now have yellow jaundice to go with it. Well tomorrow morning they are going to cut out the tumor.
    I must admit I am a little scared. It is major surgery with complications since I have jaundice too. It has to be done though. By the time you get this letter It will be all over.
    Ken be a good soldier and try hard at everything. Keep your chin up and always keep your pride
    I wish you all the luck in the world.
    With all my Love
    Dad

[Ed: Resume Ken's journal/Ed]

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The Past

I came to Harlan the first time as an adult in November, 1965. It was not under the happiest of circumstances. The first thing I saw was Harlan Appalachian Regional Hospital at about five in the morning. I had been traveling all night, a soldier on leave from Ft Devens, Mass., and I saw the hospital where my father lie in a coma dying. It was brightly lit against the dark bulk of the mountains, a very modern looking building. I saw him and was taken aback, for no one had told me what to expect. In place of the man I knew as my father, a man full of life and good easy going humor as any I ever knew, I saw a jaundiced shell of a man who, with all of the plastic tubes and paraphernalia of a hospital, I didn't even recognize. I asked the nurse who was tending him, she was a fat, kind looking negress, if he was "my father" and then I tried to speak to him. I don't believe he ever knew I was there. For the next week or so I didn't know a thing that was going on around me - - I was in some kind of trauma - - and I watched him and waited for him to come to but he never did. I ate Thanksgiving supper in the hospital cafeteria and quietly watched in the new year at the hospital entrance. He died on January 17, 1966. I was back at Ft Devens as I had already used up more than the amount of leave time that was allotted to me. I hired a private plane to fly me to Harlan and was a little late but managed to be there for the last part of the Funeral service.

He was what I shall always consider a great man. He was sensitive, kind, would bend over backwards to be fair or to help somebody in need. We botched together for six months before I joined the Army, and they were a very happy six months, from pillow fights to double dates, we really enjoyed each other. No one could ever ask for a better father than he was to me.

One of his last pieces of advice to me went something like this:

  "A woman is quick to love,
    and even quicker to forget. Take
      my advice and don't get married. "

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I have finally discovered something good about a cigarette!! In the second one takes to light up, one almost has to pause, and in this mad, hectic rush-rush modern world of ours, one cannot help but benefit from this brief respite. And still it is an ugly habit - - dirty. They don't even taste good. I am trying to quit.

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16 September 1972
  Petersburg, Alaska

    A new day
    A new way

  Alaska is turning out to be
Everything I have heard about it. And
much, much more.

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  Someday in October 1972
    Petersburg, Alaska

History
    Summer
  Tacoma, WA

  M__ has come and gone, though she can never really be "gone". Beautiful memories of three weeks of the most intense feelings - - ups and downs, highs and lows, tears and laughter - - wow! She is young, afraid as me, but she could not deal with the continued intensity. Cultural differences of a 19 year old girl with many very-middle class values - - a beautiful girl - - entering into an affair with a freaky hippie dealer took their toll. A few days of bad good red port - - prescribed by the doctor in my soul - - and a complete recovery. Complete with beautiful memories, a better knowledge of what can be, a better knowledge of myself.

    Love
      Life

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    "Words
      Words
      Between the lines of Age"
- - Neil Young

Ping-Pong (a revised note to S__)
  As I understand it, the game of ping-pong is played with three people - - two paddles and one ball. Having overcome the problems of identification - - that is, having finally discovered who is the ball and who the paddles - - I now feel capable of writing a brief description of the game. I started to write the rules to the game, but found out that there aren't any. Or didn't find out that there were. Or found out that it didn't matter. Or didn't find out. At any rate, as the game has been (is being) played, the two (2) paddles must maintain an undefined social, psychological and spac- whatever distance. Meanwhile, the ball - who should be of a different sex (of course, this is not absolutely necessary, but in my particular headspace, it makes things more interesting) - flits around from paddle to paddle touching each with meaningful, loving caresses. It seems to be essential for the ball to keep herself out of a position where she might have to say what she is really feeling. Careful. Carefully. All in all, Ping-Pong seems to be a fine game - - of course, having happiness and sadness - - but now that I have an understanding of the game (finally: nobody would tell me anything so I just had to figure it out myself)
  I wonder if I still want to play.
  Interesting


Ken's Beliefs

Ken told me his family moved every couple years as he was growing up. They always went to the nearest church. Ken attended Presbyterian, Methodist, Episcopalian, Lutheran, and maybe Catholic, Baptist and Pentecostal, too.

Throughout his young adulthood he read Bertrand Russell. He admired Bertrand Russell and encouraged me to read him. Ken might or might not use an uppercase G in god. He wanted to be cremated because being buried in a casket in a vault was -in his mind- no way to return to the earth.

This Russell quote illustrates Ken's thinking:
          Here there comes a practical question which has often troubled me. Whenever I go into a foreign country or a prison or any similar place they always ask me what is my religion.
          I never know whether I should say "Agnostic" or whether I should say "Atheist". It is a very difficult question and I daresay that some of you have been troubled by it. As a
      philosopher, if I were speaking to a purely philosophic audience I should say that I ought to describe myself as an Agnostic, because I do not think that there is a conclusive
      argument by which one prove that there is not a God.
          On the other hand, if I am to convey the right impression to the ordinary man in the street I think I ought to say that I am an Atheist, because when I say that I cannot prove that
      there is not a God, I ought to add equally that I cannot prove that there are not the Homeric gods.
          None of us would seriously consider the possibility that all the gods of Homer really exist, and yet if you were to set to work to give a logical demonstration that Zeus,
      Hera, Poseidon, and the rest of them did not exist you would find it an awful job. You could not get such proof.
          Therefore, in regard to the Olympic gods, speaking to a purely philosophical audience, I would say that I am an Agnostic. But speaking popularly, I think that all of us would
      say in regard to those gods that we were Atheists. In regard to the Christian God, I should, I think, take exactly the same line.

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In 2014 both Ken and I read - - and enjoyed - - Mortality by Christopher Hitchens.



SIS recollects:

Ken was always reading. He was a serious student. He liked to read. If you didn't see him, check the corners of the room: in one of them Ken would be found with his nose in a book. If not, he might be out riding his bicycle. Sometimes Ken read a book while riding his bike. One time when Ken was about nine years old he was riding his bike and reading a book and he rode into the back of a car! He was flipped over the top of the car!

Another time Ken was riding his bike in a playground - don't remember him reading that time, maybe he turned his head to say something - but he looked away and rode right into the monkey bars! The bar hit him in the neck.

It's a wonder Ken lived to be a teenager!




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