Seattle Stories

Seattle Stories: My Year of Living Dangerously

Wall to wall partiers! Yep, it’s Seafair, Seattle’s annual ‘block party’.

It’s the Summer of 1978. I’m at the edge of Lake Washington along with hundreds of other revelers. It’s Seafair. There’s hydroplane races on Lake Washington and the Blue Angels are putting on a breathtaking performance overhead. I took these pictures with my little Kodak 110 camera. Frankly I’m amazed that I put down my drink and my smoke long enough to snap them. 1978 was the year I tempted fate in just about every way possible.

Blue Angels flying low over Lake Washington

1978 was the slacker-iest year of my entire life. In early spring of that year, my best friend and I quit our jobs, gave up our apartments, put all our belongings into storage and got passports and Greyhound bus passes. We tied sleeping bags to our overloaded backpack frames and set out from Seattle, heading south. We had no particular destination in mind and didn’t know when we’d be back.

After a long bus ride, we wandered around San Francisco for several days, sleeping in various parks. From there, we hitchhiked to the Grand Canyon where we hiked all the way down to the river, took a nice swim and then learned that hiking back up was soooo much harder than hiking down. We slept at the canyon’s rim in a tent at a small campground. I know we didn’t own a tent, and I don’t recall who’s tent it was, but hey—thanks, random people who let us sleep in a tent!

From Arizona we hitchhiked to San Diego. We arrived late in the day and decided that rolling out our sleeping bags on the beach would be a lovely way to spend the night. But not long after we settled in, a man in a uniform woke us up. He told us that we could get our throats cut and our possessions stolen, as we were sleeping in a very dangerous location close to the Mexican border. Desperate people had done just that and worse on their way into California. He told us that he was a security guard for a nearby gated community and would be in his little guard booth at the gates all night, and we were welcome to come sleep on the lawn near the booth. He watched over us all night long. Quite a stroke of luck for two clueless 24-year-old dreamers.

When we eventually returned to Seattle about three months later, we stayed at my travel partner’s parents place in the Madrona neighborhood. I took a temp job sorting insurance claims at Harborview hospital. She grabbed a job at McDonald’s, and after my temp gig was done, I started flipping burgers under the golden arches, too.

In the fall, we moved out of her parent’s house and rented a fun and funky apartment in The Granada, a huge 1923 vintage apartment building up on Capitol Hill. I wrangled my old pre-trip job back. We got our stuff out of storage and settled back down to a life of responsible adults.

Well… sorta. A month or so later, my roommate’s brother called me up and said “Want to go to Hawaii?” Well of course I did, but I didn’t have that sort of money and had no vacation time accrued yet. But I admit, I was smitten with him and always a pushover for his schemes. Then he said the trip was going on daddy’s credit card, I didn’t have to pay a penny, and could I be ready in an hour? I said yes. I didn’t tell anyone where I was going, not even my roommate. We had a fabulous three days on the big island. I called work long distance from Honolulu, and said I was feeling really ill and would be out a few days. Roommate was not happy when we got back after we’d gone missing for three days. She’d been rather frantic about both our disappearances. I sure got a scolding, yikes.

Karma had some catching up to do with me right after I got back from Hawaii. I didn’t need to fake that I was sick anymore, as I really wasn’t feeling well. But, I went to work anyway and was instantly told to go to my doctor, as I was yellow with jaundice. Even my eyes were yellow. I didn’t know because the dim lights in our apartment didn’t clue me in. Turns out I had a severe case of infectious hepatitis and needed to be isolated. My roommate decided it was a good time to move out and I was trapped alone in my apartment for three months. My employer put me on full-paid leave, and my mom brought me groceries every few days. Thank goodness I had cable tv or I would have gone mad. I watched Annie Hall so many times I don’t ever need to see it again.

1979 would turn out to be a much calmer year. But as the cliché goes, when it comes to 1978, “I regret nothing!” Well… maybe a few things. Wait—nah. And, I still have a coral and jade necklace as a memento of that Hawaii trip.

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Lori Alden Holuta lives between the cornfields of Mid-Michigan, where she grows vegetables and herbs when she’s not writing, editing, or playing games with a cat named Chives.

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