“My name’s Happy. My friends gave me the name. My birth name is Christian, but I don’t go by it at all. I just hitched a ride from Idaho with some people coming back from Rainbow Gathering. Before Idaho, my friend Dumpster Baby and I hopped a freight train from Utah. We spent four hours in a dumpster with a tarp over us while it just rained and rained on us before we left. Now I’m waiting for my friend Rat Boy to come meet up with me. He’s never been to Portland before so he’s off wandering. We might see if we can find a punk show to go to tonight, and then we have a squat house we’re going to crash at.”
“How is hopping freight trains different than hitchhiking?”
“Well for better or worse, you’re usually you’re alone for 24 hours on a train. Sometimes the cops bust you. I’ve been busted before. I met some kids that wanted to hop a train and had never done it so I took ‘em. Usually you’re supposed to throw your pack first and then kind of start running before you jump, otherwise you’ll just fall. I watched ‘em do it and they both just rolled. But they were ok. A few cuts and the worst thing was one guy got a bruised knee.”
“How did you start off this life of wandering?”
“I grew up in LA, in not the best of neighborhoods. I was used to always hanging on the streets. Then when I was 15 or 16 some friends of mine told me about a squat house in another city and we hopped a train and went there. I love the community of it, kids all helping each other out. There’s even a web forum where people will tell each other where to stay, who to look out for, or a place where you can get fed and things like that.”
“It sounds like such an adventure! I wish I could come take photos of it all.”
“I had a bunch of photos on my phone, but I dropped it on the tracks once, and that was the end of that. It’s not all great though. A lot of kids I know are on meth and I have a friend who got Hep C from sharing needles. Not me, I’m a straight edge. That’s what these tattoos are about.” He held out his hands.
“What about the one on your face?”
“My family is indigenous and my great grandfather completely tried to deny and hide his heritage. And then his son, my grandfather, tried to embrace it. I’d seen a photo of him with these markings, so I had a friend tattoo it on me.”
“What does it represent?”
“I’m not sure. My family doesn’t even know what tribe. But I wanted to embrace my heritage.”
Garnet! I dare you to give Pearl a piggy back ride and run around the house.