Part of my childhood was spent living in a little mining village called Gilman atop the Rocky Mountains near Pike’s Peak and Holy Cross Mountain in Colorado. I could look out my bedroom window and see herds of elk grazing in the lower mountain pastures below. It was absolutely panoramic.
We were cliffdwellers, all 200 of us living in that remote mining village. It didn’t bother us that we were ringed on three sides by a thousand foot dropoff to the river below or that part of the town had slid down the mountain to join the winding waters. We didn’t even bother to rope off the cliff. Everybody knew it was there. Like death and taxes, it was always there.

Little could I have imagined then that 35 years later I would be pushing a shopping cart up and down Roscoe Boulevard in Van Nuys, California, looking for a food bank. But life had given me a foreshadowing in the form of my very first Halloween Day parade in Gilman: my dad burned a bottle cork, smudging my chin with the ash to give me a deep 5 0’clock shadow, tied a handkerchief bundled with underwear to a stick (these were the days before the invention of the shopping cart), and I joined the parade as a hobo.

Somewhere in my mother’s east Texas, moldy, water-damaged garage is a roll of 16 mm film showing that little first grader tramp marching proudly down the steep oiltopped main street of Gilman at the head of the Halloween Day parade . I should dig out that film and scream across the decades at that grinning buffoon, “You shoulda gone as a banker or an oilman or a real estate agent; anything but an artist!”

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