When one is making their first trip into the Palouse country it might be easy to ask out loud: where is everybody? Especially if you come from an urban region, out here in the rolling wheatland it's different. The air is sweet and you can hear the birds song, the natural process includes all four seasons, with gusto. You will find Washington State University on a collection of hills adjacent to the town of Pullman. and in the eyes of old alums it is still a happy place. From one who came from afar and stayed long enough to have a life in it. It's bigger than the hills bigger than a state, more than a campus more than a city, it's a spirit of feeling carried by all those who touch it and are touched by it. That feeling can easily be characterized by two simple words "Cougar Spirit".
Nestled in the rolling golden hills is also a youth struggling to make his way in life, fighting adversity on many fronts, still carrying with him a dream, a dream to succeed here where once he experienced bitter defeat. A battle that would test the endurance of the soul. The ups and downs like the undulating hills of the palouse: pain, misery, success and hardship blended together like the rolling landscape itself. It was here amidst fields of wheat where the wind blows hard and the climate unforgivable that I would test the hardiness of my ambitions. Cyclic weather patterns of scorching hot summers and freezing winters permeate the landscape. Cycling 15 miles a day to work for a large part of the last 8 months, over a sheet of ice on occasion, as well as in triple digit temperatures. But you see its the hottest fires and coldest winters that forge the heart of steel. When I first arrived here, I was still a young kid with all the passions and energies of youth burning within. I still remember the group of stunningly sexy girls the first day at orientaition pass our group of hungry men in their short shirts, halter tops, firm toned bodies and flowing blonde hair, knowing they were eye candy to us as they strut by with a walk of sexy self entitlement that made everything in me believe I had missed out on that which is "real life" tan skin, pretty smiles, flowing booze, hott and heavy one night stands. This was the life old men trapped in the mundane job with the ol ball n' chain dream of going back to. Surely I was finally free of my ridged structured morality I had once so desperately clung to in the lonely hopes it would bring me lasting fullfillment and life. I could shed the wearisome cloak for good and indulge in the salacious lusts of my true desires. Finally. This was college. This is "the dream". Community College has nothing on this experience...
The first night in pullman I met this extremely attractive Italian girl, we immediately hit it off. We found a party nearby, most were open in the summer, due to greek life not being in full swing. So we're at this party I bring her too and I'm scanning, kind of getting a good feel for what it's about, what people are doing. And I'm noticing there's like 3 women in the whole place. The girl I brought with me is really attractive and of course several guys approach and then they all begin to swarm in on her like moths to a porch light. And she's drinking the alcohol I supplied and getting massively hit on. Of course it's the usual banter: "hey I'm so and so, do you play beer pong? are you good at tennis? I play tennis alot, nice tat on your biceps" "yeah I've been hitting the gym alot lately, just reached a new PR recently." Like good gawd, get me out of here, my emergency signals were on. It's rush week so of course I'm at a sausage fest party with 18 horny guys that are looking to get laid. I just brought her into the hornets nest, enemy territory and she's going to get the train run on her by 4 douchebag frat guys. Thinking quickly of an exit plan I said "alright I just remembered I left my vodka at my friends house Brenna, we should go get it and come back" Of course I had no plans of returning. Then the fraternity guys started honing in on me, they hadn't noticed me all night till now, like I was just standing there. I was just an obstacle in the way of the girl. No correspondance til now that I was taking the prize away. Then they notice me. Of course. "Naw man, you can go get it" What are talking about man she's having fun" Now I'm begining to get pissed off. "No really, I have chaser too, do you really think I'm bringing the vodka back for everyone? We should go take shots Brenna" She looked hesitant, then I just grabbed her hand and literally started shoving my way through 3,000 pounds of tank top wearing muscled jock hulk, impervious to the insults from the guys being hurled my way "you're a dick man!" Smiling politely and nodding politely back "thank you, we'll be back". " "Well that was sudden Kyle, why did we leave that quick?" "Did you see the look and body language on those guys or the one that was getting handsy with you? " "Not really" she confided, "there was alot of people" "Well I saved you, those guys were way too forward, you were about to get run through like a men's locker room." She laughed at this suggestion. "No way I can handle myself" "I got you" I said "don't worry" She replied "alright miss worrywort let's get that vodka" We ended up connecting with another friend of mine Bryce and met another girl Natalia on the way back, she looked lost and confused and with Bryce's persuasive ways and outgoing personality she ended up in our group for the night. Later on as the night was getting late, I offered a suggestion to Brenna, "There's this observatory aways up terra view, its a great night for stargazing too" She agreed to come check it out. We were both tatered at this point and by the time we reached the overlook the stars seemed a bit more blurry than I remembered. I showed her a few constellations and then she turned and gave me that look, the one where you know it's time to put up or shut up. Instead she simply stated "What's your last name?" "Crockford" I replied. "Awh Kyle Crockford, what's your middle name?" "James" I replied again. "Kyle James Crockford, that's a studly name" "It kind of is" I agreed Not sure where she was going with this but next thing I know she was complimenting my eyes, I replied hers were striking as well "tell me about it stud" she whispered, next thing I knew we were making out in a forlorn wheatfield for hours. I was staying on a friends couch for the night and I didn't want to disturb him, but I said "hey, its like 40 below out here I'll go get a blanket." I staggered down down the steep embankment like a drunk idiot and promptly slippped on my ass, last thing I saw were my feet before my head impacted the ground, well at least she didnt see I thought it's too dark right before I heard deep belly laughter from up the hill. Ugh, she witnessed it. I came back with the blanket and then continued where we left off, I could have easily consummated the foreplay, but for some reason I did not. I'm better than this. I'm not taking advantage of a drunk girl in the middle of a wheatfield. And we didn't, I wondered later if I made the right decision cause I never really hung out with her again, and I'm still convinced I did. The next day the guys in my alive group were complaining, "mann I went to this party and there were like no girls" "what'd you do?"they asked me "well, I woke up in a wheatfield with a girl to birds chirping and two guys catcalling at us from the deck above" Wow, not bad man..I still remember my thoughts upon leaving 'Alive' back home, this is going to be a great semester...Well so I thought...Funny how when everything you long for is right there for the taking, it seems to turn around, eluding you to bite you in the ass.
I found an apartment a few weeks in right next to the Starbucks I worked at. The fairy tale was all laid out and about to begin. Yet I found college strangely difficult and work challenging. I was jumping in the deep in off the diving board without knowing how to swim. Colllege was tedious. I clearly OD'd on confidence and cruised to failure. I didn't put the neccessary work in. Why should I? I'm Kyle Crockford; the same one that competed nationally in science competetions? The same one that drove across country myself, surviving multiple blizzards and perilous journey. I don't need to work at school. School is for the weak, test taking is easy, just beat the system, cram for the tests and you're golden. Well that worked for a community college but this was a state school with rigid demands and hardass teachers who can sniff bullshit from several miles away, past the stench on the footballl field where we provided so much futility. I indeed found myself wrapped in the throes of mortal combat with a savage lion and was very unused to the opposition. I barely passed my classes, others I dropped. Many things occured during this semester that hindered me, some I will say were acutely 'unnatural'. My apartment for one, was a place of despair coupled with extreme pain and anguish. I believe it was corrupted by some force. I know this sounds ludicrous. But if you knew my pain, you would begin to understand why I am so fervent a believer in the supernatural. Many a night I still recall waking up in a cold sweat, ravaged with fear. I turned to alcohol to help cope with the nightmarish eerie ocurrances. I told no one about these, thinking they would perceive me weak and feeble or just plain crazy. I still recall downing shot after shot in my apt and yelling "leave me be" to some unseen oddity. I recall waking up permeated with a nameless horror and scrambling out into the night in my boxers and T shirt curling up against the outside wall unwilling to risk a re-entry into the place, something I was unsure of, something I was unfamiliar with was haunting me, so I remained outside for a cold while, showering vomit and tears over the icy surface. I recall one such time being abruptly aroused from slumber by that fear; he must've followed me out because I slipped soon after and crashed into the retaining wall splitting the right side of my head, I vomited soon after. The once proud and assured me, soaked in blood, tears and puke...half naked, crawling back up the snowy embankment. It wasn't pretty, and I wont try to disguise it.
I spent many a night on a hill overcropping pullman looking down on the campus and the city lights, at least I was at peace. I woke up one morning on this same palouse wheatfield outcropping unaware I had passed out at some point during the night. Yet I always found my way back home. Now I was couch-surfing for weeks and my apt had opened to me, only because someone had vacated it 2 weeks into the semsester without any real rhyme or reason, which I found odd, but made more sense as I inhabited it. I held a few small parties at my place, nothing too crazy, just some beer pong and drinking games, but once when I brought a friend over he was filled with some kind of revulsion. He was acquainted with supernatural occurences as he had in the past astral-projected (vacated his body with his soul) soon after entering he told me he neeeded to leave, that there was a kind of negative energy in the room that gave him the living creeps. I found this odd, yet indulged in his superstition and we left soon after. Later that night it was around 3 am on a Sunday, I returned to my apt and said for God to rid me of any unseen evil. An odd prayer I felt yet as soon as the words left my mouth figures appeared from above my apt floor. I left my car toward my apt smiled and nodded at one of them and he returned me a look I still recall today as "sending chills down my spine" this was not a normal group of people mind you, this was a middle eastern bearded group that didn't seem like your lighthearted party hardy college boys. That being said, after that uncanny occurrence, things seemed to improve. I could study at ease and I began to indulge in some extra-curricular research on cultish activities and found extra dimensions as real as a heart attack. For those of you spiritually curious, wandering in the vast desert of spiritual blindness, or worse yet, dabbling with darkness primarily through ouija boards. My advice is to believe its real and stay away because Yes, indeed, it can reach-out and touch you back.
Now one year later after my last crash and burn incident I have returned to the palouse. After a falling out with friends and family for some short time. I returned here with a suspended licence, neck deep in debt and and old rusty bike from the 80's my father used to ride around, don't get me wrong it cleaned up nicely, I waxed and buffed and detailed this baby, it's really all I had and two wheels are better than two feet. It's still a nice bike that was top of the line $500 in the 80's when my ol' man used to ride it around Central Washington's Ellensburg Campus. So this is where I'm at. On a hot summer day in June I returned to pullman and greeted my brother bryce like a returning conqueror ready to resume where I left off. I was sleeping on his couch and biking to work 8 miles away in Moscow. The reason pertaining is I cant stand the pullman starbucks mananger. If there is a worse woman on the face of the planet I'd be hard pressed to discover it. She is like a dementor in Harry Potter that sucks all the happiness and warm feelings right out a room and leaves you feeling cold angry and bereft. Anal-micromanaging and a dislike for my habits in general led to me choosing to bike 15 miles a day than deal with her.
After my January crisis when the chips fell for me seemingly all at once, things went south with a rapidity that amazed even me. The result was a precipitous fall with nothing but sharp objects to slow the speed of the descent. I lost my car, education, had an insurmountable allotment of traffic violations and was struggling to survive, bleary eyed and confused I returned back and worked my way back, staying at the ranch working everyday and getting shuffled around like baggage to my destinations. It was indeed humiliating yet character building at the same time. Now, I was starting to feel like coming back here was a mistake my friend was getting targeted by the police for investigations and left pullman in a hurry I was on the streets in Pullman now with a backpack and a bike.Another friend of mine Will Aiken left for Georgia due to money constraints. Everything I had was reduced to 0. I found out a friend from washougal who I barely knew, in fact i didn't know, was in pullman. I contacted her on facebook and she offered me a an extra room with a month free of rent, it was very fortunate indeed because I was on wits end. I grabbed my bike and showed up rolling in with red khaki pants rolled up past the knee caps shirtless with sun bleached blonde hair a chain and backpack like a bum and resided there for the month of July.
The summer was hard hot and grueling, with no AC in the apartment I recall several instances where my roommate and me were passed out practically with frozen food packets slung over our body and faces, a fan was blowing hot air from the living room window sill where it was awkwardly perched. and we were trying to remember what reality felt like.
Biking was always an exercise in mental endurance and intestinal fortitude. Heading up the steep incline of campus hill to the top was draining. That stretch was always the worst--biking downhill with the hard rock music blaring in my ears, the wind wisping through my hair air all while shirtless, with black khakis rolled up past my knee caps and smiling at pretty campus girls on my descent. It always brought an emotional high and I felt not a little bit like a badass Then the transition to being a hot exhausted sweaty mess after a long grueling ride in the sun back up was noteworthy. Dehydrated, lightheaded and sweaty with my dry tongue hanging out like an idiot I felt like the lone survivor in one flew over the cuckoo's nest.
It was on one of my many bike rides downhill from campus commons apartment land that I had an accident that resonates with me today. I was on one of my emergency liquor runs with backpack in tow when I rounded the corner at too sharp of an angle the result ended in my front bike tire hitting an unforeseen rock I immediately lost control slammed into the curb and flew over the handlebars headfirst into an apt building it was like Andy Sandberg's wipeout in hot rod. I was knocked out entirely and the next thing I remember is seeing stars other than what I remember above me in the night sky, stars that shouldn't be in constellations. I got up feeling woozy. I always wondered what a knock out punch from Dwayne (the rock) Johnson might feel like, well I wondered no more. I experienced head pain off and on for the next few weeks, that's probably why I did so many stupid ill advised things. I may not act like the sharpest knife in the drawer but the cop-out was I hit my head really hard into a building. There's always a cop-out for everything right?
Outside of the mental drain and tough arduous tasks of work, the summer consisted of meeting a good few close friends that I still keep in contact with today. CJ Johnsons and Jordon Schaeffer were two of my best friends, whenever I was going through a really hard time or just suffering from a somewhat severed bout of depression, there they were outside my apartment to pick me up equipped with helpful encouragement and a fifth of fireball. Another friend I valued was Faustino, he was from the deep rooted origins of ethiopa, actually I have no idea if that was his heritage, but he was black as coal and a great guy and solid friend, I met him after my second night in the apt. I was sleeping on an air mattress in an empty room that wasn't mine when from down below the deep bass started bumpin and hoots and hollers could be heard. Sleeping was not an option, I rolled off the matrress slid open my door a crack and witnessed my roommate walking out looking pissed. A vicious ass chewing ensued and faustino was on the receiving end of it allowed to say little. The bass immediately stopped and I decided now was my time to slide out the back door and witness the aftermath of the disturbance. I ran into faustino was was smiling and laughing when I saw him, I mean this guy was a character, we hit it off right off the bat. From that point on, we remained friends, there was alot of drama that month swirling between ,me faustino and alexus my roommate, but those memories changed me and I don't regret them at all.
Faustino helped me out more than one time, when I was in desperate need, letting my drive his car to work after I popped a tire, picking me up after my car took a shit off the highway in a snowstorm. I owe alot to faustino. And his story was a fascinating one. A drifter like me he would tell about his many misadventures and misfortune along life's way. Being in the Navy active duty for four years he told me a good deal about the world, countries and people. Before that he was homeless in Texas after his uncle kicked him out of his place, his dad was a hardass mean-spirited and abusive alcoholic who treated him like filth. He left the house after his mom died at a young age and cobbled up enough cash to buy a motorcycle and drove to see his uncle in Texas, but soon after he was kicked out again. After a series of successive misfortunes each one as equally bad as the next he found himself in a small texas town out of breath and gas pushing his bike along. A lady on the street spotted him a couple bucks for gas money and pointed him to a homeless shelter soon after. He accepted and told me later with a smile that the homeless people he met in that shelter changed his life. They looked after each other and him, and made sure he'd find a job and be okay, said they had giant hearts and he'd never look at homeless people again the same way after that.
After the month of July had passed and right before the onset of august we were supposed to move out, the lease only ran to the first and all was a flutter of activity, pans, pots, balnkets, boxes, furniture was in a giant upheaval. This was the last day before we were supposed to be out and Alexus was pissed and stressed as well as me, I called a U-HAUL company biked over showed them my license which still was suspended, got the truck threw my bike in back and zoomed back to the apartment. We scooped up the entire alotment of furniture and goods and over a period of several hours were completely moved out. The house we were moving to was a 3 story one, with 3 decks a hot tub and outside firepit. There were worse places to live for 325 a month I thought. The 3rd floor had a deck a view of most of the campus. One of the best views in town by a long shot.
Summer soon transitioned to autumn. Fall is finally in the air, the changing of the leaves, crisp foggy mornings, the cool breeze hitting your face as you walk through town with a pumpkin spice latte; happiness is a rare virtue in this world but certain fragments of moments like these can put a smile back on your weary face, making you feel alive. Pumkin spice always reminds me of football and rain, it's a happy feeling; and this lil small town on the palouse would come alive on gamedays crawling with cougar fanatics, motor homes, flags, tailgate parties and BBQ's all you had to do was roll by one yell "Go Cougs" and next thing you know you had a busch light in your hand and were getting a nice juicy cooked beef patty slid onto an open faced bun. It's like magic around hear, yell go cougs to any group of 5 people on campus and chances are at least one will return it back to you.
As September turned to October I began to feel deeply uncomfortable and restless. A friend of mine from a few years back Darien was her name had been talking to me for awhile. She moved to Oklahoma after trying to be closer to her mom, but that didn't work out so well and she got kicked out by her father in law, she went a few miles south from Oklahoma City to Lawton, as the name implies it was a lawless town, full of crime, drug, sex trafficking and organized gang violance. She found herself on the streets and got mixed up in the wrong crowd,she still had a phone though due to getting some money from the government for medical reasons. Winter was coming soon and she had contracted frost bite was feeling abandoned and severely depressed, wanting out of that scene entirely but not knowing how. She never had a job and that was not helping mattters. Now Darien had a good heart and I was wanting to do what I could to aid her.
I hashed out a daring, strategic and risky plan to go to Oklahoma soon after. It was dense, witless, ill-fated, ill-advised and totally dumbfoundingly wreckless..Just the kind of thing I might do. It fit me perfectly. I worked extra hours and hard to get my license and insurance back, saved up some money, and after applying for online classes and dropping right before the deadline I became the beneficiary of 1,300 in grant $. I soon after left to Oklahoma after requesting 2 weeks off work. I wrote several blogs about this journey, it is wrapped in drama, high adventure, and startling life and death experiences that will leave you shaking your head that I actually pulled this off.
Well I would write more but for now I am tired. To close this long rambling multi-paragraphed journal off. I am thinking I would still like to get back to school soon, either here at WSU or Ellensburg. My brother and father both went there, CWU is cheap, much flatter than here, so biking is more ideal and I am closer to places like Seattle who I have family and connections in. But with my lack of a car entirely now it adds some weight to the decision. I got pulled over on the return trip back from Seattle to Pullman after my huge adventure. I was ticketed with a DUI. It was not some of my better work. There's no real way to sugacoat it, my sleeping situation in Seattle for the night fell through and after a couple beers I thought I was good. He impounded my car and I was left outside this little itty bitty town called Cle' Elum,. He asked me if I would like to visit the jail for the night or stay outside I took the latter of the two offers. I left my blanked in the back of the car and it was freezing cold that night, about 13 degrees and I was outside a chevron station shivering afraid I was going to freeze to death, everything was shut down and I nearly did if not for a couple hand warmers I got before hand. It was one of the worst nights of my life and I paid dearly for my ill advised decision to drive. 3 more court trips back, where I had to leave at 3 am the day after my birthday with my father who wasn't pleased either to drag my ass up to the courthourse. A month later I returned for my final sentencing. This time the ol' man bought hotel reservations and was there wating when I stepped off the bus. H took me to the 'Tav' talked about his old college days and we played pool. No one in my life has ever had my back like my father. Thick or thin come hell or high water he's been there for me through it all. No matter how many times I've failed. My ol' man is a rock and tough as nails. His support has been immeasurable..
With that I will sign off for the night. Goodnight everyone