Lesson learned

 


I have said before, most people haven’t had as many roommates as myself. My last column I went over the ones I had before marriage. I couldn’t even try to put them all in one sitting. So I ended my roommate countdown when I got married.

My marriage ended quickly and unexpectedly, by me, and the expensive apartment our two salaries supported wasn’t viable for me alone.

Jack, a 60-year-old widower who I had done work for, lived on Capitol Hill in a small mansion. He traveled a lot and the place had been broken into a few times since his wife’s death. He offered me a room in the place if I looked after it. Could not have asked for a better place and roommate as I figured out my life.

Jack was entrenched in international politics and got invited to awesome parties and he even took me to a few of these swanky affairs. Going to these parties gave me confidence I needed to be social again. I was still working for him and he was the first person I told I was moving to Hawaii.


“What are you going to be, a surfer?” Jack asked not knowing I would learn to surf.

In the end, he supported the move. I learned from Jack wise things that someone with more experience can teach someone younger. The trick is to listen.

In Hawaii, my first home had me sharing a huge house in the best part of Honolulu. There were four of us and we got along well. Two were haole (caucasian) and one was from Guam. It was a fantastic place and I only left because I got a job at a youth hostel which gave me free living quarters.

At the Hale Aloha Youth Hostel, I lived with four others throughout the building. Besides being around those different personalities, my job at the hostel had me take travelers on tours around Diamond Head and beaches. Tough job. It also exposed me to countless people from around the globe.

In case it hasn’t been noticed, I have cracked having over 30 roommates so far at this point in my life.

Leaving Hawaii, I moved to Taiwan. The plan was I would stay for six months. It didn’t go as intended and, all total, I stayed there off-and-on for 15 years. Cool times and, usually, cool roommates. In five years, I can name 10 more roommates, one of which brought me to Carbon County.

Darby Doll was that guy. Anyone who knows him will probably agree with me on how much fun he is to be around. Our time as roommates probably didn’t last a year, but I was impressed with his love for Wyoming. Grandparents Buck and Ardyce Hoem, living out on Cow Creek, were revered by him. When I met them, I get why.


The other mix of roommates during this time were Scottish, American and Taiwanese. In general, I got along with all, but Darby does stand out.

My roommate after Darby was Kirk. I lived with him three different times; twice in Taiwan and once in Shanghai.

This guy is one of the best guitarists I have ever heard. He played a lot at different venues all over Taiwan. His Chinese was excellent and he had a great Taiwanese wife who lived in another city for her job. She would visit on weekends.

Kirk had played on the University of North Carolina lacrosse team and was physically imposing. He was just as smart as he was big. His size and blonde hair made him stand out in a crowd. I think all total, we lived together about four years.

The thing I learned from Kirk is how one person can change history without knowing it.

Kirk was studying at the University of Beijing during the time of the Tiananmen Square Massacre. I remember him telling me many more people were killed on the streets than was reported during the crackdown. The story that I find the most interesting has to do with an internationally recognized photograph.

During the crackdown, there is a picture of a lone man who steps in front of a tank. The photo is truly iconic and known as the Tank Man. The story behind how photographer Jeff Widener got it into the hands of Western media involves Kirk. Widener has recognized Kirk’s part, but my roomie downplays it to this day.


“Widener had brought camera equipment and film to the hotel where he later took the photo, but was at the risk of being denied entry by security personnel. He was helped inside by Kirk Martsen. Widener eventually ran out of film, so he asked Martsen to try and find some. Martsen found John Flitcroft, an Australian backpacker in the hotel lobby, and asked him if he had any spare rolls of film, explaining that Widener had run out of film. John said he would give him the roll of film, if he could come up to the hotel room, which overlooked Tiananmen Square. It was this roll of film which Widener used to take the Tank Man photo. Martsen later borrowed Flitcroft’s rented push bike to deliver the photo film to the AP office at the Diplomatic Compound,” from the Wikipedia entry on the Tank Man photo.

The trip to the AP office is when Kirk saw all the injured people in the streets.

It is amazing how one person can matter to history.

My first time I lived in Australia, I had a roommate and he treated me great. Rolf took me spearfishing, scuba diving, hiking and to countless pubs. Rolf made my time so enjoyable, I went back to Australia to live a couple years later.

I have had only one roommate in Wyoming.

Kirsten Campbell opened her house for me during a summer that I lived in Saratoga. Darby might have brought me to Wyoming and shown it in a wonderful light, but it was Kirsten who made me fall in love with the place. She was hilarious to be around and, to this day, I will remember “Cocktail Croquette” as a signature Kirsten Campbell activity during a Togie summer.

China not only had me living with Kirk again, but also an Italian, Spaniard, Dane, German and a couple Americans.

The collective total of different people I have shared a home goes just over 50. That is a lot of personalities to share living conditions with.

This brings me to the point of taking readers through two columns of different people I got exposed to. From an underworld guy to a recognized hero. I lived with different genders, nationalities, ages and colors.

We learned to get along by accepting our differences and what we had in common. We listened to each other and were open to change if it made living together better.

I know it is in our capacity as Americans to get along with each other, even if we are not coming from the same background. We are a great country because the people have the ability to adapt.

Sometimes watching reports making the rounds, it is hard to remember this. No doubt, there may be some turmoil as many Americans come off tough times. But, I believe we will get it sorted, just like any people who have to live together.

No matter how different we are from each other, this is all our country and we have to learn to share it the best way we can.

 

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