Tim, 63, was just following in the footsteps of generations in his family before him when he joined the U.S. Navy. Born and raised in rural Iowa, his father’s side of the family was in the U.S. Army, (his father fought in WWII), and his mother’s side hailed from the Navy, (her father was part of the Great White Fleet of 1909 that sailed around the world).

His aunt had a farm where he would visit and learn about harvesting corn and milking cows. But his father took work in a factory making resistors for transistor radios. Tim took a look at both choices, his three brothers and three sisters, and when he was 18 in 1972, he got his draft card fully expecting to be drafted, since that was the tail end of the Vietnam era. But the call never came. So in 1976, when he was 22 he enlisted. “I felt safe doing that because Nixon kept his promise to get the troops out,” he said.

Tim was deployed to Diego Garcia, a southern hemisphere construction battalion. He traveled to Guam, Japan and Greece. He so loved Greece that he wonders if he lived there in a previous life. After five years, he left with an honorable discharge, back to Iowa, back home to the factories and farms.

But after seeing the world, there was no future for him in Iowa. He worked at various factory jobs doing piece work, paid at piece rates or minimum wage. “I did some stupid stuff,” Tim said, “cuz you can’t live on minimum wage, even in Iowa.” So he cooked the books by fixing the machine to look like he’d made more pieces than he actually had. When the minimum wage went up, essentially nullifying his embezzlement efforts, he fixed the machine again in his favor, reaping profits from “invisible pieces.” The computer eventually caught him, he said.

“I just took back what the y took from me (with low wages),” he said, justifying his actions.
Once he’d been caught, however, there wasn’t a local company that would hire him. Minimum wage in the 1980s, he said, was $3.35/hour. “Minimum wage was not a living wage.”

So he moved to San Diego. He didn’t try extremely hard to find work. He was sick of the system. Even though he’s a veteran, he believes he’s got nothing coming to him. He collects $1,000 from social security, but that isn’t enough to pay rent in this town.

The hardest thing about being homeless is staying out of trouble, he said. “Sometimes I get into fights. I don’t like crybabies. When I call them out they get upset.” He’s lived inside twice since moving here in 1994. Those places were Section 8 housing and his neighbors partied all night, he said. There was no peace, so he left. He hopes to eventually get into one of the senior citizen apartment complexes run by churches in San Diego, “in ten years or so.”

He’s never owned a car. Marijuana is his drug of choice. He loves the organ pavilion concerts in Balboa Park and is a fan of organist Carol Williams, specifically her tribute to David Bowie. He’s looking forward to her concert tribute to Jim Morrison at the end of August. In the meantime he slips quietly over the rail near the freeway to and from his camp, nodding to fellow homeless individuals as he sips coffee on the freeway bridge in the shade.