• Katie Madonna Lee

Synchronicity, Seattle and the Enduring Legacy of Streetwise





For over fifteen years I had an emotional relationship to the documentary film Streetwise. A 1983 Oscar nominated documentary by Mary Ellen Mark and Martin Bell, following several street children living in the streets of Seattle, Washington.

Streetwise became apart of my tribal language. Tiny, one of the main featured children, stood out to me as a charismatic and stylish personality. She just had so much personality, I had to know more about her. Yet, only pieces of short follow up articles about Tiny's life now existed. A completed kick-starter campaign for “Street: Revisited” documentary gave me hope of a follow up film. Yet years had passed since the kick-starter finished. I assumed the follow up project would just end up being an idea.

I can't remember exactly when I crossed paths with this film. Yet the subject of the beautiful loser and kids surviving always held my interest. Another Pacific Northwest film My Own Private Idaho, still resonates within me. If you have ever seen the film, a particular moment reminds of me Streetwise. The scene with all the rent boys talking about their experiences as the camera cuts to various other characters at the cafe.

However the most famous children of Pacific Northwest mythology, Laura Palmer resonates and reserves a quiet space within my psyche. I have not outgrown my connection to her and have not allowed any opinions or fandom interfere with that bridge. My dear friend growing up looked like Laura Palmer. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me was our secret language. Through that film we were able to communicate a dark burden—one that still has not been spoken. Laura Palmer, Streetwise and Idaho, all become bits and pieces of my personal language shared with close confidants.

It is fair to say, Laura Palmer lead me to appreciate to Streetwise and Seattle. Twin Peaks represented a secret world—which I assumed I owned. I did not like to share or discuss the world of Twin Peaks with anyone besides those close to me. I felt my hair rise when I found out Twin Peaks was actually filmed in North Bend. See, I was from South Bend.

North Bend/South Bend.

Black Lodge. White Lodge.

A tugging feeling pulled me. I needed to go to Seattle and seek out these secrets—Laura, Streetwise. Tiny. I needed to pay my respects to these fragments of self.

I ended up in Seattle with luck and by random. The tribe I worked for sent me to Eastern Washington for a business related event. I drove all the way to Seattle once it ended—not realizing by the way Seattle was a four hour drive.

I pulled into North Bend, rainy and loud with mountains. I felt it. Fog and trees. I loved I did not have to wear sunscreen.

North Bend only had motels. Not even mid-average hotels such as Hampton Inn or even a Red Roof Inn existed. So checked into North Bend Motel, walking in I saw a framed picture of Laura Palmer.



Laura Palmer at North Bend Motel

The motel room was small and all outside bled into through the walls. It was cold and damp. The fake painting was nailed to the wall.

I went out for breakfast and read a newspaper. As I read I saw in bold:

TINY: Streetwise Revisited: The Life of Erin Blackwell

I shuddered. Now this was what was called synchronicity—as Dale Cooper put it. Happening for reason.

As part of the Seattle Film Festival, the film was screening at 10:00 am tomorrow.

I was on a mission. I found a library in a near by town, brought and printed my ticket.




I even found free parking outside of the theater—always a good omen.



Tiny and her horses. “The horse is my main best animal.” She says in Streetwise as a thirteen year old kid. And thirty years later, her Mom recites a story of how Erin at ten years old stole a horse a near by farm. She always wanted her own horse.

After the film screened, I took photos of Tiny, her kids and Martin Bell for her camera.




Tiny & me

I drove to Pike Place to find the bricks on the ground with Lulu and Dewayne's names.

I had been grossly naive to think that Streetwise had been adopted at Pike Place as a monument.



I found crowded lines for doughnuts and fish. Not a soul knew anything about the documentary Streetwise. After looking for a plague of names for a hour and seriously annoying well to do Sunday shoppers, I gave in and went to information.

While the information person did not know about Streetwise, he did help me find Lulu and Dewayne's plagues. Apparently, many people get their names on plaques on the floor. He got out a booklet and searched names. Dewayne and Lulu were placed near one another—this comforted me.



I ran over to the space outside of the craft doughnut stand. And there on the floor were these two plagues.

Seattle feels haunted. Maybe it is the fog and rain. I like that it is that way to me.

When I left North Bend, I felt that I had met pieces of Laura Palmer, she was all of these kids. All these things I will never completely know.

I like that it is haunted.







Additional note:

Tiny for marimba and bass clarinet



As Tiny stated her relationship with her horse. Tiny and her horses. “The horse is my main best animal.” She says in Streetwise as a thirteen year old kid. And thirty years later, her Mom recites a story of how Erin at ten years old stole a horse from a nearby farm.



She always wanted her own horse. This piece is a moment of time where Erin gets to be with her horse. Without a past, present or future, that is known to anyone of us, she gets to have a girlhood once again. This piece about Erin meeting her horse and riding, being lost in the connection to her girlhood dream, and being free any past, present and future. Additional note:

Revisiting girlhood is often something women are not encouraged to do. Yet, comic book conventions and toy trading remain popular for men. It is precious and important for women to revisit their girlhood, to check in and empathize with who we were before we were sexualized. Often the developmental change from girlhood to teenager is one that is violent, involved shame or trauma. Perhaps that is why this quiet and precious area of our lives maybe so hard to reach. However, it does exist within us and we all deserve to reconnect to those moments.

23 views
  • SoundCloud Basic Black
  • Black Twitter Icon

KML Proudly created with Wix.com