23 May 2014

I'm No Kerouac But I've Been on the Road too Once Meeting a Famous Writer -- Or So I Claim



Becky, Ed and I were hitchhiking from Orange County to San Francisco. It was crazy that there were three of us together trying to hitch rides but that’s the way it was. Ed and I had hitched down from Chico for a wedding and at the reception I met Becky and it was an at first sight type of deal and after two days together we determined that she’d move in with me in Chico. This was the Summer of 1975. I was 21 and I think she was 19 maybe 18. We were young and stupid but clicked physically. Ed was one of my great friends of all time. He was a Spanish speaking ex marine hippie cowboy soccer goalie who loved country music soul music poetry sports and beer. He had one testicle which is one less than most of us carry on with but enough to do what a man wants and needs to.

I don't remember our first ride but our second ride was from a memorably nondescript guy. Is it weird to say that he was very or extremely nondescript? Because he was. One of those guys who just blends in wherever he goes and who you forget the second he’s out of sight. It takes forever to remember the names of these kind of guys partly because they’re always a Steve or a Ken or a Bob. Anyway he had to stop at some guy’s apartment for some nondescript reason. He invited us to come along because the other guy the one in the apartment always had beer and we figured why not.

So we go up to this apartment  -- its like nine o’clock or so at night -- it’s actually a pretty nice place and this rather impressive looking guy answers. He’s fairly tall bald and pushing 40 -- that’s my impression anyway, I’ve always been way off at guessing people’s ages never more so than when I was in my early twenties like I was then.

We got the beers as predicted and sat listening to Mr. Nondescript talk to baldy. At one point Mr. ND starts complaining about some people who are “hassling” him.” Baldy asks: “well who are these guys? Are they niggers or spics or faggots or what?” I kind of got the feeling at the time that he was running through these insults as way to draw attention to himself and that maybe he wasn’t really a racist or homophobe. He wanted a rise out of us which was fine. But what were gonna do anyway? Complain about how he spoke in his own place when we’d never been introduced and might have been half his age?

Baldy then pulled out a briefcase and preceded to very carefully open it. Given how meticulous he was being and the strange aura he put off I was very curious about the contents of this briefcase. I was a bit disappointed but considerably surprised nonetheless at what I saw. Row upon row of neatly stacked cigarette packs. I have no idea how many packs but there were a lot and it was one strange sight.

We were only there a few minutes longer before we split and were back on the road. Sometime later I saw a picture of a journalist who I swear is one and the same as baldy. Hunter S. Thompson. I don’t think a sole has every believed me when I’ve recounted this except for people who’ve never heard of Thompson. I understand why people doubt me but the hell with it...I know what -- that is who -- I saw.

After that we were back on the road with Mr. Nondescript. The good news was that he was gonna take us all the way to SF as his plans had changed. This was especially welcome because before he was originally only taking us about half way and we'd have been stuck hitching in the middle of the night. As it was we were on our way. Ed was in the front seat with Mr. ND trying to talk to the guy with little luck because the guy was the quiet type which is in keeping with his being -- as I said -- nondescript. So after awhile Ed mostly looked back and talked to Becky and I. In contrast to the guy he was sitting next to Ed was the least nondescript person I’ve ever known and loved to gab but unlike most talkative people was quite interesting. So the ride wasn’t bad plus Becky and I had only recently met and fallen head over heels so we were on cloud nine.

We’d gotten a late start owing largely to the stop at Baldy’s apartment (who I say was H.S. Thompson). Our driver wouldn’t let anyone else behind the wheel so it was natural that he got quite tired meaning it wasn’t safe for him to drive all night. Finally we stopped somewhere I don’t know exactly where -- but we've turned off the highway into a wooded area -- to sleep for a few hours. Not Becky not Ed nor I object to this plan so grateful are we at not having to hitch anymore. But here’s the hoot: Mr. Nondescript -- who’d barely said anything all night -- announced he was going to take his sleeping and sleep among the trees and asks Becky if she’d like to join him. Really. I mean it was actually quite pathetic. Becky politely declined and that was that. He meekly went on his way to snooze. The guy was a caution I tell ya.

After a few hours of sleep -- Ed in the front seat Becky and I snuggling in the back and Mr. ND off in the woods somewhere -- we were back on the road and greeted the dawn in San Francisco.

Ed had business in other parts of the Bay Area so we parted company and Becky and I headed for the Greyhound Station to bus it the rest of the way to Chico. We stayed together for about nine months before she tired of me and took up with some other guy just as quickly as she’d taken up with me. I spent a few weeks feeling sorry for myself then moved on.

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