1977

Alaska Journal

 

 

       I'm sitting in a toilet stall in a campground lavatory in San Luis Obisbo, California. Today is the first day of my northern adventure. So far it was pretty nice.
       This morning Marvis and I got all of my shit together, stuffed it into my yellow '75 Mazda wagon, drove out to Santa Monica and had breakfast. We talked for several hours and I truly like him. He dropped me off in Malibu where I began my trek.
       My first ride was in a VW van with a couple, a child,another hitchhiker named Andrew and many photos of Sri Krishna and one of a dolphin having a baby. Next, a fellow with no chin picked me and Andrew up. I drove, singing all the way, while the chinless fellow studied a speech for school. We got off in Santa Barbara. We spent the next three hours there, getting acquainted and alternating sticking out our thumbs, until a black van stopped.
       The three guys in the van were from British Columbia and were total rowdies, guzzling wine, drinking beer after beer and smoking hash (I joined in). The driver was crazed, weaving and going about 90 mph. We stopped and were all urinating on the side of the freeway when a cop pulled up.
       He said, "Go find a john or a bush, but don't water your lizards on the road." He asked to see the inside of the van and a half a dozen beer cans came clattering out onto the pavement. He let us off with a warning. (Close call #1).
       These guys dropped Andrew and I where the Pacific Coast Highway forks to the 101.
       We ate fish and chips at a place that Andrew knew of, then were taken to a nearby campsite in the back of a pickup truck.
       And here we are. Andrew has gone to sleep, while I, having drunk coffee with my fish, am still awake. I cleansed myself and am now writing this while sitting on a toilet in the campground john.
       Nighttime is so odd and eerie. It would be difficult spending my first night alone. I'm glad I'm not. Andrew knows a goodly amount about movies, so I've been spouting my usual jive. He's been listening, too. He's going to Oregon so we may continue traveling together. Perhaps not -- we'll see. However a friend made is never really lost, unless of course I just forget him, but now he's on paper, so I won't.

       I'm now sitting in my tent in the woods in British Columbia, by myself. This is the first time I have been alone since I left Los Angeles (except for being in an occasional restaurant or gas station restroom).
       Anyway. . . Andrew and I left Morro Bay and hitched together for the next four days. He turned out to be a bright, kind of shy arid slightly self conscious, good human being. We proceeded up Pacific Coast Highway 1 and got a ride from a fellow named Andrew in a red Datsun pickup truck. He kept us stoned and supplied with beer for the next two days.
       This Andrew was sixteen years old and tried to impress us older, bearded guys, with his tapes (,Jackson Browne, Dave Mason, George Carlin, etc.) and dope and gave us each a hit of speed. He took us to Berkeley after we had stayed the night in Big Sur, ate spaghetti with sardines. ( fishy !) and stopped very quickly in San Francisco.
       Andrew and I were then picked up and taken to Corning, California by a fellow I believe was named Bill who had had the bridge of his nose shot off in 'Nam. He had tons of war stories about gooks getting shot open like cans of tomatoes, him getting shot at in his patrol boat. (PBR) a bullet coming up through the floor, then through the fat of his stomach and out his cheek, and about fucking Vietnamese woman for candy bars and bars of soap, and also having them blow him with his . 45 pressed against their head so they wouldn't bite it off. He told us about his girlfriend who was a millionaire and bought him an $11,000. van which he wanted to give back because she couldn't buy and possess him. His little girl fell asleep on my lap, causing me to lose feeling in both legs, then pain and agony.
       Bill dropped us off in Corning and told us it was the best place to hitchhike in the area. After standing for a half an hour with two cars going past, we were picked up by a hippie in a V-dub and informed that Corning was absolutely the worst place to hitchhike. Next was a shoe salesman with a kilo of Thai weed which he wouldn't smoke with us, then a researcher from The University of California, Davis, who was working on a cure for premature births in cattle.
       As we were heading out of a little town in northern California, we ran into a kid we had met before in the car with the researcher. He gave us the ramp and walked up the freeway. After a bit we walked up on the road, too. All of a sudden a cop coming from the north made a youie and nabbed the kid, but didn't see us. Frantically we dashed down the ramp and were not seen. (Close call #2) .

       After several hours in the dark we were picked up by a hippie couple named Dan and Barb who took us to Oregon, where they are from. When we neared their hometown it was 5:00 A. M. so we pulled into a park, tossed our sleeping bags on the lawn and crashed.
       As I lay in my bag on the edge of sleep I could suddenly feel a presence lurking over me. I opened my eyes and two feet from my face was a dark figure with long hair hanging down to within an inch of my nose. This scared me shitless and I gasped. The face pulled back slightly and it was Dan. He was wearing blue jeans and nothing else.
       "Get up," he whispered.
       "Huh? What?"
       "Barb wants you to come over and screw her."
       "What?"
       "She wants both of us to fuck her. She likes it. Come on." He started back over to Barb.
       "Jesus," I mumbled, not knowing quite what to do next.
       Andrew glanced over, then went back into his bag.
       I went over to where Dan and Barb were and found her naked on top, with the sleeping bag covering the rest. She was very pretty with long brown hair and a trim body with small firm breasts. Dan slid down the sleeping bag revealing her to be entirely nude, ran his hands over her pubic hair and began fondling her breasts. I was still very apprehensive and Barb could obviously sense it. She smiled warmly.
       "Don't you have a lot of clothes on?" She said as Dan pulled off his pants and climbed into the sleeping bag.
       "Enough for three people," I said and disrobed.
       Dan began fucking her as she gave me head. When he had come, I fucked her while she gave him head. She climaxed while I was on top and almost exactly at the moment a police car drove up.
       Dan pulled the cover over all of us and said, "we're gonna get the shaft," and shut his eyes. Barb and I played dead.
       We heard the cop shut his door, walk over and speak to Andrew who looked over at us with a very rejected expression. The cop came over, turned on his flashlight and aimed it at us, although it was already light out. There being three of us in the bag seemed to sincerely puzzle him.
       "You can't camp here, it says so on the sign.''
       Dan awoke slowly. "Huh?" I had my eyes open, decided not to deal and Barb continued to play dead.
       "Can't camp here," the cop repeated, no longer looking at us, but instead out at the lake beyond. "Says so on the sign in front of the park.''
       "Oh, wow! said Dan. "We didn't see it. We were all real tired and had to crash, we could hardly see anything.''
       Oddly enough the cop looked like he could accept the plausibility of this story, although he still would not look at us. "I could give you a citation ...but I don't think I will. I'll just give you a warning -- this time."
       He finally left after a few more exchanges with no comment on the three of us naked in one sleeping bag. (Close call #:3).
       Barb and Dan took us to their hometown of Medford, Oregon and we stopped at a very beautiful place in the woods across a rickety suspension bridge straddling a fast river. I whipped up some bacon and eggs with my butane stove and mess kit, then washed the dishes in the river and screwed Barb two more times while she looked at pictures of naked women in Penthouse.

       Andy and I decided to backtrack about twenty miles to Ashland for the Shakespeare festival. We saw the Pioneer Day parade go past in Jacksonville. It was absurd, American and fun.
       "Streetcar Named Desire" was playing in Ashland, however we chose not to go, but instead fell asleep on the lawn in front of the theater. That was all of the sleep we got that night.
       A zany chick in an old Mustang convertible blaring Kiss and T. Rex took us a little way, then an absolutely beautiful blonde woman named Chris picked us up in a jacked up Trail Blazer. Andy and I sat in the back with her two boys, Jeff (three and a half) and Steve (seven), who were both cute blond kids. We colored with them while Chris drank one beer after another after another and played Fleetwood Mac, the Doobie Brothers and Carly Simon. These were her only tapes.
       I snoozed off for a bit and awoke in Eugene, Oregon which was Andy's destination and the location of The University Of Oregon. We exchanged addresses, bid each other adieu and he left. We continued north to Seattle where Chris was to attend her brother's wedding.
       Both children were asleep and I moved up to the front seat. Chris and I talked for about an hour, then I took the hit of speed that Andrew in the red Datsun gave me and fell immediately to sleep.
       I awoke in an hour completely awake. Chris and I then talked all night long: about me, about her (she loved riding horse, dune buggying, swimming, driving, and drinking beer. She drank at least twenty beers during this drive. She also happened to be an accountant), I talked about books, which she had never read any of, but wanted to hear about anyway, she talked about her husband and marriage, about tripping, about religion (she was Presbyterian). She bought me breakfast at a Denny's outside Seattle, then dropped me off on 85th St. right in Seattle.
       A man going to play golf who had served in northern Africa during World War Two dropped me off near a bridge where two exceptionally ugly American Indians picked me up. They were so big and muscular and mean looking with scars and bruises and scabs that when they offered me a warm Ranier beer I was ever so polite and gracious in accepting.
       When they began speaking their tribal language, pointing at me and laughing I became certain that they were going to kill me. I became very aware of the Buck knife on my belt. It was a Bar Mitzvah present and had my initials in old English on the blade.
       These terror Indians dropped me off in Marysville, Washington with absolutely no ado about anything. There I sat for the next two and a half hours.
       An older Canadian couple, who quickly informed me that they were naturalized Americans, took me to the border of the U.S.A. and Canada -- Sumas, Washington and Huntingdon, British Columbia, where I was detained by a young, female, immigration official who checked and rechecked everything in my past for hours, but never checked my backpack. She asked if I had ever been denied entrance to Canada and I answered no and began to sweat because I was lying.
       Four hours later , after her supervisor had grilled me, too, I was given a one week visa. I lit out across the border into British Columbia.
       After a short ride from an older Canadian couple that were just like the Canadian couple on the other side of the border, I stood for several long hours on a ramp in the hot sun. A sign at the end of the ramp read, "No hitchhiking on freeway. Pickups are illegal."
       I edged my way to the end of the ramp feeling hot and paranoid, but lost the latter when two cops went by and didn't even slow down.
       Finally, a pickup truck stopped and an old guy missing the end of his thumb picked me up. He told me of a female bike rider he'd picked up earlier that day who was going to Mexico. He gave me a can of pop and two cans of fruit juice, which I just this very second drank the last of. He made me promise to write from Alaska. I promised.
       The next ride was also in a pickup truck with two big Irish Setters in the back. The driver, a chubby bearded man with long hair, was a teacher. He taught Indian children in a one room schoolhouse in Clinton, B. C. He asked me if I wanted to smoke some pot and said, "It's Columbian, not British Columbian.''
        It was raining when I got out, so I ducked into the very buggy woods, pitched my tent and here I am.

       I am in Tok. Junction, Alaska! I'm not sure what to say because it's not that fantastic. It's nice, of course, but it's not too much different from British Columbia or the Yukon, which are both great.

       Since I haven't much money ($225) and it takes at least $200 to cross back into the U. S., I'll only be able to stay a few days, perhaps less, things are awfully expensive up here. It doesn't really seem like that much of a crime, however. It's all very beautiful, but scenery has never gotten me off for too long. People is what it's all about, and I'll meet more of those back on the road. So far I've met some pretty good ones.
       Now let's see. . . (I just had a fantasy of killing a bear with my Buck: knife ...God!). After crashing in Clinton, B.C., I walked about a mile up the road (a motorcycle just zipped by through the woods). Anyway, I sat in the same place for about five hours in the rain and was finally picked up by some friendly freaks (thank God for them) in a beat-up customized van, going to Prince George, B.C. We smoked a couple of joints, drank tequila sunrises and had a very pleasant journey.
       I walked through Prince George, got a ride out of town from a local freak who gave me a pack of cigars, and then sat for many hours. A fourteen year old kid strolled up to the little store I was sitting in front of and we talked for several hours. I gave him the pack of cigars, then we went back: to the trailer park: where he lived and I set up my tent.

       It rained all night long and by morning my tent was completely soaked through and my sleeping bag was soaking wet. as well. I used the trailer park facilities, shit, showered and dried all my stuff for free.
       I hitchhiked many hours in front of the trailer park the next day until a fellow named Andrew (there's been quite a few of those on this trip so far) in a 1958 Pontiac Strato Chief picked me up. There was no floorboard on the passenger side so I could see the road whizzing past beneath my feet.
       Andrew was a friendly guy who was going to work on a road crew for the summer in Fort St. John. His Dad had gotten him the job because he was still in high school--"Some job, aye?" The muffler on his car dropped off and had to be wired back on, then fell off two more times.
       We stopped for a pretty blonde girl who was hitchhiking. She got in the back and I asked her if she was frightened hitching alone? She said that she was a barmaid in Inuvik, which is in the Northwest Territories on the Arctic circle, and that all she ever dealt with were horny woodsmen and loggers and if she could handle them, she could handle anything else that ever came down. We both believed her.


       I got a short ride out of Fort St. John from a couple from Windsor, Ontario (which is just across the river from Detroit).
       I was then picked up by a really tremendous person named Tom who had a bushy beard, drove Datsun pickup camper and was going all the way to Fairbanks, Alaska.
       Tom and I talked movies, books, life, sang Simon and Garfunkel, James Taylor, Crosby, Stills and Nash and basically got along fine. He was going to work on the pipeline for the third time. He tried talking me into staying longer in Alaska and getting a job. Tom truly loved Alaska.
       He told me about working at a pipeline camp near the Arctic circle where it would get to be eighty degrees below zero and everyone would get so tired from working that they couldn't even 1ook up. Due to this he physically ran into a guy and when they looked up at each other they realized that they had gone to elementary school together in Wisconsin. He said they had the world's ugliest hookers at the pipeline camp that charged $500. He said after a few months they really seemed beautiful to him.

       At some point Tom and I tried to get some sleep in the camper on the back of the truck, but these tiny horrible little biting bugs called no seams drove us nuts, so we kept going.
       The next evening we were in Whitehorse, Yukon where we saw both Jack London and Robert W. Service's cabins on Lake LaBarge (where Sam Magee gets cremated. I actually have a copy of Service's poem "The Cremation of Sam Magee" with me). Tom and I had a drink at The Whitehorse Inn and saw a rock band made up of Indians in blue shirts singing Peter Frampton songs. We both thought this was very funny.
       We stopped for the night one hundred miles outside of Whitehorse, then continued straight through to Alaska along the AlCan Highway -- eighteen hundred miles of dirt road. The gas stations begin getting further and further apart until there are three hundred mile stretches between them and the gas gauge is right on 'E' .
       At one gas station somewhere in the Yukon there were signs posted all over the place stating, "Free ice cream with fill up," and between the gas pumps was an old freezer. An old man with a big white beard and wearing all kinds of rubber rain gear (although it was sunny) came out and filled us up. He said, "Don't forget about your free ice cream."
       After the tank was full and we had paid he began to walk away we said, "What about the free ice cream?" and he hook his head. "Damn, I almost forgot." He went into the freezer and handed each of us the smallest ice creams on stick either one of us had ever seen.
       Tom dropped me off in Tok Junction, Alaska, which is about one hundred and fifty miles across the border -- and here I am.
       I went to pitch my tent in the woods and passed a graveyard of snow moving equipment. There were probably twenty rusted out chassis, some looking like they might be Model Ts.
       The bugs are so intense, moving in gigantic swarms, that I cooked my dinner of beef, onions and potatoes here in the tent with my little butane stove. A few moment ago a large dog began barking at me. Scared shitless, I got out my knife and waited. The dog had its teeth bared, circled my tent several times, barked some more, then left. I'm still scared. This wild fucking country! I'm smoking a cigarette right now in an attempt to dispel the odor of food. I'm convinced that the dog has gone to get it's friends the wolves and bears.


       I've slept for many hours, woken up several times and gone back to sleep, but now I'm finally awake. From inside the tent it looks to be a beautiful, bright, breezy day -- and yet it could be any time of the day or night, for the sun never sets up here.
       Nevertheless, I'm pretty sure that it's morning.
       Traveling alone has many advantages: getting rides quicker and making much better time, but alone at night is so empty and disconcerting (even if it isn't dark). It's not the way to travel on a vacation.

       I have decided to leave Alaska and head home. It is wonderfully ironic that I should spend but two days in the largest state in the union, but I can't find a reason to stay longer.

       Well, I've been sitting on the side of the road in Tok Junction now for about nine hours and it's been alternately cold, sunny, boring, amusing and very, very buggy. It is probably eighty degrees now and I am wearing jeans, hiking boots, a winter army jacket, gloves and a mosquito head net and still the I'm being eaten up. Every ten or fifteen minutes I spray myself with army surplus bug repellent and I keep moving, which is all that has stopped these oversized mosquitoes from picking me up and carrying me away.
       Looking east, toward Fairbanks, the Alaska mountain range looms in the distance. The highest peak, I believe, is Mt. Kimball at 10,350 feet. Many of the mountains are snow-capped and all are very impressive.
       The clouds are abundant and soft and the sun sits shrouded off to the right, certainly not ready to set, but not too far from the horizon, either. To my left is Farren's Groceries with a sign stating, "Meat, Prod., Fishing Tackle, Guns, Film and Ice." Two frozen, lounging, cement bears, one Polar, the other Grizzly, guard the store's entrance. To my right, the Alaska Visitor Information Center and the Tok Community Library, which serves free coffee (I've had six cups), and has nice clean bathrooms (which I've also partaken of several times). Beyond that is a small weigh station. Behind me a sign reads, "No studded tires -- May 1 to Sept. 15."
       An Airstream Trailer Club is meeting at the trailer park around the corner and so far one hundred and forty Airstream trailers have arrived -- all silver rounded jobs, and all mud coated.

       I'm in Beaver Creek, Yukon, which is the border to Alaska. After hitchhiking in Tok Junction for nine hours, I was in the midst of a conversation with some Airstreamers and had just told them that big trucks never pick up hitchhikers when ...I was picked up by a big truck.
       Unfortunately, he only took me ten miles to a truck stop. I bummed a smoke from a guy there and he gave me the whole pack. I was very appreciative.
       On the road I was given a lift by a pickup full of Indians who also stopped for another hitchhiker (a half-breed named Pat with real long hair and a bad attitude). They dropped us off about forty miles up the road, then we walked fourteen miles until we reached a U. S. Army Restricted Fuel Testing Center. We spent the rest of the night there, then, in the morning, we started back to a cafe we read passed several miles before. Two burned out guys in a shitty looking blue car that had passed us the day before, stopped for us going in the wrong direction (the right direction for the cafe, though). They had been turned away at the border (here) for having neither proof of insurance for the car, nor I.D. and were going back to Anchorage to get a flight out. Since Pat had no I.D. either, he went with them.

       The damn cafe was closed, so I sat there for several hours until another pickup truck full of Indians picked me up. The cab had four people in it, so I got in the back with two Indian kids, one of whom was blind and had totally white eyes, the other had withered legs and aluminum crutches. Between them sat a cardboard box stuffed with bags of Doritos and cans of Pepsi and the two crippled Indians scarfed this shit non-stop for a hundred miles without ever offering me any, or even speaking a word to me. They took me to the American side of the border, twenty miles from Canada, where they lived in a log cabin with pelts on stick racks drying outside. The four adults got out of the cab and walked up the rutted path to the cabin leaving the kid with crutches to make his own way, while the blind kid held the box of junk food in one hand and the crippled kid's shirt with his other.
       I walked for ten or twelve miles and saw two cars pass going the other way. The sun went around the sky in a circle and it rained once every hour for about ten minutes. By the time I stopped, got my poncho out of my pack and over my head, the rain had generally stopped.
       I had forgotten to fill up my canteen and had no water. The further I walked the drier my mouth got and my thirst became the overriding thought in my head. I began to eye the little muddy streams of water coursing across the road, but didn't quite feel like sucking mud, or stopping and boiling the shit out. I just kept walking and walking, my head down, watching my boots go up and down and feeling the blisters on my feet. Suddenly a big black bear came running across the road about twenty feet in front of me. It went by so fast I didn't have time to get scared. I kept walking and then a giant moose stepped out of the woods with a baby moose. The baby appeared bigger than me. I froze into a pillar of salt. The big moose looked right at me for a long, calculated moment, then decided I was not a threat and disappeared into the woods with the baby. Now my mouth and throat were so dry I could barely breath. I was ready to suck mud, but now there was none of that to be seen. Lo and behold, sitting right on the side of the road was a full, unopened care of Coca-Cola. I looked to heaven and gave thanks, drank a third of the can in a gulp and poured the remainder into my canteen. I consider this to be a miracle. A minor one for sure, but a miracle nevertheless.
       I was finally picked up by a big tour bus completely full of people. I stood at the front beside the driver and the passengers raised their hands and asked me questions, like where I started and how long it took me to get here?
       There is zilch traffic here in Beaver creek, Yukon, so I'll probably be here for quite a while. If I can just get over that damned ACLU highway things will be just fine.
       I just finished "The End Of The Road" by John Barth and it was amazingly good.


       I am now sitting beside the road in Cache Creek, British Columbia heading east on Trans-Canada #1 toward Kamloops. The bugs are biting, but only a minor annoyance compared to Alaska. But of course, how did I get back to British Columbia?
       As I sat in front of the tourist information center in Beaver Creek, Yukon, two drunk truckers stumbled out of the Alas/Kon Lodge and told me that: if I was still there in the morning they would take me to Vancouver.
       About 1:30 A. M. I was walking in circles so that the mosquitoes wouldn't nest in my hair when the two drunk truckers pulled up in their eighteen wheel White Star Western truck and picked me up. The driver, Max, was a thin, light -haired guy of thirty-seven from Vancouver and had a growth on the bridge of his nose. The other was Curtis, a pucker-lipped, very accented Canadian from New Foundland who swore continuously. Both of them were still totally looped and Max had vomited only moments before picking me up and it smelled like it. In just a few swerving miles, Max gave up and changed places with Curtis in the sleeper. Curtis looked awful (although he didn't look much better sober) and within just a few minutes hit the air brake with a hiss, stopped and tossed his cookies in the middle of the road. Now the cab smelled really terrible.
       Since either one or the other of these guys was always asleep in the sleeper or driving, I ended up in the air controlled passenger seat for three whole days. There was no place to lean my head, for when I did my head smashed into the metal edge of the speaker, which continually blared Freddie Fender in my left ear. "Wasted days and wasted nights..." I got very little sleep and quite a few cracks on the head.
       Max was on his second marriage and had a seventeen year old son in Vancouver. Curtis was into eating women out and felching and was grossly graphic about it. "Straight fuckin' is for Chinamen."
       It was a long three days.


       Now it's 6:00 A. M. and I'm sitting beside the road in Cache Creek, B. C. which is known for its over abundance of rattle snakes. It actually looks like Texas; dry, hilly and scrubby. I'm beat and filthy. My last shower was six days ago God!

       After standing at the junction of 97 and Trans Canada ##1 for about an hour and a half, I decided I was too tired, dirty and messed up to continue. Another hitchhiker came walking up the ramp as I started down. The minute he stuck out his thumb he got a ride.
       I got a room at the Oasis Hotel in Cache Creek and that's where I am right now.

       I slept for eleven hours and am wonderfully clean. I'd forgotten that I had soft hair.
       The only movie theater here in Cache Creek is a drive in. What good does that do me? It's just as well, perhaps, since if when I get to Calgary "New York, New York" has opened, I am going to go see it. It has been thirteen days since I've seen a movie. The longest stretch since before I got to Los Angeles in 1976. I'm cleansing my mind and soul. It's also putting a little bit of the thrill of going to see a motion picture back into me. The next movie I see, good or bad, will probably be a lot of fun.
       I can presently recall the thrill of sitting in a dimly lit movie theater and waiting for the lights to go down.

       I'm still wasted. All that sitting in the truck without sleep really wiped me out, gave me acne an my ass and legs and left me stiff as a board. This R&R is more necessary than I thought. Luckily, I don't have to be out of this hotel room until noon tomorrow. I was actually pretty paranoid when I first got here this morning that they would boot me out of here at noon today. I was truly wasted.
       During the long, long truck ride I thought quite a bit about Detroit, the people there and Robin. In my mind I must have told her to fuck herself twenty time. I doubt that I'll ever really tell her, though. I'm having great difficulty picturing faces -- anyone's. That's why I can tell everyone in my head what I really think, I can't see them.
       I have to defecate for the third time. When I leave there I'll be as pure as Ivory Snow.

       As soon as I got into the room I pulled off my boots it had been five days, since Tok Junction -- and popped my Alaskan water blisters. Big ones on both feet. They're healing quite well now.

       Since I spent all day sleeping, I'm having great difficulty getting to sleep now. So far I've watched Monty Python, Room 222, Barny Miller and M.A.S.H., ate some candy bars, took another shower, took another sauna and here we are. I'm just not tired.

       It is Dominion Day.
       I'm now in a hotel room in Upsala, Ontario. Rob, the fellow who picked me up yesterday outside Calgary, is asleep in the bed. I'm in the bathroom.
       After I left the Oasis Hotel in Cache Creek, I got eight rides from unknown kindly human beings who weren't traveling very far (between ten and forty miles each). One ride was from an old geezer named Ernie in a pickup truck who kept saying, "British Columbia is the most beautiful. place in the world. You want beauty, you got it here. I wouldn't live nowhere else. 'Course I was out on the Atlantic coast in '26 and that's real beauty. Worked on a fishing boat, and boy did we see things there. Beautiful as can be."
       As I got out of the truck we finally introduced ourselves. When I told him my name was Becker he said, "Becker? I "ll never forget that name. I once spent twenty-two hours gettin' a guy named Tom Becker out of a caved-in well. First we got his head out, then we lowered rum down to him in a vanilla bottle. We drove a shaft down next to the well, but when Tom come out he was sober as a judge. Twenty-two hours it took."
       I hitched for four hours in Revelstoke, B.C., then climbed a small mountain and pitched my tent on top.
       The next morning a fellow in a Capri who was on the faculty at Calgary College (or University of Calgary, I can't remember which) on the theater staff, took me to Calgary.
       As I walked through the very modern and clean downtown area of Calgary, I drew many 1ooks with my beard and big pack on. A fellow wearing a day pack sidled up beside me at a street crossing and we began to talk. He asked where I was going and I said a movie. This seemed to amuse him. We walked for a while together, got a newspaper and found out where "New York, New York" was playing and he showed me how to get there. He asked if I wanted to get high and I said yes. We stopped at a vacant lot, sat down on a log and smoked some really sweet hash.
       We both got pretty stoned, laughed and kidded around, then he went his way I went mine.
       The movie blew.
       I hitched out.
       Rob, the fellow in the bed asleep, picked me up and drove for thirty hours straight. He is so emotionless he is almost catatonic. We haven't exchanged fifteen minutes worth of conversation in thirty hours. He has one goddamn fucking 8-track tape -- Deep Purple -- which he never takes out, turns down or anything. He has a garbage bag full of beef jerky in the back seat. Every forty-five minutes he says, "Hey, could you hand me some of that beef turkey." After the third or fourth time I asked, "Why do you call it 'turkey?' it's called jerky," and he said., "I like to call it turkey. Hand me some more of that beef turkey." And that's how it went all the way across Canada, the second largest country in the world.
       At some point after we passed Sault St. Marie I fell asleep for the nine-hundreth time and began having a very vivid dream about that beautiful woman named Chris who took: me to Seattle. In my dream we stopped and made love in the back of her Trail Blazer. I awoke to an orgasm. I looked over at Rob and he was staring straight ahead, his face completely expressionless, Deep Purple blaring out of the speakers. I asked if we could stop at a gas station, went in and cleaned myself up.
       Rob dropped me in Chatham, Ontario. I got one more ride to Windsor, then called my parents from the border and they came and picked me up. We ate Lebanese food at The Sheik, then came home and here I am.
       My father and my little sister took me out to 1 94 and I started on my way back: to California. My nose is stuffed and my allergies are out of control. I won't miss the ragweed of Michigan.
       After several rides I was dropped at an exit near Jackson, Michigan that did not have an on ramp. I walked for about a mile before I began hitchhiking on the freeway, which is illegal. In moments a Michigan Highway Patrol car stopped. I'm fucked, I thought as I approached the car. However this happened to be the coolest cop in history and he said, "Jump in, I'll take you to a much better place to hitchhike a few miles up." He asked where I was going and said that he and his family were going to take their camper to California next summer. When he let me off he said he'd come back in an hour to see if I was still there, in which case tee's take me up to the next exit.
       I got a short ride to the other side of Jackson and was dropped off beside a sign that said, "No Hitchhiking. Prison Area." I felt this might hamper my chances of getting a ride, but no, within minutes a beat up old camper stopped for me. In the cab was a fat ugly woman with growths on her face and lip and a man driving who was fatter and uglier. He told me that he was just convicted of felonious assault and bearing arms and would probably get six years. They gave me several bottles of some strange, off brand soda pop that I kept imagining was poison and dropped me off in Paw Paw.
       When I got to Joliet, Illinois and was comfortably positioned on the freeway ramp, I sprayed my aching stuffed nose with Afrin nose spray. It says on the bottle to not use it for more than three days in a row. I had been using it for over a week. Suddenly, my nose began to pour blood. Not just some little dribble of a nose bleed, I'm talking a torrent of blood from both nostrils. By the time I got to the top of the ramp blood was cascading over- my hand, down my arm, all over my beard and the front of my jacket. I stumbled into a Wendy's Hamburgers for some napkins and several. people screamed when they saw me. I quickly reassured everyone in the place it was just a nose bleed and began blotting myself. The employees of Wendy's were very helpful and brought me some ice and soon it stopped. I ate a hamburger, cleaned up in the bathroom and started back on my way.
       I was then picked up by an older guy named Virgil with a speech impediment in a yellow VW bug. He had been agent for the IRS. He brought me here to his children's house in Iowa City where they are all attending college. His youngest daughter, Amy, is so gorgeous it's insane. She is dark complected, has straight black hair down to her very shapely butt and was wearing a little white lace halter top that barely covered anything. I'm fantasizing that as soon as everyone goes to sleep she comes down here to the basement bedroom where I presently am and fucks my brains out.
       After I left Iowa City, Virgil gave me a ride to the freeway and a guy with two German Shepards picked me up. He told me very seriously that I should name my backpack. He said the best thing to name it after would be a great American city. To please him I named my pack Pittsburgh.
       The next ride was in a '71, white Grand Prix with a black vinyl top. Two guys were in it: Billy driving and Mike in the passenger seat, and they were going all the way to California. This seemed like a really great ride for about ten seconds until Billy, which was poorly tattooed on his arm, took a gigantic slug of whiskey, swerved across both lanes and nearly hit an embankment at eighty miles an hour. I thought to myself, if I'm supposed to die in a white Grand Prix in Iowa, here I am. When Billy raised the bottle to take another inhuman slug I saw that his right index finger was cut so deeply that six stitches probably wouldn't have closed it up and his middle finger was severed at the first knuckle.
       Miraculously, we got to Altoona and Billy filled up with a "borrowed" 76 credit card, then got a little trucker's room so we could all shower. Since I knew I would never get back into a car with him, I figured what the hell, I may as well take a shower.
       In the room, Mike's pants were torn real bad in back. and Billy volunteered to go down to the car and get him some others. Mike and I talked for a while and he told me a particularly boring story about getting picked up by a fag and throwing a brick through the guy's window. Before he started to tell another story I decided to go down and see what was keeping Billy.
       His car was not where he'd parked it, so I walked around the gas station but could not find him. My pack and Mike's suitcase were in the car so we both got panicky and didn't know what to do.
       After a cup of coffee we called the police who came and took down all of the info, then told us to wait a day or two arid give them a call. A half an hour later Billy came walking in. I told him he was in big trouble and demanded the return my pack. I found it completely torn apart in his trunk. I scooped out all of my stuff and told him if he didn't get out of my face I'd cut off the rest of his fingers. He told me I wasn't being cool.
       I put my pack back together and walked down the ramp. A truck stopped and Mike was already inside. He and I hitchhiked together for the rest of the day and he turned out to be a complete blithering idiot who punctuated every sentence with "fuckin' this" and "fuckin' that."
       We were dropped off at the fork going one way to South Dakota and the other to Omaha, Nebraska. We sat there for three or four hours, me getting nutty and singing and him just sitting.
       Finally, a yellow van pulled over. In it were John and Rick, two brothers from Boston that were going all the way to San Diego.
       Somewhere in Nebraska Mike got another ride with a guy going to Sacramento. We were all as glad as hell to be rid of him.
       John and Rick and I hit it off real well. Both of them were really good guys and both of them talked like Kennedys. Neither of them had ever been west before and just freaked out as we went through the Rocky Mountains.
       The van had two flat tires, the lights stopped working and kept flashing on and off, it almost overheated going through the desert, but finally we got to California.
       We were still two hundred and fifty miles outside of L.A. in San Bernadino when we saw two girls standing beside a grey Datsun 280 Z on the side of the road. We stopped to help. They were both Mexican and said that they did not speak English. When John asked if they needed any help they both replied very plainly in English, "No we don't need any help." John said, "Oh, so you do speak English," but they both shook their heads, so we left.
       I was in the back of the van reading Penthouse when Rick said, "Keep your head down, they're shooting at us."
       It turned out that the two Mexican girls had boyfriends hidden somewhere who thought we had done something to the girls, pulled up beside us on the freeway and tried to shoot John with a pistol.
       John ducked down, grabbed the CB radio, asked if there were any smokies on the line and got the Desert Fox, California Highway Patrol. John said that we were being shot at from a grey, Datsun 280 Z with its lights on. Within ten minutes we were told by the Desert Fox to pull a U turn. When we got back to where the Datsun was stopped we found two Highway Patrol cars and a San Bernadino Sheriff. The two Mexican guys had their hands cuffed behind them, were lying on their faces on the pavement (which was certainly over a hundred degrees)and each had a shotgun pressed against the back of his head.
       We all went down to the Barstow Police station, hung around for hours answering the same questions over and over, then left without doing a thing.

       We got to San Diego to John and Rick's sister's house and I crashed in the van. I awoke the next morning at 7:00 and had breakfast with the sister, her husband and their three kids, a cute little girl and two boys with speech impediments that are also slightly Mongoloid, I believe. The sister is an epileptic and her husband is an alcoholic on probation for beating up some Mexicans after he had just served six months in jail for something else. Just your average happy family.

 

 

 

[ Questions or Comments ]


BECKERFILMS SITE MENU

[ Main ]  [ Film & TV Work ]  [ Screenplays [ Old Stuff ]
[
Reviews ]  [ Articles, Essays & Stories ]  [ Ask the Director
[
Favorite Films ]  [ Scrapbook ]  [ Links (& Afterword) ]  [ Web Team ]

This site is the property of Josh Becker Copyright © 2003 Panoramic Pictures, All Rights Reserved.
Panoramic Pictures Logo