“North to Alaska”
This run to Tijuana was the most demoralizing bus ride ever. For one thing I didn’t have a chance to bake another loaf of banana pot bread to smooth the way. Second of all I had three long and lonely days to think about the events that brought me to this particular trajectory. What the hell was I doing? How can this debacle that I embroiled myself in be remedied? I didn’t see any feasible solutions as I peered out into the endless Mexican desert. And last but not least, all the way from Mexico City to Tijuana a fellow passenger sitting very near me would periodically cut the most retched farts that filled the whole bus with a toxic cloud that made everyone gasp for air. Oh God, I almost blew a gasket. The ride from Hell finally ended at the border. I crossed into California with no problem. I jumped on a Greyhound to Bakersfield figuring it would be easier to hitch hike from there to Stockton on the infamous High Way “99″.
I only had to wait a few minutes before a man in a pickup stopped and gave me a ride to Fresno. He reminded me of a lumber jack with his short hair and full black beard. After a few miles and some small talk he asked me if I would like to join him in a puff of hash. Yes, yes I certainly would! The ride to Fresno was a breeze. He dropped me off, shook my hand and wished me good luck. A most pleasant ride indeed. Again, just a few minutes later another pickup rumbled to a stop. Alright, at this rate I might make it to Stockton before night fall. The driver was an average straight looking white dude maybe a farmer’s son. After some silent moment peppered with chitchat he asked where I was going. “Stockton”, I replied. He gave me a thoughtful stare and stated, “Look here, I’ll give you a ride all the way to Stockton if you let me give you a blow job”. Blindsided I was momentarily speechless. Not quite believing what I just heard, I coughed up, “What”? He reiterated and clarified his proposal, “I said, I’ll take you to Stockton if you let me suck you cock”. Oh fuck! That is what I thought he said. Not wanting to offend this chap’s sensibilities and yet be resolute so there was no ambiguity I responded by telling him I truly appreciated his generous offer but I was a hopeless heterosexual and therefore had to gracefully decline the invitation. He immediately swerved off the freeway and came to a sliding stop on the shoulder. “Unless you change your mind, this is where you get out”, he ordered. I got out and he sped away in a cloud of dust. Whew! That could have gone wrong in so many ways. So, now I was standing in the middle of nowhere; brown fields as far as I could see. The freeway shoulder was too narrow for anyone to safely pull over. The traffic was zooming by, this didn’t look good. A car finally pulled over but it was the Highway Patrol. Great! He ushered me into his car and asked for identification. The first piece I showed him was my honorable discharge papers from the Air Force then my passport and driver’s license. He asked me what I did in the Air Force. “Security Police”, I said proudly. He liked that answer and gave me a ride to a better hitch hiking spot and drove off with his red lights flashing to some emergency up the freeway. I stood for several hours and not a hint of anyone even thinking of pulling over. It was now getting dark, cold and foggy. No one in their right mind would pull over now. I heard a train coming down the tracks that paralleled “99″. Maybe I could jump the train and crawl into an empty box car. Not happening, the train was moving way to fast. Ok then, I made one last effort to hitch a ride before finding some kind of shelter from the cold. Just as I was ready to give up a classic white 1959 Cadillac full of young hippies pulled up to me. “Need a ride”, the shotgun passenger yelled. I jumped into the back seat between two young farm boys. “Smoke some pot”? the young long haired driver asked. “Is a pig’s pussy pork”? I quipped (a term I learned from my sergeant in basic training). They howled at my response, passed a joint and then invited me to a party. I was on board; maybe I could find a couch to crash on for the night.
After a few miles the driver skirted off the freeway onto a little two lane road towards some lights off in the distance. I began to get a little concerned; the four young men were acting a tad peculiar. “Where are we going”? I inquired. “Chowchilla” they sang in unison and then started to laugh hysterically which spiked my concern even more. The only thing I knew about Chowchilla was its’ reputation of being an ultra-conservations farming community saddled in the bible belt of San Joaquin Valley. We abruptly came to the only stop light in this one horse town. On the corner adjacent to us in an old gas station was a gathering of big young white farm boys. I mean these guys were authentic cowboys! From their Stetsons, tight Levi’s and fancy Saturday night cowboy boots to their pickups with beer stacked on the hoods, my God, they were the real deal. The gang of young men saw us and began to yell, “There they are”! They reached into their trucks and pulled out some heavy artillery, shotguns and rifles! I’m thinking, “Holy Hell, are they getting ready to shoot at the Cadillac full of hippies. They then aimed at us and began firing. I saw my life flash before my eyes, is this how I’ll go out, in a hail of gunfire and in of all places, Chowchilla! They kept firing but their aim was over the vehicle. On cue from the head Cowboy they stopped firing. He yelled at our young driver, “Hey Jimmy, this is the best God Damn acid ever”. Jimmy yelled back, “I told you so”. “Jimmy, get us some weed, ok”. Jimmy assured them, “Ok, we will be right back, stay put”. They started hootin and hollerin again followed by more playful gun fire. Whew!! All that gun play was just a relatively harmless but terribly frightening salute to their young hippy drug connection. The light turned green we sped off. Holy shit, gun happy cowboys on acid! This is an unnatural and probably dangerous combination. Who would have thought? The crew I was with started to giggle. Holy shit, these guys were also trippin on acid! What next?
We pulled into a small country house and piled out. God it felt good to be standing and alive. Jimmy disappeared into a bedroom and returned with a baggy full of pot. “Come on”, he ordered,” Let’s get this weed back to those crazy cowboys before they shoot somebody”. Just as we were leaving the phone rang and Jimmy answered it. His eyes got really big and slammed the phone down. “We gotta go now”! It was something about one of their cousins’ involvement in a gun battle. What is this and who is this and why do I have to go with them? Before those questions could be answered I found myself in the back seat on the way to an old fashion shootout. Holy Hell! Things just couldn’t possibly get any worse, but they did! The young stud sitting next to me realized that one of his kin was on the opposing side of the dispute. He freaked out and brandished a gun just inches from my head screaming, ‘That’s my cousin you’all are shooting at”! The youngster on my right pulled his gun out and pointing it just inches from my head and yelled back, “Put your gun down”! Holy mother of all fucked up places to be! Here I was sandwiched between the Hatfields and McCoys who are on acid and angry. Once again, my life flashed before my eyes. At that moment I was thinking maybe I shouldn’t have been so hasty and let my sexual convictions preclude a blow job from that guy in the pickup; I probably would have been in Stockton by now. Jimmy and his copilot were also screaming for everyone to calm down and put their guns away. Reason took hold and my two young adversaries re-holstered their firearms. We arrived at a ranch in a cloud of dust and scrambled out of the car. I’m still wondering how and why I have to be involved in this family feud. Someone came running up to Jimmy saying that everything was ok, the dispute was resolved no one was hurt. I took this moment of calm to reach in my pants to make sure I hadn’t defecated in a moment of extreme fear. All clear, what a relief. We all shoved ourselves back in the car and headed back to town and deliver the bag of weed to the acid buzzed cowboys. Sure enough they were hanging out at the gas station and acting crazier than ever. Jimmy asked me if I still wanted to party with them. I took this opportunity to escape and told him it was imperative that I get to Stockton and needed to get back to the freeway. Besides, I had enough excitement for one night. It was now very dark, cold and foggy. I would not be visible alongside the freeway. I found a little shelter under the overpass, slipped into my sleeping bag and thanked the almighty for sparing my life.
The next day luck was with me and I got a ride all the way to Stockton. I hooked up with some friends and sequestered myself in their basement for a few days. The time had come for me to stop feeling sorry for myself and try to resolve this convoluted situation I was sinking into. My ill-conceived plan of going to Alaska was taken off the table. I couldn’t imagine myself doing hard labor in the frozen Yukon tundra. Hiding out in Stockton was definitely not in the cards. I couldn’t stay on the lam trying to evade myself forever. I had to man up and return to Cholula to face the consequences. I borrowed some money to fly back to Mexico. I was not going to try and hitch hike again.
Touching down in Mexico City woke me from a vivid dream; I saw a pack of Camel cigarettes carefully placed on our kitchen table. I interpreted it as a premonition and a clue to what was waiting for me in Cholula.