Kamis, 03 November 2011

Wheels On Fire

In the late summer of 1971 my college friend Paul Deseret and I were hitchhiking to the West Coast. We had friends living in the Haight. They were girls. I had had sex with one of them. Having sex with Marilyn again was enough of a reason to cross a continent.Both of us were longhairs. We got rides fast from vans and truckers. West of Des Moines a Dodge Super Bee stopped for us. We ran to the muscle car, expecting the driver, to patch rubber and throw his arm out the window with a finger raised in the air. The motorhead waited instead. The engine throbbed with low intensity. I ran to the passenger side."Hi." Acting friendly was part of hitchhiking."My name's Lucky. I'm going to LA." His long red hair was slicked back with Brylcream. His arms were stained with old tattoos. His jaws was grinding teeth."I don't know." Paul clocked him as a speed freak. He had a girlfriend waiting for him in Milwaukee. That city was on the return route from the Pacific."We're heading to San Francisco." I yanked open the door. It was getting dark. The highways got scary once the sun went down. I shoved Paul in the back and sat in the front."My name's Lucky. I''ll take you as far as Winnemucca." Lucky revved the engine and broke from the shoulder in front of a piggy-backing long-hauler."Great." I had no idea where Winnemucca was, but Lucky's muscle-car version of the Coronet had a 440 cu in (7.2 L) V8 engine. It was more than fast. He drove 110mph from Omaha to Nevada. He had one 8-track. We listened to BAD COMPANY probably fifteen times before he nodded at the wheel. His foot was on the gas. I steered from the passenger seat."Was I out for long?" He asked west of Laramie."About two hours." I released the wheel. Paul has been sleeping in the back. It was better if he didn't know about my co-piloting."Thanks, for helping." Lucky's hands seized the steering wheel in a death grip. His foot crushed the pedal to the floor. Wyoming became a blur."You want me to drive?" "Naw, I'm good." He stopped only for gas and Coca-Cola to wash down beanies. When he missed the Winnemucca turning, I said nothing. "What the fuck am I doing in Reno?" Lucky snapped out of his speed trance upon seeing the Sierras. It was a little after dawn. I had never seen mountains that high. He turned south on US 395. "Have a good time in Frisco.""You too." Paul and I stood on shoulder of the highway leading into the Sierras. The Donner Party had eaten each other in 1849 in those steep heights. This was not winter and thirty minutes later a shiny blue 1965 Riviera stopped for us. "Where you goin'?" The driver was sweating behind the wheel. The fifty year-old Mexican smelled of hard alcohol."San Francisco." His two scarred passengers looked, as if they had pulled a bank robbery. A bottle of whiskey was held by a bleary-eyeed Indian in the back. I had reservations. "But you look full."Not full, only drunk. You wanna to drive. My two brothers just got out of the can in Nevada. We want to drink our way to Frisco." He took the keys out of the ignition. They weren't going any farther without me behind the wheel.Paul shook his head."You don't have any guns?" They looked the type, especially the cracker white git in the back."No, only whiskey." The driver smiled with two gleaming gold teeth filling a gap in his grin."Sure." I was a sucker for a fast car after the ride with Lucky."This is not a good idea." Paul was a math major. His calculation on the odds of this ride working out differed from mine. "I'm driving. How bad can it be?" I was also a Math major."Just don't kill us." Paul got into the back on the hump.The gas tank was full. The highway was recently paved. I stepped on the gas. The Riviera's nailhead V-8 easily produced enough power to motor up the steep Sierras. I had checked out the price of one last summer. The dealer wanted $5000 and now one was in my hands.It hit 100 without any strain.The convicts talked wildly about their years in prison. The first bottle of whiskey was replaced by a second. I drank the first sip. The outside temperature was in the 90s. The AC chilled the interior of the Riviera to the coolness of a summer day in Bar Harbor, Maine.Once we topped the pass, I caught a radio station from San Francisco. KAZU.The DJ played HP Lovecraft's WHITE SHIPPaul and I were into the home stretch. The Riviera's top speed was 115.East of the Bay the driver said he wanted to take over the rest of the way."I don't need some white ass long-haired chauffeur to take me home." The whiskey was turning him mean. "No worries." I pulled off I-80 into a service station. We got out of the car."You white boys ain't comin' with us." The Chicano was wavering in his wide-legged stance."You're not in any condition to drive." I felt responsible for them."Fuck you, gringo." He sat in the front seat."Have a good day." His epithet had negated my obligation.The Riviera pulled out of the gas station.“I’m glad to be out of that car.” It had been a long ride for Peter. The Indian and old white trash geezer in the back had been feeling him up the entire distance. They had figured him for stick pussy."Me too.""So we're walking to San Francisco?" ChiPs in California hated hippies.“”Maybe not.” I pointed to a Riviera. It had stopped half in and out of the road. The reverse taillights lit up and the car backed into the gas station past us. It rammed ram the gas pumps and they exploded within ten seconds engulfing the Riviera in flames. The driver jumped out of the car. His two friends were having trouble opening the passenger door. Paul and I ran to the driver's side and pulled out the two ex-cons. The station attendant doused the fire with an extinguisher. He was not happy. His two pumps were trash.“Why you leave the car in reverse?” The driver asked with a tongue thickened by whiskey.“Me?” I stepped up to him. He might have been a convict, but I was younger by a good 30 years. “I didn’t do nothing wrong.”A state trooper pulled into the gas station. The convict told him his side of the story and I told him mine. The cop came over to me after his radio call and said, “That car is stolen. Best you go unless you want to spend more time with your friends.”“We’re going.” Peter picked up his bag and we went over to the highway. A hippie gave us a ride ten minutes later. The trip from coast to coast took us 47 hours. It could have taken a lifetime if it wasn’t for the cop. We were three years late for Frisco’s summer of live. Groovy was gone, but we crashed with the two girls. They had two boyfriends from Mendocino.They were groovy, but in the morning it was apparent we were third wheels on a scooter. We left with a smile. The Golden Gate Bridge was our starting point home.Late or not for the Summer of Love we were still long-hairs and the road north was open all the way to Alaska.

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