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My Trip to Grants Pass in 1975

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I was living in southern Marin County, California, in 1975 and collecting unemployment between jobs; and my roommate from my freshman year in college was living in Eugene and teaching Political Science at the University of Oregon.  And one fine afternoon in March, I got this wild hair to hitch-hike up to Eugene and visit him.  So I was out hitching on 101 North around San Rafael, when I saw another guy with his thumb out.  He was an American Indian, also hitching north, and about ¾ smashed on a bottle of red wine.  So we started sharing the bottle and gabbing, and all of a sudden the afternoon was clouding up.  After a while, the Indian looks up at the clouds and says, we're gonna get soaked in about ten minutes.  And of course we did.  Ha Ha Ha.  But that's not the funny part.

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geronimo by son.delorain at Flickr

We kept hitching in the rain, and we got two short rides before it started getting dark.  But by that time it was raining harder, and we were about to give up and find cover for the nite, when this old Pontiac stops, and backs up for us.  In it are two Chicanos, real low-riders, and they're smoking dope big time AND drinking wine, and the Indian and I get in the back seat, loving it.


Low Rider Car by Cosmic Jans at Flickr Commons

So we’re riding and sharing our dope and wine with the Mexicans, and they’re sharing theirs with us, for maybe two hours, and we find out our hosts are from San Jose and just out sort of joy-riding, but also going to Oregon to find work because there's no work in San Jose. 

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And by this time we're in the mountains, and it's raining… steady.  And the Low-Riders are bitching about all the rain, like they've never heard about it raining a lot in Oregon.  And how they really hate working in the rain anyway, and they're thinking about turning around and driving back.  And the Indian and I figure they’re just being funny.  And then the rain's becoming snow; and the snow's not melting off; and we're not even to Grants Pass yet.


snow on the windshield by library_chick at Flickr Commons

Finally it must be at least 9 pm, and we've been driving slow for what seems like hours.  The driver (I’ll call him Juan) says he's not driving in a damn snowstorm one mile further.  And he pulls off the side of the road and everyone tries to go to sleep.  Which isn't hard with everyone as drunk and stoned as we were.

Some time passes, and the windows get all snowed up.  Then there's a loud knock on the driver's window.  Juan rolls down his window and it's a cop, peering in with his flashlight shining.  He and Juan exchange words that none of the rest of us heard, and the cop steps back and Juan rolls up the window.  Then Juan curls up like he's going back to sleep, but the Indian starts pounding him on the back demanding to know what the cop said.  "Oh he just asked what we're doing here," Juan said.  "So I tol him: We live here.  Who are you?  The MAILman?"

The snowing had stopped hours before, the next morning when we got to Grants Pass, and the Chicanos told the Indian and me to get out.  Which we did, in good spirits.  And the last thing we saw of the Pontiac with the crazy Mexicans, it was making a U-turn and heading back to San Jose.

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"How could I fail to speak with difficulty? I have new things to say." I graduated from Stanford Law School in 1966 but have never practiced. Instead, I dropped back five years and joined The Movement, but it wasn't until the 1970's that I (more...)
 

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