The Crack of Dawn
The Crack of Dawn
Back there in the summer of 1977 as I was hitchhiking to Alaska, I had made it as far as Seattle. Just north of the city I was picked up by two Native American men. They were both big, muscular and mean-looking, covered with scars, fresh bruises, scabs, pimples and blackheads. Before I could even assess the situation, one fellow turned around and said, “Wanna beer?” Even though it was 7:30 AM I happily accepted the warm Ranier beer. They dropped me off in Marysville, outside the Tulalip Indian Reservation where they lived, and gave me another beer for the road.
Sitting on the side of the road in a misty drizzle sipping a warm beer is one of those moments in my life that randomly resurfaces now and again of its own accord. Although I wasn’t aware of it at the time, I felt fully complete. Possibly even content. I sat there for hours and the rain finally stopped.
I got to the border crossing. People hitchhiking over the border was obviously a rare event. Since the situation needed extra attention, they put me in a little room and let me sit there for a few hours. The rule, which I knew, was that you had to have at least two hundred dollars in cash to enter Canada. I had about two hundred and fifty dollars. The thing of it was, when I got to Alaska I’d be crossing back into the U.S., and as an American citizen it didn’t matter how much money I had. However, to return home I would have to go back through Canada, with their $200 rule. Therefore, I was left with only fifty dollars to get to Alaska, which was still 2,000 miles away, then still have $200 to come back over the border to Canada. In any case, when the customs officers finally got to me they couldn’t have been nicer or more interested in my trip. I showed them my $250 and they happily let me into British Columbia.
British Columbia is huge. It’s almost a quarter of the size of the United States. It’s got several completely different terrains and climates, including an arid, hilly, desert-like section with signs that say, “Beware of rattlesnakes.”
Somewhere in a breathtakingly beautiful area I was picked up in an old red and white pickup truck driven by a big, bearded, broad-chested fellow in a red flannel shirt. He immediately turned to me, smiled, and said, “Wanna smoke some Columbian? And I don’t mean British Columbian.” So me and this happy Canadian woodsman smoked a cigar-sized joint driving through the endless woods. It turned out that he wasn’t a woodsman, he was a teacher of Native kids in a one-room schoolhouse, which is where we he was going. It was an old log cabin. Wow, people actually did shit like teach Native kids in log cabins. He gave me a few of his “British Columbian Bombers” for the road.
[I’ve never used this newsletter for the purposes of selling anything, nor am I trying to sell you my book, for which I make almost nothing anyway. However, I did write a book called Going Hollywood, that was very nicely published in 2009 and is for sale online at Amazon, etc. Personally, I’m rather proud of it, even if it is the worst-selling of my three books. At horror conventions I can’t give this book away.
But there is a story within a story here. I hitchhiked to Alaska in the summer of 1977 for the explicit purpose of collecting experience, just like Jack London, to write a book. And it worked, too, except that it took 32 years write it].
OK, so we’re 600 words into this newsletter, and there’s no way we’re getting to Alaska like I thought we might when I started. That’s the beauty of this newsletter, it goes where it wants. Meanwhile, I was smokin’ bombers of Columbian – not British Columbian – on the side of the road, outside Kamloops, British Columbia. It was pouring rain and I was under my poncho. I smoked the jolly woodsman/teacher’s cigar-sized, Bob Marley spliffs. I sat in the rain all night.
Came the fresh new morning, the rain stopped, the sun came out, and a van pulled over. I got in and found two boys and a girl, early twenties, totally trashed, smoking weed and drinking tequila sunrises. They were going all the way to Prince George, another 200 miles north. As it says in my book, “Thank God for friendly freaks. Without them hitchhiking would be impossible.”
A couple of months ago Bruce Campbell and I were driving around narrow curvy roads in the Sausalito Mountains in his spiffy new Genesis. As we were nearly killed by an oblivious oncoming driver, Bruce narrated the scene, “Two Birmingham youths were killed today in a fiery car wreck . . .”
How could this not be a good day? I wrote another episode of the Crack of Dawn, right?