Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Hitchhiking, Halloween, and Elections, Oh My!

I'm telling myself the title of this blog is cliche. So be it.

Curiously, I spent my second Halloween hitchhiking in the Bay Area (or points nearby) this past Sunday. Even stranger, the last time I did it Halloween was also on a Sunday. Which confuses me, because that was six years ago. Something to do with leap years, although I would have thought that would make it eight years until we got a repeat day, not six.

Allow me to compare. Last time I hitchhiked on Halloween, I was 14. I was returning from Davis, en route to Chico, after a failed attempt to go to San Francisco for Halloween with my traveling buddy at the time, Courtney, who was two years older than me. We were not in costume, but dressed as bums, as usual in those days.

I wanted to make it down for an animal rights conference put on by PETA (I now hold PETA in much contempt, when I think about them, which isn't often, but that's another rant). We abandoned our mission in Vallejo late Saturday night, and returned to Davis, which was completely dead. No parties to be found. Courtney and I spent the evening in a hot tub at an apartment with our puppies, a random dreadhead who later turned out to have poor communication skills regarding physical boundaries, and his dog. The next morning, Halloween, we ventured to the Davis co-op (I found this very exciting, I had never been to another co-op besides good old Chico Natural Foods), and then headed home by thumb, stopping at a random burger joint to beg for free food. (We got hooked up. Veggie burgers, french fries, and drinks. Yum.)

Unfortunately hitchhiking wasn't going well that day. Long past when the sun went down, we had only made it to Sacramento. As any hitchhiker knows, Sacramento is comparable to the pit of despair. We were having a fine old time at a gas station in West Sac though, where at least it was well-lit and crowded with friendly people willing to stop and chat a moment, or give us a souvenir mini-baseball bat. Our doom descended with a misguided and somewhat overweight taxi driver who told us she knew exactly where we should hitchhike from if we wanted to go to Chico, and then offered to take us there for free.

I didn't notice what a dark and desolate place she had brought us to at first. Or maybe I did. Either way, all that surrounded the highway on-ramp was a closed Chevron whose parking lot was under construction, a diner, and empty industrial buildings. Looking back, we didn't have a chance in hell at getting a ride that night, unless we broke the law and passed the "No Pedestrians" sign half-way up the on-ramp, which we were too scared to do. We were used to getting a ride at the bottom of the ramp, staying within California's legal bounds for hitchhiking.

After a long-time and quite a few cars passing us, a car full of guys blaring gangster music slowed down. There was a moment of hope for both of us, until we saw that the car was full, no seats available, with four or five young men who didn't look very friendly. Though I'm not sure I even heard this, my friend heard one of them say, "Get in the car!" and one of the guys in the back seat started to open his door. She stood her ground, and told them never mind, and waved them on. Luckily they left, and she immediately started panicking. What if they had dragged her in? What if they came back? She wanted nothing to do with hitchhiking there anymore.

We left our post by the highway and tried to sneak into the nearby diner with our puppies in our jackets, to spend our last few quarters on hot chocolate while we figured out what to do, but the puppies were quickly discovered and we were kicked out before we even got seated. (We may have tried to go into the diner earlier, the time line is blurred now). If I was in that situation now, I would have asked the diner to use their telephone, telling them we were in a desperate situation.

My younger self, though, followed the 16-year-old whom I looked up to so much through the industrial section of town, into a dark neighborhood, past a lonely looking drunkard who crossed our paths (I had my knife in my hand for that block), and to a very closed Pacific Pride gas station, across the street from Goldie's Adult Superstore, ran by transvestites, and apparently a meeting place for prostitutes and their customers.

Long story short, the rest of the night involved calling a friend to drive two and a half hours in the middle of the night to come get us, pooping behind the adult video store, approaching a Salvation Army Headquarters for help only to be traumatized into flight by a costumed security guard in a faceless dummy mask, and another taxi driver, this one with vampire teeth that Courtney insisted were real. We made it home to Butte County that night, safe and sound, exhausted enough to get great sleep and wake up at our rescuers home, a solar-power run sanctuary in the woods.

This year's hitchiking adventure was quite a bit different. I awoke Sunday morning in San Francisco (perhaps this means I completed my mission in some way) in an unfamiliar but comfortable bed in the Haight Ashbury area with my friend and sort-of-roommate Michelle, having danced the Spiral Dance the night before. We made our way to Berkeley via BART. (I, with very little cash, managed to do so for less than a dollar. Ask me how.) We conversed with a friend few the afternoon, and then walked to the nearest highway. On our way, we passed the Berkeley Natural Foods store. I didn't even notice this parallel to the previous journey until now.

There were no rides to be had, especially not when our options were limited to trucks and other large vehicles because of having a bike in tow. I'm guessing we spent at least a couple hours by the side of the road, me in costume as a Witch and Michelle with her Bluebird gear on. Our only visitors were a cop who told us not to hitchhike ("Hitchhiking's lega!" I yelled as she passed, and she responded by telling us not to hang out there as she drove away. Well how are we supposed to hang out somewhere else unless we leave, which is what we're trying to do?) and a woman who would not stop talking for what seemed like forever. She was blocking our view to the street too, infringing on our ride-getting potential. She went on and on about how Berkeley is full of crazy people and is the most racist, sexist place on the planet. She guessed our signs and got them completely wrong, and then went on about astrology when we told her what our signs actually are.

Eventually we decided to try to walk to another on-ramp where we might have better luck. We managed to walk all the way to the next town, Albany, without realizing it, where we got kicked off the premises of Arco and found ourselves in The Pearl House for most of the evening, charging our cell phones, drawing on our place mats, eating chow mein, and looking up rides on Craigslist (needless to say, we made it to Vacaville, and from there, home with our good friend Alyse).

Not long after leaving the Arco, I thought, hitchhiking is a great way to quickly become disgruntled about everything that's wrong with society. Everyone's scared of each other, which is why we couldn't get a ride. And if you look poor, there's no where for you to be. You get caught between a rock and a hard place, as when the cop told us not to hitchhike, and not to hang out there. If we didn't hitchhike, we had to hang out there, because that was our only available mode of transportation. And if we were not to hang out there, we needed to hitchhike. Sitting down at a gas station for a moment of rest is bad for business, so you get kicked out. When Michelle asked the man why he was telling us to leave, he said the police are really strict about 'it', which is a lie because a gas station is private property and police have nothing to do with it unless the owner calls them. She had the audacity or maybe just the innocence to ask him where he recommended we go then. He of course had no suggestions, because he didn't really care. When you look or act poor, your very existence is treated as an inconvenience.

After being grumpy for most of the afternoon though, I began to appreciate the beautiful sky as the sun was setting. Albany has quite a few trees. As I took this in, a crow swooped past my line of sight and landed on a streetlight. The bridge we had to pass to come to Albany was also worth appreciating. The architecture had taken bikers and pedestrians into consideration through an elaborate system of underpasses and curving pathways between Berkeley and Albany, for which I was grateful. In some places pedestrians are more likely never to be considered and end up having to go five miles around to get where they want. All in all it was an absolutely beautiful day.

I'm dog tired of writing about now, so I think I'll sum it up by saying that, yes, I went as a Witch this year and I have at least one fantastic picture to prove it (my hat came out of the gutter in SF!). And as for the elections, its great that 23 got shot down, but it reminds me of what Derrick Jensen says about how environmentalists fight so hard to stake our territory, and then we have to spend much of our time just defending it and not making further advances. So maybe we need some new tactics. He has suggestions for this, which I'm not necessarily opposed to, but I have my own, which lean more towards upping our involvement on the psychic plane. Psychic forces are available to all who call upon them, and get stronger as we do so. The corporations weave their own dangerous magic, so let us respond by blasting them out of the water with the force of every deity known to humankind, and maybe even some unknown ones too. We are as strong as we believe. And while doing magic is not a substitute for planting community gardens or smashing the state in more physical ways, I do not think we can save this planet with out it.

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