After going back and forth six times in my head, and three officially with the ‘official plans,’ I decided to head to Los Angeles over the weekend after all. Google Maps called it a 15 hour drive, a straight out burn down the I-5 from Portland to North Hollywood, and I was feeling wild. I found a ride down to the city with a crazy 56 year old professional t-shirt bootlegger. My man Ed was also a former Dead Head, and a current conspiracy theorist. He picked me up at the Sunset Transit center wearing a loud Hawaiian shirt with his long dark hair tied back into a pony tail that fell to the middle of his back. He took me over to his late model Camry, all the while assuring me that it was a solid vehicle…but first we needed to check the oil.
With the oil check complete, and Ed talking non-stop, we jumped on the 205 and headed south, his Camry was packed full with coolers, boxes, bags, pillows, blankets, and cassette tapes…lots of cassette tapes. We had gone only a mile or two before Ed asked me to hand him a pillow from the back, as he said, he likes to “get comfortable.” He next shook out his pony tail and started talking about his love life. At this point, I was wedged as far as possible over against the passenger side door, one hand discretely fondling the door handle in case I had to bail, and the other hand in my pocket, ready to pull out my razor sharp hunting knife and stab this gringo should he try any funny business.
I shouldn’t have worried though, Ed was a veteran of The Road, both as a hitch hiker and a driver, he’d crossed the country many times. He no longer needed an atlas. He knew the 3am Denny’s waitress in Eureka, California by name, and she knew he was an aspiring raw vegan. He told me that women were real trouble; they were always after his money. He advised against getting married until I was 38 or so, when my looks would begin to go, but by then I should have some good living under my belt. He advised me on proper etiquette for picking up prostitutes, because a blow job is a blow job after all, especially with your eyes closed, and “these girls are professionals.” He took me through East Sacramento, because there was an organic foods wholesaler that he loved to hit when he was passing through, and also because “that’s where the whores hang out.” It was one in the afternoon, we didn’t see any whores.
We made a slight detour, roughly 50 miles off the I-5 to hit up Lassen National Park at 5 am, before the park rangers start their day, and thusly, we didn’t have to pay. We mucked around in the snow and threw shit into the sulfur pots, we saw lots of deer, and met a few other random tourists. We talked about his ex-girlfriends who wanted to marry him, and he asked me many questions about my made up girlfriend in Los Angeles, because I really (REALLY) didn’t want to give him the Wrong Impression. We listened to Coast to Coast on the overnight, his favorite radio program, second in listeners only to Rush Limbaugh. He has a personal archive of Coast to Coast programs going back to 1999. All on cassette tape. He asked if my girlfriend has a sister for him, and I laughed.
We raced a cutie in a Prius from Santa Monica from Grapevine into North Hollywood, we made fun of the Yuppies in their beamers. In the end, when he dropped me off at my destination in North Hollywood, he offered me a job helping him sell t-shirts at a Los Lonely Boys concert in the Bay, and called me a friend. He could tell I “had my head on straight,” even though he’d done probably 85% of the talking over our 23 hours together. I told him to look me up next time he was in Portland, I might feel like making another burn down the 5 to LA.