Growing up poor as fuck and not ever having a car made us rely on another form of transportation altogether. No not a taxi, no not a cab, not even a bus, subway, or trolley. It was a risky age old practice called hitchhiking. You stand on the side of a dusty road and a kindly older gentleman opens the passenger door and as you swipe the sand strewn wind through your bangs you lean in and say sure when he asks if you need a ride. You hoist a heavy bag into the backseat or truck bed as semis blow past blowing even more dust into your mouth and eyes. You assume he's not going to rape you and decide where and when he can drop you off. If you say your destination is a hundred miles away they most likely can only take you twenty. Standing on the side of the road has made you thirsty and the first thing you drink up is the A/C, it feels like a waterfall and as you press your face to the artificial air you hope he doesn't touch your thigh and you prepare a name as fake as the Freon air. Gulping, thankful, cool, you map out a plan and hope this man, it's never a woman, can get you as close as possible to where you need to be. If you're lucky you might even get a twenty out of him for cigs,gas, or food. If you're unlucky he propositions you and you sternly ask to be let out into the heat with nothing but your pack. It's mostly that way. This is how it was with my mother.
We were children at her heels dumped on her by our decision to runaway from our paternal abusing grandmother at the tender ages of eleven and nine. We showed up at our mothers doorstep and demanded custody, after it was granted she could not afford rent in the south bay and moved us to Palm Springs, Ca. Palm Trees, swimming pools,it was and it was not. We first lived at the Desert Moon, a crack hotel for the financially impaired, it's a nudist colony now, the humor is not lost on me. Though when we were there it was a sort of Melrose Place community. Yes we we're running around ragged and starved but we had many people to talk to and if we were lucky they'd hand us a bowl of menudo or a taco. I had my first french kiss while living there, I drew an eye and a heart and the letter U to my 18 year old pursuer on Valentines day, he said I kissed too fast.
We had to traipse about the desert to get either food, food stamps or day old food a lot of times out of garbages. Entemann's can suck it. We were always offered day old Entemanns and yet had to travel for it. The blueberry streussel is an abomination according to me. Oh sure it sounds good when mama brings snacks home but they're too dry or moldy to masticate. Plus you don't want to eat that crap every meal every day for weeks. The "crumbs" on top start to resemble maggots. Peanut butter cookies can also eradicate themselves from any snack time ever. I can't eat them after frying them in an electric pan with two maybe three ingredients involved. They suck, add bacon and I still wouldn't eat them that way.
The hitchhiking was always my moms means of getting around long before we became her wards. Once we were in her possession we must have made it easier for her to get around. Who wants to leave a mom and two kids on the side of the road in a hundred degree weather. She used us, for gas, for food, we were props. She would play on their generosity to garner more, either it be food or money or drugs. Hell she was even given a house in Twenty Nine Palms. Jennifer and I hated it there. We were teenagers and were reckless and enjoying all the things our young bodies allowed us. My sister and I wanted to be back in Palm Springs so we hitchhiked the fifty some odd miles, often.
We felt lucky if some marines picked us up, we felt they kept to a code and would not rape us, we were in fact lucky.They gave us rides in their topless Jeeps while blasting cock rock, our hair whipping so hard in the wind we couldn't see if we tried. Sodas pressed between our legs screaming above the surging sounds feeling alive. The "jar heads" were awesome to Jennifer and I as we thumbed our way across the desert in cut offs and skimpy tops, using our back packs as a pillow. Reckless behavior on survival instincts. The road was our home, the air was our food, the stars our friends. Skinny and undernourished we fed off of warm beer sipped or chugged out of gas cans in the brightly illuminated starry sky under Joshua trees.
Ridiculously Kentucky Fried Chicken was our saving grace, otherwise we may have starved to death in that barren waste land. They had cups with pull tabs that offered many free delights, soda, sandwiches and fingers of fried chicken. So, we stole a whole stack and ate everyday for weeks. Huzzah!
The longest trek we made, sister and I, was from Palm Springs to Vegas. It took us three rides and that was with a male friend David, who got sneers, yet stuck with us till our destination then disappeared. We went through Amboy which was a mid desert treat oasis complete with sodas and a shoe tree that's still there. The purpose was a Grateful Dead show, not our first nor our last. As teenagers we slogged alongside molten asphalt and blinding winds to get to a show that would stick with us forever. I will never forget the pinks, tangerines and cloud formations that seemed to set on the opposite side of the stadium, an eastern sunset, freaking magical.
With thumbs out Jennifer and I decided to go to the beach one spring break. Palm Springs was once the mecca for Spring Break festivities but those days were long since past as Sonny Bono put a kibosh on cruising and the college kids fled with their super soakers, thongs on crotch rockets, and went to Florida instead. We took a ride from the Pilot gas station on the 10 in a van and we felt as if we had the best luck, one ride the whole way! The driver even agreed to come pick us up a week later if we were cool with him stopping in Victorville first. The next day we made our voyage after partying with the Victorville kids all night. It was a long night, I slept like a cat in a small chair.
We would have never hitchhiked had our mother never shown us how. Even though it was dangerous it was also a way to get out of a dangerous situations. She once moved us to Mojave to follow her native american love. After a few months and many bottles of Black Velvet later he kicked in her ribs and we fled in the night. Alongside the highway with just our mere jackets, no food, all our things left behind, we climbed into an awaiting truck cab that took us back to L.A.
We almost never had to jump from a vehicle or stab someone. It was just a way to get from one place to another without spending precious gas money.
Years late my husband and I are in Costa Rica soaking up the food, critters and windy roads. At one point we stop at a random out of the way empanada stand. They were hot and confusingly egg filled. The empanada man proceeded to hit the road after we ate and stuck his thumb out. We picked him up and drove him into town. Just a random dude with no english skills in our car, it felt right, he wasn't going to rape us.