hitchhiking without charles manson

I used to do a fair amount of hitchhiking around L.A. and a few times up the coast as far as Oregon . In the sixties I wasn’t the lone hitcher on the road. Some places , like Santa Cruz and State Street in Santa Barbara , had waiting lists . I’d arrive at a good spot , maybe a corner , and see only one or two others. But behind nearby bushes was a crowd waiting their turns . You’re behind him . You’re behind the barefoot dude with the flute . You’re behind the two dudes going to Alaska . You’re behind all them , man , so wait out of sight .

There were wierdos on the road, of course , and horrendous things happened. A girl up in the bay area had her forearms chopped off by some sicko who picked her up. Things like that . But , generally , people still stopped to pick me up , or me and a buddy , or the longhaired pothead behind the bush waiting his turn with his dog , or the stoned pregnant girl with her dog . Signs near prisons said don’t pick up hitchhikers . But we were  picked up anyway and driven up the highway toward where ever our cardboard sign said : San Francisco , San Jose ,Portland . Sometimes they got tired of us fast and said that  they were only going into town , or had to turn at the next crossroad , or were just going a few blocks . We hoped we’d be dumped at a good hitching spot , dug out our cardboard , and thanked the driver . Hitching was generally accepted and hitchhikers were everywhere .

And then Charlie Manson came around .  Charlie Manson killed hitchhiking in California . There were Mansons running around killing random people in 1969 and ever after , holed up in cars , standing on road shoulders and under freeway bridges , thumbs out , cold blooded , and evil-minded . There were sweet young things like Linda Kasabian and Katie Krenwinkle who might have looked harmless but who had execrably evil hearts and who had Tex and Charlie in the back seat or waiting at the next stop .

Random Killings done just for the thrill of killing , or in demented conceits of causing chaos and revolution  spooked people that August . The residual fear seeped into the L.A. air , joined the other ominous particles of pollution , and is still there . The world was now everlastingly full of these perverts who might kill you as you minded your own business , as you sat on your sofa watching your sitcom ,  as you breathed deeply in your otherwise safe neighborhood , living what you thought , ante  Manson , was your safely mundane existence .

It wasn’t so safe anymore in your safe neighborhood , in your home , certainly in your car cruising a Manson- tainted world , breathing Manson-tainted air , with your windows rolled up , of course , and with the doors locked.

There was trouble on the road . The height of stupidity would be to invite it in , to slow down for the hitcher , to ask for trouble. Every man for himself now . Even once in awhile now if the urge to stop , to help out a stranger , to have some company  or to do a good deed  arose ,  it had to be suppressed. Drivers felt in their bones that they shouldn’t make the ante  : there’s a killer on the road .

Why take a chance ?  That would be stupid. Scenario : Hi , I’m Susan Atkins , and this is my friend  Leslie Van Houten . Get in . How far ya goin’ ?   Wanna get wasted ?

I couldn’t get a ride to save my life after Charlie Manson . I know , I know , what am I whining about !

You know , a long time ago , being crazy meant something . Now everyone’s crazy. —-Charlie Manson


Filed under humor

15 responses to “hitchhiking without charles manson

  1. Mr. Dan, This is a well-written account of a phenomenon that, during the late 1960s, even those of us on the east coast felt deep inside our hearts. Manson ruined not just hitching, but also the soul of trust we thought we had created.

    And Dan, I realize I repeat myself, but this one belongs in a book. Your essay serves as a sobering shock to the rest of your work, a Manson shock to our systems.


  2. A combination of Manson-ites and a girl getting her arms cut off would have cured me of sticking my thumb out.

  3. We still have hitchhiking. It’s called Uber. It’s expensive and it’s not fun at all. And, there are still drivers who will kill you.

  4. Yup. That sicko took the joy out of hitchhiking.

  5. Reblogged this on No Facilities and commented:
    West coast Dan reminds of a loss of innocence that many of us suffered.

  6. The only place I ever hitchhiked was in Switzerland in the mid-seventies and that only a few times. I was in Europe for a year and although met lots of people who hitched, there were even then just enough bad stories, especially for a woman, that I didn’t think it worth the risk.


  7. I hitchhiked over 50,000 miles in 8 countries and 35 states between 1975-1994, then took 22 years off, then since 2016 I’ve hitchhiked through 8 countries, including 4 new ones added to the list. There’s still a subculture out there, especially outside of the U.S. Me? For better or worse, I just never thought about Charlie Manson 🙂

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