couch on the porch, portland

Vagobond Travel Museum – Another Hitch on Interstate 5

Vagobond Travel Museum – Another Hitch on Interstate 5

The reaction to last week’s hitch trip down memory lane was so positive, I’ve decided to post another one…This is a true story from the year 2000 – if you like this kind of thing, you should sign up for my weekly email reader at

couch on the porch, portlandAs I walked I picked up a stick, some wires, a piece of cardboard, and a bungee cord from the side of the road. I pulled out my black marker and scribbled Seattle onto it. I wired the cardboard to the stick, jammed the stick into a hole in my pack, and began to thumb my way north. I was hoping to find something through this. I wanted some sort of epiphany.

My first ride wasn’t far. A couple of miles, but it got me started. It was like Steve Martin’s first ride in the move ‘The Jerk’. That’s who I sort of felt like. “All I need is this wire, and this stick….”

In Oregon you can hitchhike on the Interstate. I walked to a good spot, set my pack down, held up my sign, and waited. I was surprised that so many VW busses passed me by. Fucking wanna be hippie hypocrite mother fuckers. Hippie must be short for hypocrite. It was about thirty minutes before someone stopped. The bearded man opened the pickup’s passenger door and Grateful Dead music streamed out. He was driving a Ford truck.

“Get in, I’m going to Beaverton but have to make a quick stop in Salem. My names Jerry.”

I got in. He had to clear garbage from the seat in order for me to fit in. Mostly McDonald’s bags and candy wrappers. I dropped my pack  in the back of his truck.

“I’m going to Seattle.”

“Yeah, I barely saw your sign; I’m going at least to Portland. I can use the company .”

He looked at me and said “ What the hell, I’ll never see you again” and then started his tale. His wife was sleeping with one of his buddies. He didn’t mind too much because he hadn’t slept with her for five years because he wasn’t attracted to her. He hadn’t cheated on her, but she was a Jewish American Princess and she disgusted him. They had a 3-year-old daughter by artificial insemination pregnancy.

He had started shooting dope with the guy who was sleeping with her now two years before but then she got into it, and now she was sleeping with the other guy. He kept saying how he felt bad about it all but he was mad about it too .He asked me what a good business would be to get into. Internet Porn was what I suggested to him.  I’m not sure why. He drove me into Portland where I took the bus to the Triple Nickel, a favorite dirty, down and out pub, and I wondered where I would end up sleeping.

I  put back a couple of Pabst Blue Ribbons wondering what would happen next. A couple of guys came in and asked to move so they could get two stools together. Then one of them went straight to the gambling machines and the second looked at me and read my shirt. I’d found it in a dumpster. It said Paris and he said’ “What’s up with you Paris?”

I laughed in a non committal way. I didn’t like the guy.  “Not much. Drinking a few brews.”

He started telling jokes and then he asked me to buy him a beer. PBRs were a dollar and I figured maybe he’d have a porch I could crash on. A dollar well spent – maybe.  PBR for a buck. The bartender brought me a free one. I should have asked her if I could come home with her. She had been taking good care of me all nigh

I winked and thanked her. The guy next to me, Jimmy, was a meathead, out of work fisherman. He was about my height and fresh out of jail. He told me about all his girlfriends. Told me about his buddy’s gambling habits. The guy who was back gambling as we spoke. Then he said “Thanks for the beer, anything I can do for you?”

“Got a place to stay?” I asked.

“No,  I’m crashing at someone’s place.”

“Does it have a porch?”

“Yeah, you could crash on the couch on the porch.” Portland, Oregon porches always have couches on them. I love that. 

His friend, the gambler,  ran out of money and we all cruised back to Jimmy’s other friend’s house.  I really should have stayed with that bartender.

We got to the house and there was another guy there. He was staying there too. The owner of the house, Tony, wasn’t there.  Tony, it seemed was very particular about his stuff but also allowed a lot of homeless young men stay at his house.

He might let me stay, they told me. I was drunk and exhausted and laid down pulling my fedora over my eyes. The younger guy got a little freaked out and I heard him saying “Tony’s gonna freak man, he’s gonna freak when he sees this guy laying here in his house.”

I opened my eyes and put my boots on and was going to head back to the bar, but Jimmy said, “ Bullshit, you can stay, it’s Tony’s house, but I call the shots. Come inside.”

I lay down on the living room floor watching professional wrestlers on Tony’s TV with my head on my pack and started to doze. The beer and the road can wear you out. I heard Tony come in. He was Filipino. He was suspicious as I was introduced to him. He was also so incredibly flaming gay that he could have been a cartoon character.

His suspicion soon turned to concern. He was like a mother hen and seemed to be adopting me into his brood. He asked me to go to the store to get beer with him. We got a twelve pack and he asked me in the car “Are you gay?”


“Well that’s okay, you should know that I am though. Jimmy, he’s my boyfriend, he’s bisexual. Travis isn’t gay and neither is Dave. Is that okay with you?”

“Sure, why wouldn’t I be?” I think he might have been hoping to get lucky with me in the car or maybe he just wanted to make sure I wasn’t some homophobe.

Back at the house, Tony and Jimmy were flirting and slapping each other’s asses and massaging each other’s heads. They kissed and talked shit to each other. It was funny because Jimmy still had this bad boy fisherman jailbird thing going on even as he was playing bitch to Tony. They went to bed and the rest of us crashed out on the couches in the living room.

The next day, I was going to leave early but Tony was already up. He insisted on feeding me cereal for breakfast, insisted that I take some vitamins, and then bought me a pack of smokes before he dropped me off at the interstate.

He gave me his phone number and said to stop in the next time I was in Portland and we’d all go bowling. I still laugh when I think about that night.  They were a really good bunch of guys.