Info and updates for friends and Loved Ones— It’s a new year and for many of us a brand new day. 🙏🏻 In the USA we now have an actual national leader who believes in science and cooperating with state and local governments to save all our citizens and defeat Covid. He even has a plan. Imagine! Unfortunately it’s going to take months to enact an actual plan and weed out the ineptitude, indifference, stupidity, and magical thinking that have characterized much of our country’s response so far. The irresponsible and arrogant will refuse to wear masks or take other precautions. People will continue to get sick, and to die.
418,000 dead at this writing.
How long can this go on?? Longer. Quite a bit longer. Last month I wrote: “…people, friends, loved ones, businesses big and small, are going to be having a very hard time at least into the summer of 2021.” I’ll stand by that.
The short summary is this:
1)Masks, Social Distancing, hand washing, and all that sensible stuff – CONTINUES TO BE EXTREMELY IMPORTANT. In fact, with the new more transmissable variant(s) of Covid, now is the time to double down on proper and careful mask use — wear multi-layer masks, wear N95s, and be sure you’re wearing the mask properly, not “chin diaper” or “mask slipping” like Bill Clinton, and other men. 2) Get the Vaccine if you can. But you probably can’t. Be patient. Try not to judge those who have been vaccinated, seemingly by their own devious means, when others are more vulnerable. Be patient.
I signed up for the vaccine— In my case, I got an email stating that I am “on the list” for “Phase 1B” (see the chart below). In other words, I am qualified as an “essential worker” BUT it would be some time before I could get a vaccine. A week or two after that, I got another email, notifying me that I can now schedule a vaccination! EXCEPT, there is no vaccine and no appointments for which they can schedule me. BUT I might also be able to get a vaccination at one of the local medical centers, or Shoprite supermarket pharmacy, or local Health Department, or even through my employer if it’s in healthcare, all of which (apparently) get their own supplies of vaccine. (There’s a huge list of sites where you can get vaccinated in New Jersey—you just have to find one with vaccine.) I called, and checked web sites to find out… there is no vaccine! Does this sound like a cluster f***? Because it clearly is.
I’m sure it will change and get better, but until then? I can wait to receive an email from the state program, or I can keep checking the sites on the list. As I said, be patient.
Find peace. Seek stillness. Practice your T’ai Chi. All you need to know is in my previous Covid updates: wash hands, (properly) wear a (multi-layer, well-sealed) mask, social distance, isolate, and quarantine if you’re sick or exposed to someone who is, and test – but don’t rely on tests because you can be sick and contagious for 3-5 days before you test positive.
CVS Pharmacy COVID Vaccine (COVID-19 Immunization Updates) – This is great, but for now, only if you live in IN, MA, NY, and PR. I hope that eventually getting a vaccine will be easy at any CVS, anywhere! Let CVS help guide you through everything you need to know about the coronavirus vaccine. Get all your questions answered and learn how to schedule your vaccine online or through the CVS Pharmacy® app once available! — Read on www.cvs.com/immunizations/covid-19-vaccine
European countries mandate medical-grade masks over cloth face coverings – President Biden has enacted a mask mandate for all federal properties, public transit, airlines, and elsewhere. But some countries now have even stricter mask requirements… Confronting new, more transmissible variants of the coronavirus and a winter spike in infections, a number of European countries are beginning to make medical-grade face masks mandatory in the hope that they can slow the spread of the disease. 2021/01/22 — Read on www.cnn.com/2021/01/22/europe/europe-covid-medical-masks-intl/index.html
What If You Never Get Better From Covid-19?— We’ve looked at “Long Covid” before. There are a couple of articles in this week’s NYT Magazine.Some patients could be living with the aftereffects for years to come. Recent research into another persistent, mysterious disease might help us understand how to treat them. 2021/01/21 — Read on www.nytimes.com/2021/01/21/magazine/covid-aftereffects.html
Info and updates for friends and Loved Ones—We’re just about into a NEW YEAR!! Vaccines are all the rage, but if you were paying attention, it was pretty clear that vaccines are not going to FIX the PANDEMIC in a hurry. Really, they won’t be making a big difference for months. Months!! And to quote the Eagles, “There’s a New Kid in Town -I don’t want to hear it!!” (I’m not talking about Joe.) Sorry, viruses mutate, and there’s one COVID variant that seems to be MORE contagious – although so far, probably no more deadly. We don’t know yet if the vaccines will protect us from the new guy, but probably.
“Things” – meaning, people, friends, loved ones, businesses big and small, are going to be having a very hard time at least into the summer of 2021. Be patient. Find peace. Seek stillness. Practice your T’ai Chi. All you need to know is in my previous Covid updates: wash hands, wear a mask, social distance, isolate, and quarantine if you’re sick or exposed to someone who is, and test – but don’t rely on tests because you can be sick and contagious for 3-5 days before you test positive.
Here’s Why Vaccinated People Still Need to Wear a Mask – The new vaccines will probably prevent you from getting sick with Covid. No one knows yet whether they will keep you from spreading the virus to others — but that information is coming. 2020/12/08— Read on www.nytimes.com/2020/12/08/health/covid-vaccine-mask.html
TESTS— Testing is becoming more readily available and convenient.
Remember: 1) Testing is no substitute for being careful—washing, wearing a mask, social distancing. It only indicates your state at the time the sample was taken. You may have been exposed and infected since then. 2) Antibody Tests don’t mean much—A positive on an anti-body test doesn’t mean that you won’t get Covid (again), nor, that you are not currently spreading the virus. A negative doesn’t mean that you never had Covid.The jury is out on this. 3) All Tests have “false positives” and “false negatives” – pay attention to your symptoms (if any).
Try the CastLight Testing Site Locatortool. This looks like it should be a CDC tool, but I can only find it on my New Jersey State web site. Enter your location and it provides a map and summary of testing locations, including if screening is required, and if “regular lab testing”, “rapid testing”, and if antibody testing is available. I located testing sites in Nevada, and I live in New Jersey, so try this tool, no matter where you live!!
So why isn’t this tool on the CDC site? They’ve been pretty devastated by the anti-science morons of the Trump Administration who didn’t believe that a federal government is supposed to protect all its people, and preferred to push the responsibility and cost onto the states… This will improve once the Biden administration gets moving.
In my county (Hunterdon), the Health Department offers free, “Test At Home” saliva kits available to all qualified residents over the age of six. They send you a kit, you complete the sample using a remote telehealth visit with Vault Health. Results are sent to you within 2-3 days after they receive your sample. You are still looking at 7 or more days, unless you already have the kit ready to go. But you don’t have to leave your house! That’s in my county—check with your local Health Department.
Labcorp Home Test Kit —AFAIK, anyone in the US can order one. You have to pay for it – so check with your insurance first.
Walmart and CVS offer drive-thru and other testing options. Expect at least 3-4 days after you test to get results. Some CVS’s offer “rapid testing”, but these are few-and-far-between, and I’m not sure how to identify them in advance. I scheduled on a Thursday for the next available test, tested at CVS on a Saturday and got results late on Tuesday. Your results may vary.
LU’s Supposed “Survey” about Closson Farm Leads you to Oppose It
Lambertville Mayor Julia Fahl, proposes that the City purchase the Closson Property and protect it before it becomes another tract of houses and condos on one of the last remaining open spaces in Lambertville. Her proposal includes purchase using existing funds and partners to limit the taxpayer cost to .63/household/year. (That’s cents.) Housing conversion estimates of the idyllic and historic farm vary from 12 units (current zoning) to 28 units (with variances). The property is currently on the market and could be purchased by a developer at any time. (See the City’s FAQ.)
Self-proclaimed “watchdog group” and 1st Amendment advocates “Lambertville United” apparently think this is a bad idea—especially if it is done before former Council Person Steve Stegman returns to his seat on the Council. Stegman you may recall, after many years on Council, and serving as Council President, resigned “to spend more time with his family” when the Fahl administration’s budget work revealed years of mismanagement, incompetence, and hidden costs in City budgets resulting in a crushing debt burden for at least the next ten years. (Many details available on the City web site.) With the endorsement and support of LU, Stegman, and his conveniently-named running mate, Benedetta Lambert, won election, returning the fox to the henhouse starting in 2021.
In mid-November, the “watchdog group” distributed a “survey” requesting feedback on “the Mayor’s Closson Farm” proposal.
I have screenshotted the entire survey (LU Closson Survey Questions) if you would rather not subject yourself to the trackers associated with it.
As in previous “surveys” from the Stegman, er, LU group, the very leading questions are intended to rile and misinform people about an issue, as opposed to actually getting feedback. Please read the City’s FAQ first.
For example the first real question in the survey begins with:
“In the past, all City of Lambertville purchases blah, blah were put to a vote through public referendum…”
REALLY? ALL? IS THAT TRUE? I’m not sure that is really true. Are we talking about the hills above Ely Field? Maybe this just doesn’t seem right due to the way it is phrased, because:
“Voters in November 2008 approved, by almost a 3-1 margin, extending the city’s open space tax, in part to purchase the McCann tract.”—NJ.com, (see link following)
BUT that referendum was not specifically on the purchase of the tract, it was about extending the tax.
But was there a referendum about every other purchase?
Nevertheless, the “survey” doesn’t let me say, “You idiots, the Clossons aren’t going to wait for your stupid referendum, time is clearly of the essence!”
And the next question leads with assuming higher taxes, bonds, and debt, and uses the term “redevelopment” without mentioning “open space” or “historic preservation” or even suggesting that there are some creative options for buying the property. (Again, I suggest you read the FAQ—the truth is out there.)
Someone needs to ask LU to be honest about what they really want, because when you offer them something that—based on their anonymous public statements, press releases, and lawn signs all over town—it seems we all could agree on, their concerns appear to be way more about personalities than issues or facts. It would be good to get clear on that.
But, uh, oh yeah, they don’t have any names on their web site. You can’t actually talk to anyone from LU. They’re not a public non-profit. They’re a secret society. Darn.
If you’d like to participate in the City’s public discussion of the topic, where speakers are required to reveal their identities, the meeting is Monday evening…
Info and updates for friends and Loved Ones— Vaccines are on the way!! Wahoo!! Dr. Atlas has resigned!! (Barring a coup), the imposter in the People’s House will be leaving on January 20th! WE can see that things will get better, but unfortunately we have MONTHS to get through first. And, the advice is the same: wear a mask, wash your hands, social distance, and don’t be an idiot! Oh, that’s new!? But you know what I mean, right? No super spreader orgies or rallies. You have the idea. BE SAFE.
11/21/20 Why Are States Imposing Coronavirus Curfews? – New York State and city leaders are trying to slow the spread of the coronavirus without full lockdowns. But whether curfews will help remains unclear. Or from my view, why close restaurants and bars at 10pm? Does Covid only come out after that? Jeez. If you’re going to close them, just do it! — Read on www.nytimes.com/2020/11/21/us/coronavirus-curfew.html
Info and Links for Friends and Loved Ones Wow, I lost a whole month! Where did it go? (I wasn’t sick, just working, and living..) And that’s life in the pandemic. I like to keep this information hopeful and upbeat, if possible. Honestly, things are going to get worse before they get much better. All you need to know is in my previous Covid updates: wash hands, wear a mask, social distance, isolate, and quarantine if you’re sick or exposed to someone who is, and test – but don’t rely on tests because you can be sick and contagious for 3-5 days before you test positive. As the imposter in the People’s House has proven, relying on testing alone can get everyone sick. VOTE if you haven’t. There is still time.
Why this is not the time to ease up, as much as we want and need to –
“As of Sunday morning <snip> at least 224,800 have died…The national trajectory is worsening rapidly. Wisconsin has opened a field hospital. North Dakota, which not long ago had relatively few cases, has grown so overwhelmed that it has now ended most contact tracing. Cases have reached record levels recently in more than 20 states, including Illinois, Tennessee, New Mexico, Nebraska and Utah.”— 10/25/20—https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html
How the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally may have spread coronavirus across the Upper Midwest: Within weeks of the gathering that drew nearly half a million bikers, the Dakotas, along with Wyoming, Minnesota and Montana, were leading the nation in new coronavirus infections per capita. – The Washington Post 10/17/20—Read on www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/10/17/sturgis-rally-spread/
Info and Links for Friends and Loved Ones New tests and testing info! More relatively current updates about Life in the Age of Covid arranged roughly by topic with newest articles first. Explainers about transmission in the air. Should I wear a mask? Is that really still a question!? The big question: Will the Pandemic ever end in the USA? Answer: If the current administration remains in power, the pandemic never EVEN happened. With actual leadership, Covid-19 should be under control within 18 months. PLEASE REGISTER TO VOTE, VOTE EARLY, AND DON’T COUNT ON THE USPS TO DELIVER YOUR BALLOT.
Get Tested for COVID-19 at Home! Mail-in kit from Pixel by LabCorp (Not an Antibody test. A test to see if you are currently infected. You will have to come up with a reason for being tested if you don’t have symptoms.) 8/25/2020 — Read on – www.pixel.labcorp.com/covid-19 Read on
Nurses Who Battled Virus in New York Confront Friends Back Home Who Say It’s a Hoax (I include this because to me it is unfathomable that people could believe this is a hoax. You probably have neighbors, as I do, who still treat it like it is a hoax. RANT FOLLOWS: And that the wing nuts could think this is a Leftist Conspiracy? When the damage, the death, is being wrought on the most vulnerable and disadvantaged populations—seriously, the “Democrat”, liberals, poor, seniors, and people of color— those populations. While the government is compensating giant corporations and banks and billionaires? Who is benefitting from this disease? People on Social Security? Sounds more like a conspiracy of the Republicants to wipe out their troublesome opponents. But, NO, I don’t believe that. “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”—Christo) 07/07/20 Read in NYT: www.nytimes.com/2020/07/07/us/coronavirus-nurses.html
“This rotten time wouldn’t seem so bad to me now. If I didn’t die, I should be satisfied, I survived. It’s good enough for now.”— “Sky Blue Sky”, Wilco
Winding down the summer of 2020. It’s 86 degrees in Western Central New Jersey with 98% humidity—that’s pretty swampy weather, even though it’s cooler by 5 degrees than most days for the last few weeks. I’m listening to the Goldfinches chirp as they fly overhead in between feeder stops. A Kingfisher chatters his way north up the river, while the nattering Nuthatches explore the walnut tree from every angle—upside down, sideways—jerkily walking the bark in three dimensions without hesitation or fear of gravity. They do sidestep the big yellow wasps, who have a nest in a hole in the tree. While one guards the entrance, wings buzzing incessantly, the others come and go quickly with a sense of purpose.
Too late to go for a cool morning ride.
We’re six plus months into this Covid thing. I haven’t been to GIANT market, where I now appreciate leisurely strolling, relaxed, picking through the corn chips, looking for the healthy ones, and trying to find the sliced wild salmon with no sugar or flavorings. In all this time I haven’t returned to the gym where I taught T’ai Chi—not since that last Saturday morning, right before lockdown, when only four students showed. I haven’t met my friend Pendar for dinner at Bell’s Tavern, a habit we’ve maintained for over thirty years. No tuna sub from Valpariso’s for lunch on work days. I have bought a few dozen bagels from Hee San at Bagel Delite, had a few TLT Sandwiches from Jess’s Juice Bar, sushi from Ota Ya, and the grilled chicken pesto panini at Liv and Charlies, all from curb-side pickup of course, no sit-down restaurant meals anywhere. Not happening. I miss the social ease of dropping into Rojo’s coffee shop and reading at a table, or treating myself to cookie-dough ice cream at Oh Wow Cow.
I wear a mask whenever I go out, and ALL DAY at work – and a bandana when I ride my bike. I used to say I did it to set a good example, which is still true, but I really do it because it’s the right thing to do. I don’t need to hear or make any arguments about it. My mom was an O.R. nurse. I know intuitively this is the right thing. I get pissed at people who don’t wear masks – including my neighbors with their small children. But I don’t say anything. When someone sneers some comment at me for wearing a mask, I resist the urge to shove them into the canal, where they belong. And to be fair, I have recently witnessed my neighbors and children rolling the downtown sidewalks, all masked. Not consistently, but at least around town.
This is serious business, and most of us will get through it – eventually – and some won’t.
Do what you need to stay sane and healthy, be excellent to one another, and for God’s sake, vote and vote early!
If Bonin was in jail until October of 1978 … then who picked me up?
August 6, 1977 — It wasn’t looking good. A late start, leaving the “No Nukes” demonstration on the coast at San Onofre in the afternoon, a couple short hops through most of Orange County, but now I’d been standing with my big, orange backpack at my side, alone for over two hours, on a quiet on-ramp on the eastern end of San Bernardino, California, the last outpost of civilization before the freeway ascends through the colored layers of smog to Cajon Pass, and from there, into the Mojave Desert. I was hoping for a full ride, the four or so hours to Vegas in one trip, but it was dark, there was no traffic on this ramp, and I wasn’t getting anywhere.
As I turned my head to avoid the hot sand blowing at my face, a big, dark, slightly dented, Econoline van drove by slowly. The driver checked me out and kept going. About ten minutes later, I was pretty sure, the same guy drove by again. That was weird. Most people don’t go back to pick up a hitchhiker. But it wasn’t unheard of. Somebody looking for company on a long drive might do just that. This time he slowed, rolled over the curb, and lowered his passenger-side window. He was roughly my age, a bit geeky, dressed almost formally, as if he were a waiter, or had been in some kind of performance, but frumpy in a wrinkled white shirt and black pants, with greasy dark hair. He offered to drop me up the freeway at the far end of town. Considering my current location, I hesitated. I wasn’t fond of the spot, but I knew it was near the train station, downtown, and if I got desperate I could make my way there, maybe catch a train, at least be around more people. Before I could reply, he suggested, “Tell you what, it you don’t like it, I’ll drive you back here.”
“Deal,” I said, and hopped into the passenger seat, holding my packpack between my knees.
The usual obligatory conversation ensued—he was a piano tuner—I nodded, without making any comments or asking questions that might come to mind—me, a student going to visit family in Las Vegas. I didn’t like sharing too much information, and I was already a little suspicious. In hitchhiking, it’s always a balancing act – you want a ride, you’re relying on the generosity of strangers, you want to give people the “benefit of the doubt” without being foolish, and you always should be a little suspicious. Up to that point my only misadventures had been with sloppy drivers who were drunk, or stoned, and once, the awkwardness of politely turning down an older woman who came onto me verbally.
The van was empty, the inside walls painted; I didn’t see anything unusual. I was watching the street, making sure we were staying near the freeway. I didn’t want to end up in some unfamiliar downtown, in the dark, late at night. In hitchhiking, you cling to the big busy roads like a lifeline.
We were clearly on the outskirts of town when he pulled over at a deserted on-ramp, and said, “Here it is!” I couldn’t believe there could be an on-ramp darker, or more isolated than the one I had come from, but here it was.
I made no move to get out of the van. I told him, “Ok, I’m going to take you up on your offer. Drive me back.” Maybe slightly surprised, he did.
Very shortly after that (too soon, it seemed, as if this second guy had gotten a phone call just as quick as the piano tuner could get to a phone booth at a Seven Eleven to tell him that I was there at the downtown on-ramp), a guy in a Subaru Hatchback pulled over, told me he was going to Victorville. Not all that far, but out of the urban desolation, in the desert, and with a couple of large truck stops. After the piano tuner, I was relieved that this guy wore blue jeans and a plaid shirt, like almost every other guy in Southern California, was maybe a few years older than me, but not much; he appeared to be pretty normal. I’d been stuck too long; any ride was worthwhile, and hitch-hiking into the night was okay. As long as I was moving. It was the being stuck that was awful. Waiting under some streetlight near an on-ramp with no traffic whatsoever, in a strange town. That’s the worst.
I threw my backpack in the back of the car. As I climbed in I noticed that compared to the skinny piano tuner, this guy was short and stocky. He made some comment about my build, that I was a “big healthy guy” or something like that, and asked if I studied any martial arts, which immediately raised my suspicion another notch, although I said, “No,” and I climbed in. He told me he had to make a phone call then we would be on our way. This was before cell phones. He drove a few deserted blocks into San Bernardino and parked within sight of a pay phone. He walked to the phone booth, and was there for a what seemed a very long time. Thirty minutes? He seemed to be arguing with someone. He made a lot of hand motions and kept glancing back at the car.
So many years later, I have no idea what I was doing at the time. I think I was super-focused on getting the hell out of San Bernardino, and on the road, moving, making progress toward a destination, and it seemed that this was my best chance. Now, I imagine this guy was talking to his partner, discussing if I was a candidate for murder, what he or they would do with me. Was he trying to ascertain if I was scared? Would I hop out and try to get away? How best to subdue me? I remember thinking I had my hunting knife in my pack, if this turned out to be a really bad situation, and obviously if I was thinking about that, I probably shouldn’t have stayed there. I sat in the car, waiting, and I passed the test for gullibility.
He finally came back, and we headed onto I-15 toward Vegas. At first I was relieved to be getting underway. It was after midnight. We drove out onto the highway and into the dark empty desert night in relative silence for 30 minutes or more, passing uneventfully through progressively more deserted tracts of rising foothills.
Was he touching my thigh? Almost everyone who has a “bad” hitchhiking story will tell you about some driver putting his hand on their leg. I’d heard a few. He touched my thigh. I wasn’t sure at first that was what he was doing, and tried to ignore it. Thinking how bad I needed the ride, I was getting scared, but angry too. Jeez. I brushed his hand away, as if he did it accidentally. I looked at him, his eyes were glued to the road. Within a minute his hand was back. I told him, “Stop it.”
“Stop What?” He asked, not quite innocently.
“I am not gay, and I have no intention of becoming gay tonight,” I said firmly.
“What are you talking about?” He asked indignantly.
“Look,” I said, “It was your hand on my leg. Keep it off.”
He gave a little snort, then got very quiet, but kept driving, his eyes on the road. I was trying hard to remain calm and not panic, but I was considering how I could get out. Would I have to abandon my pack with my sleeping bag, knife, and other means of survival? Maybe I could pull the keys from the ignition and throw them out the window into the sand and tumbleweeds?
We were not yet to Victorville, I had no idea where we were, because those minutes felt like hours, maybe they were hours, I was just praying we would see a truck stop where I could get out and be visible under some light.
A cross road appeared with an off-ramp, and with a finger, he flicked his turn signal.
“I’m not going any farther. I’m going to turn around here.” He said.
I looked out the window. A narrow road snaked off into the desert at a right angle to the freeway. Way off in the darkness lights twinkled at a big house or ranch. He pulled over. I don’t think it even occurred to me at the time that he might have a pistol.
“Here?” I asked. “Where am I going to get a ride here!?”
“Maybe you can walk up there and get a ride,” He pointed at the lights in the distance.
“Ok,” I said, opening the door, and trying to climb out while grabbing my pack from the back seat at the same time so he couldn’t pull away with it still inside. But he didn’t. He was done with me at that point. He stayed in the car. I got quickly to the side of the road, watched while he turned the car around and headed back toward the freeway, and then, figuring he was still watching me, I began to walk on the asphalt toward the lights in the distance, terrified that he would come zooming back, thinking that I could jump off to the side, and into the desert, where, having grown up in the Southwest, I might have some advantage. But his tail lights kept getting dimmer, and smaller, fading into the distance.
I could hear music and voices from the lights at the house across the desert. Maybe there was a party going on or something. I considered walking all the way there. But since I had already given him the impression that was where I was going, I waited until his red tail lights were completely out of sight, and then I turned around and reversed direction.
I walked back to the big circle of asphalt where the off-ramp swung around the freeway to meet that desert road. I walked into the middle of that circle, where I was sure I could hear or see a car or even a pedestrian coming from any direction. I found a low spot, hidden by creosote and big tumbleweed, and settled there. I got out my hunting knife and slipped it into my pocket, laid out my sleeping bag. I was exhausted. I had this idea that he would come back looking for me. I probably didn’t sleep at all. Once or twice I got up when a big semi rushed past on the freeway, but there was no traffic on the side road for the rest of the night. I didn’t sleep.
The next morning I walked back to the freeway as the cool air grew warm, and probably walked another mile or two to a big hillside truck stop. A line of hitchhikers with signs stood or sat at the turn off. Standard “protocol” for hitching – you get in line and take turns getting rides. “First come, first served”. And of course the driver always had veto power. “I’ll take you, but not you.” According to protocol I would have to wait until the six or eight hikers who got there before me got their rides before I could get mine. Suddenly I remembered that my folks were expecting me. If everything had gone well, and I had not been stranded in San Bernardino, I should have been to Vegas late last night. I walked past all the other hitchers to the gas station, to check it out, and use the bathroom. When I was done, I walked out to the pumps, two cars gettting gas. Fuck it. I had had enough of this shit. I walked over to a middle-aged man with a crewcut standing next to a dusty blue 4-door Maverick. “Hi, are you going to Vegas?”
He quickly sized me up, replied, “I am.”
“Would you be able to give me a ride? I’d sure appreciate it.”
“You going there to gamble?”
“No sir, I grew up there. I’m going to visit my folks.”
“Okay,” he said affably, “I just gotta finish filling my tank, and we can go.”
“Thank you, I don’t have much money, but I can give you ten dollars for the gas.” I offered, adding, “It’s been a long night.”
He shook his head no, and motioned me to get into the passenger seat.
He smoked Camel plain ends the whole way, with his window down. The smoke bothered me some, but I was so relieved that he seemed normal, chatted in a friendly way, and kept his hands to himself. I don’t remember much about him except that he was an ex-marine and had done some hitching himself. This is true of most “rides”. They have compassion, they pick you up because they’ve done it. The rest of the trip went by very fast. I did not sleep. He dropped me off at the Sahara Blvd. exit, only a mile or so from my folk’s house, and I thanked him.
I started walking up the hill where the Wonder World store used to be, where I bought my first LPs, and I’d hardly walked ten yards, hadn’t put my thumb out, when a yellow Datsun pickup pulled over. Wow. Another ride. I was kind of thinking maybe I’d be better off walking, when I realized it was my brother Rob, hopping out of the cab. He threw my pack in the pickup bed.
I was home. After explaining why I was so much later than expected, my parents offered to pay my Amtrak fare back to LA and I gratefully accepted. And that was my last solo hitchhiking trip.
*** For years I was sure that mine was a lucky encounter with William Bonin, one of three “Freeway Killers” active in Southern California around that time. (And not to be confused with the “Freeway Strangler”, who specialized in female victims). And at the time I was hitching, I was aware of there being “freeway murders” of hitchhikers . I was twenty-one, had hitchhiked with friends and alone up and down the coast, and to Tucson, Phoenix, and Palm Springs. I was young.
Bonin was known to have several accomplices who helped him procure victims, and who accompanied him on his murderous forays in his Ford Econoline van. I figure that the first “victim pickup attempt” failed—because I didn’t like the second ramp—and after the weird piano tuner returned me to that first on-ramp, he immediately called his partner to come and get me in the hatchback.
Other than telling this story to friends and family, I never thought much more about it. Years (actually decades) later, I was exchanging emails with the late writer and friend Anthony Bruno about his biography of “the Iceman” mob killer, commenting that professional hit men are actually serial killers who have found an accepting home. Recalling my experience brought up a wave of angst that wouldn’t go away, and feeling that the Internet gave me access to information I never had before, I began reading about Bonin and the other “Freeway Killers”. I confirmed that the timeline didn’t seem right, even though the one or two photos I could find of Bonin looked to me like the guy who dumped me out in the desert. But it was a long time ago.
If Bonin was in jail until October of 1978 and didn’t meet his two main accomplices, Vernon Butts (whose description fits my memory of “the piano tuner”) and Gregory Miley, until after he was released from his incarceration in 1978, then who picked me up?
If it wasn’t Bonin, who was it? Or, who werethey? There are a number of similar unsolved murders from the same time. The geography, Econoline van, and apparent Modus Operandi, appear to match that of Bonin, not of Kearney or Kraft, the other “Freeway Killers”. Essentially, in my case, no crime was committed, just a lot of weird, scary, and intimidating shit. Maybe the two San Bernardino “pick ups” were completely unrelated. But they sure seemed oddly related to me at the time. Even the couple of documented “failed” Bonin attempts sound eerily like my night on the road to Victorville. For all I know, if I hadn’t spoken up, if I hadn’t stood up for myself and spoken out and drawn the boundaries, I might have been one more mutilated corpse discarded by the side of an LA freeway.
I include links and notes here if you want to read more, but I must warn you that these crimes were not just “simple” murders. They consist of absolutely horrifying torture and mutilation of victims. Read at your own risk.
Patrick Kearney (also known as the “Trash Bag Murderer”), killings 1965-March 1977, shoot victims in the ear with a .22 in his VW Beetle, or truck, apprehended July 1, 1977, serving 21 life sentences in Mule Creek State Prison, CA https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patrick_Kearney
William Bonin, “the Freeway Killer” in 1975 picks up hitchhiker David McVicker (who survives), Murders May 79 – June 80, imprisoned Dec. 75 to Oct. 11, 1978. Drives an olive-green Ford Econoline when committing abductions. William Pugh 17, picked up in 1980, survives, because he was seen leaving with Bonin. Bonin executed Feb. 1996, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Bonin
Vernon Butts, part-time magician and occultist, meets Bonin in ’78, Bonin accomplice (one of 4) – Committed suicide (hanging) January 1981
Gregory Miley, meets Bonin in ’78, IQ of 56, accomplice of Bonin, dies in prison.
Info and Links for Friends and Loved Ones
More relatively current updates about Life in the Age of Covid: As businesses open, valiant warriors peacefully confront racism and Police Violence, and the unwanted visitor in the People’s House relishes any #Diversion as he refuses to #WearAMask.
The Risks – Know Them – Avoid Them — Successful Infection = Exposure to Virus x Time It seems many people are breathing some relief, and I’m not sure why. An epidemic curve has a relatively predictable upslope and once the peak is reached, the back slope can also be predicted. We have robust data from the outbreaks in China and Italy, that shows the backside of the mortality curve declines slowly, with 5/20/20— Read on www.erinbromage.com/post/the-risks-know-them-avoid-them