Friday, May 21, 2010

A Little Known Cultural Factoid From the '70s

After high school I spent several years hitch hiking up and down the west coast with buddies. Our lofty ambitions during this period of youthful folly were to spit in the Grand Canyon, sleep in the Painted Desert, and pan handle in Height Ashbury. We meandered through WA, OR, CA, AZ, NM, NV, and UT and spent hundreds of hours idling about freeway on-ramps with our thumbs out. Here comes the cultural factoid: the 6” x 6” posts of freeway on-ramp signs were plastered with the hand scrawled notes of a generation of aimless wanderers, personal notes beyond the ubiquitous “Impeach Nixon.”

“Jade, meet me in SF on the 14th. Sunseed.” “Flakey Foont, I missed you in Phoenix. Find me in Flagstaff next month. Mr. Natural.” “Amethyst, we waited 3 days and you never showed. Found Moose. Head to Elko. Look us up. Amanita.”

The freeway sign posts, eight to ten feet tall for maximum visibility, were literally covered with micro blogs on all four sides, from top to bottom, on every on-ramp from Salem to San Diego: Oakland, Bakersfield, Sepulveda, Yuma, Chico, Union Gap, San Jose, and more.

“Chrystal, busted in Redding, hung up in Sacramento, Oceanside soon. Opal.” “Marjoram, where’s that twenty bucks I loaned you? Chanterelle.” “Has anyone seen that chic Rainbow from Pismo Beach? Was supposed to be here last Thursday. Tell her Mossyfern missed her.”

Clearly, the odds of these messages actually reaching their intended audiences were slim. The pattern of pick up and drop off was random, subject to the whim of Good Samaritan motorists. But the sign posts did make for interesting reading while stranded for hours. The human need for connection always finds a way.

“Crazy Horse at Fillmore next month. Pickles, meet me there.” “Greenflower, where the heck are you?” “Great soup kitchen on Elmwood in Berkeley but don’t eat the tuna.”

Just think how efficient the nomadic 70s might have been had we had Twitter.

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