NORMAL: stories from my life; (teaser from PART III: Travel)


Getting closer to publication.


The Burning of the Bank of America
The Crazy Concert
Roland’s Trial
The Boat


The House my father built in Glendale
The Stone House at Rumblin’s
The House at the Land
The Hermitage


Backpacking/Boy Scouts

Sleeping bag, tarp, jacket; tin foil, fishing leader with hook, bag of raisins and nuts; pocket knife, topographical map, matches.

I have always traveled light, but this was the lightest I had ever backpacked. I would be out two nights, travel about 30 miles, but only the first and last few on a trail. I would cross three watersheds before I descended the 80 foot cliff into the box canyon which emptied into Woods Lake where I was working for my brother building a log house while Barbara was in nearby Aspen at the Music Festival. Every evening after work I had poured over the topographical map to find a way down that cliff. I focused on one crevasse toward the head of the canyon, and finally decided it was passable.


An experienced fisherman will always catch more fish than a novice. It may look like they’re both doing the same thing, but the knowledge that the experienced fisherman has of the habits, needs, and temptations of each species of fish is translated into subtle movements that catch the fish.

It is the same with hitchhiking. One usually has about three seconds to “catch” a ride. That first second is when the driver considers the possibility of picking up a hitchhiker.

   – One always has to be visible.

The next second is when the driver gets a general impression of the hitchhiker.

   – One always has to be vigilant in one’s posture and expression and one always has to have one’s belongings readily available.

In that third second, when the driver gets a closer look, that general impression is either enhanced or negated.

By this time, the hitchhiker must have assessed the driver and communicated the appropriate message:

i) I present no danger,
ii) I will provide interesting conversation,
iii) I will keep you awake or even drive for you,
iv) I have a specific destination with a legitimate need to get there,
v) I will not bring “downer” vibes into your environment.

Hitchhiking was work, not only catching a ride, but maintaining relationships in the car to get maximum distance out of the ride. I usually didn’t ask people how far they were going, but did say where I was going. Over time the driver would decide how far he or she wanted to take me. I didn’t want to force that decision before I had a chance to prove my value. People who pick up hitchhikers often have needs.

The 60’s Part I

When I decided to write these travel stories, I realized that this would be the last chance to talk about my life in the 60’s, and that although I have made references to various incidents that happened in that period, I have been pretty sketchy about my comings and goings in that mythical decade. So I’ll take some time with this story to give a chronology of where I spent my time and why, and some of what was going on in my slow development toward adulthood.

I was not a good student. I enrolled as an engineering major because that is what my father was and what my brother had done. I did badly in two kinds of courses, the kind with arrogant young professors, and the kind that required nightly homework. Most of the required social science courses had professors of the first type, and most of the engineering prerequisites were of the second type. I stopped going to classes and flunked out after three semesters. I did not know what I wanted out of life, but I knew the track I was on would not lead me there. I didn’t know how to change course, so I balked.

The 60’s Part II

… In the fall of 1967 I returned to Santa Barbara and took up my studies again. The department had made some changes in the requirements for a master’s in composition, so all I had to do was write papers for the incompletes, take a few more courses from my composition teacher, and finish my symphony. I got a job in the student cafeteria for the week before school and earned the $75 needed for tuition. While I was working I camped out on the peninsula across the lagoon from the Student Union. It was quite comfortable, so I set up a kind of camp there. In the day I hid my sleeping bag under the roots of the big eucalyptus tree on the down-hill side, and I tied my few groceries in a net bag from Guatemala up in the tree about 20 feet. I got a job as choir director in the Methodist church in Isla Vista, conducting the small choir for the small first service. It paid $8 per week the first semester, with a raise to $10 for the second semester. It was all I needed.

I made deals with the people at the Student Union: since a cheeseburger cost 10 cents more than a hamburger, I could buy a piece of cheese for 10 cents. I priced two pieces of toast at another 10 cents because that was the additional cost to add toast to scrambled eggs. So I regularly had a 20-cent cheese sandwich. Students had a tradition of hanging their used tea bags from the branches of the small newly planted trees outside on the lawn, and hot water was free, so I always had tea with my meals. I did some dumpster diving and always had peanut butter in my net bag. I had a locker in the music building where I could keep some clothes. I showered in the gym, and I had a table in the library where I was copying out my symphony. I kept everything on the table overnight and the librarians guarded it. We never spoke about it, but they knew it was valuable and I needed the space, so I had a table all to myself.

In Europe with Barbara

… From Munich we planned on going to Czechoslovakia. Again I didn’t consult guide-books about travel. I could see that it was a pretty straight shot from Munich to Plzen to Prague. We bought a train ticket to the border. It listed several transfers. Each transfer was to a smaller train. I wouldn’t swear to it, but I think the last train had only three cars and was painted red, looking for all the world like a San Francisco cable car. The countryside was beautiful. We passed small villages and scattered homes on the opposite hillsides. We didn’t go much above five miles per hour because it was steep. Clearly this wasn’t the main route to Prague.

The train tracks ended at a little town. We were the only ones looking to go on to Czechoslovakia. Although I had flunked the eight-unit German class at UCSB, I did learn enough to pass my written language exam, so I was the German speaker and found out that we needed to walk down a small road to the border. It was about a quarter of a mile to the check-point on a bridge. No vehicle passed us. We were cordially received, had our passports stamped and were told to continue on down the road. After another quarter mile we came to a town with a large round Quonset hut which served as the town gathering place. It was packed with people sitting at rows of tables, drinking beer, smoking, and playing cards. We were there for about three hours before a bus came to take us to Plzen.

It was fall of 1971. Prague Spring had happened in 1968.


Violin Concerto
Cain: an Opera in 3 Acts
El Salvador: Requiem and Invocation
The Cell: an Opera in 5 Acts
Ascona: an Opera in 3 Acts


Car camping
Language Schools in Guatemala and Nicaragua
Spring break with the girls in Florida


On the Staff of AKF
Transition to Entre Culturas


Economic Justice: Part 1. Colombia and FTAA
Economic Justice: Part 2. FTAA and CAFTA
Environmental concerns
Immigrant Rights


About Newell Hendricks

I have lived a good life. Maybe a counterculture life, maybe a normal life. I have written operas, built houses, been involved with cross-cultural education between Latin America and the U.S, and hardly ever had a job I have helped raise two wonderful children with my amazing wife. It's been a good ride. And I go to church. I've just finished a book of stories from my life, I am still connected to an organization in Nicaragua that promotes sister relationships between communities, faith communities, or schoold, and to the extent that my cancer doesn't pull me down, am attempting to share some of what I have learned, or at least tried out. Welcome, and let's share.
This entry was posted in counter culture, life style, Memoire, music, Travel, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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