Duff: Hitchhiking Toward Seattle And Hydroponic Pot

Former Guns N' Roses bassist Duff McKagan is now, among other things, a columnist for Rocks Off's sister music blog in Seattle, Reverb. This month Touchstone Books will publish Duff's memoir, It's So Easy: And Other Lies, and he agreed to publish an excerpt on Reverb. In turn, Reverb agreed to share Duff's wisdom with Rocks Off and our readers. When we left off Friday, Duff and his G N' R bandmates were stranded in an onion field, desperately trying to find a way to their gig in Seattle.

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Photo by Greg Freeman
Amazingly, these five men had some difficulty hitchhiking in rural California c. 1985.
After a few more hours of walking, I was only slightly aware of the passing cars. No one was going to pick us up, I thought to myself. My hope was that maybe we would come to a farmhouse with a phone and I could call Donner or Kim up in Seattle. Maybe someone would be able to come get us.

By morning, I was so fucking hungry and thirsty. We all were. Just then, a full-size pickup swerved to the side of the road and stopped in front of us. Two women in their mid-thirties told us to get in the back.

They were sorry, they said, and explained they had passed us without picking us up when they first saw us. They were scared. But then they had talked about the way they, too, had been passed so many times on the roadside as hippies back in the early 1970s; they scolded each other, turned around at the next exit, and came back for us.

They asked us if we were hungry. We were. They asked us if we were thirsty. We were. They asked us if we were broke. We were. They pulled over at the next gas station, bought us sandwiches and beer, and told us they could take us all the way up to Portland. Almost three hundred miles! These women were like angels sent from heaven. Food and drink never tasted so fucking good. Friendship from strangers couldn't have come at a better time.

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I tried Donner's number from a pay phone at the gas station and he actually answered.

"Dude, here's the deal. We broke down in Bakersfield and we've been hitchhiking for a day and a half. We're in Medford now and some girls are going to drive us as far as Portland. We'll be there early this afternoon."

Donner grew pot. He had grow operations going in a couple of unused buildings. He always had dough. And he had already met some of the other members of the band -- Donner had visited me in L.A.

I asked him, "Can you help us out somehow?"

So we started talking: Could he arrange bus tickets maybe? Then he blurted out, "Fuck that, I'll pick you up. We're going to have a party at my house tonight, we'll have a feast, there'll be girls, it's going to be a Seattle welcome."

We made it to Portland on Monday afternoon, and Donner was there. By the time we arrived in Seattle, it seemed everyone I knew had apparently heard of our trials. They welcomed us with open arms, open liquor bottles, and open drug stashes. People in Seattle knew me as a drinker -- they knew that as a result of my panic attacks I was not into drugs back then. For this reason, I guess, nobody offered anything hard. I think Izzy was a bit disappointed by this, and by then perhaps a tad sick from withdrawal.

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