On hitchhiking and psychic leaps
America is a perpetual attempt to try to overcome people's fear and make
it a positive experience for them to pick you up. When you see the thrilling
red brake lights and rush up in the dark and tear open the car door only
to look into the barrel of a frightened driver's gun you know that it
is to your mutual advantage and security that you should be forced to
show the contents of your pockets or passport in this way.
Trust can be promoted with a nice elaborate sign. I experiment with all kinds of slogans such as "Saving fuel for you" and "Bible belt -- and no Good Samaritan?", but sad to say the only thing which gives people real trust is advertising that I am not American. Trust is essential for demographic hitchhiking. Rides with women is among hitchhikers regarded as a special psychic encouragement and security after all the aggressions of so-called "rednecks" and "perverts."
But women are a problem, too. Since American women are very open and unlike female drivers in Europe often invite you home, they make themselves extremely vulnerable. On the one hand it is important always to let the woman set the boundaries of the new friendship if you have even a hope of avoiding the sexism inevitably imposed on you as a man by a society which has never given you the choice of whether or not to become a sexist or racist, but only of trying to counter-act the negative acts such suffering causes.
Without an awareness of your suffering you are bound to hurt the oppressed with your "master-vibrations." On the other hand you cannot just -- as with male drivers -- float along into any situation, as you can then easily cause hurt feelings.
Even the most competent vagabond makes mistakes here, not least because you yourself are so vulnerable and the immense hardships on the road often make you fall in love with types you would never otherwise open up to.
I had a striking experience of giving such injurious signals when a driver offered me the so-called "love drug" MDA which makes you unbelievably in love with all people. But the next ride I had was with a stiff 80 year old woman who due to my ungovernable love couldn't help being affected and in the course of the next hours began to behave like an amorous teenager. So we were both left a bit crestfallen when the intoxication disappeared.
Among the most beautiful things
you experience as a vagabond are, however, such relationships with old
people whom you one way or another manage to evade in normal life. They
are the most harmonious group for the hitchhiker as they -- unlike working
people -- live on the same time level as the vagabond and furthermore
can give your journey its important fourth dimension: the historical perspective.
When you hear statements from them like "What this country needs
is another great depression to bring us all together again" you experience
the enormous alienation which makes being together with the vagabond so
important for these people.
From six in the morning to two at night he stormed and raged over the injustices. If we were lost, he would stop anywhere to ask directions. One night it was outside a full suburban church. He ran in, stopped the service, presented me as a minister's son from Denmark, then delivered a thunderous indignant sermon after which he conducted the choir. After half an hour the congregation lay in fits of ringing laughter and he suddenly remembered his real mission and sent church-goers to their cars to get maps, after which a large circle lay on the church floor to find "Indian Road".
Every day he had new projects. One day he learned from some young people about "organic farming" and got so inspired that we got started right away on procuring four truckloads of manure from the Everglades in order to fly it over to his estate in the Bahamas.
After a week like this I was totally defeated from lack of sleep and proportion and had to leave. Oh, how I enjoyed the freedom on the highway again! But the next ride was with an 82-year old woman who was so hyperactive that she only napped while I was actually driving. If she had not sent me up to Philadelphia a few days later to get one of her cars and let me use her credit card to invite my poor friends from the cotton and tobacco fields as well as passing drifters and hitchhikers to the finest restaurants on the way back to Florida, she might very well have worn me out completely.
Letter to Mog, an American friend.
Mog's favorite photo:
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