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"
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.
But the hyperactive ones can kill you with their psychic leaps! In Florida
a 72-year old rich man picked me up and when he heard that I photographed
he made me his private photographer. He wanted me to expose the "filthy
rich" on Palm Beach and took me to the most exclusive parties, where
we wallowed in champagne, women and multi- millionaires, immediately afterward
taking both me and luxurious gifts over to the black slums in West Palm
Beach or the slave camps outside the city, and the next moment driving
around to report these "criminal" conditions to police, courts
and city councils.
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
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
Mog's favorite photo: