Road Stories

December 2, 2008 | 2 Comments

Category: Auto-Biography

Hitchhiking back and forth across the country, unique things happened frequently enough that the experience stayed attractive.  Still, the emotional swings of depression/elation were intense, the most intense I have ever experienced.  A hitcher is very vulnerable on the road.  Joy and despair are constant companions.  Though uncommon, there were times when I’d feel both at once.

I lucid dream.  This means I sometimes am aware that I am dreaming while I dream.  There was a period in my life where I gave this much attention, and on occasion I’d awake from dream into this world and carry with me the sense that this world is being created moment by moment by something-larger-than-myself.  A profound aspect of lucid dream is the awareness while dreaming that every detail is being manufactured by the unconscious.  It feels miraculous.  The dreamer in a lucid dream often feels joy.

Traveling about the country in the 1960s and earthly 70s, whether by car picking up hitchhikers or as a hitchhiker, there was the sense of the world being a friendly place, even a safe place.  One’s thumb was a ticket to the subculture.  In the beginning, many of us felt part of something larger than ourselves.  The feeling wasn’t as intense as a lucid dream or awakening from such a dream still feeling embraced by the creator of the world, but the jolts of joy that came with hitching through this devastatingly beautiful country often felt like communications from something greater.

I was a spiritual/social change hippie.  There were the political hippies and the drug hippies.  Usually, we were all three to some degree, but often one of the three currents or threads stood out.  For me, social transformation and spiritual experience was fascinating and compelling.  This spiritual/social change thread would eventually evolve to what came to be called “New Age.”

By 1971, the draft was down to something like 60 numbers out of 365 birthdays.  That was the last year of the draft.  Politics was discussed much less, with attention turning toward social change, religion and drugs.  As a hitcher, you would be picked up by a lot of people who wanted to get you stoned.  Drugs were everywhere.  Their effect became less positive with time.  In the beginning, in the mid to late 60s, drugs were part of a social surge characterized by our feeling part of something larger than ourselves.  By the early 70s, drugs were becoming an opportunity to try to retain that experience.  By the mid 70s, drugs were drugs.  Regardless, getting stoned and occasionally tripping was part of road culture.

Police were part of road culture.  Getting harassed by cops on entrance ramps was a frequent occurrence.  We’d want to get close to the highway so we could be seen.  Cops wanted to keep us at the entrance of the ramps.  A common theme was the desire to get picked up before the police saw you and commanded you to get back to the entrance.  In Flagstaff, a group of us lingered around an entrance ramp for almost eight hours before an RV picked us all up.  We were offered cold beer from an ice box.  That was the only time I ever got picked up by an RV.

Once, just three miles away from my house, almost home after hitching many thousands of miles back and forth across the country, a local cop gave me a ticket for hitching.

I’d ask to sleep in jails on occasion.  Stuck in the middle of a Syracuse, New York, ghetto at 2 a.m., I asked a cop if he’d lock me up for the night.  He directed me to the bus station.  In West Virginia, amused police permitted me to sleep in a cell.  They locked it and then woke me at 6:00 a.m.

I remember bedding down in what I thought was a forest late one night.  I awoke to discover I was in someone’s front yard.  On another occasion, bedding down beside the St. Lawrence Seaway on the way to Quebec City, I woke up covered in leeches.

California was truly a strange place.  Crossing the border into California was entering the land of people with an altered state to sell.  I don’t mean drug-induced altered states.  Over and over again, I’d enter California and get picked up by people that wanted to share a religion, cult, spiritual path, meditation technique or consciousness-altering trick.  Everyone in California wanted you to embrace his or her discovery.  Born and raised in the practical Chicago suburbs, I felt that California was like a giant Disneyland with a Buddhaland, Krishnaland, and What-I-Just-Read-In-This-Book land.  I can’t tell you how many introductions to religion I received.  Jesus was not often mentioned in these hitcher sermons.  I only remember a couple times being picked up by fundamentalist Christians.

Ten thousand feet high in the Colorado mountains, I was seeing a hundred miles and feeling loved by a world I felt surrounded by.  Awakening in a ditch by the desert, I wondered what the hell I was doing and craved home.

I traveled with juggling balls, musical instruments, sketching materials, books and toys.  I kept myself and my companions entertained.  I received rides of almost 2,500 miles and others of several blocks.  I remember crossing New Jersey by getting rides from one exit to the next, like a relay race, crossing the state lickety-split, daisy chaining a dozen conversations.

Only in the last three or four years has that experience of the road returned.  Social networking is introducing web travelers to something like what emerged in the 1960s.  Only this time, it seems secular.  Youth are being introduced to an experience of feeling-part-of-something-larger-than-the-self without the religion, and perhaps without the spirituality.  Society, through the Internet and cell phone, is making connections.  I’m curious to see what the impact of something equivalent to the Vietnam War, which kick-started the transformation the last time around, will have upon our contemporary environment where the digital roads have all been prepared.  I expect the economic swoon or crash will be what starts it.  Watch for thumbs appearing across the web.


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This entry was posted on Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008 at 7:57 am and is filed under Auto-Biography. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
2 Comments so far

  1. Kimberly Bock on December 2, 2008 9:09 am

    I can’t tell you how timely this post is. I have had similar experinces, not with lucid dreams or police letting me camp out in a cell over noght..sheesh aren’t YOU the lucky one? lol

    I also quickly realized tht today’s social media use (using net for mass communication on a trillion available platforms) is giving people, young one, middle aged ones, older ones, a platform where they can express themselves..in the wise open for millions to possibly view.

    It can only amount to being explosive, unless of course net neutrality issues aren’t resolved..

    A voice given to people who otherwise may never have been amongst hearing ears?

    I shutter to think..I mean, nowadays, we can be employed online by the same people we already support. Check the marketing forums and networking..They follow people for a while share of themselves, then bam! “Ya wanna job promoting us?” Doing what they were doing anyway for heaven sakes..

    Dunno if I was way off base or not. Have been up all night. eek!

  2. Kimberly Bock on December 2, 2008 9:11 am

    boo. on. me. 4. typos!

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