On hitch-hiking and psychic leaps

Book pages 69-71

Hitch-hiking in 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 hitch-hiking. Rides with women is among hitch-hikers 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 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 hitch-hiker 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 multimillionaires, 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 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  hyper-active 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 hitch-hikers 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.

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