Gets One Thumb Up
As the giant blue sky sped by, obstructed by those monstrous Rockies,
he talked of his ex-girlfriend who had stabbed him to within an inch of
first time I hitch hiked, my thumb felt like it was the size of
a grapefruit. I had no idea what I was doing. But I knew I wanted
to learn; Kerouac had whetted my appetite. Bob Dylans lyrics
"the rules of the road cant be lodged, its only
peoples games you got to dodge," stuck in my head as
I nervously wondered how this worked. A woodpecker tapped loudly
just below the mountained skyline at a crossroads in Jasper. A crossroads
Ive ended up at numerous times since.
Two years before I had read Kerouacs On the Road, and I was finally
here, doing something I had been dreaming of ever since; hitchhiking.
Excited about the snowball of adventure coming my way. Kerouacs
fast and mad criss-crossing of the continent, his jazz like ramblings
had inspired me. I was out to live life as fully as I possibly could.
Kerouacs character Dean Moriarity summed up my attitude so simply:
"Whee. Sal, we gotta go and never stop going till we get there."
"Where we going man?"
"I dont know but we gotta go."
This unquestioned need to go was upon me.
My first ride was with a large tattooed man, a small tear tatt from his
left eye, and an old, rusted red pick up truck. After brief introductions
he asked if I knew how to roll a joint. He told me to reach into the glove
compartment and roll up one each. I did as I was told. As the giant blue
sky sped by, obstructed by those monstrous Rockies, he talked of his ex-girlfriend
who had stabbed him to within an inch of his life. He talked of people
who he had to avoid. People he had extreme grudges against. Any altercations
would land him in the pen again. But he really was a pleasant guy. He
liked me. Because I was hitching.
For years I followed in Kerouacs footsteps across continents and
oceans, longing for the simple days of hoboes and freight trains that
he spoke of so passionately. Of Charlie Parker blowing a late night horn
in some bar in San Francisco, while a jug of cheap port was passed around
and swigged from freely. His delinquent crowd of writers and poets, of
homosexuals and junkies was a world I wanted to get to know. The mysterious
world of the subterraneans.
The nights he described were filled with intensity that was hard to find,
but I managed to find the magic here and there; a lovely drunken night
in the warm streets of Seville, a Spanish beauty on my arm, dancing barefoot
below palm trees to live reggae in Ghana, hashpipes in Morocco, cocaine
bliss in London; I too had experienced my perfect nights. Those magical
sparkling evenings and before long I found myself once again at those
silent crossroads in Jasper. Flipping a coin to see which way to go. Off
to Calgary by chance.
It was a drizzly grey morning. The rain soaked me slowly, my thumb cold
and lonely in the rain; the definition of miserable. Its times like
these one is forced to question everything that one has become. Was this
living life to its fullest? Where is the romance in standing on the side
of a familiar road in the rain?
From the direction I was headed, I could see a cyclist plodding along
towards me. Approaching slowly. Calgary for no other reason than to go.
No doubt something interesting would happen there. I knew a woman there
I could probably stay with. A lovely woman. With a job and a house. The
big time as far as I was concerned.
With that thought in mind I saw the cyclist was getting closer. I looked
at her for the simple fact that I had nothing else to look at. She returned
my gaze and through the drizzle that separated us said, "Jesus loves
And its not that Im a devout Christian, but the fact that
in a time of self doubt, someone had brought reassurance to me was encouraging.
She had brought me something of beauty. I felt rejuvenated and believed
I was doing the right thing. I was on the right path.
A pick-up approached and I stuck out my thumb confidently.
© Coilin Field 2002
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