Sweet Hitchhiker

Something Jacquandor cited reminded me of this: my primary form of transportation during my college days in New Paltz in the Mid-Hudson Valley of NYS was hitchhiking. I lived in Binghamton in the Southern Tier of NYS my first year in college, 150 miles and at least three highways away (Route 17, and then there were options). Even when I moved to New Paltz, there were friends to visit back in my hometown.

The easiest hitch I ever had involved me trying to get from New Paltz to Binghamton. Somehow, I found a large metal orange and white sign, perhaps cast off from a gas station. It said 17. I put it out on the outskirts of town and got picked up by a guy from the CIA who dropped me off at the Binghamton exit maybe a half mile from my grandmother’s house. Oh, the CIA is the Culinary Institute of America.

I lived briefly in Kingston, maybe a dozen miles away from New Paltz, and hitched back and forth on Route 32 as well.

But my regular hitch in my freshman year was with my buddy Jay Rose. It was exceedingly easy to thumb a ride to New York City; just stand at the Thruway entrance. What was more difficult was hitching back to New Paltz. I discovered that the best way was to take the subway #4 line as far north as possible, take a commuter bus as far north as it would go on 90 cents, and THEN start seeking rides.

For four months in 1977, I lived in Charlotte, NC, a place that I did not much enjoy. It had lousy mass transit and I was broke. Ultimately, I hitched out of Charlotte to Binghamton; it took about 24 hours. Hitching in the South in 1977 might not have been the wisest move, but it was an incident-free trip, though I was stuck outside of Harrisburg, PA seemingly forever.

I stopped hitching in 1979, not out of any sense of real danger, but because it just took too long. A 150-mile trip from Binghamton to Schenectady took over six hours on old Route 7, pre I-88.

The trip I remember best I did with my friend Alice. Friends of ours were in a terrible car accident; a couple died and the rest were in a hospital in Hornell, NY, pretty much in the middle of the state. We got through Binghamton OK, but had slow going past there. Then one guy finally picked us up. He wanted to save our souls, and surely our souls needed saving, for we appeared to be a mixed race couple, and miscegenation was a sin according to his interpretation of the Word. (His basis for this theory was the OT prohibition against Jews intermarrying, I’m guessing.) However, he was otherwise harmless and let us out when he got to where he was going.

Alice and I never did get to Hornell, since this involved traveling on a rural road, Route 34, and we may not have met the appropriate demographic profile to get picked up. Instead, we went back to New Paltz, in record time, considering it was the middle of the night by then.

We always wondered what that guy would have said if he had found out that Alice was a lesbian.
***
In honor of John Fogerty’s birthday late last month, Sweet Hitchhiker – Creedence Clearwater Revival

ROG

10 (More) Things About Me

I’ve been tagged by the Crone Report, who I’ve known since the mid-1970s at college. According to Ms. Report, the rules of the game are thus:

Post 10 random things about yourself.

Choose five people to tag and a reason you chose them and make sure to tell them.

Don’t tag the person who tagged you.

She’s right that I’ve probably done this before; hope I haven’t repeated these (and if so, not too often). These are in chronological order, from oldest to newest.

OK, here goes:

1. I fell down the flight of steps between my grandparents’ apartment and ours when I was three. There’s still a scar there under my lower lip where hair does not grow, giving me soul patch potential before the term was invented.

2. In high school, I was president of our Red Cross club.

3. In May of 1972, the US mined Haiphong harbor, thus, we believed, escalating the Viet Nam conflict. There was a demonstration at the draft board in Kingston, NY, and the board closed in anticipation of our arrival, though it was a peaceful protest. The next day, the front page of the newspaper, the Kingston Freeman, had a picture of me and a couple other people sitting in front of the building. The quality (or reproduction) of the photo was so poor, though, that I didn’t even recognize myself.

4. My college friend Alice and I were hitchhiking from New Paltz to Hornell, NY to visit a friend of ours who had been injured in a fatal car crash. Some guy picked us up west of Binghamton and proceeded to give us a lecture about the sin of miscegenation; we weren’t a couple. We wondered what his reaction would have been if he knew she was a lesbian.

5. As a direct result of the person who tagged me, I went through a brief period of wearing berets. But not red ones.

6. Six women and I went skinny-dipping.

7. I worked as a telemarketer. But in those days, we only called people who had had a relationship with the product; e.g., people whose TV Guide subscription had lapsed or the annual for those people owning encyclopedias.

8. I once drove a car from Schenectady to Albany, about 10 miles, without a license or even learner’s permit. The owner of the car was too drunk to drive. (The statue of limitations on this has passed.)

9. I saw Anita Baker perform at the Palace Theatre in Albany in the late 1980s. Afterwards, my friend Karen introduced me to her – very pleasant woman – and we were allowed to go backstage, where boxing champ Mike Tyson and “Ironweed” star Jack Nicholson were hanging out. (The story of Ironweed by William Kennedy was based on Albany, and part of it was filmed in the city.)

10. I did not do it often in any case, but the last time I drank alcohol thinking that I might get inebriated was on my 39th birthday. My friend Marion, who was in the choir and a book club with me, died on March 4 of that year of cancer. Her husband asked me to be a pallbearer and the funeral was on March 7. Worst. Birthday. Ever.

OK, the dreaded who to tag:
Eddie, so he can get out of the rhythm of posting music videos;
Librarian 2008, because she needs to put more personal stuff on her blog;
Uthaclena, because I’m curious whether any of ours will intersect;
Kelly, because she seems always game for a game; and
Anthony, because it would give me an opportunity to know him better.

ROG