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.
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In honor of John Fogerty’s birthday late last month, Sweet Hitchhiker – Creedence Clearwater Revival

ROG

Loving vs. Virginia

It must have been at a short-term internship I had at some point, though I no longer remember the job, but I do remember being engaging by this woman in the office – a secretary, perhaps – in a dialogue about race. She seemed to be a genuinely nice person who opposed the idea of mixed marriage because of the difficulty it would impose on the children.

I mention that today because this is the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court case Loving vs. Virginia, which struck down the laws that banned interracial marriage. The full text can be found here. Incidentally, though no longer enforced, some anti-miscegenation laws were still on the books until the end of the 20th century.

Miscegenation. First time I ever saw this word, probably in Ebony magazine when I was fairly young, I didn’t know what it meant, but I figured it was bad, not only because of the prefix, but because of the less than positive spin it got in many of the articles.

I’m not 100% sure of my heritage, but there is this woman, my maternal grandmother’s grandmother, who was English or Irish. There are either Dutch or German (a/k/a, Pennsylvania Dutch) in my background as well.

In any case, there has been a steady increase in the number of “mixed marriages” in the last 40 years; some numbers are available here and at this PDF. There have a number of prominent mixed race people in the American culture, from Tiger Woods to Barack Obama, that – perhaps – makes it more “acceptable”. This is not to say that mixed race kids don’t get hassled or are asked to “choose” in which tribe they belong. But, as a composer once said, “It’s getting better all the time.” Or so I choose to feel.
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I wasn’t looking to go there, but, in looking up some citations, I found a couple articles that suggest that the precedent in Loving vs. Virginia reflect an “evolving society” when it comes to gay marriage. A quote from this article:
The rationale used by religious and political leaders in an attempt to ban same-sex marriage in the United States is being compared to the arguments used to support discrimination laws in the landmark civil rights case Loving vs. Virginia.