Wednesday, January 10, 2007


I gave a ride to a drifter named Blue around 7:30 this morning. In his late forties or early fifties, long, thinning blond hair, pale eyes. He wore an army-green greatcoat and carried a vinyl guitar bag and a gym bag with a hard hat hanging on it. Said he was going to Seattle but I couldn't take him that far. He was standing by the on-ramp to Interstate 12 and told me he'd been at that same ramp for 11 hours waiting for a lift, through a night where we had a good hard frost. I think he'll appear in a story of mine somewhere down the line. Hell, if it had been last week when I was off maybe I would have just taken him to Seattle. I've never been.

Hitchhiking must be a hard way to travel these days, and I'm sure movies like The Hitcher, which has just been remade, don't help. I used to hitchhike home from school all the time as a teenager, until I got a motorcycle. We lived six miles outside of town and during football season practice would make me too late for the bus. The bike I had was a dirt bike, though, with big knobby tires. Try riding that on the highway at 50+. Talk about a jarring experience.

What's the point to this post? Don't really have one. I guess I'm still thinking about characters and about where they come from and how to develop them. Lot more thinking to do there.


Michelle's Spell said...

My mother used to pick up hitchhikers all the time -- now it wouldn't be considered all that prudent. I think John Sayles has had some great characters come from that experience -- he used to become a new character for everyone he picked up and eventually made them into a book.

Steve said...

When you won't/can't spend over $400 on a car, you *know* sooner or later, a trip's going to end with you walking.

I grew up with all the hitchhiker warnings on both sides (don't pick up! don't get in!) and did a lot of roadside walking with my thumbs firmly in my pockets.

My first breakdown after I moved to New Zealand, I encountered the oddest damn thing: people pulled over to give me a ride anyway. No one even seemed to suspect that I was a serial killer (and for that I let them live ;-D -couldn't resist the joke)

Now I try to be more trusting like Charles when it's me behind the wheel. I've met a lot of farm kids and some Scottish backpackers.

Sometimes the latest $400 car even gets us all there!

Stewart Sternberg said...

I remember hitching in Detroit as a teen. A car load of rough looking characters pulled up. We stupidly got in, but the ride was fine and the company reasonable. It's sometimes about expectations. Sometimes about risks.

One time I watched a young teen get into a suspicious van and felt my stomach sing. I must have followed that van for a full five miles to make sure she got out safely.

Sidney said...

Almost sounds like he stepped out of a song or that he could be a song.

Tryin' to get back from the Crescent City to those shores of Eliott Bay.

Charles Gramlich said...

Thanks for posting folks. On occassion when picking up a hitchhiker I've considered playing a character myself, launching into a fictionalized account of my life. So far I haven't done it but maybe one day I will. Also, by the way, I don't pick up hitchhikers when I have other people in the car with me. It's one thing to take something of a risk for myself, but another to put someone else at potential risk.