I have done some things that would seem to belie the intellect God has given me (Read that: Stupid things!). One of those moments graced with a less than brilliant flash of inspiration was when I hitchhiked from Jackson, MI, to a Jesus festival in Wilmore, KY. Please don’t tell my kids!
It was the early 70s, and many of us did stupid stuff, even unrelated to drug abuse. I guess it was just because we had sewn Jesus patches on our bell bottom jeans, were having yogurt and granola revivals, and somehow all of this affected the brain function of even Christian kids.
There was also a certain naiveté. I was sheltered by my church upbringing, and there wasn’t a lot of trouble to get into on sixty acres of farmland (though we did manage a little). But to illustrate: My band in college did a rousing version of the Beatles “My Sweet Lord.” We sang that at a bunch of churches and youth groups. I even did the Hare Krishna stuff in the middle because I thought that was some kind of scatting. It wasn’t till I moved to LA and was accosted in crosswalks by orange-robed followers that I realized what in the world I had been singing. One consolation: The country churches in Michigan were just as ignorant of the world as I was.
I was a farm kid who grew up with a trust in mankind—well, sort of. Plus I was Canadian, and all Canadians are nice! So at my college, when I heard about this Jesus Festival in Kentucky, I made noises that I wanted to go; and since I was a poor student, I planned to hitchhike to get there. I really had no intention of following through. It was bravado or stupido, whichever way you want to look at it. Problem: A friend of mine got on board with the idea and said he would go with me. That’s what you can expect from drama majors! Now you’d think if I had not used all my brain cells on Black Studies and Philosophy 101 that the thought may have occurred to me to say, “No, I was just kidding.” Or maybe even, “No, I changed my mind and have decided to do something constructive, like clean the fourth floor community bathroom. No, I had to save face.
Amazingly enough, I found myself, suitcase in hand, on the freeway, waving to perfect strangers and announcing my ignorance to the whole wide world. My compatriot was much shorter than I was, and I remember thinking: If anyone has to defend someone, it will have to be me! But we got in the first car that stopped, and I think even Michael the Archangel said “Oy!”
We did okay except for the crowded vehicle that picked us up and went speeding down the freeway at 80 mph. I guessed they had been drinking more than cola. I was only breathing as much as was necessary for survival; and when we peeled out of that ride, my heart started again. They let us off in Lexington, which is twenty miles from Wilmore.
If you know the area at all, you are well aware that Wilmore is a bit of nothing, other than the college and seminary; and nothing goes out to Wilmore on that dark, lonely stretch of road at 10 o’clock at night. Did I mention dark! Like black dark! So there we stood, wondering what to do.
Remember when I said I was naive? You may want to add presumptuous to that. Since Asbury was the seminary our pastor had gone to and was associated with our church, I called the school from a Denny’s and asked if someone could come and give us a ride. Wonder of wonders they did. A couple of seminary students drove out, picked us up, and put us up in their dorm room. I don’t know why I didn’t think at the time that this was a wondrous gift of God, preventing us from being robbed, murdered, and left by the side of the road. And if I had gotten the names of those folks, I would have long ago sent a note to thank them for gracing such oblivious hippie-wannabes.
The next three days were spent hanging out and grooving to Jesus music. I have no idea where we stayed, what we ate, whose other graces we impinged upon, or anything else other than getting a huge crush on one of the performers. I have no recollection of the rides home, except to say that I know we made it back to Jackson because I am left standing to tell the tale. And I told my mother of my adventure after the fact, which shows that I had not lost my brain cells entirely.
This had to be one of the most reckless things I’ve ever done in my life, well . . . aside from sleeping in MacArthur Park in Chicago . . . or the time after a flat tire I took a ride on the 5 Freeway from two guys getting off work from the massage parlor they owned. But it certainly ranks in the top ten! And if my kids even contemplate anything so foolish, I’ll skin them alive!