CARSICK: John Waters Hitchhikes Across America, hb, 336pp, Farrar, , Straus  and Giroux [click here]


I see one of the cute gearheads from yesterday in his pickup pull into the gas station. He’s still racing around, hopping in his truck, peeling out to drive the short distance to the other gas station. What on earth is he doing? He must have seen me by now, too! I’ve been hitching out in front of where he works for two days, but he still resists any greeting. I’m so bored and frustrated I pretend I have a crush on him in an inappropriate Jane Bowles kind of way.

I was already in love with John Waters’ latest literary precis of modern culture, Carsick, but the above quoted paragraph on page 224 was the clincher. It speaks to a particular reality of un-reality; being of a particular age of a particular experience of a particular proclivity, standing in full view yet relegated to the sidelines, watching the world race inanely to and fro, feeling dichotomously envious and dismissive, inventing a fantasy context in which one could possibly — somehow — become again engaged in life, and yet, knowing that context created from one’s own rarefied, recondite frame of reference, a reality of such obscurity — constructed of a combination of little known nearly lost literary and cultural personal icons, D-list and down on their luck faded entertainers, and porn star legends and tropes thereof long disappeared — is a context unlikely to be shared, understood, or, even, accepted by anyone else on this earth.

This is a book about being alone. Best case. Worst case. Real case. A clever construct of good fantasy, bad fantasy, and real – un-real life. And all of the versions of all of the stories are lessons in learning to love the encounters that, however briefly, relieve that solitary journey across and through time. Mr. Waters and I share many inclinations — or, ought I say, bents? A passion for books and B(C,D)movies and music, gay porn icons John Davenport and Bobby Garcia, the “straight” Marine seducer, kitsch, Patty Hearst, trashy-trade-y-semi-redneck-not-too-bright-far-too-young-tattooed and pierced men, and, according to page 224, Jane Bowles.

But more essential to who we are and have become, we share an acceptance. Having lived many decades as outliers, decades during which we often fought loud and long against the ins, intent on carving out a place for ourselves by purposely — and purposefully — meaning to shock and appall, determined to stand firm in standing out, we now have mellowed into people who can listen to almost anything without reacting.

The world has changed a great deal, and, I think, despite the horrors of the news and the massive inequities still at work in the world, despite the haters and the baiters and the proliferation of those who would limit and label and libel, the world has become a far more accepting and enlightened place. With that realization, those of us who fought so hard to make it so, fought so hard to make it a place where labels would NOT define us (or anyone else) — now, having had that particular experience and reached that particular age and acted upon our particular proclivities, have reached the logical conclusion that EVERYONE is an outlier, and even the crazies and psychos and “not our kind” we meet along the way have a place and a right to their own particular hitchhike across life … and there is something to be gained from everyone along the way.

Thank you, Mr. Waters for helping to make that the case, and sharing your stories and journey and evolution as reflection with all of us.

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