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million dollar highway


Lies I've Told While Hitchhiking:

We used our time waiting on the side of the road to concoct our identities. In the cafe in New Jersey we were members of an 80's cover band en route to our b-hotel residency in Atlantic City. We looked the part, between huge hair, make-up, we certainly didn't belong in this sad diner. In Eugene we were pulled off the train we were trying to hop to Portland. After giving a fake name and having to walk 5 miles to the interstate, we stood at the onramp with a clip-on American flag that had been lost onto the highway's edge. Our story - we were students from Wisconsin hitching from Chiapas to Alaska filming a documentary. We held up alright under questioning until my friend said we had spent some time in San Bernardino. 'Isn't that off the route a little bit. What's in San Bernardino?' our driver asked, leaving me to recover. Maybe not the best game to play when the person picking you up has a better concept of geography than you do.

There was a direct correlation between the amount of time we spent waiting and the more outrageous and more rehearsed the identities we created. By the time we were nearing our third hour trying to leave Tacoma, we were from a troupe of performance artists circling the country without automobiles, only our ability to fill our mouths full of soy hot dogs and our gig that night in Oregon. Though there also seems to be a point at the apex of the relativity bell curve where the outlandish stories spike into a desperate frustration and the urge to strangle each person that drives by and gives the thumbs up and keeps on going - that would be you, Elko, Nevada. Our sign that said 'FREE BEER' wasn't a lie, we were serious about the beer - we had, after all, found a case on the ground beside the gas station the night before. Now how much more desperate is the situation when not even the high school kids stop for an offer like that. I was convinced we were never gonna get out of there.

The woman in Chattanooga yelled at us to get in her car, and promptly drove us straight to her trailer, mentioning that she wanted us to photocopy our id's for her, just in case something went wrong while staying with her in the upcoming weeks. We spoke Spanish to her boyfriend who was trying to learn the language, made a little humorous by his thick southern accent, and helped her mom, a resident of the same trailer, pick out a dress for her date that evening, but then decided maybe it wasn't that good an idea to take up residence with them. First of all, we didn't even know the name of the town we were in, nor, at that point, the names of our proposed housemates. She gave us a ride to a gas station, where we spent the rest of the night waiting until we were finally offered a ride, who then took us in the wrong direction.

We had said that we were from Atlantic City to the mountain biker who gave us a ride from Las Vegas to Reno. He caught on when we could talk about every place along the west coast that he had mentioned, and then asked at what point in the timeline did we actually live in Atlantic City.

And maybe it was our rule of 'never saying no' that led to that little affair that night in Virginia. We later realized it was best to draw the line somewere.

The funny times were those where we lost track of our stories after hearing theirs. The ex-CIA agent who had an ass full of shrapnel from the war and had told Bill Clinton that he was 'full of shit'. He seemed bitter and apathetic enough that he could have been for real, and at least his story had given us something to talk about the rest of the way from Tucson to Prescott.

And sometimes you meet the person who went bar hopping in Vermont... in a helicopter, or the man who had gotten his daughter a pony for christmas - god, his daughter was gonna be the luckiest little girl in the world that christmas morning. In an encounter based on stories and anonymity, you're not the only one conspiring.

And the occasion where you really are telling the truth - that you hopped the wrong train in Jackson, Mississippi the night of your friend's birthday which is why the two of you were in that boxcar when they swung open the door in that rural Mississippi town, she in makeup and a little red dress, you from the west coast, she from the east, bound from New York for New Orleans this winter, it's the times you tell the truth, that no one, for a second, believes you.


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