Tuesday, May 29, 2012

John Waters: it's a thrill not knowing where life is taking you

John Waters, the film director, recently embarked on an 8-day hitchhiking journey across the US, as profiled by Dave Itzkoff in the New York Times. An excerpt:

If, as you travel the nation’s highways, you spot a hitchhiker with a wiry build, a pencil mustache and a mischievous look in his eyes, you may not wish to pick up this person. Unless, of course, you are certain it is the cult filmmaker John Waters, thumbing his way across the country in search of material for a new book....

On a trip that Mr. Waters said took him eight days and about 15 hitchhiked rides to get him from one end of the country to the other, he has accumulated numerous anecdotes for a book he has tentatively titled “Carsick” and which will be published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

But more crucially, he said this journey has taught him that it can sometimes be thrilling to not know where life is taking you.

“My life is so over-scheduled, what will happen if I give up control?” Mr. Waters said by phone from San Francisco, where he was safe, sound and still surging with adrenaline....

Before setting off alone from his Baltimore home on May 14, Mr. Waters said, he wrote preliminary chapters for his book, describing the very best and the very worst fictional hitchhiking experiences he could imagine....

Instead, Mr. Waters enjoyed many best-case scenarios. On May 16, he was picked up on a stretch of Interstate 70 in Ohio by the rock group Here We Go Magic, whose members could not quite believe that they spotted him by an exit ramp.

This is a kind of deliberate mistake. Waters overturned his conventional (well, perhaps unconventional) thinking, and gave up control. As he did so, he exposed himself to new experiences and, yes, thrills. Waters's adventure has some resonance with an article I recently wrote for The 99 Percent, "Tripping Into Terra Incognita: How Mistakes Take Us To New Places."

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