Hello again, friends old and new,

Like I said in my last letter, I’m staying in town for now. Today I’m cheating the rain by sitting in a coffee house and writing, studying tunes to learn on the ukulele, and talking to strangers. I’m well and having fun and I hope you are, too.

I don’t think I mentioned how interstate 80 holds a special place in my heart. I moved from the San Francisco bay area to the Midwest when I was 16, and whenever I cross paths with I-80 I know I could just head west and this one long road would take me all the way back to my ocean and my mountains. In fact, the first time I hitchhiked was to do just that. I’m overdue to do it again.

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This time, though, I was headed west on it, standing outside the oasis near Akron. Right next to the sign that said no soliciting or loitering.

Now, I contend that I wasn’t technically soliciting (let’s call it… hoping. Being friendly and hoping.), but I couldn’t claim not to be loitering. In fact, I loitered there for around two hours. Highway patrol cars passed me right by though, and didn’t seem to care (what if I wasn’t white, though, I wonder?) and no one came out of the building to bother me.

My patience paid off, though, when two different people said they’d talk to me on their way out if I was still there. I wasn’t, for one of them.

Jim is a bricklayer who specializes in forges inside of steel mills. I think he said there are only 27 left in operation in the US, and he’s worked on about all of them. He was on his way home to West Virginia from a job in Michigan. That’s a long commute.

For all his gruff, chain-smoking appearance, he has a strong sense of the Golden Rule. “How could I walk right past you with an open seat in my truck? How could anybody?” “Some people are givers and some are takers. I want to be a giver.”

We were deep in conversation right up to the moment his way split off from mine. In fact, he left me right on the side of the road by the exit for his highway. Not my first choice, but I was another hour closer to my destination and another friend richer.

After half an hour waving my thumb around, I was a little surprised not to have been kicked off the road by state troopers. I wasn’t surprised nobody had picked me up. You can hardly blame them. Hitchhikers are a leading cause of death and dismemberment. It is known.

If you were standing by the side of the road, how would you amuse yourself prove yourself friendly and safe to drivers hurtling by? This is a serious question, by the way. It will probably happen to me again and who knows: it might just happen to you.

I chose to build a six foot tall balloon hat. As one does. It took longer than normal on account of trying to twist it while keeping a thumb out to any passing traffic. And you know what? The first car to come along once I’d finished it picked me up.

Jessie spent five years hitchhiking before he got saved. He makes a habit of picking up every hitchhiker he sees, so I can’t claim this ride as a balloon hat miracle. He was on his way into town to pick up guitar strings. Normally he goes to a different shop and he didn’t know why he thought he should go to this one until he saw me. I was the reason why God told him to go to guitar center.

I tagged along with him to get his strings and a bite to eat. There was never a moment of silence. Now, Jessie is excited about Jesus. I’m cool with that. I like Jesus. He’s also excited about warning of the evils of the Freemasons. And the way they corrupt youth, through the boy scouts’ lifelong fraternity the order of the arrow. If I followed his logic correctly, Jesus says not to take oaths, so OA is demonic. I wonder what Jessie thinks of marriage vows?

Jessie had a scripture quote for every topic of conversation (he even impressed me by quoting the Koran, with references). He also had absolute confidence in the deeper meaning and application of every phrase quoted. Sometimes it was cool – I’m sure his convictions influenced his habit of helping hitchhikers. Sometimes it was a little odd. He took time to complain about an elder he knows who likes to use a prayer shawl. “It’s a disgrace for a man to cover his head when he prays.” Really? Your God is offended by a bit of linen?

My heart really broke when he told me that, “it says that it was the woman who was first deceived. It’s true, you know. Women are more easily deceived than men. That’s why it says not to suffer a woman to be a teacher of men and women are to be silent in church.”

Good Lord, the richness I’d miss out on if I’d never ‘suffered’ to learn anything from any women because I have a penis. I told him so, and that I couldn’t accept every phrase Paul ever wrote as God’s perfect instructions with no regard to my own conscience and Paul’s culture and background. I suspect that Jessie views me with pity for being so “backslidden.”

I guess I lied to you last time, because Jessie did leave me at an oasis. I guess next time I’ll pick up the story there, near Cranberry, PA.

I gotta know, though, are these stories interesting? Too longwinded? Would you like to see videos instead?  Let me know what you think and how I can better connect with you.

Until next time,

Your friendly pedestrian,

Joby

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