Friendly Ghosts

Travelers, Trippers and Ghost affectionadoes,

 Welcome to my daily journal. I will be describing this two-week journey to you each day and hope for your participation through our e-mail link.

 My name is Jon Pedestrian, I started out with an "h" after the "o" in my first name but in my New Hampshire Little League days, two doubles and a walk was enough to get my name misspelled as "Jon" in the Laconia Evening Citizen Newspaper. My Grandmother loved my new tag so much that I decided to keep it from then on. She is still living in Laconia, N.H. and I love her very much..."Hi Gram!"

 I have never really seen a ghost but one night, shortly after Mac and I stumbled into Tampa, Fla. from California, We both saw a bunch of UFOs. No kidding--a mess of 'em. We were at poolside near the apartment that my parents rented, searching for orbiting satellites in the warm southern night sky when we saw them. this point, credibility is what I need. OK, listen to this:

 I once built an 8" reflective telescope because I was disappointed in the resolution offered by the 6" that I had been using-I was 13 years old. More?? In the moonless skies of the countless desolate places that I have trekked for just a little more darkness, I have counted, in one hour, up to one-hundred and eighty-seven objects circling our planet. I've spent more time looking up into the sky at night, during my life, than watching television. And thanks to that 8" reflector telescope, I saw Saturn and its rings hanging in the winter sky like a colorful toy on an invisible string.

 I know what the night sky looks like. Done.

 Anyway, Mac and I were not able to see a single satellite in the photon polluted skies of Tampa as we lounged side-by-side, peering up to a common place in the sky. The "Flying Objects" burst in from all directions of the sky, converging in the area of the sky that we had been observing. They were not as bright as, say, Jupiter but they were about three times bigger, in diameter. There were, I think, about 12 of them in all.

 Seemingly, not much higher above us than the upper limits of our atmosphere, They shivered and vibrated in a fixed formation long enough for each of us to realize and then vocalize that this was extraordinary ("Wow!!!" I think, was the word). Then, ripping across the horizon in all directions, they burst away from each other and out of our sight faster than any shooting star that I have ever seen. The whole fanatstic event didn't last more that 10 seconds then.....nothing. I've not seen any UFOs since then........except on TV.

 It has been fifteen years since that night.

 Fifteen years since Mac and I stepped out the door in Santa Barbara with everything that we owned strapped to our backs. Fifteen years, searching, working, exploring, loving, learning and living--never forgetting--the perfect harmony that we sustained for one beautiful month as we rode across this nation in other peoples cars. These strangers took us into their cars and sometimes into their homes. They took the leap of faith, transcending reason and fear, to gamble for the chance to make the connection that only intimacy between fellow human beings can provide.

 Intimacy is food.

 I guess that now is a good time to go ahead with something that I need to say...why wait?? The charitable souls, who stopped their cars for Mac and I and whose company we kept during each leg of our adventure, spat in the face of fear; turned their backs on what the nightly news reported. These "friendly ghosts" had not yet been completely lulled into the fear-perception-paralysis-zone that seems even more pervasive in the U.S today. They didn't see the Zodiac Killer and Charles Manson on the side of the road they saw their neighbor's boys or maybe a couple of local college kids hitching to a nearby town.

As I saw it then, a deadly combination of mass-communication and human nature seemed to be creating and nurturing a general fear and mistrust among strangers (citizens). This fear-based perception is the result of our hearing and sometimes seeing, on a daily basis, alot of the scary stuff that happens on our planet. We're watching wars that are on the ther side of the world, murders that occured halfway across the country and pathetic stories of drug-users from the poorest neighborhoods....all before we get our first sip of milk at dinner.

 As individuals, we assign a level of risk or danger to every situation we encounter based on our perception. It can mean the difference between a coward and a hero; a living man and a dead one. The ability to accurately discern risk in a situation is and always will be one of life's most valuable tools. Before TV came along, you might hear your neighbor talking about a robbery that occured recently in your county. Might even read about a local murder, now and then, in the newspaper. But most likely, you had never witnessed or been personally involved in anything like that...nothing to worry about. Back then, our perceptions were more heavily based on our personal experiences within our local communities not the TV experience that shoves all the worst stuff from everywhere into our living room every night a six o'clock.

 Truth is, most people have never had any personal experience with the very situations that they fear most--the ones they see on TV. I killed my TV about nine years ago. How much personal experience have I gained? Well, if I only watched TV for half of the 8 hours a day that the average joe does, then that's 4 hours...365 days a year for nine years...Hmmmmm...(calculator)...that's 13,140 hours...that's FIVE HUNDERD and FORTY-EIGHT days of personal experience. And all during that time, not one murder, not one robbery, not a single bombing, rape, plane crash or any of the other multitudes of scary things, experienced vicariously each night, by anyone who is boob enough to watch the tube.

 KILL YOUR TV!!!!!! It may be the biggest reason that you don't have as many intimates as you NEED and maybe that's why you feel so lonely for a friend, or hungry for good conversation, or wanting for laughter that's REAL. Maybe your TV is slowly removing your chances to meet someone who is really COOL cause your to scared to walk down to the park at night. Maybe watching a really COOL circle of friends on TV fulfills your need for human interaction about as well as styrofoam snacks might fills your belly. You see, we all need someone to talk to. Whether it is a new friend or an old one, we NEED companionship...a familier face. There is no mystery here...We are a social animal. We evolved as members of familier groups for millions of years. We are Hunter-Gatherers thinly veiled by industrial suits...a few measely hundred years isn't going to change our NEED for that real connection that only an intimate can provide.

 Intimacy is food and I feel better having said that.

 Mac and I knew that for each ride we accepted, a payment had to somehow be made. Before either of us had ever heard of Social Exchange Theory, we were exploiting it beautifully. After each ride we critiqued our performances, both of us trying to improve our skills for the next audience. I think we felt that if we could increase the drivers compensation, word might just get around that picking up people you hadnít been formally introduced to wasnít that bad after all. We became the traveling entertainers whose color, dialect, and humorous dispositions could be changed as quickly as a car door could be opened.

 There were other reasons for the connections, made. The car would pull over for a number of reasons. Some were just plain falling asleep at the wheel and so we purchased our ride by telling stories to keep them awake. Others needed a father confessor; someone to just listen and, if asked, offer some fresh advice. This special version of the Catholic confession ended, however, with the confessor remaining inside the mobile confessional as the priests stepped out. Some people just felt down-right awful seeing us in the cold rain, chilling wind or darkening sky that the each new winter dusk might have been providing. Still others were looking for a piece of the freedom that they recognized in what we were doing-a sort of vicarious coolness. And we were free....I canít speak for Mac but I can still remember how it felt to have very little money, everything I owned on my back and absolutely no fear...of anything.


 Now thereís a ghost. Its a ghost of my past. The ghost of a child. It is a feeling that I can remember but, in truth, have only tasted occasionally and in seemingly unsustainable amounts since Mac and I struck it so rich all those years ago. It is peace of mind. Its acquisition sometimes seems more illusive with the years-life can seem more complicated-harder to get your arms around. But it is for this very reason that its possession becomes so much more valuable with time. Peace of mind.

 It is natural for a bird to fly, a fish to swim and simply impossible for a newborn baby to be anything less than innocent. These are the intrinsic gifts of being a bird; a fish; a newborn baby. More valuable is the happiness that is sought, found and sustained by someone who has lived many years through the diversity, challenges and heartbreak that life doles out in its own inimitable and unpredictable fashion. I believe that is why I am here-in this hotel room, back on the road with Mac. I may just rediscover and perhaps reclaim that which was mine when Mac and I rode that ghost train so many years ago. And perhaps this and other ghosts will provide a rekindled vision as I continue on my path of seeking and sustaining. Maybe this special time with an old friend, who shares these ghosts with me, will help me learn to fly like the bird that I am not.

Tonight, we are in Guernville, CA....a couple games of pool at the Rainbow Cattle Club and a good nights rest at Highlander Hotel. No big whif.

 Tomorrow: We head to Boonville, CA...where we spent three memorable days at a farm owned and operated by the Moonies...If you have never spent time in the midst of a perceived cult, you wonít want to miss this.

 íTill tomorrow......This is Jon Pedestrian, tripping in reverse...signing off.