I had been approached twice earlier byofficers who assured me it was ok to thumb a ride so long as I was not soliciting money. I was pleasantly surprised by the graciousness and relative kindness of the Charlotte police. I could only hope, as always, that this would be a comparably pleasant experience.
"What are you doing out here?"
This is a common (albeit gratuitous) question.
"Just hoping to hitch a ride."
"What else are you doing?"
"Umm... standing on the side of the road...?"
I see what's happening here. If I'm soliciting money then I'm not welcome. These would be grounds for him to shoo me away.
"Oh! No, I'm not soliciting. I'm just trying to get to Asheville."
"You want to argue with me?"
If your intent is to misrepresent and falsify my intentions to my very face, then yes. I do want to argue with you. But feel free to cut me off before I can respond thusly.
"What's that bucket for?"
"That's my tip jar, I put it out when I street perform."
"You've been out here for 45 minutes..."
"Nobody's more upset about that than I am."
"Here's what's going to happen. You're going to leave here. If you're trying to get to US74, you have to walk in ::points ambiguously:: that direction. Bye."
"Umm. Ok." I stretched out my hand for a shake. He looked at it suspiciously and rather shook his head no.
"Well, it was nice meeting you," I said walking away, "have a good night. You were quite kind... and gracious..." I looked back with each new utterance. He was clearly growing annoyed as he climbed slowly into his car.
I made it to the intersection where in a sudden burst of anger, frustration, and bitterness I spinned on my heel, raised my lanky second finger, and shouted with gusto: "____ you!" (hint: the blank is not "bless").
I walked down the road without looking back any longer. The emotions boiled inside of me as I thought about my day and about my confrontation with the police officer. There were certainly better ways for me to have handled that situation; but my anger was not only directed at him. It was as much a finger to society, perhaps even to God, as it was to "the pigs". The notion that a poor man can stand aside the road for eight hours, lighting up hopefully for each of hundreds of passing cars only to be laughed at, mocked, scorned, or ignored is offensive to me. It is a glaring injustice. And not just because I was that poor man. Something is truly amiss in a so-called Christian nation when so few souls have the courage to help their brother in need. Perhaps a review of Jesus' sermon on the mount is in order so that any time we see a man walking along road we'll recall Matt 5:41-42.
I walked to where Tryon Street passes over I277. I put down my gear and called up a friend, asking him to post a notification to the Charlotte CouchSurfing group:
NEED A EMERGENCY COUCH TONIGHT PLEASE :) HELP!!!! in town hitchhiking playing shows. No email please call me if you can help a traveling musician out. Thank You.
It was now about 6p and dark. I was terribly cold and tired with no money and nowhere to go for the night. Hopefully I would hear back from a couch surfer. In the mean time, I needed to get some rest. I pulled a hat over my head, socks over my hands as gloves, and my gear under the overpass. I only slept for an hour but felt much better rested as I emerged from my haven to roam the streets.
Would I again attempt hitching in the morning? Could I take a bus? Where would I get the money for that and where could I stay in the mean time?
I walked into a phat mexican place and warmed up with a bean burrito. The staff then directed me to the Greyhound station downtown where I hoped to catch a bus to Ashville sooner than later. To my dismay, the next bus would not leave for another twelve hours and I would not be allowed to stay in the station in the mean time (even though it was open 24 hours). Plus the fare was $40 which I simply did not have.
It was only 9p, the night was yet young. So I headed to Trade and Tryon streets, the exact center of downtown Charlotte, to play some tunes of peace, hope, and joy - spiritual fruits which I had in too short supply at that time. Still to my surprise, by midnight I earned $40 (the exact amount needed for the bus), a couple leftover meals, and a text message that read:
Everything work out with a place to stay? P in Charlotte
Within a half hour I was sitting on the floor in his dining room, chowing down on leftovers and sharing life with a kindred spirit. He researched how I could get to Asheville most cost-effectively.
I stayed the night in his guest room and rode the following afternoon with cool wind blowing against my face, music playing loud, and wheel in hand as I steered the rental car toward Asheville for the same amount of money and about four less hours than the Greyhound would have taken.
I am ever astounded by the creativity God employs to provide for my every need; humbled by God's sovereignty, power, and grace; and learning to trust God, to follow in obedience and faith. And all this in just the first day of my FREE Radical tour! I get the feeling this is going to be a long trip!
Catching us up:
I played a show at Firestorm Cafe that night, opening up for world-renowned protest singer songwriter and fellow DIY musician and world traveler David Rovics. There were some awkward moments, but it was a good show over all. Afterward I went with some friends to Boone, NC where we sat around a smoky camp fire (eventually putting it out with our own urine, woohoo!), talked about the Christian bands we are ashamed to have liked in our youth, and otherwise shot the breeze til we could no longer hold our eyelids open.
We spent much of the following day climbing trees and hills, frolicking in the wilderness, and of course pontificating on politics ("In an ideal world..."). We then headed to Greensboro, where I saw my friends in Parlours and Canby play live for the first time. We then watched folks play with fire late into the night.
I'm now back in Asheville with plans to busk this evening outside the sold out Iron & Wine concert downtown; then craigslist ridesharing to Atlanta.