Northeast Times

Waters to appear in Philadelphia library author series

John Wa­ters

John Wa­ters, the man known for giv­ing us such quirky films as Hair­spray, Pink Flamin­gos, Poly­es­ter and oth­ers, has done it again with the pub­lic­a­tion of his fourth book, Carsick: John Wa­ters Hitch­hikes Across Amer­ica.

Armed with his wit, a pen­cil-thin mus­tache and a card­board sign that read, “I’m Not Psy­cho,” Wa­ters hitch­hiked from his ho­met­own in Bal­timore to San Fran­cisco, brav­ing lonely high­ways and risky drivers to cel­eb­rate Amer­ica’s weird, sur­pris­ing and gen­er­ous cit­izenry in his new book.

Wa­ters will be at the Free Lib­rary of Phil­adelphia’s Au­thor Events series on June 13 at 7:30 p.m. to dis­cuss his ad­ven­tures.

“I de­cided to write this book be­cause I just love writ­ing. I’m a storyteller, in my books, my films, my stan­dup shows. So this was just the next story I wanted to tell. I wanted to take on an ad­ven­ture and make my life a little less safe and a little more ad­ven­tur­ous.”

And did he get what he bar­gained for?

“Ab­so­lutely,” Wa­ters said. “Be­fore I took off, I had en­vi­sioned some dan­ger­ous scen­ari­os, but stay­ing home can be dan­ger­ous, too. However, in the end, I met some great people and had a won­der­ful time, al­though I un­der­stand that what was a fun ad­ven­ture for me might not be for every­one else.”

Wa­ters said the hard­est thing he faced in his nine-day ad­ven­ture was get­ting a ride.

“I stood on the side of the road once for 10 hours, which was pure tor­ture. No one stopped, and I thought I might have to go back to the motel, if there even was one at the exit I found my­self. One night, I even con­tem­plated sleep­ing in the woods. I thought that would be good for the book but not ne­ces­sar­ily for a 66-year-old man, which I was at the time.”

Even­tu­ally, Wa­ters did get a ride, as well as every day there­after. And what he learned was that, “The people who pick you up are gen­er­ally people who have been through something, they’ve sur­vived something. People who pick up hitch­hikers want to talk. They like people and they like giv­ing people a second chance.”

And in be­ing picked up, Wa­ters, now 68, said he learned lots of things he nev­er knew be­fore.

“For in­stance, I nev­er talked to a coal miner be­fore, and so I found out what it was like to work in a coal mine. I talked to a farm­er who told me that hay could spon­tan­eously com­bust, and how much pigs love M&M’s.”

And there were oth­ers, in­clud­ing an in­die band on tour, a young Re­pub­lic­an in a Cor­vette, a cop and more, many of whom thought he was a hobo and offered him money.

“Some­times, when I told them I didn’t need their money and was ac­tu­ally a film dir­ect­or, I’m sure they thought I had de­lu­sions of grandeur, but they were all kind and very gen­er­ous.”

Today, look­ing back, Wa­ters said that after the 3,000-mile trek, he real­izes that, if he had to do it again, he could.

“But there’s no reas­on to. There’s no se­quel to this book. But I do know that if I ever got stuck some­where, I could al­ways hitch­hike.”

With so much go­ing on in his life, Wa­ters said he is nev­er bored.

“I can sit in an air­port and just watch all the people. I’m ba­sic­ally a nosy per­son. When I think of what else I could have been in my life, I think I prob­ably could have been a journ­al­ist or a de­fense law­yer or a psy­cho­lo­gist or a priest. Maybe even an evan­gel­ist. That’s pretty close to show busi­ness any­way, isn’t it?” ••

John Wa­ters will ap­pear on Fri­day, June 13, at 7:30 p.m. at the Free Lib­rary of Phil­adelphia branch at 1901 Vine St. Tick­ets are $15, or $7 for stu­dents. Call 215-567-4341.

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