I like to pick up hitchhikers, and regularly do. My hometown, Pocatello, Idaho, is a major railway hub, where incoming trains tend to disembowel along with their freight a sizable quantity of transients. Finding themselves suddenly stranded in the rural high mountain desert and typically harassed on by city police officers, these men need to take I-15 out of here to anywhere. They hitchhike. And I give them rides.
Of these drifters, whom I run north and south along the interstate, my favorite has been a shabby, angular man whom I ferried to a Dee’s Restaurant in Salt Lake City. This gentleman (I don’t remember his name) told me of the happiest day of his life: he regaled me with the tale of a Notre Dame football game he had once been able to scalp nosebleed tickets to as a kid. It was an event he detailed to me in exactitude, recounting not only the highlights of the game, the scorings made by both teams, but also the university’s roster and statistics at that game and those proceeding up to the very day. As he related the story, he pulled a crumpled baseball cap displaying a leprechaun in sparring formation from his knapsack and placing it on his head said, “You know, God may be number one—and that’s why I got a ride from you today. But Notre Dame…Notre Dame, they’re number two.” He then drifted off into his own daydreams, reliving the moment. It was the high point of his life. It’s what seemed to keep him traveling on along those long interstate roads and dusty byways—and through life.
I believe in dreams.
All the hitchhikers I have met have some fantasy which they lovingly relive to me: to get back home to their kids for the holidays; to write a book about their German immigrant ancestors or to tell the tales of their bizarre encounters along the road (sexcapades, murders, and picaresque adventures); to visit Yellowstone; to be in Vietnam again, where war seemed to bequeath meaning, purpose.
These hitchhikers I find to be akin to myself, for I, too, live in dreams. I believe in dreams. I believe in my dreams. Like these men I pick up, I imagine myself independent and self-determining, somehow romantically unfettered from the strictures of society we all find at times to be unjust and stifling—life and work and school can be such a drag. I have many dreams: those grand, wherein I possess mutant superpowers and save the world. I fly above and away from it. Or those utterly selfish and small, wherein I quip something snappy to the rude elderly librarian who refuses me a library card, and I get the better of her. I am vindicated for the moment. I am the wittiest man in the world.
Yes, I believe in dreams. I live them all, each moment of the day. By them I—we—escape reality, yet endure through it, eke joy from it.
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