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Book Review

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Carsick

By John Waters
2014 - 320 pages

This is an autobiographical adventure of John Waters hitch-hiking across country on Interstate 70 from his home in Baltimore to his condo in San Francisco. As a young student, he had hitch-hiked often. But now into his 60's, would he be robbed or beaten en route? Would cars even pick up an aging man? Waters proposed the idea to his publishing company. They jumped on it, gave him an advance, so he knew he had to do it. With his trusty cardboard sign saying "I-70 West", this is Waters' cross-country adventure. It is divided into three different parts. The first two parts, fiction, may have been written prior to taking the trip.



The first part is called "The Best That Could Happen". These are made-up fantasies about positive pick-up situations. On one ride, "Harris" takes him as far as West Virginia. There, Harris gives him five million dollars to produce another movie. The money is buried out on the pot farm that Harris owns. Another ride, "Highway Patrolman Laddie", gives him a ride, recognizing him, knows all the words and dance steps from "Hairspray". They end up dancing together on the side of the interstate to the many passing honking horns. A third would be a ride with "Buster and the Hipster Carnival Troupe". That evening he is part of the show, The Naked Man with No Tattoos. There were thirteen rides in this section.

The middle section Waters calls "The Worst That Could Happen". This heads down the interstate being laughable, albeit quite a bit bizarre. One ride is a Freddy Krueger doppelganger, speeding, driving drunk, the car having no seatbelts. Another, two weird drag queens pick him up, and take him to Indianapolis. They do weird things to him in a house where a murder had taken place. Another, an aging effeminate gentleman in a rest area stares at his crotch, and says, "Get in, girl." A strange string of events follow. The middle section has many "eventful" rides.

The last section Waters calls "The Real Rides". As the first two sections are fiction, they show Waters talented imagination. In this last section, he has his real experiences going across country. One special ride is a twenty-year-old very likeable young man from rural Maryland driving his mom's Corvette. They hit it off well, and the kid takes him clear into Ohio before having to turn back home. Among Waters' eighteen real rides, they include a male nurse, a coal miner, a four-guy musical group on their way to a gig, a trucker, and a married couple going all the way to Denver. The Corvette Kid has texted him several times along his route, and re-appears in Denver, now driving a Kia Sorrento. A factor of that is the panic of a concerned mother regarding her kid chasing west, driving to San Francisco with an older single man. The "Real Rides" is a feel-good third section, quite an upper.

John Waters book Carsick is a fun, easy read with each chapter being one of the rides. There is nothing raunchy in print, but your mind is certainly working. Plus, if we were standing on an interstate on-ramp, I would wager we'd sure be hoping it would be the Corvette Kid that stopped to pick us up. With Waters' talent for imaginative description, he makes hitch-hiking across country a hell of an interesting adventure. Hopefully, this will be made into a fun movie someday.

Includes prologue, acknowledgements, and a musical bibliography.

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