They always ask in horror, why would you take a Greyhound across the country for 3 days? Because if you hitchhike, you only get to meet nice people because only nice people stop. On the bus, you get to see assholes & beautiful souls & terrible mothers & kindly ex-cons who show photos of their kids & vicious ex-cons who should never be let out & junkies who nod off in the toilet until you bang on the door for 20 minutes.
It’s also a chance to pound through those thick tomes that you just can’t tackle on your reading nights. I spend an inordinate amount of time deciding which books to bring and I got it just right this time. William James’ ‘Varieties of Religious Experience’, Melville’s ‘Mardi’ & Whitman’s ‘Leaves of Grass.’
That’s how I found the jewel of this trip – the Radical Father. When Father George saw the William James book, he waxed poetic on the philosophy of religion and gave me the abstract of the paper he just presented about Linguistic Thomism. A lovely man – a 94 year old radical Jesuit priest riding the dog from Philly to SF. He told me about the good ol’ days when he helped with the Berkeley uprisings of the ’60s and met Martin Luther King Jr. To the squalling snotnosed 4 year old girl next to us, he sincerely told her that she was a beautiful young woman. He shared his plan to take up his PhD again and try to be the oldest doctorate that Berkeley ever gave. Without Greyhound, I never would have spent 12 hours in seats by the bathroom while a lovely old soul read me lines from Whitman in a voice filled with awe.