THE GOLDEN THUMB

So when I left Germany that beginning of February full of romantic ideas about a life on the wild European highways with just my thumb and my guitar (and a bankcard for safety) the first lift which took me out of the Berlin periphery was at the same time I think the longest (measured in pure highway kilometres) and also the most interesting. So I stood only 20 minutes at this roadstop called whatever-dorf which was a great feeling because it made my goal seem so much closer, which was to hitch-hike across the Alps and go down to stay at a farm in central Italy somewhere near Monte Cassino (and actually never come back to Germany and live from then on as a hairy farm hopping outlaw without material needs).

Then stopped a big (even for German habits) shiny, silver limousine with a very old man in his 70’s at the steering wheel. Of course I asked him if he could take me and he agreed and was very nice. He even bought me food and drink in a restaurant, then later took me all the way down to the Austrian border. It took us eight hours or so. Only him and I in probably the fanciest car ever to come and stop at this silly clone-roadhouse. He was a manager, he told me, working in an executive floor of one of the biggest German industrial companies (this really happened, by the way); which one he wouldn’t say, so we can only guess, but probably he was a man of not the most popular trade in these times. He said he earned so much and had so much money that he will never ever be able to spend it all due to the bare quantity but also because of lack of imagination, he let me know sadly.

— Young man…I worked all my life since I went to school and I was always running behind my bosses; it was not a job, the company owned and still owns my life. And all the money, all the money, my wife and I …well we only tried to keep it, save it, to quantify it. If we were spending it, it was only on big dinners or rendezvous with people of use to us. The only time in my life, and oh how well I remember that week, was in Italy 34 years ago. We had a job to do down there, with some assistants and some of the department. We were having conversations with partner companies and something in the organization went a little wrong. So it happened we had actually nothing to do for this one week in Italy and we were placed in this hotel on the beachside where we…lay in the sun and…went to the sea…and… yes, that’s what we did and then the week was over and it was such a beautiful time for me. The first time in my life without pressure, enjoying something…really enjoying something. Well now that I’m retiring, my wife and I decided to make our life more simple because there is nothing about these marble covered villas and cars like this if you lack the most important thing which is imagination, will…being a person with dreams and challenges and goals, and that’s why I like what you are doing, and yes I regret I never did something like that, that’s why I took you. Well but one burning passion I have, one interest I came to recently, I converted to the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I read the bible young man, in fact, many, many different bibles.

By this point of the conversation, we had not already got down to Bavaria, no, to tell this to me it took him maybe 25 minutes and we had just left the Berlin ring road and I knew there were about 8 hours more to go.

— You might not be so interested in this but it’s actually very wise what is written in there…

…and so on. Well about his stunning bible knowledge I don’t remember so much any more, this story happened a long time ago, something like before the biblical religions there were only very cruel religions like one very “popular” one where they believed in a god called “Baal” who loved bloody human sacrifices, so that was before Christianity. Of course I was a little terrified having this experience with “witnesses” and their rage- like lust for conversion but I have to say he didn’t really try to convert me so much and I don’t know how but in my memory it was by far not the most awkward or boring ride I had, as I said before actually from a certain view it was one of the most interesting and I liked the old man and felt sad for him. There are people with more existential problems but isn’t his fate one of the most terrible? I would maybe prefer life to end under a bridge than this insane 70 years of emptiness which just appears to me like total hell. Rather than that I would prefer to have myself sacrificed for this “Baal”. Anyway it was dark when he dropped me off close to the Austrian border and when I turned away to the newly arriving cars he was wishing me good luck and told me

– And if on your trip you should happen to find a bible somewhere, take a look inside, it’s worth it, believe me!

Only now do I think that I actually could have given to him as a final completion of his bible collection my very own Kerouac “bible” which my brother gave to me, and perhaps could have helped him. However, we parted ways without exchanging books, as the bible has unfortunately a very joyless image and so till now….no bible for me, sorry.

— R

open road

Advertisements