So I left Guelph a very happy camper, partly because I didnt have to camp. In fact, I had the comfy big futon at the lovely Anna's house. After staying up late talking well into the early hours, we went to bed, and she made sure I was cozy, full and content. She had an early class this morning, so we said our goodbyes that night.
I awoke at about 1030, and stretched out, looking around and appreciating yet another amazing sleep, and looked forward to a new one.
I packed the bags up, and while I was doing so, one of Anna's roomates came home, and she was totally cool with a strange boy on the couch. Her mom was too, and they made me tea and some breaky. Again, complete stangers ensuring the nicest hospitality. I told them I was hitching and her mom immediatley offered to drive me to the highway I needed to get to St Catherines, my goal to meet a close friend from high school.
Her mom and grandma(so cool!) drove me to a parking lot right before the highway exit, and I thanked them and parted ways. It was really nice of them, and the highway was alot farther than I thought, so they saved me quite a walk.
Just as I was throwing my pack on and talking away into the camera survivorman styles, a car had pulled over, even before the thumb went out.
I asked him where he was going; Hamilton, about halfway to St Kitts. I tossed the gear in and climbed aboard.
Juan was a 40 something Chilean man with big bushy eyebrows, a thick accent and an amazing demeanour to him. He was a very happy, caring person, and the conversation was great. He has some amazing and beautiful stories; stories about when he was my age crossing Los Andes mountains without food or water, in hopes of finding a better life in Argentina. He travelled with two friends throughout South America, working and improving his life, while Chile was still under Pinochet. Juan's accent and stories were like listening to someone read a book, and it was so great to sit and hear his life tales. He was on his way to the 'Steel City' to visit his daughter and granddaughter, and you could see it in his face his love when he spoke of them. Juan gave me some great advice, guidance and words of wisdom for my future. It was so awesome, and its people like him that make this a success. When I hear of these close minded people, stereotyping other races, it makes me want put a lemon in their mouth, or a tack on their seat. Juan was passionate about his homeland Chile, and spoke of it with such genuine, proud words. He dropped me off in the heart of downtown, and he told me to grab his hand while we prayed. He said a quick, beautiful traditional Chilean prayer in Spanish, and told me he would continue to pray for me while Im on the road. He says he picks up hitchers often, but he will remember my story. It is remarkable the bonds that are formed over a 20 minute conversation. When we parted ways, it was better than the feeling of a new friend in this world, he was of the dying breed of genuine people. Maybe it was his South American roots, but he was a total Gent. Not like the dickhead I met right after who asked me for a cigarette and scoffed when I said I didnt have any. I wanted to kung-fu his neck, but figured it would have been the last of his problems.
I thanked Juan and he embraced me in a big man hug(no homo) and told me to never stop dreaming. I wont.
I started to wander downtown, and right away found a studio called BizClip, which worked to unite and help filmmakers around the world. Yea Right! I walked in, and spoke with the cute secretary at the desk, told her my gig, and she went to grab Moe, the founder/CEO of it all.
When I told Moe what I was up to, he immediately was on board, and took me to a conference room to talk more in depth. We had similar passions, and although he was an established professional, he related to when he was in my shoes at one time, and knew how hard the process could be. He offered to receive my footage remotely, and proposed that I could do some filming in the field for him. I obviously agreed, and we came up with a few simple ideas I could do for him along this trip. He gave me a little nerf globe with the logo, and Ill be sure to include it into some funny pics.
Moe was really keen on my ideas, and like I said, since he's produced many films in his day, he knew the struggles, and he tossed me an envelope with $30 in it. I was blown away, and thanked him many times, and after bouncing some ideas around, once again grabbed the gear and headed on.
Along the way, I stopped to ask for directions from an older man, and he chatted me up for a minute, a small spark of excitement in his life, I suppose. He gave me a Tim Hortons money card, and I again was on the receiving end of unprovoked generosity. Its easy to get pissed at the elders walking slowly likfe sloths down the street. But when you give them a chance, and maybe talk to them for a minute, you learn theyre not only people too(who'd have thought) they have cooler stories than the reality TV we're obsessed with. Again, a thank you, handshake and I was off. Then I asked a homeless man how to get to the highway. He told me if I'm hitching to not bother, noone will stop, and the cops will give me ' a hard f*cking time' but I was stubborn (Taurus) and determined. And this guy was drunk like a skunk, and although bums know some pretty good advice, especially on the road, I thought I'd take my chances depsite Mr JD breath's words of wisdom.
I was kind of hungry, and stopped at a Tim Hortons to grab a donut with the gift certificate I just got, and while waiting, a man in line asked about my bags, and where I was heading. I told him Africa eventually, and he was so impressed, he introduced himself as Craig, and slapped $25 in my hand. (I DO NOT MAKE ANY OF THIS SHIT UP, PEOPLE ARE JUST THAT NICE, EVERYWHERE). I couldnt believe it; fiftyfive bucks in fifteen minutes, and it was without asking for anything.
While I continued, I saw a dude smoking a cigarette on the back steps of a chip truck, and asked him if I could have one. The rastafarian looking dude; Johnny said no problem, and we started shooting the shit about Hamilton, Trailer Park Boys and life. He told me the rough neighbourhood I was in was not called the ghetto, or the hood, but rather 'the Good' as it was a mixture of both. He told me just that morning two girls were hit by a car crossing the street to school... He asked if I was hungry, and before I could say yes he ran in, grabbed me a big tray of fresh french fries and a Dr Pepper. Christmas, man. We kept talking about all kinds of stuff, and he said if I dont get a ride, come back at 9 when hes done work, as I could crash on his couch, and he promised to get me 'Hamilton High'. We slapped fives, I thanked him, and told him I'll repay his gesture down the road to someone else.
"Long days and easy nights" he told me as I walked away, further into 'the Good'.
It was a buttload farther than I thought it was to the highway, and took me the better part of an hour to reach it, including hopping a fence(with my 70lb bodybag) and walking a long bridge on the tiny median.
When I finally got to the highway point, a Police cruiser came swerving in front of me, lights on.....
Great, just what I needed. The fresh faced cop got out of the car, and gave me a stern look. He was youngish, and power tripping like he was the 'last of the moustachians'-get it?.
"The next time you want to get to the highway, dont walk on Burlington, and stay off the f*cking bridge". Wow, well since you put it so nicely, Ill do whatever you say, Sir.
I just stood there, looking at him blankly, waiting for it to end.
"I dont want to clean up you body parts on the road, and have to fill out a full day of paperwork". Those were his EXACT words, I swear.
Because, and only because I didnt want Officer Smalldick to have to fill out a bunch of paperwork should I perish under the hot rubber of a car, I told him 'yes sir, Ill stay off the median'. Satisfied with my answer, he gave me that twisted, pursed lips look that read ' Mmmm Hmmm'. Easyyyyy Officer Smalldick, dont hate because your fat wife doesnt look pretty anymore.>>I know these are harsh words, but had he maybe said it a little different, like; 'We cant have you on the medians, or the road at all for that matter, its just too dangerous, you're gonna have to stay on the sides or pick a different route' I would have been much more receptive. But his asshole attitude and C+ average in high school didn't mix with me, and I had no respect for him, or his fat wife. (usually the problem with Authority Figures in powertrip mode).
Anyway, as soon as he drove down the highway, I made sure to continue doing exactly what I was doing before he interrupted my freeway amble.
I wasn't 20 yards on the Niagara-bound QEW hwy when a car pulled over in front of me. I cant even remember if I had my thumb out or not.
Greg was a construction worker on his way home from work, and said he was going to Grimbsy, halfway from Hamilton to St Catherines. I hopped in, and he then told me how dangerous the Burlington traffic really is. I wondered if the cop was maybe the way he was because of genuine concern, and he maybe saw something similar before, but when I rescanned the convo, those thoughts diminished, and he was truly just a mega-prick.( Those guys in power is a scary thought, as I bet he just thrives off of busting 'punk teens' like the rest of the young cop generation)
I didn't really tell Greg about the details of the trip, as sometimes the same conversation gets tiring, and I just opted to talk about whatever with him, and we shared hitching stories. He tossed me a Coke, and when he dropped me off, told me a good spot to go, where 3 lanes merge onto the highway. It was a short ride, but it got me out of Hamilton and that much closer to the destination.
I walked to his suggested jumpoff, and setup the camera on the tripod. I was talking into it, reflecting the past day, and in real time, let it record how long it took me to get my next ride. Then sun was setting quickly over a small hill, and my time was starting to run out. It was absolutely frigid coldest its been yet, as the wind had picked up and I was a stones throw from Lake Ontario, right on the QEW. I was so close, about 25kms from St Catherines, and the comfort of my high school homie, Lahey's house. SO desperate to get that ride, I smiled, waved, and tried to keep in spirits while freezing my Simon Birch sized bollocks in the wind. Then miraculously, like an answered prayer, a white commercial van pulled over, and the driver asked 'where to'? He was going right to the mall I needed to go, and it worked out well. I tossed the gear in the back, and I was saved. The video got me hitching in real time, and saw me post up, and get the ride in about 20-25 mins.
Jason was a cool guy, an IT techy dude who sets up wireless communications in remote places for businesses. We munched on some Vegetable Thins while he told me what he did, and we again shot the shit for a bit. I told him my gig, and he then revealed he was on his way to Buffalo, NY tmrw, or Wednesday, and could take me to the border no problem. He gave me some advice and answered my questions about crossing, as I'm still kinda stressing. He said not to worry, as I met all their requirements. He said a passport, clean record and nothing bad in my gear was all they needed. I told him I don't have contacts, an itinerary or money, and he said not to worry, as he crosses several times a week. I'm still going to come up with a story, cause I know you cant just show up hoping to hitchhike without money(I mean who does that?) He offered his couch, and his wife's cooking, gave me his number to call and arrange for the ride to Buffalo, and GPS'd me right to Andrews door.
After another handshake, I couldn't be happier to be at my destination.
Lahey was one of my best friends growing up, and in high school we got into (and out of) alot of shit together. He was shocked to see me, and we immediately cracked a beer, and it was like we hadn't missed a day, although its been years, as hes up at Brock University, being all akademik. After some serious catching up, remembering all the stupid shit we pulled, we decided to do what we spent most of our time in high school doing together; street soccer. We grabbed the ball, and headed to the mall, to play under the lights in the parking lot. It was like high school, and it somewhat felt like home. We'd spend hours everyday during the summer practicing our volleys and freekicks at Jim Beattie Park, and here we were, back at it 6 years later.
He went in to use the boys room, and came back with Teriyaki bowls from the foodcourt, and we mowed them like it was our last supper before we were going to 'the chair' or something.
After some more soccer, (the photos will be up tomorrow, too tired, I mean lazy to upload)
we went back to watch one of our favourites; Saving Silverman.
He's now passed out, and I'm about to go.
An amazing day; $55 donated, $0 spent , a video sponsor, 3 rides, and possibly a way into the US. 2 massive meals, and an old friend back. Not too shabby.
More to come for tomorrow.