There are a few unshakable memories of the 2014 GonzoFest weekend: fine jazz music; exceptional conversation; wisdom; great friends; the poetry of Olympians; and the spectacular feeling of welcome, unity, and joy pouring off everyone in and around GonzoFest. We were there, all of us, to celebrate the life and work of Hunter Thompson. Some of us had come further than others. One of the more distant travelers was Eduardo Ritter, a student from Brazil wandering the U.S. as research for his PhD.
Eduardo’s credentials automatically check out; his bona fides are in order, and so on and so forth . . . all of which is neither here nor there as far as you or I or anyone else need be concerned. From the very beginning, it was clear that Eduardo is “the proper sort.” This is Hunter’s term, not mine, which is just as well. Eduardo is clearly a follower of the Gonzo Way. It is my pleasure to know him and my honor to present his writings on the site.
Eduardo is in the final stages of his journey around and through this great country of ours. An epic drive from San Diego to New York City will complete his time in The Land of the Free™ & The Home of the Brave™. From there, it’s a flight back to his loving family followed by the long, hard, thankless work of trying to make sense of a time and place that not even the people living here can understand.
He’s got a forum here, folks—a stage, a soap box, an open mic—for as long as he wants.
And to Eduardo: thank you, my friend, and welcome.
The New On the Road
30 April 2014—I was sitting on a bus, somewhere in the middle of Texas, when we stopped to let a lady on. She was old. But, in the some way, sexy. I didn’t know exactly what time it was, but probably something between 1 and 6 PM. (When we are in the middle of nothing we lose the notion of time). The old lady came in my direction and sat beside me. Probably my two-day stench makes her look back, makes her look for a free seat, but she finds nothing. She greets me with a short and dry, “hello.” I answer, “hi” with my sleepy and tired face. I left Louisville, KY, 40 hours ago for a two-day journey by bus to San Diego, California.
This is, in fact, the latest leg of my cross-country trip by bus. It started in New York with various lay-overs in Washington DC, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Chicago, and Louisville.
I stayed in Louisville throughout April to participate in GonzoFest, a literary event held annually to celebrate the life and work of Gonzo Journalist, Hunter S. Thompson. Feeling a spirit which still survives form the Beat Generation, I swapped the convenience of air travel for the experience of sitting in a bus in order to stay close to the ground and the people of several more American states: Tennessee, Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. So now here I am on this damned bus, crossing Texas with stops every hour that are barely long enough to let people on. Two days without showering, without sleep, proper food, or television. More then a thousand miles with a slow internet connection that did not work very well to begin with.
In Arkansas, five fat Americans boarded the bus, each one eating a burger & fries, and I thought, “Yes, man—this is America.” The Arkansans spoke very loudly and every time the driver asked for them to keep it down they made stupid jokes, laughed a lot. With a fart and a burp, they finally got off the bus at an unscheduled stop near Nowhere, Texas.
Texas. I always dreamed of going to Texas and now here I was, in the middle of the desert, after the bus made a four-hour stop in Dallas. I wondered how that city was on the day President Kennedy was killed. Sirens. Helicopters. Ambulance. Broadcasters. Journalists. People crying. Yes my friend, there are crazies everywhere. And now I was on a bus with a lady pretending to be asleep because she did not like the smell of my two-days-without-showering.
“Excuse-me, lady,” I said, asking permission to go to the bathroom. When I got back she was gone, swapped the seat next to me for the last space in the bus. OK, I thought, better for me. Now I can stretch my legs and get some real sleep.
Overall, I would say that the United States is better than Brazil. The US has more security on the streets; the roads are faster, better built and maintained; there are fewer social problems (despite having several); more money, less corruption. People are more polite.
However, one thing I say without any doubt: the buses that make long travels in Brazil are better than the Americans. In all the buses I’ve traveled in so far in the US, there are no curtains on the windows. Once the sun comes up, the whole bus is filled with light.
This is bad, but the seats are worse: none allow you to tilt in a comfortable position to sleep. This means that after two days you feel as if a bulldozer had run over you. Possibly the train cars that Jack Kerouac, Jack London and others traveled in were more comfortable than seats in the modern American bus.
We are almost there, I think. We have already crossed into New Mexico. After that will be Arizona and so finally California! San Diego—beach, sun, muchachas wearing bikinis, cold beer and all Pacific sunsets!
So I will stretch my legs and get some sleep, because I want to wake up only when I’m in paradise.
Eduardo Ritter is a Brazilian PhD student in Social Communication and he is a scholarship student from Capes (Brazilian Government) with doctoral internship at New York University.