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by Eric Chaet

A hitchhiker criss-crosses the United States, posting "signs" on utility poles from New York to Los Angeles, winter and summer, year after year. Sometimes he stops to earn money. All kinds of people tell him their stories; some ask him his.
Download People I Met Hitchhiking On USA Highways epub
ISBN: 0970696507
ISBN13: 978-0970696502
Category: Travel
Subcategory: United States
Author: Eric Chaet
Language: English
Publisher: Turnaround Artist Productions (January 1, 2001)
Pages: 192 pages
ePUB size: 1950 kb
FB2 size: 1269 kb
Rating: 4.8
Votes: 179
Other Formats: lrf lrf azw mobi

Eric Chaet's People I Met Hitchhiking On USA Highways is not genre fiction or tell-all memoir. Readers looking for slick suspense thrillers with psychotic killers torturing pretty blondes, dinosaurs eating lawyers or drama in real life tales about alcoholic celebrities need to look elsewhere.

Perhaps those who appreciate complexity of thought, and those who enjoy Kerouac and Brautigan or Ferlinghetti and Ginsberg may find Chaet more familiar; however, he is not, nor does he strive or pretend to be any of those fine writers. Eric Chaet is unique, his prose calculated to make you stop. And think. Sometimes those thoughts can be disturbing, depressing or, at the very least, troubling.

The searing clarity in the confusion and chaos (reflected in his organizational style) is painful as it forces us to honestly reflect on the human condition. But Chaet does not leave us mired in this despair. He provides moments of illumination and pure joy, reconnecting us with simple pleasures, where a bird's song brings us "washed clean - back from defeat, from history, from being overwhelmed."

Hitchhiking with Chaet, we meet character after character struggling to survive as he does on just a few dollars stretched over months of wandering. Often, in following him on this lonely journey we feel the same raw edge, the same panic, and we experience demeaning work where we can almost hear the nuts and bolts rattling around in our heads. Yet we are better for the experience.

Eric Chaet is aware of his writing style. "Even my sentences are unusual and frequently difficult." If you applied "writer's workshop" parameters to his work, then you might bleed him to death. His use of ampersands and "tho" may be distracting at first, and I'm not sure what purpose they serve. (Perhaps changing them to ands and though might provide the answer.) But don't mistake this for lack of poetic skill or intelligence. Some messages require an experimental touch and a unique pattern. To dismiss it, as one reviewer has, as a "bastardization of Into the Wild" is missing the point entirely. If you accept the originality of his work, then you will find knowledge and truth.

Perhaps Chaet's declaration on page 98 regarding his unusual style should have been at the beginning but, as Chaet might say, the beginning is not necessarily where you might begin. "I have gone back & forth in time...." He also adapts various points of view; however, each character is pure, unmistakable, Eric Chaet, and he speaks with empathy and understanding.

It would be a mistake for us to view Chaet as anything but a unique mind and spirit worth our attention. He must be read simply because there is no one else writing as he does. And, fortunately for us, Eric Chaet, the hitchhiker and survivor, is "still alive!"

Jeffrey Penn May, author of Where the River Splits, and others.
People I Met Hitchhiking on USA Highways is not a novel, and Eric Chaet is not a writer. Eric Chaet is a man with a mission, and People I Met Hitchhiking on USA Highways is a record of his travels, presented without the artifice of fiction, as he set about fulfilling that mission. Eric Chaet roved the length and breadth of America with a bag of sunflower seeds and a vitamin bottle filled with water, stapling his hand-made silkscreened posters to utility poles. Chaet's mission? To change the world. The posters: "The bearded face...full of dissatisfaction, indignation...too simplified to be anybody's face in particular." Above the face, printed letters: "SEEK TRUTH - DEVELOP CAPACITIES." Other posters proclaimed: "HELP ONE ANOTHER SUCCEED," "DESPITE INJUSTICE AND & NORMAL MADNESS, CHANGE YR SITUATION & OUR WORLD FOR BETTER," and "YOU'RE LIKE ME IN THIS RESPECT--WHAT YOU DO HAS ITS EFFECT."

A driver who gave Chaet a ride remarked, "I think that what you are doing is courageous and noble, sir, but do you think you have any chance at all of success?" Eric Chaet's answer: "I think that, before I began, I had no chance of success, but that, now that I've begun, I'm changing the odds."

Eric Chaet didn't do this important work on a grant from the Guggenheim Foundation or any other foundation. He washed dishes, worked in factories and taught math at a Navaho reservation to keep himself alive while he wandered, like a 20th Century Johnny Appleseed, stapling his posters to utility poles all across America.

I found People I Met Hitchhiking on USA Highways to be a very companionable book. Although Chaet insists that he is not a writer, his prose has an immediacy and a quality of empathy that puts you there. You're there on the road with Eric Chaet, as you read. "I drank some water from one of the vitamin bottles & ate a handful of roasted soybeans--& slept at the edge of a small town, in tall weeds near the highway." He has an eye for beauty: "The two rivers of the Milky Way appeared, disappeared & reappeared ahead of us. A satellite traced a geodesic curve across the sky." And as the title implies, Chaet meets a number of interesting people on the road. Bernie, a turkey farmer who lost 45,000 turkeys when they smothered after retreating to a corner of their cage, frightened by an owl, Worcek, a trucker who kept two sets of books, and Bob, a balding, childlike hitchhiker who "generally went wherever the drivers of the vehicles in which he hitched rides were going."

People I Met Hitchhiking on USA Highways is an inspiring book, a book that is very much needed in this dark and apocalyptic time. Eric Chaet is an American Original, and a seed man. He plants seeds that stimulate us to think in other categories, to think outside of the box. "YOU'RE LIKE ME IN THIS RESPECT--WHAT YOU DO HAS ITS EFFECT." His message to us is that you can in fact change the world, one person at a time--beginning with yourself.
"People I Met Hitchhiking" is about a man on a journey to help people by posting his messages on telephone poles. Simple messages, phrases that will perhaps motivate people to be better human beings, but this is not the point of the book. As reflected in the title, the fascinating part of the book is the stories about the people the author meets on the road. Stories of ordinary people's dreams, flaws, ideas, insanity, generosity and cruelty. In it is a vital reflection of the extremes of the human condition, told in a very simple way. Eric's narration wanders from the concrete to the dreamlike, connecting the past with the present at times, but following a larger narrative frame. Stories of bad jobs, good jobs, growing, relationships and living punctuate the hitchhiking episodes, explaining much about what it means to be alive in this world. It's about the freedom to travel and the slavery to wage jobs, and how real people live day to day, and how the poor are undermined and dehumanized by the rich and each other. It's a piece of work that is a fascinating portrait of America, at once beautiful and horrible, awkward and elegant, but extremely rewarding.