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Thumb Tripping


It's tempting to take up Elijah Wald on the first sentence of his book, Riding With Strangers: A Hitchhiker's Journey: "Call me crazy." Wald has hitched across the country a dozen times. Riding With Strangers chronicles his latest adventure and the businessmen, truck drivers, and conspiracy theorists he met along the way. "We have this perception that we're living in this dangerous society," he says. "The world, in general, is a pretty friendly place."

The 47-year-old Chicagoan first hitchhiked more than 30 years ago. Since then, he's thumbed his way across four continents. "It's not more dangerous than it used to be, and it's not harder than it used to be," he says. "I'm really troubled by the paranoia in this country. Nobody much cares about hitchhikers." Wald, a singer-songwriter, always travels with his guitar. "It makes me look less threatening," he says. "It has romantic associations."

Wald is nearing the end of a month-long book tour, which started in Seattle and ends up in New York next week. Naturally, he's hitching the entire route. "I have never found hitchhiking particularly scary," he says. "I drive through places I find scary. But the side of a highway in Wyoming? I've been picked up by people who I think are pretty fucking weird, but the weirdoes are never threatening."
Wed., June 7, 7 p.m.

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