Viking Happiness: Hitchhiking Hudson River Valley to Chicago

“Learn a healing song while thou livest.”
Havamal, Poetic Edda, 13th Century Viking poetry

I wanted to scream, whoop, sing “Good morning America how are ya. Don’t you know me I’m your native son.”

Light up the sky, kiss the girls and jig till I trip and laugh.

All I did was take this video. The backstory is long but I’ll give you the short version.

I quit a Hudson River Valley carnival that May morning on my way to Chicago for my daughter’s 8th birthday.

The trip wasn’t planned. My daughter’s birthday was on the line. Only the Taconic State Parkway and local roads to hitch before the interstate. Not good. It was a snap judgment to quit and hit the road.

Tuesday to Friday, 800 miles, it was a very ambitious hitchhike and at times that day I thought, ‘Shit, this time I’m really screwed.’

All day I’d be stopped by state and local cops. In one two hour span, six cops stopped me. When three cops in three squads pulled up, I was both afraid and amused.

“What am I public enemy #1 guys?”

The cops suggested I return to New York City or walk out of the state, to Pennsylvania.

When they left, I wrote on a cardboard sign “84 West,” put it on my back and kept walking west. No thumb out but drivers knew the score.

I was in bad shape just moments before this video.

Miles of walking and then up fast pulled a pick-up truck with a young father, his son and the family dog.

Dad told me to hop in the flatbed. The son looked at me like a work of fiction, or history. About the same age as my daughter, he seemed more confused than the dog.

I threw my packs in the back and that pick-up truck peeled away from the curb. Down the on-ramp for I-84, we sped past other cars. Making time. Free from the cops. Jig? Nooo!

What the video won’t show is what happened before and after, that you’ll have to imagine.

What it shows is 17 seconds of bumpy, windy ride. What you hear is a hitchhiker shouting coordinates. Watch it closely now and know the cargo is alive again and feels swear-at-the-sky joy.

I learned recently that the word “happiness” comes from the Old Norse word “happ,” it literally is a Viking word for “good luck” or “change.”

The Rune symbol is called a Fehu: Fehu

My change of luck happens off camera but it is felt as I speed into the coming nightfall.

Still, I’ve long known happiness appears in moments, often short unexpected bursts, if only for 17 seconds.

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I’m in the tenth month of my year working in traveling carnivals and hitchhiking between jumps. I’ve worked with eight carnival companies and hitched 13,500 miles across 26 US states and western Canada. Including travel to Mexico and 36 states in all, I’ve logged more than 20,000 miles. I’m now writing book proposals and looking for agents. I may work more carnivals before I’m finished.

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