Face it: Wouldn’t you rather strike out on the road with John Waters than Jack Kerouac?
If the answer is yes, then this book is for you, even if Waters (Role Models, 2011, etc.), the ever-flamboyant auteur-(Pink Flamingos, Hairspray et al) turned-writer, takes his sweet time getting going. For more than half of this account of his 2012 cross-country journey hitchhiking from Baltimore to San Francisco, the author imagines what lies in store, with dueling full-length novellas that spin best and worst case scenarios. Best: a never-ending thrill ride full of rich potheads, happy freaks and horny hunks, all of whom know and love his work. Worst: The trip west is seething with small-town homophobes, stage moms, crazed environmentalists and serial killers. The real story, once it arrives, is a welcome relief, as the truth is more hilarious and interesting than Waters’ nuttiest fantasies. He dealt with troubles he didn’t expect, like tedium or the art of making a marketable cardboard sign. (He eventually ditched his original sign, “I’m Not Psycho,” wisely realizing that “hitchhiking is not the time to be a comedian.”) Waters hitched rides with a preacher’s wife, a hay farmer and an indie band, and he struck up a budding bromance with a straight, young Maryland Republican city councilman. The author was grateful that, even in the hinterlands, C-list celebrity status could be a real asset and was even more touched by the kindness of people who didn't know him at all. Some—who apparently didn’t notice his BlackBerry, tracking device or designer sports jacket—even offered money, which he gently refused (“Yeah sure, I see her thinking, here’s a homeless person off his meds”).
The book idles way too long, but once it takes off, it’s a sweet and funny ride.