Things weren't going awfully well for me. I was a college dropout, and my worldly possessions consisted of $12 and change, an Army surplus sleeping bag and an old suitcase stuffed with dirty clothes and fishing tackle. I was somewhere in northern Florida on a cool, rainy Christmas Eve in 1959, hitchhiking south. The only car that had stopped in more than two hours was full of teenagers, and when I ran toward them they rolled down a window and tossed a firecracker at me. It exploded at my feet. Through the ringing in my ears, I heard them laughing as they sped away.
It was nearly dark when a dilapidated Ford sedan pulled onto the shoulder of the road ahead of me. I approached it warily, until a friendly voice called out, "C'mon, get in, it's wetter'n hell out there!"
"Thanks a lot for stopping," I said as I slammed the door.
"Dump your stuff in back."
I did, and then looked at the driver more closely. He was about my age, tall, slender with thick red hair and freckles. He was wearing soiled work clothes.
"You're shiverin'!" he said, smiling at me.
"I thought it would be hot in Florida."
"Not up here, not in December. Where you from?"
" Hawaii. But I've been working up in New York for a while."
"Where you headin'?"