Earlier today, indie-rock band Here We Go Magic was heading west on the Ohio stretch of Interstate 70 when they spotted a middle-aged guy wearing a blazer standing by the side of an on-ramp, carrying a sign that said "end of 70 West." The band's guitarist filled in DCist on what happened next:
Jen wanted to pick him up, but we drove past him. As we passed by, our sound guy said 'John Waters' Luke said, 'Yep, definitely John Waters.' We got off at the next exit and circled back. He was still there. We pulled up, opened the door and asked where he was coming from. 'Baltimore,' he said. And we said 'Get in, sir.'"
The band's singer Jen Turner has been tweeting updates on the band's impromptu road trip with the director of Pink Flamingos and Hairspray, including the picture here of Waters in their van, and tidbits like "Learning new words like 'Trendsexual' and 'Blouse' from John." He apparently also bought them lunch, and was carrying his own mixtape to share.
My first instinct was that this was some kind of set-up, a promotional thing for the band or something, but that just doesn't sound like John Waters. In fact, as DCist noted, Waters does have a history of hitchhiking: "I do still hitchhike," he said in an interview with an Australian newspaper last year. "It’s a great way to meet people, and to have sex. I’ve hitchhiked in Baltimore, Provincetown, San Francisco … what, people don’t hitchhike in Australia?"
That quote, along the most recent tweet from Turner got me think about what this is likely all about:
"Mr. Waters is headed across the US-- I think we're dropping him in Indianapolis if u want to grab him next. Keep ur eyes peeled on the I-70!"
Most of us who have grown up in Baltimore likely know that Interstate 70 begins on the Baltimore beltway and goes west most of the way across the country. There's that iconic sign, right at the beginning (left) that shows the distances to Columbus, St. Louis, Denver, and Fort Cove, Utah, where the highway ends. I imagine Waters is hitchhiking his way across the country on I-70 to meet people, have adventures, maybe have sex, and, probably, write a book about it. There's something poetic about hitchhiking across the country on a road that starts in Baltimore. It's such a great idea, I'm kicking myself for not thinking of it first.
But that's why John Waters is John Waters.
And this last photo, of Waters and his sign with the band, was just posted by Turner along with this: "Who knew I'd be tearfully leaving john waters on the side of the highway today..."