The Prisoner of the United States
Hitchhiker: What drove you to be successful?
Larry: I had to follow my dream. I couldn’t continue working in a job I hated. So whatever it took to make it, obviously within the law, I was willing to do.
Hitchhiker: There’s courage in that.
Larry: Not really, because I had no choice. I had to do this or I would die.
A few nights later I duck into a trendy Edgartown restaurant with some friends. The place is packed. We grab a table and begin soaking up the festive ambiance. While doing some restaurant reconnaissance, I notice a man with a familiar sheen to his head.
The Larry Phenomenon!
I have to go over. “Larry, my man!”
He greets me warmly and then announces to the group, “Hey everyone, this is The Hitchhiker!” His dinner party stirs with a palpable excitement. “He’s the guy I’ve been telling you about!”
It’s obvious they know about our mysterious encounters, and based on their response, I feel a little famous. “Larry, you’re actually telling people about our nonsense?”
“Absolutely. It’s too damn good not to!”
So is Larry telling his friends about The Hitchhiker
Larry and I say goodbye and return to our respective universes.
The next day during another lunch on the porch at the Chilmark Store, a reporter from the Gazette randomly interviews me over the impending arrival of President Obama.
(I secretly wonder if I am going to meet the President? Will he pick me up hitchhiking?)
The paper is creating a special section about what people on The Vineyard would say to Barack.
With his notebook in hand he asks, “So, what would you say to the President of the United States?”
I look off for a few moments into the rich, clear blue sky, and then answer. “Mr. Commander, do you need any help?”
He smiles. “Seriously.”
I finish off my last bite of pizza and respond in a more earnest fashion. “Mr. President, I hope you have the courage to follow your convictions, and that history will smile on those who not only have a vision, but take bold action.
I believe our society has reached a critical state where only a new paradigm of consciousness can transform and save us. What I would like to ask you, Mr. President, if I may borrow from Gandhi: What can I or any of us do to BE the change we wish to see in the world?”
When this segment is published the following week, I am disappointed to find the last few lines were edited out.
Three days later I’m riding my bike past the airport when a huge Marine helicopter passes directly overhead. Instinctively I know that’s him, that’s the President. My next thought is more practical. ‘I hope I can get past security up ahead, and up to the beach.’
Realizing a wayward vagabond on a bike is not much of a threat; the police and Secret Service agents decide to let me through.
I peddle past people holding homemade signs with endearing slogans who hope to get a fleeting glimpse of their visiting king.
A few miles beyond the airport, I realize that over the last few minutes not a single car has passed me in either direction.
His Highness must be coming.
Someone sound the trumpets.
Sure enough, within seconds several state troopers on motorcycles come flying past me. To avoid being squashed by the world’s most elite motorcade, I begin peddling furiously.
An officer pulls up right next to me and shouts, “The President is coming up right behind you. Get your butt off the road!”
God, if I only had a nickel for every time I’ve heard that one!
I immediately turn onto a narrow patch of grass and park, as a magnificent display of temporal power passes within a few feet of my humble bicycle and me.
Instinctively I hold up my arm and extend the peace symbol, offering a small blessing to the Imperial Motorcade and its mysterious occupants hidden behind the dark tinted glass.
As I look at my peace symbol, it strikes me what difference a finger or two can make in terms of sending a message.
In an instant the VIP Vortex passes, and calm returns to the scene.
Though our lives pass within three feet of one another, our worlds could not be further apart.
To my surprise, the birds sing on around me apparently oblivious to the famous life form that has just flown by.
* I feel like I just witnessed the transfer of a prisoner.
* It must be limiting to constantly see the world through very dark bulletproof glass.
* I’m in my ninth week here, while the Prisoner of the United States only gets a meager seven-day furlough.
* The imperial Prisoner of the United States has a lot less freedom than meaningless old me.
This is instantly illustrated when I ride a hundred yards and stop, without a care in the world, at a small lemonade stand run by a coterie of young girls.
Could the Prisoner of the United States do that without extensive planning? Or go nine weeks without wearing a coat or heaven forbid, a tie? Can he walk freely amongst the people or casually eat a slice of pizza on the porch at the Chilmark Store?
Could he lie on the beach at night alone with his Creator, feeling at one with All That Is?
Most importantly, could he go hitchhiking and get picked up by Larry David?
I suddenly feel very fortunate and wonder why anyone would ever want to be the Prisoner of the United States.