In the summer of 2009, a young man walked into New York City's LaGuardia Airport carrying what he thought was a time machine and what the police thought was a bomb. Hitchhiking in the Graveyard, which was recently named as one of eight short-list finalists in the 2015 William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative writing competition, is my attempt, while also interweaving a through-line of my own very personal experiences, to make some sense of his year and a half long journey from his home in Northern California to the streets of New York and finally to the airport.
A mixture of fact and fiction, Hitchhiking in the Graveyard, complete at approximately 60,000 words, is the story of a young man at odds with the world, wandering somewhat blindly through it, meeting people along the way who change his life forever. The novel has been compared to The Hours and to The Snow Leopard for the time shifting and poetic way in which it examine issues of spirituality, self-doubt, mental illness and the search for meaning.
When I first met Ian Hart through my job at a Manhattan piano store, he wasn't yet mute. He came into the store like clockwork—every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday at 4:15pm. On the dot. And he always paid the $15 per hour piano rental fee. Every time. Eventually, he disappeared for some months. One day, I woke to find his picture splayed across the front of every newspaper in town. He had been arrested at LaGuardia with what authorities thought was a bomb in his backpack. He had constructed some sort of machine—complete with batteries, wires running up his coat sleeves. A detonator. A fellow employee at the store made the mistake of calling the Daily News to tell them that we all thought he was an alright guy—in no way did we think he was some sort of crazed terrorist—and shortly thereafter they sent a video crew to interview me. His crying, exhausted mother called. A rough-edged NYC detective phoned me at the store, asking hard questions. The puzzle of this mute man, who paid his piano rental in nickels, dimes and quarters, has haunted me ever since, and as some way of navigating my way through the thicket of him, I wrote this novel.
Hitchhiking in the Graveyard may be Ian's story, but it is in many ways mine as well. I left my family behind in California when I was sixteen years old to move to New York City to pursue a life in music and many of the moments contained in this novel are drawn from bleak, personal experiences found on the unforgiving streets of New York. However, this is not just my story, not just Ian's story, it is the story of every man who dreams, willing to risk everything. Including sanity.