2012, 5 min 17 sec, super 8 and 16mm to video
A wolf dog’s restlessness prompts a pilgrimage from the burly sprawl of Chicago to investigate the myth of San Francisco. A hitchhiking triumph–even with the enormous canine companion, the camera-toting traveler never waited longer than 5 minutes roadside before ‘strangers in the brotherhood of hitchhiking’ furthered the pair down the long road west. The narration showcases the filmmaker’s gift with words as well as images. Viewing the film, we become hitchhikers as well, drawn into the mesmerizing, flickering story. Highlights include encounters with famous beatnik writers and the acquisition of a Holy Grail that has since influenced Renwick’s bright career–a copy of James Broughton’s Seeing the Light, purchased, perfectly, at City Lights Books.
"My wolf dog Zeb and I set off hitching in the early 80's from Chicago to SF to see what it's all about.
We met some beats and some freaks." - Vanessa Renwick
shot, written, narrated and edited by Vanessa Renwick
footage was shot in 1981, 2005 and 2007
edit was done in 2012
I had thought that if I had a car I would be useless mish mash.
I didn’t drive
I took trains, walked, or was a pliable passenger while others drove.
Raise your hand for permission to pee, for a taxi.
I got a puppy that was part wolf. Zeb, I named him. He didn’t like being left alone in the apartment. He would eat holes in the drywall, rip up the linoleum, chew on the molding. He wanted to be trotting along wolfstyle - 70 miles a day. In a way he invited me to take a trip, get the hell out of the god damn apartment. I decided to head to San Francisco. I’d never been there and it always sounded kind of magical.
The monster dog awaited along side of me on the highway with such muted strain. I was a hitching model & he was my accessory. We were waiting, wanting to travel, not wanting to stop.
Strangers in the brotherhood of hitchhiking, mainly lonely men, stopped to pick us up. Never waited more than 5 minutes for a ride. Plastered smile in the passenger seat. West we went. Double skeeter bites behind the right knee, bugging me. Zeb on my lap, content.
This one old man picked me up and was speeding like a lunatic. He said I could stay at his house. Turns out we were speeding along so he could get home and watch Lawrence Welk. Next ride was a Nam vet - chicken farmer with a Vietnamese wife. We had to stop at his place to check on the birds in a long low building; I had never seen so many chickens before. He took me onward after.
early morning arrival.
All those beautiful colorful tiles on the storefronts blowing my mind. Never seen anything like that before. Used to the never-ending brickhouse of Chicago. Even the bums were good looking in San Francisco.
I stopped to ask directions to a park and ended up hanging out with the man, Nathan, and his friend David for a few days. Nathan was a valet at the North Beach Restaurant and lived right across the street from it in the building that came to a point at Columbus and Stockton.
He lived in the point, one teeny room on the top floor, with 12 masks hanging on the wall in between the windows. The landlady was wretched - downstairs all the time and no dogs were allowed, so Zeb got tied up on the sidewalk while I went up to Nathan’s place. We climbed a ladder to the rooftop with water balloons and were pitching them over the side at people.
He took me to Vesuvio’s later that night and I got introduced to Ferlinghetti, and wild haired Gregory Corso. I couldn’t believe I was here, being introduced to all these writers, just like that.
Bob Kaufman was sitting quietly in the corner at the bar. I remember passing him a few times on the street; he was emanating the feel of a golden Buddha, not a smiling fat bellied one, more like an equanimus samurai.
I went to City Lights the next day and got the shiny silver book “Seeing The Light” by James Broughton. This book had more effect on my vision for making films than any ever.
Its 12:20 a.m.
everything itches and Zeb waits. Where am I?
In an alley I hunkered down in to go to sleep. I pick my scabs for a million years.
Imaginary fleas vs. real fleas,
damp dirt itchy legs
it smells like piss
cold night with pebbles in my sockless hightops
feeling not right
Dog panting nervously.
I wake to some freak I can’t see, screaming at me in the dark, that this is his alley to sleep in and I need to get out. I grab my knife and Zeb, who is barking at the twisted freak. I didn’t know that Zeb could bark. I turn fierce, holding wolf dog and buck knife, sitting up from my sleeping bag, and yell back so raging for this freak to get the fuck out and leave me alone. He keeps yelling at me to git, but I eventually win out,
I’m the freakier freak.
He retreats to the street, and I go back to sleep.
Close your eyes crack your spine
I woke up in the morning
I was an apprehensive flea bitten bag
And I thought
San Francisco was not the place for me
I didn’t know where I was going
I went for want of leaving.
Back at Dennys drinking my last 50 cents worth- making it last. Starting on my 7th cup of coffee waiting for the sun to warm up the road,
I didn’t care where I was going as long as I was going. I was still treading.
Zeb jumped into a truck.
Strangers in the brotherhood of hitchhiking taking us on out of city sitting, into town sitting and out to black berry bushes in the sun on a hill steep. Now I’m sweating and stinking and watching the eagle circle overhead.