I met Hendrix Berry virtually last February (I have yet to meet her in the flesh, but someday hope to!) when she was feverishly working on her senior thesis on the cooperative movement, and emailed the Field Guide with questions about our study of Cleveland's Evergreen Cooperatives. She and I spoke a few weeks later, and she happened to mention that she had gone on a bicycle trip visiting cooperatives around the country with a group of friends in the summer of 2013, and that a core organizing group was hoping to embark on a similar trip in the summer of 2014 inviting a new set of riders. We were both excited about the possibility of the Field Guide documenting the trip in semi-real time —perhaps with some film clips and journaling — in 2014. Regrettably, that 2014 trip never happened for logistical and other reasons, but a number of former Co-Cyclists were eager to collaborate on a Field Guide story as a way to commemorate their life-changing, shared experiences.
Last summer, as we were planning the Field Guide Co-Cycle story, I had a wonderful email exchange with Hendrix (who did all the organizing to make the story happen). I was on a drive from New York to Chicago and was listening to Simon & Garfunkel's "Bookends" CD, released in 1968, and, in particular, to "America," a song that is on the playlist of just about anyone who grew up in that intense and heady decade.
"America" tells the story of a young couple hitchhiking and taking greyhound buses across the country during one of those hopeful summers of love that turned out not to be all that the two had hoped for. They are looking for America, but they never really find it. The song ends as the young man turns to his sleeping companion and says, as much to himself as to her:
"Kathy, I'm lost...I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why."
Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike
They’ve all come to look for America.
I emailed Hendrix to tell her how the song had always resonated with me, a child of the 60s, and how much its underlying sense of unfulfilled promise contrasted with the Co-Cyclists' optimism. Unlike the youth of the 60s, the Co-Cyclists seemed to have so many more guiding lights to lead them along an alternative pathway. Or was it, I wondered, that they were just so much better at searching out those lights? I got my answer from Hendrix?
Here's what she said:
“That's so amazing! You completely read my mind and I think about that song all the time! Co-Cycle for me was about going "to look for America" after my mother, who was a back-to-the-land hippie, found an America that she hated and couldn't take down despite the love speech. In an America that's both beautiful and damaged, Co-Cycle for me was about learning to bring this country to health by working collectively and democratically to build strength… apart from the extractive economy that tells us that our economy and our lives are out of our own hands (that they're in invisible hands).”
Hoping you enjoy the wonderful story of Co-Cycle, and that it inspires you not to give up, but to look, again, for America. And please share your own stories of America with us.
[In the same spirit, enjoy this 2012 NPR story about Eric Schantz, a young man who returned to his hometown of Saginow, MI — which figures so prominently in Simon & Garfunkel's "America" — to participate in the regeneration of yet another city that has been the victim of our country's post-industrial decline.] —Susan Arterian Chang