Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Where are all the Hobos?

I've always been fond of the word Hobo.

Growing up in New York City we didn't have Hobos, but an ecclectic mix of Panhandlers, Transients and Bums, who I guess all fell under the umbrella demographic of "the homeless." These weren't the freewheelin', rail-ridin', all-my-blongingins-tied-up-at-the-end-of-a-stick wayward wandering types one would associate with the word. They were more likely to wash your car window as you entered the city - like there is some sort of windshield cleanliness standard expected of new visitors - hit you up for money or scream obscenities at you. I never saw anyone actually using a pan to panhandle, but that's for another posting. I don't think those guys who just held the sign which overtly asked for booze were ever assigned their own sub-group within "the homeless," since cleverness seemed to be viewed more as a liabilitiy than an asset.

I guess I've always wondered what constituted a real Hobo. So I did a little digging and I found that there is actually an entire culture of Hobos according to this resource for all things Hobo.

To the neo-phyte, imagine a way of life where you are not bound by time schedules, home owner bill, job expectations, the IRS, you can live where you want, sleep where you want, travel wherever you want as long as its' in the continental US and Canada. Never pay a travel fare unless you want to, never pay rent, electric, gas, water, or cable bills, never pay taxes, and see places in the US and Canada others only see in the movies, or in a magazine. Sound like the lifestyle of Bill Gates, or Donald Trump?, well hundreds of folks live that kind of life every day, in fact that kind of life/culture has been going on since just after Americas' Civil War. A lifestyle/culture so sweet, so addictive, so seductive, so intoxicating, that those of us who retire after 20, 30, even 40 years of are never really free of it.

Addictive, seductive and intoxicating? Who knew that riding the rails was better than Vodka and Vicodin? (Mix the two together with a spash of Mr. Pibb - I call it a "V for Vendetta.")

There is actually a Hobo convention each year in Britt, Iowa. I guess that's where their town slogan - Britt, Iowa - The Sturgis of the Downtrodden - comes from. Ironically, the convention is organized by the Britt Chamber of Commerce. Commerce....Hobos....leave it to those sharp Iowans to make that connection. I'll be going next year and I've already promised 30 people a ride from the train station.

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