If I hadn’t gone and made the mistake of doing something with my life, I would have been a hobo.
A while back I participated in the 700 Hobos Project. This project succeeded in having cartoonists from around the globe draw pictures of the hobos mentioned in John Hodgman’s wonderful book of all knowledge, The Areas of My Expertise (you can download the audio version of this absolutely hilarious book here for free). You can hear Mr. Hodgman recitation of his list of Hobo names here. You can see all of the drawings from the project here… currently there are 1430 drawings of the 700 hobos.
Fortunately for weekend hobos and hobo wannabes, the internet has provided the world with a repository of hobo knowledge… not that any true hobo would ever set finger on a conblasted contrapulated computer… hobo poseurs, however, have no such scruples.
For example this site and this one will illuminate you with information on hobo signs and symbols. This will enable those of us in the Johnson Family with a watchful eye and ragged dress to find free pie and coffee, or a hay loft in which to lay a weary head.
Alas, the hobo codes are under-utilized these days… I wish some of the tag-happy spray-painters of the modern world would get over peeing arcane versions of their names on walls and start providing us with useful hoboese instead.
The amazingly wonderful music site juneberry78s.com has a bunch of great public domain music, some of which is about the noble hobo. I have purloined the relevant tracks for your edification here:
While you are listening to these old tunes of the lonesome, lice-infested road, here are some images I made for the 700 Hobos project to peruse and ponder simultaneously.
Hobo 002: Cholly the Yegg
Cholly the Yegg was once a wealthy man, but he left his fortune behind for life on the rails. Many claim it was bad investments that led him to this fate, a claim which Cholly denies wholeheartedly. Cholly insists that he just needed the simplicity of sleeping under the stars with a knapsack full of dreams and open roads leading in all directions. Of course, the liquor may have had something to do with it too, not to mention the embezzlement accusations, but we prefer Cholly’s interpretation of events. For he is Cholly the Yegg for a reason… not for his portly stature… not for his fondness for eating 3 pickled eggs for lunch every single day of the week… but because, when you see him walk away into the sunset, you can’t help but think to yourself, “there goes a good yegg.
hobo # 301: Captain Slicktalk
No one has seen Captain Slicktalk around lately… could it be that he finally sold the Golden Gate Bridge? More likely he borrowed a bottom dollar from the wrong bum and didn’t pay it back. The Captain will never learn.
hobo # 477: Unshakably Morose Flo
Unshakably Morose Flo rides the Greyhound endlessly, always choosing whatever destination is farthest away. She would spill her guts to you if she could, but she can no longer see anyone… she is not physically blind, only terminally stunned. It is no matter, for she has become virtually invisible to the world, although they can smell her long after she leaves a room. Furthermore, madness and mania sank in long ago, and her conversational abilities have atrophied, she speaks to no one but herself. She wears her tragedy like a noose and wonders why the breath has not yet been sucked from her lungs… what god could be so cruel to let her live through this?
hobo # 575: Ammonia Cocktail Jones
Ammonia Cocktail Jones is a poor drinking buddy. Infested backwash is the least of your worries, believe me, should you have the misfortune of sharing a drink with this man. Whether it is his bottle or yours is irrelevant… when he is around, dehydration is your friend.
Note that Ammonia Coctail Jones, along with another comic of mine, will be appearing in the newly published anthology about drinking from Spout Press, Lush: A Poetry Anthology and Cocktail Guide . You can order the book from Spout press directly here. Tonight there is a cocktail release party for the book in Minneapolis at the Nomad World Pub.