Monday, March 25, 2013

1950 Hobo Ejectus

Funny how things come back to haunt you. A few years ago I wrote a piece on the homeless issue. My thesis was that there are some very legitimate and needy homeless folks who have been totally destroyed by our economy. Hardworking people who lost their jobs through no fault of their own.
And another group of folks who actually chose to be out of the mainstream of American life. The kings of the road. Bindlestiffs. Swagman. Also known as Hobos.
The problem with the not-so-civil discourse about all of these people is that by mixing the two of them up, we don't find a constructive solution. They are distinct populations with distinct needs. You can't feed rice to a carnivore.
Let's face it, hobos are carnivores, in the sense that they are opportunists. Scavengers who know there are opportunities on the edge of society. Oftentimes they are not the most polite of folks. The conventions they defy are things like the prohibition on excreting bodily fluids in public planters. Or not being rude and aggressive in their panhandling.
They can also be sweet old drunks. Gnarled and affable and fun to have a conversation with.
But they are generally not single women with young children in need of a booze-free shelter. A shelter in which gnarled, affable, mildly drunk, and a little bit creepy, hobos are not so welcome. A shelter from which they quickly become hobo ejectus.
So recently a nameless graffiti artist scrawled in large letters the word I invented in my old essay for the fear of such hobos.
I'm sure the artist invented it independently. Still, it's nice to have my reputation and contributions, as rendered in graffiti, rise from the bathroom wall of my teens to the side of a big building downtown.
Hauntingly mainstream...
America, ya gotta love it.

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