(And a whole lot more)
I got up at four o’clock and had been reviewing my thoughts on Dialogue for an hour or more before the sun began to rise. Then my attention shifted to the wash of coral and lavender on the horizon. I just had to stop writing and raise my eyes. As I do, I feel I raise my eyes to Jesus and Mary too. I step out, briefly, from ordinary time. Here, it is exceedingly still, and the splendor of the dawn feels lasting rather than momentary. I absorb the image, now dazzling gold and silver.
I look up again, and after pausing at the unusual sight that passes before me, write:
Mother and Brother – a hobo looking guy just walked down my path. Please protect me and him. Keep us both safe.
My mind is always full of weird things passing through. Now an actual person. The first one ever.
When I go in later, I tell Donny. “A hobo walked down the path today, right in front of the cabin. There was something funny about him. I think maybe he had his arms inside his shirt rather than in the sleeves. He was white and slim, shuffling, and dirty. It happened so fast! He was there and gone.”
Donny says, “Well, be careful.”
I wonder openly, “Is there a community of homeless somewhere near? At the park down the way, maybe? Or off to the side of it near the freeway? A person could walk up from there.” Later, I think, ‘We aren’t that far from the river. I hear the train and barge whistles.’ Hobos are most known for being train riders (or jumpers).
Later, I wonder why the word hobo so easily came to my mind and spun as naturally off my lips. Was the word “hobo” used more often when I was young? Was that why? I didn’t question why I called the man a “hobo” as I did so. The word “hobo” simply arrived, much in the same manner as he did. Was it something I felt?
My dad was a character and knew hobos. The depression was still talked about when I was a kid, by people who’d lived through it. I feel as if I may have seen a hobo or two walking through Dad’s old homestead. I even believe the memory included the carrying of a “bindle,” which I find to be the name for the long stick to which possessions were tied and carried over the shoulder. At any rate, the man who so briefly passed my window felt like he struck some memory that went with the word “hobo.”
I’m intrigued now, and find a “Hobo Dictionary” online:
From the Dictionary of Old Hobo Slang, Stephen P. Alpert (- March 31, 2004, compiled from many books on hoboes, and some original material supplied to the author.)
a pick angel – a person who gives more than you expect; angel food – a mission sermon; Angelina – a punk or road kid acting as a hobo’s companion; Auntie – Angelina grown older; Antique – an old-timer on the road; apple knocker – an apple picker; Apple Butter Route – Norfolk and Western RR (southern Ohio); axle grease – butter; axle swinging – riding under a railroad car; tramp balloon – a pack or bedroll, carried over the back or shoulder banjo; barrel house – a cheap, filthy lodging house; bedroom of stars – a city park
I like “bedroom of stars” and decide to stop there.
I was then surprised to find that “Smithsonian Magazine” had published a story in 2019, called “The Last of the Great American Hobos.” Jeff Macgregor wrote it. He begins:
“In a society of citizen consumers, to have nothing, to own nothing, by choice, might be the most radical politics of all. And it’s worth mentioning here that not every homeless person is a hobo. And as the hobo fades from the American scene—except as a visual or literary cliché—there’s more and more confusion on the matter. A hobo is homeless by choice. Even then, not every hobo is completely homeless. Most these days have a semipermanent address somewhere for the winter. Especially the older hoppers.”
“I first left home when I was 16, just to see the country and get out on my own for a while to see if I could do it. And I did.” —Minnesota Jim
“And of course, the whole thing,” Macgregor says, “runs on talk, endless talk. Because talk’s free; because even if you give away everything you own, or they take away everything you have, you still have your stories. And every story here begins as the same story.
“Why I left home.”
The author notes that “By 1930, when John Dos Passos writes The 42nd Parallel, the first novel of his towering U.S.A. Trilogy, the hobo is no longer just a foil or a cautionary tale, but the protagonist, often driven away from home and into the world by injustice. As we see again in John Steinbeck, and The Grapes of Wrath, the hobo, the landless, the migrant, becomes a Christ. That impulse travels all the way up the line to Jack Kerouac and the Beats.”
There were famous hobos: Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas is thought to have hoboed his way across country to attend law school. Writers James Michener and Louis L’Amour and Jack London, and billionaire oilman H.L. Hunt, all went on the bum. There was Jack Dempsey, and Charlie Chaplin’s depiction of the “Always broke but never broken,” which the writer sees as “camouflaged as comedy.” He said “Chaplin presented us then—and presents us still—the tragedy of modernity. Every hobo is a commentary on capitalism.”
The next day, Donny says, “You were right. It was a hobo. He took the change out of my truck. Nothing else. Hobos are only looking for change,” he said, as if he was an expert on the matter.
I didn’t think to ask him why he said that then, so I go inside to do, but he’s not up yet. On my way, I notice the first birds beginning to chirp. In the yard, each time I try to get a look at the robin’s nest in the crook of one of the gutters, her mate starts jumping around between me and her and she looks so nervous. I walk the other way. They are good parents.
Returning, I go back to reading Macgregor.
The United States is referred to as a “mixed market economy, meaning that it has characteristics of capitalism and socialism. The United States is a capitalist society where means of production are based on private ownership and operation for profit.”
I follow that reading to Wikipedia on Poverty in the United States
Many international bodies have emphasized the issues of poverty that the United States faces. A 2013 UNICEF Report ranked the U.S. as having the second-highest relative child poverty rates in the developed world. As of June 2016, the IMF warned the United States that its high poverty rate needs to be tackled urgently by raising the minimum wage and offering paid maternity leave to women to encourage them to enter the labor force. In December 2017, the United Nations special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Phillip Alston, undertook a two-week investigation on the effects of systemic poverty in the United States, and sharply condemned “private wealth and public squalor,” declaring the state of Alabama to have the “worst poverty in the developed world.” Alston’s report was issued in May 2018 and highlights that 40 million people live in poverty and over five million live “in ‘Third World’ conditions.”
On a sidebar there is a political cartoon from the Progressive Era, along with the comment: “Wealth in a few hands leads to the extinguishing of individualism, initiative, ambition, untainted success, and independence.”
I see that President Barack Obama referred to the widening income gap as the “defining challenge of our time.” And then that Nobelist Robert Shiller, after receiving his award stated: “The most important problem that we are facing now today, I think, is rising inequality in the United States and elsewhere in the world.”
Later, as I take my walk, two hawks circle and circle overhead, cawing to beat the band, an act that has always felt like one of warning and protection.
That’s how I feel about those who raise their voices in this way that yields no victims and reveals what is not commonly seen: that being protective of our rights is being protective of the whole. Their warnings are also encouragements. They throw out challenges in a way similar to that of Jesus and Mary in A Course of Love and Mirari: The Way of the Marys. They say, “It doesn’t have to be this way.” They appeal to our better natures. They speak of evolving out of our former mindset and condition and then moving beyond evolution. But they still speak of this life. Here. Living with our dignity intact, living in a way that our hearts can take us to being both challenging and compassionate voices for a new way.
A Course of Love:
Everyone knows that this [evolution] has not worked to improve the fate of man. Everyone secretly fears that evolution will not keep pace with the changing world and that man’s reign over his environment will come to an abrupt and painful end. Some even fear an evolutionary setback, and see any threat against civilization as they know it as a return to barbaric times.
These scenarios of fear we leave behind as we abandon ideas of evolution in time and proceed to an awareness of how the elevated Self of form can replace the laws of evolution in time with the laws of transformation outside of time. D:7.24-25
Mirari: The Way of the Marys:
This constructed reality does not call for revolution in time, but for the revolutionary transformation of time outside of time. This is what your Jesus called you to share and to experience, and to grow into. So many lives are growing in this direction now! But many, not knowing it is a new way of being . . .simply build new and softer looking ramparts in which they feel greater safety and well-being. Yet safety lies not there. P.46
Safety lies in expansion of The New.