WHERE HAVE ALL THE HOBOS GONE?
Oh that’s right. The Hobos were run out of town by the Homeless. That’s a shame. Hobos always had a slightly mystical turn of the century charm to them. The Homeless just aren’t trying hard enough. Everything was better in the olden days—even the poor.
Happy Halloween, y’all. I’ve always had a weird attachment with Halloween, because it was a crutch for helping me remember when my birthday was. I was born two days after Halloween, which I always thought was much cooler than being born two days after Christmas. Anyone unlucky enough to be born close to Christmas has got to suffer. They’re going to get shorted on one of the days.
As a result of my birthday coming so hot on the heels of Halloween, I don’t have a lot of childhood memories of Halloween. Even though Halloween meant loads of candy, which I love today and much as I did back then, my birthday was always more important to me.
You could get candy any day of the year, but there was only one day a year when I was in control of our house. Not total control, mind you, but lots more than I was used to.
I had two older sisters, and the youngest one was five or six years older than me, which meant I was a mistake. My arrival into the world was not scheduled, but tolerated. My mom went through the ‘change of life’ when I was very young, so my sisters Nancy and Marcia had a very active hand in my raising. Which is cool, and which I am grateful to this very day for. But anyone out there with older siblings knows what it’s like to be the runt of the lot.
The majority ruled in our house when it came to making decisions like what to watch on television, which movies we would get to go see, or what to have for dinner. I’m sure I was on the majority side more and a few times, but what I remember is always being a minority of one. If there was something I wanted to watch on television and it was on against something my sisters wanted to see, well, at least I get to see it no on the TVLand channel.
But on my birthday, I was the big cheese. I was the headman. I was the one in control of the television. Plus, there was cake and presents, making it a day of days. As far as presents, my parents were never too cheap when it came to keeping me supplied with toys and games. I could count on Nancy to give me a few Hardy Boys books, and Marcia would always kick in with a pair of slippers or some Peanuts paperbacks.
I do have strong memories of one Halloween. I must have been nine or ten. I always loved the Red Skeleton Show on television, and one of the characters he played was a lovable tramp. There were a lot of lovable tramps on television back then, and I sort of thought the whole concept was cool. So it was so shocker when I announced that year that I was going to be a hobo for Halloween. My mom went along with it and agreed to sew some patches onto an old pair of jeans and a sweatshirt. I was stuck without a hat, and no self respecting hobo would be seen out in public without a scuffed and beaten old hat, so I decided to make my own.
I’m pretty sure it took me two or three hours to make that hat. I used the pieces of white cardboard that new shirts and underwear came wrapped around. I colored the cardboard brown with crayons and then got busy cutting and taping the mess together. It was sort of a puzzle, figuring out how to make it work. (I think that’s one of the reasons I became a writer. No, not the making hats part, but rather the solving problems part. What is writing fiction if not solving one problem after another? Don’t answer, I was being metaphorical. I think Halloween is an appropriate day to be metaphorical. It’s such a diabolical word. Much like the word ‘diabolical’ itself.)
The rest of the day is pretty much a blur. I know it happened because I have a photograph of me in costume, which I wish I could lay hands on at the moment. I probably grabbed a pillowcase and went trick-or-treating with my best pal, Donnie Draves. Everything from then on would have been a sugar haze, anyway.
We always got treats and never tricked. We would plan out elaborate tricks that we wanted to pull off, but I guess we weren’t mean spirited enough to follow through. Besides, like I said, we always got treated.