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Hobo Joe
A Few Moments With a Traveling Man: 11/10/2022
© 2023 James LaFond
JUL/17/23
Joe is about 5’ 10” and 175, with long red hair and reddish sideburns down to his chin. He has a compact travel kit and a very cool dragon-headed pimp cane.
Joe’s SUV was not running when he flew into town. Joe is a younger hobo, in his 40s I think, who befriended my host when their boys, about the same age, were playing together at the park. Once a man is put out by his wife in a city like Portland, Seattle, Denver, Chicongo where rent starts at 2k a month and double that upfront, well, you’re pretty much screwed.
When bar tending dried up in Portland during the Shamdemic, Yeti Waters let Joe keep the SUV that he lives out of parked in the driveway outside this cozy garage door. This morning, as I put on coffee and did dishes and Yeti Waters was working overtime, Joe brought his 11-year-old son to meet me and we shook hands as his Dad related their adventures trying to get the car battery to an auto-parts shop to get it checked:
“All I have is cash and the Uber and Lift people won’t take it. They seem to have gotten rid of regular cabs. We tried taking the bus to the auto-parts shop and the bus driver said that he couldn’t let us board with a battery, that it was a hazard. So, we’re emptying my back pack and we’ll haul it down that way.”
When I got back from shopping for milk and cereal and such, to feed the bear cubs with their size 14 paws, Joe and his boy, who has a well developed personality and says hello to me like a man, were squaring away the SUV. Joe felt really good about it and showed me the set up, enough room in the back for him and his son and daughter to sleep across the street from the X-wife’s house:
“Look, brother, this is the nicest bed I’ve slept in. Twelve inches of memory foam, two blankets, sheets, a quilt. I hang this blanket double from the chord across the hatch, these dark curtains on the side. I have these old cardboard window and windshield inserts painted black. So at a glance, at night, it doesn’t look like a homeless guy but just tinted windows.
“My son told me that his sister, she’s nine, actually dreams about me rolling up in the car and picking her up from school, like its her fantasy. So I didn’t tell her I was flying in from Atlanta. We have it running and squared away for sleeping and we’re going to go pick her up. It is cool that the X will let me have them sleep in the car across the street from her house. My boy is stoked!”
[His son is pumping his fist from the passenger seat.]
Joe asks me about my travel and lifestyle.
“James, that sounds great. I’ll see you around. I spend these three months in Oregon—haven’t had a regular job in three years and its great! I work the harvest down in Georgia. I used to stay and trim, it paid 150 dollars per pound and I do about a pound of trim a day, pound and a half. Some people say they do more. I worked with this one girl who had a secret method and she got four pounds a day in and wouldn’t share her job security, though she wasn’t moving any faster with me. But this year, with inflation up, weed trimming is only paying $75 a pound. That’s not enough.
“I have a camper I live in in Georgia. I made a shit ton of money tending bar in Stillwater, Colorado. Hated it, but it got me the camper. I generally work Mardi Gra in New Orleans. Life’s treating me right and I get to share a few months with my kids. But first, I have to go to the bank and deposit cash, so that I can deal with these people that only want plastic. Can you believe that—that whole businesses just want plastic.”
We shake hands and bump shoulders and he says, “See you soon. Tell Tony thanks and I’ll be back with the key. I still need a shower.”
Joe and his son waved, and smiled and road off to surprise his daughter at school. I returned to the garage to work the snake and bag with sticks, batons and sand hammers.
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