Monday, November 28, 2011

700 Hoboes: Stewbuilder Dennis

Okay, before I start on my ridiculous, doomed-from-the-start quest to tell the stories of all seven hundred of the Hoboes on this list, let me say this. The list of hobo names comes from John Hodgman's incredibly funny book, "The Areas Of My Expertise." I could not and did not invent these awesome names. Further, I have not contacted Mr. Hodgman for permission to use them. Obviously, if he catches wind of this and isn't as happy about it as I hope he'd be, I'll cease and desist. In the meantime, please buy this man's book. It's seriously funny. And yes, he's PC from the Mac vs. PC commercials. Yeah - he's pretty gifted.

[Oh, and yes, I am aware of the 700 Hoboes Project, where cartoonists illustrated all of Mr. Hodgman's hoboes. Google it. It's brilliant. I'm just not linking to it or the book here in an effort to minimize my exposure to lawyers and such.] Okay. Here we go...

So. Stewbuilder Dennis is probably not the best hobo to start this project, what with his not having anything to do with stew - or building - his name being not at all Dennis and his not being a hobo. Apart from these facts, he's perfect.

His name was, in fact, Mort. He claims not to know where Dennis came from, though it is widely believed that his mother had been a tremendous Styx fan, and had renamed him when she got home from a rollicking "Paradise Theatre" tour performance in Chicago.

The Stewbuilder moniker was the result of an uncanny resemblance he shared with Stewbuilder MacKenzie, a true hobo who was renowned for his ability to turn an old soup can, some rainwater and toad stools into rich, fabulous soups. Dennis' supervisor, a skinny fifteen-year old zit with feet named Caleb, was a hobo culture aficionado - or "Hobophile" - and had noticed the physical similarities immediately. "It's not just the face," he had said. "It's the limp, the distended belly, the missing hand, the flies. It's like looking into a time machine at ol' Stewbuilder MacKenzie, circa 1909." Dennis-- Mort? Whatever; didn't last long at Best Buy, which to him was only a desperate means of paying his bills in the months between his layoff from CitiGroup and his six-figure sales job at NetSatWebSoftWhatnot, Inc..

It was during his years at NetSatEtc. that he inadvertently earned his hobo reputation. His sales territory included the whole Northeast Corridor, and as Dennis was stricken with a paralyzing fear of airplanes (not of flying, mind you - he loved hang-gliding, ski-jumping and helicopters; he was actually afraid of the planes themselves), he traveled exclusively by train. By the time he got transferred to the deep south region - where he continued to move between appointments only by rail - he was known as the hobo Stewbuilder Dennis.

He retired in 2008 to live with his third wife, Lucille (what else) and their dog, Commission III, in the hills above Chattanooga. He never set foot in a library.

See? I told you he wouldn't be the best hobo to start with. But he had the one thing that most hoboes share - a great name.

699 to go...