Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Uranus John, the Star-Traveler - A Misnomer, Probably

One of the most challenging things about researching the ridiculous hoboes on John Hodgman's list of 700 is finding corroborating sources.  These men and women hiked and rode the nation's rails as much as ninety years ago and rarely left any offspring, so eyewitness accounts are few and far between.  Finding more than one person who remembers the same hobo from the list is a feat which I have only managed once, and with endlessly frustrating results.

I had only one hour in a nursing home cafeteria with the Trixies, and I was unable to give either of them a copy of Hodgman's list of 700 names prior to our meeting, so I spent way too much of that precious time reading the list aloud, as fast as I could.  Trixie of the East had heard of Ol' Barb Stab-you-quick, but Trixie of the West had not.  Zaxxon Galaxian was familiar only to Trixie of the West, and so on.

I was well past number 650 when I found one that they both knew.  His name was Uranus John, the Star-Traveler.  Trixie of the East had accompanied him and a group of hoboes from New York to St. Louis, in the summer of 1938.

"He got his hobo moniker from a bully named Günter, who loved to say 'Uranus.'  The 'Star-Traveler' part was about his navigational skills.  He had been a junior navigation officer in Hoover's secret hobo navy in 1932, and had a gift for using the stars and planets to guide him from place to place.  It came in handy, even on land.  Hoboes didn't just ride trains, you know.  We walked for miles on end, through the middle of nowhere--"

Trixie of the West interrupted with a bang of her tiny old fist on the arm of her wheelchair.

"That ain't it!  That ain't it at all!  He was a dual-hobo," she said. "He roamed the American plains, but his time here was just a pause in his real journey - through the stars.  He came from some faraway world - he said it was green, and a lot like earth - and he was marooned here, waiting for our industry to mature to the point where he could obtain something he called 'electronics,' to repair his damaged starship."

Trixie of the East grumbled, and West shooshed her with a hiss and a few wags of her bony finger. 

"Of course no one believed him.  So many hoboes were touched in the head, and there was as much opium in the west as there was lint, but I bought his story - I really did.  He talked about wormholes and time dilation and inverse gravitational dropkick tunnels in such exquisite detail.  Also, he got so very sad, when he spoke of his true home.  He said that, even with his advanced spaceship, he couldn't avoid the pitfalls of relativistic velocity.  He explained that when he had set out from his home world for 'a quick errand,' as he called it, our planet - our entire solar system - had not even begun to form."  

"What depressed him so was knowing that his world and the star it orbited were already long-dead, or certainly would be, by the time he would be able to return.  Apparently, hopping from star to star for a few decades, as he had, took upwards of a billion years, to something stationary, relatively speaking.  The price that star-travelers pay, he said."

"I found him deeply unsettling to be around.  His eyes were so odd.  It was as if you could see in them the vastness of what he had seen, and the interminable time his travels had consumed.  I mean, worlds were born, lived, and died in the time it took him to get from there to here."  Trixie of the West shuddered, and pulled at her tattered hobo shawl.

The Trixies began to argue, talking over each other with increasingly-shrill insistence.  My hour was up, anyway.  A pair of kindly Jamaican-accented nurses came into the lunch room and wheeled the old hobo women away.  I stood and thanked them for their time, but I don't think they heard me.  

I was left with these two stories - one short and relatively unremarkable, and the other sounding like the elevator pitch for a new low-budget Playstation game.  

How will I choose...

Relativistic Velocity

Here we go again with the writing prompts from STUDIO 30-PLUS.  I've been hoping for something spacey, to combine with this hobo name from the John Hodgman list, and this week's prompt was perfect - "stars."  It was plucked from fellow blogger Laura's post, NEWBORN.  Please take a minute to check out her work - this is a big part of why I'm here.  "Newborn" is a sweet little morsel, but do read on - she is indeed a fine writer with a clean, clear voice.


  1. Who inter-galactic hobo! Amazing.

    1. Thanks, Noname! Gotta keep stretching those hoboes into new realms...

  2. That would explain a lot. The History Channel's "Ancient Aliens" should look into this theory.

    1. Thanks Tara. As I continue to fight the doldrums that are inevitable with a list this long, you can expect increasingly weird hoboes and stories.