Sunday, January 18, 2015

Plausible Zane Scarrey vs. Starbucks

Most of the so-called "deliberate hoboes" - those who left the regular world behind and hit the rails by choice - did not set forth without a head full of dreams.  Some dreamed of lives unfettered, walking and riding free from one interesting place to another and sleeping under a blanket of Arizona stars along the Union Pacific.  Others envisaged wandering for a while, seeing America, getting it all out of their system, and eventually finding a place to settle down and restart their lives.  A few dreamed of being discovered by a big-time Hollywood talent scout in search of a scruffy, disheveled man to play the heavy in the next Bogart flick.  [Note:  This only happened four times.]

One deliberate hobo, however, took a more modest approach to his dreaming.  They called him Plausible Zane Scarrey, because he kept his dreams plausible, and his name was Zane Scarrey.

He had fled the violence and futility of the Wisconsin Milk Strike in November 1933, and his only expectation for the future was to find a version of the Great Depression in which people were not shooting strangers over busted headlights and picket signs.  He made his way to the Illinois Central, then to the Santa Fe, and finally to the fabled rails of the Union Pacific in California.  He picked oranges and strawberries for pennies a week, and raisins for slightly less, and rarely stopped moving and/or working.

When he allowed himself the indulgence, he imagined that one day, he might get hired on full-time by one of the farmers he served.  That never happened.

He pictured a world in which his black hobo friends could illegally ride in the same unlocked rail car with his white hobo friends.  That happened, but not until the mid-fifties, a half-decade after Zane's death at the hands of mindless Indianapolis cops who had mistaken him for the Beech Grove Groper at the 1951 Indiana State Fair.

Once, when he was three sheets to the wind on hobo wine and grilled baked lint fritters, he imagined that he could land a job with the railroad.  He always got along with the train crews, and the yards cops (and their dogs) seemed to adore him.  Unfortunately, he was a cow-teat-puller by trade, so this never happened.

As his hobo years rolled on, he developed a skill with pot-brewed hobo coffee.  He dared, from time to time, to see a future world in which he started a humble coffee shop on a corner in downtown Fresno, and worked hard and made really good coffee and expanded to two locations, then three, then a hundred, then a thousand, until eventually his coffee shops sold indy music and sub-par sandwiches on every street corner in the USA (in some cases, on more than one corner of a given intersection, and in a few special spots, more than one in a given coffee shop).  

This happened, but Plausible Zane Scarrey didn't live to see it, and received no credit for the idea, because he hadn't deemed it plausible, and never told anyone he had thought of it.

He kept it plausible.  Imagine that.

This post prompted by the words ENVISAGE and IMAGINE, from the good folks at Studio 30 Plus.


Saturday, January 3, 2015

Drinky Drunky Thom, the Drunk: The Hangover

It was still raining when a sharp poke in the ribs woke Drinky Drunky Thom, the Drunk from his weird New Year's Day sleep-off.  "Wake up, Tommy," a too-loud voice said with an exasperated, no-nonsense authority. "I done told you - you can't sleep here."

Thom wasn't sure if he was hungover, or still drunk. He strained to lift his head, and to force his eyes open against the raindrops. "Ugh.  Morris? Leave me be."

It was Morris - Morris the Personal Trainer, more specifically, and it appeared that he was in no mood to let Drinky Drunky Thom be. "Get up," he said. "You best be movin' on, now."

"Aw, come on, Morris. Can't you take it easy, just for one day? I don't feel like doing jumping jacks, if you know what I mean..."

"I ain't about to try to get you to do a jumping jack, Tommy," Morris said humorlessly. "I mean, you can't stay here. You're lucky to still be in one piece, after what you pulled last night..."

"What I pulled... I don't even remember what town I'm in, Morris," Thom groaned.

" I'm tellin' you - you best just move on. You get me?"

Thom was a drunk, and truth be told, he was still more than a little bit inebriated, but he wasn't stupid. He moved on, as quickly and quietly as he could, avoiding any contact with the ten angry eyes that watched him go. After four minutes' walk down the Southern Pacific tracks leading west out of North Palm Springs, he ran into his oldest friend.

"Hey - Drinky Drunky Thom!" the geezer sang, off-key, "should old acquaintance be forgot, and never thought upon..."

"Ow," Thom moaned, "my head. Just stop, Sy. I'm begging you to stop."

"Aw, what do you know about anything?" Crooner Sy scoffed. "After last night, I shouldn't bless you with the merest sound from my gilded pipes..."

"Yeah, yeah... Wait. What about last night?" Thom asked. "I can honestly say I don't remember it. What happened?"

Crooner Sy stopped, and regarded his friend skeptically "You really don't remember - or you sort of don't remember?"

"I'm serious, Sy. I remember toasting to a happy 1934, and that's about it."

Sy thought for a moment. "Ha! Serves you right! And now I don't have to bother taking back all those nice things I said about you. See you in another two years, you drunk - if you live that long."

"Aw, come on, Sy. You gotta meet me halfway, here..." Sy didn't have to meet him halfway, or a quarter-way, or any way. He took off in the opposite direction, singing the Stanford fight song, and didn't look back.

After a few minutes, walking the mainline in the chilly rain, Thom the Drunk spotted Yum-Yum Sinclair Snowballeater, about a quarter-mile ahead of him and also heading west. It took considerable effort - especially for a drunk such as Thom - but eventually he caught up to his fellow hobo.

"Hey, Yum-Yum - wait up," he spat, panting and coughing.  Yum-Yum paused, glared at Thom over his shoulder, and resumed trudging westward.  "Say," Thom offered, "whaddaya say we find us a saloon, and listen to the Rose Bowl on the wireless? Come on - I got a buck and a half - I'll buy you a few beers. It'll be fun..."

Sinclair stopped, sighed heavily, and turned to face Thom the Drunk. "First of all," he said, "the game is already over. Stanford lost, if you can believe it - seven nothing, Columbia - on some kind of trick play. That Montgomery fella is an all-out east coast sneak, I tell ya. Anyway - I wouldn't drink a beer with you on a bet, mister. Not after what I seen, last night."

"The Indians lost? Are you pulling my leg?"

"Yeah, they lost," Sinclair said. "Now what say you get lost, too? I gotta get to the next junction and find me a northbound, so I can get some of that new year's snow, up in the mountains..."

"I won't hold you up, Yum-Yum," Thom said, "but I gotta know - what the hell did I do, last night?  I got a headache the size of Texas, and I swear I can't remember a thing."

"You can't remember? Oh, what a surprise. Drinky-Drunky Thom can't remember. Well, don't look at me. I can't remember, either."


"No, not really, you big ape. I saw it all - well, I saw enough, anyway - and I ain't about to tell you any of it."

"I'm begging, Sinclair. Help a fellow 'bo out, here. Look - I got a dollar, fifty-five. Tell me what I did last night that's got everyone so sore at me, and it's yours - plus all the lint in my pockets. Honest to God. Please? I gotta know."

It had been at least three years since Yum-Yum Sinclair had seen paper money. He stared at the dollar bill for a minute, then snatched it and the coins from Thom's hand. "Let me see that lint, too, or no deal."

Thom dug deep in his pants pockets, and produced a walnut-size clump of lint, which Sinclair immediately took from him. "Okay, friend - you got my life's savings, now. Spill it."

He spilled it. It took well over half an hour, but he spilled it all - every toast, every joke, every punch and confession and controversy and offense and slap...

"Slap?" Thom said, holding up a whoa sign. "Who slapped me?"

"Wow. You really don't remember, do you?"

Thom shook his head, helplessly.

"Shanty Queen Elizabeth Regina slapped you," he said. "None of us ever saw her cry before, either..."

"What? But I love her! Did I make her cry, or was it someone else? Oh hell - what did I do?"

"Oh, it was you - believe me. And it wasn't what you did - it's what you said."

"Stop," Thom said. "I remember. Oh my God..."

"See? You proud of yourself?"

"Which way did she go, Sinclair? I gotta catch up with her."

"You sure that's a good idea?"

"No, but you let me worry about that."

Sinclair sighed. "She went east, toward Phoenix, and I don't suppose it'd make any difference if I told you that she specifically said she didn't want to see you again for as long as she lives?"

"Nope. Thanks, Yum-Yum. Happy New Year, friend. Sorry about the things I did, and that other stuff..." Thom did an about-face, and ran in the opposite direction down the tracks.

"Wait - Thom!" Sinclair called after him. "There's one more thing..." It was too late. Drinky Drunky Thom was already out of earshot.