Monday, September 2, 2013

Toodles Strunk Says So Long

For three years and eight months in the mid-1930s, Toddles Strunk roamed the American Southwest from one day-labor job to the next.  He stole rides on Union Pacific trains, walked hundreds of miles a month, slept in flop houses, or under the stars, subsisted on little more than the kindness of strangers, and made strategic friends when he could.

He was born Nathan Hoth, to immigrant parents from Greenland, in 1905.  His father was a watchmaker and his mother was a primary school teacher.  They died in 1934, minutes apart and on opposite sides of town.  Mr. Hoth was working on a commissioned pocket watch for the mayor of Allentown, Pennsylvania, when he lost control of a hairspring, sending a compensating balance wheel rocketing into his forehead with the force of a gunshot.  He died on the way to the hospital.  Mrs. Hoth asphyxiated on chalkboard eraser dust, just as the principal was receiving the news of Mr. Hoth's demise. 

Nathan, who had never held onto a job for more than a few months, couldn't bear to stay in Allentown, and with stick-and-bindle in hand, he hit the road west.  He was slow to learn the hobo way, but after about a year of arrests, forcible removals from train yards, and beat-downs at the hands of cop and criminal alike, he began to get the hang of it.  He remembered the only good advice his parents ever uttered - "kill 'em with kindness" - and made it his mantra.

After another year on the road, he was widely known as Toodles Strunk, one of the nicest hoboes anywhere.  He made sure he worked hard when he was lucky enough to land day jobs.  He constantly smiled, no matter what was happening inside him or out.  He remained chipper through the most desperate poverty, through illness, robbery, assault, and battery.  He gave more than he took.  He said please and thank you and when in town, he always tipped his ratty cap to women he passed on the street.  

And to his friends and hobo brethren, he always said "so long," instead of "goodbye."  He said that "goodbye" was too permanent, and that because he never met anyone he didn't want to see again, "so long" felt better, because to him it meant "until we meet again."  He also sometimes said "Toodles!" in a sing-song falsetto, for the same reason.

So long!

This hobo's story has no ending.  


I guess what I'm trying to say, gentle reader(s), is that after three years and eight months of Mostly Harmless Drivel, I'm going to be taking a bit of a hiatus from my beloved blog.  As some of you know, I cranked out 62,000 words of mostly harmless novel during July's Camp NaNoWriMo.  Novels are needy things, and this one is not finished.  Apparently, I can't adequately divide my attention between this place and that. 

So, for as long as it takes, which hopefully won't be more than a couple of months, off I go.  It's not goodbye, but simply so long for now.  


This post partially prompted by my friends, whom I will dearly miss, at  STUDIO THIRTY PLUS.  So long for now, bloggy web-friends!



  1. Damn ... I'm gonna miss these hobos! I like how you string the stories of multiple characters together.

    You must also be a child of the '80s, because we used to say "toodles" all the time (especially sing-songy)!

  2. NOOOOOOO! You still need to write this drivel, it'll help you with your novel! Don't go Joe! :)

    Bleh. Do whatever you think you need to do, but come back quick ok? :)

  3. I will really miss you and your writing Joe, I hope you continue to post on Facebook. But, on the other hand, you are doing what you think is right for yourself and your book and I can't fault you for that. Good luck in your work and I hope you are back soon!

  4. Won't say 'good-bye' only tootles. I hope to be reading your novel soon.