Sunday, May 17, 2015

And Not Speak Again


I must be about forty-five or fifty years old.  Seen a lot of things, known a lot of people.  Some of those things, the stuff of nightmares.  Some of those people, worse.  

And I've had enough. 

I was born in Baltimore, Maryland on what Ma always said was an exceptionally chilly October morning in 1888.  My school on North Howard Street had two negroes, and only one Jew - me - and no one ever said much about it, so I never thought much about it.  We were just kids, you know?

That was a long time ago, and let's face it - for all their wisdom, kids are stupid.  We had no idea.  We didn't know that we were were better than the poor black kids from Barclay, or the poor white kids from Dundalk or Woodlawn - or any of those gypsies and their bedraggled old glue horses.  We had no notion that we were nowhere near as good as the folks who lived in Ruxton.  I barely knew the significance of my being Jewish.  We were all just kids.

I never learned these social delineations.  Maybe it's because my parents perished when I was very young, before they had a chance to instill such things in me.  My father broke his neck, assembling my second-place-winning 1899 Charles Street Soap Box Derby car, and my mother, who turned to a life of North Avenue prostitution in order to keep a roof over my head, died of syphilis about a year later.  

So, after a couple of hard decades of street-sweeping and streetcar maintenance, when the Great Crash came, my inability to blame the blacks, or the immigrants, or the socialists, or the rich people or gypsies or anyone else made me an odd sort of outcast - and no one liked an odd outcast.  I hit the road, and joined the ranks of America's wandering poor of the 1930s.

I had been a loquacious child, and I was a loquacious hobo.  I simply loved to talk, and I abhorred the slightest pause in a conversation.  To me, silence was time wasted - time that could have been filled with the exchange of thoughts and sentiments and ideas.  I wanted to tell the world who I was and where I came from, and I had an unflagging desire to know everything about each and every fellow I met.  

I had questions, and oftentimes I had ready questions for the answers.  I craved discourse.  I wanted to know all the why's and how's.  I barely knew the difference between Lutherans and Presbyterians, or between Jews like me, and those mysterious Orthodox Jews.  And I longed to meet another man named Solomon, so that I could ask him if he knew just want his parents were thinking when they gave him that name.

I had questions - and maybe, I let myself believe, a few answers.

But no more.

I've said too much.  I've asked too much.  My words have started more fights and ended more friendships than I care to recount.  It's 1938.  There's a movement in Europe to wipe "my people" from the face of the earth, and no one can tell me exactly why.  War is coming, and it sounds bad.  My hobo brethren never cared for my talkative nature, to begin with, and now almost everything I say begins with the word, "why."  

No one  likes questions that start with "why."

I've been beaten and robbed and chased and bitten and arrested and beaten some more, and worse - and most of this, it seems, has started with my inability to hold my tongue.  But no more.  I will not speak again.

No longer will I answer to "Maryland Sol Say-too-much."  They can call me Sol Saynomore.

But I won't answer.

Yet another post prompted by my good buds at STUDIO 30-PLUS.  This time, we were given the "loquacious" and/or "talkative."  I know *I* fit the bill, but did my hobo?  Yes, probably.


  1. Love it, Joe! If only more people would've been more loquacious and asked 'why,' maybe so many of his brethren wouldn't have been swept from the planet.

    1. Thanks, Katy. I find myself censoring my "why" questions, lately - probably a bad idea, but I'm beat - and accepting the fact that it doesn't really matter WHY. There are good people and bad people, and there is no why. What matters is whether you're a good one or a bad one. I will keep fighting to be a good one.

  2. That was a powerful and moving piece. I was with it all the way. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thank you so much, Noname. Seriously. I'm glad it found its way to you. Some of these hoboes are a bit more than meets the eye...