Hobos Wanted

Ana and I are headed off to Portugal this weekend for a long-overdue two-week vacation. Whether we actually do come back to the U.S. depends on a variety of factors: the state of the Portuguese Communist Party, Ana’s mother’s cooking, the definition of “shustu,” and how much absinthe can be imbibed in 10 straight days.

But whatever the outcome, you can be sure of one thing: I won’t be playing the role of “activity boy,” as Ana refers to me when I’m coming up with itineraries galore and planning what to do from sun up to sun down. Ana has expressly forbid this. Which is precisely why I’m instead going to occupy myself searching for European hobos and their secret hobo symbol, the h in sunrays. And I don’t just mean half-heartedly keeping an eye out; no, I’ll be in balls-out hobo hunting mode.

In case you’re wondering what the hell I’m talking about (and really, you should be), the interest in hobos and the h in sunrays stems from the great John Hodgman, who wrote about both in his excellent book, the wonderfully titled “The Areas of My Expertise,” which I referred to in a few superior posts below. Hodgman has also been keeping tabs on both — the hobos and the symbols — on Flickr. The “700 Hobos” page is a kind of open-source illustrated directory of, well — the 700 different species of hobo. And “The h in sunrays pool” is a similar sort of project, except showing photographs of the hobo unification symbol, as documented on signage and sidewalks throughout the world.

As you can see, I’ve already posted one of my very own “h in sunrays” sightings — taken back during my days in the village, when I put my trust into a no-good, fesity hobo named Electronic Ed (note the h on the sidewalk in front of and to the right of Ed). I hope to document many more sightings during the coming two weeks in Portugal. But rest assured, I will never put my trust in hobos again.

Unless they were victims of the Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919. My jaded cynicism has limits.