Last week, the New York Times was positively thrilled to have located a real-life old-timey hobo in New York City (New York City!?) and wrote about the discovery breathlessly, with a bunch of old-timey real-life hobo references (see: “ramblin’ man,” “odd jobs,” “wide open spaces,” “front teeth missing,” etc.). After the hobo indicated a desire to get off the island, it was presumed that he’d be seen no more, that he would dissipate like the dusty relic of another time that he was made out to be, a memory for Corey Kilgannon, the writer of the piece, and the New York Times reader lucky enough to have stumbled upon it before reaching his or her paywall limit. Ah, but a hobo cannot be controlled! A hobo goes where he wants to! So does the New York Times!
And so, the hobo in question, Larry, apparently headed “back out to the wide open spaces” only to be sighted nearly immediately by a New York Times reader named Al Barclay, who’d read the original New York Times piece and was thrilled to see the hobo with his own eyes, along a country road near Poughkeepsie.
Upon seeing him,
“My heart jumped,” he said in an interview Friday. It was Larry, and he was walking west on Route 44. Mr. Barclay said he noticed “his gait and manner of walking without purpose, yet possessed of intent.”
He pointed the rambling man out to his son and daughter in the car — Toby, 11, and Julia, 6 — and filled them in on the City Room post. Mr. Barclay said he drove on and began telling his children about “hobos, freight-car hopping, and the lifestyle of ramblin’ men.”
The next day, amazingly the family saw him again, in Red Hook.
“There he is again!” Mr. Barclay said he shouted to his children. “The ramblin’ man! It’s him! I can’t believe it!”
After getting his picture and wishing him luck, the Barclays let Larry go with the wind yet again, but given the historical precedent at work here, the wind will likely drop the hapless hobo off at the feet of another gleeful Times reader by week’s end, at which point he’s likely to ditch the bedroll and just start introducing himself as a New Yorker to get everybody off his back.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 25, 2011