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Hobos get their start right here

September 09, 2004|BY TIM ROWLAND

Hagerstown just keeps racking up those awards, doesn't it? First it was a top honor in Money magazine as an up-and-coming town, and now this: Maxim magazine has pegged our city as the starting point for one of the top four railroad hobo routes in the nation.

Not in the state, not in the mid-Atlantic region, not in the East - in the nation. Right up there with the storied Spokane, Wash., and Cut Bank, Mont.

I was tipped off to this by my friend Sam, who feared he had missed the mayor's press conference celebrating the fact. But I'm guessing the mayor simply hasn't heard about it, since being named a top hobo hotspot isn't the kind of trophy you hide under a bushel.

Specifically, the piece comments that on the Norfolk Southern between Hagerstown and Knoxville, Tenn., you can "Pretend you're a defeated Southerner returning to your wife/cousin as you breeze through the Shenandoah Valley. Re-enactment will be easy when you lose a leg."

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Pretty impressive. They managed to offend more people in one sentence than I can usually muster in six to eight paragraphs. Clumsy, bungling hobos, check. Civil War re-enactors, check. Southerners as inbreeding hicks, check.

What a suave, urbane magazine such as Maxim is doing writing about hobos in the first place I don't know, unless that's what has become of all those middle managers at Enron and Global Crossing. Sure would make for some curious looking hobos.

"Hi, mom. The bad news is, I'm riding the rails; the good news is that I was able to hang onto my Armani power suit."

I don't want to pile on to the hobos too much here. Last time I did, I had an e-mail inbox fuller than a Georgia hotel during a Florida hurricane. Who knew that today's modern hobo carries a laptop?

Besides, I have more important things on my mind today, specifically the decision by the City of Frederick to publish photos on the Web of dudes who have been arrested for soliciting prostitution.

Apparently the traditional punishments of fines and jail time just aren't reaching the offenders, so the city has decided it will resort to ridicule. Apparently this is important, since the City of Frederick assures us that prostitution leads to bigger and more serious crimes. One day you're ponying up a few bucks for a Golden Moment on the Golden Mile and the next day you suddenly wake up with an urge to hold up a liquor store.

But of course that's always what the authorities say about crimes that really don't seem worth the bother of pursuing. Which is not to say that I frown on the postings. In fact, I immediately bookmarked the site. For surfing purposes, it sure beats the pants off (so to speak) the Weather Channel site, or moveon.org.

The site is kinda hard to find, but you can find it on the City of Frederick Web site, right between, I am not kidding, the links for "Sink Hole Information" and "Integrated Pest Management & Landscape Reports." Just be real careful what you click, or you are likely to wind up, as I actually did, with a PDF of the Department of Public Works "Frequently Asked Questions about street trees" (In case you've been wondering, if you have a tree between the curb and the sidewalk in front of your house, yes, you are allowed to mulch).

'Course we don't care about that, we just want to see the mugs of the guys who have had their trousers at half-mast over the past 30 days. When I first visited the site, there were three photos, but as of this week they had all been taken down. Bummer.

It was beautiful, because the first two were about what you would expect. One guy was wearing a tank top; no sense wasting too much energy on proper attire for the big night - you don't want her to fall in love or anything.

And the next guy, same deal, same sheepish expression. But the third guy was what we pray for: The distinguished, gray-haired, cardigan-sweatered chap who looked as if he were just on his way home from a civic club committee luncheon.

It is with such big game in mind that I ask, nay, I insist, that the City of Hagerstown start doing the same thing. Then I will personally offer a cash prize to the most prominent individual who gets caught in the web - provided that when he gets his photo taken that instead of cowering, he flashes a big, happy ole grin. In fact, I myself might head for Frederick right now and start looking for an undercover cop. A $500 fine would be a small price to pay for the yuks. And I wish to be known for something besides being a simple host for hobos.




Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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