In almost all of the hobo lore I’ve read, plants are a prominent theme. Plants that are edible. Plants that are poisonous. Plants that get you high. Hobos were well-acquainted with ‘shrooms and peyote, as well as many other plants that acted as home-cures for everything from rashes to tooth-aches; aloe and oil of clove. For stomach disorders hobos often ate dandelion greens, among other herbs. Plants were the hobo’s best friend. Sadly, many hobos would commit suicide with Jim Pye weed and other poisonous plants. In many of the texts I’ve read, hobos spent long hours laying in the tall weeds waiting for trains slow enough to hop. Often times, trains would “cannonball,” meaning they would run at top speed in order to discourage unwanted passengers and train robbers. Hobos had to be canny and live by their wits in order to read the minds of train engineers coming out of the yards. Seasoned hobos knew to stay away from the railyards and the “bulls” who guarded them, in order to avoid beatings and jail. Mostly they would wait in an area outside of the yard with some cover to hide in and hope for a slow-coming train.
Last week my New York show, Big Rock Candy Mountain, opened; the first of three shows about the hobos and the hobo alphabet. The second show, The Devil’s Handshake, will open in New Orleans at Ammo Gallery in October. The third and final hobo show, The Ticket to Canaan, will open in January at my home gallery, the mighty Pierogi in Brooklyn, in January.
I had a great time in New York at my show. Dieu Donné could not be better hosts or friends. The women who work there cooked pies for my opening. Catherine Cox and Rachel Gladfelter labored a whole weekend making Shoo-fly pies, lemon meringue, blueberry and other pies. It was lovely of them and I was deeply moved by their generosity. Nick Floyd and Barnaby Struve drove the especially hand-brewed “Hobo” beer from Chicago to New York. They are the best. Though I can no longer drink beer, everyone was happy with their amazing brew. It was kind of them and I am fortunate to have such great friends. Jenny Scobel and Ted Utley hosted me and Mike at their beautiful home in Harlem and spoiled us rotten with homemade lasagna and bread and pastries. They also hosted a gathering for me the night before my opening and my friends were kind enough to come out for it. It was really lovely.
My opening could not have been more fun. It was full of so many artists whom I greatly admire; Jane Hammond, Leslie Dill, Rico Gatson, the incomparable Deborah Kass (Mommy, I would love to dance), Fred Tomaselli, Martin Wilner, Eric Doyle, Joe Amrhein, Polly Apfelbaum, Jenny Scobel, Walter Robinson and the great Lou Reed. It was edifying to be celebrated by people this talented; I am touched and grateful. Thank you to all of you.