Hoboween

If you haven’t gotten your Halloween costumes squared away, you’d better get moving.

Your author, October 2009. Care for a cookie, dearie?I thought about dressing up as a nun, but my wife reminded me that it would make two years in a row I’d appeared as a woman. She has a point. There should probably be a statute of limitations on how often you can dress in drag before it’s considered a habit. Pun intended.

On the other hand, I could just go as a hobo.

Years ago dressing as a hobo for Halloween was HUGE. It required zero preparation or planning, cost nothing, and was incredibly easy. You’d get some old, ill-fitting clothes from your father’s closet, smear soot on your face, put on a hat, and you were a hobo. Naturally, you’d carry a bindle, the traditional hobo bag tied to a stick.

The great thing about dressing as a hobo is that everybody knew you were a hobo. If people have to ask what you’re supposed to be you have a problem. Halloween is not a time for subtlety — and like parody, if you have to explain the costume, you’re being too obscure.

But maybe the days of the hobo are over, replaced now in the popular consciousness by something else people understand: the homeless. Same thing, you say? Not really.

There was never anything tragic or sad about being a hobo. No consideration of a past shattered by substance abuse or mental illness, no discussion of a life wasted. The hobo was a venturer, making his way on the rails, tumbling along from place to place, the king of the road.

Thankfully, trick or treat is still big in my neighborhood. I predict that this year vampires and zombies will be very, very big, and we will have the usual smattering of princesses, ghosts, and superheroes. However, I’ll be ready with something in addition to candy for the hoboes who come to the door, maybe a can of soup or pair of warm socks. Their parents should get a kick out of that while scouring the goody bags for suspicious candy.

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