Friday, October 16, 2009

I know a genuine king!!!

The Hobo King, aka Tommy the Greek, aka Inkman.

I met Tommy one day when he wandered into the shop down in SODO. He singled me out saying, "You look like a good Irish girl" in what can only be described as the one of the strongest South Chicago accents I've heard in some time.

What followed was a conversation that lasted over an hour, and had nothing to do with anything in the shop. Tommy speaks in varying rhythms. He shares openly. His pattern goes from rapid fire to ambling to quietly searching. We talk about Chicago, about food, about what brought our lives to Seattle before it all drifts back to Chicago. He tells me he's a Hobo. I tell him I can't recall ever meeting a Hobo to which he flashes his classic nearly-closed-eyes, wide mouth grin.

Since that first day, Tommy stops in the shop occasionally to check on me. He shares his history as a Hobo. It's an amazing one. He shows me some of his "hobo nickels", and comments on his tattoos. Tommy's acquaintances are just as interesting as you'd think, too. A mafia boss, professors, politicians, shop keepers, not to mention herds of other Hobos.

Tommy keeps life interesting. He doesn't mince words. Life is simple - no credit cards, no cellphone, no computers. He was off the grid until being named King of the Hobos. He's proud of his title, but was even more proud when he told me about the headstone him and fellow hobos made to honor their friend Preacher Steve.

I have met a lot of interesting folks in my lifetime, most likely due the careers I've pursued. I often wonder if these characters are meant to refresh my perspective on life. Tommy is unique, though. He's not chatting over a beer with the benefit of "booze philosophy", he's just Tommy. He's the Hobo King. He's a rough and tumble, hardworking welder. He's a storyteller. He is, as far as I have known, as genuine as they come.