On my dad’s recommendation, I stayed at Habitat NY last night, a European-style hotel on 57th and Lexington with the bathrooms and showers down the hall. If all you want is a place to crash, it’s fine — and the price is right. It’s a quirky place — the first room I was given didn’t have an air conditioner, and the second room has three cylindrical cavities in the floor, like bowling-ball finger holes. Plus, the place is packed with smirky Europeans: “Ja, the hotel is inexpensive. More money for unpasteurized yogurt, sehr gut!” None of which I minded, as long as the Teutons keep their damn yogurt to themselves.
I had a good book with me: my friend at [My employer], Steve Farrell, stopped by and lent me a copy of Jack London’s The Road, about his travels as a hobo in the 1890s. It was my favorite kind of book — a new library-bound hardcover, with the original typeface photographically reproduced. And the contents! I can’t believe I didn’t know about this book before — Jack wanders the country at 18, wide-eyed and not so innocent, spinning stories to soft-hearted housewives, outsmarting railroad bulls, and riding the blinds through snow-sheds over the Sierra Nevadas. At every town, he throws feet for breakfast, bumming “light pieces” at the firehouses and carving his monica on the water-tower. It’s like Kerouac, except without all the god-awful introspection. Plus, with a depression on, London had a better excuse to bum around the country.
So I devoured the book, reading about London’s march on Washington with Kelly’s Army — a spontaneous movement of thousands of unemployed men, moving en masse to demand work, and commandeering trains from the Southern Central railroad to do it. I had no idea about this! A Google search revealed traces of the march: a trail of local historical society pages about small grange halls and mercantile houses that, for one day in their history, had been forced to feed the hoboes (and, hopefully, speed them along down the line.)
Good reading for an itinerant couple of weeks! I think I’ll go carve my monica on the cubicle wall now.