Back in 2000, I moved to Boston without any money, any real work experience or any sense of reality. I lived on Swampthing’s back porch while I was getting my feet on the ground, which ended up meaning working for Scientologists... but that’s a totally different scary story. This story is about a gentleman who has become known in my circle of friends as Hobobadiopay (Hoe-boe-ba-DEE-oh-pae). I believe that his real name is Angel. He used to hang out at Powerhouse Circle in Somerville, Massachusetts, which is just outside of Medford, near Cambridge but not even close to Harvard Yard, those bastards. You know the place, just down the street from Ball Square (no, I did not make that up, Ball Square exists).
Here’s the scenario. I am walking through the Powerhouse Circle roundabout, on my way to the T to go work for the Scientologists, when I notice a balding, clearly distressed fat man sitting on a park bench on the edge of the roundabout. He is trying, in vain, to eat a hot dog. What I mean by this is that, yes, the hot dog was making it’s way into his mouth, but only after a jaunt across this guys chin, then over to his cheek and across his nose, leaving behind it an orangeish swirl trail of mustard, ketchup and relish. While he’s painting his face, his tongue is playing the part of (http://www.zamboni.com) zamboni, chasing after the dog as it eludes his gaping hole of a mouth and further mixing the topping on his face. As he is attempting to eat this hot dog, I notice that he has another one, fully loaded with condiments, in his other meat hook of a hand. He is holding this second hotdog at a 45-degree angle and the toppings are beginning to slide off the dog and collect in a thick, colorful yet stomach-turning puddle at his feet. Jackson Pollock would be proud.
I am crossing the street and walking right towards this fellow. He notices me walking his way and stops chasing his hot dog across his face with his tongue. As I get closer, he suddenly stands up and quickly walks towards me with a wide-eyed look of confusion and concern on his face, as well as a few coatings of ketchup, mustard and relish. We are a few feet apart and he blurts out, with a note of fear in his voice, “Hobobadiopay?!” I am stunned. I stop dead in my tracks, for two reasons. One, because I have no idea what “hobobadiopay’ means and, two, because in shouting this at me, he has inadvertently spat some rather large chunks of half chewed hot dog at me. I can smell the saltiness of his snacks hanging in the air around him. “Hobobadiopay?!” he cries again, with a bit more desperation in his voice. I shrug, smile and say, in a cheerful, friendly voice, “Hobobadiopay, Capt’n!” To my surprise and sudden amusement, his face lights up, he smiles a huge toothy / hot doggy smile, and, while spewing more hot dog juice and relish chunks, he yells “Ya think so?!” with a voice that sounds like his tongue is three times too big for his mouth. He proceeds to literally bound across the four lanes of traffic, hot dogs flailing along and dripping a multicolored trail behind him as if they were some kind of gooey tracking device. He gleefully shouts “hobobadiopay! Hobobadiopay! Hobobadiopay!” all the way across the street and then disappears back to the store from which I can only speculate he had bought his snack / makeup. I, in bewilderment, turned on my heels and kept walking to the train, knowing full well that this was one encounter I was never going to forget.
Months later, it occurred to me that “hobobadiopay” could actually have been, “Hope it will be ok.” Of course, it could also mean, “time to get another hot dog.”