Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The Chicago Singing Hunchback Hobo

By Darvell Hunt

I wish I had as high spirits as the old gray-haired singing hunchback hobo I saw in front of my hotel last week in downtown Chicago. You don’t often think of a homeless person as being a source of great inspiration, but this man was to me.

Last Friday, my employer flew me and a coworker, along with our wives, to a recognition dinner in downtown Chicago. This wasn’t a formal event, but was about as close as you can get to one and not be required to wear tuxedos and strapless dresses.

The fancy gourmet food served at the awards banquet looked wonderful—and it tasted as good as it looked. Unfortunately, the portions of food covered only about a third of our plates, so after eating, we were left wanting for more.

After the dinner and the awards assembly, which ended around midnight, my boss, my coworker, and I and our three wives (one each) went out into the streets of Chicago to see what we could find to supplement our tasty but insufficient dinner.

As we ventured from our hotel, we passed an old man who stood no more than four and a half feet tall and looked to be about eleventy-one years old. We quickly passed him, as he was taking baby steps of about three inches each. He was hunched over, almost into a ball, it seemed, and was cheerfully singing something that sounded like a gospel song. Within seconds, however, his song was lost behind us in the bustle of the city and we busied ourselves with our quest for food that didn’t necessarily look great, but was more filling.

I got a hotdog, but it wasn’t your “normal” hotdog—a Chicago-style hotdog. The menu specifically stated you were not to put mere ketchup on it. More gourmet food, I suppose, but this time much more filling—and tasty, too.

We had nothing scheduled for the next day, Saturday, so we decided to walk down to Millennium Park to check out the sights and see what gift shops we could find along the way. As we exited the hotel, this time around 10am, there he was again—the singing hunchback hobo. He didn’t seem to be singing to just pass the time as he took his three-inch steps, but rather he seemed to be truly happy, not seeming to care that it probably took him an hour to walk a hundred yards.

I found myself envying the happiness of this singing hobo as I returned to Utah, hoping that I could bring back some of his mood with me. Writing sometimes seems like such a lonely endeavor and I often find myself getting discouraged when when a plot seems to go awry because of implausibility or my characters don’t listen to the voice of their god and do what they are told (um, that being me, or their creator).

Well, if this man can keep his spirits up under such dire conditions, I think maybe I can, too.

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