Forced into the light by a recent murder, a transient community starts talking.
"Running around in train yards, hopping trains," Marc says, "you get fucking filthy. I spent one time, weeks straight--I had about 15 cans of food, 8 gallons of water and about $300�--no reason to stop anywhere and a couple of handles of liquor, and so I had no reason to stop, hop, hop, hop, hop ... " His hands roll forward with each word--bam, bam, bam.
"Started up in Canada, I ended up in Miami--straight stop, getting off, hopping on another train. Made it in about a week, week and a half--14 days tops. At the end of it, my face from here [he gestures from his nose to his hairline in a Zorro-like mask of filth] up to here was solid black. And I was sweating my balls off by the time I got to PA."
Marc and Steve-O say the risks are worth it. "We don't [hop] because we're stupid or miserable. We're happier."
It's almost an addiction, says Marc. The last time he stopped hopping, he got chills.
Whatever you do, don't call them tramps. Tramps don't work.
Marc labors as an arborist in Cleveland, a ranch hand in Florida, and in a diner in Richmond, Va.
Many of the punk hobos also stay in constant contact with each other using disposable cell phones. Even as he's being interviewed, Marc gets a call from some friends in Pittsburgh looking for a place to sleep.
Marc and Steve-O fear train hopping is on the verge of extinction. Train cars are becoming more dangerous. Railway police carry shotguns loaded with beanbags and rock salt.
Ward and McCarthy won't have to worry about those dangers. Better still, they don't have to worry about hobo justice as they sit in city prisons awaiting their trial in October.
"Train hopping will be dead in 10 years," says Marc. You don't see old hoppers. Few last past their 30s. "They either ride forever and die off, or get their shit together and quit."
At 35, Steve-O himself is at the end of the line, planning to soon abandon his own crusty life.
So what exactly are the crust kids, the punk hobos? A dangerous subculture luring American youth into a degenerate lifestyle with the promise of cheap thrills and freedom? Hardly.
Thirty years ago the media, having noticed the scumfucks and their propensity for booze, violence and crustiness�, might've used Tim Bradly's murder as an excuse to paint the likes of and Steve-O and Marc as folk devils, a danger to society, a threat to the American way. Just as they did with the beatniks, hippies, punks and skinheads before them.
This time no one's biting. At least not yet. It could be because the punk hobos are so obviously the exhausted last stage of the punk subculture--a Xerox of a Xerox of a Xerox. They're the last drags of the punk joint, devoid of any real ideology, scorned even by their peers, perceived as no real threat to anybody except maybe themselves and each other.
Or it could just be that nobody's paying attention.
St. John Barned-Smith is a PW intern. Comments on this story can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
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