This is contributor Jessica Hall’s weekly column, in which she interviews the street and homeless people she meets around the city. This week she spoke with Aaron, 22.
Where are you from?
Seattle. I came by freight train. I was planning on going to Colorado but I didn’t know how to go south from Montana so I just came here instead.
How did you learn to hop freight trains?
Some friends in Austin Texas taught me. You just hop on the train when it’s moving, there’s no trick. Just grab onto the ladder and hold on.
How do you know which cars to jump?
Depends. There’s box cars, junk trains, grainers, double stacks. You can tell which ones you can ride and which ones you can’t after you’ve been riding long enough. Right now I’m doing it alone, once in a while I travel with other people.
I’ve always imagined it to be adventurous and kind of romantic.
I just like doing it â€˜cause I don’t like hitchhiking.
It goes through towns so you get to look for street signs and if you know the way you’re going the crew changes every 12 hours and usually stops at main towns. There are maps that tell you where the trains go.
How long have you been riding the rails?
Since I was sixteen. I dropped out of school my second year of 9th grade. I got kicked out and then I moved.
What did you get kicked out for?
How did your parents respond?
I don’t remember.
What are your parents like?
Nice, middle class people.
How do they feel about your lifestyle?
They’re alright with it. They weren’t, but they’re alright with it.
Do you like New York City?
I like it. Stores are open all night.
Can you tell me about your tattoos?
I was just drunk. I thought it was a good idea. One girl named Lindsey and one girl named Allie did it.
Sewing needle and ink.
Why an upside down cross?
I was drunk. It sounded good at the time.
How would you describe yourself?
What are you addicted to?
Where do you sleep?
On the sidewalk.
Can you describe a typical day for you?
I always have a â€˜wake up’ in the morning. I go to the park and hang out. I panhandle.
What are your plans?
I don’t have any.
Will you stop using?
Before I leave New York I’ll go to the hospital to de-tox. I haven’t done it yet. Some one told me about it. You go early and if there’s an open bed they’ll take you.
Have you de-toxed before?
What’s it like?
What do you have in common with Obama?
We both want change.
Are you going to vote for Obama?
No. I don’t think felons can vote, can they?