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Below are some snippets of inspiration that have both created and sustained flights of fancy while on and off the rails:


Who has not felt the urge to cast off all responsibilities and strike out for parts unknown?

Nels Anderson


I've Decked the Tops

I've decked the tops of flying cars
That leaped across the night;

The long and level coaches skimmed
Low, like a swallow's flight.

Close to the sleet-bit blinds I've clung
Rocking on and on;

All night I've crouched in empty cars
That rode into the dawn,

Seeing the ravelled edge of life
In jails, on rolling freights

And learning rough and ready ways
From rough and ready mates.

Harry Kemp (the Tramp Poet)
Chanteys & Ballads: Sea-Chanteys, Tramp Ballads & Other Ballads & Poems
Brentano's, NY 1920 p. 92


"The average man grows up to live a regular life and to work as a part of it. We are taught to believe that there is a necessary relation between doing our daily tasks, eating our regular meals, going to bed in a fixed place, rising at a pre-arranged hour, wearing a certain kind of clothes, that there is between all this and being 'good' an unalterable relationship: as also between being good and being happy. Religion gives its awful sanction to this theory, habit fortifies it; successive generations of what we call civilization even create an instinct which even makes us think, or at least say, we like it: When suddenly to one of us comes the discovery that we can stop all this and yet live nay, grow fat, perhaps, and vigorous and strong; drop worry and responsibility... go everywhere, see everything... and when that discovery comes, it is apt to be fatal."

John J. McCook


"The winter passes and the warm winds of May made me long to wander again. The whistling of a locomotive on a still night had a lure, unexplainable, yet strong, like the light which leads a moth to destruction."

"Wet gypsies of life we were, asking little, and getting less, and deserving less than that."

"The imaginative young vagabond quickly loses the social instincts that help to make life bearable for other men. Always he hears voices calling in the night from far-away places where blue waters lap strange shores. He hears birds singing and crickets chirping a luring roundelay. He sees the moon, yellow ghost of a dead planet, haunting the earth."

Jim Tully
Beggars of Life
Albert & Charles Boni, NY 1925
pages 185, 319, 332



Oh, my heart it is just achin'
For a little bit of bacon
A hunk of bread, a little mug of brew

I'm tired of seein' scenery
Just lead me to a beanery
Where there's something more than only air to chew

Henry Herbert Knibbs
Songs of the Outlands: Ballads of the Hoboes & Other Verse
Houghton, Mifflin 1914


Definition of a "Hobo"

A Hobo is a man who builds palaces and lives in shacks. He builds Pullmans and rides the rods. He builds automobiles and pushes wheelbarrows. He serves T-bone steaks and gets the soup bone. He builds electric light plants and burns oil. He builds opera houses and goes to the movies. He builds silk suspenders and holds his pants up with ropes. He reaps the harvest and stands in the bread line. He makes broadcloth and wears overalls. He digs gold and has his teeth filled with cement. He digs coal and shivers in the snow. He builds skyscrapers and has no place to call a home. He builds roads and is arrested on them for vagrancy. He creates labor and is denied the right to labor. He fights for freedom abroad and is put on the chain gang at home. He has made Canada and is denied a vote.

John O'London's Weekly


"It's like I told that crazy kid", says Willy, "there's two things in my life I never missed: a meal is one and a freight train is the other. Now I ain't sayin' I haven't put that meal off a day or two, an them trains left more'n once when I wasn't ready ta go, but I ain't missed either of 'em yet."

Finn Wilcox
Here Among the Sacrificed
Empty Bowl, Box 646, Port Townsend, WA 98368, 1984


When I look at these stiffs by the fire, I am looking at a graveyard. There is hardly room to move between the tombstones. There are no epitaphs carved in marble here. The tombstones are men. The epitaphs are chiseled in sunken shadows on their cheeks. These are dead men. They are ghosts that walk the street by day. They are ghosts sleeping with yesterday's newspapers thrown around them for covers at night. I can see that these are ghosts that groan and toss through the night. I watch. From time to time a white splotch gets up off the ground. He cannot rest for the rats and the cold. This is a restless ghost. Or maybe it is the gnawing pain in his belly that makes him restless and sleepless. The ground is hard. Damp and hard. There are many things that will make a restless ghost at night in a jungle. I am a restless ghost myself.

Tom Kromer
Waiting for Nothing
Alfred A. Knopf, 1935
Chapter 11


Every night and every morn
Some to misery are born.

Every morn and every night
Some are born to sweet delight.

Some are born to sweet delight,
Some are born to endless night.

William Blake
Auguries of Innocence
ed. Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1863


I may be an outcast but I've cast myself out.

Harold Myers
quoted by Kenneth Allsop in Hard Travellin'
The New American Library, New York, 1967


They used us as an excuse to go mad [the World did] and then blamed it on us.

George Harrison


Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room.

Peter Sellers (as President Merkin Muffley) in Dr. Strangelove


I watched a snail crawl along the edge of a straight razor. That's my dream. That's my nightmare. Crawling, slithering, along the edge of a straight... razor... and surviving.

Marlon Brando (as Colonel Kurtz) in Apocalypse Now


Colonies of walruses, couched in silent contemplation, drifted past on the floating ice sometimes heading west, sometimes heading east content to be borne along aimlessly by the tides.

Valerian Ivanovich Albanov
In the Land of White Death


The luxuries of civilization satisfy only those wants which they themselves create.

Apsley Cherry-Garrard
member of Robert Falcon Scott's ill-fated expedition to the South Pole, 1912


A man's got to know his limitations.

Clint Eastwood (as Harry Callahan) in Magnum Force


The wind was howling in the rigging and I couldn't help thinking that it was making just the sort of sound that you would expect a human being to utter if he were in fear of being murdered.

Frank Worsley, captain of the Endurance, 1914
The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition
Caroline Alexander
Alfred A. Knopf, New York 1998


Asked why he had decided not to have any musical score during the narrative of this movie, Alfred Hitchcock reasoned that the audience wouldn't know where the music was coming from in the middle of an ocean. Composer David Raskin replied "Ask Mr. Hitchcock to explain where the camera came from and I'll tell him where the music comes from".

Trivia from the movie Lifeboat found on the Internet Movie Database website