Hoffer had a short and cruel childhood — his mother accidentally fell on a stairway with 5 year old Hoffer in her arms — this fall would take her life. Hoffer went blind two years later. At 5 he was already reading both English and German. His cabinetmaker father died shortly after the boy of fifteen's sight miraculously returned, no one knows quite how, but he began reading voraciously and never stopped. He was said to have a library card in every town in southern California where he worked his early years as a migrant worker. A favorite author was Montaigne.
Incorrectly labeled a conservative, Hoffer was but one more hardworking dreamer and doer, living simply and alone in his San Francisco apartment near the docks. Never wealthy or abusive with power, as many who had admired and awarded him (Reagan), he was a poet of America's underclass, which he described as "lumpy with talent."
"Hear, Hear!" and hello Eric Hoffer.
Columbia Records famed producer John Hammond caught the young Dylan in one word, it was the very word that zeroed in the troubadour — quite different than all the others with a guitar — "sincerity". When Hoffer was alive and at work, and Dylan was rising fast, no one in their right mind would align the two...yet there is the same sincerity in the work of both. In this song, unlike any Dylan would ever write or perform, is the open heart and the open road — Hoffer born in New York City had to get westward; Dylan off the northern plains had to get to New York. Prospects, hurdles and dreams are with them both. Far beyond politics. Lucky stars.
eric hoffer photo from "working and thinking on the waterfront" (Harper & Row)
back road chalkie photo: bob arnold