Sunday, July 19, 2009

BUS STORY # 142 (The Rapid After Dark)

It’s a fine summer evening here in Albuquerque. The temperature has taken its high-desert-after-sundown fall, and a slight breeze actually feels cool. I’m downtown, waiting for the Rapid Ride in front of the Alvarado Transportation Center. It’s Friday and the joint is jumping. I myself have just come from a concert (Arvo Pärt’s Magnificat and Josquin de Prez’ Missa Pange Lingua -- back to back! Right here in River City!)

I’m using R.A.D. – Rapid After Dark . This is a summer weekend program which runs the Rapid Ride Red Line every 30 minutes until 2:30 a.m. Fortunately, the Red Line is my line. I’ve parked my car at the eastern end of the line, the Uptown Center, because, even though it’s a happenin’ Friday night, the Lomas bus has already gone to bed.

There’s a lot of cruising in front of the ATC. Sometimes a car or truck will stop, the doors will open, and a bunch of kids will come tumbling out. But mostly, it’s a slow crawl to an amplified base beat which you feel as much as hear.

A white convertible rolls slowly along the curb. Inside are three girls, all painted up and dressed to kill. The one in the front seat passenger side looks me up and down, then says, “Hi, sweetie.” I just laugh and shake my head. As she rolls on past toward Central, I think it’s probably a good thing she’s not the driver.

Waiting with me is an older woman with a bicycle and a backpack. She’s got a bike helmet on over a baseball cap. She looks a bit out of place and a little nervous about it, what with all the activity down here. I wonder what she’s doing down here at this time on a Friday night.

She’s probably wondering the same thing about me.

When the bus comes, she loads her bike on the front rack. She knows what she’s doing.

I recognize the driver. He’s taciturn, always unflappable, and has a perpetually bemused smile. It’s the kind of smile that makes me think if I could sit down with him over a beer, I’d get a year’s worth of absolutely amazing bus stories.

Inside, I see there’re not many folks riding tonight. The air conditioning feels cold and the lights are harsh. I hadn’t noticed the lighting before. We roll on up Central in silence.

Two guys get on at Nob Hill. They sit across from one another over the wheel well seats in front of the flex. They’re young, obviously at loose ends. One of them leans forward and says, “Well, it’s Friday night.” The other laughs and says, “Yeah, it’s Friday night, all right.” They lean forward, forearms on knees, hands clasped, alternately looking at each other and out the front windshield.

There are only three riders when we arrive at Uptown Center. I exit and head for my car. There are only two cars in the lot at this hour, mine and another parked a space away.

I see one of the riders head for the other car, and that’s when I notice he’s a security officer. A light goes on inside the car, and I can see a woman in the driver’s seat. He walks over to her side of the car and leans on the open window. They talk for a few minutes, then he gives her a quick kiss. She hands him something, and when he steps away, I can see it’s a cup of coffee. He waves as she starts to pull out, then heads back for the bus.

I start my car and head for home.

The photo above features last year’s Poetry On The Bus third place winner in the adult category. The poem is Breath, by Elaine Schwartz. Click on the photo to enlarge. Deadline for the 2009 submissions is this Friday, July 24.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I presume you're trying to let the world know about the submission deadline because these have all been so goddamn terrible. Seriously. If I didn't know better I'd think they'd been put together by an Anti Arts Council. "We'll put up poetry so awful that the people will never ever think to look to words again."

10:01 AM  
Blogger Busboy said...

I can’t tell from your comment exactly what criteria you’re using. While I myself didn’t see an Emily Dickinson or a T. S. Eliot on any of the bus poems, I wasn’t really expecting a timeless and universal work of genius (although neither of us can be absolutely sure at this point there wasn’t one up there. I’m thinking of the initial responses of smart people like you and me to Joyce’s Ulysses and Stravinsky’s The Rite Of Spring.).

Nor would I want ABQ RIDE to refuse to display anything less than a work of genius. That isn’t what Poetry On The Bus is all about. Heck, that isn’t even what any publishing house or bookstore is all about.

I like it that a city bus service would promote a poetry contest among its riders. I like it that anyone would promote any of us to think about things and express those thoughts in some imaginative and mind-stretching way. I like that I get to see what some folks do with that opportunity. I like seeing how the illustrations artfully presented the words, and I like that, last year, somebody went to some trouble to do just that.

Here’s a challenge for you, Anonymous: write us a poem that is “so awful that the people will never ever think to look to words again." I’ll bet you a bus pass it can’t be done.

7:55 PM  

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