Sunday, June 26, 2011

BUS STORY # 242 (They’re Gonna Put Me In The Movies)

Iron Man on the bus by dabasse
Iron Man on the bus, a photo by dabasse on Flickr.

He’s coming from the airport. He’s got a huge, black, rolling suitcase pulled up next to him by the front bench seats.

He starts off with the fire in Arizona, and we talk about how big it is and how it’s supposed to be crossing into New Mexico today and how the horizon is whited out past the volcanoes.

He’s been here since ’99, and he’s never seen anything like this.

I ask him where he’s from.

Denver. He was a partner in an aluminum siding and window business when his other partner offered to buy him out.

“Thirty-six long ones,” he said. “Lotta money.”

He ended up having a good time and getting married before the money ran out. His wife was from here -- “a Highland High girl” -- and she persuaded him to come home with her. They’re divorced now.

He’s been taking classes at CNM, and he’s looking to become a film tech. He tells me there’s a lot of movies and TV being shot here in New Mexico, and he knows the pay is good. His dream is to be a director. He’s a big fan of Quentin Tarantino.

He tells me he ran into Robert Downey, Jr., the other day, coming out of a store on Central. He did a double-take, then yelled out, “Hey, Robert, how ya doin’?” Robert called back he was doing great, a real friendly guy. They got into a little conversation and Robert told him to come on down on this particular day to this place they were scheduled to shoot, and he’d get him a job as an extra. Said Robert had to reassure him he wasn’t putting him on. So he’s gonna do that.

He says they’re shooting this movie with all the superheroes in it -- Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Wonder Woman -- that’s why he’s here in town.

He says he’s pretty sure this is gonna pan out. But, he says, Albuquerque is full of con men. Or maybe it’s just that he seems to attract them. But he’s going to the shoot. He thinks he can take this one to the bank.

The photo at the top of this story is titled “Iron Man on the bus” and is posted with the kind permission of dabasse. You can see this and all dabasse’s photos on Flickr at:

Sunday, June 19, 2011

BUS STORY # 241 (Shorts 20: Father’s Day)

Coming home from work by posterboy2007
Coming home from work, a photo by posterboy2007 on Flickr.

On the Rapid Ride, I’m sitting behind a father and daughter. He’s young, skinny. She must be five or six. She’s a blondie, with a pale yellow shirt. He’s a blondie, too, what we used to call “dirty blond.” He’s got a long, thin ponytail hanging out from beneath a yellow and green plaid driving cap which he’s wearing front-to-back. The sides of his head are shaved. He’s got a faded black sleeveless T-shirt, and on the back it says “One time at the fight club . . . ” He’s got the window seat, but he’s leaning his head toward his daughter and talking to her. “And you gotta say ‘please’ when you want something, and you say ‘thank you’ when somebody gives you something. It’s nice. You gotta be nice, OK? And ‘excuse me,’ when you bang into people like you did running down the aisle – hey, you listening to me?” She grabs his upper arm with both hands and pulls her head against him.


There are four of us at the bus stop. In front of me are two young guys, one in a parka with the hood up, the other with a baseball cap fitted backwards over a blue bandanna headscarf. The cap says “Native.” A thick black braid drops out of the cap and disappears into a black jacket. They’re smoking and talking. Beside them is a stroller, and inside the stroller, behind a pink ruffled windbreaker device, is a curious toddler. I think it’s a girl. She is looking all around, and spends some time taking me in. Then she starts to vocalize. The kid in the cap squats down in front of her and says, “Hello. Hello there.” He talks with her and doesn’t quit till she’s done. Then he goes back to his other conversation.


The kid’s gotta be pre-school. Way too big gray hoodie, way too big Carolina Panthers baseball cap. His dad is wearing a black nylon warmup suit. He’s listening to the guy across the aisle tell him if he doesn’t get the job he’s on his way to see about, to come and see him. He runs a bunch of those ice cream pushcarts and can always use reliable help. The kid is looking at a picture book. He puts his finger on one place in the picture and calls, “Dad!” Dad is explaining he’s already got a job but he needs a second one -- “Dad!” -- so he can move his son and him out of his grandmother’s house. The kid quits trying. He gives a little, croupy cough. Dad immediately leans over, touches his face to the top of the baseball cap, puts his hand on his son’s chest. “You OK? You OK?” The kid says he’s OK. Dad explains to the guy across the aisle that his son’s had a little virus going on. “You gotta watch those things, you know?”


The bus is packed. Standing in the back are a dad and his son. Dad’s a big dude, with a buzzed head and tattoos on his arms and legs. The kid looks around eight, with short hair and big brown eyes. A rider gets up and offers the kid his seat. The kid looks at his dad. “Go on, sit,” his dad tells him. The kid doesn’t say no or shake his head, but he balks. “Go on,” his dad repeats, putting some body language in it. The kid looks up at his dad. He still doesn’t move “C’mon, sit down,” his dad says again, sounding exasperated. The kid looks at the seat, then at the guy sitting in the other seat, then at his dad. He doesn’t move. His face is serious, and his big brown eyes are doing all the talking. Dad gets it. He pulls the kid close to him in a sideways hug, then takes his hand. They hold hands until two seats open and they sit down together.

The photo at the top of this story is titled “Coming home from work” and is posted with the kind permission of posterboy2007. You can see this and all posterboy2007’s photos on Flickr at:

Sunday, June 12, 2011

BUS STORY # 240 (Nine Lives)

Jeff's Got Your Back, originally uploaded by busboy4.

There’s a spot in the back, at the end of one of the bench seats. But the guy sitting next to it is a big, big man. He’s got a way-too-small Dallas Cowboys cap on his head, and a big black wrist support on each wrist and forearm. He’s holding an industrial strength metal cane with one of those offset handles in front of him. He’s big enough to reduce the sitting area of the empty seat. I elect to stand.

“C’mon and sit down,” he says to me. It’s a friendly invitation.

I squeeze in part of the way and stop there. I’m feeling wedged in.

“Thanks,” I say. “You sure you got enough room?”

“You can’t hurt me,” he replies affably. He goes on to explain he’s got some bulging discs and some cracked vertebrae, so there’s not much else that’s gonna hurt him worse than that back of his.

I ask him how he cracked his vertebrae.

“Hit and run. Three times.”

First time he was on his motorcycle going down Lomas. He says he was lucky he was wearing his helmet and a leather jacket. The car took off. He got up, picked up his motorcycle, and drove himself to Presbyterian Hospital.

“Busted ribs, a busted right arm, and road rash,” he tells me.

Then there was the time he was riding his bicycle on Gibson. There’s an intersection with a red light. Three cars cut through a gas station to duck the red light. The first car ran him down. The second and third cars ran over him.

“Busted ribs, busted pelvis, both wrists busted. I was paralyzed from the waist down for six months.”

He doesn’t tell me what happened to the bike, and I don’t ask.

Then there was the time he was driving on that street behind the airport, the one that goes to the post office. The cops told him they think the other car was involved in a breaking and entering up there. It was speeding down the hill with its lights off. He saw it coming at him at the last minute. Too late to do anything. Busted his leg. His seat belt didn’t lock and his head hit the windshield. Knocked him out.

He’s had four heart attacks in the last year. His doc gets upset with him because he tries to tough it out at home. Tells him he’s doing more damage to his heart by waiting. That first time they had to put “those springs” in the arteries on both sides of his heart.

But he’s a tough guy. He played football, at Syracuse. He can take pain. That’s what a real man does.

“See this?” he says, pulling up his Dallas Cowboys T-shirt. There’s a scar running down the center of his abdomen. “Got stabbed with a butterfly blade during an attempted robbery.”

He had his own business, was outside taking a break, when he overheard a customer trying to shake down one of his employees. He went back inside to throw the bum out. There was a fight. He used to box, too, and he beat the snot out of the guy. But he didn’t know the guy had this blade hidden in his hand. So while he’s beating the snot out of the punk, the punk gets a free shot at his liver. After knocking the guy out, he put a towel over the wound and called 911.

“I walked myself to the ambulance,” he says.

He’s just come from University Hospital. They’re planning on sticking some needles in his back to do something about those discs. He’s a real man, but he sure hopes they can do something about that back pain.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

BUS STORY # 239 (Grocery Cart)

She’s an overweight, older woman, with long hair dyed a muddy red-brown, and overgrown gray roots. She’s struggling to get a granny cart up the steps of an old 300, and even with someone behind her lifting the other end, it’s not easy.

She’s talking out loud, half to herself, half to the driver and us. She’s explaining this is the first time she’s used the cart, and now she knows she should have removed the contents, folded the cart up, and then got on board.

What she’s really doing is apologizing to the rest of us for holding things up. Because the logistics of removing her two reusable cloth grocery bags and one gallon jug of milk from the cart and leaving them all on the sidewalk, folding up the cart, then carrying the cart on board, opening the cart back up on the bus, then going back out and retrieving the grocery items from the sidewalk, carrying them back on the bus and putting them back in the cart, makes no sense at all.

(Reusable cloth grocery bags? Not the plastic bags that come from the store? The detail will nag at me, but that story will get away.)

Once she’s backed up past the fare box, she continues backing down the aisle, pulling her cart with her. Her breathing is labored.

The cart is unusually large, and that’s part of the problem. All the riders except one have emptied the two elderly/handicapped bench seats and have moved toward the back of the bus.

The rider who remains is a blind guy. Once he figures out what’s going on, he tries pulling up his legs so his heels are on the seat. He’s an older guy, and I can see this is an effort. He ends up having to twist in his seat and pull both feet up on the seat next to him.

She gets past him and drops into a seat on the same bench, the seat next to where the blind guy’s feet were.

The cart takes up most of the aisle. She tries turning it to one side -- I can hear her grunt -- but it is a square cart; there is no gain. The other boarders have to squeeze by.

Old women with grocery carts have been using the bus for as long as I’ve been riding. But until today, they’ve managed to stay under my radar. This one’s got my attention, and now I’m trying to imagine what it must be like.

I make myself another ten-plus years older -- slower, creakier, more easily tired, enduring accumulated aches and pains and maybe a chronic illness, wrestling that cart onto a bus which doesn’t really have any accommodations for it, then lugging it home for a city block that might as well be a mile, and the whole time feeling in the way; a widower; carless; without the financial wherewithal to take a cab; without family in town, or maybe with a family that is unavailable for one reason or another, or maybe just can’t be bothered; without friends to take me shopping or to pick my groceries up for me because they are too old or infirm, or because they are not here for whatever good reason.

Or maybe because I don’t want to be a burden to anyone.

If they were invisible before, they aren’t any more.

The photo at the top of this story is titled "Pushing Through" ⓒ All Rights Reserved, and is posted with the kind permission of antonkawasaki. You can see this and all antonkawasaki’s photos at: