Sunday, April 28, 2013

BUS STORY # 338 (Train Story # 3: The Entertainer, Part 2)

Disneyland Train, © All Rights Reserved, a photo by Lord Carnage, on Flickr.

You can read Part 1 here.

Edward* dreamed of being in the theatre from childhood. He realized that dream in southern California at Disneyland, where he worked in “the Tragic -- oops, I mean ‘Magic’ -- Kingdom” for ten years.

I gathered he’d run the gamut in theatre productions from dresser to actor to singer/dancer. He was lightheartedly rueful about the inevitable disillusionment -- learning that what it looked like from the audience as a kid was something very different from what it was back stage as an adult.

But: he also insisted he’d had an enormous amount of fun, had gotten to do exactly what he wanted to do, and he fully appreciated not everyone gets to have his dreams come true.

But when he was diagnosed with cancer, “No more pixie dust!” He left California to come stay with his mother and sister who were living in Belen.

I asked if he’s a native. He’s not. He was born in California, but his family was from Indiana. He was one of eight children, and one of the last two who were born in California. (How his mother and sister ended up in Belen is a story I didn’t get.)

He didn’t go into the details of his cancer experience other than to report he had beaten it, was now five years cancer free, and had a profoundly different way of looking at life which sounded to me like a mix of gratitude and laughter.

As if cancer weren’t enough, sometime during his recovery, he developed an eye condition that left him completely blind in one eye and legally blind in the other.

He related the whole experience as if it were a comedy routine, with all the tragedies serving as raw comic material. For example, he described some very interesting walks with his mother who not only served as his “seeing-eye mother,” but was also in the developing stages of Alzheimer’s.

Now, the caretaker role has come full circle. He and his sister take turns looking after mom.

He began using the train when his sight failed, and that is why he continues using it to this day. He often goes to a place offering services to the blind. I am unclear where exactly that is. All I know is he has to take the northbound train to the Journal Center station to get there.

I asked if he missed working in the theatre. He said not at all -- because he was doing a lot of work here -- theatre and movies both. Apparently, his reputation preceded him. It’s not paying the bills, but it’s been a source of great enjoyment to him.

About this time, Edward and Nate* met on the platform, brought together by my wife who had returned to where we’d been standing. Nate was her bus story, and we’ll tell that one next week.


*Real name changed.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

BUS STORY # 337 (Train Story # 2: The Entertainer, Part 1)

Last week, I promised to tell the two stories my wife and I gathered while waiting on the platform for the Rail Runner to Santa Fe.

I should probably explain here that the reason we got these stories is because I did not look at my itinerary the morning we left. I was sure we should leave the house at 8:00 a.m. and not 8:30...

That left us with an extra half-hour on the platform outdoors on a cool and breezy morning or a cold and windy morning, depending on which of us is telling the story. We both agree it was a gloriously beautiful, clear blue New Mexico sky morning.

It began when my wife looked at the pairs of tracks and started wondering how we would know which train was the right train, and where we should wait to board.

A gentleman sitting on a nearby bench noticed we were a slightly dithering couple and called out to us, asking if he could be of assistance.

He was a dapper-looking fellow at first sight, with a graying-out Van Dyke and a jaunty little alpine hat. Thin. He looked to be late middle-age.

After my wife explained her confusion, he told her the train would be on the far track.

“But how do you know? There aren’t any signs!”

Well, he knew because he often takes this train after coming up from Belen. It always arrives on the far track. In a bit, we would see the riders start standing on the far side to wait for its arrival.

He went on to explain he takes the 8:04 from Belen to here, then has an hour to wait for the 9:35 north. When the weather’s good, which it is most of the time, he grabs a burrito from the cafe inside the station -- here, he displayed the burrito he’d been working on, a generously egg-potato-meat-green chile-filled version of New Mexico’s unofficial and ubiquitous state breakfast wrapped in foil -- and added he believed this particular burrito has won some awards -- and then he sits out here eating his breakfast and people-watching.

As he was talking, I noticed his beard hadn’t been cleaned up at the margins in a while. He had his left leg crossed over his right, and was swinging his foot. I could see a worn spot over the toes of his shoe where the black had been worn away to an off-white.

My wife was not satisfied with the notion that the common knowledge of experienced riders eliminated the need for signage, and she wandered off looking for a railroad employee (and probably for a way to get out of the breeze).

I stayed and listened to this rider who, it quickly became obvious, loved to talk, was entertaining to listen to, and had quite a story to tell.

Continued next week.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

BUS STORY # 336 (Train Story # 1: Do You Know The Way To Santa Fe)

Santa Fe Depot by busboy4
Santa Fe Depot, a photo by busboy4 on Flickr.

One way I can get my wife to ride the bus with me is to plan a trip to Santa Fe.

We drive to the Park & Ride, take the Rapid Ride to the train station, then take the Rail Runner to Santa Fe. No parking hassles and fees for either downtown.

By purchasing the tickets online, we get two discounts: a dollar off each for using the internet, and another dollar off because we are seniors.

Make that three discounts: the commute by ABQ RIDE is free when you show the driver your train ticket. In an especially nice touch, our driver looked at the tickets, then gave us excellent directions on where to get off (at the stop just after we go under the bridge, then walk left across the street, turn left and walk up the stairs and take the ramp up to the train platform).

There is a free shuttle waiting at the end of the ride to Santa Fe, although my wife and I use the ticket savings to tip the drivers. It’s not necessary, but it makes us feel good.

Something else I noted this trip: type “Rail Runner” into your search engine and you pull up the Rio Metro Regional Transit District website. Not only is the Rail Runner schedule there, but so are all the possible connections for each stop. Further, each connection has its schedules and routes listed. And, of course, you can purchase your ticket here. It’s a one-stop shop, and I think it is really well done.

So: using this site, we bought tickets for the 09:35 trip to Santa Fe, and planned on catching the Red Line at the Uptown Transit Center (where there is a Park & Ride) at 08:55.

Santa Fe’s free shuttles are lined up waiting based on the arrival of the Rail Runner. They make a circuit of the downtown area which includes the State Capitol, Canyon Road, the Cathedral, City Hall and the Convention Center, and, of course, the Plaza. And they run continuously every 15-to-20 minutes. At the end of our day, we caught the shuttle on the Plaza by the New Mexico Museum of Art.

Here’s a surprise: By using the shuttle, we ended up walking less than had we driven the car, parked at the municipal garage across from The Lensic, then walked to The Plaza -- and back again at the end of the day.

The train ride itself is still magical to us. Looking out those big windows on a gloriously beautiful late winter day, at a part of New Mexico we don’t see from nearby I-25, undistracted by traffic, “rockin’ to the gentle beat” of “the rhythm of the rails...” Land of enchantment.

We had two simple objectives, one of them being some house business and the other, lunch. Do we love eating in Santa Fe? Oh, yes we do!

This day, we had lunch at The Shed, on Palace Street north of the Cathedral. You can look at the menu and say “Mexican food.” Or you can do what my wife did: order, eat, and tell me with no reservations that this is the best Mexican food she’s eaten in this state.

After taking care of business, we made rounds of our long-time favorites in the Plaza area before catching the shuttle back to the station. We had enough time to hit the Albuquerque-based Flying Star location in the Railyard, a short walk from the train station, where we waited for the 5:04 express back to Albuquerque with coffee and hot chocolate and a slice of rhubarb pie. And we talked about the fortuitous “train stories” each of us had gathered on the platform that morning while we were waiting for the train.

I will be sharing both those stories with you, you fortunate reader you, over the next three installments of Bus Stories.


"City of New Orleans," sung by the "rockin' to the gentle beat" songwriter himself, Steve Goodman.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

BUS STORY # 335 (Portrait # 21: The Boys In The Band)

New bus link to MediaCityUK hits the right note by busboy4
New bus link to MediaCityUK hits the right note Commuters en route to MediaCityUK were treated to a unique performance by two musicians from the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra last week, who took centre stage on the new Salford Quays bus link.

It takes a while for all of us to board this morning, and once I’m up the stairs, I see why.

There are two guys sitting in the front bench seats, with five large bags between them. We’re having to thread our way past the baggage, and some of us have bags of our own that have to be lifted up and over the blockage.

One of the guys is an old guy, a big guy, with an old fashioned red baseball cap, rounded, with white stitching. There’s a patch on the front that says “Martin & Co, est. 1833.” The fact that one of his bags is a guitar case narrows my guess (later confirmed by Google): the C. F. Martin company, creators of the legendary Martin guitars, still made here in America.

The guitar case is fancy, a blue soft wrap that looks well-padded inside. He’s holding it in front of him, the bottom resting between his feet, both arms wrapped around it. The other two bags are out there exposed to whatever trauma the influx of riders might inflict upon them. No question which is the precious cargo here.

The guy next to him looks half his age. A little guy. He’s got a natty little fedora, brim down in front, up in back, and a pair of dark frame glasses. He’s got an unusual jacket, with wooden pegs on the sleeve where one would expect buttons, and a large, colorful, circular logo on the left breast which remains maddeningly obscured the whole trip. There’s a large suitcase on rollers in the aisle in front of him, and on his lap, a treasure chest all in black leather, with two snaps in front and a handle on top.

Well, he carries it like a treasure chest. I imagine the inside: a well-padded, custom-fitted chamber for a broken down clarinet. Or flute. Or some other musical instrument. Too small for a trumpet...

I look at the two of them and think “jazz.”

The young guy is chattering away. He’s talking about everything -- food, the weather, airports... He’s got an accent, and I spend a lot of time failing to nail it. Maybe South American. Brazil? Argentina? I hear him explain how he’ll be catching a Lufthansa flight in New York to Dusseldorf, how long it will take, how much it cost...

Which is when it occurs to me the two of them might not be together at all. And then I realize the old guy’s conversation amounts to a few short acknowledgments when a response is called for. Once, I catch an expression of obvious forbearance in his face. Maybe the two of them just happen to be taking the same bus to the airport this morning.

And maybe the young guy’s “treasure chest” doesn’t hold a musical instrument after all. Which means that maybe he’s not a musician, and they are not going somewhere to play jazz or any other kind of music together.

In the space of fifteen minutes, I’ve seen the formation, a bit of the tour, and the breakup of a band. I’d’ve missed the whole thing if I hadn't been on the tour bus.


The photo at the top of this story is posted by permission of MediaCityUK .