Sunday, May 26, 2013

BUS STORY # 342 (Catching Up)

Waiting for the Bus... by Moliniano
Waiting for the Bus..., a photo by Moliniano on Flickr.

The driver is lowering the wheelchair lift on one of the old 300s. I didn’t see anyone in a wheelchair at the stop, but when the lift delivers an old man with a walker, I understand.

He’s surely in his 70s. He’s wearing shorts that display swollen knock knees. He moves slowly to the bench seat, turns around, and starts to lower himself to the seat.

His knees won’t really bend, so he is sliding down the back of the seat until his knees just give out, and he drops into the seat with a quiet “Oof!” He pulls his walker close and settles in.

Across the aisle and three rows back, another rider calls out.

“Charlie,* is that you?”

“Hey, how you doin’, man?”

They talk a bit. Charlie tells him about his knees.

“Gonna have an operation in October, and then I’ll be all right.”

The other guy asks about Trey.*

“Oh, he’s still in. You know he went in the same time I got out.”

The other rider asks Charlie how long he’s been out now.

“Six months.”

He goes on to explain he put on 20 pounds this last time, and it’s been hard trying to take it back off.

“How’s Henrietta?”*

“She’s on her own, now.”

“You by yourself, then?”

“Yeah. She just wouldn’t give up her addiction.”

There is more conversation. The rider asks about someone else, and Charlie says he hasn’t seen him.

“Been some changes. You know Clifford’s* gone. And Tom’s* in a nursing home now. But he’s doin’ good, doin’ good.”

They remember some other folks from “back in the day.”

They are still catching up when I get off at Central.


*Real name changed.


Thanks to Rachel in San Francisco for this week’s Holy Cow! featured link.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

BUS STORY # 341 (Albuquerque Bus Stops: A New Blog)

Detail from the cover photo for Michael Jerome Wolff’s blog, Albuquerque Bus Stops.

Albuquerque has a new bus blog. Or, rather, a bus stop blog. It’s called Albuquerque Bus Stops. Melissa Ewer posted the link on the ABQ Bus Riders Discussions page of Duke City Fix. I was so taken by the photograph that it took me a while to move on to the top post. But when I started reading, I didn’t stop until I’d read all eight posts. The first was posted on May 4.

The blog is concerned not so much with the bus stops themselves, but with the homeless of Albuquerque who, as every bus rider knows, can be readily found congregating at various bus stops around the city, and who use the bus when they need to go somewhere. It is a demographic that is hard to miss and easy to overlook. Michael Jerome Wolff has chosen not to overlook.

Michael and I have spent time at a couple of the same bus stops. I can vouch for the accuracy of the scenes. But we are different bus riders and writers after that.

Michael actively solicits his stories; I passively observe, or interact only when approached. It is clear he is comfortable among some of the most discomforting characters around; I am not -- until an unsolicited one-on-one happens, and the story of a human being emerges.

Michael is young, and it’s not hard to see an adventurous, even fearless, streak in the lines of his stories. I am long past young, and apprehension tends to temper my curiosity.

I sense a much more uninhibited compassion, and perhaps romanticism, in Michael’s stories. He also takes better pictures than I do. Lots better.

Michael has taken some compelling photographs of the people he writes about. There is a curious coincidence about my finding these photos this week; I just finished writing a possible bus story about why I don’t take pictures of people I see on the bus or at the bus stops, even though I sometimes would like to.

We do have this in common: we sometimes are fortunate enough to have a beautiful woman by our side when we travel the bus.

I highly recommend starting with the About page. I’ve posted the link to the home page to the right of my stories, under all Albuquerque links.

This is a promising start. I look forward to more posts, more photographs, and maybe recognizing some of Michael’s subjects on the bus -- or at the bus stops.


Thanks to BB in Marshfield, MA, for this week’s featured link: This Week In: Boston.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

BUS STORY # 340 (Shorts 30)

Pluralism by busboy4
Pluralism, a photo by busboy4 on Flickr.

I’m on the already-crowded 7:05 a.m. when a guy gets on, walks down the aisle and finds a seat up on the benches on the rear platform.  He sits down, then says in a loud voice, “Good morning!” No one answers. “Good morning, everyone,” he repeats.  “Good morning.  Good morning.” His voice booms.  No response.  No one even looks up.  He sits back in his seat, says “Tough crowd,” and pulls a book out of his bag.  I laugh, but not out loud.


He’s an old guy, mussed up gray hair, faded denim shirt and some hard-worked bluejeans, beat-up boots. His cell rings and this is what I hear: “Yeah...I’m on the bus. I’m goin’ back to work. I got off at three-thirty this morning...Yeah...Call me tomorrow around noon...Yeah.” It is 8:16 a.m.


T-shirt seen this morning on a kid on his way to high school:

Untitled by busboy4
Haters Target, downloaded from the website for Metal Mouth Apparel


Overheard: a rider greeting a co-rider who’s just boarded the bus the morning after a record Powerball jackpot drawing: “I guess you didn’t win the lottery, either.”

Sunday, May 05, 2013

BUS STORY # 339 (Train Story # 4: The Gambler)

This story is tied to two preceding stories which you can read here, and here.

My wife finally did find a Rail Runner employee who explained to her there was no way of knowing ahead of time which set of tracks the train would come in on because they sometimes had to switch tracks depending on other traffic. She told me she asked him how the passengers would know, and he answered, they’d know. (He was right.)

She came back to where Edward* was holding forth, and for a few minutes, when he was talking about musicals, something she knows a lot about, she joined in. Pretty soon, the two of them were riffing on an idea for “Lincoln: The Musical.” Edward knocked out some pretty funny lyrics for the Ford Theatre scene, while my wife recognized the tune he was using and suggested they give it a happy ending.

Unfortunately, the breeze and shadow drove her away to a sunny spot against a wind-breaking wall next to a bench. Shortly afterwards, I noticed a Native American-looking fellow take a seat on the bench, and begin a conversation with her.

Later, when we were on the train, my wife told me Nate* had just begun working his way up the casinos along the track. He’d just finished with Isleta where he’d done pretty well at Black Jack. He’d gotten a room, gambled, eaten well, partied a little, slept, then went back and gambled some more.

He did have a little trouble at Isleta. He invited some friends to join him in his room. Later on, he went down to gamble, and when he came back upstairs, the hotel security and tribal police were in his room. His friends had apparently gotten a little rowdy.

Now, he was on his way to Sandia. But he was going all the way to Bernalillo first to meet his mother. She was driving in from Cuba to meet him. The two of them would drive down to Sandia together and gamble. HIs mother got a pretty hefty social security check, and it had just come in this week.

Nate also told my wife he had a house in Bernalillo that was worth three hundred thousand. She had the impression he was wondering if she might be interested. Later on, he would tell me someone had offered him two hundred and forty for it, and he was thinking he might just have to jump on that.

I’m not sure whether my wife had decided to try and get away from Nate or was just missing me, but she came over to where Edward and I were. Nate followed.

There were introductions all around, and that is when Edward and I discovered we shared the same first name. It’s also when I saw Edward’s vision deficit. When Nate extended his hand, Edward simply did not see it. He recovered, but I think he actually sensed it rather than saw it. When he did reach out his hand, he let Nate make the connection.

Nate had been divorced for a couple of years now. “Divorce is really expensive!” he told us. They had five children, but they’re all grown with families of their own. I asked him if they were all close by. They are, but “I leave them alone. It’s their world now.”

Nate, in turn, asked us where we were from. That is when Edward learned I, too, was born in southern California, and into a (considerably smaller) family who’d also moved there from Indiana. I don’t remember exactly how it happened, but somewhere in the discussion Edward mentioned being Irish. I shared that I, too, had an Irish ancestry, only three generations back on my mother’s side.

Nate momentarily confused ancestry with nativity, and Edward popped into a remarkably credible Irish brogue to help things along. There was laughter all around. Nate, for all his seeming wildness, was as gentle and considerate in his conversation as he was unabashedly open in his story telling. I liked him. He left us when the train was approaching the station. We looked for him at the Bernalillo stop, but didn’t see him.

Edward got serious -- just a little, and for just a minute -- when he noted the similarities between us. “What are the odds...” He hoped we would run into each other again, and assured us he wouldn’t forget us. And he extended his hand. I made the connection. We wished him well, and we all headed for the train.

Later on, during the ride, my wife said, “You got a bus story out of all this, didn’t you?” I told her I was pretty sure I had, and I credited the happy accident of leaving a half hour too early because I didn’t check my carefully constructed itinerary. Which, my wife pointed out, left her literally out in the cold for half an hour... but she added she was really glad to see first-hand how I came by my bus stories.

How sweet is that?

We then went on to have a wonderful day together in Santa Fe, which you can read about here if you haven’t already.


*Real name changed.