Sunday, June 30, 2013

BUS STORY # 347 (Livin' The Dream)

You live in Albuquerque and are having this recurring dream: you step outside your front door one morning, and there is a bus stop about a hundred yards away where you can catch a bus into downtown. That bus drops you a block away from one of the most incredible markets you’ve ever seen: stand after stand of “still alive” fresh produce locally grown; fresh fish just off the boat; huge, cheap bouquets of freshly-cut flowers of all kinds; a bakery offering at least a dozen superb, artisanal loaves of bread and all manner of other bakery sweets and savories; wine shops; cheese shops, one of which makes its own cheese right on the premises; a handful of specialty shops just in case you need, say, some red peppercorns or white truffle oil or blue... my gosh, yes, at a little shop at the end of an alley: blue corn masa harina! And after you and the lovely woman who’s come with you have filled your shopping bags, you walk two blocks up the street where you have your choice of not one, not two, but seven different routes that will take you to a stop that is either fifty yards from your front door, or to a stop one street over that will let you out at some stairs that take you down to the bus stop where you caught the bus in the first place.

In wide-awake life, my wife is regaling the eight adults at the dinner table (the children, four of our grandchildren, are just around the corner at their own dinner table) over a communally-prepared dinner of items and ingredients we’d fetched that morning from Pike Place Market using the city bus with just such a tale. She wraps up the story with an amused but indulgent “You should have see him. Busboy was really livin’ the dream this morning.”

But wait! Before you wake up, there’s more!

Imagine that, instead of taking your car downtown to meet friends for dinner, parking it somewhere blocks away from where you are meeting and for a fee greater than you’d be paying a baby sitter, imagine instead you take that same bus from that same bus stop and get off a short block from your restaurant. And after a long evening of good food, fine wine, remarkable locally-distilled dessert, and extraordinarily wonderful company and conversation, you walk two blocks up the street where you have your choice of not one, not two, but those same seven different routes that will take you to one of those same two stops by your front door.

And imagine that, on a particular Friday night around, say, 10:30, after a five-minute wait, you board a very crowded 26 and find just enough space for the two of you right in front, on the aisle-facing bench seat across from the driver. And that, after you sit down, the young woman sitting beside you turns to you both and tells you she saw you get on her bus earlier in the evening, and more than that, it was the 28, and here we all are, both going home on the 26 several hours later... You learn she’s from California, while her boyfriend is a native of Seattle. She knows hot from her father’s living in Palm Springs. She and your wife also talk about the differences between the water-saturated airs of Seattle and Boston ("Yes, it's damp here, but it's a dry damp..."), while you and the boyfriend talk about what happens when it snows. (Yes, it snows in Albuquerque, too. We’re a mile up, you know.) They are coming back from a Mariners game, lost to the A’s in the top of the ninth, but there’s always the Seahawks to look forward to... And they tell us when our exit is two stops away, and so it is.

Our week in Seattle, in a small apartment in the Queen Anne district, was magical. Seattle was magical. The buses were magical. We had only one day of rain and, being from New Mexico, that was magical, too. We spent more time and more outings with our grandchildren than we have ever been able to before, and we had great visits with our children, their spouses, one set of our children’s in-laws, and with good friends too long unvisited.

I’ve been told more than once the quickest way to ruin a place you enjoy is to move there. I have to say, that hasn’t been the case for New Mexico for either of us, but my wife and I both agree Santa Fe would be a lot less fun if we lived there. And so I can imagine that might be true for Seattle as well.

But it’s hard to imagine the frequency and variety of bus routes getting old, of watching an almost continuous stream of buses pulling up to the stops downtown, or looking out the back window and always seeing another bus right behind you, of using an exceptional trip planner which gives you multiple options with waits so short you can only dream about them in Albuquerque.

We’re fortunate to be livin’ the life here in Albuquerque. And, as I’ve said before and will say again now, I think we’re pretty fortunate to have the public transportation system we do have, and a network of local governments committed to improving on what we already have. This isn’t the case in a lot of places. (Seattle itself is having problems.)

But we’re also fortunate to be able to suspend reality for a week, to go off to some foreign urban wonderland where there are family, friends, staggering greenery, and bus service that makes owning a car an option. Talk about livin’ the dream...


Anonymous Retiredgene said...

GREAT story and being from Boston, having vacationed in Seattle, Albuquerque your story took me there!

Always enjoy the Bus Stories and keep up the good writing.

8:55 AM  
Anonymous Brenda said...

I wonder if perhaps we bumped shoulders down there? My husband and I were there three Saturdays ago celebrating our 33rd and my youngest daughter and I were there two Sats ago playing around until the Symphony started at 8:00 PM. It's a wonderful, place. Did you get a chance to walk the waterfront as well? Seattle is a great city but I do love my Whidbey Island.

9:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great trip,Busboy, and the bus riding did make if even more fun.

9:18 AM  
Blogger Busboy said...

@ BBBH: Thank you, BBBH. It would not have been nearly so much fun without BusBoy’s Better Half.

@ Brenda: This is amazing. We drove across Whidby Island on the 17th. (We had lunch at the Front Street Grill in Coupeville.). We were shopping in Pike Place Market on the 18th. No opportunity to walk the waterfront, however. Congratulations on your 33rd!

@ Retiredgene: Thank you for your kind words. I’m glad the story took you back to good memories of a good place. Mrs. Busboy knows the Boston area well. She lived there for 20 years, and she gave me my introduction to New England. I’d love to gather a bus story or two from Boston one of these days.

7:23 PM  
Blogger Busboy said...

Poor Seattle. As feared:

9:01 AM  

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