Sunday, July 26, 2015

BUS STORY # 455 (Portrait # 29: A Mystery For Sure)

"Bus Stop Legs," by Dave King of IdeaJoy.

Well, he pushed his old straw hat back and he grinned
And he said, “Ain’t they all a mystery? Sonny, it’s a sin
They’re all sittin’ on the world we’re tryin’ to win
Ah, but you know I love a mystery
So let’s drink another round, you and me, to them.”
-- Ed Bruce, from “Girls, Women, and Ladies”

She’s a sight.

She’s gotta be in her 50s. Dyed red-brown hair, long, but pulled up in back, then free-falling down the left side of her head.

Black plastic sunglasses, not the big-lensed movie star kind.

The rest of her face is deeply lined, like a chronic smoker’s.

Turquoise tank top with skinny, old lady arms, and reddened, leathery neck and chest.

Blue plaid shorts.

Not short shorts.

But short.

And tight.

Poking out from underneath the shorts on each leg is a band of black lace.

Yes, that's black lace.

Further down, knee-high black support hose.

White, old fashioned Adidas sports shoes with the diagonal stripes. I haven’t seen those in decades.

But here’s the deal: between the tops of those socks and the edge of the black lace, she’s got somebody else’s legs. That somebody has to be half her age, and is gonna have to be a knockout if she’s gonna belong to those legs.

But she doesn’t engage in any of the gestures that would tell you, as ZZ Top puts it, she knows how to use them.

I assume she’s consciously dressed to feature her best-looking self --at least that self between the lace and the knee-highs. But there is no accounting for the rest of her.

She’s not just a sight. Like Ed Bruce knows, she’s a mystery.


The photo at the top of this story is titled “Bus Stop Legs,” and is posted with the permission of Dave King. You can see all Dave King’s photos on Flickr here.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

BUS STORY # 454 (One Classy Bag Lady)

Downloaded from the Daily Mail

We took the 11 to the ATC where we caught the Rail Runner to Santa Fe. We planned to go to an evening concert, stay the night, then take the early afternoon train back to Albuquerque.

While waiting on the platform, huddled under the shade cast by a kiosk, we got to talking -- or rather, listening -- to a woman who had just overnighted here in Albuquerque.

She was probably in her early seventies. Her face reminded me a lot of my maternal grandmother, although her hair was tailored and we think she had some eye work done. She was dressed simply but elegantly in a sage green sleeveless blouse and above-the-knee loose shorts. Understated silver earrings and bracelet. In short, “classy.” So it was amusingly incongruous that her carry-on was a grocery bag full of clothes and shoes!

While we were waiting, she pulled out a pair of cowboy boot clogs and told us she’d found them in a very nice second-hand shop -- a real bargain, she explained.

We were also amused by her stories, so much so that we invited her to sit with us when the train came. That allowed for enough time to hear her more interesting life story unfold.

She was visiting old friends in Santa Fe, but had come to Albuquerque to visit an old girl friend from school. She’d flown in from Atlanta -- she described the wonderful MARTA train that rockets you directly into the airport -- but she told us she’d lived in Albuquerque before moving to Atlanta.

We asked what she’d done here.

She practiced law. She explained she’d been a bit of a gypsy in her youth, moving around from place to place and job to job until someone suggested she go to law school. She said it was like a little bell going off in her head -- “ding-ding-ding-ding-ding.”

We asked what she specialized in.

Family law. She told us she’d sworn she would never practice family law, but she saw an opportunity to make a real difference in real people’s lives. But it ruined her chances for remarriage. “Once they hear you’re a divorce attorney, they’re gone.”

So was she practicing law in Atlanta?

No, she was not. She’d looked into it, but there were so many little county courthouses she’d have to get to in her everyday practice, she’d be spending more time in her car than in her office or in the courtroom. Here in Albuquerque, there was just the one courthouse, which made so much more sense to her.

What she was doing in Atlanta was teaching math, an early first love. She told us it was the next best thing to a permanent vacation. Her other job in Atlanta was protecting her “good-looking wonderful grandson” from “those gold-digging” southern sorority girls. His choosing to go to college there was why she’d moved.

She explained she’d raised him from early childhood, fallout from the ill-advised marriage of her troubled daughter. She told us it was the best thing she’d ever done, and that raising him has been “a joy.” Watching her expression while she showed my wife his picture on her iPhone, I had no doubt he truly is her pride and joy.

She left us at the South Capitol stop. A fellow attorney who’d “retired” to Santa Fe “but still goes into the office every day” was meeting her. They were joining a group of friends who were heading out for Abiquiú. They are all gourmet cooks, she explained, and they like to drink. She just eats what they cook and does the driving.

It was hard to tell if her heart was still here or back in Atlanta. I think it’s probably wherever her grandson is, wherever that may be.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

BUS STORY # 453 (Will’s Bus Story # 2)

The 257 express to Horseshoe Bay. Photo by Busboy.

Mrs. B and I stayed in Vancouver’s West End for a few days visiting our old friends, Will and Carol. Will has been reading my bus stories from before there was a blog. He also contributed a fine bus story of his own early in the series that you can read here.

We have visited them in Vancouver many times since, but we’d never used TransLink, the Vancouver public transit system. Will rectified the unfortunate omission with a bus trip from the West End to Horseshoe Bay, where we took a ferry to Bowen Island.

What a ride! The 257 express crosses Lion’s Gate bridge, travels a roadway lined with trees, the occasional gap giving us glimpses of the bay beyond, then leaves the roadway for a street winding through a heavily-shaded, lushly landscaped residential area down to the ferry docks. This route has to be one of most beautiful municipal bus routes in the northern hemisphere.

View through the windows of the 257 from Lions Gate Bridge. Photo by Busboy.

A glimpse of the bay along the roadway. Photo by Busboy.

Leaving the roadway for the scenic route down to the ferry dock. Photo by Busboy.

Before boarding, Will handed us our tickets (pre-purchased!) and a “loonie” (A Canadian dollar coin) to cover the zone change. We boarded a standing-room-only articulated bus full of folks, some tourists, some locals, but the majority of whom were also taking advantage of the weather to visit the bay area.

When a seat became open beside a woman who looked to be our ages, Will took the seat and got his bus story, which he shared with us while we waited for the ferry.

The woman was on her way to Nanaimo, a town on Vancouver Island, to pay taxes on her house there. She bought the house way back when for $17,000 Canadian, and no one had a clue what would happen to real estate values in the Vancouver area.

She was a retired marriage counselor, that career a second one after having been a human development researcher. But, she told Will, neither of these was her first calling.

She had a horse when she was a young girl, and decided then that she wanted to be a stock breeder. She was taking piano lessons at the time, and one day, her teacher told her she was gifted, and that diligent practice would likely lead to a career as a concert pianist. The girl then confided her real desire. The teacher dismissed the confidence as a silly idea. She told Will she considered the teacher’s response, then got up and walked out, never to return.

If she ever pursued her original calling, Will didn’t hear the story. But she did tell him she still plays the piano, and performs with a group of local musicians.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

BUS STORY # 452 (Mad Men)

Mad Men The End of an Era Bus AD mini Billboard 9148,” © All Rights Reserved, by Brecht Bug.  Posted with permission.

Somewhere between Wyoming and Eubank, a guy boards the bus, swipes his card, and walks toward the back. The electronic fare box voice announces “Card not valid.” He keeps walking.

“Sir. Sir!”

The guy stops.

“Your card is expired.”

He walks back up to the front and starts searching his pockets. He’s early 30s, old jeans, red T-shirt, baseball cap. He quits searching just before we get to Eubank and just stands there. The driver pulls up to the stop and opens the door.

The guy wheels around and launches a stream of obscenity-laced insults at the driver. It is a violent outburst, and becomes more so as the tirade continues. The driver probably doesn’t help; he smiles cheerfully at the guy and invites him to have a good day. Gasoline on fire.

The guy fakes blitz at the driver. The driver invites him to go ahead. The guy’s explosive oral incontinence continues. There is no imagination, no creativity in the obscenities at all, just a witless brown spew of the same old same old. Then he storms off the bus.


I look at the young woman sitting next to me, the same young woman who got on the bus at Louisiana with me. She is staring wide-eyed and straight ahead, silently mouthing words to herself. I wonder if she’s praying or has just been shocked into some kind of schizophrenic state.

The guy sitting on her other side is talking with the driver.

“Crazy, huh?”

The driver is chuckling.

“And he was calling me a ________.”

I’m wondering what the driver would have done had the rider’s assault turned physical. He’s also in his thirties, and a big guy. But I’m thinking madness and rage often generate a superhuman strength. The driver might have gotten himself in real trouble.

So, pray tell, what would Busboy the driver have done?

The truth is, I don’t know. I would like to think I would have been able to balance the fight or flight reflex with the awareness that I would be no match at all for this guy. There would be no fight, only a pounding, possibly into a pulp.

I would like to think I would have the grace and sense to know this rider is deeply disturbed, and find some way to compassionately defuse the situation, although whatever that compassionate strategy might be alludes me.

Instead, I’m dealing with a momentary fantasy of coming to the driver’s aid and throwing the guy off the bus. Fantasy indeed! Once I’m aware of this absurd little day dream, I'm trying to recall where I recently heard or read a woman saying something very close to “It’s not your fault. You’re a guy. All you guys are jerks.”

She might just as well have said “mad.” That, I understand, includes Busboy, old as he is, and still struggling for reason and wisdom before push comes to shove.


The photo at the top of this story is titled “Mad Men The End of an Era Bus AD mini Billboard 9148,” © all rights reserved, and is posted with the permission of Brecht Bug. You can see Brecht Bug's photostream on Flickr here.