The Following story relates a tale of a greyhound bus ride I once took with my niece Chantal. It is an autobiographical snippet that I hope you will enjoy.
Back to Berkeley
We said goodbye to brother Dav, and boarded the greyhound in Tucson, Az. It was 1:05 on Monday, the fourth of May. Chantal, my
niece, and my own prestigious self, were setting off to Oakland, Ca. and then to Berkeley, Where I maintain a
semi-permanent address. We would be arriving at 9:30am on the fifth, as I had hoped. An effort was made to get me home for the Cinco de Mayo celebration, mainly because I'd promised my sister I would be home by then. I had missed the celebration last year due to my travels which upset her for some odd reason. Another reason to arrive on the fifth was that my parents were also flying in at noon from Naptown, Indiana.
Chantal and I found a seat near the back of the bus and settled in for the 20-some hour journey. Chantal made some commentary on how she'd only ridden the Greyhound once when she was six. She and my mother took a trip to Chicago. Chantal told me how she had to sit alone as my mother had taken a seat in the smoking section. Chantal was nervous knowing that she would be making the return trip to Tucson unaccompanied. I myself, having recently spent a grueling 56 hours in the Greyhound Transit system, assured her it would not be bad. I went from Oakland to Indianapolis, via Chicago, and to me a 20 hour stint is a cake-walk.
The bus lurched into motion and I mentally switched into recorder mode to document the journey. The first thing I noted was a young boy in the neighborhood of 3yrs. old, who had evidently had a little to much sugar. The little creek-chub was sitting behind Chantal, and he repeatedly kicked our chairs all the way to Phoenix. He also began kicking his younger sibling. The boys Mother was none to happy about this because said younger sibling was at the time, still in gestation. I quote the Mother now with what I assume to be an overused yet probably seldom seen threat. All the way to Phoenix I heard, "I'll spank your bare bottom". The longing to see that threat carried out remains a vivid dream in my mind.
The second thing I noted was a semi-hostile black male. He had been sitting with a black woman, then he changed seats to sit with another black woman. He then began pontificating about how he didn't take fecal matter from anyone. I'm still unsure if his major damage was directed toward this woman or some other avenue. I later realized the man was traveling with both of these women.
At one point during his "I'm a tough guy," tirade another black man spoke up. I believe they were already acquainted from before Tucson. The second man began to question the first man if he could explain the cause of his vehemence. The first man responds, "Uh, this here, is A. and B." The second man returns, " Well, I'll 'C' my way out".
We had to change busses in Phoenix, only the new bus was full. A 20 minute layover turned into 45 minutes. We stepped outside for a smoke with some 40 other travelers and I fought the urge to buy a cart served Chili-dog - my but I do love a cart served Chili-dog. When we boarded the next bus I noted that we'd lost some travel mates, and gained some others. We were once again able to get a seat together, as the woman Chantal sat next to suddenly decided to move. Was it body odor? Who's to say?
I once again took the aisle seat so as to survey the travelers in my vicinity. There was a new guy, a dashing sort, in front of me. There was an old man behind me across the aisle who was traveling with two boys. One of them was two to three years old sitting on the old mans lap. The second boy was around seven and seated in the aisle seat across from me. Next to this boy was a man who'd been on the bus when I boarded. In front of them sat a man and a woman, late teens early twenties. Lets assign names now to add clarity.
I will give these people names of the states they are from, since I have no idea as to their birth given names. I'll start with the young couple. The man, we will call Georgia, and the woman will be Tinkerbell. According to Chantal she looks like Julia Roberts in "Hook". I myself thought she looked more like Winona Ryder. The man sitting behind them we will call Alabama. The new man in front of me will be New Jersey. Oddly enough on my first trip I met a man who was bound for New Jersey. The older boy to my right we will call Eli, because, er, that was his name. Eli's little brothers name was Stevie Wayne Something. You can probably guess that the reason I know his first and middle name is because he kept getting in trouble. His first and middle names were usually followed by this question, "Do you want a whoopin?" How many possible answers do you think Stevie Wayne might have given? The old man shall be known as, the old man. All of the characters previously mentioned are still on the bus. This particular bus is non-stop, to Los Angeles, except for a dinner stop in Blythe, California.
On the way to Blythe, I spent the majority of the time eaves- dropping on random conversations. At this point I began assigning those names I most recently related. Alabama made the mistake of befriending little Eli, who was ebullient with conversation and questions. I immediately marked little Eli as a kid who I would have beaten up on when I was his age. He had big teeth and a slight overbite on his fat lower lip. He had short hair which was buzzed in the back, the kind of haircut you get at the barber shop. I couldn't explain why I didn't like him at first, though it would become all to clear with time. Eli reminded me of my cousin Mikey who was also a goofy kid. Like Mikey I guessed Eli was doomed to a life of social ineptitude.
At some point into the journey, New Jersey began to torment little Eli verbally. Not badly or anything, just tiny little jests that for the most part, sailed over little Eli's head. Although Eli didn't get the comments, He was smart enough to get the drift. At some point Alabama, Eli's seatmate joined in on the torment. After some time New Jersey began to elevate the level of little Eli's torment. They began to play little pressure point games wherein New Jersey taught Eli a number of ways to inflict great pain with little effort. Unfortunately for little Eli he was learning by example. There was the old pinching of the fleshy area between the thumb and index finger, and some few others. The best one however was the finger crunch. This is where you grab some ones fist, overlapping their fingers with your own, and press your fingertips into the tops of their finger nails. This causes immense pain within their first and second knuckles - I love this one. I was amused by little Eli's groans for a while.
Now you might be thinking that ole New Jersey was a trifle sadistic and you may be right, but he was a fair man. He always gave little Eli the chance to practice the procedure in return. It was humorous to see little Eli grunting with the strain of his attempt to do grievous personal injury. New Jersey, all the while kept saying " Okay, buddy now tell me when your going to start". Sadistic - Who's to say?
Tinkerbell, who had already introduced herself to both New Jersey and Alabama, offered everyone a hand full of unshelled peanuts. I declined my handful remembering how my sister told me that farmers use peanuts to clean chemicals outin' there soil. Evidently little Eli hadn't heard that story cause he was the only one who accepted. Tinkerbell decided to join in on young Eli's persecution. I looked on feigning disinterest, yet all the while fighting the urge to join in on all that fun. The Greyhound Transit system is a beautiful thing, where one can do harm to other people's children, and you don't even have to pay a fee. I was able to refrain from causing Eli duress myself, but Eli endured their torture all the way to Blythe.
We pulled to a stop at a McDonalds for a 20 minute dinner break. This upset Chantal, who had a hankering for a seven layer burrito from Taco Bell, some ways down the street. Chantal and I, smoked before going in, and using the restroom. I of course finished first and made my way to the counter. Along the way, I noticed three over- weight local girls making googly eyes at me, ' stick to mopeds ', I thought to myself. Chantal after a few minutes had not joined me so I went to check on her. As I suspected she was standing by the bathroom door, I'm assuming she was waiting for me to come out. I gave one of those shrill, trilling whistles through my partial to get her attention, and she joined me at the counter. We ordered one number three, the Quarter Pounder combo meal w/ cheese o'course, super sizing for 39 cents, and a spare Quarter pounder. We were sharing the fries and coke. We decided to hold off on the feastin' so's to smoke a couple o' cigarettes afore gettin on the bus.
It was beginning to get dark out as we got back on the road. Chan and I killed the meal and kicked back. At this point I'd like to relate the story's of the people on the bus. Georgia and Tinkerbell were originally from the L.A. area but they had not been back since before the last earthquake. Georgia spent most of his time discussing earthquakes with an elder woman across from him. Tinkerbell periodically looked at Chan and I as if she wanted to converse, maybe because we looked to be her age.
New Jersey explained that he was on his way to L.A., to see his son. The previous Friday had been his sons birthday. The boy and his Mother were on their way to the boys birthday party and were involved in an auto accident. New Jersey, having no idea as to their condition, and being unable to reach anyone by phone set off across the country. He drove all the way to Phoenix and for some reason decided to catch the Greyhound the rest of the way.
Alabama oddly enough was on his way to see his son as well. Alabama had not seen his son in two years and was on his way to surprise the little nipper by showing up at the lads baseball game. That game was to take place on the fifth of May in Sacramento, Ca.
Also on their way to Sacramento was little Eli, Stevie Wayne, and the old man. Their story is the most interesting for many reasons. As I said, for some inexplicable reason I had an instant contempt for the boy Eli. It turns out that the old man, who I had assumed was the Grandfather of Eli , and Stevie Wayne, was in actuality their father. It occurred to me that the reason the boy was bound to be socially inept was due to the fact that his father was pushing sixty. It is my firm belief that kids who are raised by old people turn out to be geeks, later in life. I base this conclusion on the fact that they learn archaic ways of thinking from their parents, making it impossible for them to relate to kids their own age. But, But, But wait it gets worse.
Evidently, Eli, and Stevie Wayne's Mother died back in October. The Old man began to really piss me off, with the amount of times he related the following story. Not only because he was telling it to total fucking strangers, but also because he didn't seem to care that little Eli was sitting right there.
Last October, as the Old man tells it, they were on vacation, staying at a motel in Miami, Florida. Stevie Wayne, and the Old man were off sightseeing, or some shit. While they were gone Eli's Mother drowned in the motel pool. Eli evidently, had been right there, watching as it happened. Three times I heard the old man tell this story, and each time I watched the color run out of Eli's face. I could only wonder how many times Eli had heard his father say," Yeah little Eli was right there, He saw the whole thang." I wanted to smack that dumb-ass old man. Have you ever had a moment in your life where you witnessed some really fucked up shit and for some reason you couldn't bring yourself to do anything about it. I mean I really wanted to get up and bust that old man in the mouth. As I think back on it now I don't know why I didn't say anything. What if I had? I mean that old man was all that little Eli had now. Eli might probably have resented me disrespecting his father but somehow I think Eli disliking me would have been a small price to pay to shut that old man up. Needless to say I lost all my contempt for Eli, and even began to think how remarkably well adjusted he actually was. Of course I foresee a lot of therapy sessions.
In an effort to break away from a drearier mood I will now relate some humorous notes I'd forgotten to mention. About an hour out of Tucson Chantal suddenly remembers she left some Macaroni and cheese cooking in the oven. For the remainder of the journey, we would bust up laughing when she'd say," Gee, I hope my Mom noticed the Mac-n-Cheese in the oven". My own phrase for the day was," God, I hope I don't Pee on myself". I kept saying this when I realized we were an hour away from our next scheduled stop. When we re-boarded the bus in Blythe, Little Eli asks us if we had not been sitting elsewhere earlier. " We've always been here," I said in a spooky tone. Eli explained that he'd thought we had been sitting one seat back. I gave my best Beevis and Butthead response. " Uuuuh, no, that was, Uh-other kids. Eli for some reason did not enjoy this as much as Chantal did.
Along the way the afore-mentioned 1st Black male, had gotten slightly more belligerent. It is my opinion he was coming down, off of some manner of intoxicant. He had not, so far, upset any travelers although he did have words with the bus driver.
The bus driver, a very large man with a mild accent, had made sure to let everyone know that this was an express bus. Before we left Phoenix He told us that the only stop we would be making was for dinner in Blythe. The bus driver became upset when, two hours away from L.A., a woman complained that she was to disembark in a town before L.A.. When the bus driver berated the woman the 1st black male opened his mouth. The Bus Driver decided he would stop long enough to let the woman off the bus, but he said he didn't have time to retrieve her luggage from under the bus. Loud mouth made remark that the driver was an ass, but the Driver decided to ignore the comment. I informed Chantal that the driver was not likely to let us have a cigarette break due to loudmouths commentary.
We came to a stop in a little town, and several people asked if we could get off and smoke, er I mean get down off the bus for a cigarette. The bus driver ignored the request and he, and the woman disembarked. After a minute he re-boarded and said, "You can all thank that woman for making this bus late". He explained we would not make L.A. till around midnight due to her. He was about to sit down when the belligerent man yelled, "Shut up. and drive the fuckin bus". Well that was a bit to loud for Mr. Bus Driver to ignore. He whirled around and stomped up the aisle telling loud mouth to get his stuff and get off the bus. Loud mouth asked why. The bus driver explained he would not have that kind of language used on his bus. I almost laughed out loud when the belligerent male asked," Did you see those words come out of my mouth". Again the bus driver told him to get off the bus, but this time Mr. Loud Mouth flat out refused. The bus driver said he was going to call the police and have him removed physically.
"Go ahead," says Loud Mouth. As the driver stepped off the bus Loud mouth made a few casual threats. Something to the effect of," I,ll kill that Mutha fucka". After a few minutes though, Loud mouth decided to attempt an apology, and he got off the bus.
Everybody sat around blinking, and seeing as how we were going to be here a while I started thinking about cigarettes. The loud mouths two travel companions went after the loud mouth. Tinkerbell stood up wanting to go and smoke but still unsure. She looked at Chan and I as people began to head for the door. " Are you going to go and smoke", she asked. Well, hell yes I thought. Tinkerbell went first, then myself with Chantal on my heels. Tink' asked the driver if we could indeed have a smoke and he said yes. Tink' turns and tells me to tell Nathan to bring the cigarettes. Now I don't know who this Nathan character is, I'm figurin' she meant Georgia, but she did say Nathan. Chan and I turned simultaneously yelling "Nathan, bring the cigarettes", and then we disembarked.
Almost half the bus was now lighting up. Mr. Bus Driver had calmed down (He was almost cheery) and was now awaiting the arrival of the local Dick. Meanwhile, Loud mouth and his associates were adamantly pleading their case. Loud mouth still denied having made the comment, but he was gaining no ground with the driver. The local Dick (A Sheriff) arrived before I could finish smoking my cigarette, and the bus driver told us to get on the bus. Loud mouth was the first one on, the Driver asked Loud Mouth not to make the Sheriff come get him. Loud Mouth replied, "He's gonna have to drag me, cause I ain't gettin' off this bus." He said this rather calmly and then returned to his seat. Chan and I settled into our seats and prepared to watch the show, while Mr. B. D. went to converse with 'Johnny on the spot'.
The Driver evidently realized he was going to have a major incident with Loud Mouth, and opted, Not. He re-boarded five minutes later and said he'd told the Sheriff not to take Loud Mouth. He even sounded kind of jovial about the whole ordeal. Everyone kind of laughed at the situation, and someone asked what time we'd be arriving in L.A.. I was wondering that myself, having an 11:45 connection to catch. The Driver said we would not only be there on time, but we might even be early. This brought no small amount of laughter on, because the whole incident started when the driver said we were going to be late. I'm thinking this entire farce could have been avoided, if only Mr. B.D. had not over exaggerated in the first place. But ask yourself,,, Who's da man?
We got back on the highway continuing our journey to L.A.. There were some seating changes at the last stop which proved to be upsetting. The man sitting behind me, who was traveling with his eight year old son, decided to change seats with little Eli. He and The Old Man, thought that the boys would be better able to sleep if they had more room. Where they got the idea that sitting two young boys together would help them sleep, I'll never know. Eli and the boy began to play and soon young Stevie Wayne decided to sit with them. This only increased the volume of chatter. I found it highly amusing that the old man still expected them to go to sleep.
The boys then thought it would be fun if Chantal and I, would play with them. So they began to make commentary to us between and around the seats. Young Stevie Wayne thought himself to be a fucking parrot and spent his time mimicking every word they said. After Chantal and I started ignoring their commentary they decided it was time to reach between and around the seats to get our attention. Chantal took it upon herself to teach the crumb snatchers the error of their ways. She began smacking every little hand that violated the sanctity of our seating area. This brought on laughter from Eli and the new boy. Evidently Chantal was not bothering to check the size of the hands, because I very soon heard Young Stevie Wayne's voice. "Owwww", He whined, "don't hit meeee". I worried out loud, that the old man might get upset, but Chantal explained that she was not inclined to be upset by his irritation. I believe that, "Screw him," were her exact words.
Amazingly, the old man still expected these three boys to be able to get some sleep. So, for the remainder of the trip to L.A. I was privileged to here the old man exclaim such commentary as, "would you boys settle down". Other choice phrases were, 'Be quiet and get some rest", or, "Stevie Wayne, ya want me to give you a spankin?". Now I ask myself again what is the desired response to that question.
Upon reaching L.A., It came as little surprise that our bus was about to leave. I was rather upset that I would not be able to enjoy that special comfort that a cigarette bestows. Boarding our next bus, Chan, and I were once again elated to find two seats together. The driver informed us, that the bus made only two stops on its way to Stockton, Ca.
It came to my attention that no matter how I tried I was not able to get a seat away from children, however the new ankle biters did not prove to be mentally taxing. Our first stop was at a Carl's Jr. I don't remember the town but it was somewhere around 3a.m.. Chan and I, did not really feel all that hungry, so we bought a large Dr. Pepper to share. I had not enjoyed the pleasure of a Dr. Pepper since I found out it contains Bensoate, this is bad for people with arthur-itis. Causes inflammation, ya know. I'd always liked Dr. Pepper. We, Chantal and I, smoked heavily then re-boarded the bus, oh, what a feelin.
Rolled into Stockton at 20 after six. Chan and I stood to Disembark and I tapped little Eli on the shoulder saying, "Take it easy Ace." He said, "Bye". Our next bus would not be departing until seven so we stepped outside for a Quickie. I mean a cigarette, whatta ya think, I'm from Kentucky, henh? From 95 degree Arizona heat, we went to a 50 degree morning in Stockton. Chantal, an Arizona resident, of course neglected to bring a coat. Regardless of the fact that I'm not a gentleman I let her ware my trench coat. Shouldn't she have felt privileged. I'm thinking, Yes! I juggled for a minute to take my mind off of how cold I was. My juggling attracted the attention of an Elder security guard. He saw me shivering, looked at Chan, and said, "She forgot her coat, didn't she?" After smoking we went inside.
We bought a Pepsi and we sat upon my bags and leaned against a wall. We were immediately accosted by a disadvantaged woman to which I made gift of two crisp dollar bills. She wanted five but I do love to haggle.
Seven o'clock rolled around and it was time to board the fourth and final bus of the journey. This time we were even more fortunate, in being able to each have our own seat, Yea-rah. Only one of our previous travel companions was still with us, an older black man. We had not conversed with this man more than a Hello and we did not speak to him now, for no other reason then that the opportunity did not present itself.
One of our newest travel mates was a young gentle man, with a gangsta attitude and small tattoo's on his face. His mother was seeing him off at the station. Before we boarded the bus I had a chance to eavesdrop on their conversation. Evidently this boy was a father, and the mother of his child, would not let him see this child. I mention him because of his way Gangsta demeanor you see, when we started to board the bus he said goodbye to Mom and made to walk away. Moms kinda stuttered a bit saying," B-B-But, ah-I want a hug." The guy kinda turned to me, and not in a mean way, but still kinda gangster-ish said something like " Go ahead around me, Cool." He wasn't tryin to be a bad ass or anything but he said it kinda tough-like you know. Then he kinda turned to his mom and like all the rough and tough stuff ran out of him, and when he hugged his mom goodbye he did it, not as a Gangsta dude, but he did it as Mommas little boy. I thought that was kinda funny you know, but when I think about it, that's kinda how I hug my Mom. I mean all the bad shit don't matter anymore, and I don't ever have to front to do something like that. I can become a little boy again and not be afraid.
This trip, the last stretch, was boring and uneventful, if you will excuse my redundancy. I was glad it was only a two hour journey to Oakland. We disembarked at 9:05a.m. at the Greyhound station on San Pablo avenue. I called up the luxurious pad where-in I do reside, to see if in fact I could arrange a ride to the crib. Nuthin doin'. My good sister Pia asked our roommate Michael if he would pick us up. Michaels kinda a asshole when he wakes up. I suppose everybody is but Michael always talks to you like your stupid when in actuality he is the one who is clearly disoriented, Having just woke up and all. Pia gets back on the phone and I can tell right away that Michael used that, " are you a dumb-ass," voice on her. She told me he said, "No", and she wasn't going to talk to him further. I said cool, and told her we would be there soon.
So, Chantal and I head out to catch the metro, er, I mean the A.C. Transit as its called here. We walked down the street and Chan kept saying how we should cross as the bus stop was on the other side. For some reason I felt like we should cross at the light, I don't know why. There were these two cop cars at the light, you know waiting for it to be green and all, when we saw our bus coming. We were still on the wrong side of the road and hadn't reached the corner yet. At this point I'm forced to make a decision which for some odd reason seemed monumental to me. I see the bus, I see the corner crossing, I see the cops at the light. I'm starting to feel like rain man and I want to fall to the ground and smack myself in the head alot till the anxiety goes away. Chantal is lookin at me, as if to say, " Hurry up Dumb-ass". I'm reminded of how my father used to call me dumb-ass all the time when I'd go mental like this, and that's what did it. In that one fleeting moment I made my decision, opting to jay-walk verses missing the bus. The cops see us, the cops see the bus , the cops, don't care. In retrospect this paragraph answers an old pun in my mind, "Why does the chicken cross the road?" Everybody join in on this one, "Cause his father called him a dumb-ass."
We make the bus, riding down to University, the street on which I do reside. Walk the four blocks to Bonar (that's funny) Street, where my apartment building is situated. Stopping only long enough to pick up a Seven Layer Burrito and a Burrito Supreme at the Taco Bell which, Pia and I, like to call our Dining room.
When we get inside I find that Michael, roommate #2, has fixed me a pot of coffee in lue of an apology for not coming to pick me up. It seems he thought I would be coming into San Francisco and didn't relish the idea of a trip to the city. I was extremely forgiving due to the fact that this was the first real,' kick in the crotch ' coffee I'd had since I left six weeks ago.
So I get my cup of coffee right, I light up a cigarette while my sister Pia tells me about the Cinco De Mayo celebration which had been held that last Sunday.
After all the trouble I went to to make it home for the Cinco De Mayo festival, they would have to have the festivities one day early. Well aint that just a bitch?
6 - 20 - 94
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