Sunday, November 19, 2006


I know I should be working, but I just can't. I did a big presentation for Albany Public Library's "By the Book" conference earlier this week with my writing partner, David Wright. We did a great job and a rep from Farrar, Strauss Giroux wants David and I to come to BEA and do this little "schtick" we have with gender and reading!

I met up with one of my editors from ALA and we went shopping at H&M.

They served us egg salad sandwiches for lunch. Yah, I am a simpleton. Don't care.

So today I am just happy to be able to goof over here on the MSpage. Although I really should get back to work now...

Saturday, November 18, 2006

#161 in the Transit Epiphanies Series

I have new buses to ride now. And I have a lot of choice. I can ride the 51, the 55, the 51X or the MAX.

I have a much shorter walk to and from my bus stop, but I never take the same bus to and from work. I'm too lazy to get up in time to catch the 55. DJClem drops me off at the corner of 59th and Ward Parkway so I can catch either the 51, 51X or the MAX.

The first time I rode the 51X I didn't like it. I ride with some bloodthirsty people and they are all blond women "of a certain age." They have sensible hair and earmuffs. I engaged in one of my favorite public hobbies, readsdropping and notice that one of them is reading In Cold Blood and another is reading The Empty Chair by James Patterson. The third person is reading a Mrs. Pollifax mystery. Nothing gory in that gentle little book.

But I do notice that we are all quiet. The bus driver has gold teeth and a sunshiny grin. He teases me when I get on the bus because I had to run the last half block to get on. He says good morning and I laugh and huff while I swipe my bus pass. This busride is eerily quiet and all the passengers are suburbanites.

I do not feel civilized enough to live in my new neighborhood. I wasn't cool enough for my old one and I'm not refined enough for this one. I'll get used to it.

The 55 going home is a little different. A blind lady rides with me every night. It's my job to tell her which bus is ours. Lots of buses stop at our stop and she needs to be certain she gets on the right one. The first time I ride the 55 a grandmotherly figure is driving. The blind lady asks Grandriver to drop her at 59th. It's too dark to see the bus stop. I ask if there's a stop at 61st and Grandriver says, "I'll make one."

The MAX is the bus I take in the morning. It's always crowded with business and office folk from the outer lying suburbs before we get into midtown and all the interesting people get on. There's Tweaky. She gets on at Linwood and is whippet thin. Not scrawny, just thin and sharp. Everything about her--her lips, her legs, her hair, her face--is sharp and thin. She has this high-pitched voice and talks like a projekt chik. She twitches a lot.

Until yesterday, there was never anything interesting about the bus riders on my new bus lines. Yesterday, something interesting happened. This tall guy in a Chiefs jacket and red ball cap, carrying a bottle of soda, got on the bus. He leaned against the bus wall behind the driver and when the bus lurched, he dropped his soda. It didn't spill, but he let out a "Dayyy--um." Some folks got off at the next stop and he sat down in one of the handicapped seats and pulled out his cell phone, flipped it open and tapped out a number. As usual, the MAX is full of quiet officefolk reading books, the morning paper, plugged into the morning news on NPR, snoozing, staring out the window, but not talking to each other. It's like riding a graveyard to work, I swear.

But THIS guy breaks the silence with, "Hey! Hey, is Peggy there? Peggy? Is she there? Put her on." I glance over, interested that FINALLY, there's some noise on this bus. Dude says, "Peggy? You 'member me? You know who this is? This is the tall white guy you used to cheat on!" INSTANTLY everyone on the bus looks up from whatever it is they're not doing and tunes in. The double take of the other bus riders cracks me up. It's a cranial chorus line to the left to look at the Cuckold. His Cheated Hart goes on, "Yeah, I bin outta town breakin' horses and ridin' bulls. Hey, how's yer sister?"

Maybe the MAX ain't so boring.

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

#59 in the 47 Roanoke: Transit Epiphanies series

On October 26 I rode the 47 Roanoke home for the last time. I was moving from the Roanoke neighborhood over to Brookside and would be taking a new bus to and from work.

I thought it would be an uneventful ride until I saw "handicapped seat" at the bus stop. You remember him. He's the fat, filthy, grizzed Santafreak who grumbled at me for sitting in the handicapped seat he wanted and called me "four eyes."

Since I caught sight of him in time, when I got on the bus, I bypassed his favorite seat and sat by the second door in the middle of the bus. A middle-aged woman was sitting behind "Bad Santa" when we all got on the bus. After a couple of seconds she whooshes "ooooooEEEEEE!" and moves to the back seat of the bus. Apparently Santa is smelly and it's beginning to waft across the aisle and I struggle to open my window. The bus hasn't started moving yet, we're waiting for the clock to reach the departure time. The woman who moved to the back of the bus suddenly charges up the aisle, demanding to be let off the bus, "Lemme out. Lemme out NOW! Stankin' fool." She will take the 6:05. No doubt it will be more aromatic.

I decide to take her place at the back of the bus, right next to an open window. The bus starts its slow rumble up Main and two blocks later a young Mexican woman in running shoes gets on and sits in the double seat behind "Aromatherapy Santa." One stop later she moves closer to the back of the bus and struggles to open her window. A chubby girl in a great white skirt with gold and orange sequins trimming it helps her open the window. Sequin Skirt looks at me after helping Running Shoes and we all start to giggle as we realize why we're sitting in the back.

"Santa Stank" begins to mumble to himself and Sequin Skirt pulls out a cheap bottle of Raspberry Fling roll on perfume and offers it all around telling us to take a healthy whiff. "It'll block da' smail!" Running Shoes and I do it. Sequin Skirt tells us she bought it in a gas station on Brooklyn for a dollar. I fish in my bag for my tin of Altoids and pass those around, too. We all start laughing about the unbearable stench in the bus and Sequin Skirt says, "Yeah, this'll keep you sinus clear!" as she takes two Altoids. Running Shoes says thank you politely and the guy in front of me takes the whole tin, pours a handful into his palm and gives it back. I just grin.

We continue to giggle like fifth graders at "Santa Stench" who continues to grumble to himself and turn around to shoot withering glares at us for laughing in the back of the bus. All of us have our faces pressed up to the small open spaces in the window, breathing in the cool air. Sequin Skirt says, "Man, I rather be col' than breathe dat stanky butt!" Running Shoes and I crack up at this.

When we get to Running Shoes stop, she looks at me and Sequin Skirt for a beat and says goodbye and thanks. I tell her goodbye and feel a little drop in my chest. I won't see her again. The next time I need to ride the bus, I will be on the Max, the suburbanites' bus. Two stops later, it's my turn and Stinka Claus gets off at that stop, too. I turn to Sequin Skirt and tell her her outfit is sensational. She smiles proudly and tells me she made the skirt herself. I am very impressed and again, feel a little pang. I won't see Sequin Skirt again, either. She says, "Have a good one. See ya nex' time!" I toss a grin back and get off the bus. Santa Smells is wobbling his way into D.B. Cooper's and I start walking down Bell.

It's the last time I will walk this street and I look at everything closely, to make sure I can take it all with me.