Friday, April 29, 2005

Bus Report #64

While waiting for the 22 last night I had a nice chat with Ramon. He claims that he is not very social, but I don't buy it. Since he will talk to a relative stranger at length several times a week at the bus stop.
This morning I had the shaved head bus driver with the glasses. He sped down Fillmore and 16th so that I got to Potrero with about 20 minutes to spare. I got a coffee at the Potrero Center and then was pleased to see that the empty space will soon become a branch of my bank. No more after work treks to the Mission, or missing the teller because my neighborhood branch closes at 6 PM before I get home.
I walked to work, newspaper tucked under my arm, coffee balanced in my other hand. It was sunny and warm and felt good. At Kansas Street, a 22 passed by. The driver was the shaved head driver without the glasses, and he honked and waved at me. I raised my coffee in salute.
The empty lot on Kansas is grown over with weeds. This time of year, walking by, the smell reminds me of being a kid, walking down Route 177 with The Professor and Baby Sister to Jim's store during our summers in Penobscot. It always puts me in a good mood before I get to work.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Bus Report #63

Last night I took the 19 Polk, because I was meeting the Teacher's Pet for a book signing at A Clean Well Lighted Place For Books. Sarah Vowell, of NPR fame, was reading from her new book, Assassination Vacation. (Fun fact! Sarah also provided the voice for Violet in The Incredibles, which is a super cute movie!)
The bus came on time and there were only a couple of creepy people on it, which is unusual for the 19 Polk. We flew down the street until we hit Mission, where there was a full-on protest. I think it was a protest against the Bush judicial picks. I gave the protesters a thumbs up, until someone stood up and got in the way of my view.
We passed United Nations Plaza, which is looking really awful these days. In the name of redesigning the plaza to be more people friendly, they are ripping some stuff up and a lot of the plaza is surrounded by temporary fencing.
The homeless flea market was at full swing, and there were people milling around in front of the Art Institute and the Library.
The big red dinosaur is still out front the Asian Art Museum. He's in a red cage, both are shiny.
The dome at City Hall reflected the light like crazy and I had to cover my eyes.
I got out of the bus at O'Farrell and walked past the Great American, where a show was setting up.
The bookstore was already crowded when I got there but I managed to pick up a couple of books and snag some seats. The Teacher's Pet showed up with time to spare and we were treated to a fun and funny reading.
During the question and answer part, someone asked Sarah if there were any famous assassination sites in San Francisco (Her book is on presidential assassinations) and the audience got kind of quiet. She mentioned a failed attempt on Ford and then about a third of the audience said, "City Hall," referring to the assassinations of Harvey Milk and George Moscone.
It was the only somber moment of the night.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Bus Report #62

This week on the bus:
Monday: The bus home was sardine-packed.I stood near the front of the bus, holding onto the strap for dear life. There was a pre-teen girl standing too, she could barely touch the strap as she was about a foot shorter than me. I had a plan to catch her if she lost her balance.
At Potrero, the bus emptied a little and I snagged a seat. I was pleased to see that my seatmate was my old busmate Ebony. We have been riding the bus together for at least four years on and off.
We had a lovely chat about her job, new business in the neighborhood and her impending move to Florida.
I teased her a little and then she got off the bus.
As we passed through the Castro, I saw someone dressed in costume as a large smiling penis. It's part of a public health campaing to prevent STDs. It was funny, lots of people were shaking his hand, taking fliers from him.
I stopped off in the Haight to get a haircut, then spent an interminably long time waiting for the 33 with the most disgusting gutter punks and Golden Gate park dwellers imaginable.
When the bus did come, it was pretty empty except for some kids who were either tagging with heavy duty sharpies or sniffing glue in the back of the bus. I moved to the front because the smell was making me feel sick.

At the bus stop Tuesday morning I waited with the Teen for the bus. She was debating if she would have time to make it to the post office to mail a letter before the bus came. She would not have had the time, so I offered to post her letter for her on my way to work. There's a mailbox right near the place where I buy my copy of The-World's-Worst-Daily-Paper.
She thanked me and told me she had some tests to take at school. She's a sophomore at Mission.

On the way home, I tried very carefully to not jostle my little Joshua tree (named Joshua) that was a gift from a former co-worker. It needs a lot of sun and there's not enough at work. Getting the tree and myself situated was tricky at best, but it worked out. At Bryant, a young woman tried to get off the bus with her infant and toddler. A very creepy elderly lady lost patience with her and smacked her with her shopping bag. As usually happens, the creepy lady came and sat right beside me for the rest of my ride.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Bus Report #61

As seen on this morning's commute:

The Teen and her friend at the 22 Fillmore stop, the three of us inching away from the crazy man asking everyone for cigarettes and doing a weird half Tai Chi, half salute dance.

The (in)famous Bus driver.

A tree on 16th between Capp and Shotwell, that I never noticed before. It looked wet and shiny as though it had just been drenched, even though it's dry as a bone outside.

Bolts of fabric lined up in the window of the Lion Building.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Bus Report #60

The bus was late this morning, so there was a lot of time spent staring into the sun on the corner of Fillmore and Geary with the regulars: Francisco, the Teen, her friend, Raccoon Eyes Girl, and several of the sweatshop ladies.
When the bus did finally come, it was the shaved head driver without the glasses. He herded us onto the bus without checking anyone's passes. The bus was so crowded that I had to sit all the way in the back, in a rear facing seat. Nothing to look at except a teenager staring sullenly out the window and the sleepy construction worker seated next to her.
The Haight smelled like burnt toast from Haight Street to Herman Street. At Church I moved up to a regular seat, right next to the Raccoon Eyes Girl. There was some person clutching the bar next to me, breathing noxiously down onto me. I tilted my face away from them. At my stop, a guy tried to run the light. Some of the high school kids and I sucked our teeth at him.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Bus Report #59

The little boy who sat in front of me on the 22 tonight wouldn’t stop eating snacks. He kept rooting in his mom’s backpack for candy bars and peanut butter crackers. He does this every afternoon. He stuffed a candy in his mouth then opened his own backpack and started working on his Chinese School homework.
The Teen was on the bus as well, and she said hello to me as she boarded and again as she got off.
There was a tall boy in a suit and a fedora walking along Church Street. He looked so polished and classic, and I wished he’d get on the bus so I could watch him for awhile. Instead, several people got on with suitcases and grocery carts, clogging up the aisle.
MUNI is thinking of cutting back on some of the bus lines. Many of them are the secondary lines that service my neighborhood. I am not happy about it and I am actually thinking of attending one of the public meetings. Except that I worry I’d cause a scene.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Bus Report #58

I have a good feeling about today. It's solely based on this morning's commute.
1. The Brazilian sisters were on the 38, but annoying smiliey guy was not.
2. The (in)famous driver was our chauffeur on the 22 today.
3. My bus buddy Carmen was on the 22, and she had saved a seat in hopes that I would be on the bus.
4. We spent the whole ride talking about her girlhood in Puerto Vallarta.
5. At my stop, the driver forgot to let us out, but then remembered before he turned onto 17th Street.
6. It's sunny and warm out, and it's Friday.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Bus Report #57

This morning our bus was treated to a sight rarely seen on a busy city street during the day. At least, judging from the reactions on the faces of my fellow commuters, that is.
Our bus hurtled down 16th Street towards Potrero. It was one of the nice shaved head drivers, the one with the Clark Kent glasses.
He pulled into the stop at Shotwell to let people on and off. There are usually several hookers or junkies hanging out around this corner, and normally they do not occasion a second glance.
However the hooker of the day was crouched over a guy sitting on the MUNI bench with his pants down, two paper bag wrapped cans of beer at their feet.
We all watched, revolted and maybe a little fascinated as they finished, and he patted his pockets for cash, while she bent down again for one of the beers. It was only then that she noticed the bus and must have said something to him. They gestured at the bus but did not move.
As we pulled away, several people sucked their teeth in disgust.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Bus Report #56

Last night I took the bus over to Thee Parkside to hear Citizens Here and Abroad. They are a local band and I've liked them for a couple of years.
The bus was crowded and slow. I was cold and kept trying to pull my jacket closed.
A loud woman sat down in front of me and immediately started yakking, annoyingly, into a cell phone. It bothered me to no end, her loudness, her idiotic conversation, her poorly designed and worse knit hat.
A scruffy boy with a dog got on the bus, and I hoped they would stay away from me. It was a pit bull, muzzled, but I am not convinced that those cloth muzzles work.
No surprise, they sat right beside me. The dog made himself comfortable under the bench. He was kind of cute, and did not seem vicious, but still I moved my legs as far over to the side as I could.
Then he raised his head, sighed, and leaned against my knee. There was nothing to do but laugh and ask the dog's name.
The boy said, "His name is Blueberry."
I like blueberries so I decided I did not mind the dog. Which was good because he laid down on my feet a moment later.
He was a good, if a little smelly foot warmer.
I was the only person to get off the bus at the Parkside stop.
Inside the bar, it was quiet. There was a boy at the bar hunched over a notebook, writing.
He reminded me of my cousin J. (There are at least 10 boys in the city that look like J., some like older versions of him and some like younger. I always smile at them fondly and I am sure they have no idea why).

Monday, April 11, 2005

Opening Day at Fenway Park

Just want to wish a quick HAPPY OPENING DAY, BOSTON RED SOX!
To my boys in red and blue.
You rock.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Bus Report #55

This morning I missed the 22 by a minute and then had to run fast for the one that was right behind it. The bus driver motioned for me and Francisco (One of the guys who gets off at Mission Street) to run across the street and he'd pick us up in front of Harput's. We ran, he stopped, everyone was happy.
Until we smelled the bus. It was awful, as though someone had not made it to the bathroom on time. We looked around but there was only one other person on the bus, a young girl, and she was standing near the door.
I opened four windows and sat down.
Francisco opened one window.
At Eddy, a crew of Everett students got on and immediately started complaining about the stench. They opened all the other windows. I smiled at them in approval. They were pretty loud, laughing and joking and yelling out the window at people.
At Church Street the driver wagged his finger at them and called out, "You guys behave yourselves!"
And the kids did, which was funny and slightly heartwarming.
But only slightly because the smell was still pretty bad.
At Valencia, the young girl got off the bus. Watching her go down the stairs, I noticed that she was the one who had had the accident and caused the smell. She sat down on a bench on 16th Street. She looked sad, and I worried about her for the rest of the ride.

A Diversion (Slightly Mass Transit Related)

If you feel like reading some fiction, here's a snippet from one of my projects (no unauthorized reproduction without permission of the author)

Dario should have known that it would be on a crowded subway car that he would meet her again. His search for the girl from the movie theater had taken him all over Boston and Cambridge without any luck. He had just been to the grocery store and was loaded down with shopping bags. The train pulled into Copley and Dario wrestled his bags into an empty seat. It was hot and smelled like sweat and poor air-conditioning. He sighed and reached up, and gripped the metal bar tightly.
“C’mon, guys.” A young woman pulled two little kids into the train just as the doors closed. She let go of their hands and grasped them by their shoulders, steering them into the crowd. Dario looked over at the chattering kids and their tired-looking mother, and he felt hot all over. It was her. Suddenly, all the searching he had been doing for the past couple of weeks seemed like it had been too serious, too hard. Dario hefted his bags and motioned to her.
“Hey, you want to sit?” he asked. She nodded and told the children to sit down.
“Thank you,” she said, finally looking over at him. She frowned, and she narrowed her eyes just as she had done the night at the movies. “Hey,” she said. “What are you doing here?”
“I’m going home,” Dario told her. “You know, we should talk. I gotta ask you about them.” Dario jerked his head toward the kids.
“They are none of your business,” she said softly. “And neither am I.” She bent down and said to her daughter, “Push over, Reines, so I can sit.” The little girl shoved her brother, who started to cry, and the woman sighed and scolded her, lifting the boy onto her lap. Dario watched this exchange and smiled. He steadied the bags between his legs and tapped her on the shoulder with his free hand.
“Will you at least tell me your name?” he asked her. “Please?”
“Leave me alone,” she said through clenched teeth. The little girl turned around in her seat and gave Dario a wide smile.
“Her name is Mari!” the little girl shrieked. “Mari Mari Mari!”
Mari pulled her by the sleeve back down into her seat. “Reina,” she said severely. “What have I told you about talking with strangers? No TV tonight.” The girl turned to Dario again and smiled at him quickly, before shoving her brother for the second time. Dario hid his face in his arm and shut his eyes, trying to commit her name to memory. The train came to an abrupt halt at the Fenway stop and jolted Dario out of his thoughts. Mari shepherded her kids out of the train. Dario snatched up his bags and nudged the doors open with his foot. He ran up the steps to catch up with her, but there was an elderly couple slowly making their way up the stairs, and by the time Dario got to the top of the stairs, the woman and her kids were gone.

Bus Report #54

School’s back in session and the bus is full and loud again. Today I saw the Brazilian sisters, the Teen, the mom with the four little kids. Several people were late for the bus and I watched them run for it. Two made it and two didn’t. I usually hope they miss the bus, I can be mean like that, but today I rooted for them to catch it. Since I’ve been running for busses a lot lately.

Two new restaurants are opening in the Fillmore. Happy Donuts and Happy Shabu Shabu. Four doors apart. What’s next, Happy Coffee? Happy Fresh Fish? The mind fairly boggles.

Around lunch time, H. told me someone had killed themselves jumping off of the Potrero Center. We all wondered how that was possible. It’s not a tall building or anything, but I guess if you jumped from the right spot headfirst you could do some serious damage. I don’t know if the story is true, I guess it’ll be in the-worlds-worst-daily-newspaper tomorrow if it is. The-worlds-worst-daily-newspaper loves the sensational stories. I only mention it because I’ve had a fascination with jumpers for the longest time. I used to write stories with jumpers in them all the time. My mother told me once she thought it might be because when I was a kid we had a neighbor who was pushed out of a window in her house and died. It was her husband who pushed her. A horrific story, but I think it might be the reason why I am so interested in them.