Thursday, March 29, 2007

Bus Report #211

This morning I waited at Fillmore Street with one of the middle school girls. A caravan of homeless guys with shopping carts came by, and one of the guys sat down on an empty bench at the bus stop.
He immediately took several lighters out of his jacket and started cracking them open (by smashing them against the metal arm of the bench) and began pouring their contents into a plastic bottle. He did this with three or four lighters and then topped it off with some rubbing alcohol from another bottle. I watched as he screwed the cap on the bottle and then shook the bottle with all his might.
This DIY chemistry made me nervous. I decided that if the guy blew himself up, I'd grab the middle-schooler and we'd run for cover at the check cashing place.

Luckily, our bus came a minute later and we got on. Safe.

And, apologies to anyone who was jonesing for a post yesterday.
Here's yesterday's post, late:

This morning I ran for the bus, not because I saw it but because I sensed it. Yeah, well, bus sense was apparently not in order this morning, because as I jogged in to the stop, the Russian business man said, "I was going to signal to you that you didn't have to run, since there's nothing coming."

Nice of him. He said, "I have a few things in the pipeline so I might start taking the Express instead."
"Cool," I told him. "That will be fast."

At Fillmore I waited for the bus with D. who was listening to music on headphones and lip-synching. I nudged his side and he turned off the music. He caught me up on his latest office drama, that is DRAMA in capitals. Crazy!

I've been meaning to post about new developments at the Hotel Casa Loma, on Fillmore and Fell. When I lived on Oak a fire ravaged the Casa Loma, covering the neighborhood with smoke and ash for days. I remember getting out of bed and being alarmed by the smoke smell before a roommate told me what had happened. We walked around the corner to see the damage. A lot of people were left homeless after that. For the next few years squatters occupied the Casa Loma. I would see people climbing up the fire escapes and through windows. Cables snaked around the building giving the squatters electricity and (I imagined) free cable TV.
Every few months there would be construction materials heaped inside the Casa Loma's downstairs space, but nothing has happened for over 5 years.
Until now.
It looks as though New College has bought the building and will be developing it for student housing or something like that. I am glad something is finally happening. Between that building being unused and the closed-up church across the street, it was getting depressing.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Bus Report #210

This morning I waited at the Fillmore and Geary stop with the handsome South Asian chef, who has a cold. It was really chilly out and I couldn't feel my fingers, so I had my hands shoved as far into my pockets as possible. One of the teens and her mom came to wait with us. The mom has a new hairstyle: she's colored her brown hair auburn and is wearing it loose. I think she's trying to look younger. Not sure yet if it works.

The bus came a few minutes later. It was nice and warm. Carmen was there, and she had saved me a seat. Her favorite middle-schooler sat across from her. I slid into the seat and Carmen and I immediately started gabbing, even as the handsome South Asian chef was trying to say good morning to me.
"Good morning!" I replied, cheerfully. He took the seat right behind us.

Carmen and I caught up on all our usual topics: her work, my work, her family, the people on the bus. Very pleasant. She got out at her usual stop.
A woman with awful perfume came and sat beside me. I coughed. I turned towards the window.

At Mission the bus filled up with more regulars: The man who talks to himself, the mom with the cute little daughter and the super tall son, the woman with the bad dye job, and Emiliano.

Emiliano wore his usual red knit cap and a green army jacket that I haven't seen before. His cold weather gear, perhaps? He held on to the pole and swung his body around as people tried to get by him.

The spineless teen managed to get out at Shotwell, a feat as he is usually too polite and quiet to get out of the bus quick enough to make his stop. Every day I hope he's developed a backbone or at least a sense of urgency, but not yet. Until then, he'll continue to miss his stop at least twice a week.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Bus Report #209

Last night I rode the 10 Townsend with Ebony, who now takes the 10 to AC Transit. We had a spirited discussion about the Democratic candidates which made the people sitting around us smile and watch us.
As she got out at her stop, she said: "Talk to you tomorrow, Sis."

BT got on at his usual stop. He waved and mouthed a 'hey' to me.

This morning a man who looked like a pirate got on the 38. He had a black trash bag and the pink handlebars off of a girl's bicycle. His long, scraggly hair had a string tied around it. His button-down shirt was open to reveal a hairy, milk-white chest that no one needed to see at 7 AM.

The couple sitting near him got up a moment later and moved to the back.

A man (or woman? former woman?) sitting near me was reading my favorite book, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh. Part of me wanted to say something but other than, "hey, that's my favorite book" I couldn't think of anything.

The guy sitting across from us had messy hair and dusty clothes, a dreamy look in his eyes and a thin smile on his face. When the teenage girls in the back of the bus started teasing each other, his grin spread until he was laughing.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Bus Report # 208

I took a lot of buses this weekend. First, on Saturday, I tried to walk all the way to my new branch library but it was too far to do while carrying groceries. I waited for the 38 with an elderly lady who had been waiting a full half an hour already.
"If my son comes and gets me before the bus arrives, he can drop you off," she told me.
It was sweet of her. The bus came five minutes later.

Not an hour later and I was on another 38 Geary, this time heading in the opposite direction to meet J. for ice cream in the Mission. I got out at Divisadero and switched to the 24. I noticed that they now have the Next Bus system installed along the 24 line (as well as the 22 line). Awesome.

I got down to the Castro early so I stopped in at Philz Coffee for a quick coffee, then ambled the rest of the way down 18th Street to meet J. at the new Bi-Rite Creamery.
I sat outside in the sun reading my book (awesome short stories by Etgar Keret, especially the story Kneller's Happy Campers) and people watching. Lots of good people to watch.
There was a boy on a bicycle who had his laundry basket balanced on the handlebars. The first time he passed me it was empty, the second time a few moments later, it was full.

After a lovely afternoon with J. I took the 22 to the 38 to get home. It was uncrowded, with many riders wearing green for St. Patty's day.

This morning I thought I was late for the bus but I realized I wasn't when I saw the Russian businessman at the stop. We were in fact, early. We hit Fillmore street right at 7 AM where I waited, sleepily, with the dreadlocked dental technician, several students and the day laborers.

At Mission, like clockwork, Emiliano got on through the back of the bus. He was wearing his red knit cab again and his green plaid shirt, only this time under the plaid he wore a black and hot pink t-shirt. He slipped through the crowd and disappeared from my sight.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Bus Report #207

And just like the Emiliano in my story, the flesh and blood Emiliano was wearing the same green plaid shirt and red knit cap today as he was yesterday, and perhaps the day before. It made me smile.

I waited for the 38 Geary with the Russian businessman this morning. He was dressed for casual Friday (Jeans, sneakers, windbreaker instead of blazer) and he approached the stop from the opposite direction, which was weird.
He must have seen my odd expression, because he quickly explained that he had been checking on his car which was parked down the block. Apparently it's been messed with a lot lately: windshield wipers stolen and a bolt missing from a tire. We discussed car thefts and vandalism until the bus came.

At 9th Ave., Mr. Polite boarded the bus. He politely said 'Good morning,' to me and I said the same back to him.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The People On The Bus: Emiliano

Or, how can I possibly 'recognize' a figment of my imagination?

There's a guy who I see on the bus some mornings who gets on at 16th and Mission. I call him Emiliano because he looks just like a character from one of my stories, who is named Emiliano. Obviously it's not really him.... the fictional Emiliano lives in Boston, anyway!

Anyway, I saw the flesh and blood version this morning. I can't ever help it, I always smile at him as if I know him. He tends to smile back, if a little confused. Today he was wearing a plaid shirt and a red knit cap, so he looked like a member of Team Zissou.

There was a bookish boy on the 22 this morning. He had hair like Duckie from Pretty In Pink and a ring through his septum. He was carrying a stack of paperbacks tucked under his arm. I tried to see what they were when he moved. The ones I got were: Life On The Mississippi, by Mark Twain, something by Paulo Coehlo, a book about Sufiism, and a few others I couldn't catch.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Alien Donut Man, Part III

I walked past the donut shop last night on my way to the library to drop off some books. My library branch is set to close on Sunday for a 2-year renovation, how sad. Now the closest library is on Anza and 37th, or something crazy like that.

Anyway, I walked past the donut shop, not expecting to see the Alien Donut man, who I have not seen in weeks.

Imagine my surprise when the Alien Donut man (who was sitting in his usual seat, with his blue ski jacket on) caught my eye, cracked a smile, and waved.



I gave him a slight nod back and a half-wave.
We are not friends but I guess we are now acquaintances.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Bus Report #206

This week in MUNI:

Our Mayor proposed making MUNI free: Just say no!

I saw the 35 Eureka, a bus I've never been on or seen before. I did not take it.

Two afternoon chats with Ebony while waiting for the bus: She's moved to the East Bay so she doesn't have to ride the 22 anymore. I saw her this morning too, as I walked to work from the Potrero Center.
"Did you walk all the way from Safeway?" she asked me. It's not all that far, but I nodded 'yes'.
"You go, girl," she said, before we parted ways.

I took the 2 Clement downtown on Sunday to meet the Jefe and the Chefe for brunch and to see the One Man Star Wars Trilogy. It is exactly what you think it is, only way funnier.

I had a brilliant idea to take the 24 Divisadero up to 20th or 22nd, and then cut down to meet my writing group at our usual hang out. I did not realize there's a steep steep hill (or some kind of vertical park!) between Castro Street and my destination, so I had to walk around the hill, which was almost as tiring as what I was trying to avoid in the first place.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Bus Report #205

This morning I ran for the 22 and caught it right before it took off. Carmen was there and she had saved me a seat.
"I was about to get off and wait for you," she said, smiling. "I brought pictures."
This was an understatement, as she had brought her whole photo album. The album had a red leatherette cover and it was about 6 inches thick.
"Let's see," I said.
She struggled to get the album out of her backpack, but finally had it open on our laps by the time we got to Eddy Street.
Her photos were from her recent trip to the Yucatan. She had some wonderful photos from Carnaval and others from the ruins they had gone to see.
We had barely finished leafing through the album when we got to her stop.
"See you tomorrow," I said. "Thanks for sharing the pictures."
"You're welcome," she said.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Bus Report #204

Last night I rode the 22 Fillmore with Ramon. We discussed horrible neighbors, and he won. It was nice to see him.

I managed to successfully catch a bus to class and back, with plenty of time on either end.

While I was in the midst of sewing my project, a boy I met on the 28 last week wandered in to say hello. He takes a drawing class, and they were on break. He is a funny kid, kind of vague and confused-looking.

After class I waited in the stop with the little elderly lady who is taking a design class. We chatted for a moment before she started talking to one of her classmates, a guy who spoke to her in broken Spanish. I amused myself but eavesdropping into their conversation, which was predictably about design.
He kept stumbling over the word 'materiales' and she kept coaching him. It made me smile.

As the 28 approached Geary I pulled the signaler and stood up, clutched the pole and waited.
Suddenly, the bus braked, hard, and I went flying forward, swinging all the way around and crashing into the side of the door. The whole time, I did not let go of the pole, so I never hit the floor. Instead, I ended up smushed against the door, still on my feet.
"Sorry, you okay?" called the driver.
"Fine," I said.
The driver asked, "You want to get out here?"
The man standing behind me said under his breath, "Yeah, as soon as possible."

The driver opened the door and we got out. He smiled at me through the window and mouthed an apology.
I was fine so it did not matter.
This morning, my stomach and ribs are feeling it a little. No bruising, though.

Blast from the past Wednesday:
Imagine my surprise to see Carmen on the 22 this morning! She's been taking the 33 lately and I've been missing my daily Carmen fix. She has a stylish new haircut, and we caught up on all the latest news. It was nice to see her. We'll try to finish our conversation tomorrow morning, if she takes the 22 again.