19.5.11

traveler traveling

i was lucky enough to get out early. i didnt come from any sort of money. all i had was all i knew and spending any more time than i did in northern indiana wasnt an option. for high school graduation, i got three plane tickets. indianapolis to phoenix, los angeles to san francisco and san francisco to indianapolis. but years before the big bird, it was life on the grey dog, when the bus was still cheaper than air fair. chicago to sf. san diego to atlanta. fort wayne to minneapolis.... ive spent my fair share on the damned thing and ive met the most interesting people on the bus routes between here and everywhere. in so many ways, the bus and plane are exactly a like, but on a 52 hour bus ride from the midwest to the west coast.... you start to watch those coming and going, figuring out that that guy up there is in it for a few days with you. so you might as well start talking to him. unlike a plane where you sit next to someone for three thousand miles and dont say a word, on the bus you get to know these people and share stories. its so much more of an intense trip than the typical security check, 5 dollar bottled water, row 32 seat b. the bus is lawless of sorts. they will leave you in valporaiso, there are no assigned seats, theres no paying more for early check on. its first come first serve like so many things in life. its the worst way to travel but for me, the most memories have been made traversing the country that way. the bus will go north when youre traveling south, it will take twice as long, if not more, to get you to your destination and you see true and honest life. you see the low lifes and the down and outs that make up 95% of our so called civilized society. gun shots and two robberies while listening to agnostic front on my head phones in chicago on a 5 hour bus lay over.

i found myself driving thru downtown salinas california on tuesday of this week and came across this greydog station. built in the 50s, it hasnt been touched since and hopefully never will. upon walking inside the run down station, everything was 1950s cracked teal tiles, covered in a thick sticky layer of spit and piss. the place had seen brighter days as three quarters of the light bulbs were burnt out, never to be replaced again im sure. one dim lite hovered above the cashier sitting on her stool, her face framed by greasy bus drivers grimy hand prints smeared on the wall behind her. she was reading a steinbeck book that was based in the very town she lived and worked in with very little interest if i needed a ticket or why i was even in there shooting photos of the walls, ceiling tiles, lockers and doorways. not a word, coming or going. just another passer by, passing by to her.

id do it again in a heartbeat. whats the seat billy? 5th row back on the passenger side. so you dont get the smokers last exhale of smoke as they reboard the bus and youre far enough forward to not get the wafting bathroom odor thats 27 rows behind you? gallon of water and a pound of m&ms? a walkman and a fifteen tape? i wouldnt change a thing... i wouldnt trade it for the world...



3 comments:

sara eileen said...

i like this story lee.

More popular than Jesus said...

not sure how much of an age difference we have or traveling experience (not that it matters anyways).. but i can relate to everything you just wrote. amazing!

Brandon said...

I agree with sara. Birmingham Greyhound is singular in its beauty. I used to have to go to the shipping department to pick up fish for a sushi restaurant. Did you know that Greyhound ships? Tuna is a large and heavy fish.
In Japan its the local train for me. Everyday. Its what the people without cars do. Neighborhood train stations are little more than scaffolding with a couple of benches and a platform on either side of the tracks with some kind of way to go over or under to get to the tracks on the other side. Freight trains use the same tracks and while you are weighting on your train you may see one of them pass, going 80mph three inches from the platform and 3 feet from your person.