Saturday, September 29, 2012


Take this guy coming down the Max aisle on his way out.  Who dressed him this morning?  He looks like Elvis Presley's runty brother.  He's got bedhead, his eyes are slits, the expression on his face suggests he's getting a second taste of the Cheez Kerls and Cherry Garcia he had for dinner last night.  But his shirt is clean and tucked into his Dockers and he's wearing new shoes and it's 7:30 a.m., so he must be going to some kind of job, right?

In my own way, I've been there.  Slept through the commute.  Missed my stop.  One morning, a guy sidled up to me in a standing room only train and whispered "Your fly is down."  Imagine trying to zip up in that situation . . . Somehow, I did.

Another morning, after changing an inside-out sock discreetly at my desk, followed by a conversation with my boss, I found a booger poking out of my nose.

So, looking at this young man I was looking at myself.  But in slow motion.  He moved freely enough, without a prosthetic, cane or other helpful technology, without leaning on the seat backs for support, in a lucid, syrupy dream.  As he oozed along, his face stayed smooth and bland.  He put one pod in front of the other.  Took a moment.  Put the other pod in front. Took a moment.  If I could have just heard the motor in there, I would have known he was remote controlled and figured the battery was about gone.
But perhaps he was "Being Here Now," savoring the moment -- the Cheez Kerls coming around for the second time, the smell of the crowd, the fluorescent limelight.  What is a journey on Trimet, anyway, if not life's strange journey in miniature?

Shorty Presley finally reached the door, watched his bus go by, said "Damn, that's what I get for making music," and with surprising energy, trotted out onto the street.

Sunday, September 2, 2012


The Max was bulging with passengers.  They leaned to make space for me.

A young guy said "There you go" in a friendly tone and pushed aside a hanging bicycle so I could claim my one square foot.

He was joking with two other guys, having a great time.  His voice and delivery reminded me so much of the comedian Bob Saget that I'll call him "Bob."  Bob was doing most of his joking with a guy who looked like he was cut from a block of lumber.  I'll call him "Woody."  Though they never used one another's names, Woody and Bob both called their mutual friend "Taylor."  So Taylor it is.

Woody, Bob and Taylor were crammed tight next to each other in a semicircle, in that order..

 "How's that feel?" Bob said to Woody. Woody's look was unreadable..

"Can you grind?  I like the grind,"  said Bob.

Woody had some play in him.  "Coarse grind or fine?" 

"I don't care.  Just so I get cream in my coffee."

Woody said "I'm going to pry open the train door and push you out."

Bob said, "I have a hand in Taylor's pocket so it might not be so easy.  Taylor's built like an anchor."

Taylor said, "In prison they told me I was built like a Barbie doll."

Bob said, "You got some hips, Taylor, but I don't know what else those good old boys were looking at.  Did you stuff some TP in your shirt?"

There followed jokes about Barbie and Ken.

"Ken was actually gay, you know," said Woody.

"Oh, yeah.  He was all over G.I. Joe."

"Right.  I suppose Rock Hudson was gay, too."

"Who's Rock Hudson?"

"You are so young, Taylor."

They compared ages.  Bob was 27.  Woody was 23.  Taylor was 22. 

Taylor said "I turned 21 the day I went inside."

Bob said, "Taylor, you need a father figure.  You can be my son.  But you've got to have respect for your elders."  

Taylor didn't respond and Bob asked him what was the matter.  Taylor said he was tired.

Bob said he had lots of energy, though "not as much as when I was tweaking."

Then Bob asked Woody if he was tired, too. I looked Woody over.  He gave off a whiff -- covertly, but still -- of the threat and fear that sometimes hangs around ex-convicts.  He said that "Last night the X-man tried to get in bed with me."

It was chilly last night," chirped Bob.

"I told him he better move on or I'd kick his ass."

Taylor said "X-man couldn't sleep and he kept going to the front for Ambiens.  I'm sure he had no idea what he was doing."

Bob said to Woody, "But you'd still have to kick his ass, right?  Whether he formed an intent or not?"


"Man, you have got good boundaries. I'm proud of you for that."

They were silent for a long moment.  Then Bob said, " I was going to say something rude but I held back.  Out of respect." 

He went on, "You're too young to be tired, Taylor.  Look at me -- much older than you and I've got plenty of energy." 

"I always had plenty of energy when I was tweaking," said Woody, lifting his eyebrows to touch the brim of his cap. 

"That's where I got all my confidence from," said Bob, striking a tone of irony, self-deprecation and truth that Bob Saget couldn't touch.

Taylor said, "You got a little overconfident." 

"That's right, son.  Do as I say, not as I do.  When you get a little older, I'll teach you about the birds and the bees." 

"Too late, Dad.  My girlfriend's pregnant."

Bob said, "Who's the father? I want to congratulate him . . ."

They got off the Max at Third Street, heading towards Pioneer Square.  Happy to be free.

Nick O'Connor
copyright 2012