Saturday, January 26, 2013


I swear, the nearly silent battleweariness that fills a Max train in the morning sometimes makes me wish Bob Hope would come back from the grave and do a set for the troops.

But there I was, and there we all were, not a spark of life in the whole car, except for one guy.  The situation was hopeless, the phenomenal sameness, the extraordinary absence of contact among riders.  Except for this one loose deuce.

It started as a loud conversation, which came as a welcome change from the status quo.

"Yeah, I love all those old rockers.  Jimi, the Doors, Ted Nugent, Metallica, Pearl Jam.  They're all good."  The voice was classic, an arresting blend of phlegm, gravel and testosterone.

"I got to rock, man.  I got to feel it.  All the time.  You know if I'm not shakin' I'm dead meat on the highway."

He had to be at least 50.  That was a lot of rockin' under the highway overpass. The guy wore a hard hat and orange flagger vest over blue-collar work clothes. The gleaming black patent leather shoes with the thin soles, however, were cut for show, not rockin' - or standing on rocks.  The metal cane in his hand, sampled from the same estate sale where he got the shoes, maybe, completed the impression he was testing some sartorial limits.

His acquaintance, a young man whom I took to be humoring the old guy, muttered something and handed over an earbud, which the old rocker placed expertly into the side of his head.  The party began.

Rocker cut loose, shouting lyrics and comments at a volume appropriate for a dive bar on Saturday night.

"Walk back, bitch!"

That turned some heads.

"Semper fi, do or die."

"What do you see in me?"

And then in James Brown style:  "Huh.  Huh.  Huh."  Moving like Brown, but sitting down.  The stuff he was spouting was all over the place, like a crazy mixtape.

He bopped in his seat for another minute, then handed the earbud back to his companion.

"That's badass."

The acquaintance muttered politely and disembarked. A middle aged woman dressed for work took the empty seat.  Rocker was still stoked.

"I'm stoked," he said.  "I can't help it.  I'm wired on tunes."

On her look, he said "I know I look like 100 miles of bad road, but my heart is pure."

The woman was making space between them.

"Yeah, I got leprosy.  I'm totally disgusting.  I can't help it.  I can't do no more.  Just thought I'd change up the station here in Pot-Land."

She left.

He tried to bum marijuana from a kid who totally looked like he never left home without it.  No luck.  This may have discouraged Rocker, because his bravado trailed off and within a couple stops his head was hanging on his chest, sound asleep.

Yeah, I liked the change of pace.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Sweet Life

He's young, with wild hair that starts out dark at the roots and has been bleached almost blonde -- by the sun, I'm pretty sure; the look is very much “California surfer.” He's sitting in a crowded bus next to an attentive young woman with a pretty face who is enjoying his company. A second young woman is with them, in the bench seat next to their knees. The women are hanging on the man's words.

He's talking about music – his own, I think. The woman sharing the seat says “What do you mean?”

He says, “That's your responsibility. I just use the words.” She beams as if complimented.

Suddenly I remember this type of jock from high school: the animal good looks, the attitude of humorous condescension, the desirous babes.

My mind drifts as their conversation continues. A moment later he says, again to the one next to him, “You know what you're really good at? Excuses.”

She says something I can't hear.

He says,“Excuse.”

She says something.


The women have a giggle about this.

This is my stop, ending the eavesdropping. But the high school feelings continue. I'm resenting this guy for having it so easy with the ladies, in spite of his being a jerk and them being dumb.

The best remedy for being outshone by a stud muffin back then was the knowledge that in a few years he'd be working in a gas station while I was having a career. This guy was maybe 25 – very young by my current standards but well out of high school. The women might have been a little younger. He's still playing high school games, wrapping them around his finger. And as for my career – oh, yeah, that didn't really happen, did it?