Friday, March 18, 2016


There was no coffee in the house.  A bus was  due in nine minutes, probably time enough to walk a block and a half to Delphina's for an Americano and then pack myself into the sardine can at the stop near the store. And in case of a near-miss, the next bus was only three minutes behind.

The plan went smoothly. I reached the busstop with my drink as the bus hove into sight three stops away.

A car slowed on the far side of the street. The driver rolled down the window and waved at me.

"I have to talk to you."

I almost trotted over. But the bus was now two stops away, and I was carrying two bags and a full cup of coffee. Plus I had never seen this guy before. I tried to put all of these thoughts into a wave back at him with my "free" hand.

A car came up behind the waver, honking. My man drove ahead, pulling to the curb about 100 feet away and continuing to wave his arm emphatically out the window.  

I glanced around in case something dangerous was closing in. There was nothing.

The man kept waving.  I got bus ticket in hand as the bus roared up. Without slowing, it roared past.  Funny, there were empty seats in it. Sometimes, of course, a driver skips a stop because she's behind schedule or is returning to the garage for repairs. Usually, I believe, the reason for passing up riders is that the vehicle is full, and this drive-by was definitely less than full.

Well, the next one was due in three minutes.

The waver drove to the corner, turned around in the intersection and headed back towards me.  He pulled up, leaned hard to put his face near the window. The moment of truth.

"This is not a busstop anymore."

I glanced up. In fact, the busstop signpost was gone. I recalled that the last time I waited at the stop a couple weeks ago, there had been an announcement posted on the signpost that may have said something about a change to the stop.

I looked back at my interloper.

"This is what I've been trying to tell you."

"Oh.  Thank you."

"My wife did use this stop every day. That's how I know."

This stranger's assertive generosity suddenly sank in. He had detoured from his trip, probably losing a few minutes from his commute to work, to save me a few minutes' trouble.

I thanked him again and "ran" to catch the next bus. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Blazing on the Crazy 8

I boarded the 8-Jackson Park just after it turned off Multnomah onto 15th Avenue. Standing room only but a bench seat opened up at the next stop and I snapped it up like the true geezer I'm getting to be. The atmosphere was subdued, the passengers mostly commuters keeping to themselves. 

Across the aisle facing me a young man rummaged in a small shoulder bag. His movements were deliberate, in slow motion. He pulled out a smaller zip bag, zipped it open silently and poked a finger around in it.  He took something out of the bag, keeping it hidden in a hand. Then he took out a device, an implement, a tool or useful item I couldn't immediately identify. I watched carefully, not wanting to be surprised by a weapon. (Crazy, huh?) 

The thing was a vape pen. I watched as the young rider slowly and silently loaded it with what had to be bud. Loco weed. I looked around and saw no one else taking this in. 

Weed has been legal for almost six months in Oregon, so I shouldn't be surprised to evidence of its use, even in public, even on a crowded bus. 

However, I did not expect the man to light up. But light up he did. The guy put the pen to his lips and inhaled. There was no sign of smoke on the inhale, which is the point of vaping, I guess. But then a brief, thin wisp of personal smog came out of the corner of his mouth.  

I was the only one shocked. No one else noticed that law was breaking in plain sight like a vinyl record hitting the sidewalk at your feet after being tossed out the window of a second-story condo. Why, I remember when the founder of the White Panther Party, John Sinclair, was busted for possession of two joints and sent to Marquette State Prison for ten years. A bunch of counterculture celebrities got together and busted him back out with a concert: 

The revolution has arrived.

When the man hit his vape pen again and the wispy evidence trailed from his lips, I said -- loudly, because I wanted the driver to hear me in case there were repercussions -- "Dude, are you vaping on the bus?" 

No one cast a glance except the vaper himself, who looked up at me for the first time, caught my eye and smiled. I had to laugh. Then he quietly dropped the pen back in its bag, dropped that bag into the shoulder bag, stood up and walked to the back door. At the next stop, Fremont, he sailed out of there into the future on invisible wings. 

Like wow, man.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

We All Lived

It was after work and, as usual, I had fallen asleep on the Max. It's an art in which some part of the brain remains aware of the stops and I wake up just as the train pulls into the Hollywood Transit Center.

But I woke a stop early, at the Lloyd Center. I didn't want to, and tried to go back down. A guy had just sat down to my right, on the bench seat, and had muttered something I didn't comprehend. Another guy, sitting directly across from me, was smiling in a fixed way.

He said, "I don't give a fuck where you from," the smile still fixed. He was gazing at the guy on my right.

Now I was wide awake.

The guy on my right said, "I'm not from Portland," in a "what's the matter with you?" tone.

The guy across the aisle said again, "I don't give a fuck where you from." He kept smiling, the smile maybe bigger or maybe just closer to me, and leaned forward. He was solid, athletic, a forearm across his leg noticeably enlarged by weightlifting. He seemed calm.

I, however, was alarmed.  I said "Don't do it, man."

The guy turned the smile on me, blinked once or twice, and then turned back to the other guy.

"Please," I said politely, "don't duke it out here."

I looked around. No one else was paying attention.

The guy to my right began to slowly, deliberately, remove a watch from his right wrist.

A woman immediately to his right said, "Aw, look. He's taking off his watch. Damn."

She turned to a woman who looked like her -- maybe a sister -- and said "Get my baby out of here." The sister got up and pushed a stroller that was in the aisle further down to the right.

The first woman stood up and got right in between the two men. She was tall and queenly. She had a neck tattoo. The only emotion I could discern was the amused sternness of an authority figure who has done this a hundred times. She looked down at the guy to my right and said, "You don't know what you're getting into here." The guy looked unconcerned, almost bored. He said nothing.

She put her face close to the guy across the aisle and spoke quietly to him. I heard her say, "We're getting off at the next stop. Let's go." He flicked his eyes at her and the smile diminished.

"Let's go." He got up, putting the mad dog stare back on my neighbor, along with the smile.

The woman laid a hand gently on her partner's or brother's or good friend's arm and urged him down the aisle after her sister and the baby. She kept herself deliberately between the men until they were well away from the guy next to me.  Her guy kept his eyes and smile fixed on a spot to the right of my shoulder.

That guy to my right slowly put his watch back on his right wrist.