Thursday, September 9, 2010

Things That Occupy Us

While I was attending college, there was a pretty big shift among which people walked around with headphones on. For a long time in my experience, the people who spent their days filled with music were typically music nerds of some type. There was the metal heads, hop-hop kids and audiophiles. Other than that most everyone else went without. With the advent of the MP3 player it became less cumbersome to bring one's favorite music along. I remember the days when I would take out my Discman to keep my occupied, not only was it's shape, size and media awkward but being the only one on the street with headphones on is a little socially uncomfortable.

As time passed heads of strangers were suddenly adorned with little white earbuds. The iPod had really started to take over and made a life filled with music much less awkward. This had a terrible implications for random social interactions. No longer was it important to be able to chat with the person next to you on the bus, instead you could burry yourself if your new favorite album. And with the advent of podcasting, mixtape production and the decreased price of MP3 players they have become so prevalent that rarely do strangers speak anymore.

Recently I have been frequenting interstate bus systems and there are few places that illustrate this point as much as a crowded charter bus. 3 to 5 hours sitting in close proximity to that large number of people should provide one with the wonderful and/or horrible experience of talking to a stranger. In my travels I have oft chosen to be the silent recluse with my headphones in but on my last few rides I have attempted to engage more in my surroundings. Sometimes this is great, I had an extremely candid conversation with two strangers about the medical industry as I was sitting across from a nurse in training and a physician's assistant. They told me wonderfully horrible stories about the stated of Chicago's emergency rooms and what it looks like when someone has tremendous amounts of bone structural damage. Other times I met people with mutual friends, heard stories about foreclosure, politics, weddings and living in different states across this country.

As true with most shared travel experiences, riding a bus from state to state is a pretty horrible experience, the seats are small and uncomfortable, stops are infrequent and there are no refreshments. A good conversation with a neighbor can make this experience a little less unbearable. One of my favorite modes of travel is taking the Amtrak train. The greatest part of this experience is the existence of the dining car. The Dining car is a social hot spot among train riders, a place to gather and enjoy an overpriced beverage, hot dog and/or vacuum-packed sandwich. If there were more places like this, I think we would be a more engage culture. A great example of German Beer Halls, who have long picnic-style tables that house all of their patrons, preventing anyone from refreshing in private. Here in the US we spend out time out and about immersed in our own lives, rarely moving into someone else's life.

So here is the challenge, I love the idea of talking with strangers but I also appreciate the anonymity that my headphones give me. Now that I have experienced the delightful lack of crazy people asking me for cigarettes, telling me far too much about their own lives and generally unpleasant background noise of travel I find it harder and harder to just leave my headphones at home. I would imagine there has to be a balance between private and public but where to find it.

Image Courtesy of E-Magic

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Cloudy Windows

The view from inside a plane, train or automobile can be remarkable. It seems to change depending on which you choose. The view from a bus is something else entirely.

When you see the world from an airplane things look magical. During the day you get to see the patterns that make up our living space, at night you get the perfect understand of what impact electricity has on our lives. This experience can be magical and frightening all at the same time. Last month I had the opportunity to fly into Minneapolis/St. Paul airport at around midnight. Luckily I was in the window seat and I was just amazed at the view of these two cities from 20,000 feet. First Minneapolis with its countless grid patterns linking together in the most awkward ways followed directly by St. Paul in its state capitol-esque majesty with arcing thoroughfares making slowly increasing broken circles around the capitol building. The view from this plane was quite impressive.

When riding in a car, in a new place, can give the impression of wonderment, seeing cityscapes as fresh as they are, in the country the cloud patterns, hills and prairies are strikingly beautiful. There was a summer a few years back in which I had the opportunity to travel from Detroit to Atlanta by car alone. This drive gave the the opportunity to drive straight through the Appalachian mountains in the middle of the summer. In the heart of the mountain range, at its peak, I was so close to the clouds that moisture was condensing on my windshield. On a similar trip this past summer I drove through the most rural parts of Wisconsin. The views were like travel photos from the plains of Scotland, rolling green pastures marked by the occasional free standing tree. These two drives comprise me some of the most beautiful images stored in my head.

Train travel is something completely different. The view from an Amtrak train is typically fleeting yet natural. Because of the remote location of most of the tracks the landscape is comprised of the most remote locations out side of major cities. When a train enters a city it is almost exclusively surrounded by industrial desolation. There is something poetic about this stark juxtaposition. This poetry is usually brief due to the speed at which a train travel, leaving the rider with very little opportunity to observe his/her surroundings.

The city bus is the only mode of transportation that can take all of the wonderment from traveling. It is as if the fact that someone else has sat in the same exact seat, seeing the same exact views makes everything that you see recycled. Each and every route of travels over the same streets day in and day out, countless people get on and off in different places. Every trip that you take on the bus has been traveled before. The windows are covered with the film of frequent use and the people looking through have the air of obligation. In my final visit to Minneapolis before I moved here I spent the day walking across the city, taking in all of the wonderment that urban life can provide an outsider. After spending at least 5 hours walking I was too tired to walk all the way back to where I was staying. I decided to get on the bus to provide my feet with a little rest. As soon as I picked my seat all of the wonderment that I had experienced in the hours before had completely dissipated. Surrounded by strangers I traveled back through downtown and the views that had captivated me moments before were now some how muted, as if the film on the windows removed the and intangible quality of the images I was seeing. Maybe it's the culture of the bus or maybe it's the shear lack of novelty in riding the bus but there is something unique about using it to get from here to there.

Image courtesy of edenpictures

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

We give ourselves away.

First it is the discomfort; the edgy, flexing, hyperawareness of our alienhood. We feel sure that we are objects of scrutiny on all sides, and in some ways, it is true. If an American (Australian, German, etc) is being obnoxious or profane in close public quarters, we stand out. Even if we are no louder, more obviously crude or persistently annoying in terms of observable data, we feel louder. We sense ourselves as totemic representations of every possibly Western stereotype, and as long as we feel it we are mummified into the terribly ridiculous contortions of this awareness. Because of our conviction that we are perceived as:

Inappropriately dressed
Drunk and slutty
Incredibly stupid

We become paranoid the instant we step outside. These are things, perhaps, that we see in ourselves, or fear in ourselves, sometimes suddenly and immediately upon entry into a foreign country. But our real earmarks are, I think, more subtle and pervasive than any of the blatant cultural profiling. In Korea, even when we speak the language (which many of us don’t), we excuse ourselves on reflex over and over again. We apologize in posture and speech.
So here is a first bus ride. My first bus ride in Seoul. My hand palms my T-card convulsively; the idea of stepping onto the bus unprepared is nightmarish. As though the immediate assumption will be that Americans cannot ride a bus without help? As though Koreans don’t occasionally hold up the line as their card inexplicably fails to beep in, or they can’t find their wallet, or they drop a grocery bag? But it is somehow exponentially worse to be a foreigner and an idiot on the bus, and there is nothing I can do but rehearse mentally each step and gesture that I will be taking.

When we step onto the bus, we are acutely aware of ourselves. We bump into a stranger and say “I’m sorry.” At first we say this in English, which is absurd, but actually less absurd than saying “miyan hamnida,” the phrase typically rendered as the translation of “I’m sorry” into Korean. Confusingly enough, this phrase is never used to apologize for accidental contact with your neighbors. “Chesong hamnida” is the correct phrase choice, technically, and is in fact used only when you may have fractured the other person’s toe or given them a concussion. The concept of personal space is different here; your actual physical space is nonexistent. It is easy to take offense at this sudden invisibility. Americans more than citizens of any other country are acutely cognizant of their physical presence and its sanctity. Kiss a lover? Kiss a friend? Unheard of.
This is also unheard of in Korea, where I am still attempting to suss out acceptable affectionate displays. But anything short of a handbag to the kidney is ignored by the strange neighbors of public transportation. So we give ourselves away by wanting to know how to excuse ourselves or apologize in the first place. Eventually we stop flinching away from the slightest brush of bodily contact, and regain our comfort.

And then one day the zen of the Korean bus ride becomes a part of us. The city is all lights, a mad neon and concrete maze. We step on the bus and are physically impugned, but mentally, we stand on a vast and silent prairie. The respect for one another’s mental space is a marvelous and baffling gift. In a city of 13 million people, the city bus slows and stops for a man in an ill-fitting suit. The bus smells like engine oil and dust and sour human warmth. A rich woman tucks her bag in her lap and talks softly. Her cell phone bangles clicking louder than her voice. A young couple watches a baseball game silently in one of the double seats. Her head rests on his shoulder, as they share earphones. The dominant sound is the hiss and honk of the bus itself as it drags moaning up the hills of Bugak-san before dropping into Gyeongbokgung.

Subways here are much the same, but the bus for some reason has a greater attitude of shared space and inner quiet. There is a sort of tranquility that is not alien-ness or the dreadful knowledge of not-belonging. Rather it is a communal decision to respect the need for moments of calm before plunging back into the mad electrical frenzy of one of the world’s largest cities.
And there is something valuable it gives us to be part of this city, its vibrant shimmer and its incandescent unstoppable roar. But more than that there is a wonder, the revelatory experience of a daily commute on the rainbow spectrum of buses. The metropolitan engines squeal and blat and shake through a mad warren of streets. Inside, mouthing the Hangul of an advertisement to ourselves, we discover an immense internet place of our own, a vacant Eastern place where our thoughts become thin as strands of hair, and we are peaceful, empty, and alone.

Even when we’re thigh-to-buttock with an adjuma.

Sandra T. is currently teaching English in South Korea.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Mousyboywithglasses

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

I believe in Poor Life Decisions

I believe in poor life decisions.

I believe that sometimes the worst result today can provide you with the best outcome in the future.

In the summer of 2005 I decided to move across the state of Michigan for a girl. I rationalized this decision to my friends with statements like “I want to closer to my family” “it is all about the school.” When really it was all about the girl.

This was a poor life decision and I knew it. But sometimes we need to make these decisions. My decision to move across the state was one of the best I have ever made.

The first year living in this strange place I had two major social outlets; The World of Warcraft and a rapidly deteriorating relationship. This, as you can imagine, was not a healthy environment. Unbeknownst to me this year filled with nights staying up too late in front of my computer with a headset on and nights staying up too late getting in shouting matches with my girlfriend, would lead to self discovery that I feel lucky to have experienced.

During this turbulent year I signed up to participate in an alternative spring break through my University. I did this because I thought it would provide me with an easy way to meet friends and I had never gone anywhere for spring break though I always wanted to. Little did I know that it would be a catalyst that would change the course of my life. Having never volunteered for anything in my life I was a little unsure what I was getting myself into but when I got into that 10-passenger van and started my journey to rural West Virginia there was no doubt that I had made the right decision. I spent my first spring break trip installing cabinets in a brand new house. This house was built by GED students who were looking to acquire job skills in construction and sold to a blind man in the community, who was homeless, for $4,000.

Halfway though the trip I realized that there was a part of my life that had been missing until that week. Community service was something that would make me a healthier person. When I got back from my trip I submitted an application to help and coordinate the program that had just greatly impacted my life. After being accepted for the position I was sent to Chicago to participate in a conference for alternative breaks programs and had the opportunity to meet people who were just as passionate as I was, from all around the country. This empowered me to take back control of my life.

I got out of my extremely unhealthy relationship, I quit playing WoW and put all of my extra energy into providing opportunities for other to do service during their school breaks in hopes of providing the same experience that I had had. And without realizing it committed myself to life-long service.

All of this because of one poor life decision.

Audio recording of the above.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A story I like to tell

Here is the story of why I chose Minneapolis as my new home.

It all started in 2003, I was living in Kalamazoo, Michigan attending a community college there. I was just starting to discover that rap music was more than what they played on WJLB in Detroit. There was a whole host of musical artists of this style that were hustling in the underground music scene. Slowly but surely I started listening to Aesop Rock, Sage Francis and some other better known indie rappers when one day a friend played for me a song that would start it all. The track was "Woman with the Tattooed Hands" by Atmosphere. You have probably heard of Atmosphere with his recent rise in popularity but for me in 2003 it was a revelation. I became a bigger and bigger Atmosphere fan and started to explore other artist on his label, Rhymesayers.

Three years later, after seeing shows and buy CDs by Minnesota rappers I took my next step toward the state I would later call home. While attending a Minus the Bear concert I noticed a few Rhymesayers stickers and some merchandise. I thought that maybe Rhymesayers had started to diversify it's artists, to my benefit it had not. The first two opening bands were exactly what I expected in a band that would open up for Minus the Bear, rock music. The third artist to play that night goes by the name of P.O.S.. If you are unaware of him, he is a rapper who has a large punk rock influence. On both points, not what I expected from this show but he sure did deliver. I was hooked on his music from that point forward. After about 6 months of my obsession I realized that he was a founding member of another Minneapolis based indie rap label, Doomtree. Just like with the Rhymesayers label I started to explore the label in it's entirety and was very impressed with my findings. At this point I should have started to become interested in the state of Minnesota but I was still caught up with the places I was more familiar with.

In the summer of 2008 I was desperately searching for a music festival that I could both afford and would take me out of the state of Michigan. I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that Minneapolis hosted a Hip-hop festival every summer and the tickets would only set me back $25. I picked up a ticket, grabbed my partner and headed west to the Twin Cities ready for a great weekend. My experience in Minneapolis over this long weekend was more impressive than I could have imagined, there was culture, style and tons of green space. I started to believe that Minnesota was a pretty cool state.

When it came time to start thinking about what I was going to do after school ended, Minneapolis quickly became one of the places that I looked for work. After applying to countless Americorps programs in Colorado, Washington and Minnesota I was offered a position working for an organization in Minneapolis. I tentatively accepted the position wondering would life would be like outside of my boyhood home. As a final test of my decision to move, I decided to take a trip to Minneapolis, this time with exploring being the only objective. I used the website to find a place to stay for free and once again headed west.

This trip would turn out to be impressive. The people I stayed with were extremely friendly, pointing me it the right directions to make my exploration as positive as can be. My first afternoon alone in the city I headed out on foot to try and find a neighborhood that I felt comfortable in. My direction of choice was north-east. After walking a considerable distance I came across a craft store called I Like You, they had astroturf covering the floor so I decided to go in. After browsing the wears that they were selling, and being bummed out that I was too broke to buy anything, I started talking to the woman behind the counter. This conversation lasted at least an hour and provided me with one major place in the city to find, Fifth Element Records, the store owned by Atmosphere. I started walking west on Hennepin only to discover that it intersects quite oddly with Lyndale and I took the wrong fork in the road. After walking about 3 miles I realized that I was lost and I really need a place to sit down. Thankfully I passed a coffee shop, called Muddy Waters, and decided to duck in. I grabbed a cup of coffee and pulled out my computer to find out where I was. The next few surreal moments would cement my decision to move to this city.

Sitting at a table facing the door, hot, tired and lost I was a little out of it already. When I looked up from my computer toward the door I was blown away when Dessa, a rapper on the Doomtree label walked through the door and grabbed a table not to far from myself. After finishing my coffee, while stealing glances of this celebrity in my world, I got up to reach my destination. And the next bomb dropped, sitting there smoking a cigarette were two of Dessa's cohorts, Mike Mictlan and Sims. I said to myself at that moment, "there is no way I can't move here."

Here I am almost a year later, sitting in the same coffee shop (watching more Doomtree rappers walk through the same door), confused as to why it took me so long to find this gem in the Mid-West.

Image courtisy of Flickr user Bob B. Brown

Format Changes

I wanted to let you all know that I have been having trouble writing about the bus any more than I already have. I am thinking that this blog will end up being a editorial style blog about just about anything.

Hopefully this will inspire me to continue updating here.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Perfect Bus Ride

For many years I have been fascinated with the extent to which some people go to, to travel as painlessly as possible. A friend once told me a story about how his father would not leave the parking lot of his employer until a very specific minute because that was the only way that he could travel from work to home without having to stop at any red lights while driving the proper speed. Surprisingly this story has infiltrated my brain and I think about it almost every two weeks. First of all, that is impressive. Second to what extent did this man study his drive home from work. Was it just one day he managed to look at his clock as he pulled out of his parking space and was pleasantly surprised by his quick ride home? Or did this exact timing come from countless months or even years of testing? Leaving work every day at a different minute, sitting in the parking lot for 5, 10 or even 20 minutes after he completed his last task in the office.

Then the idea of additional variables comes into play. What about the speed at which he was traveling? The story took place in Michigan where if you are not comfortable with traveling 5 mph over the posted speed limit you are most likely going to become a victim of road rage. Was he traveling at that speed? Did he need to change his speed in different stretches of road? Did he completely lose his mind when someone was traveling too slow in his lane to time the lights?

That brings up the idea of how he would react if he was stopped at a red light. This man most likely spent months mapping out a plan for himself and that plan would get tested every single weekday. How hard would it be to see such a painstakingly executed project fail just as much as it succeeds? What sort of impact would that have on your self esteem? When your plan work in your favor it would feel amazing, not only did you masterfully travel from work to home but you also get to experience that wonderful feeling that we all experience when we get home from work noticeably earlier than expected, that has to feel good. But the opposite?

The drive this man has orcastrated often confounded me, until I experienced riding the bus this winter in Minneapolis. More often than not travel is an extension of the environment we are going to or coming from. When you embark on your travels to or from work doesn't it feel like you are already at work? It does for me. The moment I lock the front door of my house I am at work until the time I get to unlock that door again. When you leave for vacation doesn't everything already feel like you are on vacation, even though you may have an arduous journey ahead of you? Doesn't the ride home make you feel like the vacation is already over, to the extent that you can feel each and every inch of that ride?

You can imagine how upsetting it was when, during the first major snowfall of my first Minnesota winter, I was forced to wait 45 minutes for a bus that is scheduled to come every 10 minutes. It was as if the entire city of Minneapolis had forgotten which latitudinal plane it existed on. It was as if they could not imagine that a foot of snow could fall in late November. The roads were all a mess and because of this the bus system seemed to be running so far behind that I still cannot wrap my brain around it. Since that point in the year riding the bus has been a trying task. Each an every time I set out on that journey I am greeted with biting winds and unsure footings. Due to this poor weather, my elation upon experiencing my first perfect bus ride was increased dramatically.

Leaving my house with much less that a glance at the bus schedule has more than once made it possible to get to the bus stop with in 2 minutes of a bus arrival. At the bus transfer point my transfer is waiting, it seems just for me. And my return trip is timed equally perfectly. The sheer joy that I experience when this happens, compared to the grating frustration, makes me finally understand the mindset of my friend's father. Experiencing that every weekday (or even half) would most likely keep my mood perpetually on the up swing. It makes me feel like I should wall paper my room in bus rout pamphlets to better plan my travels.

Image curtesy of Tom Prete

Friday, January 29, 2010


I am sorry there will be no post for Gum and Graffiti this week because I am having a birthday this week. I really wanted to have a guest post ready for this week but things just didn't come together. Hope you all have a great week and look for a post next week (maybe even two to make up for this).

Friday, January 22, 2010

Hopeless Romanticism

In college I studied communications, because of this I am a people watcher. The bus seems to make us all people watchers, but in the most discrete way. We all sit in our seats, some with headphones in other playing games or reading, all the while watching those around us. The new and/or nervous are watching because they are not completely comfortable about traveling with strangers, seasoned and/or trusting bus riders watch with shear interest. At the same time most of us want to be ignored while traveling. Think of the time you spend traveling alone in your car, how many embarrassing things do you do? There are people who simply beat on their steering wheel to the beat on the radio, others sing along, some respond back to talk radio personalities and some people even feel comfortable picking their noses. Travelling is a private affair for most of us but the bus takes that privacy away.

One of my favorite encounters, in my private made public travels, is courtship. I am terrible at meeting anyone let alone women and being new to the Twin Cities I am always on the lookout for avenues for making connections. The bus gives me access to a population that I have very little access to otherwise so when a cute girl gets on the bus I am always interested. I would like to believe that I have the ability to read nonverbal communication well but I know that my social anxiety prevents me from communicating in this fashion. This puts me in the position of being a watcher to my own chagrin. Nothing seems creepier to me that the dude on the bus who just sits there watching you.

The scenario plays out such. A cute girl enters the bus, I then get excited at this wonderful opportunity that has set itself in front of me. This excitement then turns into anxiety and I lose just enough courage to then do nothing but try and flirt without speaking. A series of nervous looks in her direction are made along with an attempt to analyze her nonverbal behavior. This behavior is not much different from the other riders, discrete observance of the people she has been thrust into the company of and an obvious desire to keep travel private. If there is any mutual interest it is always lost to the timing of my attempts at eye contact. In the rare occurrence of connection I often fail to remember to smile and I hastily look away. In the even more infrequent situation where I keep my brain racing itself into a brick wall and can actually muster the courage to speak my topic of conversation is if at all topical a dead end. When I think of the situations that I have even made it this far I wonder what could possible happen. Having never past the point of simple small talk how would I proceed. I have the distinct feeling that the scenario would not end much differently if I was successful rather than failing.

In the end I can simply set myself a goal, make it that far. When I was a much younger man I was in the same position as I am today but earlier in the conversation. I had no clue what I could possibly do if I made eye contact with a woman, now at least I have an idea. I guess all I can do is keep trying.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Voilence and Hair Extensions

This week I am posting a story writen for my by a friend of mine who goes by the name of Alex Kurt. Enjoy!

We were on the 16, going east on University, when the fists came out.
The bus had passed Dale and neared the capitol when I felt the first nudge of a fully-flung elbow at the very edge of its swing brush against my cheekbone. Having been placed the luckiest number of millimeters away from the appendage as it hinged about, I mistook it for an innocent swipe; the result of an a bodily adjustment, perhaps, and hardly meriting an acknowledgment, much less an apology.
Nonetheless, I turned to my left, curiously, instinctively, and was met by the sight of several adolescent girls beating the living hell out of each other. It appeared more a clash of factions than a free-for-all; the girl next to me, seated on the aisle, was joined in the struggle by at least one ally from the front, while two or three flung themselves from the back seats onto the pile, fists and arms and elbows and pink hair extensions a-flurry.
My iPod remains frozen on the song I was about to select.
The group had spelled trouble from the moment they boarded at the Snelling stop. They floated through the door and into the aisle amidst a loud barrage of cursing, bobbing swagger, swaying index fingers, and self-effacing racial epithets; seven or eight in number, aged eight to 14, they were led by a young adult woman (it might be a jump to suggest that she was anyone’s mother) dragging an empty stroller, upside down, and leading the foul-mouthed charge. It was clear some of them were angry at someone, or something, but what or who (or whether their pariah was on the bus) was unclear, as is often the case when preteen girls express angst.
As betting men might predict, the newest patrons of this University Avenue bus at four in the afternoon were African-American. Since my Republican father and his friends will invariably but indirectly attribute their behavior to their race by “just pointing out” a pattern of behavior – an attribution whose application here would be owed to bitterness toward Democratic-leaning populations – it behooves me to point out that a group of seven or eight girls, also African-American and aged eight to 12 or so, boarded the bus two stops later, led by a young adult woman with a right-side-up stroller, and none of them swore, at least loud enough for me to hear. Granted, I had put on my headphones two stops earlier. It was funny in a wow-I’m-out-of-touch-for-finding-this-funny…but-at-least-I-recognize-I’m-out-of-touch sort of way.
The second group of girls (this is also “funny”) appeared the most traumatized at the sudden and virulent outburst of violence a few stops later; many cowered and shielded their younger counterparts as the aisle became a spinning-turbine propeller engine room full of elbows, pumping, rotating, spinning fast against a backdrop of other spinning elbows. It became a veritable whirlwind as the engine overheated, spewing hair extensions and diapers and baby bottles and purses about the quarters; the squealing of the malfunctioning machine grew louder and more hate-filled.
Though it occupies a great proportion of space in my mind, the climactic piece of the ordeal lasted only seconds before being extinguished by two men who stepped in. Both men, it again merits attention, were African-American; it merits attention because despite my ideal position to restrain one of the elbow-peddlers, I simply stood up (so as to avoid an elbow with more inertia) and watched (had it been young men delving into a spat, I likely would have sought a quick exit). In so many words, I was a white kid in Frogtown, and lacked the will to convince anyone that I was a legitimate member of the north-of-94 bus-going community, or that it was my place to do anything but look on.
The bus had, by this time, stopped; the girls, clever as they were, would deceptively relax, free themselves of the restraining adults, and lunge at each other again. The shouting continued, scattered, taunting, and briefly united to yell “FUCK YOU” when the bus driver announced that he was calling the police.
All but a few of the girls got off the bus, supporting the warring factions theory. I imagined what they might have been fighting over. A boy? The first spot in line at the ice cream shoppe? Or perhaps the merits of micro-lending with flexible caps and production guidelines vs. direct mandated aide in the developing world?
Those still on board (given their indignation, they had likely advocated direct aide) continued taunting, and running toward the stairs of the side door with swinging fists: “IMMA KICK THAT DUMB BITCH’S SHIT!!” It went back and forth, the girls lurching toward the door, then reeling, until a woman in the back seats latched onto one by the collar and flung her backwards, declaring “I have to get to work, and I have to catch the next bus, so GETCHO ASS in the seat!”
Finally, peace was restored, albeit amidst a smattering of papers, trash, and – yes – pink hair extensions. The girls, now seated, shouted to each other across the rows as the bus rolled into downtown – less to communicate with each other than to inadvertently convince everyone on the bus that they were in the right and that they could, indeed, kick that bitch’s ass if they felt so inclined, but they were holding back, and she ought to be thankful. From what I gathered, the PR campaign was too little, too late, but oblivion is bliss. Just ask my Republican dad, or his friends, or white kids who volunteer in Frogtown.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Alone at a Bus Stop

This is probably the event that made me want to start this blog. To describe myself I am a white male, a little bit over weight and can be found more often listening to music made with guitars rather than drum machines. Because of this disposition I am rarely seen dancing. In the summer of 2005 I was determined to rectify this situation, and was lucky enough to be friends with a group of fellow University students who were studying musical theater performance. So I set up a secret meeting with one of them to help me learn to dance (now I know this sounds a bit like a movie at this point but I assure you it is not). This secret meeting took an awkwardly entertaining 2 hours where I leaned from a friend 3 or 4 stock dance moves to help me look less like an idiot while attempting to dance. Even after that lesson I am still intimidated by dancing in public, but find myself dancing a lot while alone and listening to hip-hop music (I still haven't figured out how to dance to rock music).

About a month after I moved to Minnesota I started attending trivia night at one of the bars in the Cities with some friends. I quickly learned that the bus is the best way to get to and from a bar in the city. My ride home often is as late as 1 o'clock in the morning. This gives me a pretty powerful experience of standing at a bus stop in a major US city and feeling completely alone. The environment at my bus stop is normally busy as its near the University of Minnesota and two major freeways, there are usually cars constantly driving in front of it and almost always people waiting for the bus. In the wee hours of the morning on a week day it is almost a ghost town. On this particular evening I had enjoyed the standard products that one buys at a bar and was feeling quite happy with myself. The weather had started to get chilly and when I arrived at my bus stop I was alone save for a car driving by about once every 5 minutes. For whatever reason I felt compelled to put on Jay-Z's the Black Album while I waited. Feeling completely, comfortably alone I started to dance to keep warm. I waited for that bus for at least 45min.

Thinking back on that evening, if I would have seen myself I would have laughed like crazy. White kid, standing at a bus stop, poorly dressed and dancing his pathetic best. What rich comedy (or possibly heartwarming delight, depending on your persona).

Things to come

First I am sorry that I have not posted for a while, I am trying to make this a weekly thing, but with the holidays my life got a little hectic.

I will try and post a new story here each week by Saturday. I am also collecting a series of guest posts from friends so keep your eyes peeled for those.

Here is to a wonderful year!