Long Beach Transit –60 Cents
A lady at the bus stop is trying to pop something open. Pop! There it goes. It’s a tiny bottle of Jose Cuervo! What is this, a bar? No, it’s a bus stop! She sees a friend drive by in a car and gets a ride. I don’t.
So I see out the window-
Two Lords of Dogtown walk down the boulevard, hair to shoulders, noggin to noggin, consulting about their “rails”. Vans, what else, are transporting their feet down the street. They’re searching for an abandoned swimming pool. Good luck. This is Long Beach.
In the bus I notice-
An Hispanic man in a wheelchair sits next to me with a nickel in his paw and scrapes on a lottery ticket, checking the numbers, finding no matches to ignite his fire of hope. Our eyes meet.
“You can’t win them all,” I comment.
“I can’t even win one of them,” he observes, “ It’s pathetic.”
He blows the refuse off his lap and sits back quietly resigned to his fate.
A woman from a passing bus regards me,* right below her a sign reads, “Any coffee 99 cents.” I can’t find a cent sign on the computer keys to convey it. I got trouble. Dollar signs but no cent signs. That must mean something but I’m not sure what. Maybe I’m losing my mind.
Left turn on Long Beach Boulevard. Now we’re in for it.
Banners are hung on the lamp posts, red, yellow, and brown, chestnuts and blowing leaves, behind them the sun. It’s Socal’s way of reminding folks it’s autumn. In Socal they have to measure autumn by the calendar. The California palm trees don’t know the difference, or the season, never have.
A woman gets off, two women get on.
A man with a well-fed look is patting his belly outside of the Sizzler. I wonder if he’s rubbing it for luck, hoping he doesn’t have a coronary tomorrow when the good tasting fat turns solid again in his gut and clogs up his arteries with repulsive fat. He must be a gambler by nature. Russian roulette with fat is his game.
A handsome young man looking like Eddie Murphy with Valentino sideburns steps in and makes eyes at the driver, one diamond earing in his ear. As he talks on his cell phone he furrows his brows.
“Who’s this?” brows furrowing, “But you’re the one calling me!”
His great great grandpa had poor southern earth to furrow with a plow and a mule. Back then it was tough. He had no diamond earring.
We pass a man on a corner dressed in rags that waves the bus on. He’s bald-headed and nearly naked, like some wandering sadhu. His eyes are shut tight against reality. He should be in India. Such things should not be allowed in a country as rich as ours.
On the corner an Arco station has so much bucks it can afford to fly Old Glory on a tall metal mile-high post made of money. Usually you only see flags on police stations, government offices and public schools. At first it seems out of place. But then it makes so much sense. It’s Arco’s way of reminding you who really runs America.
In front of the station a Mexican gardener plants flowers, no tools, no plans, just brown simple hands digging the dirt of the earth.
Mothers line up at a school to pick up their kindergarteners. Some are so small they get carried away in their arms. Sometimes I wish I’d never got past the first grade.
Next is Hughes Way. An older exec is smoking a cigarette on a outside stairwell. He looks lonely, abandoned, in exile. Did Howard smoke? I wonder. Though Howard has always been my hero, my mad genius-money-making-manic-compulsive-hero, I don’t even knowif he smoked. Sorry Howard.
A woman who sits directly across from me sounds exactly like Vivian Leigh! OMG!
It makes me want to scream, “Stella!” and ask her if she has a sister in New Orleans. Sir Lawrence Olivier would be jealous. Makes me wanna take a streetcar home instead of a bus. Makes me wanna slap Tennesee Williams for making me think these thoughts.
At Santa Fe and Thirty-Third Street, twin ball-capped gangsters are smoking a blunt at the bus stop and wave it on. They look happily busy…or maybe just loaded.
My foot falls asleep so I re-cross my legs and continue to write.
A smiling couple walking a pit-bull on a leash are laughing. They know they’ve got nothing to fear.
Four people of color are lined up at Louisiana Fried Chicken. People, I don’t make this shit up.
At Cabrillo High thousands of students get on. Two girls sit directly in front of me. They compare their finger tips with glee and hold them up. Nail jobs are discussed with enthusiasm.
“Oh, I like them a lot!
“Oh, where did you get them done?”
I can see their nails from my seat. They look so good, these girls are true artists! It must have taken them hours.
There’s nothing like high-school girls on the face of the planet. They immerge upon womanhood as if it were D-day in Normandy, which is to say with determination and vengeance. You gotta admire their spirit.
Now the bus is stuffed like canoli and it’s hard to hear. But one voice rings out true. It’s from a gentleman standing up near the front. His voice is clear and grating. He has his hand extended skyward and announces to everyone on the bus,
“God is real!”
We are convinced.
“You may not believe in him. Some people don’t believe in him.”
We believe in him.
“Even if you don’t believe in him. God is real! God is real!”
At the next stop he gets off.
At this point a woman with corn rows exclaims “Amen.”
And that’s that. The sermon is over.
A tiny girl sitting on her Momma’s lap reminds me of my granddaughter. Pony-tailed, pink-topped, blue-jeaned-bottomed baby girl is what she is.
Her eyes, full of wonder and enquiry, are lashed to perfection. Her smile is as engaging as Shirley Temple’s dimples.
I see my destination coming up. I pull on the buzzer to get off. At least I’m not at the end of my rope, just the end of my buzzer, thanks to the baby girl playing peek-a-boo with me through the headrest. The bright eyes of kids always do me good.
I arrive at my stop and at the same time…hop off… now at the end of my story.