Friday, December 12, 2008

What nationality are you?

I took them for a ride on the 105 line for almost two tears. I didn't mind it, it's not as bad as a lot of drivers make it out to be. Still, it has it's moments. This incident happened not long after I came to America so perhaps that's why I didn't understand the question.

One evening I pulled up at the traffic lights at Vernon and Central. A gang of kids just appeared out of nowhere. I had to admire it really, the whole thing was done with almost military precision. The lights were red, out jumped the kids armed with spray paint, before the lights could turn green the windshield was covered in red paint. Then they were gone.

I called up the control room and told the dispatcher that I couldn't drive the bus any more on account of how I couldn't see a thing. I described what happened and then he asked me the strangest damn question. He asked;
"What nationality were the kids?"
I replied that as far as I knew they were all bloody Americans. It turned out that what he was really asking was, what was the color of their skin. I didn't understand that at the time and to tell the truth I still don't. When I've mentioned this to any one who is American they understand what he was asking but it gives me a question;
If this is supposed to be "One nation" and if we are supposed to take a pledge of allegiance to this "One Nation under God" How can you ask anyone here "What nationality are you?"
I still don't understand after nearly 19 years so could someone please explain.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Homeless and the Hooker Poet

I was working the 10 line out of the West Hollywood Division. It starts on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood and goes down Melrose Avenue. During the day it usually changes to the 48 line in downtown Los Angeles and continues into Watts. Today, though, I was working the owl. During the night it only works as far as Maple and 7th. There's a terminal there right in the middle of skid row.

A lot of the homeless catch the bus. Actually they catch a lot of buses. For most of the homeless and toothless it's cheaper to get a bus pass than a room. On the bus they can get an hour or so sleep in a dry and sometimes safe place. Most drivers chuck them off at the end of the line but I have other ideas. I bring a thermos of coffee and some plastic cups. I usually have some cookies as well. So me and the smelly ones sit and have a chat and very enlightening it is. They tell me a lot of lies and I tell them a few of my own. The night passes pleasantly enough. I've met Kings and Dukes, Aliens from other countries and other planets, fighters, boozers and really nice guys who have finished last.

Early on in my shift Ray got on my bus. Every time he gets on it's his 65th birthday so he wants to go for free. Ray is homeless with no teeth and one leg. He hops up on his crutches and my feeling is that if he's got a bit of cash he'd be better off buying a cup of coffee than spending it on busfare so I never charge him. Hey, WTF so shoot me. Today he asked me if I knew of MacDavis. Of course I do, he was a big country singer in the 70's. So me and Ray sang a few choruses of "Lord it's hard to be humble" Me with my Welsh accent and him with no teeth. Still the passengers seemed to enjoy it. Later he told me that he's moving to Arizona. He said his first wife wants him back. I said "But Ray, you've only got one leg, how you gonna kick her ass?" He promised me he'd find a way.

Last night I was at the terminal on my own when Beverly paid me a visit. At least that's what she told me her name was. She wandered over from the felony flats across the street to offer me a blow job for $15. Quite a reasonable price, I felt very special that I was getting such a deal. So I asked if she gave any freebies, a sort of "Try before you buy" Unfortunately she turned that down. I pointed out to her that I don't purchase anything without some kind of warranty, so I asked if she promised "Satisfaction guaranteed or your money back." That's when she said something so cool that I committed it to memory. She said;

"It's all about the money,

And it's not funny.

You gotta have cash

In this land of milk and honey."

Now that's poetry for you.

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Orange Line

These are some pic's of the articulated buses that Metro uses in the San Fernando Valley. made by NABI (The North American Bus Industry) powered by natural gas, they carry more people than any driver should legally be allowed to deal with.

This is the terminal at the Warner Centre. The buses run on a specially built designated street. They operate like trains with stations along the way constructed in a similar way to train stations.

They get a lot of madia attention when they hit a car at intersections. not the driver's fault. Usually it's motorists who don't realize that there's a special little street here and they go belting across without even seeing the red light. The driver's have been told to go no more than 10 miles an hour at intersections but the L.A. car driver, with not a minute to spare still ends up in the side seat of the bus.

Here's the inside. Looking from the back seat down to the front. It looks longer inside than it does outside.

Thoughts of the Tardis.

I had to show this. I'm Welsh,remember. All over Wales the signs are bi-lingual and here in L.A. it's no different. Except that here the language is Spanish instead of Welsh.
On the subject of bi-lingual. There's a Welsh phrase that I always used. My parents said it to me and I say it to my children. It's "Nos Da" Just means good night. However, It sounds a lot like the Spanish phrase "No Esta" My wife, who's from a Spanish speaking family, found it very disturbing to have her husband come to bed each night and tell her "It's not here."

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Jesus, the bus and me

I've seen similar back in Wales but never as intense as it appears in L.A. There are some people who have decided that God has called them to a Bus mission.
They could be male or female, they get on the bus and begin preaching the word of the Lord. It gets interesting at times, these folks are just frustrated preachers looking for a congregation and the bus gives them a captive audience. I could make them stop but it's entertaining enough that I usually let them get on with it while I enjoy the show.
Where it gets to be real fun is when another preacher gets on while one is in full swing. It is obvious to both of them that the good Lord would not send two of his ministers onto the same bus, therefore one of them is a false prophet. Oh it's good stuff and makes the day go by. I love to get a chuckle from these things.
One of the features of L.A. is the mixture of devout christianity with total depravity. Like the old woman running for my bus, probably moving a lot faster than she should have been all the while yelling;
"Wait! Wait! or I will kill you in the name of Jesus."
Just the other day I was at a bus stop, saw a young woman running for the bus. I waited and when she got on, totally out of breath, in between gasps for air she said;
"Oh, thank you Lord, thank you Jeeesus, coz I'm drunk as a motherfucker."
Which brings me to the videos on the sidebar. They really have nothing to do with my life of picking up and dropping off. They are videos I made for my YouTube account. They reflect something of my own religious convictions. Christian readers beware I'm not one of you.
I'm a pagan. I don't worship any God but I give honor to Mother Earth and Father sky. The lady of the Lake and the Wild God of the Forest are as real to me as the air I breathe.
These convictions color my views on life, the universe and bus driving.
I got into a conversation with a pastor from one of the African American churches here. At the end of it he walked away shaking his head saying;
"That boy got one messed up theology."
But it works for me. I look at L.A. and buses from a Welsh Druid perspective. It's a bit different and I don't have the negative view that I've often seen displayed by colleagues here and in the U.K. I believe that this different outlook helps me in many situations.
One day while driving through South Central L.A. a black man demanded, quite loudly to know "What's a white man doing driving through the 'hood." One of my regular passengers answered;
"Hey man, Pete's cool. He's a different kind of Caucasian."
That about sums it up.

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Los Angeles, California, United States