Thursday, April 19, 2007

Thoughts on the bus, when placelessness mixes with place

(Did I really stay at this Holiday Inn? + the cat in Cincinnati likes to watch water go down the drain)
(Also, I wish I could keep these photos in something other than a straight line, but not with this particular blogging layout and I'm worried if I change the layout something else will get messed up, so that's a project for the future-- actually wait,This particular series looks great in a straight column justified right)

In line at the Pittsburgh bus station-- which kind of looks like a large trailer from the outside, conveniently located just steps from the county jail-- anyway, in line, this woman who’s with a guy in full cowboy attire says to me: you’re an unconventional person, everything about you is unconventional-- I like the luggage, but I don’t know about the rest of it -- don’t worry though, I went to the Art Institute of Pittsburgh too, I like unconventional people. Tell me, am I right -- did you go to the Art Institute of Pittsburgh? Well, it was a good guest -- right?

Then I’m telling her about Nobody Passes and three different people hold their hands out for postcards as we’re about to board the bus, one of them wants to know who my favorite author is (hers is Maya Angelou).

On the bus, this guy is talking on his cellphone about hollow-point bullets, that’s why his friend didn’t end up in jail because the bullets weren’t hollow-point, they let them off easy -- the guy is saying I was the only sober one and he took his gun and started shooting it. When we stop, there’s a woman in the back laughing and saying you’re making that up! I figure she’s talking about the guy in front of me who’s now talking more about guns but then I realize she’s talking about my stretching. Why do so many people have a problem with my stretching? On the next bus, a nearby queen who sort of looks on the DL until she starts speaking with an incredibly lispy voice, she and the woman beside her start cracking up every time I reach my hands up and stretch my hips. Whatever.

Turns out the nice woman in Pittsburgh just got out of rehab for the fourth time, I’m guessing the guy in the cowboy outfit got out with her because it turns out that they don’t know each other that well, we get to Wheeling, West Virginia and she’s pointing out the sights, when I take off my eye mask she points out the former gay bar too, she used to work there on Tuesdays. She just calls it the bar, I know what she means -- she says there’s only one at a time, until it gets shut down. Wheeling is beautiful actually -- all of these gorgeous old brick buildings facing large metal bridges over the huge river, maybe just four blocks wide before hills. I wonder about all of these old small towns we pass through between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati -- some of them so gorgeous and old like nothing has changed since the 1930s. I’m in that bus ride moment between complete exhaustion and subtle calm, it’s so surprising the moments when suddenly a feeling of placelessness mixes with place and for a moment I’m living in the idea of what we’re driving through, until the exhaustion comes back and I have to put the eye mask back on.



James said...

In your last paragraph, I really liked your description of the small towns in southeast Ohio. I was travelling in a perpendicular direction to your route between Charleston WV and Columbus OH. There was a stretch of old highway that had not been bypassed by a freeway that had not yet been built. There was a truck stop in a two story brick building that looked like an old school. I felt like I had gone back in time eighty years to the infancy of the trucking industry. Nowadays, traveling along the interstates, a person almost never sees an independent truck stop, they are all corporate chains!$!, and they are many times called a "travel center".

mattilda a.k.a. matt bernstein sycamore said...

James, that sounds beautiful -- that truck stop in a brick building that looked like an old-school, it's so true that all of the "travel centers" are now owned by corporate chains, like almost everything along the highway actually -- what a nightmare!

And I'm glad you liked my description of that area too.

Now I'm in Chicago, my last event tomorrow before heading home!

Love --