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Bus Thoughts

On Buses, Thinking Too Much and the Unpredictable Future

overcast 36 °F


I’m inspired. I would give almost anything for a pen right now. Sadly, I am pen less (which is almost as bad as penniless), and my journal remains unopened. Ah well, I’ll have to do this electronically and transpose it to paper later. This is the opposite of how this normally works.

I’m on a bus rolling north on Interstate 35. I’m a passenger. Why am I not a “passager”? Why is that “n” there? Now that is a perfect example of a bus thought. I’ve spent a lot of time on buses and trains this year. I’ve gone from the top of Michigan to the middle of Florida by bus or train. This has given me a lot of insight into the nature of this style of travel.

Here and Now

Parallel streaks of water slide down at a 15-degree angle from the top of the window. It distorts my view. The heavy gray ceiling hangs over drab landform of the plains below.

I’m listening to tunes on my I-pod. My songs: “Truth” by Alexander. “Some Say I’m Not” by Mason Jennings. “Skinny Love” by Bon Iver. “How to Disappear Completely“ by Radiohead. “Islero“ by Crooked Fingers. The music creates a soundtrack to the movie of my life. I picture past events and put music to those moments. I’m vain enough to think it would be a cool video.

A minute ago, we passed an abandoned farmhouse and barn along side of the road. It would have been an easy scene to establish mood in a photograph. Three “D” words come to mind: Decay. Decrepit. Dreariness. Sadness hangs over that place, even the trees don’t want to grow. I wonder about it.

The dark afternoon suits my temperment for this ride. I’m a bit hung over today. I’m also a bit tired. Last nights adventure took my nephew, his future bride, and myself into downtown Kansas City. We ate and then went to the Blue Room over in the Jazz District. Have you heard of the Blue Room? It’s a Kansas City landmark, right on the corner of the Jazz District. Many Jazz legends have played the Blue Room. The proof hangs on the wall in the form of vintage black and white band photos. The music is good, the mood is light, the conversation flows. Two events surprise us: Free cake and a saxophone player. The latter being a musician of modest fame, who happened to be in town, and was packing his horn. The former was delicious. Both surprises are delightful.

My memories, the soothing landscape and my music are the order of the day.

On Thinking Too Much

Buses offer a lot of time to think. Alan Watts reminds us that, “A person who thinks all the time has nothing to think about except thoughts. So he loses touch with reality and lives in a world of illusions. I’m not saying thinking is bad. Like anything else, it is useful in moderation. A good servant, but a bad master.”

So true.

What do I think about? My future. As a Zen free spirit, I find it amusing that I suffer from mild anxiety about my short-term future more often than I want to. I haven’t convinced myself that there isn’t anything to worry about. Everything will work out, as it should. Ram Dass has mused, “Isn’t that interesting? Far out, I still get uptight about this.”

Four Repeating Thoughts

My finances are dwindling. I may have to give up being a mariner. I don’t have another job lined up yet, though I am working on it. I’m tired of trying to figure out where to go.

These thoughts aren’t all that scary. I don’t know why I’m worried about it. I offer them to give a little insight into the mind of a wanderer. My life is different from most, and sometimes its not easy living on the very edge of stability. I feel like I’m coming to crossroads of my life. I can’t see the next path, yet, but I sense it is there. Which path should I take? And there’s the rub.
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This last paragraph has brought a smile to my face.

Posted by Rhombus 13:52 Archived in USA Tagged travel bus jobs philosophy roadtrips Comments (1)

The First Adventure of the New Year

A Mid-Winter Midnight Bus Ride, "The Road Home", Heading to Chicago

semi-overcast 10 °F

This adventure begins at midnight on a wintry night in the small city of Hancock, Michigan. I stepped out of the warm comfort of my brother’s car (and life) and crossed the empty street carrying my mystifyingly heavy bags. It was frigid outside. The snow crunched loudly underfoot - an indication of very cold temperatures. I greeted the bus driver, and I loaded my bags under the bus before stepping aboard.

I found a seat near the back on the right side of the aisle. I prefer the right side because I can read road signs out of my window. That way, I know where I am. I was one of only two passengers that boarded in Hancock. The driver closed the door and we sped off into the night.

I smiled as a current of tingles flowed up and down my spine. I love setting out on the next adventure! I can’t help but think of the line from the Shawshank Redemption, “I find I’m so excited that I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it’s the excitement only a free man can feel. A free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain.”

It was late, but I wasn’t tired. I called one of my other brothers (I have five), and we carried a good conversation until I lost phone service.
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The bus wasn’t very comfortable. I couldn’t get the seat in the right position. The heaters were blasting and I became too hot in my wool sweater. At the back of the bus, there was a weird blue night light left on for those who wanted to use the head. The light was annoying. I was bathed in a bright blue light for the whole ride. I should’ve moved out its glare, but I didn’t think of that at the time. I caught a catnap here and there, but really didn’t get any solid sleep.

What the bus lacked in comfort, it made up for in speed. The hours flew by, in a bluish blur of wintry scenes and bizarre dreams. I woke up after one small catnap in Escanaba. I gathered my stuff, and stepped off into the cold. The stars were twinkling above, and I admired them for a few minutes before stepping inside the station. I realized it had been too long since I stopped to admire any starry nights. A fool I am.
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The lobby of the bus station had an odd shape, yet warm and bright. The first thing I noticed was a small stack of books sitting on the bench. I sat next to them, and picked one up. It was “The Road Home,” by Jim Harrison.

Harrison is one of my favorite authors- a master artist with words. I thumbed through the chapters trying to decide if I had read this book, and I was pleased to realize that I had not. The title gave me pause, “The Road Home.”

Lately, I’ve been thinking about what “home” means to me. I haven’t come up with any revelations. I’m not sure. I’d love to have a home again one day, a base camp to recuperate and relax between adventures. I’m also keen to turn it into an amazing place to host other travelers, a kind of unofficial couch surfing hostel. I’m not sure what form this takes, or where it is…yet. I do know that I want to share this project with someone, but haven’t met them…that I know of. It’s very unclear. However, finding this book in such a random place and time has made me think. Is this book a sign? Am I on the road home? It’s far too early to tell, but it is fun to think about.

After a brief layover, I boarded the bus, one book heavier.

I stayed awake for this leg of the trip. It isn’t far from Escanaba to Menominee. I listened to tunes and watched the road ahead. When we reached Menominee, the bus pulled over and I got off. The driver handed me my bag and wished me a good morning. It was 5 a.m. and I had been up for a very long time.

I shivered. My breath swirled around my face and started to freeze to my beard. I called my nephew, and we worked out a place to meet. I walked a couple of blocks back northward and met him at a gas station. The station was bustling with early commuters stopping in for coffee and cigarettes.

It was a pleasant walk through the quiet neighborhoods of north Menominee. The houses stood still and quiet. We chatted, we reconnected, and we reached his house after a ten-minute walk.

At Rex’s house, we sat in his dark living room while sipping hot coffee pressed in the French style. We made a hearty breakfast of bacon and eggs with toast covered in homemade blackberry jam. We drank more coffee. I think I had four cups.

Rex put on a movie, “Tucker and Dale VS. Evil” which was stupid enough to be hilarious. I passed out into a beautiful slumber even after drinking four cups of coffee. I was exhausted. When I awoke, there was a gigantic cat nestled next to me, happily purring away. This cat was huge, it couldn’t started at left tackle for a division two college football team. It was unexpected, but not the worst way to wake up. It was noon, and the adventure was off to a fine start.

On Tuesday, Rex and I are going to Chicago to visit his sister. I’ve never been to the windy city in winter. I’m sure it’s going to be cold. I’m also sure it’s going to be fun.

Posted by Rhombus 15:53 Archived in USA Tagged snow winter home bus ice road trip michigan philosophy Comments (2)

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