Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Driving Bus No. 6

I've been driving Bus No. 6 for almost 17 years. It's not my main job, it's just what I do in the morning to get me warmed up for a full day of teaching and how I let off steam in the afternoon so I don't go home and kick a cat.

My wife hates it when I even THINK about kicking the cats.

I kind of enjoy driving my bus. The students are really not all that bad, I have a pretty route, and the extra money keeps my family eating more than just beans on toast. Of course, I realize that it's not for everyone -- most people hate the idea of driving a bus because of how it's portrayed on TV and in the movies, or how assaults are caught on security cameras and beamed right into your living room via the nightly news just when you're starting to enjoy your evening beef and potatoes TV dinner, complete with the pert near homemade apple strudel on the side -- but it suits me just fine.

I've been driving my route for so long now, I've created names for different "points of interest" along my journey (mostly because I can't remember the street numbers). Let me describe it for you:

First, I drive my bus through the Eye of the Needle, and whether I survive or not, I end up at the Purley Gates. I take the Short Cut to the Castle, turn around and go through The Spooky Woods, over to the Goat Farm, back through The Cow Pasture and head up the road to the Loveliest House on the Hill. From there I zig zag through Tornado Alley, drive through the Rabbit's Den, turn right at the Tree In The Middle of the Road (which isn't there anymore because it died), go past the Horse Ranch, down Blind Man's Alley, take a left through the White Fences, past the cemetery, go for a ride on Dead Man's Rollercoaster, which takes me back to the main highway. I turn around at McCurdy's Catfish and Burgers, turn right into Pelican Bay, and if I make it through there alive, pick up my last riders on Liberty Lane and head north back through The Eye of the Needle.

I pass by four cemeteries, go through a working cow pasture, get to see peacocks, dairy cows, deer, wild boars, rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, vultures, an occasional donkey in the road, and I even think I saw a young bald eagle once, but it was hard to tell because I was driving a bus.

One time (and I swear this is true),  a herd of cows were lined up at the cattle guard blocking the entrance to The Cow Pasture, just daring me to cross. It looked like a football defensive line, except they weren't wearing helmets or jerseys. Of course I was bigger, and yellow, so they had to move. But I'll let you know they pooped enough poop on the road that teachers at the school commented about smelling my bus five miles before I even got to the school.

"Boy, we could smell you coming!"

"Cow pasture."

"Really?" said sarcastically.

"Would I lie to you?"

Of course, the Loveliest House on the Hill makes the whole trip worth it. It's not the biggest, or fanciest, or even the loveliest house in the world, but when you're on that hill in the winter, and the sun is just coming up, and they have their curtains open so you can see the warm glow of their lamps lighting up every room in the house, you just know they would invite you in for a cup of hot coffee, if you weren't driving a bus, on a schedule to get your riders to school.

Whenever I retire from driving the bus, I'm going to knock on their door one early winter morning, and I know they'll be glad I stopped by.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Friday, September 22, 2017

Friday Haiku just for you

I'm a round Earther
not some billionaire birther
who talks big but ain't.

*   *   *

Friday coffee cup
ready for a second round
technical top off.

*   *   *

I used to have goats.
There are some days I miss them,
but most days I don'ts.

*   *   *

Good morning, glory
is in the beholder's eye,
and I'm beholding.

Morning Glories

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Shopping cart food snobbery

I'm sure when people look at my early Saturday morning Walmart shopping cart full of fruits and vegetables and products from Asia and India with names that begin with Q and Z, they're thinking, "My God, man, how can you live without frozen sausage biscuits and a 12-pack carton of soda pop?"

At the same time they're having their thoughts, I'm thinking, "My God, man, couldn't you've bought a real pineapple instead of that canned chopped-up syrupy stuff with artificial coloring and factory-induced aftertaste?"

Shopping cart food snobbery, hurled in both directions.

"And what is this?" the cashier asks.

"It's Bok Choy."

"Hmmmm. And what's it good for?"

The shopper in line behind me looks to see what the commotion's about.

"Tonight, it'll go into a nice soup, with tumeric and Shitake mushrooms," I reply.

"Shitake. Oh, that's how you pronounce it?"

The bored shopper loses interest and grabs a candy bar from the shelf. His cart is full of sodas and chips and frozen pizza and tubes of ground beef and maple syrup for his boxes of frozen waffles.

Yes, I feel superior with my grapes and quinoa while others are toting around boxed cookies and fake juice drinks. How can they eat like that? And why? Is it too much trouble to chop up an onion and bell peppers, boil a pot of rice and serve it all up with broccoli and tofu? America is the land of the buy one get one free and home of the bravely obese, but does it have to be?

Another shopper enters my line but decides to head off to another register. My purchases are taking time.

Boxes, cans and cartons of packaged food-like stuff are easy to ring up at the cash register. Just slide the bar code across the scanner and away you go. Vegetables and fruits, on the other hand, have to be inspected, counted, and weighed, their product numbers sometimes punched in by hand, which seems to me quite fitting seeing that they were picked, inspected, counted and weighed by hand before they were shipped to the store for me to purchase.

"So, what ya going to do with that stuff?" the shopper behind me asks, pointing at a head of Napa cabbage.

"Gonna make some kimchi," I reply. "It's good for the gut. They eat a lot of it in Korea."

He turns to his wife and I hear him say, "Damn Democrat holding up the line. Look and see if there's another one open."

Luckily the cashier is ringing up my last item. It's in a brown paper bag to keep it cool. She looks in the bag then looks up with a smile that says, "Your secret is safe with me."

I hang my head in embarrassment. Inside the bag is a pint of Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream.

"It's for a friend," I say.

"Sure, honey," is her reply. "Sure it is."

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

When smart phones go bad

I can remember the day I brought home my first cell phone. I cradled the 9-pounder as if its life depended on it. I would have wrapped it in swaddling clothes, but it seemed perfectly happy in its faux-leather carrying bag, nestling adorably against its recharger and multi-language instruction manual.

Wanting to be the best cell phone "daddy" that ever graced the planet, I made sure its antennae was always fully extended, I gave it a full charge whenever it cried out for one, I wiped from its face any accumulated grime or fingerprints, and at bedtime, I laid it gingerly back in its bag and always told it goodnight. Looking down upon its sweet little smile changed my life, and I couldn't imagine how I had gotten along without it.

Time passed quickly, and before I knew it the little guy had changed into an adorably precocious little youngster. It still had its cowlick of an antennae, but it could run faster with more ease, its vocabulary  increased, it dabbled in photography, and it passed along messages as if it were born to it. I was so proud of it, even if it would never excel at playing T-ball, for throughout the ages, mankind has thrilled at the spectacle of sport, but has judged its own humanity by its art and intelligence.

Intelligence. Being clever. Smartness. These are the attributes we as a society honor, or should, more than any other. We pity the stupid man, the ignorant woman, the child who barely can write his own name. Somewhere along their paths, they took the wrong exits, were told that intelligence was overrated, that it was never good to be "too smart."

But not MY phone.

In the blink of an eye, my little cell buddy matured, lost its antennae, forgot all about its childish "flip open, flip closed" games we used to play, and transformed into the smart little thing we always wanted it to become. I was proud to admit that its intelligence far outshone my own. But unfortunately, it was smart enough to know it, became too smart for its britches, and, I'm embarrassed to reveal... turned smart aleck.

Soon we were arguing over the correct routes to take to dinner parties and baseball games. It couldn't focus on the photographs I so wanted to make. It dropped calls, failed to inform me of messages received, chimed out at inappropriate times as if to embarrass me for not giving it enough attention.

And then came the worst part.

In its most vindictive manner, right when I needed it most, it would shut down on me, blank out, screen off, as if it had reached its last charge when I knew full well its battery life had plenty more hours to run and chase the neighbor's goats.

Oh, the fights we had. The words that were spoken.

"Why are you doing this? Is it on purpose?"

"I hate you."

"And after all I've done for you."

"I'm shutting down."

"Oh, no you're not mister."

"Leave me alone."

And then the truth came out. It's little battery WAS bad. It never WAS on purpose. It was congenital, a defect, and nobody ever told me until it was too late.

Much too late.

I buried my little buddy just the other day in the backyard. I was so ashamed. How could I have been so cruel? How could I've not known? And how could I ever bring home another, knowing I'm not the kind of man I wanted to be?

But, as some old cowboy was fond of saying, "When you're bucked off one horse, the best thing to do is get on another."

And holy cow! This new little buddy of mine has more gigabyte space than all the Apollo rockets that were ever sent off into space.

Shoot, I can't wait for it to teach me how to play Parcheesi.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Hurricane Harvey and Mustang Island

I've only been to Mustang Island State Park once.

It's an 18-mile long barrier island down on the Texas Gulf Coast.

Padre Island is to the south. Port Aransas is just to the north. Well, what's left of it.

I remember riding into the park, parking my bike, and the ranger warning me that mosquitoes were bad that year. And she was more than right.

I camped behind the dunes, and those little buggers pert near drained me dry. A family next to me was having a good time, cooking food, playing; the husband running around without his shirt. They obviously had stronger Off than I had on.

Around midnight, I strolled out onto the beach. The moon was full, and a slight breeze was coming in from the Gulf. I found a place to put down my sleeping bag and slept the night away.

Mustang Island is now closed due to damage from Hurricane Harvey.

There's no telling when it'll open again.

Someday, I hope to go back.

Mustang Island