The Lost Bus

A long bus ride bears some resemblance to being in jail. You can’t really do what you want and the food isn’t very good.

The bus I was on, a series of which would eventually land me in Tucson, Arizona, would periodically stop so that the smokers could smoke and so that they and everyone else could stretch their legs. The stops were brief, though, and I didn’t dare venture very far away. The idea of being stranded in, say, rural Oklahoma was a fearsome thought. Thus the comparison with prisoners.

There were about fifty people on the bus. There are interesting social dynamics to be observed on a long-distance bus. People, especially single travelers (the norm), would always seem to find a like-minded person to talk with. Somehow I always found someone interesting to talk with, or they found me.

It was after dark and the bus was approaching Tulsa, Oklahoma. We passed another bus parked on the shoulder with some people milling around it. Perhaps a breakdown or a flat tire?

After another twenty or so miles the “captain”, as Greyhound likes to call its drivers, announced, “My boss says that we have to go back to that bus we passed and pick up 19 stranded passengers.”

Some people on the bus groaned. One of them spoke up and said, “Where are we gonna put them? The bus is about full!”

The driver said, “We’ll figure somethin’ out. Some of ’em can stand. I gotta do it — my boss told me to, and I want to keep this job.”

So, backing and filling, the bus turned around and went back eastwards. I tried to stifle my impatience at this delay. I was hungry and had neglected to bring along any food.

As a passenger in a bus I force myself to ignore the inscrutable path followed by a bus in the city. After a while, though, I noticed that we were passing the same buildings more than once as we looped around the highway entrances and exits.

The bus driver couldn’t find the stranded bus. He was frantically calling the stranded bus’s driver and his own dispatcher. The whole process took an hour, and by the time the driver located the other bus there were only seven passengers left for us to take onboard — the others had evidently found other means of rescue.

“Okay!”, I thought. “We can be on our way!” The next stop was to be the Tulsa bus terminal, where I might be able to find something (anything!) to eat.

We passed downtown Tulsa, which has some interesting buildings, and drove about five miles. A strident male voice piped up, coming from a seat behind me:

“Sir! Driver! Aren’t we stopping in Tulsa? We passed the downtown area some miles back!”

With irritation and anxiety evident in his voice, the driver said:

“Yeah, we’re stopping in Tulsa! Just be patient!”

Once again there was an hour of looping around and passing the same buildings multiple times. The driver couldn’t find the depot!

The entire bus seemed to be seething with impatience and hunger. I could hear several conversations going on around me, with statements such as:

“What the fuck is wrong with this guy? I have an appointment I have to get to!”

“I can’t believe he’s lost! I am so darned hungry right now!”

After the driver talked briefly with his dispatcher on the radio he finally pulled into the terminal parking lot. There was scattered ironic applause from several of the passengers. The driver’s neck reddened and he said in an aggrieved tone:

“I’ve only been doing this for three months!”

That driver bailed out there at the terminal and went home to sulk. We got a more experienced driver and I tried to sleep, which is not easy on a bus. I tend to awaken after about an hour, fuzzily thinking, “What is all of this bumping and noise?”


Copper Pit

After a harrowing bus ride from Quincy to Arizona I’m now in Bisbee, Arizona. I feel like I’m on another planet. I’ll be here for a while — should I change the name of the blog to Desert Rambles?

Bisbee is a decidedly odd little town. Lots to photograph here, but I’ll start with an impressive sight I saw yesterday. Bisbee is a mining town, and much of the surrounding landscape has been affected by more than a century of first shaft, then open-pit copper mining. The Lavender Pit was opened in 1950. This is an enormous pit; it covers three hundred acres and it’s about nine hundred feet deep. I liked the stepped texture of the walls:

The landscape surrounding the pit, which is on the edge of Bisbee, is surreal. White and orange rock slopes scarred by the mining operations are everywhere. It is a balm to the eyes to see the scrub-covered slopes just beyond.

Several mountain ranges are nearby and the desert between them has a certain compelling beauty.


An Amazing MRI Video

A French woman named Xea Baudoin posted this video on Google+. She introduced it with this description:

Ancient Asian statue of Buddha was processed through MRI and a hidden treasure was found inside: pearls…


I’d love to see how this was done!


2011 in review

18,000 views! I had no idea. It looks like John Fitzgerald’s wonderful eagle photo was well-liked!

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 18,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 7 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Native North American Food Plants

There aren’t many, as compared with what has come from Mexico, Central America, and the Old World. Blueberries, Hickory and Pecan nuts, cranberries, persimmons, and paw-paws — not a large list. But then there is the sunflower, mainly Helianthus annuus. Somehow seeds of this American plant made their way across the Atlantic and farmers and plant-breeders in Russia and the Ukraine learned that the tall plant was ideally suited to the climates there.

Farmers found that sunflower seeds are a great source of cooking oil, when they are squeezed hard enough. This NPR story tells the tale very well:

How The Russians…


Those Cunning Oriental Cobblers

Looking back a few decades, it seems that almost every Midwest town had a shoe factory. Hannibal had one that covered at least two city blocks down by the river. Those factories provided quite a bit of employment for working-class folks. Everyone needs shoes!

My ex-wife Betsy’s father Chris owned and ran a shoe store in Quincy, on Maine Street. We would bring the kids to town and stop in at the store to visit. I was idly looking through Chris’s stock shelves one day, probably sometime during the late 1980s, when I noticed that almost all of the boxes were marked “Made In China”, my first inkling of the changes to come.

I needed some new shoes a month or so ago. I had paid $100.00 for a pair of Rockport walking shoes a couple of years ago and they were more-or-less shot, coming apart at the seams. I’m hard on shoes, what with all of the walking that I do. A pair of running shoes I’d bought a year or so ago were also about worn out.

So I reluctantly drove out to the Wal Mart superstore way out on Broadway. I’ve never liked shopping for apparel, but sometimes it’s necessary.

I found this pair of mid-height suede leather boots for the amazingly low price of thirty bucks:

What would these boots have cost if they were made in the USA? Twice as much? Three times as much? They are very serviceable and comfortable, and I’ve probably put one hundred miles on them already. I’d love to know more about them:

Where did the leather come from? Which cow was slaughtered and run through the livestock industrial mill to provide it? What breed of cow?

What’s the shoe factory like, and where is it?

Shoes should come with an explanatory pamphlet! I can see it in my mind’s eye… there would be a pre-slaughter photo of the particular cow which provided the leather, a group shot of the shoe factory workers, and a photo of the factory. There would be an explanation of where the sole material came from, and a photo of a worker operating the shoe-lace machine. It probably won’t happen!


What’s Going On Here?!

I expanded rapidly as I surged out of the computer case, from my lair next to the cozy power supply, and found Larry packing a suitcase.

“What are you doing, Larry? Are you leaving, or what?” I breathed a bit of fire, as that relieves anxiety for me. My eyes blazed green.

“Yeah, Demon,I’m taking a bus to Arizona tomorrow.”

“Why didn’t you tell me? Can I come along?”

“I certainly am not going to buy you a bus ticket! I don’t think the driver would let you on, anyway. They have rules about large winged reptiles riding buses. It alarms the other passengers and makes the kids cry. You can fly, after all!”

“But it’s so far away! All of the way across the Great Plains!”

“Just take your time. You can feed upon jackrabbits and armadillos along the way.”

I was feeling sulky and pouted.

“Well, okay…” I said, and retreated back into my lair. I spend most most of my time sleeping there.


B&W Ice Cream

I love this film produced by Louis C.K. It incorporates all sorts of tropes and ideas from old B&W movies, and the music is so appropriate. Swirl it all together, add a potent dose of surrealism, and the result is a very good short film:


Louis C.K. plays the flower vendor, and the other actors are first-rate.

Another one, a rather weird parody of old Western movies: