Going To Hell In A School Bus

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The inner circle of people in my life have come to accept – if not fully embrace – that I am not a big fan of the holidays. I’m sure there will be a future entry dedicated to providing the reasons why but, for now, suffice it to say that if it weren’t for kids and grandkids in my life I could happily pull the shades, turn off the radio and the TV, and pretend that November and December were just figments of my imagination.

Since such an option is not available to me I make every effort to participate where I can in events that bring joy to the lives of the people I care most about. And so it was that I was recently invited to attend an event (which, not coincidentally, was to happen at my favorite place on the planet) where there would be a ceremony to officially turn on the Christmas lights at one of the most visited lighthouses in the world.

Now… it’s not so much that I’m a generally cranky or anti -social person… hell, I can even be the life of the party if I have enough booze in me.. it’s just that I have developed a zero – tolerance policy for ass hats, morons, and numb nuts. It is not on me that these three types of people make up the bulk of the human race.

I knew going in, generically, that there would be a large crowd. As I said above, it’s one of the most visited lighthouses in the world… what would any reasonably minded person expect? And, having been there myself hundreds of times during normal tourist moron hours (or”touron” for short) – spanning decades – I was able to mentally prepare myself for the chaos and mayhem that surely awaited us.

It was the damned shuttle buses that I couldn’t possibly have adequately prepared myself for.

During the day the lighthouse parking lot is always packed with visitors. Designed sort of like a rotary, if you first go in and find there are no available spaces, you just keep circling until someone pulls out and you just happen to be close enough to fly in there before that little old lady with the surround sound AARP sunglasses gets a chance to cut in front of you.

The whole thing is a parking lot hell made doubly worse by the fact that the lighthouse itself is right there in front of you, causing drivers to look everywhere but where they are going (putting pedestrians lives at great risk) AND it has a ridiculously over – priced restaurant right on the edge of it which, essentially, quadruples the statistical odds of an otherwise – innocent touron becoming some lucky seagull’s next meal.

As we approached the access road to the lighthouse we were greeted by barricades and a traffic cop telling us we needed to go somewhere else to park our car, explaining that we needed to go up to the main Beach and catch a shuttle bus back to where the lighthouse lighting festivities would be happening. To the extent I am able, I could already see a sea of humanity wandering around aimlessly up ahead near the lighthouse and the gift shop and the over – priced restaurant.

I choked down a groan of defeat and human loathing so I could tell the kids in the backseat how really awesome this was going to be.

We found the city parking lot, parked in a decent spot, and proceeded to get in line and wait for a shuttle bus. As luck would have it – all sarcasm intended – these so-called shuttle buses were actually the town school buses… on-loan to help facilitate the event. Even more fun – again with the sarcasm – was that there were two lines coming from opposite directions which meant that there was a humanoid up there in the middle of that sea of humanity that was going to have to herd us like cats into whichever bus the respective lines were supposed to board.

A human funnel if you will.

It took 30 minutes before it was our turn to get on a bus… and even though it had been over 40 years since I had last
been made to board one, it might as well have been yesterday. Not only did the faux leather look the same, but the chaos and anarchy of everyone fighting to get what they considered the prime spot reminded me of some fucked up version of duck – duck – goose.

The first word that came to mind when I was trying to think of how to describe the ride over was ‘ heinous’ which probably isn’t perfect but I like that word so I’m going with it here; little kids screeching & crying and grown ups trying to talk to each other in voices loud enough to drown out aforementioned screeching & crying kids … sans a stewardess – like noise referee… paints a pretty accurate picture. Times 70 or 80, depending on how many bodies you can jam into the bus

It was hell.. and yet the true hell was still another two miles up the road.

I remember thinking that maybe that’s how the real hell works – an unbearable stretch of torment and misery which is really nothing more then a Purgatory of sorts, intended only to lull you into thinking that it’s not so bad after all and that you might actually be able to survive it… before satan opens the door and you get kicked in the face with the REAL hell.

Yeah… I think I’m onto something here.

By the time we got off the bus it was dark. The crowd was already ass – to – ass deep like some sort of mosh pit gone terribly wrong. We weaved our way about 30 yards through the crowd and into a line at the porta potties which just so happened to have a flood light as bright as the sun pointing directly down on it. There was a fairly decent – sounding folk singer, using a horrendous amplifier, that was pickin’ and grinnin’ not too far away from us as we worked our way through the line and eventually got our turn.

The whole scene was reminiscent of a Grateful Dead concert.

Thirty yards deeper into the crowd, and farther away from the bus stop, we were in pitch blackness. Thankfully I had brought a small flashlight where there is no telling how many more bodies I might have bumped into. Thirty yards beyond that and we were at the edge of the ocean with a clear line of sight to the lighthouse. Thankfully, we sat down and got ourselves situated well enough to be able to watch the lights get turned on across the channel about 30 minutes later.

It was absolutely spectacular:

It goes without saying that I was less than pleased to have been made to wade through that sea of humanity to get an unobstructed view of the lights coming on only to have a couple of tourons’ big heads in the foreground… but once the lights came on all I cared about was how the fuck I was going to get back down to the buses and just exactly how long I was going to have to wrestle for a spot on one of them, filled with more screeching & crying humanoids and their offspring, in order to get back to the car.

As fate would have it.. And as if God himself heard me crying a little on the inside.. the kids decided walking the two miles back was a much better idea.

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Of Man And Beast

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For all that has been written about the relationship between Man and Beast, I can assure you that infinite volumes have yet to be penned. Some context..

Perhaps one of the greatest misconceptions people have about us Hermits is that we aspire to be isolated from the outside world. While it may be true that we prefer to be alone… none of us seeks to be lonely. And while the non – Hermit might consider this to be splitting hairs, the Hermit – life faithful understands that there is a clear distinction.

Each of us designs our lives in the ways necessary to fill whatever unique holes we have inside that we carry around with us. Some talk to plants.. some read or write books… some even make “stuff” in the name of keeping their hands busy just to pass the time.

Me? I carry on deep and meaningful spiritual conversations with my best friend Daisy.

Daisy is an intentional cross between a red Golden Retriever and a Newfoundland. She is far and away the best dog I have ever had… And I have had a rich and diverse life filled with many dogs of many different breeds. What sets apart Daisy from all the others is her loyalty to me, her unwillingness to let me out of her sight and need to be with me always, and the incredible love that she has for my kids and grandkids.. and for every single human being she has ever come in contact with. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life.

I think it’s safe to say that she has a whole lot more faith in the Human Beast than I do.

Consider this an introduction to a special section reserved for chronicling mine and Daisy’s adventures.. “Daisy Constitutionals” if you will… which began innocently enough – inspired primarily by my Doctors’ orders to get out and take walks in the name of fresh air and exercise.

They tell you, after a major medical event, that the three most important things you can do with your life going forward are to take your medicine, eat a healthy diet, and… get plenty of exercise. So that’s what I started doing. Of course no one warned us about the numbers of batshit crazy people we would come across along the way, but I suppose that would have taken all the fun out of it.

These are our stories.

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The Early-Bird Drunk And The Snapped Backpack Strap

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If there was ever such a class as “Impaired grocery shopping on the weekend” I am quite certain that the first session would start off by telling you to – whenever possible – get in, get out, and get back home before the early-bird drunks rouse from their Friday (or Saturday) night stupors. I learned this the hard way recently at the expense of my favorite “big shop” grocery shopping backpack.

I got up at the usual time – roughly 6 a.m. – and dawdled ’round with the dogs while getting enough coffee in me to brave the huddled masses that awaited me at the big grocery store in the heart of downtown. I wasn’t in any hurry because it was cold and cloudy and I didn’t have anywhere else to be that day.

With my empty backpack draped over my shoulder, I caught the number 10 inbound and made it down to the store at around 10:30. The place was already packed… it was “poor people pay day” (the 5th of the month which is the day food stamp money hits the EBT cards) and it was already a complete shitshow.

You know… of all the things I miss since this last stroke, it has to be my short-term memory that I miss the most; everyone knows that you need to avoid grocery shopping on the 5th at all costs… and of course I had completely forgotten all about it. Worse still? It was fucking Saturday.


If you have ever watched one of those shows on TV where someone has won a timed shopping spree, where are you only have a limited amount of time to fill up your entire cart before the buzzer rings, you can picture what grocery shopping is like in the inner city on the 5th. It is total chaos, mayhem, and rampant assholery on steroids. It’s like everyone’s in a hurry, acting as if they are the only humanoids in the place, and appears to have left everything they have ever known about left and right lanes and oncoming traffic out in the parking lot.

It’s a little like some horrible mutation of carnival bumper cars where all the drivers are tripping on fucking acid.

It took nearly an hour to scratch and claw my way through the store, and half that again to stand in line at the register, but soon enough I made it through the sliding doors and across the shopping finish line with all of my fingers toes and limbs relatively secured.. more or less. Congratulating myself for surviving, I walked around to the side of the store where the shopper’s under-sized bus stop bench was waiting patiently for me to sit my wide ass down and collect myself for a few minutes before I had to start digging for the quarters I would need for the number 10 bus headed outbound from shopping hell.

Once I got close enough to see the bench, alas, I was instantly filled with dread. Waiting for me there was a visibly shit-faced man.. About 20 years my junior.. who brightened at the sight of me as if I was his long-lost crazy uncle. I felt, welling up inside of me, like I was about to have an out-of-body experience.

He stood up, grinning from ear-to-ear (and smelling like a bartender’s swill bucket that hadn’t been emptied for a week), and asked me if I needed any help with my bag. I politely refused, telling him that I was all set but thank you anyway, and sat down with my bag at my feet.

Undaunted, he began to tell me how much I looked like someone he knew (although this person’s name escaped him at the moment) and began to admire my beard by way of telling me how much trouble he’d always had with that funny little bald spot in the middle of his chin… “it just would never grow enough hair there for the beard to look legit “he told me.

This went on for a good 10 minutes… him changing subjects faster than I could think up an acknowledging facial expression (or properly placed affirmative “mmm hmmm”). I was never in polite, nor did I treat him unkindly or dismissively, but I did find myself squelching a snicker when- from out of nowhere – I was reminded of the teacher’s voice in those Charlie Brown cartoons. You know the ones, right? Where her voice is the sound of a muted trumpet?

Yeah.. that’s where I went.

By the grace of God I finally saw the bus pull into the store parking lot and weave its way down to the bus stop. I excuse myself, told him the bus was coming, and stood up so I could dig for my quarters and begin to sling the 80 lbs or so of groceries onto my back. My new friend jumped up, grabbed one of the straps to help it over my shoulder, and tore it off of the main body of the backpack.

The thing about city buses is that they are on a strict schedule, and by strict I mean they can do whatever the hell they want and We, the Sheeple have to like it. Those of us who rely on the system have learned, the hard way, that they can take their sweet assed time getting to us, but they will not wait for us if we aren’t ready to board when they pull up and open their door. Failure to comply means you’ll be waiting an hour for the next one.

I mention it here because I had no time to waste, fussing around with straps or drunk people fucking up my bus mojo. The more badly he felt about what had happened, the harder he tried to help make it right… And the less time I had to be patient with him and play nice about letting go of the damned bag so I could get on the bus and avoid sitting with him for another unbearable hour.

I gave the driver a “please give me a second to wrestle my bag away from this drunk alligator” look and politely told this guy that it was no big deal… I could fix it when I got home… and that I hoped he’d have a nice day. It took him a second, but he came to understand that I was politely telling him to let the fuck go and back off.

He did, and I escaped… although my poor bag proved to be irreparably damaged and had to be replaced.

Note to self: Buy your damn groceries on a weekday, and never ever ever on the 5th.

[Images courtesy of Cordelia’s Guide]
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Kindred Strangers

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[Authors note:Before you decide that I am utterly daft for such an oxymoronic title as “Kindred Strangers”… although I have been rightly called daft many times… bear with me – you just might be using this expression yourself by the time we are done here.]

I needed to pick up a few supplies the other day, as opposed to a full shop, and decided I would walk down to the small – chain low-end grocery store about a mile away. Thinking I would get a little exercise, I figured I would bring my small backpack with me, do a quick in and out, and be done in time to catch the next number 10 outbound bus. It sounded like a great idea as I was leaving the house but by the time I got there I realized this was not going to be a quick in and out.

It had only been a few weeks since I last visited that store but everything – literally everything – had been moved around and rearranged.

By the time I had finally found everything I needed my bus was long gone. With 30 minutes to go before the next one would show up, I set my backpack and cane inside the covered bus stop, settled into one of the three narrow bench seats, and hunkered down for my restless rest. For what it’s worth, bus stop seats are nowhere near wide enough for the typical wide- assed people… such as myself… that normally find themselves needing to sit in one.

Someone needs to look into that problem.

About 10 minutes later a partially paralyzed gentleman… roughly my age.. Approached the bus stop from behind me and a little to my left. Instinctively, I began rustling my stuff around and gave him a quick “good morning” before offering him my seat. He chuckled and told me it had taken him nearly 20 minutes to get himself in a standing upright position and walk the three blocks necessary to get down to the bus stop, and that he needed a few minutes to rest before trying to bend himself into a seated position.

After a few minutes of polite silence he asked me what time it was, explaining that he had brought some bananas to give to the bus driver and wanted to make sure he hadn’t missed her. He explained that the driver had told him she’d come by a fabulous new banana bread recipe but hadn’t had the time to go grocery shopping to get all of the ingredients she needed.

I gave him the time – about 20 minutes to go before she would arrive – and remember thinking to myself how cool that was. I mean, let’s face it, most of the drivers I have interacted with seem nice enough… despite the numbers of assholes they have to interact with everyday… but how many of them make “real” personal connections with card-carrying members of the inner – city Assholes Society?

We sat there for another minute or two – neither one wanting to be the first to break the silence – when it occurred to me that I should ask if he’d made her promise to give him a piece in exchange for donating the bananas. He told me she had offered but that he’d had to remind her that his doctor told him he should not eat foods like banana bread because of his weight and his cholesterol. After a brief pause he added that it had been poor lifestyle choices that had lit up to his stroke in the first place, and had gotten him where he was today.

At that, I started laughing and the one-upmanship floodgates of War Story exchanges spilled over.

I told him that my own “poor lifestyle choices” had likewise repaid me in kind with my own strokes and that my doctors had given me much the same advice. I suggested, however, that men like us and at our ages had earned the right to draw a line in the sand and decide for ourselves just how much we were willing to give up in the name of longevity if all we got in exchange for our troubles was to live long enough to wind up drooling in a nursing home bed somewhere – in diapers – not even knowing who the fuck we were anymore. We both busted up laughing at that, and he started dabbing his face, saying that he hoped he wasn’t drooling while he was laughing. I smiled and reminded him that it was okay because I wouldn’t be able to see it anyway.

And then it was belly laughing guffaws all around.

Right about that time, and before we had barely composed ourselves, some punk in his early twenties pulled up right in front of me on his bicycle and asked me if I had $0.75. I thought to myself, “Of COURSE I had $0.75 numbnuts… I’m sitting at a fucking bus stop waiting for a bus that only takes quarters you dumbass.” I could have said no but I couldn’t resist the temptations so, as I reached in my pocket for 3 quarters and handed it to him I asked him to tell us – my new friend Rick and I – how his life was going to improve once he had the money. He told us that he just wanted to buy a cup of coffee and figured his chances of getting enough money to do that we’re better if he asked a couple of people for $0.75 rather then ask one person for a dollar fifty… and mumbled something under his breath about how unwilling people were these days to help somebody who was down on his luck.

That poor unsuspecting bastard had picked the wrong two old guys to be lecturing about being down on your luck.

Before I could stop him… not that I would have seriously tried… Rick leaned forward as best he could muster his body to do so and ask the kid if he had ever considered getting a fucking job. I couldn’t help myself and started snickering, but Rick kept going. He tried to soothe the kid by suggesting that he wasn’t trying to be an asshole so much as he was just trying to understand.

I have to give this kid props… he didn’t even blink an eye before launching into his obviously- rehearsed speech about having once had a job that he was fired from because he had to miss work to attend his weekly PO meeting (that’s parole officer for those of you fortunate enough to have never been on the wrong side of the law).

I tried.. I really tried to bite my tongue.. but as soon as I heard that all I could say was:

“There’s nothing worse in life then pissing off your PO”

And then Rick and I completely lost it.

When the bus lady finally showed up, we must have looked like a pair of siblings who kept making each other start laughing all over again, no matter how much each tried to get the other to stop, until their bellies hurt or one of them pissed himself.

[Images courtesy of Johnny Melton & K Child Photography]
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