Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Journey Begins

SOMEWHERE NEAR PILKINTON, VIRGINIA (WIFI-PERMITTING)--The sun rises hot over fields as my Greyhound Bus labors northward.  But this post isn't about today.  Let me tell you about my journey's D-Day, last night in Durham, North Carolina.  Readers of this page will recall that my bus was scheduled to push off at 8:20 p.m., and I wanted to be there early.  The way things have gone so far, maybe I should have never showed up at all.

My cavalcade of misfortune started when a man wearing a Greyhound hat (spelled "GRAYHOUND", but I was frazzled) sold me on a $20 "Preferred Boarding" pass.  In retrospect, I should have realized that he was a fraud even if I never picked up on the hat.  The pass itself was printed on that cheap, barely-formed paper like you see on "Made In China" packing slips.  I should have expected a much heavier bond paper on a legitimate Greyhound Preferred Boarding pass.

The gig was up when I tried to enter the bus early, waving my "Preferred Boarding" pass in the air, politely telling the driver as he protested that "My problem is that I paid $20 for this pass..."

The driver cut me off mid-sentence "...From where I'm standing, sir, you actually have two problems.  Bad breath and no street smarts.  Refrain from entering my bus and wait to be called like everybody else."  What seemed liked a Carrier Dome-sized crowd of people around us erupted into guffaws of laughter and clapping.  I'm paranoid that it will become the next YouTube sensation (look at THIS loser!), but I keep telling myself that it happened too quickly to be recorded.

All of that excitement caused great distress to my digestive system.  All you need to know is that I quickly decided to use the station's facilities in lieu of the bus (I did not want to give the driver another bite at the apple making jokes at my expense).  I didn't get there in time.  It was bad.  I'm talking opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan-level bad.  The only thing that saved me from spending the next 16 hours walking around with a pineapple-sized brown stain on the back of my jeans exposed to the world was the leather jacket that I tied around my waist (Scranton is supposed to be cold today).

To make matters worse, boarding of Greyhound Bus #1918 was virtually complete when I returned to the platform.  The driver muttered something about my wardrobe choice ("Mr. Fancy Jacket" is all I heard) as he punched my ticket.  I climbed the steps and turned left.  Other travelers occupied all of the aisle seats and only two window seats remained.  I made my way back and hoped for the best.

Row 10 seemed promising (Phil Rizutto's number, after all) until I got close enough to see my potential seat-mate for the next 16-hours stuff his hand down his pants, shuffling it around like an expert snake-charmer.  His other arm was elbow deep in a bag of Funyuns.  Between chews, he whispered, "I like when it stings."  A tiny stream of Funyun juice dribbled down his chin.  With all due respect to The Scooter, Row 10 was no longer an option.

I settled into Seat 13B (A-Rod, Alvaro Espinoza, and Mike Pagliarulo come to mind), hoping that the person next to me didn't sniff the detritus of my private Juno Beach as I stretched past her.  I guess the leather jacket worked, or so I told myself.  She was asleep.

I don't remember much about the next several hours.  I was tired from the stress of it all.  I missed my wife.  I had six 22-oz. cans of Steel Reserve (wrapped in the sports page of a Durham Herald-Sun) in quick succession.  If I told you that I drank 'em so quickly because I didn't have a Yeti, and wanted to enjoy them cold, I'd be lying.  I drank to stop worrying about my jeans.  I drank to get off the bus.  I

* * *

I emerged from darkness on a green field so big it reminded me of the Battle of the Greasy Grass (or Little Big Horn, as most of us know it).  I had visited the site once in 1998, so I assume that memory formed the blueprint for what I saw.

This green plain was flat like a baseball field, but not as well-maintained.  There were large expanses of grass interrupted by exposed earth every so often.  I'm not a farmer, but it looked like very fertile soil.

John was a centaur with Suz on his back.  They galloped with her hands draped around his neck, laughing.  Nettles was dressed like Robert Redford in The Natural.  He formed what looked like snowballs out of the rich earth, gently piling the finished balls on top of each other before starting to make the next.

The vista seemed to expand in every direction with each passing second.  I can't say that I was there, but I definitely felt like I was.

Electromagnetic globs vibrated across the skies in two colors:  yellow and gray.  There were more gray than yellow ones.  The globs shimmered and shook, and if they passed close enough, I perceived what I can only describe as a light sheen of sound that lasted for a brief second before disappearing.  I heard things like "Today's defensive alignment is sponsored by..." (gray glob) or "IT IS HIGH!  IT IS FAR!..." (yellow glob).  Then, the sheens were gone.  Enough globs raced through the sky that there was always something to hear, but if you didn't pay specific attention to a particular sheen, it was just noise.  At least it was to me.

It didn't take me long to realize that John and Suz hated the gray ones.

They were terrified of the gray ones.

They were ashamed of the gray ones.

* * *

I jostled from the bounce of a pothole.  The vision was gone.

I looked at my iPhone.  Five more hours to Scranton.


Anonymous said...


Mustang said...

I'm Bill White, I'd like you to activate the camera on your iPhone. Next, rotate the view to selfie. Now, make eye contact with your onscreen image and say in a firm, level tone, "I am a winner." Say it 12 times. Repeat as necessary.

Anonymous said...

When you get to Scranton, go imnediately to The Bog, a bar downtown on Adams Ave. Ask the bartender for a "Refsnyder". It's technically a boilermaker...a bud light with just a splash of johnny walker blue. But he'll ask you to spell it. Tell him "with a y, like Suzyn". We'll be watching. Await insructions.

el duque said...

I'm still digesting John as the centaur with Suzyn on his back.

I think it's going to haunt me for a long, long time.

Mustang said...

I'm Bill White, if you get this message, I'd like you to once again activate the camera on your iPhone. Next, rotate the view to selfie. Now, make eye contact with your onscreen image and say in a firm, level tone, "Pride. Power. Pinstripes." Say it 12 times. Repeat as necessary.

I'm Bill White said...

Scranton did not go as expected. The Bog is about a 15 minute walk from the bus station but I never got there. After changing my pants, I walked down Lackawanna Avenue toward Adams when a 1975 Chrysler Cordoba (rich Corinthan leather) pulled up next to me. The license plate read "CENTAUR." But for a little rust here and there, she was in immaculate condition. A WWII veteran wearing an old Yankee jacket rolled down the window and said "We've been expecting you. Get in." So I did. The fine interior felt so good after 16+ hours in the Greyhound. It smelled of Corinthia, or what I like to think Corinthia would smell like. My driver handed me a tin cup of what he called "your ration of Torpedo Juice" and, after a gulp or two of the pineapple-infused concoction, I don't remember anything. I woke up in the bus station a short time ago with a 1992 Bishop Hannan High School Yearbook in my lap. After flipping through, I realize that was the year Gerry McNamara graduated. The yearbook is in pristine condition save for one inscription. "The AV Club won't be the same without you! Keep in touch, John and Suz".
I leave for Tampa in a few hours with more questions than answers, a pineapple-sized stain on my favorite jeans, and fighting a terrible pineapple-infused hangover. I've got to charge my phone and find some eggs.

Alphonso said...

Are you traveling in circles?

I'm Bill White said...

I'm traveling in the future and the past through dimensions known and unknown. I feel like Buck Rogers in many ways. Many ways.

Rufus T. Firefly said...