Thursday, November 05, 2009

There Never is Really a Way Out.

Woke up with a gasping start from nightmares of suffocating in a metal box - taste of metal clung to my tongue. I lay in my comfortable bed, staring at the white ceiling in my comfortable room. The screams inside like the Bronx Cheer and Control really taking control.
Like a catatonic zombie, I shower, dress, then pack a small bag of possessions and head out the door. Not even saying goodbye to my roommates - the evil perverts.
Bumpy, dusty bus to the border teeming with sweaty and desperate hopefuls - I pass without hesitation from the cancerous INS and walk through.
I found myself standing outside a Mexican bus-line station, stateside. The red train that took you to San Diego idled nearby - waiting to deliver me to the station across the street from the Greyhound in downtown SD. I decided not to travel that route - anybody that has gone by Greyhound knows the age old story of the long, grueling routes stopping at every little shithole town and usually taking twice the time than with the Mexican bus lines that are a straight shot nonstop. And, more often than not, the Mexican lines are usually cheaper and a hell of a lot cleaner.
The Tres Estrellas Bus Line was just across the border in San Ysidro - I stood smoking smoking smoking - watching with apathy the somnolent, exasperated throng exit the monstrous Customs Building with the relieved look of just escaping the mouth of Moloch.
On the dusty sidewalk next to me squat my black duffel bag overstuffed with clothes, notebooks, and other personal items that I just couldn’t live without.
A few feet away, the massive silver and mauve bus lay idling. The other passengers - all Mexican citizens - stood silent and pensive just like me. Mostly stooped elderly - the old men wearing tattered yellow Stetsons and faraway looks holding cardboard boxes tied with nylon string. I mulled over what they were thinking about.
Then it dawned on me what I should have been thinking about and the thoughts were this - I had just wasted a year of my life in a numbing existence of relatively comfort of normality. And my mind screamed, "How can people live like that? Doing the same thing day in and day out - year after year. The same friends, the same conversations - polite patter over warm cappuccinos on a frosty morning by the sea - How can people go on?" Without hesitation I had forced myself out of that early death - Change is Life. Chaos is Change. Live to experience and not to just exist. I had made the decision to turn this stale life up a notch. Plan? Eh? A couple of weeks in Tucson, a few in El Paso, maybe San Antonio via Laredo then onward to New Orleans to finish and settle for a bit in La Perla, Puerto Rico. No time limit - just travel and write. Sounded good to me.
At the bus station, I took another long drag from my cigarette. Glanced at my watch - the bus was running twenty minutes late. I struck up a conversation with an elderly mother in yellow granny dress with red wicker purse waiting silently next to me, “I hope this bus gets going.”
Her face wrinkled into a smile - skin the color of a rumpled paper bag - and nodded, looking out into nothing.
In her tinkling voice she said, “You will get to where you are going, joven. Not only that, you will come back and then go someplace else.”
The words of a Guardian Angel.
The fat, mustachioed steward poked his head out of the reception window and announced in Spanish that it was time to board and with ten other passengers, we were herded onto the bus. Taking my seat in the middle - as I always do, right side - pleased in the fact that the bus was not packed and that all the passengers, including myself, had a seat to themselves. I stowed my overhead luggage and hunkered down to the long, unknown future.
With a blasting fart of black soot and whining of gears, the bus shuttered and slowly rolled its way through congested street traffic to the on ramp of the 5 freeway north.
Out my tinted window, the spires of San Diego faded - up along monstrous concrete ribbons of freeway viewed through a bug splattered windshield. Twice checked by Border Patrol - determined immigrant caught in the lavatory and escorted out in biting cuffs - the terrain eventually changed from green brush to arid desert. We passed old, rotted gas stations, frames of crumbling buildings sprouting brush. Motel Westward - R.V. Park - concrete dinosaur - brief stop at roadside convenience store where sexy, shirtless boys skateboarded on a black top parking lot - mountainous formations of purple and blues so majestic it was almost tear inducing - row upon row upon row of lifeless, colorless tract houses that destroy all individuality. Vast vistas of biscuit colored buttes and coffee tainted mountains - all under a panorama of sky a harsh, bright baby blue.
Continuing through one no-where town after another - almost completely void of human life - we stopped at a café diner on a long stretch of solitary highway out past Yuma for a meal break.
The over excited bus driver, a potbellied Mexican Indian with a smooth red face, related, “You like the food at this place, guero. Best hamburgers in the world.”
Because, we all know how much us Americans love our hamburgers, right?
The weary passengers filed out of the bus into the waiting lonely café - a squat, dusty, yellow building with faded red retro swoop awnings rusting in that unrelentless sun under one dark, gnarled walnut tree. As the passengers sat quietly slurping and chomping on their messes of food, I ate alone a hamburger with fries and a coke. I had to admit, it was a damn good burger.
Back on the bus and chugged onward, passing isolated rotting farmhouses locked in an ocean of dirt. Flickering on the tiny television monitors spaced throughout the bus above the passengers at intervals was the Spanish dubbed Troll 3 - and it was an eyesore, by God.
The sun, a golden ball of flame inching down that lonely path behind a craggy mountainous western horizon. I sat watching the serene scenery, with nothing but the soft rumble of the bus and the humming or the air-conditioning to soothe me.
A fellow passenger on the opposite isle started asking questions out of pure boredom, I guess.
A sickly, thin young man with intense eyes. Stringy brown hair fell over his forehead. He was dressed in blue jeans, blue jean jacket, and white shirt - all emitting a whiff of musty sweat.
“So, where ya headed?” He croaked.
“Vegas.” I lied. “I’ve never been there. Wanna see what it’s like.”
When I mentioned that I had never been to Vegas before, his eyes lit up with sheer con glee.
“Oh really?” He breathed. “Well, look, I gotta deal for ya.”
He lept in the chair next to me. “When we reach Vegas - I know this casino where the poker is damn good. You ever play poker? No? Shit…you’re lucky to find me, man. I got a system. Can beat all them odds, I tell ya. How much money ya got? No matter - I tell ya what, spot me forty and I guarantee - guarantee - that you will come out with four hundred, take. Whataya say, huh? Ya in?”
I sat and shook my head and agreed at intervals - biding my time to ditch this fucker as soon as the bus turned into the Phoenix station.
“Why don’t you use your own money?” I smiled. I saw this fucker as the fake he was.
“Fuck - I ain’t got shit, right now.” He spat. “But, seriously - you spot me that cash and I can make us both some easy bread.”
When I finally stated firmly that not only am I not a gambler but have no intention in helping him - no matter how the stakes were in my favor - he looked like a wounded animal and slithered back to his seat, not saying a word to me the duration of the trip.
Changed buses in Phoenix and that was a three hour bore, I tell you. Sullen pinch-faced people sitting around, smoking cigarettes they didn't want to smoke, watching TV programs that made no sense.
Entered the bus to Tucson and two hours later hit that town that had eluded me for a few years. It was late and it was hot - cicadas buzzing in the Socorro bushes, gnats swarming flickering lights.
Grabbing my luggage, I entered the small station. I had to find a room for the night. Any traveler will tell you that almost every Greyhound in this country has a kiosk located inside displaying a list of the cheapest hotels available. This one was no exception.
I found the display board and to my luck an inexpensive Best Western within my budget. I picked up the receiver and entered the code.
A sassy female voice answered, “Best Western Motel, can I help ya?”
“Yeah - hi. I’m at the Greyhound and just arrived. You have any rooms?”
“Sure, shug - if ya walk out the entrance and look to yer right, you’ll see the hotel right there. And be sure to bring your bus ticket for a twenty percent discount, ‘K?”
I crossed the busy intersection and entered the hotel. The cigarette smoking receptionist was pleasant and asked polite questions. A thin, flat breasted old girl with the classic brown bun on her head. Perhaps a former showgirl on the skids? I started filling out the registration cards. I retired to my comfortable room, popped open the fifth of Jack I had purchased and sat down to bang this shit out.

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