Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Babylon By Bus

If you take the bus along the full stretch of Camelback Road in Phoenix, the dislocation of humanity is so apparent, it hurts. The heat, the brain, and especially the eyes shake with each bump on the road. Especially if you aren't looking ahead with the right kind of frantic gaze. Indeed, no one is happy on the bus. Bus riders, like the meek that will never inherit the earth, live in a world of envy as a planet of automobiles speeds by, from the Hummer ship adorned in chrome to the Amerimexican jallope, which, for all its smoking stink and bellowing bass, appears to be a Cinderella's carriage for somebody else's perfect dream.
You can begin in the glittering canyon of high-end finance at 24th Street and Camelback, the area known as the Biltmore, and you can head west and descend into the valley of disenfranchised tribes. No one is more derelict than the bus driver, of course, who is the brain center for one of the biggest and noisiest robots to rove the land. There are the giggling latino girls, all dressed in black, the heavyset moms carrying their babies, the wiry old black men in ballcaps, the strung out, methed-up metalheads, the heat-beat white hicks in black beards, who smell so bad everyone else can only be reminded they are nothing but cattle, as members of the meandering mass, not even parts of the Machine, just parts, loose, crooked and real, all demonstrating the relative ineffectiveness of America the Database to round up everything alive and swallow it whole.
On this trip, the most professorial looking chap, carrying a large black bag, has sharp features and a close-cropped haircut. He appears to be the most ready to walk into some place and start doing something that means something, but then he surprises us all when he pulls out a half-full fifth of Jack Daniels, throws back a swig, and then jumps off the bus at a stop below a freeway overpass.
Stoicism is the norm on the bus. Gregarious behavior is dangerous, a sign of sheer lunacy. You are at risk if you carry cigarettes because you are socially obligated to give them out. If you don't, well then, you are less than worthy and therefore a target: depending on how dark it is. Malice is possible when you wait for the bus.
Among the hierarchy of the low, a cell phone is an insulating sign that hey, somebody actually cares about you. The cell phone ring on the bus is a cure for temporary loneliness, a cure for the impatience created by multiple stops, the drag, the malaise of movement, the malodorant, the dispossessed.
Once you cross Central Avenue, moving west, the construction zone for a light rail future for this town can be seen. That product of political shennanigans, which blows everything away in its path, beneficial as it may or may not be, reminds us all that we, the riders of the bus, are only candidates for more of the same. Though every citizen should ride the bus to save the planet, this good will is not so. The autos have won the day and therefore, the planet sinks into cloudy darkness and soon the Venetian wind will blow as life on the bus is a slow, dull, stretch reminder of the eternal road to nowhere.


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