December 25, 2001
On the busride back from Atlantic City I had a strange revelation. Bus rides are really cool. Not cross-town Capital Metro rides or disgustingly time-consuming Los Angeles bus adventures but good intercity bus rides, spent squished in a Greyhound or Transbridge Coach seat, that offer enough hours on the highway to allow both a satisfying nap, a chance to read a few chapters of a good book, and a long pause staring out the window at passing trees, towns, desert, coast, and/or strange cities.
Some of my most satisfying thinking comes from these trips. Between LA and SF this fall I had a healthy meditation on death and religion (including a dream-like midnight experience of Santa Barbara). On the way back from Atlantic City I had an unusually comfortable conversation with my grandfather and reprocessed and reconsidered the facts of my family and my place therein. (Some of these trains of thought, I think, have occured as part of the "sobering up from childhood" process that I'm probably experiencing a little late.) On the way to New York City I played in my brain nearly my entire "Out the Closed Window Music" recording (available at fine websites) and had all sorts of new visualizations and realizations about it. (OTCWM's stuck upstairs in high-quality form since I've listened to it at least several dozen times over the past two weeks.)
This must come from the combination of excitement that comes with with changing cities and the gentle stimulation of the brain by passing scenery and the lack of anything else to do besides read and sleep and think to oneself. Visiting New York City didn't thrill me so much- I slept most of the way on that ride. I came back from Altantic City $105 richer (my only-child, only-grandchild status paying off for me better than any slot machine of blackjack table), which gave me an extra couple ounces of liquid giddy. And, well, travelling around Cali had me all sorts of jumpy crazy.
And, see, I'm flying home tomorrow and I wonder what the difference is between staring out the window while flying and while travelling by bus. Not much, I guess. Normally I just sleep on flights. I fly so often that I find them to be irritating and dull. (As part of my realizing my own mortality and of post-9/11 weirdness, possibly) I find myself (embarrassingly) more nervous flying these days than I used to. Coming back from California I had a layover in Pheonix AZ. The plane began its to-be-expected landing maneuvers and got close to the airport and bolted back up at an extreme angle, passed the airport entirely, and entered a sharp bank with its engines nearly cut off (it felt like). Seeing the ground spread out distant through my window and hearing the strange softness of the engine hum I couldn't help envisioning all sorts of horrors and headlines. Then between Cincinatti and Allentown PA last week we flew on a tiny COMAIR puddlejumper that rattled and jiggled like a loosely-constructed tin lunchbox the entire way and I couldn't get my rational conscious mind to successfully ignore my irrational animal brain's repeated announcements: "At any monent the wings are going to tear off this piece of shit plane and we're all going to die." I haven't yet had any bomber/hijacker fantasies, so I don't know what's really going on Upstairs at Club Josh. Still, it's weird because I always used to pride myself on my steely assuredness that those who feared flying were total pussies.
So, yeah, riding in buses: good shit. Now if only Greyhound could get rid of the disgruntled bitches that man 95% of their ticket counters.