Bus Stop

What disturbed me more?

There were 4 people at the bus stop at Grotto and Selby before I got there.  One was a middle-aged special person.  I can’t give you more than that.  She may have been a special genius for all I know.  But her glasses were smudged, crooked and sliding down her nose, her hair was dirty, her mouth hung open and her fanny pack was cinched tightly around her middle.  One or two of these things may happen to us from time to time, but when they all happen at once, at a bus stop, we cross the line from frazzled (or State Fair bound) to special.  She didn’t say a word for the ten minutes we all waited for the bus.

She may have had a lot to say, but she was busy listening to the other woman at the bus stop and nodding.  This second woman was immense, and I don’t just mean overweight.  Gigantesco.  I swear on a stack of burgers that The top of her butt was almost up to my shoulders.  She was big.  I wish I were a better person, but I’m not.  I was unable to control the urge to sneak looks at her backside trying to figure it out.  It was a distinctly African butt.

Does anyone other than me remember the tragic story of the Hottentot Venus?  She was a bushman-woman, taken by the dutch people as a slave and eventually  paraded around Europe as a freak of nature. She had a trait called streaptopygia (among other things), which is common to people from that part of Africa. Large backsides made of connective tissue and fat deposits, like a natural bustle.  She was paraded in front of sophisticated and wealthy men in Europe for years and it was just recently, at the request of Nelson Mandela that her body was removed from museums and returned to what is now South Africa.

Anyway this bus stop woman was impressive and streaptopygic.  She had a baby in a stroller and a little girl in pink sweatpants, fleece sweatshirt and blue flip-flops.  The baby was old enough to know he was cute and he caught me looking at his mom’s behind a couple times.  When I gave him a little wave he covered his face. The girl kept getting into trouble.

Her trouble getting-into activities were the following:  Walking around on the grass, picking up a stick, poking the stick into some dirt by the grass while sitting on a railroad tie. “Talia, what on Earth are you doing?  Put that nasty stick down.”  then a minute later, “Talia, I told you to stop messin’ with them sticks and digging in the dirt. Come on over here. I said come here, Now.”  When Talia came over, mom grabbed her and said, “I asked you to stop messin with that stick, now why you over there playin’ with the stick?  Answer me.  Why?  Answer me, I dare you.” The girl didn’t make any noise, but she walked away cupping her hand over her ear and whimpering.

The special woman and I were speechless.  Her mom said, “Girl you should be thanking me.  You should be grateful you don’t have a mom who beats you for real.  You lucky. Now dust off your butt.  I said dust off your butt!”

Praise god, the bus came so I didn’t have to somehow get myself into trouble.  My biggest problem with this woman was this: Sticks are a gift from god. They are free, biodegradable toys.  They are not nasty or dangerous unless dipped in shit or used in anger.  If you have to twist a kid’s ear, it should be for something serious, like running into traffic, or supporting John McCain and Sarah Palin.

Travel Lessons

Here are some things I learned on my vacation, for what they’re worth.

Drugs and blogging do not mix.

Being in the mountains is lonely.

I am lucky to be alive.

People are easily swayed by a pretty face.

I was invited on a trip with a local community college anthropology club. I’m a geek, so that’s the kind of vacation I like. I jumped at the chance. There were 11 of us. 7 women and 4 men in a van/bus thing creeping around the mountains near the border of Colorado and Arizona. We had quite an age spread, the youngest being around 22 and the oldest being well into his 60s.

One young guy who was a liberal whacko needed the smack-down put on him a couple times (I love the smackdown). He kept talking about people deserving to get killed or put away forever. Remember the Hmong guy in Wisconsin who killed the hunters?  The one who he says harassed him? This guy on our trip said if the hunters had harassed the Hmong hunter, then they deserved to get shot. And remember the story about they guy who forgot his toddler in his car while he went to work? The child died, but our young turk thought the father should be locked up, “People can’t forget about kids. That’s insane. He had to know that kid was in the car. He deserves to be punished.”

My immediate response was to suggest that finding your baby dead in the back seat of your car was probably a pretty harsh punishment for the guy. And to suggest that verbal harassment probably didn’t deserve the death penalty. We had this sort of goofy relationship where I asked if he had never done anything stupid, made a bad judgment, but gotten lucky and not been punished. He had never done anything THAT stupid, he was pretty sure.  I got to know him better over our trip, and ladies and gentlemen, he had too done things that stupid.  But I didn’t kill him.

I sometimes worry about getting killed or having some huge terrible consequence come of a moment of stupidity. My first night in the mountains reminded me just how dumb and lucky I am.

We had just finished a harrowing and stomach churning ride up to Mesa Verde. Mesa Verde is right on the mountainous border between New Mexico and Colorado. As the name suggests, it is a mesa (a table, or a mountain with a flat top instead of a point). Driving in the mountains is stunningly beautiful, death-defying and full of all the wrong kinds of motion. If I kept my eyes directly on the horizon, I could keep my headache and nausea in check. Mostly. But we drove all day. And by the time we arrived, I was exhausted. All I wanted was a place to lay down that didn’t move or look over a steep gorge.

We dropped our stuff off at the rooms and had orders to meet back at the (still stale and full of effluvia) van in five minutes, to go down to the lodge for a meeting. I emptied my bladder, dumped out my stuff (a compulsion of mine), brushed my teeth and headed back to the van. I climbed in and noticed it was only half full. This wasn’t a mandatory meeting. I had an awkward moment while I considered the impression I would be giving if i looked into the van, checked head-count and declined to go. I went with them to the lodge, figuring I could walk back to the hotel/cabin place after a polite few minutes.

I was draggin’. When we got to the lightly peopled and somewhat odd bar (it was more like a portable wedding bar than anything else), I could hardly even be politely social. I was plain old tired. I confessed my error in judgment and said I’d just mosey up the mountain and back to my little hotel room, the key to which was in my pocket. Right.

So, it’s dark now. And misting lightly. Surprisingly cold for late May. The next morning we’d wake up to snow, as it turns out.  I could see the road we came down from our cabin on. I started walking up it, back the way we came. I could see a row of cabins around the curve of the road, but there was a grassy patch with a path right through it. That path goes right towards the first row of cabins without going the long distance along the curve of the road.. I decided I’d cut through the grass and between the cabins, to come out in front of that row.

Halfway up the path I realize a few important things. First, I have no idea if this is the only row of cabins, maybe there are more rows beyond the curve. Second, I have no clear recollection what our room number is. Third, the number isn’t printed on the key (security reasons). Fourth, aren’t there things called mountain lions which live in the mountains? And don’t they sometimes eat people?  And wouldn’t that big dark opening under the cabin to my left be a perfect den for one to pounce out of?  Yes, and yes, and yes.

I keep walking because maybe I’ll recognize the row of cabins and I’ll hear the people who didn’t go to the bar meeting. Plus, it’s a long way to walk back. And as I pop out between the cabins, it’s very well lit and totally generic. Looks like every other row of cabins up and down the mountain. And damn! It’s cold! I decide the least I need is the room number. I’ll have to go back and ask for it.

Couple problems. First, coming out of the bright row of cabins into the mountain path darkness, I cannot see the path. I came up it two minutes ago, but it has disappeared. If I look off to the side of where it should be, it pops out, but when I look for it, it goes away. It’s like I’m in a dream.  Secondly, it’s slippery and cold. I look to a spot just alongside where the path should be.  Walking down it, I start to berate myself. Why, oh why and I so stupid?  Why?

When I slip and fall in the icy drizzle on the side of the mountain and am eaten or not by the mountain predators, won’t people think I was asking for it by venturing out in the dark drizzle alone? Yes they will. But if I live through this, I will not say such callous things about those who die from lack of better judgment.  I decide I will also be grateful for my life and not do stupid things again. The mountain has mercy on me and I make it back to the lodge.

Looking back, I think I must have had altitude-induced hardening of the brain because I actually made this trip twice, returning after I checked the room number with my crew in the bar and realizing that there are many identical rows of cabins and since I have no idea what the system is, the room number doesn’t help me.

The second time I went up two rows of cabins and ran into the proverbial mountain lodge maintenance man, you know, the one who kills people in the movies, whose truck had actually driven by me on my way back to the lodge the first time. He had a box of wrenches and a truck with some reassuring maintenance-ish thing on the side.  I fessed up to him that I couldn’t find my cabin.  He offered to drive me back to the lodge after he fixed the shower in the unit I was in front of.  His truck looked warm and dry.  I declined.

I headed between the cabins back into dark.


I need some help proofreading an email response to one of my son’s teachers.  The email below was sent to me this afternoon by his science teacher. Both really need to be read out loud to appreciate them fully.

Just a note about Jasper in Science today.

Today we were doing an experiment with Jell-O, soap, and eyedroppers. It came to my attention that when I was dismissing students Jasper took an item(plastic eyedropper) out of the trash can from my classroom. He was later seen chewing on the eyedropper. I can not have these two types of behavior: taking things from my room and chewing on a plastic eyedropper. When he takes an item from my room, without my permission gives me the impression that he can be trusted. When he chews on items, used in science, is not safe regarding his well being. The eyedropper only came in contact with Jell-O and soap. I informed Jasper at the end of the day behaviors like this will give me reason to have him removed from football practice.

Please talk to him about his actions today.

I would like to see Jasper succeed, however these actions are not in his best interest.

I promised to sleep on my response, but I feel like I need more input than mere sleep can impart.  Here is my first draft:

Mr. X,

We will certainly talk to Jasper tonight.  Removing things from the trash is a bit of a compulsion for Jasper, it hasn’t gotten him into trouble in school before, however. I do understand the protocols for safety in a lab class and the importance of following those protocols.We’ll try to explain the chaos and mayhem that could ensue if even half the class followed his example. I understand if you need to impose consequences if he can’t control himself, but  please don’t worry about removing him from football practice if this happens again, as we will cut off one of his hands, making football a non-issue.

I hate to ask, but do you think this problem is a part of a pervasive pattern of pilfering behavior on his part or was it just the one plastic eyedropper?  He has an appointment with a psychiatrist this month, do you you think I need to bring this incident to his doctor’s attention?

The chewing on plastic items, I would argue, is not as much of a behavior problem which needs to be punished as it is a stress and anxiety reaction which will get worse when attention is called to it.  Three weeks ago he had two packages of new pens for the start of the school year.  If you think of it, take a look at his pens and you’ll see that he’s chewed them all flat on the ends.  It is a new behavior this year, but I think it will pass as he settles into school. If not, we will consider the pulling his teeth as well.

I would also argue strongly that he should not be removed from football for chewing plastic items in general, as it doesn’t seem like a discipline issue, but more of a personal problem. You know, some people chew their nails, some blink or shake their legs, some people even pull their hairs out or grab at their privates, and while these things get annoying, they hardly seem like the kind of things that require immediate punitive action.

Falling in Love

Maybe it isn’t love, maybe it’s just crushes.  Maybe it’s just the warm nectar of the universe.  Whatever.  I fall in love about once a week.

I fell in love with the British guy who made historically accurate costumes the minute he told me what the fist sized rock he was holding was. It was round, but squished so that it was flat on the top and bottom. He told me, “That’s a frowin stown. F’ frowin.” He pantomimed a pitch for me.

I fell in love with my neighbor Diane at the bus stop one day. We heard sirens in the distance. While I thought about my mom saying Hail Marys when she heard sirens, as instructed by the nuns at the Academy of the Holy Angels, and I thought seriously for just a second about what kind of trouble someone was in that warranted all those sirens. Diane didn’t think of it like that at all. She sighed with relief. “Oh good. Someone’s getting all the help they need.”

I fell in love with the woman who would become my mother in law when she called to talk to my mom. Her voice was, and is serene and honey-sweet. She recognized my voice, and I recognized hers. I was only 14 or so. I don’t think I had heard from her for a year or maybe more. When she said, “Hello, Lisa. How are you?” and waited to hear me answer, instead of the staccato, “Lemme talk to yer mom.” that was typical of my mom’s family and friends.

I fell in love with her husband when I was walking home from the bus stop. In typical Lisa Bonnie fashion, my book bag was open, papers were sliding out. I had a sweaty pile of folders I was trying to jam into the bag. He stopped raking the lawn and asked if he could help. Then he showed me that if you pry apart two books in the middle of the bag, you could slip something in easily and without destroying it. This was a revelation to me. I must have been about 12.

I fell in love with my son the other day, while he was watching cartoons. There was an ad on for foster parenting, but I wasn’t paying attention. “Mom! We should do that. You and me.” I didn’t know what he was talking about. “There’s this thing. You take a baby and take care of it until it gets adopted. Let’s do that. It could be part of homeschool.”