Riding High On A Greyhound BusMonday, April 12, 2010
At Focal Point where I have been teaching in the last few weeks I have been experiencing the strange setup where a class of about 16 students is divided. I teach on half in the morning and then in the afternoon I teach(the same course) the other half. Since the complete class of students is there all day I sometimes get confused as to who is where. During a break in my afternoon class a few days back, I was sitting, sipping coffee and two of my students were near. One told the other, we better get back to class. I thought to myself, “That’s silly, since as long as their teacher is within sight they don’t have to worry about missing class.” Then I understood that these two young women were from my morning class and they were wanting to return to their afternoon class with another instructor.
So I told the young women the story of my going by bus from Mexico City to San Francisco around 1967. At the time I had the crazy idea that I was a hippie and I had my hair down to my shoulders. I wore a surplus US Marine Corps jacket with a red peace sign on one of the large patch pockets. While in the Mexican bus people stared at me and whispered at each other. For their benefit and to promote my distorted mystique I read and re-read an issue of Ramparts Magazine that my friend Robert had sent me from San Francisco. It's psychodelic cover was unfathomable and inscrutable swirls of colour.
When the Mexican bus deposited me in Tijuana I had to switch to a Greyhound Bus. In San Diego I had a sandwich and I sat next to the bus driver. He was not too communicative. He did not feel comfortable sitting next to a man with long hair even though I took daily baths when I could. The bathrooms on the trip had been so appallingly bad from Mexico to Tijuana that I had used the logic that if food in, meant food out, the solution was not to eat. So in that almost one day and a half bus trip I ate nothing.
I lingered, and before I had realized what was going on, I had missed my bus (with my luggage). The bus driver next to me had been relieved. Another bus driver had left with “my” bus. When I told him I had not heard the announcement of the bus leaving he snarled, “That’s because you were too stoned to know or hear anything.”
For the record I must clear the air here and assert that most of my life I have done my damndest to somehow lose control of my ever present and boring sobriety. The few times that I have imbibed liquor I have bypassed drunkenness and gone directly to a hangover with an immediate shift to migraines so terrible that I knew that spirits of any kind and I were never to be bed fellows. My attempts of having a couple of cool and dry pear ciders in the afternoons some Raiway-Club-years back did not end in languid siestas but in terrible wide-awake migraines.
People who have known me in the past, have thought that I was much too straight and controlled so they have given me pot and hashish. All this stuff ever did for me is to make me stutter without me losing one bit of reality. I was given peyote, purchased at a Mexican small town market by friend who then watched me while keeping notes. "Are you feeling anything yet?" All I managed to do was to throw up on them while firmly staying on terra firma.
And only once some moons ago a fat woman at Gary Taylor’s Rock Room came up to me and said, “I like you. Open your hand.” She deposited a white powder. I did not know what to do. The woman gesticulated with her hand and nose and I caught on. Up it went. She returned a few minutes later and asked, “So do you like the stuff?” I told her, “I feel like I just went up the exit stairs of the Buenos Aires Subte (subway) in mid summet to breathe a fine rush of cool fresh air.” She looked at me, pursed her lips downward and went away.
The above is to certify that this long haired man was cold sober and under no influence of any drugs when he missed his Greyhound Bus.
I was able to take another bus and got to Los Angeles. I was exhausted. This time I made sure and watched the bus driver like a hawk. But my exhaustion prevented me from understanding again that this driver had also been relieved and I missed my bus again. In the end I got to San Francisco and did meet up with my luggage. The few weeks that I lived in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, where many around me walked and lived under the influence of stuff that made reality feel different, I felt that I had experienced a similar situation without supplementary help.
One of the young students asked me, “Why have you told me this story?” I thought, “You would have missed the bus, too.”