The Story of My First Bus Ride in Years aka Thug Life

I padded up the block a few steps and looked back, making sure that I had parked my body under the correct bus stop sign. My choice was confirmed when two lumpy elfin women speaking Spanish stood apart from me under the same sign. This was the first time I had taken the bus in years.

The last time I had found myself at the mercy of L.A.’s transit system was eight years ago, when my gigantic blue minivan (R.I.P., Big Blue!) decided to end its life in my very own driveway. Transmissions don’t come cheap. So, Big Blue’s body was sold to a scavenger who gave me $3,000 – about a third of what I’d paid for it only a year before, but enough to pay for a new ride in full. This time it was a motorcycle – and blue again! – a 2009 Honda Rebel, 250 cc engine. Little Blue.

Well, unfortunately, Little Blue’s charms captured someone else’s attention. They carted her away – again from my driveway – in the middle of the night, leaving her money-strapped owner with nothing. Determined not to feel sorry for myself, and after dealing with the logistics and bureaucracy of thievery, I braved the bus. I smiled at the tall female driver with the linebacker’s physique and chirped a good-morning. The driver looked at me and did her best impression of a doorknob. Slightly deflated, I found my seat and tried not to cringe at my grimy surroundings.

Several stops later, a lean, pocket-sized senior citizen wearing several outfits at once stood at the back of the line and waited to board. She had with her a little wheeled shopping basket filled with nonsense. This cart aroused and vexed the Doorknob driver lady, sending her into cop mode.

“I cain’t let you on dis bus til you fowd up that shopping cart!”

Doorknob shouted this several times while the other boarding passengers avoided eye contact, shuffling up the steps like a line of ants on a windowsill. Confused but cheerful, the old lady lifted her rebelliously unfolded cart onto the bus and wobbled to her seat at the front. In response, Doorknob exercised the full extent of her pseudo-powers by refusing to drive the bus until the deviant cart had assumed its proper shape. Several passengers came to the old lady’s aid. First, they emptied all the clutter and miscellaneous objects from the sad little cart, then muscled it into submission. Since that wasn’t good enough for Doorknob, a kind middle-aged woman with reddish-brown store-bought hair and big glasses offered up her seat, so that the newly flattened cart would have a place to ride.

Satisfied that her minions had obeyed, Doorknob continued our joyless ride. Flustered and perplexed, the old woman confided in gibberish to the passenger next to her. The kindly bear of a man nodded at her in sympathy. Feeling no guilt whatsoever, Doorknob smacked at her itchy hair-weave with her right hand and rolled her eyes at no one in particular.

After an eternity, which turned out to be 30 minutes, the old lady and I had the same stop. I sprung to the back door, wanting to claw at it for release. The poor old lady prepared herself for exit with the help of her new temporary bus-friends. Doorknob, in one last demonstration of her satanic powers, tapped at the breaks causing the old lady to stumble.

Finally emerging into the sun, Old Lady went left, and I went right. But right before we separated, I glimpsed her pink knit hat. It said “Thug Life.”

And that is the story of my first bus ride after the theft of my motorcycle.

 

Happy Memorial Day!

Peace and Love,

Raven

Charles Dickens – My Hero

I fell in love with reading before I had even learned how to do it. Like most babies, I enjoyed being read to. I even memorized my favorite stories to the point where people who didn’t know better thought I was reading – because I remembered exactly when to turn the pages! And my love for reading never faded with age.

Early in my childhood, my mom established the helpful habit of regular trips to the library. Because she also loves to read, she would venture off to the popular fiction section, and I would head over to the kids/young adult section. I loved mysteries at first. Eventually I moved on to the Judy-Blume-type books. I remember the book Go Ask Alice (by Anonymous) had a profound effect on me. People make fun of me when I say that because they view it as a cheesy “don’t do drugs” book. But it worked on me. I was never interested in drugs anyway. But the visuals from that story painted a nauseating enough picture to permanently discourage me from going down that road.

As I got older, I fell in love with classic literature. When I’d go to bookstores (remember those?) I’d always go straight to the Literature section. I didn’t know what I was looking for exactly. I just wanted to be told a great story, but I wanted to have to work for it a little bit. I wanted the language itself to speak to me. I wanted the humor to be sarcastic and subtle. I wanted any romance involved to be oblique, hinted about, not graphic and obvious. The first author I became attached to was Charles Dickens.

I don’t remember which of his novels I read first. But I remember Oliver Twist and Great Expectations being the most memorable ones for me. Dickens was a great entry-level literary fiction author for me because, though he is considered “literary” now, his novels were received as popular fiction in his day. I loved the humor in his novels, the way he makes fun of his characters in a loving way, and the cartoonishness of his villains. Beyond that, he’s able to inject social commentary without being self-righteous or preachy.

The social justice aspect of his novels combined with great writing and great story-telling make him my favorite author. I never knew much about him personally, so the above YouTube video was informative for me. I identify with him in many ways. I know what struggle is. I am always on the side of the underdog. I believe the arts should do something beyond entertain. They should inform the reader in some way, make him/her better off, inspired, open to changing societal ills. I’ve always loved the old morality plays for that reason. Yes, they are simplistic, but they are powerful in that they entertain as well as deliver a message.

So I hope to do the same with my writing! In fact, learning about Dickens has inspired me to scrap the story I was working on and start something that has a deeper meaning for me. Wish me luck!

Happy Reading and Writing,

Raven

Discussion of The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost, and an original poem

The Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost

 

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

 

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

 

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

 

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

 

I feel like this poem represents my life so well. I’ve experienced so many forks in the road; I have so many interests. I’ve tried Chinese Medicine, hairdressing, skin care, insurance sales, tax preparation, veterinary medicine, and phlebotomy, to name a few. It’s easy to look back and think, “What would have happened had I taken the other road?”

As Frost’s poem implies, the roads are basically all the same. There’s no way to see around the corner, knowing what the result of any one choice will be. We make our choices, “way leads on to way,” and we follow the path our choices lay before us.  Only when we look back on our lives do we try to impose a sense of order on it all, claiming that the path we chose was somehow pre-ordained, more special than any other choice. My belief is that, given our individual characters, talents, gifts, and circumstances, whatever path we take will land us in essentially the same place.

There was an episode of Friends that illustrates what I mean. In the episode, they go back, and the show imagines what would have happened had their paths been different. There were some changes, such as Monica still being fat, and Rachel dating Joey before Ross. But ultimately, they all end up basically exactly where they had been before.

So, when I look back on my life, I see that my consistent loves are spirituality, writing/literature, art, and physical fitness. Through all the other diversions and detours, these four core passions have remained the same. And, so, as an ode to Robert Frost, here’s my version of The Road Less Traveled. I call it:

To All the Roads I’ve Traveled

an ode to Robert Frost

Many streets diverged in a bustling city

And, sorry, I could not travel them all

Being one soul, so long I pondered

And stood on the edge of one

 

Looking down each, as far as could imagine

Where weak eyes lost the view and blurred

And, taking one, t’was just as good,

And possibly more lucrative, pleasant would prove,

 

Because it sparkled, bright asphalt freshly paved,

Though ‘side from name and zoning laws,

Each street glittered much the same.

After tiring of one, ‘nother street down I wandered,

 

Lively and lost, shoes consumed like children’s erasers

Daylight fantasies, other streets smiling, teasing

One by one embracing each street’s charms

Till worn-out, satisfied, returned to first loves

 

Never one to limit self to One Love

Looking back, the dear ones rise to mind

Four roads diverged in a city

I took each and every one of them

And that has made all the difference.

–Raven Burnes