Main Entry: grey·hound
Etymology: Middle English grehound, from Old English grīghund, from grīg- (akin to Old Norse grey bitch) + hund hound
Date: before 12th century
: any of a breed of tall slender graceful smooth-coated dogs characterized by swiftness and keen sight and used for coursing game and racing; also : any of several related dogs — compare
Greyhound Lines, Inc. was founded in 1914 and perhaps at that moment in time their was still justification for the company adopting the name of the graceful, majestic beasts that are greyhounds. Much has changed in a century and the comfort that one may have experienced on the greyhound even as soon as 25 years ago has all but evaporated. I recently finished a cross-country trip, literally from Los Angeles to Waterville, Maine, via Greyhound buses. In fairness, some of the problems were my fault: the night before I left I had one too many celebratory shots of rum and so I was ill prepared for the ardous journey that lay ahead of me. After one hour of sleep and still plenty drunk, I arrived at the Los Angeles Greyhound station around 7:30 fighting to keep my eyelids open long enough to plop my bag down and pass out in a seat. The rest of my trip proceeded as follows:
6.13.10 - Barstow, CA - 11:49 AM
I came to in a stupor. The bus was stopped and people were climbing on to it. I checked the time and realized I had slept through the first stop. My mouth felt like cotton, my head was pounding and I was wearing an outfit that consisted of a sweater, basketball shorts and shoes without socks. The bus filled up and I realized that I was the only person who was sitting alone. It's not hard to imagine why. Having forgot mostly everything from the night previous I called my friend and got the story...
[feel free to skip this part, but here is the gist: At some point in the night when I was already a bit tipsy I ran across some black kid I had made a comment to in passing earlier at the party. The comment was a remark about his full bottle of rum that he wasn't drinking. The kid asked me, to a certain extent challenged me, to take a shot. For some reason I tilted my head back as he adminstered the shot. He poured 7 shots into my mouth and ran off. The consequences? I fell down in the street 7 times nearly cracking my skull, I removed my shirt and vomited into it, my friend, half my size, was forced to support my body weight until we reached the car, my friend dropped me off and eventually had to return to the party, or the street rather, because I left my shoe there, my sister kept me up the rest of the night for fear of head injury (her methods of keeping me awake included forcing me to watch TV shows that she knows I hate and later forcing me to take a shower which I don't remember). In the morning I remembered nothing, but we did make it to the bus station on time.]
...When I got off the phone I questioned the people surrounding me about our locations, our schedule, etc. A Mexican man across the row offered me some chicken. I told him I really needed it and appreciated it. He told me my face said it all. After the chicken I felt slightly better and I was able to take in my surroundings. The bus seemed nice; good looking people, seats with cushion and plenty of air conditioning. What I failed to realize was that I was leaving from California. All greyhound buses and stations are essentially the same, but leaving from a coastal area means that most of the people you are first in contact with are not unlike you. This proved true once I made it to the East Coast as well, but I didn't realize it until several days into my journey, not that it would have made a difference. As we traveled from Barstow to Las Vegas I took in the scenery of the West: rolling hills, barren fields and the trees of the desert. The clouds cast a black shadow across the desert and despite my pounding headache the beauty of the Western United States set me at ease.
6.13.10 - Las Vegas, NV - 3:01pm
Our second stop was at the Las Vegas greyhound station. I was hoping for food, but everyone had eaten at the last stop. I jumped off the bus and ran (I walked quickly) down a street that looked like it would have food establishments on it. The street proved to be an mirage. There was, however, a gas station which apparerntly only sold cigarettes and gas. I grabbed a pack and headed back to the station, realizing that it was located next to a casino (it is Vegas after all). Inside the casino there was nowhere to buy food [It is funny, to me, to note that I actually had to walk inisde of the casino to smoke because directly outside was the area where the buses were being fueled. Thus making Vegas the only place I know of where you have to go inside to smoke.] except for a McDonalds which, from a waitress's directions, was way on the other side of the casino. I settled for water and a bit of stereotypical bartender talk (complaints, trials, tribulations) before returning to the bus. Once on the bus I experienced my first "Crazy Bus Driver" moment. A handicap woman (in actuallity the woman was just very fat, but she claimed to have a handicap. And when I say fat, I mean lazy fat, not obese or a-problem-with-her-thyroid fat.) wanted to take the front seat. According to the bus driver the route from Vegas to Denver is notoriously riddled with deer and elk. The danger of sitting in the front seat is that deer, and elk as it were, have been known to leap through the front window. I assure you I wept tears at this assertion. At any rate the woman, who had been sitting there from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, moved over to the otherside after a few more minutes of debate. The bus driver, sensing increduilty, went to great lengths to point out deer on the side of the road. Or at least he tried to but was ultimately failed by Nevada and Colorado which provided us with nothing more than a few cows.
6.13.10 - Somewhere in Arizona - 4:27pm
I lost a staring contest to a Mexican toddler. Arizona is around the time I noticed that all of the normal people got off the bus in Las Vegas. They were replaced by a demographic that has neck tattoos, missing teeth and is quite possibly the product of incest. As the bus driver continues to point out things that are slightly noteworthy (there's a bluff over there, there are some cows, etc.), I realized how annoying a job as a bus driver or pilot or stewardess would be. The same sights, the same kinds of people, the same boring observations to make. What scared me more was that I was already tired of it after 8 hours with some 70+ hours of travel time left. I cracked open my book again only to find that I was still too hungover to read.
6. 13. 10 - St. George and Salt Lake City, Utah - 7:25pm
Literally the greatest meal I've ever had and it was at McDonald's. I am, by nature, a fast eater, but I broke records in St. George. For some reason I had visions of Barbara Calhoun: sitting by the washing machine, playing bridge with Maria Wong and eating cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches as the spin cycle comes to an end. My mind was still on Ms. Calhoun as we made our way into Salt Lake City. I am still skeptical that this was actually Salt Lake City, but we did not stop in any other place that could have been Salt Lake and we were scheduled to stop there. The city, if it can be called that, was unimpressive and Utah in general was as strange as I thought it would be. My busmates and I proved to be the only black people for miles and every citizen seemed to have either a buzz cut or a hitler youth haircut. I did see a few beautiful blonde-haired, blue-eyed girls, but one can imagine the reprecussions of cat-calling ('sup girl) in a place like Utah. Alas.
6.13.10 - Grand Junction, CO - 2:02am
If you're ever in Colorado and you want to score some H for you and a friend, stop on by the Grand Junction Bus station. Needing to get on the internet (need = facebook), I asked the homosexual 16 year-old if there was wi-fi in the bus station. I was told that Grand Junction has citywide internet which I promptly tried to connect to without success. The internet would have served as an apt distraction from what would be the beginning of my struggles with finding a suitable bathroom. I do not consider myself a prude, but I flat out refused to use the toilet on the bus and after inspecting the Grand Junction terminal's bathrooms, I decided it would be best to wait for a restaurant or an empty field.
6.14.10 - Denver, CO - 8:45am
The skyline of Denver caught me by surprise. That was the nicest part of the morning. Greyhound has a great scheme worked out: they stop at their terminals for "layovers", even though you get on the same bus most of the time. Of course we have to pick up new passengers, but this shouldn't take half of an hour. The reason it takes 35 minutes is so that you are forced to buy food, which is criminally overpriced considering the quality, [You know when you're in the airport and you are at their mercy? Well at least they have Wendy's or Starbucks or a decent salad bar or something. Greyhound terminal food is as expensive, but has the quality of food you can find only in casinos that exist outside of vegas (i.e. San Manuel, Casino Morongo), movie theaters and elementary school cafeterias. In fact, since I've been at camp where it is popular to bash on the food, and I have been exceedingly pleased with the quality of food in comparison to what I saw at the bus stations I visisted.] knowing that you can't possibly leave the terminal, get food and return in time. My solution was to eat left over trial mix from the night before. I washed it down with a $1.50 can of Dr. Pepper. In my day, and I mean literally 5 years ago, canned soda was always under a buck. What the fuck is the matter with this country? I found myself pondering this question throughout my trip.
6.14.10 - ? - 10:45am
Nothing but flat land for miles. You leave the congested streets of Los Angeles and realize that most of the country is unoccupied. The coasts are an unreality compared to what America is actually like. In Denver we picked up a few morons who began straightaway with what can only be described as tomfoolery. The three young men in question had just met, on their bus from wherever they came from, the night before. One of them, a fellow claiming to be in the military (I have my doubts which will be revealed later), got a blow job on the bus the night previous from a girl he himself described as "white trash." Needless to say, his newfound "friend" managed to tell this story in sterling detail and at top volume to everyone on the bus, multiple times until the young cadet told him to stop some hundreds of miles later. I should mention that Moron #1, the guy telling the story of the cadet, went to the bathroom to smoke. I sat right next to the bathroom, so I could smell the cigarette smoke and then the hurried spray of cologne. I said nothing, but rode in silence, waiting for when he would be discovered.
6.14.10 - Burlington, CO - Noonish
The trip had started to get to me. Everyone on the bus seemed to suffer from some form of severe disfunction. I was literally dreaming of switching buses in whatever city I was supposed to switch buses in. I noticed at this rest stop that there was a man, who couldn't possibly afford a ticket, wearing two pairs of pants (one pair of slacks and over that a pair of jeans with 5-10 holes of varying sizes) and a Burger King crown. He was well over 50 and seemed somewhat coherent. I left this puzzle alone and tried to concentrate on reading while still refusing to use the bathroom.
6.14.10 - Kansas - 3:10pm
There is nothing in Kansas except a toilet that refused to flush. What luck.
6.14.10 - Kansas - 5:00pm
It's a big state. I had two strange dreams in that 2 hour period:
1) I was at a table with a girl in my lap (truly a dream) and her brothers were seated with us. It was in a kitchen of some sort. Her brothers were a rowdy bunch and beared resemblances to the Three Stooges and one of the Marxs [another strange coincidence that will come up later]. We were drinking, I think, and I began to chide the girl, much to the delight of her siblings. After several jokes, and apparently one that went too far, she had enough. The girl jolted her body backwards, forcing me to fall back in the chair. She then propelled us, using her legs, backwards into a lighted fireplace. The dream ended there.
2) I dreamt I was at a buffet.
6.14.10 - Kansas - 6:00pm
The bus driver, seeing that Moron #1 went to the bathroom for around the 10th time, says over the loudspeaker that Moron #1 is smoking and will be kicked off at the next stop. Moron #1 protested at the next stop, maintaining that he did nothing wrong, and recieved the mercy of the bus driver. We switched bus drivers at the next stop. The new driver was a woman. I immediately realized that I felt uncomfortable and I immediately felt ashamed for my mysogny, but it is a really big bus. I know, it's terrible.
6.14.10 - Junction City, Kansas - 7:30pm
"'Cause they don't mess around in Junction City," she says to Moron # 1, Moron #2, and the cadet. The excrement hit the fan in Junction City. We stopped at a gas station to apparently drop off a few passengers. The bus driver asked who was supposed to get off and after recieving no reply, promptly threw a fit. She threatened to empty the bus, she threatened to call the police, she yelled and ranted and raved before she decided to go inside and find out just exactly what was going on. Her instructions were for no one to leave the bus. So of course the somewhat hefty lady [I forgot to mention that this lady and her younger friend (again a friend made the night previous) were part of the Three Morons entourage. These two women, far out of the range of attractiveness, went to great lengths to make sure no man sat next to them. Apparently any man would have been overcome with sexual desire and would be forced to have at them right then and there.] in the back stood up defiantly, once the bus driver was indoors, and walked off the bus. I immediately said, "That's a bad idea" to the person in front of me. Beware the ides of March! The Three Morons followed her almost immediately. As they were exiting the bus, the bus driver had already intercepted the hefty lady who played off her defiant act, pretending as though she was trying to find the bus driver to ask permission to smoke. The hefty lady returned with the bus driver to the bus door where the Three Morons had pulled cigarettes from their pockets. This is were hell broke loose. The Morons were told to return to the bus, grab their belongings and get back off the bus: their trip was to end here. [It is important to note that the new driver had been informed about these troublemakers from her colleague at the last stop] The Morons began to argue, the bus driver grew hysteric and threatened to call the police. I suggested to the young men that they should leave before the authorities were called. Too late. As she dialed she yelled the above quote at them. The police were there in 3 minutes. We were delayed for half an hour as we watched the Morons plead their case to no avail. The cadet, and here's where I began to doubt his military background, began to cry. Moments later they were handcuffed and put in the back of squad cars. The hefty lady felt guilty. Most of the passengers were annoyed. I felt a slight pang of empathy, but not much, as I couldn't understand their motives. Throughout the trip I noticed that passengers seemed to have a disproportional amount of scorn for the bus drivers before they ever took the wheel. Once the trip resumed the bus driver delivered a 3-5 minute impromptu monologue about the Three Morons in which she detailed her driving history, philosophy and racial views [Moron #2 was hispanic but she thought he was black and as there were about 10 black passengers, she felt the need to clarify that the other two passengers were "white boys", so there could be no question of prejudice]. I laughed audibly.
6.14.10 - Topeka, KS - 9:00pm
Time in the shadow of the wing of the thing too big to see, rising. (DFW)
6.14.10 - Kansas City, KS - 10:20pm
The Kansas City bus terminal had a potent smell of poverty and death. It was here that I talked to a guy who was headed to St. Louis who shared the same views on the bus driver that I did [she delivered another impromptu monologue about her upbringing and the food she eats: fried okra, collard greens, fried chicken, etc]. This guy grows marijuana in Santa Cruz and he was headed to St. Louis for the birth of his nephew who was to be named after him. His hangup regarding the trip was that he used to score H at the St. Louis bus terminal. But of course. Around this time I noticed that I legitemately could not feel my ass, i.e. my ass was actually numbed from sitting so that it actually fell asleep and would stay asleep (I kid you not) until I arrived at camp. Also I still hadn't found a toilet.
6.15.10 - St. Louis, MO - 3:20AM
37 hours of travel to go and I was dying for a shower, cigarette, toothpaste, food (still running on trail mix) and a toilet. Even worse, I discovered that several of the unsavory characters on the bus would be riding all the way to the coast. In St. Louis we picked up two morons who more than made up for the three we left behind. Moron #4 looked like a 19 year old ex-convict [he spent the trip stealing from rest stops, though he had money, and bragging about it. He also was the brains of the two man operation and would constantly put Moron #5 in check] and his friend was so comical looking that I could not look at him without laughing. You know in gangster movies where they have that one guy, named pee wee or something, who is short and so he overcompensates by being a sociopath? That was this fellow. He was puny and his mustache and eyebrows resembled Graucho Marx's exaggerated grease paint jobs. He had a hilarious speaking voice and would fly into bouts of anger that subsided when Moron #4 would tell him to shut up. These two geniuses were headed to Manhattan of all places to "go from rags to riches." They were from a town of less than twenty thousand in MO and clearly disillusioned about what it takes to make it in the city. Of course I may be wrong, but my gut feeling is that they're probably being raped by a large Puerto Rican in a drunk tank right around now. Also joining the party was a Puerto Rican girl, with accompanying tattoo, who claimed to be from Spanish Harlem. She had no accent and seemed to have less of an idea about New York than anyone I've ever met [when we actually came close to the city, she was unable to point out the skyline, mistaking several minor buildings for the immense New York skyline]. She pumped the Morons full of misinformation and tall tales that were unbelievably annoying to listen to. 36 hours, 55 minutes and 30, 29, 28...
6.15.10 - Illinois - 5:40am
I ate and smoked. All, not really, is right in the world.
6.15.10 - Indiannapolis, IN - 9:30am
I could no longer hold it. 2 days on the bus without a toilet plus a 1 hour layover forced my hand. I went to the bathroom at the bus station, which managed to be worse than the others, but it at least had a working toilet. It was truly the most uncomfortable shit of my life. The less said about it the better. We picked up a couple here and a Grandmother. They proved to be the first and last people I would meet that I didn't hate or want to kill. And they happend to be headed to Maine as well.
6.15.10 - Dayton, OH - 11:30am
Verbatim Journal Entry: Bleh! Humid, smelly, bored and generally exhausted.
6.15.10 - Pittsburgh, PA - 7:50pm
My first taste of an East Coast city. I practically ran outside of the terminal to see the buildings and what not. On the way there I was forced to sit with someone for the first time. Thankfully it was a crazy woman who talked to her dead chidlren out of the window [I thought at first that I imagined this or that she was on a bluetooth, but the male portion of the Indiana couple confirmed my suspicions]. She got off in Pittsburgh and I breathed a sigh of relief.
6.15.10 - Pennsylvania - 9:10pm
I finished Infinite Jest. You should read it. The Puerto Rican girl had sat next to every guy in the back of the bus except for me. I was strangely dissapointed by this fact.
6.16.10 - Harrisburg, PA
The journal begins to thin out here. By this point I was too tired to care about documenting anything. I did, however, come up with the idea of showers at the greyhound terminals. The only problem would be to keep the homeless people away from them. They could at least try it though. Also, I made a list:
Top 10 places to visit
6.16.10 - New York, NY - 6:00am
The morons and the Puerto Rican girl began to sing the Alicia Keys/Jay-z song about New York and I don't even mind because I'm about as excited as they are. Within 5 minutes of walking outside of Grand Central Station, I see two black guys and an officer having a very stereotypical New York argument. My heart swelled. Then I had to get back on the bus.
The journal ended there. From New York I went to Boston and then took a greyhound to Maine. The rest was pretty uneventful as I had made it back safely to the coast. I had one typically Boston incident [the Grandmother, who I made good friends with, asked a man in a Red Sox hat and business suit for directions. In a Boston accent he spit them out rapid fire. She was still confused and asked for clarification to which he remarked, "I just told you, listen up." I immediately started laughing as I had to calm the grandmother down before she tried to yell at the gentlemen], but that was all. I arrived in Maine, took a shower, ate dinner and thanked God that I was off of that bus. I think Greyhound may have lost one customer, but it really wasn't all their fault. Sure the food was bad and the seats were unbearable, but the people were almost worse. That's not fair. There were a few bad eggs, but they were rotten and so they made the bus ride smell like...well shit to be exact. Of course there is no pleasure without pain, and my days in Maine are only that much better after the "hardships" I endured. How's that for a silver lining?