So, I rode Greyhound round trip to San Francisco last weekend. My previous journeys on Greyhound had been in the late 80′s. so they had plenty of time to improve things. My memories of Greyhound included filthy, run down stations, dilapidated buses, strange and sometimes dangerous clientele, and long unexplained delays. My overall impression was that Greyhound served they very bottom end of the socio-economic market, people with no other transportation options. And because they had a pretty much captive audience, they could get away with anything. In the late 1980′s. if you absolutely had to go see your parole officer in Sacramento and you had no car and only $100 you borrowed from your mom, Greyhound was it, baby. And everything fit that mode.
So, how have things changed? Well, I was impressed that the stations were cleaner and not as torn up. Also, the buses were in much better condition. They even have outlets so you can charge your phone! Greyhound, getting it together! My ride to San Francisco was peaceful and uneventful.
But like a bad relationship, things went back to shades of the bad old Greyhound on the way back from S.F. First off was the station in San Francisco. I got a very thorough hand and wand search at the station there. I had never seen that in connection with riding Greyhound. But in S.F. they have signs everywhere proclaiming no drugs, not even marijuana, and no weapons are allowed. And they really mean it. The TSA could learn something from the security guard at the S.F. Greyhound station. They seem especially paranoid about marijuana, since S.F. is Stonerville.
But, hey, ok, they are trying to look out for my safety, no big. I had nothing of interest to them. Next stop, Oakland. I was reading a book and was suddently jolted by screaming at the front of the bus where people get on. A black family was there, with two crying little children, a huge black dude with a shaved head, and a small female. The female was screaming at the top of here lungs, (cleaned up for your gentle reading pleasure), “You stupid (black person)! Don’t you be grabbing my (vagina), you dumb (rear) (black person)! Nobody wanna see you grabbin’ my (vagina)!” The guy, who was at least 250 pounds, screamed back, “Shut up, (female dog)! I done paid for that (vagina)! I be grabbin’ it all day, (female dog)! You don’t say (feces) to me, (sexual act) (prostitute)!” This went on and on.
However, I quickly noticed that the visual cues did not match the auditory ones. Despite the profamity and aggression in the language, their eyes and body language wre friendly and, yes, strangely, quite loving. I figured out that was how this particular couple says “Bye honey. I love you and miss you. Be safe.” They just say it in a very different manner. Finally, they stopped and the woman and children got on the bus. Thank you.
Ok, now with that drama behind us, let’s get home: But first we have to stop in Modesto. Damn, there is a old guy in a motorized wheelchair trying to board in Modesto. And the wheelchair lift will not work. The driver folds and unfolds it over and over again. He calls people for advice on his cell phone. Oh boy. I know how stubborn Greyhound is about corporate procedure: they will fiddle with it all night if necessary. Then, they will wake up another driver someplace and send him in a replacement bus to come get everyone, even if that guy has to drive from LA or Sacramento or Las Vegas. And if that procedure takes twelve hours, so be it. I had court the next day, and the thought of still being marooned at the stop in Modesto for God knows how long just reminded me of the worst of Greyhound.
To make things more stressful, there were two, count them two, people screaming at the heavens at the bus stop at Modesto. One guy was obviously drunk to the point of oblivion and talking nonsense. The other guy appeared to be high on some really powerful drugs and was aggressively menacing other people at the bus stop, who tried their best to ignore him. So, I am thinking, “Oh God, this is about to become the toughest Greyhound bus ride ever. If these two idiots get on the bus, things are going to go downhill quickly. Yikes…” So, I prayed the lift would work and these two guys would not get on the bus.
Well, God works in mysterious ways. Once they told old feller that they were going to have to get another bus to come get us, he just stood up and walked on board. Why we didn’t think of that an hour ago, I don’t know. Drunk crazy dude did board the bus. But he passed out in a drunken stupor immediately, so he was no trouble at all except he was sprawled in the aisle. But relatively speaking, it was a victory. He was barely able to walk three quarters of the way down the bus before passing completely out. Nice timing. I hope he woke up wherever he was going.
Crazy dude high on drugs and trying to start fights didn’t even get on the bus. Perhaps it was a really slow day in Modesto and there were no other people to harass other than the other people at the bus stop. Or maybe he had a ticket and was too loaded to remember to get on the bus. Either way, it saved us another dangerous trip on Greyhound. Thank you, Jesus!
Now that we were considerably behind schedule, the bus driver put the hammer down and got us home within a reasonable margin of error from the original time estimate. Yay! It was a long and exhausting trip.
Gentle reader, I am old. Really, really old. I remember a time when practicing a foreign language by listening to it being spoken was very difficult. You could go to your local bookstore and buy some cassette tapes, if your language was one of the few popular European ones that they made them for. Those were useful, but typically very limited. Beyond that, the options got tough.
You could, if you lived in a big city, sign up for classes in your chosen language, if it was popular. I lived in a little town far from civilization, so that was impossible. But even if you lived in Los Angeles, good luck finding a class on Yoruba, or Haitian patois.
As far as getting actual live action practice reading or listening to the language in a realistic setting, that was difficult too. If you lived in a big city, bookstores or newspaper stands would have a small selection of books and newspapers in foreign languages, if you were lucky and studying a very popular European language. Again, if you lived in podunk like me, forget about it. Television or movies were virtually impossible to find. You might be able to catch a foreign language movie in a theater if you were very attentive and lived in an artsy or large city.
Now, life is great. I am overwhelmed with effortless opportunities to study foreign languages. I ordered “La Grande Bellezza” on Amazon instant download and can watch it a thousand times if I want. I ordered a DVD from Amazon Italy on Italian history. They will ship it to my door. I can choose between Pimsleur or Rosetta Stone to learn pretty much any language I can dream of learning. (Farsi, any one?) Those programs have interactive listening components. I can surf the web for Italian language web sites, read books from Amazon in Italian, and watch Italian YouTube videos until I can’t stand it any more. And of course, I receive the Italian television channel RAI all day and all night. I can do all that while seated on my fat butt at home.
This is the best time in history to learn foreign languages.
My adopted country strikes gold at the Oscars again! La Grande Bellezza, a film from Italy won Best Foreign Film at the Oscars. Italian movies have won more Best Foreign film Oscars than any other country. They have won fourteen.
Friday night, my wife and I will watch it together. Then I intend to watch some of the other Italian movies I learned about in my workshop. There are lots of great Italian films I have not seen.
Well, I decided to go back to CrossFit 661. I lack the discipline to work out on a regular basis on my own. I come home, I am tired, and I just put it off until tomorrow. And get a little fatter and weaker every day. So, I decided today to go back.
The warm up is a constant. It never varies. If you recall, before I stopped going I had improved tremendously. At first I could barely finish it. By the end I could finish it with ease without even breaking a sweat.
Well, today I couldn’t finish it at all. Not even scaling it by using a band. Then we did deadlifts and I got in five reps at 275 lbs. Just terrible. But hey, it’s a start…
At my dorm at Adelaide Hostel, there is a sign on the wall asking people not to have sex in the dorm.
Think about that for a minute. They are asking people not to have sex in front of a room full of total strangers. Strangers who just came there to sleep.
They wouldn’t have made the sign if no one had ever done it. Wow.
I learned something important about one of my favorite Italian movies at the workshop. The instructor, a native Italian, can’t understand the dialogue in the movie Gomorrah either.
In fact, when the film was shown in Italy, it was shown with Italian subtitles. That’s because the script entirely uses a Neapolitan dialect that only people from that city speak.
You see, for almost all of Italy’s history, there was no “Italian” language. Each region spoke a different dialect, and Italians from different parts of the country could not understand each other.
Such usage of dialects has died down, but to “keep it real” and show how street her characters were, the writer and directors filmed it entirely in the local dialect, which sounds totally different than standard Italian.
It’s kind of funny, because I just thought I couldn’t understand anything because my Italian comprehension sucked.
The sermon at St. Ignatius this morning was one of the most moving ones I have ever heard. The Gospel reading was from the portion in Matthew from the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus tells people not to worry about financial issues, God will provide. (Matthew 6, 25-34)
He led the entire audience through a guided meditation. It was extremely moving and impressive.
And a real challenge to me. I am obsessed with the fear of going broke again. It haunts my waking thoughts and my nightmares asleep. I am tormented by it. Unfortunately, it is always with me.
How great would my life be if I could trust in God and let go…