There is a certain happiness sighted when your bus comes along. It is of course a small specialized form of happiness and will never be a great thing.

-Richard Brautigan, The Old Bus

Monday, May 14, 2007

Back in the front of the bus

Some days nothing much happens commuting on Sacramento Regional Transit, and some days its just the opposite. And then there are the days viewed through the kaleidoscope of Richard Brautigan's "Trout Fishing in America."

She was young, not much beyond childlike. But the thong spoke for her, its black shoestring rising out of her low cut jeans and joining another string that circled her slender hips. As she climbed aboard the bus, the sequin design on each seat pocket danced erotically. Behind her a young man, older but not very, with long brown hair in a loose ponytail and a wispy goatee followed. He was dressed in an odd costume, a sort of ghetto white guy. Everything looked new. The black Hawaiian-style shirt, overly large, featured a multicolor marijuana leaf pattern. His black pants, what could be seen below the shirt, were equally overly large, rolled into cuffs at the bottom. The pants featured the brand stitched in reverse on a two-inch-wide white stripe down each outside pant seam. All I could make out was the word "jeans." But what caught my attention after the thong had disappeared into the bus was the chrome chain that looped from the guy's belt to below his knee and back to his belt. The chain was held in place with handcuffs.

The thong spoke to the handcuffs, and I showed the driver my pass as I boarded. The couple took the far back corner of the bus while I settled into a seat across from the side door.

I first read Brautigan's "Trout Fishing in America" around 1970. It was originally published in 1967. I don't think teenage girls wore thongs then. If they did, they would have played an important part in "Trout Fishing in America." Describing a naked young woman lying on a bed waiting to make love, Brautigan wrote, "The girl was very pretty and her body was like a clear mountain river of skin and muscle flowing over rocks of bone and hidden nerves."

While I was reading, the guy walked to the front of the bus to get a copy of the schedule. As he returned to his seat another passenger got up and followed him to the back of the bus.

"Hey," the other passenger said loud enough for everyone in the bus to hear, "since you're advertising, I was wondering if you had any." The "any" was not explained but the multicolor shirt design was likely the inspiration.

He returned to the front of the bus empty handed. After he left, I could hear the girl say to the guy next to her, "Did he really think we'd tell him?" It was a fair question.

The couple read the schedule and discussed possible return connections, and I read Brautigan until the bus reached the stop at Watt and El Camino. The couple got off. Apparently, they were on their way to dinner at Sam's Hof Brau. Perhaps they weren't from the area, and they were expecting something like SAM'S HOFBRAU: Restaurant-Bar-Adult Cabaret in Los Angeles.

The bus eased back into evening traffic on Watt, and I left them in the parking lot.

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