Sunday, March 22, 2009

Go! Bus

"The sun is tweeting, the water's wet, the birds are shining" - Hank Moody.

Winter has broken at last. The sun went down at 8 o'clock today. I am finally starting to feel normal again. I have dropped some winter weight, which is a pleasant surprise, because I've been too busy to go to the gym and I've also been drinking a fair bit. I am, however, ready for the long days and warm nights. The week has been filled with surprises. First there was the realisation that the world did not come to a screeching halt because I turned 30. Then there was my dad arriving in the city unexpectedly to celebrate said milestone.

The literary powers granted me by earth's yellow sun have also been in full effect in recent weeks. There is now a second book idea germinating, some recording of non-melodic rhythmic stanzas, and the offer of a show to showcase said recordings. A band of sorts has also been formed. My cousin on percussion, John from down the road on the 1's & 2's and yours truly on vocals. Yes, there is still a lingering malignant sharpness to the air, but the seasons have deinitely changed.

Recently, I've spent a lot of time on the Go! Bus between Toronto and the Steel City and the realisation that the route don't change, just the passengers - has dawned upon me.

For instance, there's the guy with the Bluetooth headset and laptop, the guy with white hair who always somehow manages to sit directly in front of me and recline his seat with an abruptness that is beginning to work my nerves (Disclaimer: I'm not going to go postal on the bus - I can absolutely promise you, before the mainstream media unearths this blog as the lair of a diseased and twisted mind, that you won't see me on the evening news, at the wheel of a coach, ramming police blockades like some sort of outtake from 'Grand Theft Auto'). There's also the person who sits behind me with the really nasty and contagious sounding cough. Thankfully, I'm yet to fall sick. And we can't forget the lady who always stands in aisle two minutes before the journey ends. I guess she's doing it to shave valuable seconds off her personal best in the race to get to her office, rather than mix it up with the urchin who would happily shuffle off the bus in single file, once it has come to a complete stop.

At any rate, both legs of my journey to and from Toronto today were filled with interesting random conversation. On the way out, I got talking to a lady who took an interest in my reading material (Brian Azzarello's 100 Bullets) It turns out that she had a friend who is involved in the comic book industry. She was on her way downtown to watch Dirty Dancing with her daughter, a quiet girl in her late teens, who sported a flamboyant pair of Nike hi-tops. The lady was also an actress and had appeared in a few films that have been shot round here. For those of you not familiar with this corner of the world - Hamilton was not only, until earlier this month, the prime source of Canadian steel, but also the location for a number of movies. I heard they shot some of 'The Incredible Hulk' out here and had machines that were capable of throwing Hummers around before the FX boys got their hands on the footage to add Big Green & Peeved to the final cut. Her last picture was wth Jude Law apparently, he of the sculpted hair and plummy English tones - he is a less hateable Hugh Grant for all intents and purposes and it's called 'Repossesion Mambo'. I have no idea when it will be out, but it's gotta be worth an ice cream sandwich and bucket of cola at the local multiplex, right?

On the way back, things were equally interesting. Having walked from Gerrard X Bay to Union Station - with a brief stop at the Armani exchange to see if they're practically throwing trainers out again - I got to the bus terminal with minutes to spare. Not wanting to bustle past all the passengers to find a seat (my seating preference, by the way, is the disabled row - I only use it if no-one in a wheelchair is on the bus - before this escalates into a flurry of outraged comments. as it has a nice allotment of extra legroom. If no-one sits next to me for the whole trip all the better. Perhaps, they feel that by sharing a seat with someone so willing to flout the authority of The Blue Sticker, they are building bad karma. I, for one, am willing to roll the dice on my chances with the afterlife for the sake of a little extra comfort during the ride. If I go to Hell because of it, at least I won't have cramp in my legs) I sat right at the front. Once again, I went to open 100 Bullets and once again, the person in the seat next to me struck up a conversation. This time it was a guy who introduced himself as 'Tony The Taxi Driver'. Tony told me a story about how he had been given a load of comic books by a girl who he believed was running away from home. And when we say comic books we're talking the bagged up and boarded slices of genius from the 1960's rather than the Nick-O-Teen one shot from the 80's. Whatever happened to Nick-O-Teen? I remember there was a poster of Superman fighting him on the doctor's notice board when I was a kid. His hat was shaped like a cigarette. Those were the days when a villain had a decent gimmick you could really get your teeth into. Nick made people irritable first thing in the morning and then made their clothes smell. These days you never know what you're getting with your bad guys. Unless they have the word 'Black' in their name. In those instancces, it's likely that they'll be Black.

Where was I? Oh yes - Tony The Taxi Driver had met this girl on the Greyhound and she told him of her plan to run away to America before handing him a bunch of vintage comic books. He asked if I could value them for him, but I told him that I was merely a sucker for a story well told and not any type of expert. So we get to talking and it turns out that Tony The Taxi Driver used to be Tony The Rock Star. His face told stories before he even opened his mouth. He had that same sort of crumpled, yet noble world weariness that studios will be demanding of Mickey Rourke until his dying day after the success of 'The Wrestler'. Having started out in Ireland making up advertising jingles he was given a shot at the big time. He grabbed it with both hands and spent his salad days blazing a trail across the European mainland, before going coast to coast on US soil. He had lived in Camden and Germany. He recounted stories of playing gigs in the Eastern Bloc, before the Berlin Wall came down. He told me a story about an open air show he played with his band in Russia, where he met a guy who had driven to the concert in an old tank. the kid wouldn't let Tony drive the tank, but gave Tony a pair of army issue binoculars "with all Russian writing on the side. They're wicked cool" as a souvenir. Tony still has them. He told me of the days of yore, when $20 in Hungary would buy you a hotel room, a bowl of goulash and a hooker who would fuck you until your eyes changed colour. Tony spoke of his days on the road without regret. He didn't have the condo in Manhattan, but he hadn't got himself mired in drugs or alcohol, so he'd escaped with his faculties intact. He had himself a bright kid and a good woman who he plans to put on the back of his Harley and ride down to Arizona and New Mexico with. He was contented with life. He gave me his number and told me that he would put me up on some of the cool shit the city has to offer off the beaten path. Tony The Taxi Driver is also familiar with my uncle's work having been on account at City TV back in the day. He, too, is a fan of the man's cool. Tony is also something of a scotch conoisseur so we may end up buying a bar out of Scotland's finest in the near future.

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