Thursday, September 13, 2007

CHI WI - a cultural tour -

This past weekend a god friend, Zach-o came to visit with his friend Jeremy in CHI town, we did a great downtown walking tour. Here are some images

After our time here, we went to Eau Claire WI, where Zack and Jeremy live, that was also a nice time. Zach and I discovered that Ace is the place, (listen to the tag at the end)

as well as Space is the place, (the quality is eh.. but this is the tune) and because this one is so good....
we even toured the Linie's brewery. But really the most interesting part was.....

"Excuse me sir, are you driving the bus parked outside?" "Well I guess so....." "Where are you going to?" "Where are YOU going to?" Chicago...." "Nope, you ain't! "

Well I suppose the guy sitting outside who said that the bus was going to Minneapolis was correct. Funny thing, that the Greyhound station is operated out of a McDonalds.

Being a persistent really seems to be the only way that I am going to get out of this place, so back to our mildly confrontational, possibly violent driver. "I got a ticket and the agent (who wears a McDonalds uniform and serves up a hot batch of fries in addition to her ticketing responsibilities) told me that you were going to Milwaukee, then Chicago...." "Nope!, he spits back. "Well where are you going?" "I ain't even supposed to be here!" he retorts and quickly redirects what small semblance of his body language that was the result of my pleasant yet direct questioning.

Back to the counter, she seems to have it a little more together and at least will answer my questions, if nothing else out of the politeness that is the result of living in the north woods WI small town of Eau Claire. But first to wait in line for the people in front of me, who she is helping. While it seems strange that the Greyhound station is in this McDonalds, which also appears to act as a major truck stop, the real strange thing is, these guys and the others waiting outside on the bench are the only black people I have seen in my three days in the north woods. Also, they are bigger than a Nebraska corn fed lineman and devoid of any body fat. As I wait patiently for the agent to help them out, I notice that they both have pieces of paper that they have placed on the counter, which I would guess are confirmation numbers, but I didn't have to print mine out and that really doesn't look like a print out from a home computer, no html header or........

Then I spy it. The 22 point font, in bold, the letterhead on the bottom sheet of the two....
"Wisconsin State Correctional Institute"

I look outside and notice that there is a short white guy who appears to know all five of the black people that are in the place. He is wearing jeans and a plaid shirt, what one might expect of this area and they are all dressed in sweatpants and......There it is, around his neck, the small white guy has a name tag. These guys all just got out of jail and he is the prison guard taking them to the Greyhound so they can catch it back to Minneapolis or Milwaukee. With me!

Turns out the bus driver that I was questioning was indeed going to Minneapolis, he just didn't want to come out and say it. That became evident after the ticketing agent informed me that "He's the 8:15 to Chicago" "But mam, I asked him and he said he wasn't" "Then he's on drugs!" At which point the bus outside pulled away and she scooped up the driver sign in sheet off the counter in front of me to discover that he was the 7:20 to Minneapolis. Ok, so the Chicago bus is late, that I can deal with.

"Each bus operator has their own way of maintaining order on their bus" I explain to my friend dropping me at the "station." I remember having a discussion with my sister about the bus drivers that she got to know when she was working as the Spanish language interpreter in Milwaukee (she had 2 years of Spanish in high school and did not particularly excel at it). Having been on enough Greyhound buses over the years I have begun to get a feel for this uniquely American operation. The bus drivers tend to see themselves as captains of vessels and when you enter that bus, you have entered a kingdom, and they set the rules. They can kick you off at any moment for any reason (as Frank Zappa said "Anything At Anytime For Any Reason At All (AAAFARAA).") and just to make sure that you don't feel comfortable getting kicked off the bus route is always through the least desirable portions of the planet.

The driver has greased back white hair and black cowboy boots with shiney silver metal tips that fit over the toe box. As I sit back into my seat and watch the landscape open and we pull away from the McDonalds, he comes over the intercom to introduce himself and the rule system that defines his ship. His speech is deliberate with a voice that sort of cracks and randomly modulates, while loud, because of the amplification it has the quality of a whisper. He proceeds to make sure that we know that anything that makes noise and will disturb others needs to be attenuated. Of course, he does this by describing the technology he knows of, such as "radio's with earplugs" or "cell phones with walkey talky mode." He has encountered it all as a result of inconsiderate passengers, but the language of his descriptions indicates that he has never owned or operated any of this technology. It reminds me of a conversation that we had while sitting around the fire about the fact Japanese does not easily translate into English and a result of this are some very humorous sentences that combine a bunch of English words within a syntax that is indicative of a grammar that is nearly the opposite of English.

The bus follows the slow arch of the cloverleaf entrance as the speech winds up. I position myself into the small amount of space that I have been allotted and watch the hilly landscape that underlies the occasional barns and roads dividing fields of corn with stands of majestic trees that define this landscape. A blue sky with a nice collection of bubbly cumulus clouds with loose wispy edges where my polarized lenses allow me to perceive a myriad of slowly undulating textures and colors set the backdrop

Did I forget to mention the Amish couple in the front row of the bus who came out a McDonalds with an armful of sodas and bags of burgers?

Back to Chicago for a couple days to help write Christine's personal statement and my trombone piece for Mark.


Blogger mollie said...

Are you guys still here in Chi-town?

9/21/2007 08:58:00 AM  

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