Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Bob Rides the Bus, The Sequel

The bus system we have here in Pittsburgh is called PAT. Some say "Pittsburgh Area Transit" but I say Pretty Awful Time. In the time since my last spasm, I have stood mostly between my Ross Township French chateau and the downtown terminus. And while standing, I often have the opportunity to experience something that smells like what you get when you cross a huge pile of wild onions with diarrhea. Yes, it's that bad. And new colognes and perfumes are being invented daily that rival syrup of Ipecac. For those of you who don't know what that is, look it up. Someday, when I am filthy rich, I'm going to have my chauffeur follow the bus route into town every work day and savor the clean smell of fresh filtered air scented ever so softly with lilac.

While I'm on the subject of riding the bus, there is something else that I have noticed. Electronic stuff. Stuff that you stick in your ears to totally blot out reality and take you to whatever musical world that you have downloaded from Napster or Rhapsody. Or, you stick your telephone up to your ear and begin talking in a 120 decibel voice to insure that you remind everyone around you that YOUR life is SO much sweeter than the plebeians that ride this cattle car. Or you take that same or similar electronic gizmo and begin to feverishly type out wee messages to most likely the President or the Pope advising him on how to better run things.

What all of this does is insure that our ability to converse in a sensible and interesting manner is being wiped out as fast as the Pet Rock. Not only do we not speak to our neighbors on the bus, but they don't DESERVE our time. Besides, they SMELL. WE matter, since it is all about us. Just look at that guy up in Vermont a couple of weeks ago who was hit by a car and laid in the street while people passed by. Well, at least they slowed down to check him out. So that makes us a caring people, right? We slowed down. But we never stopped texting, talking, or listening to Waylon Jennings sing the theme from the Dukes of Hazzard on our bleeding I-Pod as we passed by his injured body.

God made these people, people. And whether or not you like to admit it, He made them in His image. Oh sure, send me your atheist comments. I'll read them, because God made you too. And he made U-2. And He gave us brains (some less than others) and intellects and mouths to talk with so we can freely express what we think.

So if you see me on the bus, turn off your blasted electronic thingy and say hello. I'll most likely talk back, unless you just ate one of those double garlic pizzas with extra dead possum on it.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Bob Rides the Bus

When I first started riding the bus, I was only 8 years old. And it took me to a town called Keisterville, which nobody ever pronounces like that. We called it Keister. It was only a couple of miles from Smock, but to me, it felt like I was on the dark side of the moon.

As we rode the bus, we had older kids on board that were headed for the Uniontown Senior High School. One of those passengers was a guy who was considered "slow". Let's call him Jinxy. Jinxy was our official 21 year old senior but had a heart of gold, unless you crossed him or made fun of him.
In the Smock of the 1950's, there were two popular brands of smoking tobacco. One was called Half & Half, although I really never figured out which half was which, but I knew that before it found it's way into my grandfather's pipe, it smelled glorious. I sometimes had the honor of twisting off the metal ring that locked in the freshness and sticking my nose in that can. It's one of the things you never forget.

The other pipe tobacco was called Cutty Pipe. If you see old pictures of Irish leprechauns smoking those clay pipes with the long, curved stems, those are actually called Cutty Pipes. But there was a brand of tobacco called that too.

So one day, the seniors of Uniontown High took to smoking pipes, and Jinxy was not going to be left behind. So, he took up the habit which began on the back of the bus. A guy could get away with this violation of the rules especially in the warmer weather since all of the bus windows were down and you can hide behind the tall seat backs and smoke.

One day, Jinxy was smoking his pipe in the back of the bus and I noticed that each time the bus hit a bump in the road, Jinxy's head would bob up and down and his eyes would roll back into his head. I did not know this, but this was a desired effect. So I went back to the rear of the bus and said "Hey Jinxy, what's that you're smoking?" He said "Half Cutty Pipe, half Half & Half. I went insane with laughter which was great for me, but it hurt Jinxy's feelings which prompted him to put me into a headlock and began to beat the top of my head with his clenched fist. It took 3 guys to get him off of me.

Today, on the ride home, I got on the bus and realized that some things never change. The person sitting in the seat just ahead of me had applied something similar to my Grandmother's favorite perfume, Avon's "Here's My Heart" which smelled like a flower shop straight from hell. She also smelled like she applied it using a Wagner Power Sprayer set to "Fog". Behind me was another person who must have had the More Garlic Pizza from Garlic Brothers.

Mix those two smells and you have something that makes you drop to your knees and be grateful that the ride was only 20 minutes.

I really longed for the smell of half Cutty Pipe and half Half & Half.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

911 or 913?

As a boy growing up in Fayette County, we were never taught to pray, except at night, when we either prayed for the people in our lives or suffer the pit belt across your already tired behind. Prayers weren't for everyone else, but just for those in the immediate family. Other families should have their own prayers so we didn't have to mess with them.

Everyone, save three families, went to St. Hedwig's Roman Catholic church located on Smock Hill. The three exemptions were Reverend Nedd and his wife who pastored a small Baptist church well out of town, Mary Taylor and her husband, who I believe went to Reverend Nedd's church, and the Hart family, who were non-Catholic heathens who most likely participated in demonic rituals and other devil worship (they were Presbyterian). As a child, I was allowed to speak to Reverend Nedd and Mary Taylor, but the Harts were "off limits" since no one knew a lot about them. Since nobody knew their background, they HAD to be evil sorcerers.

Linda Hart was my age and wore....glasses. Glasses that allowed her to peer into the souls of others and helped to focus the powers of hell. Otherwise, she played the piano and made pretty good grades in school. One day, I was standing outside the Hart's home listening to Linda play rather non-satanic music when her mother appeared and asked if I'd like to come in. Whoa. On one hand, this was like entering the inner sanctum of the Masons but on the other, it allowed me a peek into what was surely the occult. After entering, I found Linda playing a rather pretty demonic tune on the piano while her mother, eternal priestess of the netherworld, offered me cookies. What was an 11 year old Catholic boy to do? I ate four of them and much to my surprise, I did not die.

After listening a bit more to Linda and the piano, I went home and told my mother of my exploits. I was beaten to within an inch of my life for cavorting with pagans and eating their demonic cookies which would, according to Mom, rot my soul. I have no idea how I was able to survive all of this, especially when I was going to make my first confession really soon and Father Oris would no doubt pour a bucket of Holy Water over me to douse the evil spirits.

In my subsequent years, prayer resulted in luck. Good things happened and God was on my side, although I now play music in several "demon-infested" churches. How could HE smile on me for doing these things?

Now, I'm going to tell you something personal. On Sunday evening, June 22nd, I complained to God. No, not some whiny, wimpy "you never do anything for me" prayer but a full-bodied tirade telling God that He is falling down on the job. You see, I have not had a lot of work for six months and I was sick and tired of staying home. So I really let God have it. "YOU DON'T LISTEN. MY PRAYERS ARE BOUNCING OFF THE CEILING AND EMBEDDING INTO THE RUGS. UGH. MY FAITH IS SLIM TO NONE AND ALL I SEE YOU DOING IS MESSING WITH THE WEATHER.

So I asked God to show me a sign. My financial status was emergent and so I made an emergency prayer. Let me know in some tangible way where even an idiot like me would understand that this would be a message from YOU.

Dr. Joe Klimoski delivered more than half of the population of Brownsville. He was one of those rare general practitioners who did it all; delivered babies, burned off warts, set bones, did hysterectomies, gall bladder and appendix removals, and even did the occasional tonsillectomy. "My license says to practice Medicine and Surgery" and that's what I damned well do". Joe had one vice which was playing the illegal numbers. And the only number he'd call into his bookie was "913". Every day. Shoot, even the hospital switchboard operators paged him by saying "913, call the operator" or "913, report to the operating room".

Ever since I left the Brownsville Hospital in June of 1977, I would point at the television if the Pennsylvania Lottery was on, snap my fingers and say "913 !!!!!". It never came out.

After I made my demands to God on June 22nd, I knew that "60 Minutes" was coming on soon so I turned on the television and switched to Channel Two. The Pennsylvania Lottery was on so I took this as a sign to go to the refrigerator and get an orange. As I passed by the television, I snapped my fingers and said "913". The Daily Number that was drawn was 913. Perfect. Not backwards or "boxed". 913.

Was this the sign I literally demanded to see? I'll bet Linda Hart's devil-piano on it.