Free pastries on the bus


leftovers & links
Saturday, April 1, 2023

Waiting for my morning bus from downtown to the island, a borderline bum joined us at the shelter.

At least, he was a guy who looked kinda ratty. He might've been a bum, or he might've just been a guy having a ratty morning, but he had a little wiener-dog on a leash, and he was carrying a guitar in a big plastic trash bag, and I judged him a bum. I'm a judgmental guy.

Unlike the rest of us, he wasn't content to merely stand and peer down the avenue as he waited for his bus. Instead he tied the dog's leash to the bus stop sign, pulled the guitar out of his trash bag, and started strumming and singing, "I talk to the trees, but they don't listen to me. I talk to the stars, but they never hear me."

Then my bus came, and I didn't have to hear him either.

On a different morning and a different bus, a different bum slept soundly under a green blanket.

As we approached downtown, she awoke, and I was surprised that she was a woman. You couldn't tell, while she was all wrapped in green, but she'd let the blanket loose and leaned toward me with a tooth-deprived smile, offering a plastic-wrapped pastry.

Fat me might have taken it, but I'm trying to lose weight, so I said, no thanks.

"You sure?" she said, and extended the sad-looking manufactured roll closer. "I've got plenty," she added, and flashed open the pocket of her oily jacket, revealing a dozen plastic-wrapped pastries, probably warm.

"Yeah, I'm sure," I explained, so she walked down the aisle of the bus to offer pastries to everyone. Everyone declined.

She sat down again, but a few blocks later she turned around to offer me a single-serve chocolate ice cream. I declined, and she popped the lid off, to show me that it was still frozen.

"How do you keep it frozen?" I asked, but she didn't answer. She was offering it to someone else by then. 

It's a serious question, though. At 7:10 in the morning, how does a bum asleep on a bus have frozen treats? 

Someone took the ice cream from her, and then she settled back under the blanket again, and slept. 

Me, I slept without a blanket, until the driver came on with an important announcement: "Thank you for riding Metro."

On a ride home, a talkative drunk rode at the back of the bus. Usually someone, rarely me, will say something if a drunk gets rude, but this guy was merely loud. Loud happens a lot on a bus, and isn't enough to make people complain unless it's right in your ear.

To no-one and everyone, this drunken bum talked about his life — places he'd lived, people he'd known. Whenever anyone rang the bell to get off, he'd yell, "I love you!" at whoever stepped off. And he talked about "damned kids, using cack crocaine." He said it twice, and it struck me as so funny I wrote it in my notebook.

Something else he shouted out, a few blocks later: "I lived there for eight years with my buddy Brandon, but he has a drinking problem so I had to get away."

There's a man on my morning bus who gets off where I do, and walks sorta "with me" the few blocks to my next stop. We don't walk together, we've never said a word to each other, and he's not waiting for the same second bus as me; we just ride the same #99 inbound, and then we walk to wait for different buses at the same stop downtown. 

I notice him only because he walks with a limp, and it's a major limp. Yet he makes very good time, and usually beats me to our second bus stop.

On Tuesday, I noticed him because he wasn't there, and I was kinda worried about the dude. Maybe he was out sick, maybe he was running late, maybe he went to work early. I dunno. All I know is, he's one of the regulars but he wasn't where he regularly is, so something was wrong in my world on Tuesday morning.

Wednesday he was back, and of course I never asked about his absence. You notice such things, but you never ask.

One afternoon, as I was walking a few blocks downtown from one bus to another, I crossed a low bridge above the railroad tracks, and an Amtrak slowly roared northbound, underneath. 

I'm train-geek enough to know that it was the Empire Builder, rolling from the station a few blocks away into the tunnel under the city, beginning its two-day journey to Chicago. It travels vaguely the trail of Lewis & Clark & Sacagawea, by way of the Cascade and Rocky Mountains, big sky country, the land of ten thousand lakes...

I've ridden round trip in coach on that train, would love to again, and watching it roll away under my feet made me wistful, can you tell?

The Empire Builder leaves Seattle daily at 4:40 PM, so it must've been running late that day.

News you need,
whether you know it or not

Seattle conducted more than 900 sweeps of homeless people in 2022 

Goldman Sachs salivates at AI's potential to mass-fire workers 

Appeals Court reverses awful decision finding that holding up a sign telling drivers there are cops ahead is not free speech 

ACLU sues school district over banning of After School Satan Club 

Minor League baseball players ratify first union contract, get borderline livable wages 

Miami Seaquarium pledges release of whale held captive more than 50 years 

Massachusetts city bans tobacco purchases for those born after 2000 

Climate change helps breed springtime wildfires in Spain 

New Zealand scientists distraught at scale of glacier loss 

How a small island got the world’s highest court to take on climate justice 

Antarctic ocean currents heading for collapse - report 

Surprising ways climate change can affect transportation 

Climate change made the Mississippi tornadoes more likely 

Kansas City police targeted minority neighborhoods to meet illegal ticket quotas, lawsuit says 

Chicago cops' training includes how to justify or cover up police brutality 

Special investigator in Louisiana killing by police is very special indeed 

Cops anonymously harassed 3-1-1 callers 

Five years after killing unarmed man, cop maybe might possibly be fired for it 

Ontario cop convicted of drug trafficking and raping an unconscious woman still has his $120k-a-year job and has been on paid leave for 8 years 

Trump's indictment has united the Republican Party in apocalyptic rage 

"Desperate and bigoted": US right uses latest shooting to malign trans people 

Due to Florida's unusually broad laws allowing the public access to records, Gov DeSantis doesn't text or email 

Republican kooks come after "15-minute city" advocate 

Trump asks advisers for "battle plans" to "attack Mexico" if reelected 

Republicans are seeking to restrict women and girls' right to travel by criminalizing friends and family who would help them 

Matt Gaetz’s legislative aide is a convicted war criminal 

Ron DeSantis issues racist, anti-semitic dog whistle in support of Trump 

Mystery links
There's no knowing where you're going






My browser history
without the porn

Covering civil rights in the '60s
by Marlene Nadle

♫♬  It has that swing  ♫
so it must mean something

Call It Love — Yello 

Hallelujah — Leonard Cohen 

Make It Rain — Tom Waits 

Park Avenue Beat — B J Fox 

Subterranean Homesick Blues — Salt Creek 

Eventually, everyone
leaves the building

Scott Johnson 

Howie Kane 

Gladys Kessler 

Randall Robinson 

Mark Russell


Cranky Old Fart is annoyed and complains and very occasionally offers a kindness, along with anything off the internet that's made me smile or snarl. All opinions fresh from my ass. Top illustration by Jeff Meyer. Click any image to enlarge. Comments & conversations invited.  

Tip 'o the hat to ye olde AVA, BoingBoing, Breakfast at Ralf's, CaptCreate's Log, Katameme, Looking for My Perfect Sandwich, One Finger Medical, Two Finger Magical, Miss Miriam's Mirror, Nebulously Burnished, RanPrieur.com, Voenix Rising, and anywhere else I've stolen links, illustrations, or inspiration. 

Special thanks to Linden Arden, Becky Jo, Wynn Bruce, Joey Jo Jo, John the Basket, Dave S, Name Withheld, and always extra special thanks to my lovely late Stephanie, who gave me 21 years and proved that the world isn't always shitty.


  1. "What's it all mean, Mr. Natural?"

    "Don't mean sheeit..."

    1. That's the line, from an R Crumb, isn't is? I know it by heart, but don't know what it means. Do you?

  2. Taking the train across country is a singular joy and I strongly recommend a berth in the sleeper car.
    There's that magic moment when you wake up in the middle of the night, the steel wheels rattling on the rails below your bed, and for half a second you can't place it, and you're not sure where you are. In the morning you get up, walk down the hall for a shower, brew a strong cuppa coffee in your roomette, and then bring it upstairs with a relaxed smile on your face to watch the scenery flash by outside the big long windows. Everyone in coach is sprawled out and exhausted, drooling mouths hanging open, legs splayed in awkward positions seeking comfort-- another night in the cattle car trying to sleep in the seats.
    Riding through Arizona one time I struck up a conversation with a college girl going home for the holidays. Asking questions is my main form of communication and I soon found out that her mother had recently been in Paris with a group of her friends from school days twenty years before.
    “One of the women takes my mom and her friends on a trip once a year to some interesting place in the world,” she said. “This year it was France.”
    “And she pays for the whole trip?” I said.
    “Yup,” the girl said.
    “Wow, I wonder who would do something like that?”
    “It's Meryl Streep,” she said.

    1. Nice to have money, I've heard, and if I had lots maybe I'd pay for friends' vacations to the French Riviera. Maybe. They'd have to be pretty good friends, though, and definitely from before I was rich.

      There is nothing like a long train ride, but the sleepers are *expensive* -- at least, now, maybe they were affordable way back when in our memories.

      Even riding coach is a little too pricey, but the view, man, and the ambience, and the shake rattle and rolling, and yeah, even for an introvert like me, there are pleasant conversations available.

      The seats are perfectly comfortable in coach, plenty of leg room, and they fold back just like my recliner at home, maybe more plush. I slept better on the train than I do at home.

      Gotta pack your own food, though. Train food is expensive.

  3. For a couple of years as the 60s melted into the 70s I went to college in Ellensburg, WA. Not for the scenery or weather, both of which sort of suck, but state school, low tuition. I had motorized transportation in the form of a Yamaha 80 (top speed with the wind - 43 MPH), so I couldn't ride it "home" because I live in two states, separated by the Cascade Mountains and a couple of 3-4,000 foot passes, and nobody wants to cram themselves on a bus for the 2 1/2 hour trip. So I discovered the train.

    Luxury at reasonable prices (about $10 in 1970 money). I can't attest to the comfort of the sleepers -- I can usually go several hours without sleeping -- or even the coach seats, because I always went directly to the bar car.

    A train trip through the Cascades is a couple hours of spectacular views of mountains, rivers and wildlife (deer, mountain goats, the occasional bear, a variety of birds, varmints) and at something like a buck a drink, served by an inevitably Black and inevitably charming steward, you could drink yourself from serious Republican territory to the fairly strong Democratic strongholds of King and Pierce Counties in comfort that felt like luxury to a 20-year-old student (the stewards didn't care that I was underaged and I didn't either).

    I don't recall much about college, but I remember vividly and fondly those trips across the mighty Cascades in comfort with a Jim Beam, a pack of smokes, and an amiable bartender to keep me company.


    1. My brother went to Central. Played sports of some kind. Maybe you knew him? He was a Dick, like most of the athletes.

      Your train trip sounds like the edge of the golden era, the time when trains were luxurious and stylish. Like, did you spot Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint? And dollar drinks, eh? Jeez.

      Now the trains are rusted and rattling, but you're riding with the ghosts of class. The views are still spectacular, and the coolness is still cool.

      There is no more bar car, I think. At least, I never heard it mentioned on my train trips. There's a dining car, with Denny's-style food but at triple the price. I packed two days worth of sandwiches instead.

    2. If your brother played sports I didn't know him. You're not the only reticent guy in the world. I knew a few guys from my dorm (dorms were gender separate) and a couple of people who worked in the kitchen at the food service building (I was a dishwasher, second class). I wouldn't know him from graduation, because I didn't.


    3. By 1970, the Dwight D. Eisenhower Interstate Highway System and cheaper air travel had destroyed the passenger rail system in the United States. I was as clueless as any twenty year old, and I knew I was riding a memory. The crew damn well knew it. Thankfully, Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint lacked a sense of history and continued to make out on the observation car.


    4. Congrats on not graduating. Mark of distinction, in my opinion.

      I've heard it argued that the Interstate was America's greatest accomplishment of the 20th century. Impressive engineering, I guess, but jeez it's killed a lot of people.

      There ought to be a network of trains running hourly between all American cities with populations over about 25,000, and t5he fact there isn't is further proof there's no god or common sense.


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