Almost an adventure

Riding downtown on the #99 bus, I seated myself behind two 30-something women speaking Swahili or something, and their young kids in strollers. Behind me sat a white or lightly ethnic man, folded over, moaning, holding his head as if giant invisible tweezers were squeezing it. 

Seemed like an ordinary ride on the city bus.

The driver had, perhaps accidentally, patched communications with Dispatch onto the bus's public address speakers, so we listened to an unseen voice above us:

"Attention all northbound #21, 99, 131, and 132 drivers. Due to police activity near the stadiums, we have reroute instructions."

We'd be turning left onto Royal Brougham, then right on Airport Way, which the voice told us becomes Seattle Boulevard after a few blocks, and then merges with northbound Stadium Street, where the bus usually runs.

The voice then gave similar but reversed instructions for the southbound #21, 99, 131, and 132.

So, not an ordinary ride — there'd be a few new twists and turns. Cool!

Looking backward, I studied the bent-over bum behind me, still seated but with his hurtin' head only inches from the floor. From there, he couldn't see me, so why shouldn't I stare? 

I ain't mocking the guy, though. We all have unfortunate circumstance or make stupid choices, and whether it takes you down is mostly luck. I've had better luck than that bum, that's all.

The detour instructions were kinda complicated, so after a mile of radio silence, the voice from Dispatch repeated herself over our heads, with reroute info first for northbound drivers, then for southbound.

#99 is my most common route, because it runs by my house. By bus standards, it would be slightly exciting when we got near the stadiums, and made a few different turns. Almost an adventure.

Meanwhile, I was people-watching the immigrants in front of me — two black ladies with toddlers or babies in strollers. The women were having an ordinary conversation, probably about their kids, or perhaps their dreams, in a language unknown to me.

I wondered, were they friends on an outing with one child each, or were they a lesbian Zulu-speaking couple with two kids? There's no knowing without asking, and I wasn't asking, so there's no knowing.

After another few miles, Dispatch re-announced the detour instructions, but the driver must've had it memorized, and I certainly did — right on Royal Brougham, left on Airport Way, which becomes the Boulevard, and takes us back to Stadium Street. Got it. I was mildly looking forward to all the glorious new sights on three different roads, but tired of hearing about it.

Twenty blocks before the detour, an attractive white woman stepped onto the bus. She was 30 or so — half my age, but even an old man notices a pretty woman. Most noticeable was her facial expression, a combustible combination of boredom, anger, and the urge to vomit. She looked like she'd smack anyone who spoke to her, and also she was quietly mumbling to herself.

Is this dame mental, I wondered? Homeless? It was a mystery, so let's collect the clues: She wore neat, clean clothes, her hair was in place, and a lunchbag was on her lap. So, not homeless, not mental.

My theory? She was on her way to work, and doing what I'd do, were I a young, pretty woman, endlessly interrupted by men saying, "Why, hellloo there." She's heard every line 10,000 times, so she wears a face that says 'Shut up and stay away'. And everybody on the bus obeyed the face. Kinda brilliant of her, yes?

Dispatch came crackling on the air, telling the driver again about the detour, but then the voice stopped and said, "A moment please." The moment came and went, and the voice returned, saying, "Attention all north and southbound #21, 99, 131, and 132 drivers. The police situation on Stadium Street has been cleared, so please disregard my earlier instructions and proceed on your normal routes."

Aw, man! I'd been looking forward to seeing scenic Royal Brougham, Airport Way, and Seattle Boulevard, but all that had been snatched away. Instead the bus rolled along the same route it always rolls, past the same buildings and intersections and stops.

Approaching my destination, I rang the bell to step off, and as the bus slowed, I glanced again at the African family, the bum holding his head, the pretty woman you don't want to talk to, and also at forty other riders I haven't described.

Oh, the places we'd almost gone, my fellow passengers. We'd nearly taken the road less traveled, but instead it had been a bus ride like every other.


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  1. I'm about halfway through rereading a book on the history of Northwest rock called Sonic Boom. I just got to 1965, and Tacoma's own Sonics are starting to rock hard. They just tried to record The Witch in a Seattle studio and blew out all the limiters on the recording equipment. By the way, here they are, 50 years later, old men, kicking out the jams in Seattle.


    I loved them in 1965, I loved them when they played this 50 years later on KEXP, and I love them now. Listening to The Witch and Psycho is, for me, a little like going to church. We were well blessed to have these guys in our back yard.


    1. The way it works almost always is, you mention something I'm mostly or entirely unfamiliar with, get me intrigued with a link, and that link leads to more links...

      It took three hours and kept me up past bedtime, listening to this band that sounds borderline punk ten years before anyone invented punk.

      There's a documentary about the band called "Boom," finished five years ago and played at several festivals to a good response, but it's never been released so it's not available for piracy.

      The band was making music before the arrival of basketball and a pro team in Seattle also called the Sonics, and I wonder whether the that was bad or good for the band.

      Anyway, thanks for the three-hour tour. :)

    2. . . . a three hour tour.

      Like a lot of R&B and other non-pop music, the Sonics were much more popular in Europe than they were in the US. It's not easy to trace exactly how their 45s and albums got there, but they did, on offshore pirate stations for Great Britain (operated on boats) and on terrestrial student and pirate stations for much of the rest of Europe.

      The author of the book I'm reading was the first Chief Curator for the Experience Music Project, and after interviewing a bunch of 90s Seattle grunge bands, has concluded that the Sonics 60s music was an important component in the creation of grunge. The boys have a lot to answer for., including their non-patented machine-gun snare run.


    3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wvEA8HtySiE


    4. Love the Sonics. Their originals were superb, but unfortunately so much of what they recorded was covers, which lessens my admiration, especially as most bands at the time were jettisoning covers versions and writing their own stuff (for better or worse, depending... a convincing argument has been made that John & Paul and Dylan put an end to the long and great tradition of songwriters and ushered in the era of songwriter/performers).

      For nascent punk bands, I prefer The Monks:




      More original compositions, more eccentric, less predictable... but equally as prescient as The Sonics when you consider the "weirdo" strain of punk (from Cpn. Beefheart to Pere Ubu to Devo, etc.) which, at my advanced age, I like more that straightforward rock.

    5. Another good reason for writing one's own tunes is financial. The Wailers, and most particularly, Buck Ormsby, were A&Ring the Sonics as they began recording, and their first single was, of course, The Witch. The flip side was the Sonics singing Little Richard's Keep a-Knockin'. Even though the B-side didn't get any serious radio play, every time they sold The Witch, they had to pay Little Richard's publishing company for Keep a-Knockin', and The Witch was selling like crazy. Buck got the Sonics back into the studio prontodente and they recorded Psycho and re-released the single with Psycho as the B-side, also published by the Wailers publishing company, so they could just pay themselves. These guys were all learning the business as they went, and they took care after that as to what they included on B-sides and albums.


    6. Is there a word for the intentional fuzzy-audio effect in several of the Sonics' songs, and at the start of the Monks' Monk Time?

    7. "Oh How To Do It Now" is a delightful mix of catchy and kooky...

  2. Propinquity probably shouldn't count in assessing a band, but, of course, the Sonics were terrific and way ahead of their time. As it happens, they live about 15 minutes south of where I live now (and where I grew up) and about 2 minutes from where my Sister lives now. They played a dance at Curtis Hight School, which my girlfriend attended at the time, and I didn't know who the hell they were, but I knew they sounded a lot like the future.


    1. "They sounded a lot like the future." Guess I'm a pessimist, but that sounds like no compliment.

    2. Point taken, but any consistent argument that all the good music and theater and graphic art is in the past will have people calling you Grandpa or even Grandma.


    3. All I knows is what I likes, and even that surprises me sometimes. :)


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