#165 Green River College

All done with working and employment, now I'm hoping for a looong retirement, so I'm requiring myself to get out of the house and into the world at least twice weekly. It'll keep my blood circulating, my legs from shriveling, and maybe provide something to write about that's not painful reading. (Here's a page — you tell me.)

I'm poor, and senior citizen's fare is only a dollar, so today I'm riding the buses. Car-heads won't believe this, but choosing a route you've never been on, just to see where it goes, and what's out the window on the way, is entertainment.

Today I'm taking the #165 from Burien to Kent, and back. Burien is nearly my home turf, but what's in Kent?

Well, if you'd asked me before today's excursion I would've said, not much, and after taking the ride, I'd say there's less than I'd expected. At least where the bus goes, there's less to Kent than Burien, and there's not much to Burien.

Getting on at the Transit Center, the bus's automated voice tries to announce the route, but repeats several times, "#165, Green River Col." Twenty characters maximum can be typed in, is my guess. The purpose of the voice is to announce the route for blind people, but blind people don't deserve the full name of the route?

An old man sits with his wife behind me, and she never says a word but he never stops babbling about what's for dinner. Talky people and babbling bums are on any bus, so you get used to it, and I'm instantly tuned out of 90% of the man's dinner plans. The chicken sounds good, though.

Out the window as the bus rolls along, what I'm hoping for is a pleasant park, or a non-chain restaurant that looks cheap. Not many scores on this ride, though. No parks that seem worth a picnic. Only a few restaurants, which I'll google later to see if they're affordable.

After a few blocks, the bus passes a Trader Joe's I hadn't known was there. Wife & I shopped at Trader Joe's in Wisconsin, and now that I know a TJ is easy to get to on the bus, I'll probably be there once in a while, buying sugary buns and pies I shouldn't eat.

South from Burien, the bus goes through Normandy Park, a suburb I know nothing about. It's a long stretch of nothing much — old houses, a few shacks, mixed with some newer, very bland-looking apartment buildings. On the plus side, the always-talking guy and his long-suffering wife get off the bus.

We go a ways along Marine View Drive, which is false advertising — there are no visible Marines at all. Just swanky houses and dull-looking buildings, blocking a view of Puget Sound down a hill.

As the bus turns a corner, there's the Masonic Home of Washington, a genuine wow. It's a colossal but closed old folks' home, obviously imperiled, and it's the most interesting landmark on the ride — a castle, really. Turn it into housing, and a thousand people could call it home. More likely they'll tear it down and build another strip mall.

The bus rolls onward past hundreds of houses, and stops at Highline College. Nobody's at the bus stop so we're about to keep going, but an old man with a cane, walking slowly, flags the driver, so we wait as the man hobbles toward the bus. We wait, he hobbles, we wait, he hobbles up to the bus's open door and says, "Sorry, I thought this was the #156." Nope, it's the #165, so we roll away without the hobbler.

The setting switches from boring suburbs to ugly urban as we briefly merge onto Pacific Highway South, a many-miles-long stretch asphalt, home to dilapidated businesses and box stores.

Ah, but there's Dick's a block away, so I ring the bell and limp off the bus for two Deluxes and fries and a strawberry shake. 

Taking the #165 to this Dick's, on the highway of hell, is easier than taking the #60 to my usual Dick's, on Broadway. This won't become my regular Dick's, though. It's such an unpleasant place — not the Dick's but everything around it. On Broadway, there are interesting things and interesting people, but on Pacific Highway South it's only strip malls and prostitutes.

"Prostitution activity will result in arrest and vehicle impound," says a sign, but it's a lie, of course. If hookers or johns were arrested and impounded, they wouldn't need to post signs. And anyway, I don't have a car, so what are they gonna do — impound the bus?

Fatter and happier with a greasy lunch in me, I wait to continue my ride on the next #165, and it's not a long wait. Soon the bus rolls past a light rail station being built, and down a hill toward Kent.

Along a winding road through miles of McMansions, every intersection is branded with a sign that says, "River this" or "Bay that," but there's no river, no bay, only fake places where fake people fake live.

After the McMansions, our bus travels past more strip malls and fast-food, with some older houses left over from what used to be neighborhoods. The houses look comfortable, but most of what used to be "next door" and "across the street" is gone, replaced by new nothingness. 

It's a few miles to the end of the line, Green River Col, but the ride's become monotonous and depressing, so I get off the bus at Kent Station, which looks like the town's back door.

There are more strip malls a block away, Jack-In-the-Box and box stores, but we're over here at the railroad tracks, where the Sounder commuter train stops. Here comes one now, pulling in, northbound, while I'm waiting. People get off, and understandably hurry along.

Two people wait with me for the #165 back to Burien. Looks like just one, though — a 30-ish woman with hooters like family-size loaves of bread, who's breast-feeding her infant on a bench.

I wouldn't have noticed them, but she's wearing a tank top, and it's low, showing about 14 inches of cleavage. I'm a boob man, and me and the kid would agree that boobs are nice, but my oh my, when they're that big it's a disability, ain't it? I don't ask her.

The bus comes, me and hooter-lady and her infant get aboard, and it's the same trip but headed the other direction. We roll past the McMansions, up the hill, a few blocks along Pacific Highway, then stop at the college. I look for the hobbling man, but he's gone. We roll onward, turn the corner and I'm wowed again at the abandoned old folks' home.

Someone's etched graffiti into the bus's window. With a dozen knife-cuts for each letter, a word's been spelled forever on the plexiglass, all in caps, and that word is "NASAL."

Soon I'm back to the Burien Transit Center, and after a quick ride home on the #99 bus, I google to find out about a few restaurants that had seemed cheap and homey, from my vantage on the bus rolling past.

Archie's Mexican Restaurant seems not cheap but not expensive. I'll add it to the list of places I want to eventually check out, but there's no hurry. Des Moines Public House is even less of a hurry; they're out of business. Family Drive-In, in Kent, is an ancient-looking place, and I'd eat there, but I doubt I'll ride that far on the #165 again.

Now, obviously, I'm reclined, horizontal and typing this. Less obviously, I'm watching an old movie as I write about the ride.

Sometimes, with only Humphrey Bogart to talk to, there's not enough evidence to be certain I'm alive. Today, for health and mental health reasons, I got out of the recliner and did something. Enjoyed it, too.

Riding the #165 didn't reveal anything that seems life-changing, but I did it, which proves I'm still living and breathing. 


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  1. I take it your digestive issue worked itself out if you are even contemplating Mexican food?

    This is the kind of thing I (we, you) did a lot as a young man but somehow just stopped. When I was 16 I took a bus to Seattle from the Midwest, not knowing anyone, bummed around town for a couple of days and then continued on by ferry to the Olympics. Camped for four days, and then went back. Have done crazier shit but doing that now would seem insane, despite the fact it is probably much safer (phones in your pocket & all that).

    1. On a much smaller scale, yup, I guess it's the same thing as a young man's adventure. Bite-sized adventure.

      There was even a mobile home park, right next to the bus stop after the hamburgers, that I briefly considered moving into. Not having a mobile home wouldn't be a problem, as this place also had what looked like old-style motel rooms. It was mobile home park on the right, motel on the left. Yeah, I could live here, I was thinking. Bet the place is cheap.

      But it was on Pacific Highway South, and all the noise and traffic and strip mall living would make me mental.

      Still eating less, and I've had no tummy distress lately. Thanks fer asking, man. :)

  2. I went to that Trader Joes, the day I met you, and my sister teaches at Highline College...I don't know if I've ever made a story about just looking, usually there has to be some kind of interaction (suggestion: talk to the hooker?)...

  3. Does your sister take the bus, and is she single?

    Usually I'm not a talker. Science has shown, most arguments start with talking, and 44% of fist fights.


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