Thursday, December 26, 2019

Hilo to Volcano bus, Boxing Day, 2019

On the bus from Hilo to Volcano:

--Older local bus driver and passenger talking about Christmas specials in Pidgin. Passenger says his favorite is the I Love Lucy show about five Santas, only one of whom has a real beard (hurts when pulled). Little Ricky was so confused. Driver says her mother watched the show every day. "Great seeing you, braddah," driver says as the passenger steps out at Kea`au, his legs discolored and weak.

--Transgender person with deep voice gets on, starts talking about how the bus used to be free (our taxi driver in Hilo had been obsessed with what a bad idea that had been!), and wondered why you had to go to Kona to get trained to drive the bus. Hilo guy retired, the driver said. The new passenger's vocabulary was big; words flew around the front of the bus until they got off at one of the unmarked stops the driver specialized in.

--Another guy with an old blue bike had gotten on the bus near Target. White hair, pulled back in a short pony tail. He'd been in Hilo to spend Christmas with his ex. Used to work in a care home there. The building was on the ocean, and 50 feet of earth disappeared during one storm. "So good to see you," said the driver as he got off at a "stop" that literally blocked the intersection of a street.

--At the Volcano store I bought two newspapers and a hard-boiled egg. Waited for Bryant to come back in car (which proved to be very unhealthy). A young blonde man with glasses was crouching behind the wooden barrier beside the restaurant. He wanted to know where to find the sun. That way (Kona side?) or that way (Hilo?) he asked. Was so sick of the rain. I said Hilo's sunny today, you could head there on the bus. He asked if there was anything interesting to see in Kea`au. I said he might prefer Pahoa. He pushed his old bicycle across the road to wait for the bus in the rain. He paced back and forth on the road, talking. Pushed his bike back, muttering a one syllable word beginning with f over and over again.

--Another man was standing in front of the store in optic green shirt, smoking a cigarette. He's lived in Volcano since the 1970s. It used to be cold! (Now, I remarked, there are mosquitos.) His father had been in the Air Force, WWII, Korea, and retired after Vietnam. Got 30 acres when he married his second wife, farmed for a long time. Died in '89. Alcoholic.

--The bus arrived on the other side of the road. The blonde guy flagged it down, standing in the middle of the road in the pouring rain. Came back to this side of the road to fetch his bike and backpack. "What was that town you told me about?" "Pahoa." He and his conversations got on the bus.

--The man with the cigarette left for a brief while on a bike. He'd waved to a guy in a BMW SUV with "Vietnam Vet" plate on the front. Might have been one of the grumpy guys who sits in front of the store a lot, or maybe just looked like a grumpy guy who would.

As a freshman in college in Alfred Corn's class, we read Elizabeth Bishop's "The Moose" and I wondered why a conversation in a bus in Nova Scotia about this and that was interesting in a poem. I was not persuaded then, though I appreciated the moose ("a she") and the neatly done stanzas. Today I realized she (both she's) had been my teachers in the art of eavesdropping, how much pleasure (and sorrow) there is in hearing these voices with their local and non-local cadences, and trying to catch the frayed end of a man's conversation with himself outside a general store in the rain.

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