LI’s friend, R., recently got a job telemarketing a medical software designed to accelerate patientflow to various medical facilities in the Southwest. You can imagine how fun this is. The pay was great too – seven bucks per. Since R. had recently totaled his car, while experiencing an extensive stint of unemployment, he had to peddle to reach his well appointed office – which was a computer on the same table as the community fax machine, and a phone with a cord that didn’t quite reach all the way to his desk (meaning he had to leave the phone on the floor and wheel back in his chair and bend over and press the buttons on the phone to make the calls from the numbers listed on the Excel spread sheets with those same numbers listed before him). Since the bike ride was seven miles – downhill getting there, uphill getting back, R. would get tired going home, so he was always looking for shortcuts. Last Friday, he decided he would peddle to the nearest bus stop and go on the bus to the center of Austin, and from thence he’d peddle home, stopping on the way for a tall one. He took several buses that all ended up not going to the center of Austin, but that gave him much bus experience. So, he told me, “I’m sitting there and a guy comes in and he has a reddish, rather squashed face under a filthy gimme cap, and the bus is crowded. The squashed face guy sits down and looks across at this kid, a boy wearing a soft convenience store robbery type cap slouched in his seat in the inimitably insolent slouch of a teenage boy, and in a loud voice he says, how are you today kid? The kid doesn’t respond, so he says, that bad, eh? Then he looks around for people who might want to converse with him. Seeing nobody up to the task, he decided to utter loud aphorisms that we could all learn from, like: what goes around comes around; and (more obscurely) the terminator terminated.

“After a while, he got off the bus – although one had the impression that he got off at some randomly selected stop. He didn’t look like a man who had business to attend to. The man I was sitting next to kept watching him in fascination, and when he got off the bus he leaned forward and said to the large black man with the gold chain around his thick neck who was sitting there in front of us, did you hear that? The black man said, I heard it. The man said, he said, the terminator terminated. The black man said, I don’t believe that man was packing.”

R. told me this to impress me that the juice of life and the glory of literature was on the bus. He said, “I wouldn’t have been surprised if Van Gogh’s ear had raced down the aisle of that bus at that very moment, like a scared mouse. If you are looking for the very epicenter of American abjection, you will find it on the bus.”
I said, ‘am I looking for the very epicenter of American abjection? I thought I was writing a crime novel.”

These things have reminded LI of two recent reading experiences. Which we will get into in the next post.