Monday, June 30, 2008


Hear, oh Northern Virginia, the words of the prophet on the 8:42am Gold 1 CUE Bus from Vienna Metro Station:


Evil elusiveness

I don't feel pain, take your pain

Ah the Americans

They want me to be in pain

But I will not be in pain

They want me not to exist but

I will keep on existing

The evil Americans of all ethnic groups

They want to keep me down

But I'm not staying down

You want to keep me down

but I'm not staying down

but I'm not staying down

but I'm not staying down

but I'm not staying down

A devil running down with an evil attitude

Born out of false pride

White man is a curse to himself

Vietnam was a senseless and a coward war

Vietnam was a senseless and a coward war

The greatest war was against the slave masters


No stress for me, that's for them

I don't pay no bills, what am I stressed about?


Let them pay the bills.

I sleep in the woods in my sleepin' bag

Let them pay the bills

Let them pay the price.

White man is evil

and the many ethnic groups with them.

He was in a wheelchair, and the (white) bus driver had carefully strapped him in so that the chair didn't roll around the front of the bus. He started speaking as soon as a South Asian guy came and sat in the seat in front of him and continued almost non-stop until he got off the bus about 10 minutes later, occasionally breaking into a sort of reggae chant about freedom. He would also stop from time to time to remark upon the beauty of certain other black people on the bus, and frequently punctuated his musings with


If he wasn't so damn poetic he would have been frightening.

He had dreads, and his clothes and bag were clean. He had piercing black eyes, black eyes that sparkle like a child's but have hard creases at the edges, like he's trying to discern the secrets of the universe. One of my exes --Ram-- had eyes like that, that glitter like dark jewels at the bottom of a well. They cut through a person while drawing them in, beautiful and unnerving all at the same time.

In the back of the bus, the Older Smoking Guy was telling all kinds of dark stories to the husband of the Fine Upstanding Filipino Couple who go to Mass every morning at St. Leo the Great. Well, he was telling them into the side of Mr. Filipino's head, anyway. Mr. Filipino was trying to be kind but the guy was freaking him out with stories of prison and Vietnam and various paranoid wanderings about this, that and the other. I don't know what got into the Older Smoking Guy. He normally just sits, quiet and leathery faced, with his red-veined bright blue eyes staring out of his head like he's just seen a ghost. Maybe the Dreded Prophet had inspired him to trot out his own poetic visions, which were more like a Stephen King novel than Dreds' lyrical racist rant.

The 8:42 Gold 1 has a standard cast of characters, and these include folks headed to the Lamb Center, the homeless day shelter in the center of Fairfax. It's kind of wild that these folks hang around for years, always taking the same bus to the same place... the Lamb Center folks and others, like the Filipino couple, and I guess me, too. I saw the guy the homeless folks call Elvis standing at the Metro today, as I've seen him a few times recently, just standing, waiting. He really does look kind of like Elvis. I thought that before I heard one of the Lamb Center folks call him that a couple of years ago. I haven't seen Elvis on the 8:42 in a really long time, but he's still hanging around Fairfax, doing whatever it is he does. The Older Smoker is more recent, as is his occasional sidekick, the Younger Smoker, who has his own stories of being shot and what-not, but is much less believable than the Older.

But the Dreded Prophet was new. He started singing really loudly as he rolled onto the platform and was lowered off the bus. On his way out he gave me a look out of the corner of his eye like he thought I might bite him. He greeted the black kid next to me, who had begun convulsively laughing when Dred had started his last chorus, with conspicuous warmth: "Hey, how u doin, brotha?" I said to the kid, "I hope you feel honored" and he laughed even harder. He said he rides the Metro bus from Centreville and there are always characters on that bus, too, and we chatted briefly about how much of humanity you see when you're bussin' it.

I walked around saying silently to myself "White man is EVIL" for the next 45 minutes. I told the students working at the front desk of my office --one Saudi, one Indian-- the story and they busted out laughing, breaking the dry quiet of the Monday morning office.

He may think I'm evil, but Dred made my morning.

1 comment:

Mike Croghan said...

This is beautiful.

I miss so much life, safe in my one-white-man metal cocoon, zipping back and forth on my own schedule every day.