gall and gumption

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Spanish Painting

The Chinatown bus ride to New York -- Chinatown D.C. to Chinatown N.Y. was notable for the lack of the sort of friendly bantering chit chat you are accustomed to expect from airline pilots. I fell asleep outside of Baltimore, which I rather liked the look of, and woke up in I had no idea which state. I kept looking for some sign or something that could give an indication, but nothing. I did not know how much time had passed, so I couldn't even guess. We stopped at a truck stop somewhere and this was where the driver/conductor made his only announcement: "TEN MINUTE!!!!!" I went into the shop/restaurant place and inside the door was a big display of cheap gift items all bearing the logo, "I [heart] NY." This did not in any way reduce my sense of disorientation. Surely if we were in New York we'd be amongst buildings and not still on an interstate going through fields? An hour and a half later we were in Jersey City. Why do they sell New York souvenirs in New Jersey? Are there no New Jersey souvenirs? Not that I'd ever buy one from either place in any case. It was dark when we pulled up at what looked like a particularly dreary and desolate corner of Chinatown. But I had noticed that Chinatown still has the best restaurant names of anywhere, and there were still lots of Chinese people about buying things from the stalls that spilled out of the densely packed little grocery stores. This is no longer the case in D.C. Chinatown. I think there are maybe about eight Chinese people there.

For the trip back I took a different bus company that left from Penn Station (what a bloody horror that place is!) I got out off the station and took off in totally the wrong direction to find the bus, but at least that gave me the opportunity to give a dollar to a youngish black man who was sitting on the crowded sidewalk with his legs stretched out straight in front of him. He was wearing a plastic bag and was festooned all over with cunningly twisted shreds of newspaper, and he also seemed to be in blackface. He was in quite good spirits too, though he looked like a poster boy for homeless wretchedness.

I was pretty sure I had missed the bus I wanted, but another bus headed for D.C. Chinatown would be there shortly so I wasn't too worried. I went to the address for the second bus and that turned out to be where all the buses waited. A man walked up to me and said, "Vamoose?" "Yes," I answered. That was the name of the bus company. The early bus was still there. So while I waited to get on I got to listen to him and the two Orthodox Jewish guys who ran the operation accost people with luggage, saying "Vamoose! Vamoose!" It was quite pleasing. When the passengers were all in, one of the Jewish guys collected all the money and left.

I sat next to a nice black lady who laughed at everything but wasn't too chatty. The couple across the aisle had a tiny dog with them. The fare for the Vamoose bus, which went to Bethesda (a little closer to home for me) was $5 more than the Chinese bus. "You pay a little more, but it's insured," said my neighbor, laughing.


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