June 16, 2003

Outside Providence Part 1: The Howl of a Greyhound

By Tenzin McGrupp © 2003

The bus driver made an announcement.

“Regarding cell phones. I have one rule. Keep your calls short and low. Low and short. Got it?”

About ten minutes into my Greyhound trip from New York City to Providence, a lady sitting in the back row got a phone call. It was her mother from Ponce, Puerto Rico. Earlier we made small talk as when she stood in line in front of me while we both waited to board the bus. Headed for Foxwoods Casino, she was in her early 40s, and stood about five feet tall with dyed blonde hair. She was round all around. I dunno why, but the words Oompa Loompa came to mind when I needed a distinctive key word that I jotted down to describe this woman. She was at least a hundred pounds overweight and her large sagging breasts would have drooped below her waist line if she didn’t have a gelatinous Buddha belly to break the laws of gravity, as her pizza dough like breasts snuggly sat on her extended stomach. Of course all I could think about is why the fuck she bought the smallest sized shirt at Old Navy.

Anyway, she yapped rapidly with her mother and as each minute passed her conversational voice increase in volume. A couple of the passengers were already irked and the bus hadn’t even left the city. Somewhere near Harlem, the driver pulled the bus over and he walked towards the back. He called out to the woman and yelled at her.

“I won’t move this bus until you get off that phone. You’ve been on since we left the terminal.”

“Just one second,” she pleaded and continued to talk with her mother, almost ignoring the bus driver’s ultimatum.

She assumed he was just bluffing, but the bus driver stood his ground. He wouldn’t go back to his seat until she got off the phone. All I could think was “Great, four more hours of this shit!”

I caught the express bus to Providence, Rhode Island with only two stops along the way. One at New London, Connecticut and the second stop was at Foxwoods Casino. They majority of the people on the semi-full bus were headed for a weekend of gambling at Foxwoods. I took this as a good sign considering I knew that Senor, Brad, and myself would be playing poker the very next day. When the bus pulled into Foxwoods, I felt the itching sensation that siezes my body whenever I am confronted with the possibility of winning large hordes of cash. I almost got off the bus and headed directly to the Casino. I didn’t go because I knew Senor left work early to pick me up at the bus station in Providence and that Brad was driving down from his job in Worcester to meet up with us to see the best Grateful Dead cover band around, Dark Star Orchestra. They were scheduled to play at Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel. I had never been to the infamous venue and I was eager to check it out.

As the bus weaved it’s way through downtown Providence, I was pleasantly surprised at the beauty of this once dilapidated urban center. When I was a kid, I recalled that my father told me that Providence was no place for anyone to be after dark, and that’s coming from someone who lived in the Bronx. It had a bad reputation but in the last couple of years, a welcomed resurgence and a revitalized energy poured into Providence. New buildings, clean streets, a crackdown on crime, and a bustling economy helped bring Providence out of the doldrums of being that random shitty city on the way from Boston to New York.

When the bus arrived at the station in front of City Hall, I saw a group of Asian girls waiting to get on the next bus. As I walked down the steps, the group of girls separated, and Senor emerged from the middle like Moses parting the Red Sea. He came from work and was wearing a tie and a bright smile. Was he happy to see me or to walk past the Asian girls? We know the answer.

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.

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