“The 51: The Railroad-Tree-Lined-Street-Draw-Bridge-Express”
Public transportation can really take you to the ends of the earth and back again. The end
of the world; like those cliffs of ocean depicted in old paintings of flattened globes, with great
water falls flowing right into the chasm of outer-space, and big ships with tall masts, tipping and
teetering over. Except here, the end of the world is at those old, forgotten streets lined with
muffler shops, smog inspectors, automobile upholstery, car dealerships, power plants, scary
dogs, chain-linked fences, crab grass, abandoned houses, dry cleaners, junk yards, bail bond
agents, and Burger Kings.
The 51, in particular, is a real journey. From the bourgeois of Rockridge, to downtown
Oakland, railroad stations, coffee shops, draw-bridges, and Synagogues. Anything and
Nothing beats public transit, really. It’s a lonely thing to be crammed up inside a car
chugging down the super-highway all by your lonesome. Here, you’re surrounded by people and
characters. All chatting and sometimes singing and shuffling and swaying with the rhythm of the
bus. You’re all a team, sort of. A hodge-podge of strangers flung together by circumstance.
When first setting off on the 51, I intercepted a dialogue between the female bus driver
and a presumably homeless man up at the front of the bus, and it went like so:
-I love you, ya’ know.
-Sir, would you like to keep going or-
- I love, love-love, lo-ove yo-
-Excuse me, sir, I’ve got to keep goi-
-Love, love, love; can’t you hear me? That shit makes the world go round.
-Sir, you need to sit down or leave the bus, I can’t wai-
-Love! That’s what I’m made of!
And with that, he gave a hearty wave to the rest of us in the bus, and I waved back. He
then blew a great, big kiss and made his exit. I half expected him to take a bow, but he didn’t.