Feb. 16, 2012

Bus Driver

by Jack Ridl

Standing at the back door, waiting
while the bus's engine hums
against the dark cold, its exhaust
a flume chilling into ice, melting
the snow beneath it, Driver, hands
in pockets, draws on his cigarette,
exhales, and feels the mean language
of age move in his bones.

Behind him, in the losers' locker room,
he knows his boys are dressing slowly,
staring into mirrors, setting their
wet hair straight, frowning at the way
they have to look, trying to think of
anything but the silent ride home.

The snow, packed hard now in midwinter,
squeaks under foot, and the air freezes
in the lungs, burns like a tongue
stuck to a frozen lamppost. Driver
glances at the bus, WILSON PUBLIC SCHOOLS
in black letters along its side, then up into
the sky, clouds crossing the full moon's
light like angels trying to comfort
anyone against a loss. The players

come out, pass him, step up into
the bus, find their seats. Coach
gets on last, sits in front. Driver
takes a last draw, feels the smoke
mix in his lungs, exhales, drops

the butt, a quiet hiss into the ice,
gets on and pulls the warm bus out,
across the empty lot, down a block,
left onto the highway home.

"Bus Driver" by Jack Ridl, from Losing Season. © Cavan Kerry Press Ltd., 2009. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It was on this day in 1978 that social networking got its start when the first public, dial-up Computerized Bulletin Board System (CBBS) went online in Chicago, Illinois. In those days, the Internet was in its infancy, not available to most computer users. Two computer hobbyists, Ward Christiansen and Randy Seuss, got the idea to create a virtual message board where CBBS members could dial into the system using a telephone modem and post notes to each other in the same way a family might communicate by sticking messages to a corkboard using pushpins. It was the beginning of social networking.

It's the birthday of novelist Richard Ford (books by this author), born in Jackson, Mississippi (1944), author of The Sportswriter (1986), the Pulitzer-Prize winning Independence Day (1995), and The Lay of the Land (2006), a trilogy written about ten years apart.

Ford's family lived across the street from the house where the novelist Eudora Welty had grown up. Welty was gone by Ford's time and the name was meaningless to him as a boy, but later in life the two writers became friends.

He said, "For a writing life to flourish, your mind has to go outwards."

It's the birthday of the writer Henry Adams (books by this author), whose memoir, The Education of Henry Adams (1918) came out the year he died. He was the great-grandson of John Adams, and the grandson of John Quincy Adams, which left the sensitive, introverted boy burdened by an almost stultifying sense of responsibility to play a prominent part in the world. But Adams preferred to be an observer only, later writing of himself that he "never got to the point of playing the game at all; he lost himself in the study of it, watching the errors of the players." After attending Harvard, he traveled extensively through Europe, became a political journalist for a time, and eventually returned to his alma mater in 1870 to teach medieval history.

He wrote two novels, Democracy (1880), which he published anonymously, and Ester (1884), a comic romantic tale about the battle of the sexes that he published under a pseudonym; numerous biographies; and The History of the United States of America: 1801-1817 (nine volumes; 1889-1891), which is considered a neglected masterpiece.

Unlike many autobiographies, The Education of Henry Adams is really a record of Adams's introspection rather than his accomplishments. Adams had long since come to the conclusion that his traditional education had failed to help him come to terms with the changing world — changes that included the discovery of X-rays and radio waves and radioactivity, a world war, and the invention of the automobile — and that was the thrust of his memoir. But, while the memoir was an intimate portrait of his own life, Adams avoided any mention of his wife Clover, who he was in love with and who committed suicide 13 years after they married.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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