Wednesday, August 28, 2019

MY FIRST CHINATOWN BUS EXPERIENCE


   I’ve been a dedicated Greyhound Rider for years. I’ve grown accustomed to the drivers who treat you with the type of customer service typically reserved for convicts being escorted to federal prison, the disturbing and unforgettable lines you hear other passengers exclaim in the middle of the night (my favorite: “If anyone finds a pack of Newports on the bus, do not smoke them…they are laced!”)…I remember first hearing that macabre news story about the guy on a Greyhound in Montreal who beheaded the passenger sitting next to him. The driver pulled over and everyone ran out. Later on the news people expressed shock that this could happen on a Greyhound. Frankly, I was surprised the bus even stopped. That’s unprofessional for Greyhound standards. Usually they just keep on going and hope the shit sorts itself out in the back. “Finish cutting off his head and sit back down…it’s a long way to Cleveland.” 
   But none of this could prepare me for my first Chinatown Bus Experience. 
   I was taking a bus from New York City to Toledo, OH for the suspiciously low price of 7 dollars. 
   If you’ve never been on a Chinatown bus, the way it works is you board on Allen Street, ask the driver if this is the right bus, he responds in Chinese, and then you sit down and hope for the best. 
Right before we departed, a middle-aged, Hispanic man wearing a Jurassic Park T-Shirt sat down next to me, sobbed uncontrollably for two minutes, and then fell  asleep on my shoulder. 
   At this point, sweat was cascading down my forehead. The website said the bus was fully air-conditioned but failed to mention the somewhat crucial detail that they don’t turn it on. We complained to the driver that it was too hot, he politely explained something in Chinese, and then we were off. 
   About 10 minutes into the ride the air finally came on. I remember pressing my hands up to the vent. My heart was bubbling with gratitude for the driver. I truly loved him. Ten minutes into the trip and I was already experiencing Stockholm Syndrome. 
   The GPS said it took 8 and half hours to get to Toledo, but the ticket ominously said we would get there in six. 
   Across from me was a Chinese man in a denim jacket listening to a blue tooth speaker on full volume. 
   I sighed. You know you’ve hit rock bottom when you start appreciating the Greyhound but here we were. The bus drivers on the Greyhound were rude as hell but they did keep everyone in line. Out here it’s the Wild West. One guy was angrily yelling at his girlfriend over the phone at 3 in the morning. It was one of those conversations that’s so personal you don’t understand how they’re okay with having strangers on a bus overhearing it. We all now knew she had full custody of their 4-year-old-daughter even though he hadn’t used heroin in over 3 months. 
   About 4 hours into the trip a mother and child got off the bus. This was my opportunity to escape Sobbing-Jurassic Park T-Shirt-Guy. I woke him up, said excuse me, and then walked across the aisle and sat down in those two seats.
   And then, in a baffling turn of events that I still can't fully process to this day, he got up and sat down next to me again. I was so confused. Did he feel like we had developed a bond in those last four hours? Or was he still following the Stay-With-A-Buddy-System from elementary school field trips.
   I passed out again. 
   I woke to notice that the Chinese man in a denim jacket was now driving the bus and the bus driver was asleep in that man’s seat. I prayed that we would get to Toledo before it was my turn to drive and then nodded off again.
   I woke around four. The bus driver was back at the wheel, going so fast I could only assume Dennis Hopper had put a bomb somewhere on board. I thought about waking up Sobbing-Jurassic-Park-Guy so I could have some human connection before the fatal crash. 
   I passed out again and woke up just as we were arriving in Toledo. We had made it in less than 6 hours. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

          The Time My Great Grandfather was Accused of Murdering a Child

 
     So my Great Grandfather is in the garden with his Maid pulling up potatoes. Cause that’s what you did back in the early 1900’s in Poland. You just spent all day pulling potatoes out of the ground.
      Suddenly they hear a commotion coming from the Jewish Cemetery a block away. My Great Grandfather walks over to see that all the Gypsies are gathered there. The Gypsies have been camping out in town for the last couple of days. They’re gathered around a 14 year old Gypsy girl whose been beaten to death.
    When my Great Grandfather walks over, the mother of the girl points to him and says, “That Jew did it!”
   This is a very long standing tradition.
    Back then, whenever a crime was committed, one that you might even be involved in, you just look around, find your closest Jew and go, “He did it.”
    And by it she was referring to what was known at the time as Blood Libel. Blood Libel was the antisemitic belief that certain Jews would steal Christian children, take their blood, and use it to make Matzo for Passover.
    Which is crazy. If you know anything about Matzo it’s that it’s delicious, you don’t need to put anything it.
    So the Gypsy woman yells that Jew did it and then all the Gypsies start chasing my Great Grandfather. Now he’s running with his hat and his side curls (they’re called payot) and they’re behind him and he’s hoping he can get enough wind under his payot for him to fly away but no such luck and so he runs around the corner and finally he makes it to the Police Station and he goes inside and he tells the police what happened, that he walked over to the Cemetery and those Gypsies randomly accused him of stealing their child’s blood for some absurd, made up ritual, and the police...being the Polish police...charge him with murder.
   So now he’s in Jail waiting trial. It’s not looking good. He has 9 children and his wife died last year from an Enema. Back then an Enema could kill you. Business was very bad for a while but then he started exporting clover to Germany and things were looking up. Life was hard but it was getting better. But now he was fucked. Cause rumors were already starting to spread.
   One Polish girl- obviously put up to it by some people in the town- said she saw my Great Grandfather drawing blood from the child. So they put him in a Line Up with Six other Hassidic Jews and asked her to point to who she saw.
   This is where their plan backfired.
   She looked at all six identical looking Jews for nearly 45 minutes and then finally pointed to the wrong one.
    So if you’re ever wondering why Hassidic Jews looks the same, it’s to get out of situations like these.
   My Great Grandfather got off. But no one would do business with him anymore.
   It was time to get the fuck out of Poland.
    So he went to the Ger Rebbe and asked him what to do. A couple years earlier he had been thinking about leaving to America and he asked the Ger Rebbe then and the Ger Rebbe told him not to leave. That in America, his grandchildren and great grandchildren would become goyim. Non-Jews...
   Now the Ger Rebbe had changed his Mind.
   “It’s time for you get the fuck out of Poland,” he said.
    My Great Grandfather packed everything he would need for the journey. His children would be coming in the next month. He stepped outside with his trunk and looked back one last time at the house he was born in.
   He would never see this house again.
   And then he left.
   As he walking in the direction of the train station, he remembered again what The Rebbe had said the first time he visited him. “Do not to go America. Your children and grandchildren will become goyim...”
    90 years later...I’m in the kitchen, watching a Pepperoni Pizza cook in the oven.
    The End