Thursday, April 09, 2009

Fresh Out of Prison

Originally uploaded by ojodorado

Once again I am astounded by the encounters that a person can have simply riding the bus.

Today I was on the Greyhound coming back to the Bay Area from the Sierra Nevadas. After Sacramento the bus got pretty crowded, and it got loud. Some guy behind me was rapping enthusiastically to himself, his eyes glazed and a faint smile on his face like he had left part of himself on another planet. Another guy behind me was talking loudly about something, and I was trying hard to ignore his voice by burying my nose in a book on Chinese medicine.

Rapper guy just kept right on beboppin by himself and Loud Guy finally asked if anyone knew about local Bay Area busses, so I turned and answered his question. So Loud Guy and i get into a conversation about Chinese medicine and the book I am reading, and turns out he's talking loud because he's deaf. Also turns out he's just gotten out of prison a few hours ago, and he's reading a book by Bo Lozoff , a guy who teaches prisoners how to turn their cells into ashrams with the human kindness project.

The book has pictures of chakras and endorsements by people like the Dalai Lama and letters from prisoners all over the U.S.

Loud Guy's real name is David but he goes by Crow, and I can tell by talking to him that he's pretty nervous about being out of prison for the first time in three years. He's wearing a white t-shirt and loose dark pants and slippers and carrying a little bag and a hundred dollars. He apologizes for not having street clothes yet, he says a relative was supposed to greet him at the prison gate with clothes, but never showed up.

Out of his forty-two years, he says he's only spent six 'on the outside'--all the rest were in institutions of some kind or another.

He's gonna try real hard this time to not go back, he says, even though alcoholism 'runs in his family' and makes him do crazy stuff.

"Just one step at a time," he says, "just one step at a time."

The bus sails over the Bay Bridge and the wide expanse of the city and the bay open up before us.

"Wow," he says.

I leave him at the bus station on Mission Street, clutching his book and his bag, shivering in his white t-shirt, waiting for the next bus to take him to a homeless shelter in Marin.

Good luck, my friend.

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