Category Archives: cool stuff

Brain building while busing

Transit riders enjoy the precious gift of regular time to use as we choose. The great among us write nobel prize winning novels on the way to work. We mortals use our travel time in more ordinary ways: reading, chatting, knitting, gaming, texting, primping, prepping, macking. Also, solving puzzles.

Fellow bus chicks, behold.

Cubes

No, they aren’t mine. I am  still perfectly content to spend my rides reading, thinking, and people-watching. Plus, I’m not much of a puzzle person. The beauties pictured above belong to my beloved Bus Nerd, who, as you can see, has developed a bit of an obsession.

It started innocently enough. A couple of years ago, he picked up an old-school, 3 x 3 Rubik’s cube (same one he had as a kid) and figured out how to solve it. He practiced until he could do it in under a minute, then moved on to a 4 x 4 to increase the challenge. After he mastered that, things started getting out of hand (see photo). And yes, he can solve them all.

Bus Nerd doesn’t limit his cubing to bus rides, but they have definitely become his bus pastime of choice. He uses the cubes to entertain himself on the rides, and he uses the rides to gauge his progress on the cubes. (He knows he’s making progress if he can solve it earlier in the route.) His cubes also supplement his stop sense, since his progress on the puzzle correlates to the progress of the route.

Here is Bus Nerd, explaining his bus cubing better than I can. I apologize in advance for the sound quality.

Poetry on Buses (and trains), 2016

poetry on buses 2016

The folks at Poetry on Buses have announced their 2016 theme: “Your Body of Water.” Last year’s theme, “Writing Home,” was provocative — so much so that I thought it might actually inspire me to write a poem (it didn’t) — but props to the new poet planner, Jourdan Keith, for selecting this one. Wow.

“Your Body of Water” is a poetic exploration of our connections to water and how it is protected and cared for by Seattle Public Utilities and King County.

We are all bodies of water, connected to one another through the water web. Your body of water is connected to streams, rivers, lakes, tides, waterfalls, toilets and faucets, to present homes, childhood homes and ancestral ones by memory, by the water cycle, by stories. Come, tell your story through poetry.

Yes, please.

Hope

Green Seattle Partnership sign

The first time I planted trees with my family*, it was pouring down rain. I had signed us up to participate in Green Seattle Day — despite the fact that getting up early on a November Saturday and digging in the mud was not my (or as far as I knew, anyone in my family’s) idea of a good time — because I wanted to plant a seed (if you’ll pardon the pun) in my children. I wanted to show them a concrete way to contribute to their community, educate them about the native plants of the region they call home, and encourage them to get their hands in the dirt.

On the appointed morning, it was raining — not Seattle drizzle or intermittent showers, but the kind of heavy, steady rain that makes you regret all your plans (and question your decision to live without a car). But we had made a commitment, so we pulled on our boots and hooded jackets and headed out to plant trees anyway.

And, we had a blast!

We were fortunate that our planting site was the tiny wooded area adjacent to the kids’ school – a mere half mile from our home. One of the stewards of those woods also happens to be a preschool teacher and the parent of a child in Chicklet’s grade.** She gave thorough instructions and let all of the kids participate fully in the planting process. Chicklet and Busling loved it. They shoveled mulch, dug holes, loosened roots, and gently patted soil around the transplants. They also named all five trees – and many other smaller plants — we made homes for that day. Our favorite was the first tree we planted, a tiny garry oak sapling that Chicklet named Acorn Butter.

Here is sweet Acorn Butter, on her first day in the woods. (As usual, I apologize for the quality of my photos.)

Just planted

It just so happened the stewards of our little woods had won a large grant, and there were hundreds of plants to get in the ground — far more than could be planted in one day. So, after Green Seattle Day, they hosted several additional “planting parties” throughout the fall, winter,*** and early spring. Chicklet and Busling insisted on going to every single one. Over the course of several months, we planted ferns, Oregon grapes, false lilies of the valley, bleeding hearts, dogwoods, red flowering currants, spruce, garry oaks, and many more saplings whose identities weren’t immediately obvious.

Since our first planting adventure, the kids have walked through the woods every day after school, checking “their” plants, talking to them, and looking for signs of growth. They reveled in the heavy winter rain, knowing it was keeping the soil wet for their babies’ new roots. And, they counted the days until springtime, when everything would open and flower and grow. For months, Acorn Butter looked just like she had on the day she was planted: a bare stick. Still, Chicklet checked on her faithfully, stroking her tiny branches and giving her encouragement and — I kid you not — kisses. Finally, in late March, we started to see buds.

Buds

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then, there were leaf starts.

Some leaves

The leaves got bigger.

Leaf starts

And here she is on Tuesday. (!!!)

With buds

In many ways, it has been a long winter for our family — and for our world. But thank God for spring, for fresh new buds, and saplings straining toward the sun.

In my dreams, Chicklet and Busling will walk into these woods with their grandchildren one day, pointing to strong oaks and tall spruce, telling the tale of how they planted them, with their tree lovin’ mama, many years ago.

***

* Not counting the three we planted in our own (tiny) yard: a vine maple, and apple, and a fir (in memory of my mother)
** She is also an all-around amazing person who inspires me with her generosity and commitment to community.
*** Yes, you can plant in Seattle in the winter. Historically, it rarely freezes, and there is plenty of rain; lately, it’s been even warmer than normal.

When I grow up…

I have a lot of sheroes. Some of them are world renowned, or breathtakingly talented, or otherwise leading big, public lives. Many are ordinary people who conduct themselves with dignity and integrity. And a few are just ridiculously good at riding the bus. Today, I add another person — one who has integrity in spades and a PhD in busology — to my list of ordinary sheroes. Fellow bus chicks, I present Ms. Janis Scott, “the Bus Lady.”

It just so happens that I attended the same university as Miss Janis. After I finished school, I stayed in Houston to teach, so I am familiar with the particular challenges of riding the Houston Metro. Of course, I lived there before the city had light rail, and long before the agency’s recent restructure, so I don’t have a very good understanding of what it’s like to ride these days. I do know that, in a city that is 627 miles square, with precious few sidewalks, it would take a miracle-working transit system to make busing convenient. But I digress.

Like Miss Janis, I love cultural events, and, theoretically, I take the bus to partake of them. (I say theoretically because I have kids, and I don’t get out much these days.) But there’s more. I, too, have served on innumerable transit-related advisory committees. (Too bad the committees in Seattle don’t offer free rides as a perk.) And finally, almost exactly seven years ago, I, too, had the honor of being featured in a Streetsfilm.

Maybe this means that my destiny is to follow in the footsteps of the Bus Lady. In my vision of my own future, I will be living much like Miss Janis does: doing my life on the bus, sharing my expertise with others, and helping to elevate the needs of riders.

“Common sense and mother wit.” Yes, indeed.

“Mix, mix, mix!”

Art + buses + community = life (part II)

My former coworker, Kate, bus (and bike) mama extraordinaire, moved from Tacoma to St. Louis over the summer. Kate and her crew are so far enjoying the transit life in a city that offers service after 7 PM (ahem) and have wasted no time integrating themselves into their new community.

Last Saturday, they attended a birthday party for the Gateway Arch and painted a bus.

Bus painting in STL

[O]n Saturday, October 24, children and adults [transformed] a 35-foot MetroBus into a rolling work of art that will travel on routes in St. Louis County and the City of St. Louis over the next year.

You guys. You guys.

How cool would it be to see a bus you helped paint rolling through your neighborhood? How cool would it be to ride on one? What a beautiful way to foster feelings of belonging and build community!

Transit agency/arts organization types who are reading: Make this happen in your area.

Buses are for everyone, part IV

Lava Mae bus

What happens to old buses after they’ve outlived their usefulness as public transit providers? Most are sold at auction and used for parts. A handful are lovingly maintained by an all-volunteer nonprofit and used to provide unique, low cost excursions to the general public. (Ahem.) And apparently, others are given away through various agency donation programs.

Friends, today I learned about Lava Mae, a new nonprofit in San Francisco that is repurposing retired Muni buses in one of the most beautiful ways I could imagine: as mobile showers for homeless people.

This is Lava Mae’s charge: provide sanitation, assist in deterring potential public health problems, and perhaps most critically, provide a much needed service to help a population struggling to retain a sense of dignity and self worth.

In essence, Lava Mae seeks to solve a small piece of what the United Nations and World Health Organization define as, and Lava Mae believes is, a basic human right: access to water and sanitation.

Thank you, Doniece Sandoval, for using your compassion, creativity, and commitment to provide dignity and hope to those in need. I can’t think of a better use for a bus.

Power to the people

On Saturday, Bus Nerd and I went to see The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution at Northwest Film Forum. I learned many things from this film, one of which is that founding chair Bobby Seale was the best political candidate of all time.

During his 1973 campaign for mayor of Oakland, the man took his message directly to the people, Panther style.

Bobby Seale, campaigning on a bus (source: NPR)

Yes, please.

Though he wasn’t able to unseat Oakland’s incumbent mayor, Seale’s “long shot” candidacy, masterminded — along with the city council candidacy of Elaine Brown — by the ever resourceful Panther organization, earned him a second place finish in a nine-candidate contest. More importantly, it earned him a voice in the debate.

I have always been inspired by the dedication and sacrifice of the Black Panthers. The young people — average age of a member was between 18 and 20 — who joined the organization gave their whole selves to the cause. They risked personal safety. They sacrificed relationships. They shared resources, including living quarters. And they worked. Tirelessly. Sometimes around the clock.

The fruits of that tireless, dedicated labor were many: chapters in 38 cities (including Seattle), a newspaper with an international circulation of 250,000, a free breakfast program that fed 10,000 children per day at its peak, and free health clinics in cities across the country.

These young people were not willing to sit idle and hope hard for change. They stood up, took action, made mistakes, tried again. From their small corner of this country, they raised their voices loud enough for the whole world to hear.

Black Panther Party 10-point program

Art + buses + community = life

If anything could cheer me right now, it is this goodness from the Twin Cities. (Thanks for sharing, Allison!)

Bus Poster - Ricard Levins Morales

CuriousCity TC is a project of Minneapolis artist Ricardo Levins Morales to put thought-provoking questions and images on Twin Cities (Minneapolis-Saint Paul, MN) city buses.

New posters will be installed on dozens of metro buses once a month from June through November 2015, culminating in a community event.

Viewers are encouraged to discuss the questions with other riders and to post responses on this site or on social media with the hashtag #CuriousCityTC.

Yes to art on buses! Yes to projects that encourage interaction and reflection. Yes to building community.

Love.

Hear my bus a comin’

If you’ve visited this blog more than a few times, you might already know that I am obsessed with (among many other things) bus shelters, art, and Seattle history. So, I was pretty excited to attend the unveiling of the Jimi Hendrix-themed bus shelter–at the northbound 48 stop at 23rd & Massachusetts–last November. (Yes, November. I’m still catching up, OK?) Unfortunately, thanks to a prolonged illness (and the whole new person in our family thing), I didn’t make the big event. The good news is, there’s a video.

Since the shelter opened, I have zoomed past it on the 48 dozens of times, but I have never had occasion to wait there. That is, until last Friday.

Fellow bus chicks, behold:

Hendrix shelter 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hendrix park 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hendrix park 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hendrix shelter 5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jimi Hendrix Park is just up the hill from the shelter and is currently undergoing a major transformation. The Northwest African American Museum is on the same grounds. Seattle folks: Might be time to hop on Metro’s Heavyweight and pay all three a visit.

Fully embracing the role

After 11 years without a car, I have made a purchase that will enhance my bus cred by an order of magnitude–at least. For bus chicks of a certain generation (OGs—OB’s?—like my grandma), it is the most basic tool for shopping, one you wouldn’t think of living without.

I, on the other hand, have made do with backpacks, stroller compartments, biweekly produce delivery, and a lot of schlepping. I have carried so many heavy bags over the years that I am certain to develop some kind of condition in the future.

I digress.

I passed this beauty on my walk home from work every day for weeks. Eventually, its call was too strong for me to resist. Fellow bus chicks, behold.

new shopping cart

I have a new cart!

new shopping cart

And it transforms!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course what got me was the seat. (A built-in bus bench? Yes, please!). But, as it turns out, the seat is actually the part I don’t like about it. It’s rare that I use the bus to shop for groceries (I stick to the store within walking distance), so I don’t get to use it much. And, when I tilt the cart to pull it, the seat comes loose and drags on the sidewalk. (Looks like I’ll be “securing” it with duct tape until I can find a suitable Velcro strap.)

On the other hand…

new shopping cart

Transporting Father’s Day pie to Paw Paw

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The world is new.