Monthly Archives: May 2010

A memorial for Memorial Day

On a recent Wednesday, I got to talking with the man in line in front of me at the grocery store. He was an older man, probably a good decade older than my father, and he showed a lot of interest in Busling. His eyes lingered long after the initial “Look at the baby!”, and he asked lots of questions–the kind asked by people who are missing the days when their own were still tiny. So, to keep the conversation from being completely one-sided, I asked the man if he had children.

“Yes, two grandchildren,” he said, “a boy and a girl.” He paused a moment, then added, “My son was murdered on a Metro bus in 1987.”

He told me a few of the details–that it was a robbery, that his son had been counting his recently cashed paycheck in the back and then had refused to surrender the money to the gunman who demanded it. That it was the first ever murder on a Metro bus.

We talked a bit longer–about his grandchildren (who live in Portland but visit him often), and about how he wished his son had used better judgment on that April afternoon 23 years ago–and then went our separate ways.

Our encounter didn’t last longer than five minutes, but I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. About all the hours and days and years that kind man had spent loving his child, watching him learn to smile and laugh and roll over and crawl; discovering his preferences, his quirks, his weaknesses, his gifts; attending games and graduations; giving advice about important tests and first dates.

I felt compelled to honor his loss by learning all I could about his son–not about the way he was killed, but about who he was, what he cared about, and who would miss him. Here’s what I know:

His name was Larry Curtis Walker. He was 30 when he was killed, an employee at The Plush Pippin at Southcenter. According to his boss, David Jensen, he was wonderful to work with.

“Larry sparkled with integrity and loyalty,” he said in a PI interview a couple of weeks after the murder. “[He was] the best employee I’ve ever had.”

Larry left behind two children, a son and a daughter. His son was six when he died. His daughter, from what I could gather, was younger. Many people knew and cared about Larry, including parents, students, and staff at his son’s school. They started a memorial fund (administered by David Jensen) for his children.

And he had a father who loved him dearly.

Where everybody knows your name

From The New York Times (via John in The Market), a story of “Bus People” for whom commute = community.

AS the city bus rumbled through northwest Queens one recent cloudy morning, Mary Apelian, who lives in East Elmhurst, offered the lowdown on her fellow passengers. She pointed out the young man whose wife just had twins (“He says he doesn’t get much sleep”)* and the woman whose grandchild was gravely ill in the hospital a while ago (“We were all so concerned we sent him a gift certificate”). And where’s Mitch? Wasn’t she supposed to be riding today?

Welcome aboard the QM22, where everybody knows your name. Passengers are apt to announce “It’s so nice to see everybody!” as they board and to be greeted by choruses of “How-are-yous,” near-cheers, hugs and kisses. They call themselves the “Bus People” …

“We’re all like family,” said Ms. Apelian, who has been riding the QM22 for more than two decades. “Everyone has a different story, and we share it all.”

I’m sorry that this story has a sad ending (the route is a casualty of NYC’s massive transit cuts and will be discontinued in June), but I still find it inspiring. This, ladies and gentlemen (well, and this, this, this, this, and this), is the reason I ride the bus. When’s the last time you got a birthday card from someone sitting next to you in traffic?

*Can I ever relate! I miss my bus naps.

Upcoming events for transit types

Health and transportation equity forum

What: A panel discussion that will address “the impact transportation choices have on communities from a health and equity perspective.” Panelists include: experts on public health and urban design, community activists, and yours truly (an expert on figuring out how the heck to get around this town).
When: May 26th, 6:00 PM – 7:30 PM
Where: Yesler Community Center, 917 E Yesler Way (You can take the 27!*)
How much: Free

This forum is part of the mayor’s Walk Bike Ride initiative (speaking of), so I’m excited to participate.

Seattle Green Festival

What: A “green living” extravaganza. That’s about the best I’m going to do for a description. Check the website for details.
When: Saturday, June 5, 10 AM – 7 PM; Sunday, June 6th, 11 AM – 6 PM
How much: $15 ($10 for transit and bike riders)

We’re going for the third year in a row (on the 5th; Race for the Cure is the 6th), but (keeping it real) mostly for the excellent food options.

Metro Employee Historic Vehicle Association (MEHVA) Seattle Trolley Tour

What: A “four-hour tour of city’s unique trolley bus system [on a restored, old-school trolley]… from Seattle’s hectic downtown to several fine old neighborhoods throughout the city.” The tour includes a stop for lunch.
When: Sunday, June 13, 11 AM
Where: Tour departs from 2nd Ave S. & S. Main
How much: $5 (Free for kids 5 and under)

I’ve only been on one MEHVA tour, but I keep meaning to change that. Yeah, kids are free, but even my bus-lovin’ little ones aren’t going to make it through a four-hour ride. Give us a year or two.

*If you don’t mind (serious) hills, it’s not too far of a walk or bike ride from downtown.

One more reason to be proud of my city

It’s been a minute since I’ve posted, and that’s too bad, ’cause there’s a lot of stuff I’ve been meaning to tell you about. For one thing, I’ve been hitting my stride busing with two babies (more on that later) and having many fun adventures with my little BCiTs. I’ve been expanding my Orca repertoire (more on that later as well) and meeting all kinds of interesting fellow riders. I’ve also been collecting cool and funny bus and train photos that folks–OK, mostly Bus Nerd–have sent me over the past few weeks.

But all that will have to wait until after I tell you about (Does linking to a press release count as “telling”?)* the initiative Mayor McGinn announced today: Walk Bike Ride. Here’s what the has to say about it:

We are at a turning point in transportation. We cannot sustain the financial, environmental and health costs of a transportation system that is overly reliant on automobiles. We need a new balanced approach that creates a transition. We are prepared to commit to that path by prioritizing walking, biking and transit in how we use our streets, how we spend our dollars, and how we collaborate with county, state and federal governments. [Can I get an amen?]

Walk Bike Ride will:

• Create an equitable transportation system for all by providing more affordable travel choices
• Focus on the places where people want to be and add qualities that make them want to stay
• Prioritize right-of-way space to emphasize walking, biking and riding

Read the rest

We so need to do this. Thank you, Mayor McGinn, for showing leadership on an issue that is so important to the future of our city–and our planet. Here’s hoping it results in real changes in the way folks get around this town.

*There’s analysis and discussion of the details (what few are known at this point) over at STB.