Tag Archives: Toni Morrison

Bus riders have sense

Stop sense, n: The ability to detect when one’s transit destination is approaching without looking out the window or at the digital display at the front of the vehicle; a subconscious awareness of the location of one’s transit stop.

Not to brag (ahem), but I have a highly developed stop sense. When I was nine, I would automatically wake up from bus naps about a block before it was time for me to ring the bell. These days, I can feel my stop approaching no matter where I’m looking or how many children I’m managing.

But yesterday, I started rereading Sula on a solo ride home from the Eastside. I was four stops past mine before I even looked up.

On writing and riding

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know that I have many obsessions: libraries, Rosa Parks, Three Girls Bakery, Mount Rainier, and–oh yeah–buses. You might not know, since I have not thus far had occasion to write about it here, that I am also obsessed with August Wilson.

I am a huge August Wilson fan. The first time I saw one of his plays staged (Joe Turner’s Come and Gone at the Alley Theater in Houston, back when I was a student at Rice) was transformational for me. The man has an unmatched ear for dialogue, and [ahem] I happen to enjoy listening to people talk. It’s one of the primary reasons I love the bus.

Apparently, Wilson enjoyed buses for the same reason. Transit geek/novelist Dolen Perkins-Valdez just hipped me to the fact that the famed playwright, a resident of our fair city (incidentally, another of my obsessions) from 1990 until his death in 2005, rode Metro. A lot.

All these years of semi-stalking the man, and I didn’t know. It wasn’t mentioned in any of the zillions of bios I read about him over the years–or at either of the memorials I attended after his death. And yet, all it took was a quick online search to confirm* Dolen’s assertion. August Wilson did, indeed, ride the bus–probably, given the location of his home and his regular haunts–a lot of the same routes I frequent.**

So, it seems that, in addition to providing us time to enjoy the creative work of others, riding transit can also aid the creative process. Toni Morrison (yet another of my obsessions) has said she used her subway rides to work on her first novel, and, as I’ve just discovered, Wilson found inspiration (and probably a lot of material) on the bus. Perhaps I should break out my own (10-year-old-and-as-yet-unpublished) novel. After all, a good quarter of it was written en route.

*This article is in the Boston Globe archives, and I had to pay to read it. I doubt the link will actually show the full text.
**Too bad we never (that I know of) shared a ride. Even my friend Aileen, who boasts of actually meeting him at Red and Black Books back in the day, would be jealous.


Posts will continue to be slow in the coming days. (The project is not yet complete, I’ve just recovered from a nasty bug, and my poor little Chicklet is still sick.) In the meantime, get thee to a library and check out The Subway Chronicles, a fabulous collection of essays by well-known New York writers (Colson Whitehead, for one) about their experiences getting around on PT. Talk about a perfect ride read!

And yes, I know that the book came out in 2006, but 1) I’m almost always late to the party (that is, when I’m not leaving early) on stuff like this*, and 2) my “to read” list is so long, I have actual relatives whose books are waiting to be cracked.

Speaking of New York…

Streetfilms is celebrating 200 fun, informative films–all free and easy to watch and share–with a cool promo. Congrats (and thanks) to the Streetfilms team.

* And by “stuff like this,” I mean any newly released form of art that is not related to Toni Morrison.

Happiness is…

heading to an evening meeting (short walk + 14) alone, sans baby pack or bag o’ tricks, wearing: shoes with a little flavor (nothing “earthy” about ’em), that gorgeous coat handed down from your fashion-plate mother, and your now rarely used shmipod, turned up to a volume that is surely damaging your ears (but it’s been so long since you’ve listened to Goapele!) and is preventing you from making progress on that novel you’re so enjoying–which is OK, really, because the author is such an amazing writer you’d gladly read one of her sentences 100 times, and you’re not in any hurry to finish.

The ultimate ride read

After five long years, Ms. Chloe Anthony Wofford (aka Toni Morrison), the writer for whom I gladly miss stops, whose books I actually buy (to avoid the library waiting list and because I want to keep them) and occasionally even sleep with, has released a new novel. The reviews are glowing, but I don’t need reviews to know I’ll love it. Bring on the drawbridges, long lights, multiple bikes and lift passengers (no disrespect), slow payers, and ride-delaying bus foulers! I need some time with A Mercy.