Why I love Greyhound.

Normally, I am an environmentally conscious person. I like doing things that don’t gouge the land. At the same time, I am also cheap. Sometimes these two things work together, as in forgoing the convenience of a car in favor of public transportation. Sometimes however, the cost to convenience outweighs the benefits, such as when they are working on the Longfellow Bridge every single weekend and what should be a straight shot train ride into the city becomes a train + shuttle + train ‘adventure’.

My recent weekend trip to Maine is a case in point. I had a wonderful time, of course, and the ride up, despite a little traffic, was pleasant. The return was less so. The driver was young and inexperienced, two qualities which I can understand and forgive. I myself was at one time inexperienced, and even my current level of know-how has not equipped me to drive a bus. However, he was also an hour late. Meaning if there was any traffic, I was not going to make the last train to the last bus back to Belmont. Still, I wasn’t terribly worried. I do have friends with cars who stay up late and could probably be coerced into driving me home. If not, there’s always taxis.

Once we left the bus terminal, the unpleasantness was far from over. I don’t know if many of you are familiar with bus terminals, but one feature that tends to be universal is proximity to an interstate, or at least a highway. There also tend to be giant signs telling the driver and others how to reach said highway. In Massachusetts these signs might be placed behind even larger trees, but in general they are still there. My bus driver decided to ignore the signs placed directly for his benefit as well as the directions given to him at the bus depot and take us on a tour of Portland.

After about 20 lefts, the driver pleaded with us for help. Did anyone know Portland or how to get back to the highway? Fortunately, somebody on that bus full of cranky, tired, and now severely annoyed patrons knew his way around. Unfortunately, the route back to the interstate went under two very low train trestles. Although I am a Christian, it is rare for me to truly reevaluate my life on a Sunday. Clenching my teeth and wishing I could shut my eyes as my inexperienced bus driver barreled under each too-low bridge marked one of the rare occasions.

I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy my trip. I loved going to Maine, especially to be able to afford going to Maine. And I’m sure I will someday take the bus again. In the meantime, I may just have to check out Amtrak.

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Walking the fire.

Anyone who’s ever been around a campfire knows you can only stand so close. There is a point at which the flames sear and scald instead of warming. There is an unseeable edge of heat that begins to crackle the skin, wrinkling flesh with dryness. It’s just beyond this edge, not quite touching the flame, where marshmallows roast to perfection and darkening ash whirls outwards quickly. It’s the place where sneakers begin to melt instead of drying, where wet woolen mittens cringe rather than shrink. It’s this space that makes your face morph from flushed to blistering.

Standing in this space is a constant battle. You lean in, you feel your face get brittle. You lean out and the night begins to chill you. You kind of hover, and in-out-in motion that keeps your nerve endings jangling. Then there’s a gust of wind, a blast of sparks, or a new swirl of smoke that makes the fire edge uninhabitable, at least momentarily.

I come from a long line of stubborn hard-nosers with raging tempers on both sides.   It is this fact that makes my own life – my relationships, my career choices, my moral code, and my lifestyle – its own edge of fire.  I dance at the edges of other people, flitting only close enough to be slightly warmed or a little flushed.  I have yet to fully commit to a single career path, leaning in or out in one direction or another as I circle the potential brightness of future jobs.  I edge a narrow line of responsibility and freedom.

It’s true that most of us act in a similar fashion.  Most of us just dance at the edges of life.  Most of us are afraid of the bad burns, the scarring, the pain, and the possible loss that fire causes.  But there are some few – fire eaters, hot coal walkers, special effects technicians and stunt men – that master the delicate balance of heat and burning, flame and ash.  I wonder if my life would be fuller if I learned to walk the fire, instead of tentatively bordering it.