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So, You Want To See America

I am not this cool. 
If you know me, and I don't expect you know me all that well, you would realize one of my longtime dreams is to travel across America a la Jack Kerouac.

Well, I did that. Recently. In a Greyhound. (Not quite the dream, per se). 

I traveled to Phoenix from Erie, PA in a two-day journey we could only call "hellish." Originally it would have been roundtrip, but a work emergency caused me to miss my first bus. I flew home, but not without somehow losing my glasses in the progress.

(Luck? What's that?)

I'm about to describe to you this journey in the only way I know how:  vaguely passive-aggressive blogging.

Chapter 1: Yelling At Old Women And Fixing Some Lady's Blackberry

I left Erie on a cold and brisk Friday afternoon. I was sick to begin with- the weather took a toll on my now warm-weather-acclimated system, so I didn't even have much of a "vacation" to begin with. Plus, I had romanticized my whole trip home. You know, like a Frank Capra movie. My friend Frank told me "The older we get, the farther home is." That's the truth. I felt like a stranger my whole time in Erie, even in my childhood bed. It was not fun. I miss the Erie from 2010, when I was just pissed about graduating into unemployment.

That aside: I was EAGER to get back to Phoenix. I knew I would miss my family and my friends, but my life is a country away.

Nothing was in my way but several stops through the Midwest and Texas. My dad waved at me through the bus station glass and I waved back as the first Greyhound went from Erie - Cleveland.

This trip was easy. There were like five people on the whole thing. Not surprising- it did stop in Erie, you know. I listened to music and texted my significant other. I thought, "Hey! This will be EA-SY."

Joanna Newsom, why you lie to me? Why?

We got to Cleveland late as shit, so I had a panic attack. I was getting off the bus, shaking as I do, and some old woman grabbed my ticket by accident (it was in my hand). I screamed "I'M SORRY!" at her. I don't even mean normal scream. I mean Claire Danes breakdown in "Homeland" scream.

Such a good show.
Guess what, though? The bus to Columbus was LATE as well. So I panicked for absolutely no reason. A mess- and carrying around a suitcase twice the size of me (that was fun, but I'm sorry I had to bring all my belongings to Phoenix, including my marionette collection KIDDING no I am not)- I jumped on the bus and collapsed into my seat with my head in my hands.

That ride, I sat next to a kindly older African-American woman in an Obama sweatshirt. She was very cheerful and talkative and as I listened to my iPod  she tapped me on my arm. Then, she asked me how to make Mary Mary her Blackberry ringtone. What could I do? I obliged.

We actually got a long very well. She asked me about my career, my destination, etc. When I said I was going to Phoenix, she was like "GOD BLESS YOU CHILD!" That was a lot of people's reactions and I now understand why. 

Chapter 2: Being Kicked Off the Bus And In Which I Fail To Realize Some Dude Wants In My Pants

We got to Columbus on schedule. You know what Columbus is? It's a massive parking lot. Don't go there.

The next part of my quest (Sam and Frodo shit) was to Indianapolis. I was excited, because I had never been to Indianapolis' bus station before. So I got a quick dinner at the Columbus Greyhound Station, called my family (who had given me mace and an alarm before I left) and got in line with the Big Ass Suitcase. You know what's great? Only one guy on the whole way helped me. Assholes.

We waited and waited and waited. The Weather Channel was predicting some terrible snowstorm. They had named it LaQuonda or something. Don't ask me; I think it's dumb they want to name snowstorms. Like what's next? Rainstorm Deb is all over Boston right now? Ugh. Stick to "snowmageddon," please.

Then, they let us on. Unfortunately, I was near the end of the line. And unfortunately, the geniuses @ Greyhound had overbooked our ride. So just as I was about to get on me and four guys were shafted. This would delay me for several hours.

"Next busride," the Greyhound employee told us.

"When's that?" I asked an older man who had gotten kicked off with me. He was headed to Springfield (I DON'T KNOW WHICH ONE THERE ARE TOO MANY).

"11 p.m," he replied. It was 5 p.m. then.

We formed a small group. I was the only girl that had been kicked off. It was the older man, a young Latino guy, an upset African-American guy who was hilarious ("I'M NEVER TAKING THIS SHIT AGAIN!") and some young stoner-type white dude. 

"We should get our money back," we agreed. "This is BULLSHIT."

It was bullshit but guess what we got for our stress and troubles:  a meal voucher. Have you ever had Greyhound food? It's gross

I have been trying to quit smoking. It's expensive, my gf does not like it and it's unhealthy. However, my mantra had become "fuck this shit" and I went outside, into the cold and snow, to have a cigarette.

That is when I met God's Gift to Women.

"Girl, can I have a cig?" he asked me, his head going back and forth.

"Sure thing!" I said and gave him a Newport. Note:  I'm poor.

"GIRLLLLLL, n****s love Newports!" I'm not kidding- he said that to me! I looked at him a little confused and then uneasily laughed. "Hey, you have any African American in you?"

I stopped and considered the question. Did I look African-American? I get Jewish a lot. Never thought of myself as having biracial features, though.

"I have Native American blood, sir?" I replied. He laughed at me.

It took me five minutes to realize it was a come-on. 

Chapter 3: I Was an Amish Woman's Pillow

When I did get on that next bus, I was EXHAUSTED. I had cried, I had called my gf and cried, and then my phone died in the middle of that and it was awkward, I had some guy going to Denver give me sassitude. I wanted to just sleep until I woke up in Indiana. 

Then, an Amish woman sat next to me.

Why do Amish people always sound British? She was very sweet and cordial- "can I sit next to you?" and I agreed, duh. However, things got really weird that night when I woke to her head on my arm. I had no idea what to do! I didn't want to move her or wake her up. So I just sat there looking terribly squeamish.

Also:  can Amish people really take buses? I thought that was against their belief system.

Chapter 4: The Rihanna Discography Simply Isn't Big Enough

I didn't sleep really well on this trip. I would sleep for a few hours and wake up in an increasingly flatter landscape. I thought the landscape would change dramatically as I entered a new part of America, but it didn't. Really, until you hit Missouri, it all looks like Ohio. O-hio. Sigh.

So I began to act goofier than usual.

I got really into Rihanna on this trip. Seriously, I was blasting "Diamonds" at 3 A.M. in my headphones, something I'm sure my bus neighbors didn't appreciate. How could they not, though? It's so inspiring:

Then there's this, which never gets old:


I don't always agree with her personal choices, but I won't apologize for this. However, there weren't enough Rihanna songs for me to listen to on this journey. So Rihanna, if you read this and I'm sure you will:  make more music please! THX. Kidnap Calvin Harris and torture him until you get a new album.

When I got to St. Louis (a city that scares me) I did get to see the Arch through the snow. And all I could think of was Judy Garland in "Meet Me in St. Louis." Clang clang clang on the trolley! I really am a gay man at heart.

Chapter 5: St. Louis

And I wonder why I don't have more friends.

Chapter 6: In God's Country

I had breakfast in St. Louis and killed my lungs some more.  I could smell myself and I stunk.  That was lovely.

Also, a weird observation about St. Louis: I thought the architecture was awesome. I don't know, that's probably weird. But there is one thing about living in the "West" that bothers me and it's the lack of architecture with real character. I like old buildings, spaces where other people have conducted their lives generations ago. Phoenix doesn't really have that. But you know what it also doesn't have? Snow.

From St. Louis, we were bound for DA DEEP SOUTH (just kidding I mean Oklahoma). But still, the only part of America I haven't been to is the traditional south. My mind is split between "Gone With the Wind" and "Mississippi Burning." If I ever really go, it will be to NOLA (Brangelina!) or Florida (MANATEES).

I sat by this really happy, nice kid on this part of the trip. He lived in St. Louis and worked for two newspapers. We discussed journalism for a while. I liked him a lot but I have no idea his name. C'est la vie.

Once we got way down in Missouri, you could tell. Everything looked isolated and kind of sad. However, it was warmer and sunnier, so that was nice.

(I was afraid to get off the bus, here. I didn't want anyone to be like "Yankee!" and shoot me with a crossbow).

Here, I am George Clooney. Like ALWAYS.
I was really happy to get this part over with.

Chapter 7: Things Get Boring, Kind Of

We arrived at Tulsa by sunset. It was kind of pretty and I was impressed with Tulsa. It had a nice feel to it. Or at least the bus station and parking lot did. Who knows.

At this point, I was getting fed up with the fact I was so behind. I was supposed to be back in Phoenix 8 A.M. that Sunday. Now, I wouldn't be there until 5 P.M. And I was like Jonathan Taylor Thomas in that "I'll Be Home For Christmas" movie just wanting to see my Jessica Biel.

I got really into that song, too.

My next bus-mate was this teenage boy who told me everything about his life ever. We talked for hours. He was very endearing, if not intense. He was headed to Colorado for work. It's true what Kathie Lee Gifford says:  Everyone has a story.

Then, there was Phyllis, our driver. Oh shit. Phyllis would fuck you up if given the chance. I wouldn't cross that woman.

"Y'ALL ON PHYLLIS' BUS NOW," she informed us, blinking the lights on and off. She was like a prison guard. "I don't take no shit!" She also had a mullet. 

Some people sassed off to Phyllis, but she didn't let that last long.

Chapter 8: The Confrontation

Texas was definitely different-feeling. I don't know how else to explain that, since it was late at night and we were surrounded by yet more nothing. I wish I could have been like Ozzy Osbourne and also peed at the Alamo during my time in that state. Next time, I think. They'll find me squatting in the parking lot. 

One really cool thing about this trip (to be off-tangent) was getting a feel for how expansive America is and how diverse it is. I think we as Americans take this fact for-granted since we tend to stay in our little corner and rarely venture out. However, to experience it is something every American should do at least once. My European friends go on about how big America is a lot and it's so easy to forget that. 

In Texas, you could tell a little gang of us- people all going to Phoenix or Cali- had organized. Isn't that cool? Greyhound may take your $$$ and treat you like a shit, but it does give you a sense of camaraderie. I do miss my money, though. 

One of these people was this woman who (going out on a limb here) seemed extremely gay to me. Like, Home Depot gay. She looked a little like Phyllis, but was more outspoken. And more crass. I could hear her making dirty jokes all the way in the front of the bus. However, considering we were tired and cranky, she helped keep the mood light and I liked that. I guess she was headed to Albuquerque for her mother's funeral.

In Amarillo, we switched drivers. Our new driver was kind of an anal foreign guy. Eastern European or Middle Eastern, I couldn't tell. I didn't like him from the getgo. He was very particular about everything and I was like "JESUS MAN JUST DRIVE." Except, I lost the ability to speak because I was in Bus World now, so I was growling to myself.

An hour later than we should have, we were about to go, when I heard an argument in the back of the bus. The driver had made one last inspection, and I guess that woman was helping herself to a beer in the back of the bus. Gosh, I know when I'm on the bus I'm like "TIME FOR A COLD ONE."

They started yelling back and forth, back and forth. Really, if she wanted to have beer on that bus, I'm sure no one cared. I wouldn't have cared if she was helping herself to shots of Jager and injecting heroin through her eyeballs. Perhaps that's just me. He threatened to call the popo and forced her off the bus.

"But my mother's funeral-" she began to protest.

"Get off."

It was actually sad, but she did call him a "cockfuck." Can you imagine what that is?

Chapter 9: Half of New Mexico is Gorgeous and Half is a Trailer Park

I will let that stand on its own.

Chapter 10:  Home! 

I got some prissy college student girl next to me for the last expanse. She was reading snooty magazines and wasn't friendly, so I just played this awesome free Agatha Christie game I found on my laptop until Flagstaff. It was actually rather frustrating, but it helped the time to go by. 

I knew we were in Flagstaff because my ears began to pop and there was (once again) snow.  ran off to smoke a cigarette, but it was too cold so I cut that short. I also tried to pee, but there were thirty women in line for the bathroom and I was all like HALE NO. So I peed like four times on this whole trip. Whatever. Do you know what I did a lot of on Monday? Peeing.

There was another boy going to Phoenix as well, who had been on the trip even longer than I was. He was moving home from Brooklyn. And I couldn't help but think "Hmmm, that's familiar." I had heard him talking to (I swear to God) one of L. Frank Baum's relatives on a layover. Yes, he was on the ride with us wearing a hat about his relation to the "Wizard of Oz" author.

(I did not get an autograph).

We chatted (me and the Brooklyn Boy) about the absurdity of Greyhound. We came to the conclusion that, because most of the people who ride Greyhound are of low socioeconomic status, that gives the company the "permission" to treat their customers poorly. In this day and age, that's unfortunate. I mean, I considered writing a long-winded letter to GH when I got home, but what good would that have accomplished? 

When I arrived back in Phoenix, with its weird highway art and foreign palm trees, I was wiped out, but elated to be home. There was a car waiting for me at the station. My driver was an older Iraqi man who lectured me the whole way back to my apartment to "NEVER DO THAT AGAIN." 

Before I left the station, however (and watched six minutes of the Mark Wahlberg/Will Ferrell movie "The Other Guys" which is hilarious I know I'm sorry but it is) the Brooklyn Boy helped me with that way-too-large bag.

"Good luck!" he yelled as I headed out. I don't remember his name, either. 

Chapter 10: I Developed Cankles

Leg-swelling and ankle-swelling never occurred to me while riding the bus, but guess what happened?


In conclusion:  I spent the next few days recovering with my gf. And I will never take a Greyhound again. Amtrak, though...


  1. A+++ would read again

    would the trip have been more or less fun with a friend?

    1. I would have loved company! YOU CAN COME WITH ME ON THE AMTRAK BB

    2. :D



  2. I enjoyed reading this. As someone who has read On The Road twice, officially. Once for a (Central) high school book report back in my more Neanderthal days. Did I read it? no.

    I did read it when I started traveling as part of my critically acclaimed list of "books you must read" available on Amazon.

    Ive also made that trip.

  3. So glad you made it home safely and this made me both laugh and wince at the thought of traveling on a GreyHound cross country.

    Also, Texas scares me.

  4. "That was a lot of people's reactions and I now understand why." LOL Great one BK. Glad you made it safe!


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