Tuesday, October 22, 2019

My Best Day As a Transit Blogger!

Deke's Note: Hey, I'm just your average bus operator who writes a blog. Today however, these stats took a drastic upward turn, leaving me to wonder, what the fuck?!? The most hits FTDS has earned in one day is around 1,500, which was a real response to something I wrote a year or two ago. Since then, it has been normal to see about 200-500 hits per day. That's pretty cool, but it seems more real than a few thousand in as many hours.

A friend suggested it's Russian bots driving these outrageous stats. I don't "ken" the finer details of today's technological wizardry. Maybe someone is out there sending robotic clicks onto my humble blog, running up the numbers. If it was a true phenomenon, or I was anything but an average writer, a few of you "readers" would grace these pages with a comment or a dozen. But you have not. This makes me believe it's simply a an anomaly, a pipe dream that 2,500 people took the time to read what I have offered here.

My biological brothers would tell me I'm simply enjoying the accolades of an idiot savant. They're likely correct. I've always loved to write. Since I learned to read at an early age, the magic of putting words on a page has intrigued me like no other magic spell. Seeing the reaction of those who read what I put down is better than any drugged state I've known. In fact, your reaction is probably the most powerful high. To see these record-breaking stats has been both exhilarating yet troubling. If you read THIS, please... comment. Send me an email at deaconinblue@gmail.com. Tell me what brought you here. Does what I write have any meaning to you, or am I simply a blue-collar scrub whose words are a pitiful disgrace to today's declining literary well?

What is "Unknown Region"? And THANK YOU UNITED STATES CITIZENS for once more leading the way in my readership stats. Canada had us beat for quite a while, until the Unknowns made themselves known. My hat is off to France as well, coming in a strong third. Canada, we haven't been communicating as well lately, but thanks for consistently returning. What of Ukraine, Cambodia, Argentina, Ireland, India, Japan, China, Brazil, Germany and Mexico? Evidently you know English enough to read or have it translated into your native tongue. (Ah, the wonders of Internetlandia!) What prohibits you from leaving me a note, giving me your thoughts on what is written here? A writer craves feedback. I'm open to the negative as well as kudos, because your interaction and critiques help me grow as a writer. Don't be bashful... I respond to ALL who take a moment of your precious time just to say hello.

My buddy's travels to Scotland and Ireland did wonders for my writing. Thanks Patrick for distributing my book "JUST DRIVE - Life in the Bus Lane" to those you met along your travels. I have yet to hear from any of them, but that's okay. Perhaps someday my book will find its way back into their hands, bearing my signature, and they will enjoy at least part of my rambles. It is after all, a simple collection of these blog posts transformed into book form, a memoir of my first stumblings as a transit operator/blogger.

It was great fun to produce the book. It was pure dedication to this craft I did so. Most of my life was given to fits of dedication only to be replaced by complacency. I couldn't seem to finish what I started. My daughter grew 10 years before I finally finished the doll house I built for her.

Producing the book was quite a task. I mean, most of it was already written. "How hard could it be?" I asked myself. The answer was a long-time coming. First, I read every one of my blog posts to date, and chose each to be included. Then, I began editing, but took care not to change the tone of each post while cleaning up blogger's mistakes. (Most blogs were written after a long shift, not privy to the careful eye of an editor.) It took 18 months of painstaking work to produce this book, and I'm proud of it. True, I "bitched" considerably throughout, but it was meant to be a "day in the life" look at what a bus operator experiences from Day 1 through four-plus years driving a city bus.

Most of the book's criticism arises from my penchant for giving "hell" to certain sectors with whom operators interact. I can live with that. They all deserved my wrath, and many still do. I stand by every word in this blog and the book, including my olive branch to management. To date, my local transit management hasn't given me the satisfaction of admitting that yeah, they know who I am. It would have to be brain dead to not have guessed my true identity years ago, and their reluctance to silence me is to be commended. It gives me hope that we retain our individuality as simple and expendable "employees" of a governmental corporate entity, free to speak our minds as dutiful slaves of the local transit tax. Respectfully, I do try. Sometimes, I fail the respectful part, but that stems from management's disrespectful edicts that leave us all shaking our collective heads in disbelief. Still, that means I'll keep on writing my mind, so to speak.

I am so grateful to those who know me, for not "outing" the Deke. Your dedication to my pseudonym is deeply gratifying. I take it as a wonderful token of respect, and I hopefully return your honor with my words of support for your, our, collective plight. My words here are devoted to your well-being, your safety, and our quest for the wide-reaching respect this profession deserves. THANK YOU. The day one of my brothers or sisters "outs" me to management will be the day that I'm fired and stop writing here. It's a major commitment for me to state this, given my love for using my humble scribblings to stand up for those I work alongside. Some of you don't always agree with my opinion and that's okay. I'm not always right and you're not always wrong. Please remember this blog is simply a bus operator's way of "venting" after a long day behind the wheel. You do the job too (or have in years past, revered retirees), and your own thoughts and feelings are equally as important to me as my own. I do not begrudge you of your opinions, and value yours too. If another of my brothers or sisters begins a similar blog, I will heartily support it. My opinions dwell within my soul; that of others deserves (at least) as much respect as you have given me.

There are others who have written about this occupation. Billy Alsheimer preceded my humble offering with a book of his own, "All Aboard - One Driver's Story," which is hopefully to soon become a television sitcom I will lovingly support. In Florida, my dear friend and fellow blogger Robert touches my heartstrings with his soulful "Bus Tropical" and makes me truly envious of his writing style, and how he refuses to hide behind a pseudonym. We exchange postcards and feature each other's blogs on our own out of mutual respect for each other. Then there's the irascible and prickly but always-relevant Al Margulies, who impales the foolishness of management and its "Bored of Directors" with a sharp pen and wit on "Rantings of a Former TriMet Bus Operator."

While I'm grateful for today's hit explosion, I'm self-aware enough to realize it is probably an anomaly. I do not write here for anything other than to describe what it's like to sit in an operator's seat. We see the good, bad and often ugly views from the driver side of a bus. It's a living, just barely. Given the wages of the average working person, it's a better job than many who board my bus. To some, I'm "rich." Others look down on me as unworthy to empty their gilded chamber pots. Either way, I'm glad to have the opportunity to do something I've always loved: to just drive. I work hard to ensure a smooth glide along Portland's funky streets. My father taught me to keep my passengers' comfort foremost in mind, and it remains my ultimate goal while driving the Beast.

Thanks for reading, whoever and wherever you are. Please drop me a note in any electronic venue you choose. I relish knowing why the fuck you're reading this shit.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

WE Can Never Be Replaced!


Deke's Note: I'm writing in honor of Bus Operators everywhere, but this time it's local to Portland even though our efforts are duplicated every moment on a worldwide basis. While my fellow brothers and sisters in other departments face different challenges, I could never argue that my own are any more difficult than theirs. We all share solidarity in a very tough profession. My respect for all with whom I work is paramount. Now we're in the midst of another contract negotiation that will likely test our solidarity, but I'm counting on our sticking together for the greater good. This post is meant to inspire deep thought about the future of those who roll the wheels, as well as those who keep the equipment in top-notch shape. Thanks to you all!

TriMet wants to do away with its operators, and has made it clear as they begin the latest contract negotiations. Somehow, these corporate clowns have it in their oxygen-starved brains that machines can do our jobs better. It shows the classic disrespect of Corporata for the working folks. This total disregard was eloquently attacked by the first progressive president, Theodore Roosevelt.


"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood..." -- President Theodore Roosevelt, 1910. 

Bus operators are baptized by all three attributes. We are urban warriors: Operators, Maintenance, Station Agents and Road Supervisors are an irreplaceable team. We do battle daily with a myriad of foes: rude and impatient motorists and passengers, a media which labels us as overpaid and low-skilled, a management which pretends to support us while paying mere lip service to the respect we have earned over decades of dedication to an honorable trade. Bus operators move the cities which they serve. We're a vital cog in every local economy. Still, we're much more than that: we're human.

Our species has come a long way in our tiny slice of this planet's evolutionary pie. In just 100 years, we have revolutionized every aspect of human existence. It has been extraordinary the incredible advances we have made since the Industrial Revolution celebrated mankind's extraordinary ability to improve and adapt to every step. Now, we're poised on the precipice of making ourselves obsolete.

For all the advancements in technology, the end game is what frightens me: automation. We have, or nearly do, have the ability to replace ourselves with machines. And our management sits gleefully on the precipice of replacing its annoyingly-demanding human employees with artificial intelligence. What these short-sighted drooling fools propose is a horrific end-game: human obsolescence.

There is no replacement for the human soul. We Operators feel the pain and pitfalls of the human experience like no computer chip ever could. Over the years, I've spoken with hundreds of people across every socioeconomic level. We share our lives as few others, finding common ground as the human condition finds itself interwoven in so many chapters of an oft-shared existence. The stories I've heard often filled my eyes with tears so intensely that I had to pull over, just to listen to a soul in some pain I have also endured. People appreciate being heard; we are often overlooked. The human experience should never be reduced to information stored on a chip or server. It is something understood, felt and only known by fellow humans.


I happened upon a fellow operator tonight as I arrived early to a transit center. Usually, this means I'm treated to a few moments of breathing fresh air outside my occupational prison, stretching my seat-hardened muscles and enjoying the delight of standing upon two legs. It's not afforded me because I run "hot," but because the schedule of the route has several bubbles which help operators catch up to the ever-ticking and often unforgiving clock.

My friend was done with his route, as his destination sign told me so. He stood outside, speaking with a frail-looking lady. As I approached, the levity of her situation became obvious. Joe Operator reassured her things would get better. He had evidently slipped her some cash, and pleaded with her to step inside a nearby Starbucks to buy a hot cup of relief and perhaps something to eat. He also promised that he would have information on a shelter next time she rode his bus. Joe reminded her to call him if she needed anything. His eyes shone with kindness and the innate goodness shining from his generous soul. Joe's a tough guy, been around the block, so to speak. I knew to remain quiet and respectful during their interaction. It was all I could do not to tear up myself, and I failed.

As she wheeled off, I greeted my friend. His eyes were fully-rimmed with tears. Her condition clearly affected him, and he turned away. "Give me a second, will ya?"

Feeling the intruder, I could only comply. I was proud of Joe for being who he has always been: generous of soul. His actions and those of so many in our ranks, again made me intensely-proud of my profession. Here was a bus operator taking a personal stake in the pain of a passenger. It clearly affected him, and I gave Joe his moment. Time clock be damned, I wanted to show him the respect he deserved.

After a few seconds, Joe turned back to me, his eyes full of tears.

"Hey Joe," I said softly, "I just wanted to say hello, but instead, you showed me something special. Thank you."

He was without words. I simply gave him a "man hug" and asked him to take a few moments before he drove again to compose himself.

"I'm okay," Joe replied. "I'll tell you about it next time we see each other."

That was all he needed to say. I had just witnessed yet another of many untold stories of a compassionate bus operator. We connect with a few of those we serve, and of those, some truly need a friend where nobody else has shoes that fit.

Management has run ads pleading for more operators, describing us as personal counselors, city ambassadors and other flattering descriptors. Even so, they conspire to replace us with machines. This is without any respect to the working class. Therefore, I beg my fellow ops to change their overhead destination signs to read: GARAGE. Fuck this blatant attempt at bullshitting unsuspecting job-seekers with promises of golden glory when simple trickery awaits them.

Lost a loved one? Chances are, your local bus operators are all actively searching for them. Just today we were asked to watch out for a "non-verbal" person at risk, and one of our operators found them. Cops searching for a violent offender? Dispatch has already alerted us to be on the lookout, and we are. Is that your toddler running down the street in freezing rain? The bus operator on that route has already stopped the bus and brought the little one on board, wrapping her in their coat and alerting Dispatch to have police meet them. Your father, who suffers from dementia walked off from his care facility? On many occasions, a bus operator had him on his bus and walked him to his door to make sure he didn't wander all night in the rain.

Could automation replace innately-human tasks of compassion? Never. Would you want a robot to do this job? I hope not. If you do, please walk wherever you go. Or ride a bike, and let bikeportland.org worry about your safety, because only a bus operator truly cares that you make it home despite your foolish disregard for personal responsibility.

Our retired and highly-decorated brother Willie Jack was featured on local news when he secured his bus to rush out and help a blind lady cross a busy street. My brother Justin saw a home on fire as he drove to work one early morning, and stopped to bang on doors and windows to wake the family within, saving them from the raging inferno. There are many more examples of our being "shepherds of the public safety, sacrificing daily for the common good," as my good friend and brother the Rampant Lion roars in honor of our fellow Operators.

Blather on about "the natural progression" of transit, foolish applauders of management. It's YOU who should be replaced due to your lack of compassion, responsibility and humanity. WE could do your job just fine, and cut your numbers by almost two-thirds while doing a much more efficient job. We would save money, be more proactive and responsive while restoring our former prestigious place as the nation's premier transit agency. Why? Because we care about what we do. No bullshit, no excuses, only tangibly-positive results. Not only would the people who DO the work of transit be better cared for, but the community-at-large would be much better served.

So carry on as you will, but you're obsolete, not US. We're tired of that fake smile which masks constant incompetence and disrespect. We're coming for YOUR jobs; ours are secure because those we serve realize we have their safety and personal well-being at heart as we drive them to their destination. All you seem to care about are HAL 2000's spreadsheets and inhuman goals. Go away, and let US do the job of transit... the public would be much better served.

With all I've said, I remain a loyal and supportive member of ATU 757. Give 'em hell, President Block!




Monday, October 14, 2019

Scottish Epilogue

A Wigtown lad loved his bus!
Deke's Note: There's so much to write about! Much has happened in my extended absence. Contract negotiations have me furious, union solidarity is dangerously low (don't get too excited management... the fight is about to become more intense than you imagined), and our hours are being shortened due to an over-abundance of new operators. Still, my brother Patrick has a few more words to say about his Scotland/Ireland Adventure. I promised he could tell you all about it here, so I'll sit back and let him roll. Just as well buddy, I'm too pissed off to write at the moment. Have at it.

Patrick Sez: Wow, Deke is pissed! Just spent a while sharing some of the whisky with him I brought back from Ireland. Listening to him vent, my ears about sizzled off my head. Wouldn't hurt the one that's smaller than the other, but I'd rather warm them in a more, well, recreational manner. Anyway, he graciously backed off because he promised I could document the grand voyage Stacey and I recently returned from. "Promises are best kept," Deke said, "and furious writing could get me in trouble." Thanks buddy.

St. Andrew's Cathedral, Inverness
The trip home was exhausting. I spent my 59th birthday in two countries: Ireland and Scotland. This close to my seventh decade and I'm finally slowing down a bit. I was still able to drink bodacious amounts of fine distilled spirits though. Classic Laddie, Oban, Glenfiddich, Macallan, Jameson and a few new discoveries... I love you all! Whisk(e)y stores are abundant in the land of its birth, and I visited plenty. Even toured a few distilleries along the way. One good thing about age is the wisdom learned along the potholes of this long road: I have learned when to stop. No more praying to porcelain gods or stumbling around like a mugging target. When you're in a foreign land, it's best to keep at least a few wits about you; I'd rather be witness than witless.

It wasn't until I had been back in the seat a few days that the travel bug hit my internal windshield. SPLAT! My body shut down one afternoon as I deadheaded toward downtown. It suddenly felt like I hadn't slept in two weeks. My head weighed at least 50 pounds and my body dangerously wanted to nod off into some land I'm not ready to see. Not a good idea when you're piloting a 20-ton bus. Nearing my destination, I was afraid to go any further. We've all driven when we didn't feel good, but I felt horrible. Big difference. So for the second time in my career, I punched in "OPERATOR ILL" into the CAD. Told the kind voice on the radio I didn't feel safe driving, and they shut me down  where I pulled over.

Oban on the Bay, home of the Oban Whisky Distillery since 1794.
Within a few minutes, Sister Road Supe roused me from a half-slumber. She was genuinely-concerned, asking twice if I needed medical attention. All I wanted was to crawl into my bed for a few weeks. My nose was running faster than the Kentucky Derby, my temples pounded like hooves trying to kick their way out. It seemed those racehorses were about to cut loose and trample the rest of me in a massive stampede. Boo graciously took me back to the garage and asked if I needed someone to drive me home. Nah. My new car is a smooth roll which almost drives itself. It was at that moment I realized my phone was still in the bus, locked in the overhead and shut off per SOP. I inched back toward the bus at rush hour snail pace and found it still blinking where I left it.

Glenfinnan Viaduct
Because of that fuzzy-headed mistake, it took another 55 minutes to drive home. I slept about 26 of the next 36 hours in a hellish physiological nightmare. Finally today I was able to rouse myself. It was imperative that I make it to the funeral of a young friend. He was much, much too young to leave us, and I was duty bound to wish him a fond farewell. Emotionally drained, I collapsed into my couch for several hours. It was hard to believe just three days earlier, I had been happily ensconced in a faraway, ancient and mesmerizing land...

Sorry it took so long to get back to this point, but sometimes a little background is necessary. I would have written this for Deke days ago, but I'm finally conscious again. Without further ado, I'll try to wrap this up so the rightful writer of this righteous blog can further kick some literary transit ass.

Edinburgh, Scotland is not only mesmerizingly-beautiful, it is full of history most Americans cannot fathom. People inhabited Caledonia long before our American shores were invaded and occupied by settlers who pushed our indigenous hosts aside. Not much has changed in this city over the past few hundred years. Its people are polite and helpful, very proud of their heritage and rightfully so. There are many ancient buildings which have been restored, retaining their grand architecture. While we didn't get to tour Edinburgh Castle, which is 1,100 years old, we came close while touring Grassmarket and The Royal Mile. It was humbling to roam streets which have been teeming with residents since the second century AD. We were aliens in a land likely to have spawned some of our ancestors.

Oscar Wilde Statue, Dublin
Quickly, as to not overstay my welcome here, I must mention transit in Scotland and Ireland is not only speedy and efficient but also user-friendly yet strict about fares. I wanted to chat up a few drivers, but it seemed to always be rush hour when we boarded and you know, transit operators at that time of day are likely to be tightly-wound due to traffic. We all want our breaks. I could tell by their speech they wanted none of a Portland, Oregon operator's chat. Most likely, they were late to pee. Winding down streets much narrower than ours, they expertly guided their double-deckers through numerous roundabouts, taking no prisoners. Motorists know better than to argue with these road warriors. Ancient civilizations do not survive foolishness, and these folks know how to co-exist.

Ireland is much the same transit-wise. We didn't have a chance to ride public transit buses, but did take advantage of light rail. Dublin is more congested than Portland and it did take extra time for operators to navigate long traffic lights, but it was smooth and timely.

It was fun to give out foldup buses and MAX trains to the wee lads and lassies. Deke provided me with six books, which I distributed to readers along the way. Stacey and I visited with one of Deke's friends in Wigtown, giving them a signed copy. His book is also in the hands of a visiting literary agent along with a few innkeepers we met. Perhaps that's why he's being patient with me.

The Long Room, Trinity College Library, Dublin
Knowing our friend Mr. Blue, he's eager to get back to this blog, so it's time I buzz off. Thanks to all who followed along on our travels. We were in Edinburgh, Dalkeith and Dalhousie Castle, Wigtown, Newton-Stuart, Glasgow, Oban, Isle of Skye, Inverness, and Dublin (Ireland). It was astonishingly-beautiful, enormously-rewarding and a refreshing break. If you ever have the chance, I highly recommend visiting. While we weren't able to dip down south into England proper, we hope to revisit the United Kingdom again in the next few years. Until then, we have many sweet memories we'll treasure a lifetime.

I have more details to write, but I'll save them for my own blog, patcoomer@wordpress.com.
View from a Wigtown bookstore

Okay Deke, I'll shut up now. Get back to work, you old buzzard!

Respectfully,
Patrick

Friday, October 11, 2019

They’re Trying to Kill Us!

Not literally, but figuratively. Replacing us with robots within the decade. Robbing us of a century of union victories for the working man and woman. Hiring non union mechanics to dissolve any remaining solidarity. Ruining worker morale. That’s Portland Transit management today.

Management has made it a priority to erode transit code and ethics which once propelled US to be the best transit agency in the country. Why? Given the state of our working class economy, why Corporata  thinks it can improve a strictly-working class institution is beyond human comprehension, yet here we are. We have allowed it to happen through apathy and other docile behaviors. We even gave up our right to strike against the opposition, perhaps by design.

Divide and conquer. Ages old and extremely effective. And we’re now victims of our own actions. Pitiful, self-destructive and disrespectful of our co-workers. 

It’s time, in the words of James Taylor, to Stand and Fight! 

How?

1) REFUSE TO WORK YOUR RDO until we have a fair contract, which could be the rest of your career. BE UNION STRONG or suck up to management’s ultimate plan to replace US with automation.

2) If you’re a Line Trainer, ask yourself if $1 an hour extra is respectful compensation? If not, resign or take yourself out of rotation. It’s been a buck for decades, brothers and sisters. Feel disrespected yet?

3) For fuck’s sake, be informed and VOTE!

There’s more, but these are a great start. See the latest signup? They’re cutting hours on runs we all depend on to make ends meet while they laugh at us from their six-figure salaries. Are you willing to take this?!? I’m not, and I’m pleading with you to show support. Otherwise, you’ll join me in future bread lines as we beg for crumbs after working our entire lives.

Governor Brown, FIRE these corporate thugs or you don’t support the the working folk who supported your election. Replace the Rubber Stamp “Bored of Disrespectors” with an electable body subject to public accountability. Replace our GM with someone who has driven a bus. Someone who has been kicked, spit and screamed at, insulted and lied about... one of US. I’m available and willing.

Simple fixes for a broken system. Even a dumbass would agree. Do you?

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Hey Deke, I'm Back from Scotland!

Overwhelmed with emotion at the beauty
one feels on Isle of Skye!
"Once there was a way
to get back homeward
Once there was a way
to get back home.

Sleep pretty darling 
do not cry
and I will sing a lullaby.

Golden slumbers fill your eyes
Smiles awake you when you rise
Sleep pretty darling, do not cry
And I will sing a lullaby.

Once there was a way
To get back homeward,
Once there was a way
to get back home.
Sleep pretty darling
do not cry
and I will sing a lullaby

Boy you're gonna carry that weight
Carry that weight, a long time...

I never give you my pillow
I only send you my invitations.
And in the middle of the celebrations,
I break down...

Boy you're gonna carry that weight
Carry that weight, a long time...

And in the end the love you take
is equal to the love you make."


--John Lennon/Paul McCartney and The Beatles

* * * * *

Deke's Note: Okay Patrick, you have blasted this trip far and wide from abroad. Glad you enjoyed it in spite of all the whisk(e)y you consumed. We have all enjoyed your pictures and notes on FaceBook. I have taken a step back from blogging to take a while to reflect upon my own life and this writer's muse. We eagerly await your reflections abroad, albeit spotty and sparse. Hey, however long you need, it's all good. The more you write the less I need to. This blog has become a heavy burden. Keep reflecting as long as necessary. Meanwhile, I have a bus to drive! Our vacations are respectively finished...


* * * * *

Patrick Sez: Thank you Deke, for allowing me to give you a break from your six years of blogging to describe my experiences traveling in Scotland and Ireland. Apologies for not being regular or detailed in my reports, but as this was our 25th Anniversary Adventure, my wife insisted I spend more time with her than writing on the blog. As it was so much fun, I supremely enjoyed obliging her. Now, after the longest journey of my life (so far), I'm home again. On the first anniversary of my dear father's passing, I offer my first detailed report of our time in Caledonia. Dad was elated about our trip, and I felt his presence the entire time. Thanks Dad, for giving me the bravery to boldly venture forever onward.


* * * * *

Early morning initial view
of Ireland from above.
The one thing which struck me most profoundly while in Scotland and Ireland was their attention to detail and profound politeness. Even when they're pissed off, Scots and Irish are helpful and kind. You can feel their annoyance, but ingrained into their DNA is an overwhelming tendency to be efficient yet decent. It's something we Americans often forget to display. A trip to the countries of our origins sets the wandering Yankee right, if that's what we search for. And yes, that is the result of our trip, a desire to touch upon what made us great to begin with.

A year of detailed planning was helpful but could never prepare us for the delights we shared upon our arrival in this ancient and elegant land. Our first glimpse of the countryside as we flew in was awe-inspiring. Pastures of emerald in every shade were delineated by miles of neatly-lain "dykes." These fences, as we know them, contain no mortar, but are boulders fitted together so precisely, they are solid. And so they remain for centuries, delineating one pasture owner's land from the next. From the air, each section seems divinely drawn. One field might lay fallow while the next is alive and bright green. Adjacent lies another just a shade lighter or darker. Trees are more sparse and often densely-grouped on the forested hillsides. Stark lines exist between them, as if God Himself gripped a paintbrush and decided which pasture neighbors a pristine and ancient patch of Caledonian pine.

Oregon offers a beautiful variety of conifers, but they are thicker in build. What we see daily hardly prepares us for the wonder that lies beyond. The pines in Scotland seem dainty in comparison, sparse in fact. Yet they retain an ancient grandeur when witnessed anew.

I had just one grand opportunity to venture into the forest on my travels upon the Isle of Skye. I discovered the going can be quite treacherous unless there's a sharply-delineated path. The dampness of the deep forest makes the going quite mucky. Each step required precise placement. I found my aging body merely-qualified for a tentative few steps into its stately magic. It was as if some ancient spirit told me to tread gently, that my presence there was a gift I must not take lightly. One misstep could have landed me in the hospital, and that would be a tragic footnote into this ethereal retreat.

Just 20 steps into its majesty, I had to stop and treasure the sights, smells and sounds of this intense patch of what I had always dreamed of. I stood there and listened. Present only was the wind in the branches, whispering the tales of ancient Scots who had herded, hunted and lived here. My soul was instantly filled with the peaceful serenity of an intense brightness enveloping its depths. Perhaps I was guided by ancestors who stood in that very spot, reveling in the beauty I beheld.

The music of Dan Fogelberg ran through my mind as the wind ruffled my hair and soothed my soul. My happiness at finally feeling the depths of a Skye forest enveloped me, grateful to have this opportunity it was overwhelming. I stood there transfixed, losing all sense of the ticking from my Timex. In fact, other than the breeze, its second hand was all I could hear. It was amazing, having been mired by the sounds of city life for years. My heart told me: STAY! My soul cried out that this was the solace I have longed for. My practical side be damned; I was on holiday, and rejoicing in the moment.

The intensity of writing this reduces me to tears of joy in remembrance. I can go no further tonight, my first back home. Hopefully, my initial reminisces are intense enough to describe the magic of this trip. There is much more to recall, and hopefully Deke will allow me a few more posts to describe a few more of these magical moments.

My body is exhausted from the daylong trip home. Only the incredible emotion from my initial memories, coupled with a desire to immediately express them upon our arrival, am I even remotely conscious now. It seems if I allow myself to sleep after 30-plus hours, the magic will escape forever. It's a feeling I am loathe to release.

Emotions flow as I recall the many magical memories I never fathomed possible. Twenty-five years prior, when my beloved promised me she would endure life with me no matter what hardships we faced, I offered her the same. We renewed this solemn vow of love for one another in an 18th-century cathedral in Edinburgh on September 24. Our experiences together are more precious than we could fathom on that hot Tucson afternoon in 1994. We raised three beautiful children together, and are rewarded with their love and great success today and far into our future.

While I promised Deke to describe this trip in detail, I failed because of one promise that remains precious above all: to fully rejoice in my time alone with Stacey Lynn Coomer, the one soul who understands, accepts and loves me despite my many faults. We deserved this, as one. Forgotten were my daily toils as a bus operator under horrid conditions. My desire to write was blown away by the promise to her that we would enjoy every precious moment of this Celtic Odyssey... together.

Just down the lane from Taigh Ailean Hotel on Isle of Skye.
Transit was used only as necessary, and my desire to connect with fellow transit workers was secondary to simple fun. Most important remained our renewed promise to enjoy our time as the best friends we began as so long ago. It was more than either of us imagined, and I believe my beloved Stacey feels as wonderfully satisfied as I do upon its completion. It is with a deeply-ingrained sense of understanding that I can firmly state that yes, she agrees. It was a divine slice of time together, and these memories will remain long after both have us have left this Earthly plane.

I leave you with this: may your days be blessed with the love and closeness with one as deep as that with which I share with Stacey Lynn Coomer. I would give my life for her in hopes that she lives to be 120, if only these two weeks guide her to take footsteps into lands we never ventured upon before. Also, I hope our magical time prompts you who read this to boldly travel beyond the comforts of your homeland. You will surely grow from such experiences. Ventures abroad remind us to be humble in the shadows of those who came long before. Our United States is grand, but it is a child compared to the lands of our ancestors.

Next time, if Deke continues to rest while I spout forth this spigot of incredible memories, I will step beyond the depths of emotion to describe the majesty of Scotland and our brief excursion to Dublin, Ireland. My mother's great-great grandfather emigrated from the Emerald Isle to Canada, and I am named for his grandson. It was ethereal to spend my birthday in James Strong's homeland.

Thank you for all your kind words and prayers for our safe return. They worked magic. Bless you all; I am humbled by your love. Now I must do laundry, refresh myself and prepare to return as one with a more-worldly view. Maybe now I'll become the bus operator I hoped to be when I began.

Peace and love to you all, and to those you love and hold you close in their hearts. Slainte!

With utmost respect,
Patrick Brian Coomer


Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Inverness!




Arrived at Inverness from Skye via rental car, train and taxi. Drank whisky and played billiards with a local truck driver Derek (he won... barely), enjoying a peaceful stay on Culloden Moor.

Have yet to ride a bus here but that comes later in our day. Will be paying our respects to those who so nobly fought for their freedom here 16 April 1746, then touring the city by bus. Will give fold up buses to drivers today, turning them on to Deke’s writing.

Met some guys from Vancouver, WA at the bar! They enjoyed a game of darts as we watched.

Enjoyed a steak and fries earlier, preceded by fried goat cheese and salad.

Up late doing laundry, drinking whisky since I’m a passenger here rather than a bus driver.

I have so much more to write but need to sleep! Stay tuned for more....




Monday, September 30, 2019

Ahh Skye, at Long Last We Meet!


Deke’s book now resides on Isle of Skye, Scotland! It was my pleasure to gift this book to our lovely host Katie at Taigh Ailean Hotel, for she has presided over our incredible stay here on this mystically wonderful day.

Began our day with a tasty traditional Scottish breakfast, then drove 25 minutes to the entrance of the Fairy Pools. A 20-minute hike led us to a magnificent compilation of wondrous sights, which will likely linger for my remaining moments. From there I dipped my feet and fingers into the western shoreline of the Atlantic, staring dreamily into the bright horizon.

Into a deep and dark forest I roamed, recalling the timeless words of Mark Twain, Rabbie Burns and other classic authors. My mind is but a whisper of the soul which inhabits this Earthly body, and my soul is more at peace than it has ever been.

At work, I try to blot out the constant noise; here, only silence interrupted by birdsong and breeze. I am so very much at peace, and extremely aware.

Nothing more need be penned...