"He's on vacation," I replied.
It was a question I've asked myself quite often these days. This alter ego has its difficulties. After nearly five years as a blogger, the well is running a bit dry. Looking back, I've done a lot more bitching than describing this transit life. Promising more than I've delivered, it seems. So Deke has been reflecting, trying to find the writer's niche he once hit upon with a vengeance. It has been difficult to find my voice again.
When I began, life as a bus operator was new. I was excited to describe what I saw, felt and learned. These days, nothing is exciting. It's all the same old droll scene, rolled into a collection of similar runs and monotonous days. Once you've learned a gig, it becomes second nature. People are who they will be, and they offer little in surprises after a while. The bus tends to drive itself, with the human touch keeping it out of danger's meandering path. My mind wanders a lot now. Although I'm constantly scanning, it seems automatic. This writer's muse will take over, but without a free hand to record thoughts, they come and go like a cloud's shadow rolling across the Willamette. Later, the idea will return, but it doesn't seem as noteworthy as it had before. If it sticks, I'll write it into my ever-present notebook. Once I touch the keys, it doesn't seem as poignant as originally imagined.
It could be that I'm such a Portlander now, that those amazing things I saw as a newbie no longer register as out of the ordinary. That really sucks. I'm the kind of person who enjoys finding joy in the simplest points of any view. Very little surprises me now, and that's unsettling. One reader told me I use "too many big words" when I aim high. That was an insult to bus operators everywhere, as if we're a bunch of simpletons who never read above a fourth-grade level. Many of my co-workers are highly intelligent, have been successful in other careers, or have driven bus for 20-30 years and soar intellectually above the average blue collar worker. I know operators who are so much smarter than I am, it's sometimes embarrassing to ask if they read my blog. But you know what? I've always written this way. As JuneBug said, I write the way I talk. If you don't like it, there's nothing I can write (or say) to change that. Life can often be a dog's butt cheek.
At this point, there's a lot of (self-induced) pressure to produce something that doesn't sound like I'm a grouchy bus driver. Producing my book was a serious lesson in humility. It made me cringe to read some of those early posts, but I kept their original flavor because this blog (and the book) was meant to chronicle the progression from trainee to hardened operator. My problem now is how to find things to write to soften that outer core. Driving the bus in difficult situations is no longer an issue. Handling difficult people remains a challenge, but nothing truly surprises me. As for picking on management, it seems to remain the same even when the faces change. Their attitude remains a constant, no matter how much I lambaste them. Resistance, as The Borg said, is "futile."
I'm sorry these posts have lately been so self-indulgent. I'm at a crossroads in my literary gig. Facing my 40th high school reunion, certain parts of my life have come up for review. This bloggery is but one of them. As I write this, I'm watching an Eagles concert from 1977. It was recorded when I was a testosterone-driven teenager busily cruising Main Street and finding every excuse to make out with my girlfriend. Back then, writing was fresh, and I knew it was what I wanted to do. Yet, in the scheme of needful things, it wasn't as important as getting laid, hanging with my buds, and contemplating a narrow path through the void. Nights back then were long, they were fun; today they are ordinary, and whisper past me like the voice of a long-dead friend. My life's days seem more pointedly numbered; back then, the moon was new. Now I look at our satellite with different eyes, even though it's remained the same while I've aged much more quickly.
"She wonders how life got this crazy. She thinks about a friend she knew in school. Did she get tired, or did she just get lazy? She's so far gone, she feels just like a fool." -- Don Henley and Glenn Frey
Yeah, I often feel like that Lyin' Eyes girl. If I've reached the pinnacle describing my job, then to continue could be construed as just hanging on. Not being able to describe this journey with anything but excitement and wonder might just bore you. It's a conundrum (sorry, big word there). Should I just lay off, wander on new word journeys, and visit here when I truly have something worthwhile to share? Maybe one of my new brothers and sisters could begin their own journal, take the baton and run with it. Perhaps a simple break is in order. I do have other writing projects on hold. Problem is, this blog has become such a part of me it's hard to let go. It seems however, that it's become more important to me than it has the readership at large. Hits are shrinking, interest is waning. Is this a hint that it's time for Deke to sail off into a rare yet brilliant Oregon sunset? I really don't want to, but there are more vital things I could do.
There is one blogger I really enjoy reading. Robert at BusTropical.org does a wonderful job describing exactly what driving a run feels like. You can almost smell the Florida coast and hear his passengers as you cruise along with his posts. He's been a great supporter of my blog, and wrote a nice blurb in the book. You should really check out his writing.
Mystery is a delicious tonic. I'll just remain anonymous as I sail with prevailing winds. Yeah, sometimes I tell people (with a wink and a smile, delivered with a Deke business card) who I am, and hope they read the book. Mostly, I just put out my best Tommy Chong voice and say "Yeah, I know that dude, maaan." Either way, it's been a fun ride, and I thank you all for sticking with me. Hard as it may be, it's time Deke saddled up. I'm sitting in a rut, and if I don't ride in a new direction, my steed could get stuck.
Linda Ronstadt has long been my favorite female vocalist. Not only have I always admired her impressive voice, but she was never afraid to break away from what people expected. She tackled different styles, explored avenues that interested her, and always excelled. Refusing to be typecast, she was a brave artist. If she failed to impress, it didn't bother her. The journey itself was more important to her than simply enjoying the view.
An artist is expected to branch out, to constantly improve. Now that I've had 215,000 hits and sold z-amount of books as a transit blogger, the time has come for me to find that elusive new groove. It's something I've put off for quite a while, but hangers-on never seem to move forward. Procrastination has always been my biggest fault. But my time is running shorter. I've always been one to push myself to unexpected limits, and I'm ready to (once again) take the road less travelled. I hope you have enjoyed this ride enough to follow wherever it takes me.
Peace be with you my friends, and safe travels wherever you roll. I'll be back, but for now it's time for a break.