Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Maynard Soloman takes the bus

Benjamin Sobieck may be the great American urban author, at least when it comes to that part of American urban life led, willingly or unwillingly, on buses and subways, especially at night.

I use public transportation, and I've worked evening for years, so I had a certain sympathy with Sobieck's story "Maynard Soloman Takes the Bus to a Strip Club," and not just for its opening line: "A gas station corn dog is the only thing in life that won’t lie to you."

No, I like the story for its gritty, no-bull urban realism:
"I tromp to a bus stop a block away. I hope my old saying about public transportation isn’t still true:
“`Public transportation is great unless you have to use it.'
***
"I flip a shiny nickel to the bus driver and scoot down the aisle before she can say anything. She can keep the change, see. I lug around enough loose coin already.

"The place is gal-damn packed. Smells worse than I thought, too. Like old fish reheating on a car radiator. Could be whatever that one guy over there is eatin’ outta that gun boat. Shit, that smells something awful.

"But it don’t smell half as bad as how that abomination on that other guy’s face looks. It could have its own Social Security number. Next to him is a gal looking ready to chuck a dummy.

"Oh, and have a look-see over there. It’s another road sister reading from a Bible. Loudly. I hear every other word, because some jackass with a boombox has this horseshit thug music at full volume. The thing cuts in and out. Either that or he’s listening to the edited version. I can’t tell.

"Still, a boombox? This freak musta hopped on in 1985 and never got off.

"Seems to be the state of most of the human wreckage in here. This bus, it isn’t taking them anywhere. They’re already here. This is the cheapest hotel in town."
Read my first rave about Sobieck and his noble, dyspeptic protagonist.

© Peter Rozovsky 2012

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13 Comments:

Blogger Dana King said...

Ben's a good writer and a class act. Maynard is a clever way of slipping in some social commentary without beating you about the head and shoulders with it, and adding some humor besides. These are excellent stories.

July 10, 2012  
Anonymous I.J.Parker said...

Ditto!

July 10, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Dana, his social commentary works because it's not sentimental or doctrinaire in the least. The stories' politics are liberal in the American sense, but a passage sucg as the one I quoted here might well offend purer, more doctrinaire liberals of the sort who would never be on the bus wiht Maynard.

July 10, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

To I.J.: Ditto.

July 10, 2012  
Blogger Benjamin Sobieck said...

Mother of Lucifer, Peter you're making me blush under my beard.

Maynard doesn't have a political agenda. He doesn't play right or left, although you could find either if you wanted to look for them. In a way, I learned this from being a journalist. You learn to write the line between either point-of-view, then watch everyone get mad at you.

In journalism, this is known as "a sign you got it right."

July 10, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

He calls 'em as he sees 'em, does he?

No, rolling one's eyes at wretched human jetsam has no politics, of course, but if such descriptions as Maynard were to appear on the editorial or op-ed page in my newspaper, cheers would likely come from the right and howls from the left -- the reverse of what would likely happen if we printed his occasional remark about being forced to keep working because he lacks health insurance or an adequate pension.

July 10, 2012  
Blogger Benjamin Sobieck said...

It's no coincidence that Maynard's health and retirement problems (bait for the left) were birthed from a career as a hippie-hating cop enforcing strict social controls in the "Obscenities Division" (bait for the right).

The tendency to view political issues in the US as only liberal or only conservative doesn't reflect the realities of most people's lives. That's just too simple, and exploring the paradoxes created is part of Maynard's MO. I'm thinking of a sign I saw that read, "Keep Your Government Hands Off My Medicare." Like that. Only spread out across an entire society and debated to death. We're all hypocrites.

Unless you're Al Gore or Donald Trump. Then you can afford to put your lens on everything.

P.S. Dana writes way better stripper scenes than I do.

July 10, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

That's an enticement to read Dana, and maybe compare his stripper scenes to those of Roger Smith, whose Capture I read recently.

I would blame no one in the United States for keeping his opinions to himself. It is all too easy for an opinion of any strength or eloquence at all to be co-opted by what passes for right or left.

It would be easy to guess that you made Maynard a Western-style outsider, so he could comment on everything and everybody.

July 10, 2012  
Blogger Benjamin Sobieck said...

You'd guess right. The thing about critical outsiders, though, is that they expose their faults by showing up in the first place. More paradoxical fun!

The next installment may be a collaboration with another author and set in Canada. Now there's some outsidership for you.

July 10, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Maynard is hard on himself as he is on others, so I believe that.

There's some outsidership, not to mention a guessing game about who the author is and the potential for jokes about draft dodgers skipping for Canada.

July 10, 2012  
Blogger Benjamin Sobieck said...

And people leaving the US for Canada because of the SCOTUS decision on the health insurance mandate.

July 10, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

But back in the ficitonal world, folks leaving for Canada becayse of the Supreme Court decision is a delicious field for comedy.

July 10, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

(One or two folks with dual citizenship heading the other way when they don't want to wait in line for an operation, perhaps? That does happen in real life.)

July 10, 2012  

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