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Well of the Damned #1
Diridon Station Thru-Bus Stop, San Jose, California: April 26-27, 2023
© 2023 James LaFond
Twas Wednesday.
Vaxx Zombie took me to two San Jose sports bars, very loud media infused venues. If not for the conversation crushing volume of the music, I could have stayed at the one place, lots of happy tail end Ghost Boomers and Gen-X yetis having a good guilt free time, shooting pool and yelling. The second place was inhabited by a stern matronly barmaid who told one patron that she was going to punch his lights out. Then, a short, bearded Gen-X Eastern European man came up to us and asked if he could get his picture taken between us. He seemed to think I was a B-movie villain. We got the hell out of there and Vaxx Zombie said, “That’s the guy, your Deep State handler!”
Mr. DeGualle treated me to Jamaican food, a third beer, and then took me to his slot apartment to view fight videos. He works early in the morning, so I had him drop me off at the station at 10:30. The last buses arrive their at Midnight and my thru-bus was rolling in at 4:30. It was thankfully not cold, as I had left my windbreaker at a Mexican goat meat eatery. He helped me on with the pack, shook my hand and we parted ways.
Diridon Station is the outer hub for the Sunny Valley Transit Authority, one of the best bus systems I have used. The main hub is on the other side of San Jose, where I had ended up by accident that past Sunday. Caltran light rail trains, massive light rail trains, run here until midnight, then the gates are closed. Amtrak runs here until 10 PM, then the building is closed.
The building was closed, but an extensive seating area, outside under a 60 by 40 foot low roof, sheltering a ramp down into the tunnel that takes you under the tracks, offered some shelter. As one sits facing the ramps down to the tunnel, a row of kiosks and ATMs and actual working pay phones face you. To the left is a maintenance shed and janitorial closet under the Amtrak tower through which people might walk and disperse to the lots.
A janitor and a maintenance man, make their rounds. I and one other passenger were there, he, a middle aged Latino with no English, with luggage, waiting for the 11:30 thru-bus, me for the 4:30. The young bearded maintenance man in his yellow safety vest advised the fellow, “Tres, tres,” pointing out past the open gate to the lot, and then said to me, “This is open until Caltran stops running, then you want either bus stop 2 or 3 on this first run, right out the door and straight ahead to the left.”
He disappeared into one of the locked doors.
An insane person screamed in the tunnel, constantly. I could not tell what sex it used to be. The shrill, cackling was punctuated by variations of the F-word and bitch, barked in various bitter and unsuccessful attempts to sound human. Every half hour a good 60 Caltran passengers ushered through the tunnel and past us.
A young black fellow, dressed like a criminal, asked me politely for directions and I let him know that I was lost and passing through. He nodded respectfully and turned to a kiosk.
The benches were very old and comfortable wooden construction, polished by myriad butts.
The zombie fiend below screamed, and ranted, cussed, barked and shrieked, his misery echoing through the low ceilinged area.
A 30-something, small, black janitor rolled by with a bucket to go mop up some zombie juice in the tunnel. The thing below shrieked in offense of its dignity as the mop bucket could be herd being rung. The janitor returned and, ignoring the Latino, looked at me, nodded in respect and shook his head, indicating that the zombie would be here with me all night.
A once cute, now frightening 40-year-old Blacktina, sat between us and asked us each if we had a light, holding a smoke in her dark fingers. She wore, over leather sandals, faded blue jeans under a long one piece, tight fitting pink terry cloth pull over. We did not smoke, which shocked her. I would find, over the course of the remaining five hours, that her smokeless plight was the most common affliction of the homeless in San Jose, that they have something to smoke, but nothing to light it with. From my 8 hour stay inside in October, I was familiar with this set of homeless being refugees from more violent version of their kind. All of the homeless here had seemed mentally ill, from mild to screaming zombie. But none struck me as dangerous. I could not imagine them surviving long among the tweakers of Oakland, Emmeryville or Portland.
The thing in the tunnel kept screaming as the dark smokeless smoker walked off. After a half hour, I decided to go out to the bus stops and away from the insanity. The Latino man followed me.
To the right was a sidewalk that had benches and bike racks wrapping around to the Amtrak pick up lot. This faced the massive Sunny Valley bus lot, empty now except for a few of the last buses of the night, lit up and waiting or pulling off back to the main hub, banking left, and then right, out onto what becomes Barrack Obama Drive. Each bus # has a shelter, the typical open rectangular shell of the east. These all face out on that drive and the large anonymous buildings built in postmodern dreer there. The sidewalk with its back to the train yard, separated by old wrought iron fencing, is were the three stops for Thru-Buses are. These stops have longer and wider wooden benches in them.
On the far side of the shelter for Bus 1, are some homeless tents and grand tarps. I do not pass shelter one, but back away to a bench, with its back to the fence, next to an aluminum shell and pay phone. I can sit on this wooden bench with my back to my ruck and the ruck against the side of the pay phone. It is astounding that these things are still commissioned. It is cool, so this keeps my old chilly feet off the concrete and covers my back against the people coming up out of the Caltran tunnel behind.
The Latino with his luggage asks, “Tres?”
I answer with one raised finger and point down to stop #3, just past the homeless tent and the big sneakered feet of a fat homeless man. He cringes and indicated via sign that he would like to stand near me and did I mind. I gave him a tolerant nod and pulled up my hoody.
Caltran, with a cadent ring of bell, pulled up again behind us as the last buses pulled off in front. The four lane street was now a parade of fancy cars playing Mexican music, packed with well dressed Mexicans in younger years signing various songs. Well dressed Mexicans, mostly in male/female pairs, the men in suits the women wearing glitter skirts and scanty halters under their shimmering black hair, came to the trains from the direction of the cars.
One couple sat behind me on the concrete deco wall while she ate a plate of food, in which she lost interest, taking it over to the trash can in front of me in the bend of the curb, and placing it on top as they left, holding hands.
The train pulled off.
The crowd that had offloaded dispersed.
The gate closed.
The last buses left.
The party sedans thinned out on the great processional way.
A jet lifted off mere hundreds of feet over the third row of miserable bright buildings ahead to the right.
From the left, that half darkness of decorative shrubs and trees and a hilly lawn, emerged a slight gaggle, perhaps a half dozen, of people:
Two young, stoner homeless men in hiphop wigger wear and school back packs, appearing 30, with the blond one wearing a shirt as a do rag. They were not together, but of a kind.
A tall woman wrapped in a blanket and a small slight woman draped in trash bags, not together, but of a kind, both short of hair and homely, but not dyke-like.
Two women, one small, one immensely fat and in a scooter chair, both with leashed dogs, not together but of a kind. They could be mistaken for Amtrak passengers. The fat woman had a cart with luggage towed behind her scooter chair. The small woman had a back pack and two wheeled suit cases.
These people were frantically speeding for night camping berths, repurposing Diridon Station on the cusp of midnight.
Then came the black urban drifter, a tall, dark, glossy-skinned fellow about my age, in sneakers with a torn gray windbreaker with hood and a gray hand bag, come to stand ten paces from me, and give me nod of respect as he put his back to the concrete deco wall.
Then came a cute black girl of some 25 years, her Aunt Jemima destined curves draped in a flowered dress and wearing many scarves and a shawl, of florid patterns, her hair her own and picked out into a pleasing semi-afro curl. She walked in clogs and had very large and active—even seeking—eyes.
The 11:30 bus pulled up, at 11:43 down the way and the Latino man nodded to me and headed towards it, a dark and pleasingly quiet bus with a hydraulic quality about it.
Pinky Backtina emerged again, asking for a light, as if she had never asked me before and hurrying along as the screams of the damned in the tunnel could still be heard, if muffled, from behind the now closed doors to the train yard.
The stage is set for the strangest night of this hobo life.
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Ruben     Dec 25, 2023

Fascinating facts here. I used to live near the E-ville Amtrak stop ... or the Berkeley one, just a bench under the freeway back then. No crack heads there yet, back then.

What an adventure you're on and what a pity I can't share it personally.

Best wishes for the new year for you and yours, and Lynn and hers.

You're on a mission from Gawd!
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