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'Gotta Represent' Adventures on the Light Rail: A transgender individual named Temple joins us on our standing-room-only train, and I notice Temple is wearing little earrings shaped like...handcuffs! I compliment Temple on the clever earlobe decoration, and Temple says, "Thanks! I gotta represent the 'kink' community!!" Fair enough. "And my outfit represents ME!",Temple explains. Then Temple adds, "I just wish I had my A's hat!" What does the A's hat represent? "Well...who else??The OAKLAND A'S!!"
Of course.

Adolescent Chaos Adventures on the Light Rail: Our peaceful, Monday morning transit ride is thrashed into loud reality by 75 junior high-ers from Sutter Middle School, on their way to a Capitol field trip. Train journeys by students are pretty predictable for me, by now - the giddy anticipation as they board the train, some of them for the first time in their lives; the screams and squealy giggles... (even from the boys) as the train lurches forward and they all fall into the aisles and onto each other. Oh, the humanity. And then the train car becomes a playground for 10 minutes. I am still comfortably enjoying my ride, however, because no middle schooler with a t-shirt and a backpack really wants to sit next to a strange, middle-aged, bearded guy in a coat and tie.

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'Are We There Yet?' Adventures on the Light Rail: There's a power outage on the rail line east of town, and so now there's a crowd of us shoved together like refugees in this one random train that we're all lucky enough to have caught before it left for downtown. In front of me is the guy who is talking to/arguing with his reflection in the train window, next to me is the guy who has selecte...d the 'misogynistic channel' on Pandora and is playing it nice and loud 'cause he knows we'll love the music and lyrics. But my favorite is the guy who just saved a woman from falling on the floor when the train car lurched forward, and now keeps reminding her that he 'saved her life,' and now thinks he'd like to get to know her better as a person. A Tuesday that feels like a Monday on public transit...

'I've-Seen-You-On-Here-Before-Let's-Have-a-Conversation' Adventures on the Light Rail: 'Trevor' randomly sits down next to me with his bike in tow, and proclaims, "I've seen you on this train before - you ride the train!" Not sure where this conversation is going, I respond, "I DO! I DO ride the train." ...And with that assurance of my daily transit use habits, Trevor proceeds to weave me through his life story, about how he's a recovering meth addict and now God tells him ev...eryday to stop buying meth for his girlfriend, and use the money to buy 'healthy groceries,' and that he pays attention to the serial numbers on the dollar bills he uses to buy groceries, and that nowadays he does what God says, because, he affirms, "...I believe in the Bible, even tho I'm a dope fiend! Well, here's to being sober! See ya later!" And off the train he goes. Friends, you never know which stranger's life path you are going to cross...especially on the Light Rail.

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Catalogue Conversation Adventures on the Light Rail: The lady commuter next to me is silently browsing through a Crate & Barrel catalogue, when, at one point, she motions to me and points to one of the pages and says to me "they're having a sectional sofa sale and I can't decide on which material or which color. Can you help me make a choice?" Uh...sure! So we peruse the page of seasonal sectional sofas and 'agree on' a beige leather piece with a pull-out ottoman. She is satisfied with her selection and I know I would enjoy sitting on it, if only because I helped pick it out.

Blush & Bearclaws Adventures on the Light Rail: Once again, impressed by the agility and artistry of women who put on makeup while riding on a rolling, jolting and gyrating train. What precision it takes, against the transit odds! This morning's powder picassa is applying her paints while balancing a cell phone, purse...AND a long, thin box of Safeway doughnuts! The box seems to make a great table for her mirrors and compacts. I would normally make the awkward joke that her efforts are giving her a 'glazed' look, but that pun would be considered 'old fashioned.' Haha.

'Hello Dolly' Adventures on the Light Rail: Watching with amusement - and a little bit of shock - the middle-aged lady across from me who has a Barbie doll on her lap, and is running her hands thru Barbie's hair and then YANKS out a lock of the hair and puts the hair strand in her bag! She does it again and again. Barbie is almost bald, now. I know it's a doll, but I wince a little everytime she yanks the locks out of Barb's scalp. This is bizarrely fascinating to observe. The angry look on her face when she pulls it out scares me a little, too. I keep thinking of Sid, that crazy next-door kid in the first 'Toy Story' movie.

Baggage in the Relationship Adventures on the Light Rail: I notice that there is a stuffed, nylon backpack under the train seat, at my feet. I ask the guy next to me if it's his - he shakes his head, mouths the word 'hers,' and points to the older lady sitting across from us. I start to move my legs and pick the bag up, but the lady puts her palm out and says, "Leave it there. It's full of my ex-husband's stuff - his clothes and his papers. I don't want to see them anymore an...d I'm just gonna leave it there when I get off and someone else can take it or throw it away." The guy and I exchange surprised glances. Oh. Well, ok. And sure enough, the lady gets off at 39th street, and there the bag still sits, under my seat. Last remnant of an abandoned marriage, now abandoned itself. In order not to mess with 'the prime directive,' I'm just going to leave it here when I get off. Maybe a single lonelyheart will find the bag later, open it, be intrigued, track the ex down, and meet the man of her dreams. Or it will sit in the RT lost-and-found for a year. The storyline can go either way.

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'Game Boy' Adventures on the Light Rail: This early train home today finds me in the company of a super-focused video gamer, who, as he plays intently, with fingers jockeying on his PSP keyboard, gets so maniacally furious with himself for his apparent bad moves that he repeatedly yells at himself and HITS himself on the HEAD when he deploys a bad move. "Gawd!," he exclaims, "I'm such an idiot!" <WHAP> "I SUCK at this game!!" <WHAP> The train just stopped suddenly, and he just yelled at the train to "STOP STOPPING!!!" Video games - the ultimate stress reliever.

'Don't Do As I say or Do As I Do' Adventures on the Light Rail: The angry mother with the two little kids in the seat across the aisle is verbally berating her little ones more than any abusive mother I've witnessed in a while ("Sit your little a-- in that seat! SIT down! SHUT up!"). Right next to me sits a young mother-to-be, visibly pregnant, taking in all of the domestic drama near us. She watches solemly, and then whispers to me, "I'm NOT gonna ever treat my babies like THAT. NEVER." Wise choice and decision, my dear...

'He Says He's a Sk8ter Man' Adventures on the Light Rail: Love the uncanny, Monday-morning-sight of the guy on the train in the sharp-looking, 3-piece suit and tie and polished loafers...and skateboard! He gets off at 65th street, dons his RayBans, climbs aboard his board, and off he glides to the day's meetings and power lunches. Tony Hawk is IN the office!

Slumber Amidst the Chaos Adventures on the Light Rail: Surrounded by the dancing-in-the-aisle teenagers and all the bikes and the guy with orange sherbert hair fighting with his girlfriend on the cell phone...there sits, quietly, a mom and her young son, fast asleep next to each other in the seat, after a busy day. A gentle, oasis of family love, mercifully oblivious of the human sea.

'Universal Languages' Adventures on the Light Rail: 'Dan' stands next to me in the train aisle, telling me how he just got out of prison, where he kept busy making funeral caskets -"Ya know? The things they put dead people in, right?," he clarifies - and he boasts that while incarcerated, he also learned...German! "Yo tengo mucho hombre," Vin says proudly, rubbing his stomach. "Me gusta comida!" <pause> "Well actually," I say hesitantly, not wanting to burst his bilingual bubble, "It sounds like you learned...Spanish!" He stares at me, puzzled. "Spanish?? The ***ing guy told me he was teaching me ****ing GERMAN! I'm not doing German?!?!" I shake my head. He smiles. "Well, I still think it sounds like German, but you're really cool for warning me! No ****ing wonder!"
Danke shoen, Dan. Y de nada.

'Reversal of Fortune' Adventures on the Light Rail: The lady next to me seems to be engrossed in a 'self quiz' on how to become a 'better' tarot card reader, and provide 'entertainment and presumed guidance' to her friends and the public. Hmmm...Looking over her shoulder, I see she seems flummoxed on a question about the difference between the 'Ace of Pentacles' card and the 'Page of Pentacles' card. I'd be flummoxed, too. One would think she could discern the answers to the quiz thru the Tarot Cards, but that's just my own ignorance talking. And that's probably why she's taking the quiz. ...Oh, and there apparently is a tarot card reading 'app' you can download to make it easier to do readings on the fly. Amazing!

'Pajama Game' Adventures on the Light Rail: A little old man got on earlier, dressed only in a t-shirt and pajama bottoms and socks. He sat on the seat for a while, gyrating and sashay-ing to his 'inner music' - then all of a sudden he jumped up, started to rush to the train door, tripped on his pajama bottom cuffs...and his pajama bottoms dropped to the floor. Dear sweet lawdy. There he stood in the aisle, in his 'half-nakedness,' grinning. A few women nearby flee the seats. He finally 'pulls up'...and gets off at the next station. Oh my. It's gonna take a lot of time - and maybe a little therapy - to erase THAT mental image! You're welcome for me not posting a photo. LOL.

'Free Speech' Adventures on the Light Rail; Our 1st Amendment Rights are in fine form on this Monday morning, as I'm joined in my seat by a guy wearing a 7UP visor and carrying a clipboard. This angry petitioner has now railed loudly for nearly 20 minutes, in monotone, without stop, about every consipracy theory known to humankind - how 'Obama and the Pope are overthrowing America,' how 'Nelson Mandela doesn't exist and it's just a mannequin in that South African hospital...'. Etc., etc. Wow. What drama. He's taxing the patience of everyone around our seat, and, in fact, one other guy just got up and yelled "WHAT IS THIS?? ARE WE ON THE CRAZY TRAIN???" He then walks to the door and yells back, "I blame REAGAN!!" Meanwhile, angry petitioner still conspiring... God bless America.

"Please Drink Responsibly" Adventures on the Light Rail: 'Jerome' has more opinions on his mind than teeth in his mouth, but it's fun hearing his stories. He says he finally stopped drinking earlier this year, because he has evidence that when he gets drunk, the government tries to infiltrate his mind and use him to take over the country!! "I love my beer, but I love my freedom even more," Jerome delares. Amen. Cheers, Jerome! <clink!>