I was pretty tired from yesterday’s bike ride, but after taking Rhoda up to campus for some work this morning, I got excited to get back on the new bike for another zippy ride, this time downtown to meet D. to head over to Warren Easton High School for opening night of the Patois Film Fest and the documentary film Freedom Riders. I thought I was racing D. on my bike, her in her Mini Cooper, but she informed me that I was the only one racing–not the first time I’ve heard that one. The movie was really, really good. Civil rights history is sometimes recounted in classrooms as if it’s ancient history, like desegregation was a simple question of one person refusing to sit at the back of the bus. This movie captured just how intense and dangerous and brave a project that was, and, as the speakers who stayed behind to talk about their experiences as freedom riders made clear, it’s not a project that’s complete. I thought about this as I made my way back Uptown, passing the Greyhound Bus Terminal pictured here, at Loyola and the Pontchartrain Expressway. Most town have bus stations, and for many of us, they’re just a way station. I remember taking the bus from New York to Memphis with S. back in college, and that long layover in Birmingham. Just a bus station for me, but a public place with so much public and private history. I don’t know much about this bus station, but I do know that today, it’s a public place only for those who look like they don’t need its bathrooms or seats. The entryway is lined by folks sleeping on cardboard boxes, using the overhang for some kind of protection. There are different battles going on at the bus station now, but it remains a site of political and social negotiation and struggle. I turned up my music and raced up Simon Bolivar, thinking about how we balance the ugliness of our world with the pleasures of, say, sliding through perfect nighttime air on smooth asphalt without universalizing either one. I love riding up and down Simon Bolivar at night, but as my shadow pulsed in police lights twice on that two mile stretch I was reminded, as always, that public space most certainly isn’t public in the same way for all of us. No, not at all.
Greyhound, the road trip from the place you didn’t want to be to the place you’d never been, diesel fumes and 3am and too far till breakfast with too little sleep, and a thousand stories stuck inside a rolling metal carnival (the kind with rusty rides and rigged games, not the fat tuesday kind)(although maybe a little of that, too).