THE RIDE COMES WITH STORY

“You meet the nicest people on the bus.
It’s the truth – but that’s not all.

“It doesn’t matter about how nice they are
or why there’s even a bus.
What matters
is that YOU are not behind the wheel
stuck to your cell phone,
or your extremely dull repetitive
agonizing tortuous simple thoughts,
or the distracting ambient hum-jumble
of perpetual unsolvables.

“And it doesn’t even need to be a bus.
It could be any transpo,
any, as long as YOU aren’t driving.

“Driving enslaves.
Passengerism liberates.

“Under the sort of unwritten code of the West,
except on Mount Hood
where it’s the code of the mountain,
you see someone who needs help
and you help.
I think ‘humanity’ is a word that applies here.”

…with Ben it happens.

“A guy picked me up
thumbing down from Government Camp.
He was 81 in ’09, be 84 now, 25 years my senior.
Obviously never smoked.
You can’t be an 81 year-old ski bum and smoke.

“He was a German.
Anton Schmidt, the only WW II vet
I’ve ever talked to;
and he was on the ‘other’ side.
By 1945 the German army
was taking anyone with a pulse
and they conscripted Anton Schmidt, age fourteen—
and his dad, age 45.

“Anton was in a mountain division
which is how he learned to ski.
(Give them Nazi-ass bastards credit –
they gave Anton skiing lessons!)

“In the spring of 1945 Adolph H. suicides himself,
so Anton’s military career will be brief.

“Anton’s war experience is miraculous:
he comes off the mountain, on skis,
to get his next assignment.
He is told orders aren’t ready yet;
go home for the weekend
and report for duty on Monday morning.

“He follows orders. And when he gets home,
damn if his dad isn’t there:
some back-wood town in the Bavarian Alps.
…and here is where this story gets unbelievable screwy
and why I’m telling it to you.

“The British army captures his town that very weekend
and his war, all sixty days of it, is over.

“His whole family made it through
that debacle completely unscathed.
He said he never sheds a tear
for old Adolph,
or for national socialism.


“His name wasn’t really Anton Schmidt,
but I know who he really is.
The dude was an engineer.
Did some of the work on the Fremont bridge…
our bridge, our old sleep-under bridge.

“Be seeing you…
…then tell me your story.”

 




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