The Yellow Bus Boys Go Blue: Canada Bound

By Ron Shaw

Young adult, Action & adventure, Biography & memoir, Comedy & satire, General fiction

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3 mins


Chapter 1 “Smokestack Lightning”

When the witching hour hits and sleep dies, one’s mind can take total control of the 3 AM insomniac. On this particular early morning, my brain screamed, Think back George. Remember the Shenandoah Valley, Washington, D.C. and all the sites, the Smithsonian, the Naval Academy and time to pray, New York City, Radio City Music Hall, The Rockettes, Central Park, the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center, all those Yellow Cabs like ants below us, Chinatown, Little Italy, Times Square, the climb up into the brains of the Statue of Liberty. We abused that fair maiden from France. Montreal rules, little boys. Traveling deeper into the mountains of upstate New York and Rip Van Winkleville, the view down to the Pocantico River far below from atop the mountainous estate of either a Rockefeller fellow or another northern swell, the Niagara Falls, going farther north, always north to Canada and the changing of the guard, the Mounties’ outposts, Montreal, Expo ‘67 and lastly, the French section that looked identical to Paris, to me at least. What a trip!
We should have been tossed out of every state and province we entered. One was almost arrested at Niagara Falls, encroaching far beyond the barriers. I spit over the Niagara Falls. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police were not amused, and that’s not the half of it.
Oh, George Azar. This is going to be a marvelous adventure, again. Come with me now. Oh, I almost forgot. Never order a certain soda in Montreal or the French will go crazy.
It was 1967 and a great year to be a teenager in full throttle. Love was in the air, and the sweet, occasional whiff of Tabu or any other fine perfume of the day would make sixteen-year-old boys like me, slobbering crazy. We fancied ourselves as men then, but that wasn’t the truth. Boys can and do dream. I don’t think, whenever awake or in dreams, the girls our age didn’t perceive us to be men. They didn’t seem to want to cooperate with us, laboring night and day at being something, anything, other than a bunch of goofy, clumsy, Roosevelt High students. We wanted girls and plenty of them. I got none.
But, what the hell, another Roosevelt High School year was coming to an end, and my perfect attendance record remained intact the last weeks of the 1966-1967 high school campaign. With fingers crossed, I was going to make it to the tenth grade, and the ten-day paid vacation with the Warren Memorial Boys’ Club for my perfect attendance.
Once again, I could stand eating free lunches at McDonald’s for another ten days straight. I had suffered much worse indignities that school year. In fact, free lunches were without doubt one of the two top reasons why dragging myself each day to school was worth it. That’s right. I made it five days a week to Roosevelt High School that ninth-grade year. As long as they kept the free lunch cards coming, I’d continue making it to school with regularity. They didn’t realize the trouble that five-day, free lunch, punch card caused.
I have to advise you that to attend school was highly unusual for any self-respecting Capitol Homes boy. You’ll never appreciate all the hell I caught for simply going to school often or too much. It wasn’t good for business in the Homes. “Get with the team, you’re making us look bad,” the other, normal, Capitol Homes boys would order. I became a pariah, an extreme oddity, one to be closely watched. The regular Homes boys could no longer trust me, and I had worked for years, building that trust. We fought often because I knew where the school was and how to get there daily. We shared knuckles and blood on more than a few occasions due to my affinity for free school lunches. They witnessed me carrying books to and from school. This act alone sealed my dubious relationship with my community. If I didn’t move soon, I’d end up in a ditch gutted, bludgeoned, or shot. Maybe, all three since this act would be a civic function, if you will, a public service.
After all, not long after this school year, the assassin James Earl Ray had dumped his white Mustang on Connally Street in the Capitol Homes after assassinating Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis. It was huge international news. One of our beloved Roosevelt High School classmates and a veteran Capitol Homes warrior, Richard Bridges, first spotted the abandoned Mustang driven by the assassin Ray. Richard informed his Mom, and she called the police. The Capitol Homes made international news, and we were almost famous, well, infamous. The whole affair quickly became ripe fodder for the governmental conspiracy crowd. We were on the map, Richard Bridges watching the whole affair unfolding, sitting on the trunk of a black Cadillac parked near the white Mustang. The monstrous killer was long gone. He had melted into the Homes and beyond, more than likely, somewhere up Peachtree Street.
I’ve always told you, my friends, that the Homes was a dangerous place. So, believe and trust me because it’s a matter of record. Our fine, grammar school, Ed S. Cook was also all over the news. James Earl Ray chose our school, our lives, and our neighborhood to demonize. I can’t and will not hold this against Mustangs. They are wonderful cars.
For the second time since the sixth grade, I really didn’t know I was going to make it with perfect attendance for my ninth-grade year. Achieving the goal my seventh and eighth-grade years, I had two more wonderful, Florida vacations with our boys’ club under my alligator skin belt, courtesy of a dear friend, her large John Romaine pocket book, and the uncanny ability to cry on a moment’s notice if the security officers at the department store in Atlanta caught her before she made it to Peachtree Street. In those days, if they cried, store detectives would release the females with sticky fingers. They weren't so kind to the boys who were pinched. Apparently, someone, not of the rocket scientist community, had decided to construct the Capitol Homes within a comfortable walking distance from downtown Atlanta, and to think, some people say I’m dumb.
So far, things were going well for me in the ninth-grade, with only a couple of weeks remaining in the school year. The last ten days would be close to impossible to make, due to circumstances completely beyond my control. They became the ten days of misery that could kill another ten days of fun to somewhere in the United States, but rumor had it we were traveling to Canada this summer.



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