only figuratively. not literally a flight. this one on a bus – the first greyhound trip longer than 2, but shorter than 70, hours i have taken in probably 8 years. and it’s not so bad, save for the apparent recklessness of the driver and wacky-shack suspension of the vehicle. i don’t believe she has slackened speed for a single ramp, off or on, and we are left with the feeling of teetering terrifically, perilously, seatbeltlessly, in a a hurtling mass casket. also we almost hit a transport truck. no bigs.
the 8th grader beside me asks “have you ever shot a real gun”? and proudly unfurls for me the poster-sized target of osama bin laden that he has at some prior date dutifully riddled with bullet holes, and now carries rolled up with his carry-on. it is more charming than you think. he’s bussing from Reno to Seattle, wants to play college ball, and i notice by discreet glances at his ipod that he is listening predominantly to mid-90s r&b.
they have a 25¢ ms pac man machine in the Reno bus station, and though i marvel at the anachronism, even if i didn’t have a marked disinterest in pac man (ms or original), i am warned away by the advice of a surly child – “Don’t put money in, these machines are a crook. They’re busted. I’m looking for the number so i can call someone.”
PIE FACE was pretty good. kind of a punks ‘n’ bros sort of place, which admittedly is not so much my sort of place, except that it means things like 2$ pints of BL during happy hour (hi kim), and lots of misfits on the jukebox (there is no actual juke box). they did have good pizza though, and the surprising option of made-to-order slices. in lieu of this, i opted for one of the specialty slices they had at the ready – The Sweet Pea (prosciutto, peas, red onion and basil), and Back Yard Chicken (rotisserie chicken, pepperoni, bbq sauce, red peppers, scallion, red onion). the former is well crafted and thoughtful, the latter a little sweet (bbq sauce, red onion and red pepper will do that). the crust is thin, and by its buckling suggests that these slices are at least partly prepared in advance and reheated to order, which is certainly better than heat lamp pizza. the slices are good-sized, although for two of them and a pint it cost me 14.69, which seems a little steep. i guess that in Reno everyone quadruples their money anyway, so it only makes sense.
for beer they have a half dozen or so on tap, and a decent selection of microbrews and regulars in the cooler. i note two Unibroues (cute), and something called FIXED GEAR, inspired by the extreme attitude of the bike courier. i settle on a can of something called Olympia, because it is only $1, which turns out to be a perfectly inoffensive and unremarkable lager. I don’t know whether it’s just the nice can that gets me, but i just feel like there should be more good cheap shitty lagers readily available. I can’t imagine it would make me drink any more or any less, but it would mean a little less exasperated sighing and stomping of feet emanating from the beer cooler. apparently the secret is in the water.
(whatever i am seeing of the california skyline right now is goddamn beautiful. i am officially pro-dusk.)
with my pizza i order a Great Basin Icky, whatever that is. i try to obtain some information from the staff and learn only that it’s “awesome.”
“what kind of beer is it?”
“uhh, hang on. (retreats to kitchen) Um, it’s an ale?”
“okay, is it like, hoppy, or kind of light or…”
“i don’t know, i really like it.”
fair enough. it’s a pizza place, not even a bar, really. and maybe it comes down to this – i’ve already noticed that microbrews are widely available throughout the city; from casino restaurants to corner stores, something local or semi-local is being hawked. so it occurs to me that in the midst of such ubiquity, the connoisseur spirit might have no reason to assert itself. for example, how involved a conversation do you imagine you could have with your local sports-bartender about the finer points of Coors vs. Canadian? personal preference and drinkability reign, the stock in trade of the mainstream beer market.
on the other hand, Pie Face clearly takes some care with their drinks – they have a decent selection of wine, nice glassware, and a rotating selection of beer on tap. one can be forgiven (can’t one?) for expecting the employees to have some handle on what it is they’re selling. admittedly, however, West Basin Icky remains a bit of a mystery to me even still – it is certainly drinkable, certainly a beer, and one that i enjoyed, but i couldn’t quite get a bead on it. maybe that guy, with his total analytic evasion, was on to something.*
there are moments in life when one gets the feeling that the pace of things is being artificially interrupted, that by one’s actions one is somehow moving just out of step with what should be the natural tempo, producing a dip or hiccup in a described arc. sitting curbside out front of the Reno bus station i found myself wondering whether i shouldn’t have taken a later bus. it would be a difference of only a couple of hours, but what could i have made of them? barely had i walked out of my last interview i was hot footing it out of town, and i couldn’t shake the feeling i was rushing something, missing something. i could take another bus, sit down and dangle my feet in the river that i had only just discovered (everybody uses the river as reference point in Reno, and somehow it didn’t occur to me to go take a look. it’s safe enough to swim in, people are swimming in it, right in the middle of town. i could have swam. i have goddamn swim trunks. i could have splashed around for a half hour in a goddamn river in goddamn Reno while on my goddamn working vacation.), chat with the barista at Java Jungle (next to what i can only assume is its sororal wine bar – Jungle Vino), maybe have gone for a mojito with that nursing student who i met on the bus. i trade this for what? an extra 4 hours in SF? an extra two hours of sleep?
i comfort myself, a coward’s comfort, with my old maxim from a more transient time: it is better to leave a place feeling like you shouldn’t. better to leave a place a little wistful, so it can live a little life in your mind, rather than drag yourself out with the sickening feeling that you have stayed to long. but this amounts to what? enshrining in a general principle that it is better to regret something that you didn’t do than something you did? better to keep something alive as a dream, a fiction, a fond remembrance, than potentially ruin it by actually seeing it through? better the one that got away? it is a rationalization made for gazing out a bus window, but that is cold. that is some cold shit.
whatever, Reno was making my nose bleed.
* turns out, after a gander at the Great Basin webpage, that “Icky” is short for “Ichthyosaur India Pale Ale.” so despite finding it a fine little beer, as an IPA named after a frigging dinosaur that is supposed to be “accented by a blast of cascade hops,” it falls a little short.