BUSted!

On Sunday evening Isabelle and I went to BUSted!’s Third Anniversary at Stories Books and Café in Echo Park. BUSted! is a monthly storytelling show featuring “True Stories About Getting Around LA Told By People Who Don’t Drive.” It seemed like the perfect event for us, since we fall into the category of people who navigate Los Angeles without a car, plus we exchange stories of our weird encounters in LA, a rather startling number of which have taken place on buses or at bus stops.

We in fact had a little mishap attempting to get on the same bus to go to Echo Park, but all’s well that ends well: we ended up on the same 4, and though we arrived a little late, we hadn’t missed any of the stories. Stories Books and Café is another LA bookstore I’d wanted to visit for a while (like The Last Bookstore and Skylight Books), and now I’ve checked it off my list. It’s a long, narrow bookstore with a café in the back and a patio beyond; the show was on the patio.

BUSted! is hosted by Scott Schultz, who introduced each of the featured storytellers. Most of the stories were actually about bizarre experiences riding the bus, though there was some almost virulent anti-car spoken word and a reflection on how driving turns us into our worst selves while riding the bus inspires us to write poetry, among other things. Our favorite story was the one told by Horace, about (not) witnessing a crime on a bus and being rewarded for not telling the police anything with an invitation to what turned out to be a crack house. After the featured storytellers, members of the audience, both known and unknown to the host, got up to share stories, some of which were more to my taste than others. As I listened, I decided that some of my bus (stop) stories actually were good enough to share, were I the type to relate anecdotes to an audience of strangers. And I also found myself wondering what buses these people were riding (sometimes they would name the route, and sometimes they were routes I take!) because had never seen all these guns and drugs and whatnot. So much the better.

Between the two of us, Isabelle and I recognized two people in the audience from Alias Books. And one of them might have recognized us? The world can be small, even in Los Angeles.

After the storytelling, the Matthew Teardrop Orchestra performed. Their lead singer (Matthew Teardrop?) told some bus stories of his own while the sound equipment was getting set up. In one of them, he missed his stop because the back door didn’t open, possibly because no one had actually requested the stop (though people did get on and off). It was a long way to the next stop because it was an express bus, and Matthew was on crutches at the time, so he asked the bus driver if he’d just let him off between stops. The driver refused. Matthew acted like he was going to light a cigarette so the driver would have to kick him off the bus. The driver threatened to call the sheriff.

The music was nice (there was a violin!), and after the band’s set, the BUSted! host told one more bus story, about two guys who were spraying down seats with bug spray because they were convinced they’d gotten bedbugs from the last bus they’d ridden on.

After the show, we went back into the bookstore and browsed for a long while. Stories is small, but it has a nice selection. Eventually, we left to catch the 704 back to the Westside, and who should we meet at the bus stop but Scott the host and four other storytellers. Of course everybody was catching the bus. The host thanked us for coming and asked how we’d heard about the show; evidently we were recognizably new faces in the audience. Then the 704 came, and we went home without any BUSted!-worthy incidents.

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