Monday, October 3, 2016


195. HELP ME!
Vince Murphy was a local
Elmira TV personality; the
broadcast weatherman actually.
Each night. His day job was 
as the bus driver for the 
Elmira-Binghamton bus 
run. Maybe two trips, 
back and forth a day,
something like 80 miles
each way. He was a goof,
mispronouncing words all
the time. But he was fun to
watch because he was so
unshcooled  -  a map and a
pointer and a big bunch of
stupid weather stuff to try
and say. He never got 
through it correctly, ever.
After the big Hurricane Agnes
storm, in June '72, he was
suspended for going on the
air talking abut how, in the
clouds, during the storm, he
saw  -  I guess while driving
the bus  -  Jesus in the clouds,
and he knew everything would
turn out OK, eventually. He
sort of gave a homily of this
nature on the TV-weather cast,
and then was suspended and, 
I think, lost the job. The TV
job, not the bus driving It was
easy, the drive,  -  in a 
straight line, on Route 17, 
called now, 35 years later, 
the Southern Tier Expressway. 
I hate when they do that. 
It's Rt.17. 
The Elmira Bus Station was
one of my favorite things. I'd
see Vince there at 7:30 most 
mornings, boarding up his 
bus for a 7:55 takeoff; something
like that. He wore a cool blue 
driver's uniform, with a little 
cap and all. Had a little cigar
going, usually. He looked like
anybody's Uncle Vince, all 
rough and without polish. I'd
get there about 7:30, and there
wasn't much else open  -  there
was a Dunkin Donuts down by
the hospital about 8 blocks
away, but I never liked it. The
bus station coffee was some
terrible stuff, but it was like 
27 cents, in a gross Styrofoam
cup. The white room always 
had three or four castaways 
in it, a real dump. Folding chairs,
some ancient magazines, and
some bus company propaganda
sheets and travel mags too. 
A little later they got this bank
of six or so plastic, connected
seats  -  real junk  -  and the 
arm on each one had a TV
built into it, small but a TV.
You got like a half-hour for
a quarter, I think it was. Of
course, any of the lunatic 
town bums with a quarter 
would monopolize, sitting 
there forever and taking up 
these seats 3 or 4 at a time, 
watching TV, watching
stupid morning shows 
and stuff like it was 
Educational TV. Man,
what a crummy life  - 
paper bags, old sandwiches, 
horrible coffees  and 
cigarettes, the same crap 
each morning until 
the rest of the town 
started opening up. 
Then they'd hit the
streets like a posse, 
bums  on the move  
-  to the wienie stands, 
Texas Red Hots, M&M 
Red Hots, (Elmira had 
a bunch of chili  and 
soup places for whatever 
reason). Then to the
newsstands and even 
the porno store. It let
them hang around out 
front. Bank plazas, all 
that. The bus station was
grubby, which is why I 
liked it  -  no pretension, 
just tension. Across the 
street, from the old days, 
was this monstrous, and
incongruous granite post 
office, nearly a block long. 
(It's still there now, for 
rent  -  with maybe one
or two law offices in the
lower rooms on one end. 
For Chemung County 
business. The Post Office,
much smaller, has a new
building by the re-built
bus-terminal, as now called.
Back when that older post
office was built they really 
took grandiosity to another 
level, plus they were real 
serious about their 'Federal'
buildings and postal service 
things. Across the street, 
by comparison, this bus 
station looked like a
grease-pit car shack with 
some people huddling 
around. Especially in the
Winter  -  which it almost
always was, in Elmira. 
Vince Murphy had it 
easy, really all  he had 
to say for nine months
of the year was 'Incoming 
darkness and chance of 
snow' and he'd have it 
all correct. Forget that
Jesus in the Cumulus clouds
business. I never minded 
the guy bums, a nod and 
a shuffle. You knew they
were beat, already shot to 
hell. Once or twice though, 
there'd be a girl, or a female 
bum. That always hurt. I'm 
a soft-touch for others in 
need anyway, always wanting 
people to be right, feel good. I 
take up their causes, and really
feel for those I meet. The girl
bums bothered me  -  always 
dirty, with stained pants, old 
shirts. It was a little about sex, 
and I knew it, but it was a
sad scene for me nonetheless.
Girls are wonderful creatures,
gracious things, with plenty of
special features and feelings. It
would hurt me to think about
them, (I'm going to say it all,
so go away for a minute if 
not cool), blood-stained 
clothing, pants, having to 
worry about that, bras and 
stuff -  the kinds of things
that women usually get all 
dainty about, these girls couldn't. 
Their faces were early-haggard, 
sad and scared. Their hair was
horrid, teeth, eyes. Boy it hurt,
constantly felt for them. They
should be at home, where they'd
come from and where, hopefully,
someone could give them love 
and care. But, that's the way it 
was. They'd hang around there,
some of them just as coarse as
any of the guys. I hated that.
And then, people came and
went, small-time travelers
with bags and a case. Cheap 
suits. You could tell they
were definitely like 4th-class
travelers  -  like me when I'd 
take the NYC bus. Off-the-cuff
riders, on a dare.
Elmira, you see, kind of 
had nothing. All the industry 
was, mostly anyway, gone. 
What was hanging on  -  
Hilliard  Co., Kennedy
Valve, American LaFrance, 
were already troubled 
businesses. If you weren't 
set up right in little, old 
Elmira, there was nothing
but farms around it, and if 
you'd been bounced from 
any farm-family connection 
or inheritance  -  often by 
an older brother or two, a
family problem, whatever 

 -  you could easily end 
up here, a vagrant, lost,
in the Elmira bus station, 
just waiting for a break.
Back then there wasn't that
kind of social-net as exists
now, with assistance and
money and shelters. You
just took out, and made 
friends quickly, with 
the dirt. I saw it near
every morning.

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