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Chicagoetry: The Magic Bus


For Roger Ebert

Cue: Aaron Copland's
"Fanfare for the Common Man"...

I first heard it
On "Love You Live"
As the intro music
For the Rolling Stones

On their '75
And '76 tours.

The theme was already
In my head.
I'd spent my 52nd birthday
In Naperville,

With my family,
Staying at my mother's,

And she digs
That tune, and it
Was in her car CD
For the two days

We hung out.

My mom: here's me
Using my forefingers
To make a "square"
In the air.

She's a triumphantly
Unabashed square.
But I'm glad that tune
Got stuck in my head.

As I prepared to hop the Metra
Back to Harlem Avenue
In Berwyn (I HEART
Harlem Avenue in Berwyn!)

The Twitterverse announced
The death of Roger Ebert.
It really struck
A note in me.

We'd known he'd been sick
A long time now, but fucking
Cranking out the superlative work
All along.

Fighting cancer, lost
His goddam jaw, couldn't even EAT
For some years now.
He'd just announced a recurrence

Of the cancer
But said he would merely take
"A leave of presence."
Poetic enough for me!

But if, like me,
You watch the right
Morning TV news,
The residence doc noted that Roger had said

He wouldn't fight anymore.
Hats off to him.
It was my birthday
So I had gone home to see my mom,

But just this past Easter Sunday,
Her best friend had died, nearing 85,
Having refused dialysis in the last
Couple of weeks

After a slow decline
That included a recent breaking
Of her hip.
These last few weeks

Had been especially harsh.
But now she was free.
She'd decided
Not to fight anymore.

Hats off to her.
Birthday aside,
I was glad to be there
For my mom,

As she had been
For me
In this circumstance
Too many times.

The Twitterverse
Was abuzz,
Tributes coming in from

My phone chirped again
And it was my boy Rod
Out in L.A., noting the loss,
Sad for the news.

Back in the '70s
And '80s, he and I
Would rarely venture out
To the theater

Without grabbing
A Sun-Times to see
What Roger was raving about,
Good or bad.

I would say
"Good, bad or indifferent,"
But Ebert was never

Not only in the newspaper,
But also on television.
Let's don't forget the role
He and Gene Siskel played

In revolutionizing
The medium in terms
Of evaluating, in depth,
The movies of the day.

So I'm off the train
At Harlem Ave. when
Rod's text message
Comes in.

We loved Ebert,
As we love the Stones,
Rarely missing them.
They're still kicking it.

Then, the Harlem Avenue bus
Pulls up.

The double doors open
And I step up in.
"Hi!" says the middle-aged male
Driver, startling me

"307 bus," he says,
"Going all the way north." Wow!
"Sounds good to me," I reply.

Having only solid singles
I ended up paying
An extra quarter for my ride
And he goes

"Need a transfer?" JESUS!
"No, man, I'm good. Thanks."
And, lo and behold,
As we begin to head north

Towards my crib
In Oak Park,
Is not only

Calling out the stops
On his mike, regardless
Of the now-ubiquitous
Plasticene Porter-

Computer voice
Calling out the stops,
But noting significant
Destinations at each stop,

Including the CVS (!),
"open 24/7!", the Catholic church,
The post office and
And the McDonald's

For Cry Fucking Pete!

And he also calls out
To ask if anyone would prefer
To get out on the south end
Of the intersection

Rather than crossing over
To the official bus stop
On the north side.
This guy is KNOCKING ME OUT!

Sometimes you get this
On a CTA train, old-timers
Calling out the stops and the
Nearby destinations:

"Metra, Amtrak, Greyhound...
Daley Center, City Hall, County Building..."
These guys kill me
And make me want

To write a poem about it.
Then it fades.
Rarely, though, do you get it
On a bus.

But this Pace driver
Was at the right place
At the right time
In my vale of tears.

I mean that literally,
Too, because news of
Roger Ebert's death
Struck a note in me

And I know well
Enough by now
That it's just that last hit
Which brings on

All kinds of other,
More personal stuff
Banging around in my brain,
More personal hurt

I'm "bravely"
Stuffing back down
In order to "stay cool."

Going home to Naperville

Is wrought enough with
Emotional hazards, as going
Home is
For any of us,

And this Great Man's
Passing, after a long,
Truly brave and public

In the meantime
Kinda finally
Brought it all out,
The hurt we all carry

Every goddamn day
As we fight
Keep kicking it out.

But just often enough
To be almost annoying,
Every once in a great while,
The Bus gets Magic.

When my time comes,
I'll fight like
A motherfucker
But then

Y'all gotta
Let me go.
Like my mom's great friend
Lillian, and like Roger Ebert,

At some point
You gotta move.
Let me move.
My way.

So you don't have to
Struggle, or worry,
It's right here
In black and white.

"It's not personal, Sonny.
It's strictly business."


J.J. Tindall is the Beachwood's poet-in-residence. He welcomes your comments. Chicagoetry is an exclusive Beachwood collection-in-progress.


More Tindall:

* Chicagoetry: The Book

* Ready To Rock: The Music

* Kindled Tindall: The Novel

* The Viral Video: The Match Game Dance


Posted on April 5, 2013

MUSIC - Chief Keef Changed The Industry.
TV - Vizio's Best Product Is You.
POLITICS - UIC: Soda Taxes Work.
SPORTS - More McCaskey Malpractice.

BOOKS - All About Poop.


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