“A Bus Ride on Labrea” by Levy Lee Simon

–  Keeping it Real series #16

So, today I was waiting for the bus at LaBrea and Washington. Yes, I ride the bus in LA, sometimes. It’s the New Yorker in me. Anyway, as I approached the bus stop I saw four Black women, who I can only describe as being from the hood, and I’m trying to be political correct.  (I know my people when I see them because I’m from the same place, so to speak.) Three of them were way over weight wearing uncombed wigs and weaves, tight fitting jeans on one, and tight stretch pants on the other two. All three had bellies hanging out and over their stomachs with  stretch marks everywhere, front and back. The fourth one was a very attractive tall brown with wild braids and a killer body in a sundress that I could see through. Between them they had six kids with them all under the age of five. They were talking and cursing very loud about something that seemed very important to them.  

One of the heavies spotted my bone earring and screamed, “ I like that earring, handsome!” I smiled and said thank you. When the bus came two of the kids jumped in front of me without saying excuse me, or anything. The bus was packed but I managed to get a seat. Of course they found seats next to me, across from me and in front of me. I was surrounded. They talked at the top of their lungs to each other as if the other person was two blocks away with language that was laced with cursing, insults and threats. “Naw, Ima bust that MotherF ass …. , etc.” In a so-called lower toned conversation between two, I heard one tell the other about someone who’d been shot and killed, someone they both knew.  Everyone on the bus kept a straight face as they pretty much took us hostage with their loud abusive verbal assault on the ears. And people are constantly complaining about my language verbal and written.  

At one point the slim one, stood on her seat and grabbed the three year old sitting behind her.  If the bus would have made a sudden stop, it would not have been pretty.  She literally stood on her seat, reached behind her and picked the kid up. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. When she sat down she passed a black plastic bag across the aisle to the one sitting next to me. The woman opened the bag which contained an open pint of liqour.  She drank then passed the bottle, each taking healthy swigs. I almost forgot to mention that each of them had a black plastic bags filled with candy, potato chips, and sweet juice drinks, that they ate and shared with the little ones. 

At another point the slim one and I locked eyes. It was as if she was seeing me for the first time on the ride and was wondering why I was looking at her. At first, I could tell she was trying to intimidate me with those deep penetrating eyes but I just stared back.  I didn’t want to appear threatening or demeaning at all. In fact, I looked at her with extreme compassion. She would not look away and I would not look away. She stared back now as if she was trying to understand what was on my mind. Or maybe deep down inside she knew what was on my mind. I don’t know who broke the stare but suddenly we were at Wilshire Blvd. I figured they would get off there to head downtown LA and back to the hood. I knew they were not going to Hollywood, or the Valley. As they loudly got off the bus, I felt for all of them but mostly for those kids, who astonishingly were quite well behaved. They leaped off at Wilshire screaming as they did, and off they went. Someone on the bus yelled, “take care of those babies.” A dreadlocked  brother standing by the door looked at me and said, “Man we are in trouble.” I nodded my head, not in agreement but in acknowledgement.

The image of those women and those kids  will stick with me for a long, long time. I cannot understand how in 2012, why I was able to witness what I saw. Right there, right there was the devastating legacy of no education, no jobs, no family training, no consideration for others,  and no God. Do I really know all of this? No, but I know what I saw and  I didn’t see any indication of the aforementioned at all.  My heart felt flush.  I fear for the future of those kids, and I fear for the lives of those women. My heart goes out to them because I know they are in pain and have been through more than I can ever imagine. And, there is probably a long, long line of neglect, abuse, alcoholism, addiction and who knows what else.

I wish they had someone to talk to them who could reach them. But, I’m also sure they have had tons of social workers, and caseworkers and systematic correspondents who have tried. I don’t know. Maybe, maybe not.  I’m babbling because I’m baffled.

 I wish someone could hold them in their arms and tell them life doesn’t have to be lived this way. I wish for someone who could tell them it’s going to be all right. But, off they went into the LA sunset, with their lives, unwise to these eyes. God bless. God bless. God bless, because only God can hold them and protect them, mothers and children. Mothers and children. May God protect and bless, the mothers and children.

Levy Lee Simon

Photo by L.K. Thayer


On reflection, I cannot help but to recognize how blessed I am, and those of us who had people in our corner, parents, relatives, people in our lives that showed us the way. I was actually on my way home from a day of meetings about my making movies sitting at outdoor cafes and such. And, complaining about this and that … Sometimes, God just humbles me greatly. Levy Lee


  1. lkthayer · April 25, 2012

    Humbling indeed, thank you for sharing this powerful experience Lee.

  2. Mitch · April 25, 2012

    It’s the everday things you see and hear in life that hits home far more than any arty farty poem!!!

  3. ojomadness · April 26, 2012

    Wow Lee! I so understand… and always wonder… what’s my part in.this? How can I make a difference? Or betta yet, can I even make a difference? I can see those images so clearly. Thanks for sharing.

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