Thursday, July 2, 2015

Mexican League bus ride.

We were on the bus, a five hour road trip down route 40, through the desert and the low mountains, to Torreon to play a four-game stand against the Vaqueros.

There were about 40 of us on the bus. 40 man-boys on a trip to play ball. 25 were like me, players. And 15 were coaches, equipment men, secretaries and hangers-on. 40 of us bouncing down the open road in the heat and the dust and the smell of 40 men.

I took the seat I usually took, about three in from the front behind the driver. For the most part--though I was a kid of 17, I sat up with the coaches and with Hector Quesadilla, my manager. It wasn't ass-kissing on my part. But to be honest, even back then, I was never one of the guys. 

You can ask anyone who knows me, I've always been more than a little bit diffident, and for the most part, though I got along with everyone, I've always kept to myself. To that end, I had a dog-eared book I was reading, something by Updike, I think, and I was going through it in a desultory fashion, in between bouts of looking out the window at the lack of scenery.

The back of the bus was raucous. German Barojas, a relief pitcher had taken up drumming, and brought three pieces of his drum-set and arrayed it in front of the long bench seat in the back. Leon Cardenez, another bench player, had brought his guitar and the two men played Mexican blues for hours.

Once in a while, Barojas and Cardenez would break into something that sounded vaguely like a popular song, and then the entire back end of the bus would sing and wail, using the handle-end of their bats as a microphone. Some version of "Guantanamera" went on for half an hour, at least, and then one of the boys--it could have been "Angel" Diablo, began with a nasty version of "Barnacle Bill, the Sailor," in gutter Spanish that could make your hair curl.

Quien llama a mi puerta?
Quien llama a mi puerta?
Quien llama a mi puerta?
Dijo la doncella justa!

There's might have been some liquor being passed around in the back, as well. The coaches chose to do what good coaches do. Let the boys blow off some steam and be boys. Besides, we weren't playing on our travel day and weren't scheduled against the Vaqueros Laguna until tomorrow evening.

It went on like this for a good three hours and somewhere along the way, I must have put down my Updike and fallen asleep. I woke up to the bus swerving nearly out of control and bounding through the sand, rocks and dusty shrubs of the Coahuila desert. I could swear as the driver, Edgar "Gordo" Batista tried to wrestle the ancient vehicle to a stop we careened on two wheels to avoid hitting a lonely scrub oak or to avert a calamitous arroyo.

I found out later that Diablo and Barojas, ringleaders always, had climbed through their windows, out of the bus and onto its roof. They then made their way along the roof--this was all as we were heading down the highway at about 60 miles per, to the front of the vehicle. Then, as they reached the front, they leaned down over the front windshield and made faces at the "Gordo," who veered off the road thinking he was being attacked by Mexican aliens.

Finally, the bus hopped to a stop, its brakes at last grabbing hold on the sand, and Diablo and Barojas pounded on the door demanding entrance.

Half the bus was laughing, half were screaming. 

Diablo and Barojas just kept singing.

Well, it's only me from over the sea,
Said Barnacle Bill the Sailor,
I'm all lit up like a Christmas tree,
Said Barnacle Bill the Sailor.
I'll sail the sea until I croak,
Have my wimmen, swear and smoke,
But I can't swim a bloody stroke,
Said Barnacle Bill the Sailor.

The two walked to their seats in, collecting high-fives all the way to the back.

If I'm not mistaken, we took three of four games in Torreon.

No comments: