The Hound (2013-2020)
What began a century ago as a commuting service for iron miners, has become a ubiquitous presence on the highway, and in movies, songs and fantasies. The Greyhound Lines intercity bus network grew into the central nervous system of working class North America. From a trope of freedom to a holdout of racial segregation to union picket line killings, The Hound was a flawed icon of underclass struggle. I went in search of answers as to why The Hound seemed to exude a strangled, sad magic. Strangers’ stories crisscrossed a continental web of concrete and dirt. They rode The Hound to find work, escape the past, reconnect and find love. Most seemed to be in pursuit of a dream that didn’t want them. A dream that eluded and deceived. The man to my left told me he was going to be a famous horror film director. A young woman was headed to New Orleans to work as a stripper. A sobbing man in Las Vegas told me he was headed to Phoenix because no one there would know him. Another woman said she had been kicked out of her house so she was moving to another city; her suitcase was full of old newspapers. A teenager received a handshake-thanks for his military service.
Soaked, sullen roads led to the border, where I was interrogated for being an “immigration risk.” An empty jacket laid across a Buffalo bench, the owner nearby, shoeless, asking for change. A woman said she was headed to Detroit to see her favourite band for the 72nd time. Another person crashed down from euphoria in Cleveland and huddled in the corner of the station. One man threatened to kill another for continuously blowing a rape whistle as we all skidded through a blackened blizzard mountain pass in Colorado. A blur of tired faces; a string of dim streetlights, stretching from Atlantic to Pacific and back again.
The Department of Homeland Security stopped the bus in the middle of the desert and checked everyone's identification. A Spanish-speaking mother clutched her baby. Authorities dropped off a migrant refugee at the station in Tucson. A man told me about the parasites the government puts in our brains to control us. A woman said she lost her boyfriend to an overdose. Someone snorted drugs off of a toilet seat in the next bathroom stall. Tumbleweeds somersaulted down the highway as a worn-out trucker ate a breakwich in a diner window. Anyone can be anyone when they only meet you for only a minute. Stories become tall tales, stretched out over sun-baked Interstates, loose in the wind. The man across the aisle said he was headed home after a 15-year prison sentence. I didn’t believe it until I saw him jump for joy when he got to Des Moines; no one likes Des Moines that much.
44 hours non-stop to New Orleans. 70 hours non-stop to Vancouver. Dreams bleed into reality as reality melts into dreams. Lights go off, lights go on, no smoking or drinking in the coach, secret sips, transfer at 4 a.m. Eat when you can. Someone had a grenade in their luggage, so the bomb squad shut down the bus station in Atlanta. When bus service was cut off in Western Canada, drivers loaded the bench seats from shuttered stations into a cargo trailer behind the bus. Countless small towns became islands in the rearview as the heavy breath of the diesel engine lulled us all to sleep. A security guard with a toothache said to me, “I wanna make these people feel the pain I’m in.” A man was left behind in the middle of nowhere; the driver didn't care. A woman in Los Angeles showed me pictures of her father and brother, who were members of rival gangs until they were each murdered. I dropped my toothbrush in a bathroom sink, went looking for a place to eat and got robbed at gunpoint for my cameras; the cops said I was stupid. I bought a $7 camera at a thrift store and got back on The Hound, headed for home. The yellow line went from solid to broken, solid to broken, in its unrelenting pattern.