Sunday, July 27, 2008

Constant Rider Omnibus (****)

Stories from the Public Transportation Front

Constant Rider Omnibus
by Kate Lopresti
Microcosm Publishing, 128 pages, 2007
Cover illustration by Kalah Allen

I came across this book while perusing the Graphic Novels section at Daedalus Books & Music and was instantly intrigued by the its concept: a journal devoted to documenting a woman's adventures riding public transportation in Portland Oregon and other diverse destinations. The woman, Kate Lopresti, mainly travels by bus, but sometimes hops a plane or train, and those journeys are documented as well. This anthology presents issues #1-7 of her zine Constant Rider, in which Kate records her aisle-side observations of "fights, intoxicated passengers, fellow travelers' reading choices, and even impromptu bus stop singers." She also has a website:

I have long been fascinated by people's horror stories about riding various bus routes in Baltimore City, so I picked it up and found it a very good read. Kate never tries too hard to write the be-all social psychology masterpiece: these are just everyday observations of both the plain and the (admittedly more interesting) unusual people and events that she's encountered riding public transportation. I did like her checklist of inappropriate conversation starters on the bus, my favorite being middle-aged men asking young women, "Are you a student?" That's creepy, fellows! Better to keep queries like that to yourselves - or the letters column of Barely Legal magazine!

Now I just wish someone would start a local version about Baltimore bus rides - or even a D.C. zine devoted to riding the Metro. I have many fond memories of being accosted there by hyper-aggro homophobic drunks! (Mental note: never be accosted by this demographic while clutching a Kennedy Center Ballet Playbill!)


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