'A Bus Of My Own'
by Jim Lehrer.
A review for the election year (eight years later) 2000.
And an essay, "Buses, the computer age, & PBS."

I met the author of this book of reportorial reminiscence, Jim Lehrer, once;   it was about 1994 or so.   We spoke briefly... He asked a question, I made a completely noncomittal answer, as I recollect it . . . . Since I had given up watching TV news regularly in January of 1992 - the year he wrote this book - it was only later on that I placed the familiar if somewhat nondescript voice and face.

I can't recall a chance encounter with any 'celebrity' figure that left a more pleasing impression, in the long run. Jim Lehrer is the persona he presented on TV during my viewing of The MacNeil / Lehrer News Hour from 1987 - 1991. It's not a matter of a put-on for the performance's duration's sake.

I call his voice "nondescript" - and I apologize for the possible slight in that description - but, this book is in a much more characteristic voice, being at once   professionally reportorial,  personal,  and authorly [ - Jim Lehrer wrote at least a half-dozen novels and several plays; one, '"Viva Max!"', became a movie, starring Peter Ustinov, in the 1960s.]

His voice here is a thoroughly American voice, as well as that of a reporter and a pro author. As thoroughly American as the bus lines he mentions, that run [paraphrase] "at five-fifteen p.m. to Houston and Dallas, leaving to Missouri City, connecting to Dallas, Amarillo, Albuquerque, Flagstaff, Los Angeles, Portland and Seattle;   and for Natchez, Jackson, Raleigh, Richmond, Washington, New York City and Boston . . . . Wichita, Topeka, Des Moines, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Hannibal, Chicago, Kalamazoo, and Detroit . . . Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Biloxi, Tampa, and Miami. Don't forget your baggage, please!"

Well, thank goodness, 'A Bus Of My Own' doesn't cover all those places. ["'Scuse me sir, could you tell me, how do I get to Salt Lake City from here?" : ) ] This book covers, in upholstered luxury and multi-star excellence, a line that runs from Wichita (Kansas) through Victoria (Texas), Columbia (Missouri), Quantico (Virginia), Parris Island (South Carolina), and Dallas. ( - The Dallas.) With a brief special side tour to San Antonio to meet Peter Ustinov at a party. (The meeting resembles my encounter with the author some! and even more nearly the Kurt Vonnegut rencontre in 'The MST3K Amazing Colossal [...etc.]' ! )   Then, from 60's Dallas, it moves on to Washington D.C., in the 70s and thereafter.

Comparable to an American version of by Farley Mowat's 'The Dog Who Wouldn't Be', only without animals - or at any rate, without any save for the usual menagerie of media land.   That's high praise:   Both the in-the-bones feel of these times & places, and several good solid laughs (not just jokes) are to be had.

Look for:     a Nixon parody, a drunken diplomat, and other anecdotes;   Praise for colleagues that sounds genuine, modesty that isn't false, and a realistic account of a heart attack (-painful and hard to get through)...   Opinion and shrewd insight on:  the Marines, the Kennedy assasination and Oliver Stone's 'J. F. K.' movie, the values of media, the subjects of lying and of bus travel (President-elected Clinton began his inaugural with a bus trip, I recollect from 'Way Back Then), Gary Hart's odd and irritant attitude [not enough to make him a success]:    A great deal of this 1992 book reminds one of that year . . . and, of how much has changed, how much water has gone past the bridges that still stand. (E.g. the mention of P.B.S., which the Gingrichoids of '95 tried to destroy - the Nixon attack on PBS is also a part of this book ...) Also mentionable in this book is the appreciations of the qualities of Sibley Memorial Hospital and Georgetown University Hospital  - I've been there too, in the late '80s; it is the best beyond doubt. Thanks, G.U.H., and Jim Lehrer.

( If you're too young [or have other reason(s) not] to care or worry about heart attacks, skip chapters 8 through 10 [And maybe chapter 11 too, though you might miss something.] They stand out from the rest of the book in their tight focus. And their broad-spectrum good advice.  You'll only regret that you skipped them decades later. )

( - But every bus trip is good, even if you take a nap awhile and miss part of it. )

Buses, the computer age, and P.B.S.

With regard to the bus-centered view of esp. Chapter 15:

A 1946 bus is ideal to collect; the involvement of autos by then in American family life was solidly established, and had been so for awhile. It was the high peak of the automotive age, the auto as part of the family. Even a Model T could be, but was so as a newcomer - like the home computer of the 1980s.

Perhaps in ten years or so, the home PC will be as solidly central.
So your kid spends all his/her time at the keyboard or mousing around on the screen? Would it be better to be spending hors under the trunk - I should say, the hood - instead? And is it getting him/her away from the 'real world', really, one way more than the other?

Finally:   If there were a P.B.S. or a C.P.B. for the Web age, I'd wish to be a candidate for inclusion, mention, or participation. People will go to their TVs of course . . . or to their computers . . . but what guarantees them the solid values often more brain-bettering than elsewhere, on P.B.S. programs and stations? I try for that quality myself.

[ Review (c) R. Hess, August 13, 2000. ]

- Read the book reviewed in this web page:
  1. A Bus Of My Own, by Jim Lehrer
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- Page created October 8-9 & 11, 2000 (using ReviewZoom version 1.17) by Russell Hess, Webmaster (hess1@bigfoot.com) of 'UpSky2' & 'UpSky'.

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