Friday, May 4, 2012

The Short Bus - book review

A friend of mine and I were talking last fall about renting a short bus for our next women's outing for the church because our group is "special". We got talked out of it because it would "send the wrong message". We didn't understand entirely because it would be a perfect fit for the number of people and it would be fun. I personally didn't have a problem with it because I rode the short bus in kindergarten. I've told the story that it was because there weren't so many kids to get bused. But after reading this book and knowing my history, I am a short bus rider. I didn't talk to anyone in kindergarten but my best friend (who is also a Jennifer). I probably got put on the short bus for that reason, because I wouldn't talk to anyone. Eh...saw a short bus driving around before school one day and I told my girls that I used to go to school on one of those when I was little. They thought that was cool.

This book was a library find. I went to see what they had new in the non-fiction section and the title caught my eye. I had to borrow it just to show it to my friend and make her smile. Then I read the dust jacket and new I had to read it.

 Jonathan Mooney graduated from Brown with an honors degree in English. He is president of Project Eye-to-Eye, a nonprofit mentoring and advocacy organization for students with learning disabilities. When his teachers decided Jon needed special ed because he couldn't follow directions, sit still or read well out lous, he feared he'd lost his chance to be a regular kid. He almost lost hope. Yet he shocked skeptics. To free himself, he dreamed up an epic journey across the US on a broken down short bus.

Part One of the book is Everyone In Their Right Place. I loved the titles for all of his sections, so if you will indulge me, I'm going to share them and some bits I fell in love with.
Inside Part One, we have You Are Responsible for the Safe Operation and Cleanliness of This Vehicle. This is the introduction basically. Tells us how he gets the bus, arranging and starting the trip, naming the bus, and heading out into the unknown. Mr Mooney has no qualms about using some colorful language. If you have an issue with swearing, this may not be the book for you. I found most of it unnecessary but I understand that's how he thinks and talks. Doesn't make it ok in my book but I'm not near enough to be that positive influence on his language.
Then we have The Lightning Field where he asks his girl to marry him and he is amazed that she says yes. Followed by The Hole in the Door and Steel Boxes, Crushed Cars.The Sound of One Hand Clapping is about a friend of his from college who showed him that the environment you are in determines whether you are a success or a failure. This was also where he met a man who was living in a purple short bus; traveling around the country sharing uplifting and encouraging messages as well.
Welcome Pest Controllers Association was a search for an old time freak show. How to Curse in Sign Language is a story about a deaf and blind girl who is living an amazing life. I Don't Know, I Don't Remember, It Doesn't Seem to Matter Anymore is a story about a time in our country's history where we used eugenics against the mentally handicapped. People were being sterilized because of the risk of certain traits being hereditary.

Part Two of the book is titled Burning Man. Inside Part Two is I Can't Remember to Forget You about a man who has a brain injury from an illness. The Turnaround Dance is about Cookie Davis. Cookie is a transgendered painter whose city fought to keep him because he was a part of the community. Big Things, Little Things is a visit to Scarsdale. He philosophizes about the difference between loop ride rollercoasters and drop ride rollercoasters and the personalities that prefer each one. "We need to fly as much as we need to fall." The boy he rides the coasters with shares a great philosophy at the end of the day, "The chair is metal. The body is the same." Followed by Katie's Book of Life, a story of a down syndrome young lady who is doing amazing things with her life. She finds joy in everything and is gung-ho about living a real life. Last section in this part is Black Rock City's Bell Tree which is the story of visiting Burning Man and realizing "this moment will never happen again".

Part Three is The Eccentrics. Inside Part Three is Driftwood Beach, my favorite imagining in the book. It shows how our thoughts change through life and how to make sure the odd survive. The young find interest in the seaweed to whip inorder to release anger. The old find interest in the odd shaped driftwood to hold the beauty of the moment. Followed by Things Not to Share - At First. Lastly is What Is Left After What One Isn't Is Taken Away, - Is What One Is. This section is about giving up the bus. He shares his perceptions of his Dad and how those are blown out of the water when he sits down to talk to him. He shares about realizing who his uncle really is and not just accepting the family's perception. Mr Mooney finishes up with accepting who he is through all he's done.

These people he visited confirmed Mr Mooney's belief that "normal" is a state that no one actually visits.

I really enjoyed seeing the underlying value in people that most people don't get to see. It reminds you to remember that there is a story behind the actions. Feel free to stop by his website to learn more about the author and his mission.