Chicken Bus Singer – Antigua Guatemala
Yolkobsens continue to pursue the art of riding the Chicken Bus. The longer we stay in Antigua Guatemala, the more we embrace the extreme pleasure of the chicken bus experience. Most recently we were blessed with the throaty renderings and tin can drum poundings of the world famous El Chicken Bus Singer. More of him later in this blog.
For all the world, a chicken bus is like a river; you can never step in the same one twice, even if it’s the same one. Though you can catch them at the “parada del autobus” (bus stops) on their routes, we highly recommend starting at the bus terminal near Antigua Guatemala’s main market off the Alemida Santa Lucia in the west end of town. Its circus-like atmosphere is a heady station from which to launch your chicken bus extravaganza.
Here’s a quick note on the nature of the chicken bus for those unfamiliar with this almost supernatural form of transportation. These are old US school buses, many of them having celebrated their 40th year on the roads. They’ve been painted, retreaded and souped up to provide local transit at a very modest price. They are bumpy, dusty and a lot of fun. These are great magic jalopies of entertainment, not mere A-to-B-purpose transit.
A recent Saturday morning trip to San Pedro Las Huertas Guatemala, saw Yolkobsens installed in a crowded chicken bus waiting for take-off from the main terminal. As people jammed on, highly entrepreneurial types also hopped up to hawk a variety of wares.
There was the guy who stood at the front for a full five minutes doing a Guatemala bus version of an infomercial for a pain remedy that seems to cure everything from migraine, to dandruff, to halitosis. He was successful in selling a few packets of the mystery remedy to some passengers. While he was barking out his message, vendors of many descriptions launched themselves onto the bus and threaded their way to the back yelling out their specials. These included: newspapers; freshly scooped ice cream cones; custard with granola on the side; chewing gum; peanuts and other salty snacks; neon colored drinks; and a lady who seemed to be conveying she had something wrong with her arm (though when she demonstrated, it looked like a perfectly intact and functional limb) and was asking for donations.
But the star of the pre-take-off show was El Chicken Bus Singer. He leapt onto the bus as if he’d been standing in the wings waiting for his show time cue. El Chicken Bus Singer had three large tin cans attached to his belt. Immediately he started belting out his favourite number (a lot of stuff about corazon (heart), but that’s Latino music for you) and whacking on the tin “drums” in a bravura and highly syncopated performance. He played out his gig as if he were an adored superstar that everyone had been waiting all day and night to see and who was now rewarding his fans’ patience and devotion by belting out a well-loved hit, his raucous signature song.
Mr. Y immediately got out his video camera and El Chicken Bus Singer, though collecting his tribute from the few passengers offering him Quetzales, paused to give us an excerpt of his just-concluded performance. He blessed us at the end with a totally professional showbiz kiss thrown to the audience. “Thank you. Thank you all so much. You’re too kind. I’m humbled by your extreme adoration.” The guy had a high octane, caffiene-fueled smile that never let up.
We were thoroughly enjoying the performance, but many of our fellow passengers looked on in utter boredom, an ennui likely generated by many viewings of El Chicken Bus Singer’s star turn and limited repertoire. All was good with Yolkobsens until it dawned on us that he might be coming along for the ride. Yikes! This was too much of a good thing, we thought as panic fed our imaginations.
Mercifully, El Chicken Bus Singer exited through the rear of the theater, er, I mean bus and was instantly swallowed up by the wide ocean of el mercado, already seeking out new bus audiences on whom vocal and percussive hosannas could be rained. Adios, El Chicken Bus Singer, until next time.