Sunday, November 9, 2008


An azimuthal equidistant projection, centered at the North Pole, between two olive branches. That is the flag of the UN. What I wonder though is: who raises all the other flags every morning. Each time I drive past the complex, I can't decide if each nation has someone in charge of this daily ceremony, or if an anonymous team of blue collars is dealt the task. Is it done in unison, all 192 member states along the colorful corridor of flagpoles? I always forget to ask when a foreign delegate gets in my cab.

This week I picked up a book that I had given up trying to read years ago, because of time constraints and random circumstances. Now I feel bad for having neglected Jay Griffith's magnanimously omniscient writing. Some of my favorite chunks so far have been these:
"Time is not measured in hours but in experience."
"Only those who live not in time but in the present are happy."
"Sea Horses mate at full moon and it's the male that gets pregnant."
"Modernity knows the strut and the fret but not the hour."
"Time is highly political."

It was almost 5 am on Water and Pine when an Irish bartender stumbled out into the street. Nearly choking on his own drool he just barely sputtered directions at me. "Brooklyn Bridge. BQE to Maurice Ave." We got off the highway in Maspeth (Queens) and he kept saying, "left here". But there was no left to make. "You mean right?" He just got louder with his left rant. So I pointed to the right at the last second and asked, "this way?". He agreed buoyantly, fading in and out of consciousness. When we stopped at his duplex he opened the door and literally fell out unto the curb. The red flags inside my head had begun to tatter in the wind. I walked around and got in his face with an outstretched open palm. You owe me 24 dollars. "Alright, alright don't be a prick about it." He only had 11 in cash, 7 ketchup packets, a wad of napkins, a set of keys, and no CC.

After checking his emptied pockets 5 more times he had me follow him inside. When he turned on the lights his girlfriend laid half asleep on the couch and the dog had ripped apart countless random objects that were strewn about the floor. He made her go into the back and get money. This entire scenario reminds me of the time I tried to help my phlebotomist crawl out of her depression. An impromptu camping trip to the beach ended up inside a pitch black trailer home littered with mounds of dog shit that I got all over myself while trying to sneak out.

Five ladies from the UK giggled and gawked at my traffic maneuvers, all the way from Le Parker Meridian to TGIF. Just like their hotel's motto, they are "uptown but not uptight". And it was TGI Sunday to them. And it's true.... not all of Great Britain is cheap. These ladies tipped handsomely.

Out of the blue, my mother began screaming at me from inside her bedroom. I ran over to see her watching ABC news. She scolded me for always offering to make sure people's unwanted electronics end up away from the landfill. I try to be some sort of quasi eco-warrior but today the TV is saying that electronic recycling has a very dark side. It all ends up smuggled to China, where people in slums melt it down in exchange for $2 a day and a slew of ailments. Once again, the only true solution is reducing rampant consumerism and not being so naive all the time.

At the age of 14, my dad and I were traversing a darkened parking lot after our tennis match in the lit courts of a park in a suburb of Houston. A light in the night sky caught our attention. We watched it for a quarter hour as it made extraterrestrial movements. Hovering, then shooting across in a straight line, then shifting directions at unbelievable angles. It was too far away to reveal any structural detail. Just a white blob, slightly larger than that of a visible planet. Nothing is impossible to me. I used to borrow UFO books from the nonfiction section of the library as a teenager. The whole topic's been put on the shelf for years now though.

I didn't always have a job that I felt belonged to me and I to it. Being a yellow cabbie in NYC has indeed been my longest lasting and favorite source of employment. But it's only been that way for 25 months. Before that I had been a truck driver for a residential moving company in New Jersey, a bicycle messenger on the streets of Manhattan, a produce van deliveryman for a warehouse in Miami, a remodelation debris grunt (manual laborer) on oceanfront condos, a shelver/page at a public library, a graveyard shift custodian at my own university, a pedicab peddler (bike taxi) in West Palm Beach, a helper electrician digging trenches, assistant to a wheelchair bound nursery/metal shop owner, a nursing home companion, a silk fabric art exhibitionist's assistant, and last (and least)..... when I turned 16, my first job ever was at McDonald's. I've come a long way from $5.25 an hour.

CAUTION to NYC taxicabs:
new rule: no left on 40th off broadway.
new red lite camera: 9 av crossing 26th

Take a moment to sign the petition at
and prevent telemarketing calls on your cellular by dialing 888.382.1222.
Follow the automated prompt for your 10 digits, or just get rid of the damn device.


  1. ah, it's all so random, but it all seems to fit together so well. I've wanted to be a bike messenger too, and a pedicab biker, and i'd thought about moving companies. I suppose all of those jobs pay less and involve more work, and risk of injury, and less comfort. How were these jobs?

    I'm thinking of getting a cdl license and moving on to delivery vans, for more reliable pay and less stress.

  2. NYCTP,
    Being a bike courier is exhilarating, but not lucrative unless you stick with it for at least a year. At first the dispatcher sends you on the worst routes. You get paid $3 per package delivered and sometimes the run involves taking one single package from midtown all the way to FiDi, which takes at least 30 minutes. Meanwhile, the veteran couriers are given 10 packages from one location , all going to the same destination. That's 30 easy dollars, as opposed to maybe 6. As for pedicab... the ones in NYC claim to be lucrative... but I peddled in Florida, which sucks, especially because there aren't any exciting landmarks to take people to. The moving company was $11/hour and what's nice about that job is that you form bonds with co worker s sitting 4 to a truck cabin for hours. And a great work out. Always a challenge figuring out how to fit odd chunks of furniture and boxes in the cargo and into the new residence. I hope that answers your question.


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