Thursday, April 22, 2010

Serene 17th (Part II)

Every so often people and places synchronize and line up like the planets, in my cab. That weekend my partner, Jenine, had come into town from Rhode Island, specifically to see the International Exposition of Sculpture Objects and Functional Art. She didn't bother asking me to go because she knew I'd refuse to spend $25 on admission, much less take the day off to go. Approaching 9 A.M., she was still asleep in my apartment as I hustled the streets for fares.

I made a pit stop at Starbucks on East 17th to go #2. I took exactly the perfect amount of time to complete that endeavor, because I immediately hopped back in the cab, made a left onto Fifth Ave., and magically picked up a woman who turned out to be one of the big dealers for that art show. Not one minute into the ride she handed me a free pass for two, good for all four days of the show (and $80 value!)

Now, as you hopefully read in the first half of this shift (previous post), I was having a really lucrative morning so far. I knew all of these things combined meant the universe was opening a window of opportunity for me to simply turn the cab in early today and go to the art show with Jenine. I couldn't contain my excitement, so I picked up the phone and gave her a rude, yet uplifting awakening. She went from cranky to ecstatic in 5 seconds. We agreed to wait an hour to see if I could will into existence a fare into Brooklyn. That hour went by and the closest I got was Battery Park City, so I decided to just hop on the Brooklyn Bridge and shoot down the BQE, since the Metropolitan exit lines right up with Ainslie, the very street that leads to my doorstep.

She joined me for my last two hours on-duty. We looped around the main drag of Williamsburg a few times and came out with a trio of the most delightful Ohioan tourists hopping flea markets. All they had to say was Fort Greene Flea and I knew exactly where to head. Jenine talked it up with them, so much to their enjoyment that they dished out $20 for a $10 fare. Upon crossing the Manhattan Bridge with an empty backseat, we parked in the Lower East Side briefly, so she could grab a snack from Babycakes (a vegan and gluten-free bakery). I also wanted to get a close up look at the three buildings on Grand and Eldridge that were charred in a blaze last week.

1. A Swedish couple, stuck in NY due to volcanic ash, who had a wonderful time chatting with and being transported to the Theater District by a dynamic taxi-operating duo, to see "In The Heights." Oh, how I love Jenine and her exquisite mind and spirit. And I must try to see that Broadway show. Never been to one, and I hear it's especially good if you love the anthropology of New York (as I obviously do!)

2. A lawyer who said most of her colleagues are buying East River-front condos in Brooklyn, hence contributing directly to the neighborhood's second wave of gentrification. First it was the Latinos. Now the artists and musicians who pushed them out. The history of SoHo repeats itself here.

3. A young New Yorker waiting for the B62 bus on Park Avenue by the Navy Yard. I drove past him and thought, "He's probably going to downtown Brooklyn. Why don't I just offer him a free ride, since it's in on our way to the depot?" Jenine looked at me funny as I stopped abruptly and reversed into the bus stop. The guy looked at me funny too, but accepted the offer without thinking twice. He'd been waiting 15 minutes for the bus and was so relieved to be given a free ride by a yellow cab, something that never happens. It felt good to do something I'd be so thankful for, if offered. And thankful he was! I even earned me a little peck on the cheek from a very beautiful co-pilot. He jumped out on Flatbush and Tillary.

We gassed up and turned in the cab. I mentioned a possible car problem to a mechanic at the garage, and he got upset that I hadn't brought the cab back when I first heard rattling noises in the axle. It started during my first two hours on the road. Returning the taxi then would have sabotaged this entire streak of luck. But that is not why I had neglected to bring the cab back. You see, at my previous garage in Greenpoint, both the dispatcher and the mechanics would have chewed me out for bringing a cab back that wasn't completely falling apart. As long as it ran, their policy was not to bother with it. Being the creature of routine protocol that I can be, I had that unpleasant and bankrupting scenario in my head when I chose to stay out.

The art expo turned out alright. Nothing I would have paid full admission for. Afterward we took the 6, N, and 7 trains out to Tito Rad's for a Pinoy meal. Lovely ambiance and tasty dishes, but the waitress didn't recognize the Pinay in Jenine, which was a bit of a bummer.

My favorite part of the entire evening were the two Senegalese men on the subway platform beneath 68th Street, playing and singing traditional Senegalese music that raised the hairs on my arms with its beautiful grace and humility.

Last but not least: I have a brief request for the folks in charge of TAXI TV. Is there any way you could refrain from playing that little recording over and over and over again, throughout every single fare..... the one that says, "Welcome to Del Frisco's" ? It's really drilling a hole through not only my head, but the heads of a number of passengers who've complained. And, if you could, when a passenger presses the off button, could you see to it that it actually does in fact go off, and not back on again without anyone's permission? I would really appreciate it, from the bottom of my heart!


  1. Sounds like you've carved out a niche of good karma for yourself, and rescued Jenine from those R.I. man eating pot holes, which - who knows- may bring more good karma still.

  2. was the guy at 68th street playing the kora?
    he makes my day and gives me goosebumps everytime I see him. I am going to try and see if he will play a concert sometime this summer.
    hope you are well gil!

  3. I believe it was a Kora, Leanne. I'm so glad to know that someone else shares the awe felt on that platform when it's being played. There were two of them, harmonizing with one another like and Arab and a Jew agreeing on the oneness of the creator.


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