Monday, May 31, 2010


Dos (2) mapas de dos (2) turnos de dia (day shifts) from this past autumn. 24 hours of slapdash circumstance, split into 2 neutrally bouyant pools of slippery time. All the while building vocabulary, butchering jokes, and discombobulating molecules. It's the life of a happy-go-lucky (but not johnny-come-lately) trilingual taxicab aviator. Without a single traffic light it would feel more like a mid-air flight. The Hebrew letters were stenciled in (courtesy of my art journaling aunt's nifty utensil) on a recent visit to L.A.. Now I just have to find stencils for all the other written tongues I love, but know not yet how to read: Mandarin, Arabic, Hindi, Tibetan, etc.. Early mornings, between fares, the dial is often set to 89.9 FM (non-commercial and student-run), for the soothing ragas and galvanizing reggaes. Robust, complacent, and bionic all at once.

Bedpan Alley on York Avenue: the most boreal fare departure on the green shift (see map color). Bedpan as in how bedridden patients go potty. Alley as in a cluster of medical institutions. Boreal as in closest to the arctic. The corner that Ansche Chesed is on took that title on the red shift, while Lehmen Center for the Performing Arts in Bedford Park (Bronx) made the cut for septentrion terminus, and all the way from Sunnyside (Queens) of all places. The green shift's answer to that was the intersection that is home to Kieselstein-Cord and L'Ocitanne on the Upper East.

Yana, a friend from Moscow, was my guest of honor during the first eight fares of the green shift. She has always dreamed of driving a taxicab, but felt less so after this first-hand experience. I've never been a passenger of hers, but I know her personality would turn her into a great cabbie.

Many homeless panhandlers have told me that the only motorists who hand them change are cabdrivers. I believe it. We might not be without a roof over our heads, but we're on a frontline in the basic human struggle to survive. We must forge our way ahead, or be left behind just the same, because unlike the lawyers, surgeons, psychiatrists, engineers, managers, etc.... society has yet to assign a sustainable value to our endless efforts, those of us who try (our best.)

I imagine that, like me, most cabbies in NY have their preferred territorial turf to hunt for fares. Of course, you have your perpetual hotel and taxi stand loungers. And many of us wander aimlessly up and down the avenues without giving much thought to strategy or any sense of hyperlocal inclination. Union Square is the nucleus of my cruising grounds. Anything below 29th Street is Kosher in my kitchen. Anything above it and I feel like a fish out of water. Unless a passenger requests to be driven up there, I don't bother with Midtown, or Uptown for that matter. I'd rather go to Brooklyn.

I'm a downtown cabbie. I like my Villages, my Chelsea, and my Chinatown. Long live Alphabet City, the LES, and the FiDi. You can catch me in TriBeCa, NoMad, NoHo, NoCa, and the Civic Center. Less stress, less traffic congestion, less pretentiousness, less police harassment, and less of the dull, mainstream tourists. More locals and visitors alike who can actually think outside the box and/or appreciate history, art, music, diversity, honorable character, and quality cabdrivers. I know it's not as cut and dry as I'm making it sound. You have assholes, dimwits, snobs, and lame cops everywhere. But I know which communities I can serve with a stronger sense of eagerness and belonging.

Lastly, let's step out of our little bubble for a minute and take a look two things that I'm not very happy about :
#1. Israel ruining what's left of its diplomatic ties with Turkey and the world by being a naval bully.
#2. Guatemala being devastated by two 'natural' disasters in two days.

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