Monday, July 26, 2010

Spread 1 of Aviv 05

I write this to you from a suburb of Paris. I landed in France about 12 hours ago and it is my first time ever in Europe. I will be sending out timely reports of my journey, but for this post I will focus attention on the meaningful codes behind the journal spread above from five years ago.

Sometimes I like to sit in awkward places, where I'm potentially in the way, but not really. Other times I like to sit where I can be absolutely sure that I'm not interfering in anyway. Stairwells, sidewalks, and other public passageways with unusually ample nook spaces make me daydream of setting up camp in those nooks, simply just to smile everlastingly at every jaded passerby, or to offer them an exchange of some sort, whether material or informational. Unless of course I'm asleep. Then again they're more than welcome to awaken me. That is the whole point of a twenty four hour, non-violent community foot soldier.

Toward the end of July 2005, I was at the height of lining up odd-job manual labor gigs, not only for myself, but for two friends of the family who were like night and day. Mauricio, our beloved humble oil muralist from El Salvador, and Mariusz, a miserable and arrogant acquaintance from Poland (via Canada) who wanted very badly to be Brazilian. Both were newcomers to our little oceanside town of Lake Worth, so I devoted lots of time and energy showing them the best spots, like thrift stores and roadside burrito joints, to frequent. The latter of them became competitive and ungrateful. Eventually the work dried up for all of us.

It was also around this time that I was studying hard for the exam that would allow me to trade in my resident alien green card for a naturalized blue citizen passport. At the same time I was helping both my parents to prepare for the same hurdle, and soon enough we all became United Statesians, if you will. Mind you, my mother and I were born (South) Americans.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Spread 2 of Primavera 05

Maps of area codes have always intrigued me with the way they reveal how lightly or heavily populated certain regions are, or at least the volume of requests for phone numbers. It's amazing how states as large as Montana and Wyoming have only one area code for the entire state, while the metropolitan areas of Los Angeles and Miami each have around seven of them. Some would say that if art isn't about life, then it's worthless.... that art for art's sake is b.s.. I have no comment, since I'm able to empathize with both sides of that coin.

Ele she omdim b'pqaqei tnuah hem frayerim qi lo rokhvim b'ofanayim.
(Those who sit in traffic jams are suckers because they don't ride bicycles)

"Unlike other spiritual goals that we can reach individually, immortality can only be brought about when a critical mass has been achieved and transformation takes place throughout humankind." -KC

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Spread of Early 09 Journal Cover

This book is about one individual's quest to become better than yesterday, by taking every brutal karmic blow as a hidden blessing and coming to terms with the idea that serving humanity is the only worthwhile pursuit.

The cover contains a list of my self-imposed, some somewhat frivolous, identities: taxi driver, anthropologist, vexillologist, geographer, cartographer, manual laborer, ethnomusicologist, bicyclist, alchemistic barterer, scrounger, scavenger, scalp-shearing barber, space consolidator, trilingual interpreter, collage journalist, perpetual optimist, quasi-kabbalistic altruist, scatological squatter, pseudo-percussionist, aspiring acordeonista, wide-eyed pilgrim, cumbiamberito, eco-urban tour guide, dormant pedagogue, voluntary communalist, pied piper of urgency, punk at heart, skanking leo, megaphonic martyr, athlete, etc.

Friday, July 23, 2010


Back in 2005, my friend Elizabeth Dwoskin was interning for the Utne magazine. She published an article about hitchhikers who share their travels on the internet. I was one of the people she interviewed for the story.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


I gave my father a lift from home (Brooklyn) to his job site on Sixth and Spring at 6:30 one recent morning. He normally does not work in Manhattan, so he uses his truck and finds easy parking in the outer boroughs. But when the job site happens to be in the city, he tries not to hassle with driving and parking. However, he still has too lug all of his heavy tools on the subway, which is a pain, so I pick him up if I can.

I had begun my shift at 3:50 and I was hoping not to lose the momentum of business when the time came to go fetch him. My prayers were answered when, in the minutes leading up to the deadline, a fare appeared out of nowhere, asking to go to where else than Brooklyn. Thanks to being in the right place at the right time, my shift did not skip a beat.

Dad and I shared a lovely sunrise back over the bridge. I told him about two unlikely fares in a row that I had come across before dawn. Passengers from Haiti come along an average of once a month or so. That morning I was blessed with two separate ones within an hour. The first a woman crossing 34th from First to Eighth to catch an uptown A train. Her son was having a baby at the hospital and she expressed her disappointment and reluctance to be a grandmother just yet. Then I picked up a man my age who begged if we could put his bicycle in the trunk.

Little did he know that he had just hailed one of the only cabbies in town who is just itching to transport the commonly rejected, or at least unprofessionally and unkindly served patrons of the taxi world: pets, unusual cargo, bicycles, blacks, blacks with bicycles, the outer borough-bound, homosexuals, stranded tourists with flights to catch, people who speak no English, the emotionally unstable, physically disabled, elderly, improperly dressed, drugged (as long as they don't barf or piss in the cab), etc.

And later on that day I spotted an accident involving a taxicab and a brand new BMW on Park and 48th. As you can see below, I tried to get a good shot of them, but the incessant flow of traffic wouldn't allow it. I pulled up to a spot next to a one-lane deep construction barrier where I wasn't obstructing anyone and proceeded to walk back a few feet with camera in hand. All of a sudden a stern gruffness sounded off in the distance. "You can't leave it there!", barked a uniformed guard from in front of the JP Morgan headquarters. Right then I realized that I posed a perceived threat to homeland security. Oops. Back into the cab and I was off again.
Speaking of accidents involving taxicabs, a truly rare incident considering how many of them are always out in this city, here is a clear shot of one from above.....

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


A driver from my garage was sitting at a traffic light in Lower Manhattan when a drunk woman drove straight out from a side street, plowing her SUV into his cab. He blacked out, and the front ends of both cars ignited into blazes. A homeless man on the sidewalk ran over and pulled the cabdriver out of his burning vehicle. FDNY and EMTs did the rest. The woman was not injured, but she was promptly arrested-- first by her airbag, then by NYPD.

As you can see from the last picture, the cab's interior was so badly charred that if our good Samaritan hadn't acted immediately, my fellow hack might not be around today. According to witnesses, the front of the taxi became engulfed in flames within seconds. The cabbie's report stated that he saw the SUV approaching at full speed and he had no room to dodge it. All he could do was honk fervently, but to no avail. Drinking and driving is NOT okay, folks.

Fortunately, there is a nice ending to the story. When the cabdriver fully regained consciousness on the sidewalk, he realized that all the things he had brought with him for the shift were sitting in the cab, melting away. All he had on him was a wad of cash that he had luckily kept in his pocket. He insisted on giving all of it to the homeless man who saved his life. All sixty dollars, in singles, fives, and tens.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Visions of Identical Aluminum

Our state's license plate has changed once again. When I first started seeing these new yellow backgrounds, I always had to look twice, because I kept thinking it was an Alaskan plate. For a fraction of a second, several times a day, I would think to myself, "I'll be damned if there aren't a whole lot of people visiting from Alaska by car lately". Well, I'm damned. By now the fact that the two states have nearly identical plates doesn't phase me anymore.

It's now the other way around. I have to look twice when I see an Alaskan plate, which only happens perhaps once or twice a month. I guess New York City is the kind of place you'd expect to see just about every state's plates at least once. Not all of them are tourists though. Many southern plates belong to New Yorkers with relatives down there who provide them with an address so they can save money on their car insurance. Rumor has it.


Pleased to announce that TLC Chairperson David Yassky will be joining us at the LaGuardia Airport Main Lot to meet with drivers. Please join us and speak directly with Chairman Yassky about issues that are most important to you. Think the lease is too high? Tired of losing 5% on all credit card transactions? Is the dispatcher requiring a bribe? Hotel doormen still a problem? What is your suggestion for stopping illegal pick ups?

We all know the issues. Let the head of the industry regulator know your solutions.

Tuesday, July 20th
LaGuardia Airport, Main Lot

Park in the lot and use your time fighting for driver power!

Bhairavi Desai, Executive Director
on behalf of Organizing Committee and Staff

Monday, July 19, 2010

Hercules Relapse

Although I haven't worked for a moving company since I started driving a cab, I do offer friends and family my assistance. A few weeks ago, on my day off from hacking, I helped a couple of friends move their belongings from Forest Hills to Bushwick. I subcontracted my old high school friend Adam Willson to assist us with the move. I drove the rental truck since I have experience driving for Hercules Movers. I need more exercise in my life since I sit and drive all day every day, so carrying boxes on and off of the truck was my pleasure. Plus, they fed us breakfast, served us endless coffee, and even paid us a handsome compensation. All this while hanging out with an old friend I hadn't seen for a while. Efficient space consolidation and utilization inside the truck was always my favorite aspect of the job. I kind of miss it sometimes.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Hackneyed Peepholes

#1+2. At 6:50 A.M. on Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn, the best deli- sandwich- maker stepped out from behind his counter to feed the pigeons scraps of yesterday's bagels. He lovingly tore each one into pieces and tossed them, spaced neatly apart, onto the sidewalk and street. His boss came outside from behind the register and scolded him for this, saying, "Allah is in charge of feeding the pigeons-- NOT YOU." After the boss stepped back inside I reassured the best deli- sandwich- maker on Bedford that what he was doing was superb and inspiring. We agreed: these are creatures and that all creatures must eat. What was I doing there? Waiting for a miracle fare back into Manhattan.

#3. Poor cabdriver. Seems to be an owner-operator. Someone must have slammed on their brakes in front of him. Driving through Times Square is an ironic experience. All the flashing lights are intended to make you look around and be dazzled, but not while you're driving.

#4. Outside the JFK taxi lot-- an emergency delivery of spare parts, fresh off the CARcass!

#5. An outdoor piano at McCarren Park quietly awaits the next passerby to play.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Europa on Shoestrings where we found the cheapest airfare to Europe this summer. We were originally going to stay in Iceland for a few days, before becoming continental, but concerns over post-volcanic particulate matter affecting the island's air quality changed our minds since Jenine is asthmatic.

7/25 at half past 9 pm: Jenine and I fly out of Boston aboard Iceland Air.

26th at half past 6 am: We land in Reykjavik for an hour layover.
1 pm: Arrive at Charles de Gaulle in Paris.
Regional rapid transit to La Vesinet (suburb where Vera lives).
Acclimate and meet Vera's beautiful family.

7/27 thru 8/1: Explore all of Paris and celebrate Jenine's 31st birthday.
My top points of interest in the city of lights: Belleville, Latin Quarter, and the 10th Arrondissement.

8/2 (my birthday): We hitch down through France toward Barcelona.
Depending on the rides we get: stops are possible in Marseille and Gerona.
Barcelona becomes our headquarters for the week, with a possible excursion to Madrid.
We have no current contacts in the Catalonian capital, so please help us out if you can.
I'm not worried about it because there are over 5000 couchsurf members out there.

8/9 at 8 pm: Our flight to Germany, with an 8 hour overnight layover in Stuttgart.
8/10 at 8 am: Arrive in Berlin. Settle into my friend Jeffrey's spare room and explore that city on borrowed bicycles. Visit friends Aaron and Corinna in town.

8/13: Hitch to Hamburg and visit a friend of Jenine's.
8/15: Arrive at the home of my Dutch relatives outside of Utrecht.
8/16 thru 20: Jenine attends Fab 6 Graduation and Conference.
Meanwhile, I explore Amsterdam mostly on my own that week.
8/21 thru 25: Jenine and I do the Netherlands and Belgium together.
She flies home from Schiphol airport and I remain in Europe for another month.

8/26: My solo hypersonic auto-stop journey thru 11 extra countries begins.
8/27: Explore central and east London on foot and a tight shoestring.

8/28: Thumb my way east to Prague.
8/29: Explore the Czech capital. Catch overnight train to Krakow (Poland).
8/30: Explore my maternal grandfather's hometown.

8/31: Meander through Slovakia to visit friends in Vienna (if they're in town).
9/1: Make my way to Budapest and spend the night there.

9/2: Enter Romania. Either travel to the northern hometown(s) of my paternal grandparents....
9/3: or head to Bucharest via Transylvania.
9/4: Explore the Romanian capital thoroughly.

9/5: Catch a bus to Bulgaria. 9/6: Explore Sofia.
9/7: Catch a bus to Turkey. 9/8-9: Explore Istanbul.
9/10: Catch a bus to Greece. 9/11: Explore Thessaloniki.
9/12: Catch a bus to Athens. 9/13-14: Explore the Greek capital.

9/15: Hitch to the Adriatic coast (Igoumenitsa).
9/16 : Ferry across to Brindisi (Italy).

9/17: Thumb it to Napoli. 9/18: Explore Napoli.
9/19: Hitch to Roma. 9/20-22: Explore the Italian capital.

9/23: Fly Aer Lingus to NYC via Dublin.

I can shorten and/or elongate these flexible dates (and route) based on my experience as it unfolds. I know this schedule seems too rushed, but it's my first time ever to Europe and for me it's mostly a geographical marathon to put together the ethno-cartographic puzzle pieces of my anthropologic mind. Future trips will be more concentrated on specific regions and cities. Not so spread out and hurried. IF YOU KNOW ANYONE I SHOULD STAY WITH OR MEET ALONG THIS EXTENSIVE ROUTE, OR ANY POINTS OF INTEREST I SHOULD VISIT, PLEASE LET ME KNOW. I APPRECIATE YOUR INPUT.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


#1. My sister has returned from a 10 day pilgrimage to Canaan.
#2. My father and I often jog to McCarren Park and we do play ball.
#3. He has become prolific with his vibrant works of art.

The two aforementioned are two of my dearest people.
They help stabilize the otherwise chaotic atmosphere
under the ceiling we currently share in northwestern Brooklyn.