Tuesday, June 28, 2011
A few months ago two historians contacted me about a project they were embarking on as postgraduate students at New York University. Margaret and Samantha wanted to interview a few of Gotham's cabbies for an oral history exhibit. I felt humbled, honored, and delighted to participate. They also happened to be interested in using some of my taxi-related journal art. As any overly self-conscious person would tell you, I've listened to my interview and found it to be slightly on the dorky side, especially in comparison to all the other interviews. I have a similar feeling about the chosen journal images. I almost chose not to bother sharing these links with anyone I know, but I decided that would be taking the human agency right out of your hands (ears and eyes), so I'll let you form your own opinions. Besides, the other cabbies involved in this project deserve exposure, on behalf of the thousands of other cabbies whose voice can't be heard (unless you get in their cab).
This is the page in which they explain the gist of the project:
This is their digital exhibit: Not Just A Job
The journal bits they chose to include and a list of the 8 chosen cabdrivers:
My own personal oral history can be heard on this page:http://www.nyctaxisoralhistory.com/project/items/show/3
Within the context of a bigger picture:
Thursday, June 23, 2011
I met him last year aboard a random city bus in a country foreign to us both. He was on his way to compete in the world masters mountain running championship on the Polish-Slovak border, while I was merely meandering across borders in search of life's meaning.
What we had in common was that we were both Colombian, spoke no Polish, and we were both chasing our dreams with a bare minimum of funding. He seemed a lot worse off, less privileged, and after a far more specific goal than I.
Therefore, I did everything possible to help him make it to the event, considering the odds he was up against, between language barriers, geographical disorientation, only a couple hours left to cover a hundred kilometers, and a severe lack of financial backing.
The genuine humility and relentless determination in his character made an unforgettable impression on me. We've kept in touch ever since, by the grace of gmail chat and $2 calling cards. He resides in the little town of Pitalito, in the department of Huila (Colombia). He was recently granted a 5 year visa by the U.S., in order to compete in the 2011 World Masters Athletics Championships in Sacramento, California. This will be his first ever visit to this country, and his dream is to use this trip as a stepping stone to participate in future marathons like the big urban ones of New York and Boston.... which offer the winner a hefty sum, which Efren would undoubtedly share with his impoverished neighbors and relatives.
I've gone ahead and purchased his airfare from here, since it's cheaper that way (ironically). He will spend the first three days of July with us in New York and then fly to the west coast on our independence day, to represent Colombia in the WMA Championships. If you know anyone in Sacramento who would be willing to host him for a couple of nights, please get in touch with me as soon as possible. He will have a week off between races, in which I've arranged for him to bus into the Bay Area and explore San Francisco by foot (while training). Again, if you know someone in San Fiasco who speaks fluent Spanish and would really like to show him around, by all means.
Saturday, June 11, 2011
One is the moving enterprise of a friend in Philadelphia whom I love and deeply admire. One of his vans happens to be of that cadmium yellow hue I tend to associate with my personal work ethic: honesty, efficiency, simplicity, and resourcefulness. These happen to be precisely what my friend embodies.
The other is what some taxis looked like after the twin towers rained down on lower Manhattan. It's easy to maintain the qualities mentioned above, until it is made apparent that people of power choose not to play by the same rules. Even worse is when something seriously fishy is going on and the rules start not even making any sense anymore.