Saturday, May 25, 2013

Oi Oi!


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Racial Realities #3: Places

[Friend and fellow blogger Gloria Diaz wrote a personal account of copiloting in the front passenger seat of a taxicab for a Creative Writing course she enrolled in:]

-Every time someone interviews me they want to know when taxis started.
-Well that's the kinda shit people want to know!
-Yea but they have always been around in some sort of fashion. People used to carry people on their backs (and still do)! It's the oldest profession in the world.
-Either way I am not interviewing you. I am just asking you some questions.

I met Avi when he would move my stuff out of my Washington Heights lovely one bedroom to a storage space, as I was in between homes and off to travel. In the warmer months it is his side gig to do small moves and make a little extra . He came recommended to me by a friend who knew I needed help moving. But what Avi really did for money was drive a New York City yellow cab. A few months after my move he would invite me to copilot with him in his taxi and riding with him would become a fairly regular activity for me.

Yellow cabs are a constant of New York. Passengers are variables. The weather, construction and street fairs are variables. The rules of the Taxi and Limousine Commission and the cops are variables. But day in and day out cabbies are the same in this city. You are looking for them and they are looking for your hands outreached in the air, that they speed up and cut each other off to get to.

I join Avi in the cab when I can't sleep, when my soul is unsettled, when I have a lot on my mind, when I miss him and when I need affirmation that I like the company of someone in this city and that someone likes the company of me. Avi is tired and smells like bike chain grease, gasoline, cigarettes, and Polish beer. He has on his fingerless gloves and his eyes dart from one side of the street to the other, seeking out other projectiles, pedestrians, and passengers. He is contained hyperactivity, a swirling ball of energy contained in the driver seat of a yellow cab.  He talks to me in electric surges while rearranging his world to include me in it. Backpack in the trunk, he checks his water bottle, his piss bottle, his ipod, his pockets, his cell phone, his meter, rolls his window up and down to meet some sort of height requirement, adjusts the rear view mirror, adjusts his ass in his seat side to side as it screeches with its leather until he finds his nook. Rests both of his gloved hands at the top of the steering wheel and then finally looks over at me and smiles.

"Excuse me can you turn off the television? Yea- can you turn of the television? Yea just push the button on the screen. Thank you so much! It's just that it repeats the same thing over and over and over again and it's playing right behind my head. It drives us (cabbies) nuts! I'd rather listen to music, wouldn't you? I have over 3,000 songs on my ipod. I have everything! So what would you like to listen to?" 


"The gays, Avi, you gotta have Beyonce for the gays."

"Sorry, no Beyonce! You like Hip Hop? 

Avi has a different cab every time and perhaps I have ridden in the same exact one twice but probably not. It feels the same to me regardless. The front seat is a bench seat and is wide. Wide enough for Avi to put his knee up against his door comfortably and still steer and for me to sit Indian style. Wide enough to provide physical and emotional room for us to escape to our respective corners and sit silently if need be. Normally at the point I enter the cab it is too dark for me to see anything except for the glow of the meter, a portion of Avi's face, and the street tumbling into us, in front of us and for us. The window is like a giant movie screen accentuating these pathways that I have walked down, biked down, or stealthily subwayed under. But in the front seat of a cab all is different. You are low to the ground and moving in a herd of other yellows. Every body on the sidewalk scape is a potential patron and you are looking for that signal, that body language that indicates that they may want to be in your back seat. The skyscrapers of New York, whose tops you largely ignore walking around during the day, are accentuated against the sky and the city seems larger than life. But at the same time cradling you and saying, "I love you," warmly showing you everything it has to offer in one seamless, streaming view.  

"Glo, you don't talk too much and you don't talk too little. You are the perfect copilot." I do my best to be by paying attention to fare amounts, adding descriptions for his painfully intricate taxi logs. Detailed accounts of each fare, pickup and drop-off location, amount of fare vs. amount given (totaled every few hours), and a brief description of each passenger based on aesthetics or interaction. At first keeping track in his journal caused me anxiety. His handwriting is meticulous, small, and linear. He has clearly developed a system and order to how each fare is entered. There are lines and numbers that are circled and numbers that are bold. I remember trying to frantically figure out this system so I could replicate it. I tried to ask questions and he'd respond, "Gloria just whatever, whatever. I just like it when my copilots write in it and then I see their handwriting and I remember who was in the cab with me that day and it makes me happy!" I eventually grow comfortable with my own style. When potential customers are confused by my presence in the cab I roll down the window at Avi's prompting and yell, "available!" I jump out at requests for Gatorade and Snickers, cigarettes, and cheese pizza slices. His favorite 99 cent slice is on 41st and Ninth. "I want two slices and a Dr. Pepper. No! No, a root beer! I go get slices for us both. Avi is a semi-practicing Kabbalist and eats 'Kosher'. No pork. No dairy and meat in combination (it confuses the soul between death and life).
"This slice of pizza tastes like pork. Doesn't it taste like pork to you?"
"Are you telling me you think they made this pizza with pepperoni and then removed the slices of pepperoni and are now selling a pork flavored cheese pizza? Is that what you're telling me?"
He blushes a little and laughs saying "nooo," but then with a more serious face says, "maybe." We pull to the side and pick up a touristy family headed to---?

-Avi. Remember when we picked up that French family? It was like a year ago. Remember we met up early for that free skin cancer screening and then I did the rest of your shift with you? 
-Yea I vaguely remember that. 
-It's where you can catch the ferry. Battery Park?
- Yeah it was Battery Park. One of two locations from which to catch a ferry over to the statue. The other is in Jersey City from Liberty Park. That's where you can see Lady Liberty's ass across the water". 

The French family is shiny and white. Sneakers and Polo shirts and laughing and smiling at each other as they pile up in the back seat of the cab. Avi practices his French and charms the family. Their love for each other and their excitement for being in New York is contagious. They say "Au revoir." I jump out to dispose our morning pizza waste and back in the cab we move not even half a block before we pick up a handsome old woman. She requests a drive by of Ground Zero if Avi doesn't mind. Anything you want, it's your fare.

Between us and the passengers is the thick plexi glass that postures some ability to protect the cabbie from harm. Behind that is a back seat foreign scape that I don't feel comfortable venturing into when on my trips with Avi. I feel comfortable in our space and no desire to know theirs, out of respect for their privacy. Sometimes the passengers, when feeling a particular need to connect with what is going on in the front seat, will stick their head through the small opening in the middle. Like the drunk Latina full of woe who we picked up Christmas morning by the Port Authority at the border between late night and early morn. When she hopped in the cab I could smell she had no money and would be soon making an attempt to play on Avi's empathetic nature. After Avi agreed to take her up to Washington Heights for almost nothing she put her face to the window, asking us if we were married and Turkish. Not married and Israeli/Colombian and Puerto Rican (mystery browns). She says, "oh but you're not a typical Puerto Rican girl, you're like spiritual and arty." As I debate in my mind if I consider this comment a compliment or kinda fucked up, Avi puts his hand on my knee, "oh Gloria's not the typical anything."

Now when catching a cab on my own I have to resist my own desire to climb in the front with them, follow normal societal etiquette, and pay and get out once we've reached my requested destination. When I am with a party of four and a front seat rider is required, that is where I go. "Look at Gloria so chummy with the driver." Having honed my copiloting skills I try to break the driver with a joke, an entertaining story about my night, with a nod of understanding to the fact my best friend is a cabbie. They usually say, "Oh yeah? Which garage?" and we momentarily taxi bro down. Inevitably they smile at me with warm empathetic eyes because they know I love a cabbie and that I do my best to keep him sane. And they know exactly how sane cabbies are not in the face of their six-day-a-week twelve-hour- shift-lives. When people ask questions about my cab rides they ask about the passengers, drugs, and sexual escapades. They never ask about the most interesting figures, the drivers themselves.

-Since you started driving six years ago what do you think has changed the most?
-The fucking GPS tracking systems and credit card machines! They're always an issue. They don't work. It freezes, then the passenger has no cash, and in the end they blame everything on the driver. 
-Yeah but culturally, do you think there is less respect for cabdrivers?
- There's disrespect but there's a lot of love too. But if you're in New York who do you blame? Mean, ugly, rude, the slime balls, the nobodies. You made all the good cabbies leave cause the whole thing sucks. What self-respecting, intelligent person would stay in this job?

Friday, January 11, 2013

मैं नस्लवादी नहीं हूँ. मैं सीधा हूँ

Rust Street, Maspeth, Queens
Hello to the new cycle on the Mayan calendar. My affair with box trucks ended on the eve of Christmas Eve. Taxicabs aren't the jealous type so I came back without a hitch. I am mad at myself for not making time to go out and help volunteer at Respond and Rebuild in the Rockaways since the hurricane hit.

First passenger in eight months asks me how I'm doing and I respond with frankness. I must find a way to make more money and become more spiritual. It's a cliche and in my rare attempt to redefine myself I forget. She sighs, as if I were lost, and tells me not to fall into the human trap of needing something to believe in. Rich people think god is money. You should learn to be content with what you make. She concludes her sermon with an 8% tip.

80% of Mexicans in the Apple come from Puebla. One of them graces my cab from work in Billyburg to his unlikely neighborhood of Steinway, an Arab district in Astoria. He says of Colombians que somos muy cultos. We're cultured people. I say the same of Poblanos, but neither of us are willing to accept a compliment, each critical of his own. Around the corner I happen upon a gracious resident of Crown Heights who is black and gay. I bolt him home on the BQE and he leaves a 30% tip (to all you xenophobes who'll never serve the outer boroughs like I do).

On the topic of tips, it is important for people from unaware backgrounds to adapt to those cultural norms that hardworking people depend on for a livelihood. I'm not trying to single anyone out, but Indian Americans have a bad rep for this. I've witnessed it for myself innumerable times, while working in both the residential moving industry and the taxicab. I make it a point to provide them extra mile treatment, since kindness is the best antidote to negativity, but it often has no affect. In many countries it's uncommon and even insulting to tip. A service position somewhere with incomparably lower living costs may be able to get by on a pre-arranged wage (if one exists). Some people were born here but were raised in unintentional ignorance. Perhaps you're a recent immigrant and feel a need to conserve your resources (not applicable to recipients of affluence allergic to strap hanging). You may have been treated poorly by people who automatically assumed you wouldn't tip, and so you tipped according to their behavior, thus creating a self-perpetuating cycle of misunderstanding. Let's each take a step towards ending this by providing great service and appreciative gratuities that are not contingent on pre-conceived notions of one another.

That said, thank you Hanna, the South African girl from India (whose favorite song's music video is shot near where she lives) for dignifying my efforts with a 25% tip. You'd be proud to know that Amina Cachalia was being interviewed on BBC radio the moment you disappeared into Kennedy's terminal 4.

On the prelude to a later airport run, I had parked the cab in the Village and walked into three establishments before being allowed the dignity of #1. This one said no at first and then reluctantly shooed me toward the bathroom while stating,"is what it is, the boss is here." (boss reprimands humanistic instincts of his employees). Do not be flabbergasted to find a bottle of/for urine lurking in the front seat of a cab. Why can't there be a system where we show our hack license? When I came out to the sidewalk I saw a lady with a suitcase at the curb beginning to raise her hand. I sprinted over to her. "Need a cab? Mine's parked right over there. I'll carry this (luggage) over for you."
An Arab cabbie walked up to my cab in line at JFK and lovingly inquired if I knew of any 24 hour shift possibilities. I'm pleasantly taken aback every time I'm spoken to in Arabic. There couldn't possibly be a Jew driving a cab out in this godforsaken industry, except for those that pass for Arabs, a few leftover Schizoids, and one Mizraphrenic.

I picked up a newly wed guy on Wythe Avenue who was picking up a large picture of his spouse's that he'd snuck out to be framed at a frame shop as a surprise. We agreed to make a round trip out of it with the meter running and I'd like to thank him again for the 30% tip, and for aligning time and space to yield my next fare, a Japanese family to a Ramen place on Smith in Boerum, via BQE. I'd like to thank them for a 33% tip. No thanks to the following fare though. A NoLita numbskull, homebound for the holidays, to LGA in a firm flotsam flash, with an insulting 7% tip. From there I drove empty to Greenpoint and found a pleasant young man heading to Queens Center Mall to get his mom and sister gift cards for Christmas, and something for himself. He had that New York brand of mojo. The kind that's tough without being insolent, and he even volunteered to jump out on Woodhaven so I could turn again and break free from a gridlock of lethargic shoppers.

That allowed me to enter Queens Boulevard further down in Rego Park, where I instantly found a couple late to a reunion in Crown Heights. I gave them an estimate of $30 to 40. It came out to $28.50. Sadly I got a 5% tip. I feel like most cabbies wouldn't have accepted the inter-borough fare in fear of wasting time and money. I feel like my fare knew this and went from acting desperate for a ride to playing stupid with the tip. I did get a LGA out of it though, in Bedford Stuyvesant. It was an awkward trip with siblings from rural South Carolina who've been ever so slowly adjusting to the NY state of mind, and were on their way home-for-the-holidays. We agreed on not serving religion, in order to be of service to the creator. Unto Northern Boulevard after dropping them off and two Colombianas ran over in a rush to see Mary Poppins at Times Square, so I took some back streets and flew over the East River for these Judias Samarias from another socioeconomic planet.    

I gave an Gujarati cabbie commuting to his parked cab on Varick Street (from his home in Chinatown like me) a 50% discount. It was the only moment in the entire ride his face turned from a frown to a smile. He's been a driver for "not long." Twelve years actually. So modest, yet so disgruntled. Not happy living among "those people" (Chinese). They're "not good." I responded by silently forcing on his shoes. You can't understand someone's thoughts unless you walk in them. He has several children and a wife in a small space though.

A tall, lavish Norwegian woman hailed me at a hotel in Midtown just after experiencing a peak emotional moment in her life. She immediately got busy elaborately recounting a history she's had with the Jewish son of Moroccan and Russian parents (who had as many loose screws as her), while I drove her to Saks Fifth. Decades ago she lived in New York and dated him intensely on and off. She eventually moved to London, married a cold, robotic German, and raised children. While briefly in the Apple once she ran into her first love, and he begged her to stay, but she couldn't. Years later and divorced, she returned to find him (today), but this time he couldn't, and for no better reason than that his passion questing had dried up and he was now a rational middle-aged (Jewish) man. She laughed and cried and barely let me concentrate on driving. All along I thought she had this idea (not unlike my theory) that if one needs an on-the-spot shrink, one simply steps into a taxi and promptly begins their therapy with the driver, until she explained that the reason I was hearing this earful was because my Ashkizrahi eyes reminded her of him.    

Two elderly Jewish ladies amble in on Madison and unapologetically change their Upper East Side destination a couple of times. It's fine though because I remember them being mostly pleasant about it. Besides, I have no use for apologies. Their 60% more than makes up for any inconvenience. Mind you it is not common for old women on the Upper East Side to be anything but verbally harsh to a cabbie and tipping beyond 15% is unheard of. Upon arrival, I hop out, open their door, and help them out. The eye contact between us is that of oh, look at that.... we seem to both be Jewish. And with that exchange an awkward utterance of "happy holidays."   

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Târziu și Dracului

Newtown Creek, Hunters Point, Queens
Stories and photos from autumn's Americas border bouncing bonanza await assortment, while those from years past remain incomplete. The home base life lived in between these journeys accounts for much longer swaths of time, offering material equally worthy of documentation, that remains just as unassorted.

Laboring in various sectors of the transportation industry while helping out with family finances and mental health issues requires an amount of energy that leaves little for blogging, let alone other artistic and altruistic endeavors. I don't have my own children so I can't complain. The age of excuses and self pity is coming to an end. It's becoming now or never, more than ever. I lasted the better part of a year at the art handling job (driving box trucks). It was fun and fulfilling until the distress of chaotic mismanagement took over and it stopped being educational. Around the holidays the art handling world took a nap, but the bills didn't. That was my opportunity to play career musical chairs again.  

In the spring I had vowed not to drive a taxi again for as long as I could. On the winter solstice I not only returned, but with the same intense sense of honor and joy towards it as I had when I first got my hack license in 2006. I remain mindful, however, of the undignified reasons behind the temporal career swap, and vow to limit the amount of shifts I drive to a minimum.  In fact, I plan to leave New York all together for a little while, so I can focus on things besides the rat race. It won't be easy unplugging from this city though. I currently live in Chinatown, my favorite neighborhood in all of the Apple. I share an apartment with my sister and two roommates, which makes the rent reasonable, but I find it difficult to concentrate on creative pursuits. Houston, TX and Lake Worth, FL are both calling my name, each for more reasons than one. The first breathless blurb from recent taxi shifts in almost a year is in the works, along with every other jammed particle awaiting colonic therapy, metaphorically and then some.  

Saturday, September 8, 2012


Eje Central Lazaro Cardenas, Mero Centro, D.F.
The adventures of the past decade have led me through much of North and most of South America. In the past year I decided that before crossing the ocean (again), I would first link the missing autohemispherical gap: Mesoamerica! So, over the past few months I've bucked up to pay off debts and save up in spite of Big Apple living costs. I found a flight to Mexico D.F. for $180 and one from Bogota to New York for $278. I then rounded up $1680 to last me 55 days (maximum average $30 per day) by land and boat through 8 countries. On the 2nd at 6:40 I departed from JFK with my co-traveler Glo Diaz. A brief layover in Phoenix and by 15:00 we were in modern Tenochtitlan, dividing everything by 12.5 (USD to MXN).

By divine intervention, close to a year ago, the great Sarah Hope introduced me to Cintia, a good friend she'd met during her time as a Chilanga. Cintia was a guest at my apartment for a weekend and went above and beyond returning the hospitality this week, sharing her lovely home and exceptional novio with Glo and I. On our first full day she offered me a translating gig at the Indian embassy, but the corporate atmosphere scared me off before the meeting even started. Instead, I met up with Glo and we walked across downtown twofold, from la Ribera to the edge of el Bosque, to the historic core and back. Standing beside the massive Zocalo raised my hairs, while bountiful signs of disparity enraged me to near tears. We took an elevator up to the top of Torre Latino (just before sunset) to watch the densely inhabited basin shift to night. Make sure you learn the days of the week in Spanish before reading on.

El martes we experienced our first ride on the extensive and extremely inexpensive subterranean phenomenon known as Sistema de Transporte Colectivo. If we had more time here I'd make an entire day of just hopping on and off at every station (on a 3 peso fare) and exploring the vast network of vendors and informative displays that exist down there. We rode Linea 3 to Coyoacan, to check out La Casa Azul de Frida Kalho, filled with her fascinating works and personal items. My favorites were the intricate little 'exvotos' and a comprehensive diagram of the stages of pregnancy she kept on her wall. We then traversed the verdantly cobbled path to San Angel. Our hosts, Pablo y Cintia, met us at Plaza Hidalgo for some coffee shop 'socialism' and we all made the nearly two ("rush") hour trek home via Metrobus, along the longest continuous urban avenue in the world: Insurgentes!

All of miercoles we spent en el Museo de Antropologia and we still didn't manage to see all the rooms, which carefully detail the innumerable prehispanic cultures of Mexico and the Americas. The Mayan 'codices' (preserved journals) and those 'xantiles' with the widest eyes and familiar bodily gestures intrigued me the most. On our walk home we passed by the Kabbalah Centre in Polanco and marveled at the boisterous crowd mingling out front. As always, I was too chicken to go inside.    
El jueves tomamos un camion (bus) from Terminal del Norte to see the ruins of ancient Teotihuacan and its two piramides, placed in mathematical relation and reverence to the two most influential celestial bodies. The one we revolve around and the one that revolves around us. In the evening we had a delicious pozole and one of the numerous quality local beers we've enjoyed without the cost of import. Otherwise, we've mostly been alimenting ourselves at delectable (supposed dogmeat) taco street stalls and devouring tlacoyos, chiles rellenos, chilaquiles, enchiladas, quesadillas, huaraches, you name it. All washed down with sangria soda, Boing!, and aguas frescas de guayaba, jamaica, y tamarindo. La Michoacana's endless ice cream flavors and out of this world flan for dessert. In reality we've been so busy walking, journaling, and jumping aboard half- moving microbuses that we've neglected nourishment for large swaths of each day.

El viernes fuimos a Xochimilco, an awesome gridwork of shallow canals [much like before the uncivilized (to say the least) Cortes arrived], along which colorful wooden rowboats take reveling passengers (mostly teenagers) around. These joyride boats are continuously and adoringly solicited by smaller vessels carrying lively Mariachi and Nortenio bands, floating Pulque labs, and more. This city has so many more enchantments (21+ million of the most genuine human beings) than we could ever witness in 5 days, but it's time to tend to the insatiable wanderlust and head on south. Puebla, Oaxaca, Chiapas, Huehuetenango, Xela, Atitlan, Antigua, San Salvador, Managua, Ometepe, and in San Jose (on the 28th) we shall intercept co-traveler #3, Big Spoon, a medic from California and good friend of mine. The three of us will cross from Panama to Colombia by boat and bus it between Cartagena, Santa Marta, Tayrona, Medellin, la Zona Cafetera, Huila and Bogota.

The next update will come from somewhere in Cental America. If there are people and places not far off the panamerican highway you can recommend, bien pueda! I'll post more pictures on something public soon. I'm not sure what to use yet. May this missive find you in good spirits. Xoxo, Gusberto Austerinero            

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Months Don't Ask For Permission to Fast Forward

Life's been an especially nonstop whirlwind of struggles lately. Not in a bad way, but nonetheless hectic. Many changes happening all at once. Lots of tiring tasks, close calls, and near misses, hour by hour, day after day, week after week. Moved out of Richmond Hill, Queens. Staying with a generous friend. Gloria! Stored belongings in a another's basement. Mikey! Paid the income taxes. Taking serious shots at my disappearing credit debt. Helping my kindred friend Loren maintain a positive stride amid all of his hurdles and demons. Still helping my folks stay afloat in their everlasting adversity. Got an apartment lined up in Ridgewood for next month. Haven't driven a taxicab in almost a couple of months now, with the exception of one shift to film the clip on the previous entry.

Started working for an art handling service called CFL. Driving a tagged box truck all over the place. Wrapping, packaging, crating, and delivering all sorts of artwork, chandeliers, antique and high end furniture between ritzy residences, dusty warehouses, auctioning institutes, restoration shops, art galleries, exhibitions, fairs, etc..

The pay is (by far) more guaranteed and steadier and the job is almost as adventurous, if not more so at times. Instead of leaving work with a fried brain and atrophied muscles, everyday is a balanced physical and mental workout. The days begin at a reasonable hour, not in the middle of the night. The coworkers are phenomenally unique and brotherly. The bosses are such wholehearted characters that they instantly became family. The clients are a mixed bag, as were those in the taxi. Half of them too full of themselves and too empty of others. The other half pleasant and even empathetic.

The freedom perk that that cab driving offered only in theory is now a solid mainstay. I'm asked politely what my daily availability looks like. If I have side jobs lined up or personal errands to run, I can prioritize them without guilt or fear of lost income. CFL doesn't officially stand for anything, but all crew invent their own acronyms. Can't Find Luc (el jefe). Constantly Fcuking Late. Care Free Living. Cheap Fcuking Labor. Etc. I'm really honored to be a part of this team. I now look down at my ex-colleagues in their rented yellow Vics from up in my tall seat with sadness from afar over how poorly compensated their grueling, robot-like days can be. I'll try to always keep my hack license valid as a back up, but my days as a horse with its legs tied up are over. I'm now a horse with its own power, marching to its own gallop.          

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

"Graffiti Free NYC"

Cute little trucks parked along what I call "Identity Crisis Lane". Heading uptown from the Brooklyn Bridge it starts out as "Centre Street," through the Civic Center and Chinatown. It briefly gets renamed "Cleveland Place" before becoming "Lafayette," through SoHo and some of the Village. All of a sudden it's "Fourth Avenue" from Astor Place to 14th Street, before morphing into "Union Square East" for three blocks, and becoming "Park Avenue South" through Gramercy Park and Murray Hill. Finally, it matures into just plain simple "Park Av" for the rest of its journey through Mid and Uptown. These shots were taken in NoHo between Bond and Great Jones.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

WTF is Going On?

Been listening to WBAI news radio while steaming dinner and washing dishes. All the dire issues I somehow fail to hear about anywhere else have got me in a tizzy. Why is something 35 miles away permanently leaking radiation, threatening my water, and sitting atop a geological fault? Why are ATF agents making monetary gains from arming Mexican paramilitary factions that broaden the bloodbath?

What are intellectual property rights [excuse to push for complete control of the last free range space (infobahn) left] if there really isn't even such a thing as invention, when one humbly acknowledges that parallel microcosmic replicas are all derived from the ultimate parent macrocosm? I mean who do you think you are? And all I hear on other stations is about there being 4 rats for every New Yorker and how most of them live in the subway thanks to commuter food donations.

Back from the trivial and still on the subject of egotistical audacity. How is it that Monsanto is destroying everything and everyone in its path unbridled? And to ensure their profitable path of total annihilation, they have the gall to turn around, accuse, and sue farmers for inadvertently (helplessly) acquiring (by way of wind) the "technology" of contamination that these farmers were in fact trying to offer consumers alternatives to. How do these people live with themselves? How do they sleep at night? How do judges find it fair to empower them? And not that I'm one to count on "the government" for anything, but how do you allow this?

I feel helpless as the world seems to creak into collapse. My tear ducts resemble a dam with a trembling crack in it. To add to my emotional state is the fact that in the last three days, after a clean year, I've been pulled over twice and given tickets for the most absurd reasons. The city has no problem unleashing its human kennels into the streets to intentionally jeopardize the livelihoods of honest, proficient, hardworking cabbies for the sake of, hell, I dunno, revenue? And when I bring the cab back to the garage 4 hours into the 12 hour shift and announce I'm quitting for good, I get a lecture from my Pakistani dispatcher on how bad he had it back when he drove and how much of a cry baby I'm being. Then a lecture from the Bangladeshi cashier on how no matter how difficult life is, I should always thank the maker.

On the way home I scheme out various options. Back to trucking for the moving company in New Jersey? Over to Philadelphia where my friend has his own little indie moving service? To the airport to apply at one of the airlines so I can work towards free flight points? I take a nap in my bed to awaken refreshed and reconciled. Ain't goin' to let a few bully cops and oblivious passengers keep me away from the freedom and independence of a job I love doing well, in the city I serve with pride. Not yet, anyway. Time is coming soon though.

In fact I'm such an upstanding sucker than when two Colombians (well-estabished Manhattanites) at Kennedy step into my cab, having just met each other on the return flight from their monthly sojourn to the homeland, and reveal two distinct destinations deep into the fare, I can't quite bring myself to turn off the meter upon arrival at the first stop (57th and Tenth), in order to collect my flat 45, and turn it on anew for trip #2 up the Henry Hudson Parkway to Washington Heights, all in baseless fear of being labeled a crooked cabbie. I'm entitled to two separate payments, but instead I just hope and pray that she'll take my leniency and the extra distance/time/gas into account. Especially after we establish, in the midst of a friendly en-route chat, that neither of us are entirely sure how the law explains it, but theoretically fare #2 would've been about $20. And besides, I'm a compatriot (born in Colombia). Unfortunately most countries are made of at least two countries. In this case, Colombia of the Haves and Locombia of the Nots.

Says she'll even things out on the credit card tip, by which she means 25% instead of the customary 20%. That makes $56.88, minus the ironical 5% taken out. In reality the whole journey was well worth around $78. By then it seems too late to voice any protest, since it's really my fault for being such a well-mannered, well-meaning sucker in the first place. Between the cops, passengers like this, the great rat race of New York, and the global absurdities i hear about on WBAI, my once entranced soul and spirit is rotting out from the inside. I'm increasingly jaded, angry, frequently prone to bawls, and all but hopeless about the fate of humanity. But the putrefaction will never touch my deepest core, which is made of endless inextinguishable light. I'm back to work tonight. Unshakably yellow, with dirty hands brown in solidarity with farming families still trying to preserve a millenia old tradition of saving unaltered seed, not poisoning their crops, and being gentle with their livestock. At one point in history, 60% of Americans were farmers. Today there are more people incarcerated here than there are farmers.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Empathetic Solidarity

I always keep a bag on the side to collect cans and bottles of value to give to people laboring after them on the streets. Some of what I collect is from my own consumption, but much of it I gather from my building's recycling bins in the basement every time I go downstairs to dump the remaining recyclables that aren't of street value. It's easier to do when the bags in the bin aren't completely commingled and full, but these people have not the anytime access to the bins that I do. It doesn't take a lot out of my time and it makes me feel a little more connected with the fact that though I complain about my meager income driving a cab, much of the world's population labors many more hours than even I do, for much less compensation, and with many more mouths to feed. I got the picture from this article, which I understand and agree with on one hand, but being innovative and a lynchpin doesn't always guarantee financial comfort.

People often approach me with the same mentality as the author of this article, asking me "what I'd like to do when I grow up?" If my answer's anthropology, they say I need school. What better school than taxi driving, nitwit? My other answers include writer, artist, farmer, tour guide, paramedic, ambulance driver, etc.. "In that order?," they ask while laughing. It's not ridiculous to have many different pursuits in life, so don't ridicule me. Instead, why don't you try shifting your whole paradigm and look at it from a standpoint of appreciation for people's hard work, regardless of how 'entrepreneurial' they may be in your eyes, especially if their work is an important one that helps keep society (or the world in general) in balance, or at least moving?

New York runs on cabs and needs competent cabbies, or am I wrong? Perhaps I am wrong after all. That is why I'll soon be joining the exodus of bright minds from this industry. Back to the subject of recycling. We need to recycle our rubbish or else face a non-sustainable future, right? So instead of labeling these people as lazy or not resourceful, why not support their efforts to eke out a living by making it a little easier for them? I encourage you to start having a bag set aside for cans and bottles of value to them. You can tell by looking on the can or bottle itself. In New York, for example, it must say 'NY' and the value in cents.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Garage Panoramas

January 21: first snow since late October. Climate trans-myoo-tey-shuh n?
Glamorous life of a cabbie. Back seat nap at the garage while queued pre-shift.

Restroom at the garage. Fit for livestock but at least they have one, right?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Meaningful Juxtapositions

semi-wild felines of the taxi garage
(fed regularly by some of the drivers themselves),
juxtaposed with my old trusty "China Truck Bike,"
with matching background rust (named after 80s Beijing traffic)

my previous employer (in Perth Amboy, NJ)
stopped by to visit but no one was there (a sunday).
still enjoyed juxtaposing speedy yellow with the truck I used to drive
back in 2006, before I got a hack license.
only other job I've had since moving here was bike messaging in Manhattan,
when I was fresh from Florida. It's been a long road, literally.
always delivering something or someone.
even down south I was an organic produce delivery van driver.
adventurous young tourist couple caught trespassing
with 'deplorable intentions' of exploring abandoned, overgrown buildings
at Brooklyn's Navy Yard. i was pedaling home along Flushing Avenue's bike lane
when all of a sudden this patrol car made a crazy u-turn (nearly hitting me)
and drove down the wrong side of the street.
i stayed to watch the cops make them climb back over the tall fence.
her bright red coat and their leisurely approach
(instead of swiftly subtracting street visibility)
is what sadly gave them away

Friday, January 27, 2012

Healthy Eating as of Late

egg sunny side up, whole garlic chopped, baby carrots, mixed greens,
sliced cucumber, dried arbol (hot red pepper), and a mug of joe for dinner

cheerios and wheat puffs in greek nonfat yogurt (not milk)
with brown pear chunks and a generous sprinkling of ground flax seed
for breakfast (past dinnertime for most westerners)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

This Past Tuesday's Shift

Dished out $110 for the 12 hour lease and pulled out of the lot with 7L71 at half past 2. First thing I heard was a Russian spokesman on WBAI: "truly speaking nobody cares" (on selling Syria arms to quell its people). I'm thinking, "Russia has 140 million minds (hearts). That's a lot of indifference." 49% of food stamp recipients in the U.S. are white and NYC janitors make absurd amounts of money (thanks Newt). Nothing like late night news via taxicab radio.

My first fare's a blond mid-age Brit. She requests the Manhattan Bridge from Delancey and Ludlow to Myrtle and Nostrand. I'd a taken the Williamsburg to Lee, but I do as I'm told. "Stop at the deli, I need to get milk. Do you need anything? Please don't leave me here in this neighborhood." No thanks (and you haven't paid me yet so why would I take off?). $17 for a 14.30.

Marcy to Union and my next fare is an semi-awkward peer from Bedford's hip strip to 1 River Place (off W42 in Manhattan). We talk about music. Grunge was his thing back in 8th grade. Same here. Says he can only listen to Punk if it's harder than the pop sort. I play him some Casualties and he's down. $24 for a 19.90 [by credit card (take 5% off total)].

Been eating mad healthy last few days so I treat myself to a couple slices of cheese at the original 99 cent Pizza on Ninth behind the bus terminal (owned and operated by a crew of Bangladeshi harlequins). I down the last of 15 antibiotic pills from last week's ear crisis with a can of root beer and spend the next 45 minutes frantically searching a fare (ironic time for a lull in business as 4 am comes and goes).

A girl jumps in at Essex and Rivington, headed to Blissville (via BQE, McGuinness, and the G-point bridge). On her way to work. She didn't know the neighborhood's historic name. "Someone must've been happy when they named it." Actually it's named after mid-19th century developer Neziah Bliss and its only landmarks are the enormous tombstones at Cavalry. $15 for a 13.90 [meager tip (minus 5%) for an immaculate ride and free history lesson].

Over to Bedford's trusty hip strip again and I catch one to FIT. He's actually going to the Chase bank nearest 29th and Ninth. Online with his phone, he changes the destination twice and still isn't sure. Without saying a word I simply drive him to the branch on 27th and Seven (one I'm familiar with). $18 for a 15.10 (minus 5%).

At Eighth and 23rd I catch fare #4. He's just going to Penn Station, but our mutually spastic mannerisms jive well and feed of each others' high strings. We're there in 15 seconds and he gives me a fiver for 3.80. Then up on Eighth and 56th I find a good listener to hear out my rants while I drive him over the upper level to Astoria. He agrees this taxi life stuff sounds rough. Sixteen in cash for a 12.70. I don't rant for tips, believe me.

Back into the city and zig zag the east side and bingo at Third and 33rd. This one ain't cut and dried though. A drunk, fabulously flamboyant Irishman has lured three drunk Mexicans out into the street from a bar and kitchen he'd patronized while they were wrapping up their shift.

It took them a good three minutes to figure out who was going and where. I dropped 3 of them off at Queens Boulevard and 46th. The fourth one, who had been sitting front seat with his head dangling out of the window, was to continue all the way home to the beach neighborhood of Rockaway Park and pay the full fare for all of them. I bluntly asked why the well-to-do guero hadn't chipped in. He looked me in the eyes, and in spanish, with as sober a tone as he could muster, told me not to worry cause his brother's a cabbie and for that reason he couldn't wrong one if he wanted to. He then asked if he could take a nap. Como no? Claro que si!

As he snored through his thick drool (his repeated attempts to puke had all failed) on the door, I carefully (so as not to stir his stomach) made a right on Woodhaven and drove straight down to the ocean with the heat blasting to make up for the open window (see photo above). With the $1.80 toll it came out to 51.70. I waited 5 minutes while he went inside to get more cash. He paid $60, in all singles, and apologized for being a busboy. I felt bad for taking his hard earned cash, but I'm not the one who decided to get too drunk to take the A train home. Actually, it's a hell of a long way (end of the line) no matter how you slice it.

Just then the sun had risen (it was 7 am). I stopped for coffee and a donut and watched seagulls pass overhead while the radio announced that last night a 50 year old man in Ozone Park (just beyond the bay from there and one neighborhood over from mine) had lit a firecracker that ruptured his gut and killed him. Having been up since 10 am Monday morning, the surrealism of it all had me smirking like De Niro. Typical for sunrise on any shift consisting of those hours.

I drove back just the way I came and found a fare from Woodside back out to Kennedy. Three courteous men from Bangladesh (two of them cabdrivers) to catch an Emirates Airlines flight. $38 for a 33. Getting there was a breeze, but coming back would've been a standstill, so I stayed at the holding lot and took a two hour nap in the back seat. I was dispatched to the same terminal (4) I'd dropped off at. An East Asian lady and her curious, wide-eyed son of about 7 (who watched my every facial gesture and wheel maneuver) were on their way to the Sheraton near Times Square. The radio reported heavy traffic on the bridge so I took the tunnel and crossed at 42 with no delay. Meter read 50.30 and she asked me if $52 cash would be sufficient. I politely pointed out that 20% was customary for a good service. She added $2 to make it 54 and I got out to handle the luggage again, trying to not to show dismay. I assumed she simply wasn't used to proper tipping a la New York.

At that point it was 11:30 am and my friend Lluvia (Rain) boarded the front seat for a one hour copiloting tour. She had come to perform in an acrobatic show and was leaving for Oakland in the afternoon. We had three short, friendly, central Manhattan fares totaling $37. One of those actually only tipped 20 cents and another gave $20 cash for an 11.80 fare, which more than made up for it.

Remainder of afternoon:
Chelsea to East Village: $9 (minus 5%) for 7.40
Stuytown Loop to NYU Hospital: $6 for 4.60
Same spot (the driveway) to 7 World Trade (via FDR): $15 (minus 5%) for 13.80
TriBeCa to Chelsea: $10 (minus 5%) for 8.60
Back to Boerum Hill (Brooklyn) without a fare to end the shift.
Jimmy (the taxi garage cashier) said I'm dressed like a lumberjack. Between him, the lot attendants, the morning cashier and dispatcher: -$4 in tips. Gas is $44 (for 150 miles). MTA state surcharge is $8 (16 trips). Even though my total overhead (expenses) was $20 more than my net profit, I still made $150 clean cash "in the pocket" for me (minus self employment income taxes) for 1o hours of driving and a 2 hour nap. Not bad today, though I doubt Mitt, Newt, or any of those guys want my job.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Ode to Overly Sentimental Self via Glory

One of my favorite scenes in one of my favorite films. I'm not into war or movies about war. I'm not all that into religion either. I am however into deep, soulful group humming, clapping and chanting with humility, appreciation, and fearless conviction in the face of oppression.

Monday, January 23, 2012


He's not always the easiest person to get along with, especially in his Libran moments. Me being a Leo, we aren't all that similar, aside from the fact that neither of us are easy (and we've both always loved justice, authenticity, punk, and Jamaican music).

For some reason though, he's always felt like a mirror reflection. His tribulations and trials are my own. His name is Daniel Robleto (el agricultor luchador) and he's been my best friend since 1997. I have no contact with 96% of the friends I had in my childhood prior to that. Even now I don't really keep in touch with most of my friends, including Lil' D. It's not that I'm pick and choosy about who I spend my time with. I'm picky about how, which translates into who.

Most of the time I prefer to be on my own, though not alone. I need having people around me. I'm just allergic to boondoggle, flapdoodle, small talk, and "hanging out". Each moment and word must have purpose and meaning if I am to feel comfortable in a social setting. Lately some of the only people I've spent time with, besides my passengers, have been like-minded cabdrivers (like Gejza Simansky the Slovak guru on wheels). Below we're pictured taking a coffee break in Chelsea.

Another way I've kept from being anti-social are unique copiloting sessions, as seen in the bottom-most photograph (with copilot Arni Eddie, northern California's top dog). Once you've ridden around front seat and on-duty for part or all of one shift, I promote you to the level of trusted confidant, or at least copilot licensee. If it's the latter, don't take it personal. Leos are known not to place their trust easily. We rely only on ourselves. We nearly never ask for help because we don't think we need it. We can, however, reveal a lot of light in the world if we learn to delegate tasks. That's why as copilot you'll have plenty of opportunities to participate in taxi operations, minus driving.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Call of Action

Forgive me everyone for posting these. I assume the readers of this blog expect juicy stories from the job and tales of travel funded by the bare bones income. Perhaps some artwork and photography here and there. Certainly not political rants about worker mistreatment. Though I'm astounded by how many passengers know absolutely nothing of the hardships endured by their yellow donkeys daily. And just in case a fellow driver or two are tuned in, it's good place to get the word out. This is upcoming. It's similar to the one last month, but at a different garage (depot, base, horse stable, whatever you wanna call it).

Monday 1.23.12 @ 15:00 in front of All Taxi Management
41-25 36th St. (LIC). 7 train to 33rd/Rawson.

Demand an end to lease overcharges before the city decides on a fare raise. A raise means nothing if the leases aren't controlled first.

Garages/Brokerages recently picketed: Midtown Operating Corp (twice), Checker Management, SLS Jet Management, Stan 55 Operating Corp, Ronart Leasing Corp, Tunnel Management. Not where you work? We're coming there too!

Brokers are finally under investigation. Keep the pressure to win! Some brokers are now charging close to 60k for a 25k car. Since '04 fare raise they've overcharged in the name of Tax Stamp, Vehicle Expenses, Additional Driver Fee, and Loan Guarantee. Some even charge a shameless $1 service fee to issue drivers our own credit card check. The brokers are now lobbying to make their high interest car payments and lease overcharges permanent and higher still. They're crying that next to their garage pals, they're poor. Nobody in the industry knows poor like the cabbies themselves. Both the garages and brokers are crying that unless TLC raises the lease, they'll go bankrupt and the industry will collapse. Stop the lies! Stop the greed! Raise the fare! Lower the lease! NYTWA's Campaign against lease overcharges is picking up speed! NYTWA pressured TLC to establish a Lease Caps Enforcement Unit, which has been summonsing garages and brokers (one garage was summonsed for 150k and a broker for 80k). Four NYTWA members filed a class action lawsuit in civil court and NYTWA protests outside garages are drawing media attention to the plight of overcharges and high leases. Now let's build the January 23rd demonstration and keep up the pressure!

In Solidarity, Bhairavi Desai

Monday, January 16, 2012

Acute Otitis of the Left Ear

Ain't been sick in a long time. I keep my immune system chirping with raw garlic, a glass-half-full approach, plenty of water, constructive arguments (bottling them kills cells), a minimum of sarcasm, a dash of aerobics whenever inspired (be my jog pal), and an Emergen-C packet here and there. I don't touch antibiotics unless absolutely necessary, and I'm not easily convinced.

However, at least two counterproductive habits have finally caught up with me. I go on using the same disposable ear plugs for weeks and store them on dirty surfaces. I often penetrate my precious labyrinths with cotton swabs in attempts to scoop up wax. I don't need to delve into why these and other peculiar hang-ups like nicotine and too much coffee work against all I do to build integrity and empathy (the cornerstones of character). Well anyhow, something's bothered my left ear for a over a week now. It started with just a tickle and an inability to hear clearly out of that side. I left it alone for a few days and the symptoms quietly persisted. While driving the cab I managed to resuscitate sound wave conductivity on that crucial window side often used to negotiate traffic by holding my nose and blowing pressure through it.

Yesterday afternoon, as I arrived home from another twelve hour tour, the pain hit me. It was roaring throbbingly and all sound had ceased to have any chance of passage. Worried about something spreading into other, more serious members of my cephalopod, I gave in and relinquished a quite possibly lucrative Martin Luther King Junior Day in the taxicab for an extremely rare visit to the doctor and an even rarer antibiotic stupor in bed. The pain is gone and I'll be back behind the wheel tonight (earliest hours of Tuesday.) In case you were wondering, cabbies in NYC are independent contractors. Sounds profound, but unfortunately it means we have no access to medical insurance or any other benefits. Luckily, I was recommended a great doctor (Diogenes Almonte, MD) who only took $50 for the visit and treated me as if I were his own son. Another $50 at the pharmacy for the darned pills and the Neomycin ear juice.

I'll leave you with my favorite MLK, Jr. quote ever: "If a person is called to be a taxi driver, they should hack even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. They should hack so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great taxi driver who did their job well."

(Please note that the quote was originally about street sweepers. I've altered it to reflect my own profession. After all, he was only implying that every job is just as valuable a piece to the whole.)

hack 2 (hæk) verb
12. informal ( US ) ( intr ) to drive a taxi

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Ce Mai Faci

A warm salute to my Romanian colleagues. The article that came with this picture is short and sweet. I happened across it while searching Cadmium Yellow. I have a strong association with that color (and the smell of coffee). My grandparents happen to be from Iasi (pronounced Yahsh) and Bacau [baˈkəw]. Both towns happen to be in northeastern Romania.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Demonstration Against

Garage Greed!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Midtown Garage

42-50 24th Street (Queens)

(N/Q to Queensboro Plaza;7/E/M to Court Square)

Since the 2004 fare raise, garages have raised our leases and watched our incomes plummet while their medallion is now valued at $1 million dollars. When gas prices soared, they did nothing to share the burden. When the MTA tax cut our tips and smaller trips, they did nothing to share the burden. When credit card fares started taking over and cutting our incomes, they gladly took the 5% surcharge.

Now, after the TLC actually did the right thing and said the lease cap includes all taxes, fees and surcharges, including the sales tax - they paid millions of dollars to sue us in state court for $4.77 per shift. They have million dollar lawyers, million dollar lobbyists, but can't spare a lousy $4.77 from us. For drivers, it's a loss of 5% in their income when there is hardly anything left to lose.


The New York State Court of Appeals made a devastating ruling on Thursday, December 15th, stating that garages can charge us sales tax (now at $4.77 per shift) above the TLC's lease caps. The garages, represented by Midtown Garage Owner Ron Sherman and his Metropolitan Taxicab Board of Trade (MTBOT), sued the city when the TLC passed a rule banning them from the pass-along in 2009. They lost. The TLC would have to redo their rulemaking process in order to change this.

Please know that the court did not say that the TLC does not have the power to stop the garages. The court only said that the TLC has to follow a different rulemaking process than they did. The TLC has the power. And we will organize to make them use it. The garages don't have to add the tax above the lease cap. They are
choosing to charge us more. Garages did not even wait 24 hours. They started charging immediately, even to day drivers who were mid-shift when the ruling came out.
In Solidarity,

Bhairavi Desai

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Minuses and Pluses

A question for the state government: What's with this new "Sales Tax" ? As of a few shifts ago taxi drivers have been paying $4.75 more per shift to lease a cab. I thought the odds you (and other entities who want a slice of our pathetic little pie) stacked against our livelihoods couldn't get any higher. The management at my garage could not answer why it's even called a Sales Tax. Thanks for bursting my sensibility bubble. Passengers have no idea about this. They wouldn't know how much we paid in the first place. Let alone how the whole taxi system works for drivers. I invite anyone to come along for part or all of a shift, front seat, like a copilot, and see for yourself. Or at least just click on the pic to enlarge the evidence.

Next question goes out to the credit card technology folks. Why does the passenger screen pop a "Thank You" in the middle of a transaction, before it's authorized? Passengers often mistakenly believe it means they've already been charged, whether they're sober or drunk. They look at me and respond as if I'm a lying crook when I tell them my screen says "swipe again" or "card error" or "declined" or "not approved." Please prevent the back screen from thanking them prematurely. Thank you.

A shout out to Amadou, 9M86's steady night driver, for always making my shift start full blast with Senegalese talk radio on 930 am, soon as I turn the ignition. I love listening to that language, though I don't understand. A minute later I'm flushed with frustration and hooking up my FM transmitter on 95.1 to treat my passengers to my own homemade radio station of 1400 mp3 hymns of every imaginable culture and genre.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Land of 573 Hills

I do take heed of Albert Einstein's words:"Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Anyone who reads too much and uses their own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking." However, I am at the point in my life when I've decided to finally just tackle the must-try-reading list of books I've had rotting idle on my shelf (and at the library), so that I may keep only a few favorites for reference and loan-outs, while finding new homes for the remaining bulk. All part of the becoming-less-materialistically-anchored life path.

This particular one was thick like an encyclopedia, but juicy enough to finish in a few days. Its gist is that Manhattan has always been an extremely unique island. Before 1609 it was to nature what it is to humanity today: the anomalous zenith of diversity. Just as its multiethnic mosaic dwarfs that of any other city on Earth, it was at one point home to a more juxtaposed variety of ecosystems than all its surrounding regions combined. An archipelago in an estuary and that's just the beginning. An entire chapter is dedicated to the Lenape, the oldest of Algonquin tribal cultures. Stewards of New York before Europeans and urbanization came along.

I learned of our complex indebtedness to soil, our planet's living skin. That our climate requires 40 years to form 1 cm of it. Inky Schist, Granitic Pegmatite, Granodiorite, and anthropogenic (garbage) being my favorite names for some of the 87 different kinds that exist in the modern city, out of 17 originally. I discovered the words Onomastics, Toponymy, and Bathymetry.... all right up my geo-linguistic alley. The book inspired me to go check out Cold Spring at Inwood Hill, the most preserved stretch of wild nature left on the island, and the supposedly still bubbling, original Tanner’s Spring in what is now Central Park near W82. Ilearned that in 1640 there was a merchants ordinance against reckless sledding, inspiring me to borrow garbage lids next time snow accumulates and get a bit reckless at Forest Park, the hilly wilderness behind my Queens neighborhood.

Favorite quote from the book: "One of the main wonders of NY is her people. Opinionated, quick with a word, insistent on getting ahead, generous in a pinch, New Yorkers are, nearly to the last individual, a tremendously alive bunch. It seems impossible to live in NY and be boring, or be bored- there is always someone to irritate, titillate, or stimulate you into action. Love it or hate it (arguments can be fairly made on either side), NY culture is a mind-altering experience. It can be a bit much, but when it works, it works like nothing else to please the human animal. That NY culture is so vibrant today sometimes obliterates the fact that there are other ways to please the human animal. Before the whole party got started in 1609, there was another way, equally distinctive, for people to live on Manhattan."

"If the entire world lived the way Americans do today, it would take 4 planet Earths to supply the global population’s resource requirements.

Regurgitational Fragments:

"The U.S. Gov’t. estimates that the off-shore wind-power capacity of the US is in itself sufficient to supply electricity for the entire nation. In an average year NYC has 232 sunny days (nationwide average is 212). Solar shingles collect energy as plants do. New Yorkers use 2/3 the energy per person as Americans. Over 1/3 of mass transit trips made daily in the US are in NYC. The population of Seattle can be found in our transit system on a busy evening rush. Average New Yorker produces 3/10 the carbon dioxide annually as an average American. 100 year experiment concludes cars don’t work that well in cities.

How much pain can we suffer before we apply ourselves to tasks?

Plan of Action:

Reintroduce the street car (trolley), use subways to haul nonhuman cargo,implement pedicabs (cargo trikes) to deliver it locally. Unstructured outdoor play is exactly what helps kids learn to love nature in the deepest recesses of their hearts. It is the biota that we love the most.

New Jersey, Long Island, and the Hudson Valley must return to Agrarian ways. Suburban sprawl must be replaced with complex, dense cities and agro-belts that extend into the city. Organize farms cooperatively, not corporately. We will of course produce a few more apples and potatoes than needed and trade them, along with our art, science, business, and savvy, for sustainable coffee shipped into a revitalized harbor. We must have our coffee. We will still live on an archipelago in an estuary after all, on islands narrowed by rising tide. A businesswoman will be able to fly-fish in Minetta Water, downstreet from office fall evenings before heading out to opera or the baseball game. New Yorkers in 2409 will still be loud, direct, and pushy, but warm, generous, and involved in world happenings."

Last (undigested) Morsels: Adjudicating on the fly. Avenues 100 ft wide interlaced with 155 streets (60 ft across).Lenape: “the real people” (the ancient ones). Lenapehoking (Land of the Lenape).Mesingholikan (deity for negotiating a justified hunt). Sachem (tribal chief). Intimately familiar with all surroundings. Spirit guardianship. Parochial but profound sense of community. Extrapolations (of conditions for people). Historiographies. A WILLINGNESS TO BE SURPRISED. Don’t take yourself too seriously (nor too unseriously). Play the game, but don’t forget it’s only that. Maximum Entropy Algorithm. Carry respect and conscience as true wealth. Global ecological economy. Connected by a thousand invisible cords.