Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Breaking A Sacred Covenant

For those not familiar, the word or term "covenant" means an agreement, or more formally, a solemn compact between persons or parties.  It can even be taken to be contractual, an agreed upon course of action taking both respondents to a mutually acknowledged destination or end.  Covenants take various forms, be they signed and notarized or simply mutually understood.  A marriage vow is a good example, bonding two souls in holy matrimony.  Two important examples taken from Webster's Collegiate Dictionary's 1941 Fifth Edition, one validating Scottish Presbyterianism in 1643, called the "National Covenant" which opposed English or Royal episcopacy (King Henry VIII's argument with Pope Clement VII and the establishment of the Anglican Church);  and another, from 1919, the post-WWI "Covenant of the League of Nations," (President Woodward Wilson's grand scheme), richly illustrate how important the concept is taken and accepted.  And equally, when an agreed or assumed covenant is broken or maligned, all hell breaks loose, releasing untold dire consequences.  Bad things happen, and too often chaos and anarchy reigns, grinding foundational expectations into dust.

Clearly, in regards to the taxi industry, locally this has occurred, Seattle having seen the breaking and destroying of a fundamental covenant between the City of Seattle and its regulatory relationship with the major taxi associations and the thousands of single owners and lease-drivers dependent upon official and implied guidance. A further erosion of trust has simultaneously occurred on the association level between company and drivers. These betrayals shout out a gross injustice that will not and can not be quickly mended.  The fabric is torn, a cold wind chilling us to the bone, freezing wallets and expected incomes. Both covenants are intertwined,the municipal and the taxi association, each mirroring the other, but as recent events have shown, expected certitudes can vanish, leaving one reaching for something that isn't there.

Without going into history already mentioned in previous posts, the City of Seattle's administrative betrayal for the past four years left the taxi industry vulnerable to both the Uber wolves, and that creation of the Office of Consumer Affairs, the flat-rate for-hire industry.  Communicating that we in the taxi industry don't matter, the City of Seattle has put every conceivable obstacle in our path while saying this medicine is both what we deserve and should have expected given our historically, according to them, bad and irresponsible behavior. That the local taxi associations should have sued the City of Seattle, in my mind, is without question.  Mayor Murray's "negotiating committee" was bogus from the onset, requesting that we "slice our own throats."  Why would anyone participate in their own demise? 

Last week, looking at a history of the Jewish people of the 20th Century, I saw photographs of a Nazi mandated "Jewish Police Force" enforcing German ordered rules for the Polish "Warsaw Ghetto."  Maybe an extreme example but somehow appropriate given the outcome both then and now, unlimited Uber, Lyft and Sidecar drivers allowed to operate in our work place along with unfettered street access for the flat-rate for-hire industry.  This in no way can be called a victory, which explains why I wasn't invited to the mayor's table.  My response would have been an adamant "no way are we going along with this," thus rallying the taxi industry toward an opposite and positive outcome.  The book on Jewish history also showed Jewish Underground member holding machine guns while assisting the D-Day invasion.  That was a far better response given the existing conditions.

This brings me to what has been happening the past two months at PSD/BYG (Yellow Cab).  As previously described, the ongoing debut of George Anderson's dispatch remains troubled though signs of improvement continue to grow. Reports of a friend's unknown three hour-long system de-authorization, even though his computer confirmed was operational, is disturbing. The breach here has been the loss of what appears to be a large percentage of our customer base.  Saturday I was furious when, after six hours in the cab, I had grossed only $83.00 dollars.  And Sunday, what used to be a guaranteed pre-Seahawk rush to the game never materialized. 

What this means, especially for the lease-drivers, is that while operating costs remain high, expected income has dramatically decreased.  Our, the single owners and lease-drivers agreement or covenant with Yellow, is simple.  We pay for dispatch services and expect in exchange a reasonable monetary return.  Until recently, despite the City of Seattle's intentional sabotage, we having been doing okay.  But now, due to the new system's less than impressive performance, we are all suffering. 

I can say though what differentiates Yellow from the City of Seattle is their recognition that something is wrong and are attempting to remedy the situation.  What last Wednesday's TAG meeting made clear is that on the municipal level NOTHING will be changing.  They have screwed us and the screwing will continue unabated.  There is only one word suited to describe that wasted 1 1/2 hours: farcical.  Why the meeting could have been authored by Moliere  (1622-1673) himself if we had all instead been somehow transported back to 17th Century France.

"Que l'on parle bien quand on parle dans le desert."  quot Andre Gide (1869-1951).  The rough translation is thinking we are smart while talking in a parched and heated environment.  All I can say watch out for the sand in your eyes.  In 1997 "she-who-can't-be-named" and I encountered a sand storm in Death Valley.  Something to be avoided!



Friday, December 12, 2014

Deluding Myself

I really thought that Wednesday's TAG meeting would be flooded with angry cabbies. Well, I couldn't have been more incorrect. What this translates to is that I am more than tired "carrying the taxi torch" for an industry incapable of caring for itself.  Now I better than anyone understand the "taxi mind" but it comes to a point when I feel, in my current capacity as a lone cabbie shouting at the bureaucratic sky, it is time to take a different tact. I have thought often that I, and the local industry would be better served if I became an official taxi lobbyist, and that is what I am going to investigate becoming.  Washington State Senator Cyrus Habib is in the process of writing a bill that would completely redefine the definition of a TNC (meaning Uber) company, freeing Uber from L&I and other obligations.  In other words, the company with nearly 3 billion in cash on hand is seeking a free ride.  That is why an experienced taxi voice is required to fight something that will leave us at an operational disadvantage.  I can guarantee you that the majority of the elected and non-elected officials in the Washington State Capitol of Olympia know little to nothing concerning taxi realities. When I was working on the L&I issue, staff members were very appreciative of what I provided them, wishing they had spoken to me sooner.  I know I can be influential for an industry that is screaming out for some badly needed recognition.  The reason I quit the taxi commission because it was a waste of my time.  The same can be said of the TAG, making it highly doubtful I will be returning. 

Everyone might find it useful to read Ordinance # 124524.  Copies of the ordinance (law) are available on-line:

Enter Ord. No. "124524"

Copies of Rules issued to implement the Ordinance are available on-line:

Click on "Browse"

Update On Assaulted Cabbie Adam Gaal  

Jesse Alexander Fleming, the sailor alleged to have attacked Yellow taxi driver Adam Gaal, is scheduled to be arraigned on Malicious Harassment & 2nd Degree Assault charges on the morning of December 24th, at 8:30 AM in court room 1201, King County Courthouse, 516 3rd Avenue, Seattle, WA.  Fleming's bail was increased to $100,000

Check out the good article and interview by KUOW reporter Liz Jones on the KUOW website.  The article is entitled, "Muslim Group Wants FBI to Investigate Attack On Seattle Cabbie."

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A Taxi Cockroach? Sure, I Can Accept That!

Now many would find being compared to a lowly insect known best for crawling upon nocturnal kitchen floors an insult, but when "she-who-can't-be-named" called me a cockroach, she meant it as a compliment, recognizing that I, as a kind of local taxi version, a cabbie "periplaneta americana" (American cockroach species), can and will survive anything, including our industry's current difficulties. You ever notice how seemingly impossible it is to rid your abode of the little pests, no matter how hard you try, their "blattedoa" (order or insect classification) eon-generated external carapace resisting the thickest sole.  With over 4,600 thousand separate species, our friend Mister, Miss, Ms and Mrs. cockroach will probably be with us until the sun fizzles out in 2 1/2 billion years.  I can only hope that cabbies too have a similar shelf-life. 

This past weekend was better, with the dispatch system more or less functioning as intended.  Yesterday I met with one of the majority license holders, where I provided a quick but detailed analysis of what as I see as systemic failures at Yellow Cab.  Somehow he had the impression that the majority of drivers were happy with George Anderson's system. How anyone at this point could think that is a mystery. I did suggest that a return to a traditional queuing within the scope of the new system would be very popular and would more than likely silence dissension.

Repeatedly he told me he didn't have any hand in the decision making.  My only suggestion is that should change.  I know I would personally want to safeguard my investments.  We left our meeting agreeing he would ride with me some time Saturday morning and see for himself first hand how the system operates.  Being once a long-time veteran driver, I have hopes his involvement will achieve potentially positive results.    

Tomorrow I will be attending the already mentioned TAG meeting.  Hopefully progress will be made toward containing illegal pick ups.  Some good news appears to be coming out of the City of Seattle's Criminal Prosecutor's office.  More updates upon will be forthcoming as soon as I have more confirmation. 

Seattle Cabbie Attacked Early Sunday Morning

As noted many times, watch out for those full moon weekends!  Saturday's bar-break brought an unwarranted attack upon a local Somali driver whose crime it appears was a slow processing credit card transaction.  Upset over the proceedings, a young US navy man punched the driver, accusing the driver of being a terrorist, etc.  During the altercation, the cabbie's foot slipped off the brake pedal resulting in the taxi careening down a hill into parked cars, finally coming to rest in a stairwell.  After that the sailor and two male companions continued to physically punish the driver.  The sailor's bail has been set at $50,000 dollars, proving once again that alcohol and that devilish full moon are a dangerous combination.  During that same time period I took this nice woman back home to Rainier Valley while we shared cooking secrets concerning that noble fowl, the baked chicken.

The City of Portland, Oregon is Unhappy with Uber Tactics

After being warned that they were not welcome, Uber ignored municipal warnings and entered Portand, Oregon's transportation market minus official permission.  Unlike the City of Seattle's response, Portand has decided to protect its local taxi industry.  The following quote is taken from the December 8th, 2014 New York Times on-line edition "Bits" column written that day by Connor Dougherty.  The quote is telling:

"Taxi  cab companies follow rules on public safety," (Portand, Oregon) Mayor Charlie Hales said in a statement. "So do hotels and restaurants and construction companies and scores of other service providers.  Because everyone agrees: Good regulations make for a safer community.  Uber disagrees, so we are seeking a court injunction." 

It makes me wonder if it is indeed too late for the City of Seattle to follow the leads of Portland, and just recently, Las Vegas, Nevada's tough stance toward Uber.  If, and this is a big if, if we can only find out what Uber said to Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, everything might quickly change.  I just can't be the only one who thinks that the City Council's abrupt turnabout concerning its own legislation is suspicious.  I having suspected all along that we don't know the entire story.  I can only hope that media outlets like the Seattle Times will some day soon begin asking long and hard questions of the mayor and folks like City Council member Sally Bagwell and Jean Godden. I believe they might be able to tell us what we need to know, the how and whys of a complete governmental capitulation. Isn't anyone curious? 

Friday, December 5, 2014

If You Can, Be There: Taxi Advisory Group (TAG) Meeting, Wednesday 12/10/14 At 12:30-2:00 PM

I am encouraging all local taxi sleepwalkers to wake up and attend Craig Leisy's next TAG meeting scheduled for next Wednesday, December 10th, 2014, beginning at 12:30 PM, and located at the Seattle Municipal Tower, 700 5th Ave, Room 4080.  Mister Leisy will be talking about the implementation of the new taxi, flat-rate for-hire and TNC ordinance signed into law by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray.  We must demand that all "mincing of words and effort" halt immediately and let effective enforcement begin.  What has been utterly amazing these past four years is the City of Seattle's near complete avoidance of active enforcement pertaining to flat-rate for-hire cars, limo & town cars and the TNC (Uber, Lyft, Sidecar) industry.  While I personally get ticketed by the SPD for simply attempting to pick up at the local train station, town car and Uber drivers blatantly pick up on Capitol Hill and after Seahawk games minus any meaningful enforcement.  I suggested in an email to Mister Leisy that the City of Seattle is risking being held in contempt for ignoring its own rules and statues and laws, that is if anyone has the  monetary wherewithal to file a legal complaint.  In response I was told of some undercover enforcement but obviously charging a handful of violators does little to stem a tsunami.  New strategies are required and necessary. Please join me Wednesday and lobby for your industry before it is too late.  Uber now has a Wall Street evaluation of over $40 billion dollars, with nearly $3 billion dollars of operational capital on hand. Brothers and sisters, we are, simply and bluntly put, getting are butts kicked all around the town and globe.  It is time to stand up and defend your industry while we have one to defend.  If you don't think attending next Wednesday is important then I suggest you drive around on Sunday, December 14th, 2014 and see how many limos and town cars are lined up along 2nd Avenue South waiting to illegally pick up exiting Seahawk fans.  If the City of Seattle hears our united voices loud and strong on Wednesday perhaps those vultures will be scared away come December 14th.  All it takes is for the City of Seattle to call and say that their presence will not be tolerated. On Wednesday please tell Craig Leisy to make that telephone call.  Tell him it would be greatly appreciated.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Discontent: End Of A Taxi Era?

Unfortunately my prediction concerning business volume, and the overall fate of the local taxi industry, might already be coming true as negative evidence builds, reinforcing the obvious.  This past weekend I made almost $150.00 less than what I view as my minimum weekend profit after lease and gasoline. This is not personally sustainable. Early Saturday morning I took a taxi buddy home who is not close to having his December rent, T__ just thankful that he has his back taxi lease paid up, meaning he has been in arrears for nearly two or three weeks.  Another friend, who I saw sitting at Amtrak Sunday afternoon, borrowed 20 bucks so he could pay his storage bill by 5:00 PM, thus avoiding what would otherwise be an eighty dollar late fee.  Both of these guys are veteran drivers and, business-wise, are getting their taxi butts kicked. Obviously this is not a good story, one being written by many drivers reaching for non-existent fares.  

The reason behind these sad chronicles are three-fold.  One, as usual, with summer now past, seasonally, passenger volume is down.  Two, decisions made by City and County regulators and administrators have adversely affected our work environment.  And three, for those of us working at Yellow, the continued dysfunctional dispatch system has been costly, with calls down and frustration mounting.  One, two, THREE rhymes with misery!

As I repeated at the city council hearings and previously many times upon these pages, Seattle and the surrounding metropolitan area cannot, and more than likely, for years to come, will not sustain the numbers of drivers of all types offering taxi-style ride services, the passenger customer base totally insufficient to simultaneously provide adequate business levels to two thousand-plus independent operators competing at any given hour.  Where, I ask Seattle's mayor and the nine current city council members, where were these legions of customers on a miserably dead post-Thanksgiving weekend?  Where are all these mythological customers mentioned in the Cooper/Mundy report coming from?  Need I remind that Seattle is not New York City?  And will it ever become an equivalent entity, filled with millions of inhabitants?  Harbor Island will never be mistaken for Manhattan.

The answer to my questions garners an easy response.  The customers simply do not exist.  Let me repeat.  The imagined, and I mean imaginary customers do not exist in Seattle, Washington on a daily and seasonal basis.  That is the truth.  And wishing it was otherwise, like in  some contemporary fairytale authored by a modern Han Christian Andersen won't alter the situation or reconfigure the tale.  Even though Seattle is a gateway to Alaska and Asia, it remains what it is, a small, regional center.  As is said, putting lipstick upon the lips of a farm animal doesn't change the porcine or bovine into a suitable partner.  A steer is a castrated bull and the gelding an unhappy horse. Any and all other definitions not applicable to the subject at hand.

This, as I have oft repeated, is what happens, mis-definitions and misdirection, when local experts like me and many others are not listened to or taken seriously.  Not only were our warning and misgivings unheeded, they were completely ignored, and why, why did this occur? 

Simply due to a lack of respect, an attitude personally emanating from the mayor and the city council members implying clearly that those of an inferior class cannot possibly understand what is happening around them. Unfortunately, it is no surprise to me that class and caste-based attitude is rampant at Seattle's City Hall, having long understood that the occupants view themselves as morally superior and educated and knowledgeable, their judgements unequivocal and final and beyond reproach.  And I wouldn't take any denials on their part seriously, actions speaking far louder than flowery words, their sentences wilting upon parched tongues, rulers forever invoking metaphysical approval and guidance.  Historically it is a popular stance, living Gods beyond questioning or rebuke. I suggest that the time for term limits have arrived.  Two terms for both the mayor and the city council.  That, and that alone might remove literally some of the current complacency, or more succinctly, the dead weight compressing the city management.

And yes, at times there is some business but not enough to make a positive impact upon all concerned. Sunday night, the airport and the train stations were busy with returning Thanksgiving celebrants but what about the previous 40 hours beginning at 12:01 AM Saturday morning?  You can bet Mayor Ed Murray and council members like Sally Bagwell, Sally Clark, Tom Rasmussen, Jean Godden and that ersatz champion of the abused masses, Kshama Sawant, will never for a second suffer through sitting in a cab not knowing where that next fare will come from.  How can you expect objectivity from someone receiving a guaranteed paycheck?  My rhetorical reply is you can't, or at least the percentages are extremely low.

I  have mentioned this before, and again the truth remains unchanged, the mayor and the nine city council members, save perhaps Mike O'Brien, do not understand one iota the consequences of their decisions upon thousands of taxi, flat-rate for-hire, and ride-share (TNC) drivers and their families. Adding the now serious mistakes currently plaguing PSD/BYG (Yellow Taxi), our reality (the drivers and owners) can be appropriately summed up in one word, DISASTER, and how this horrible situation concludes is anyone's guess.

On that topic, mismanagement on the taxi association level, Mister George Anderson, author of his now infamous dispatching system, made yet another appearance Monday to answer questions from a group of extremely angry multiple taxi license owners.  Yellow's extra board is now daily filled with un-leased cabs.  Cuts are being made at the garage and the superintendent's and cashier's and dispatch office.  One month later and still the studded snow tires haven't been mounted.  And the annual Yellow Thanksgiving Dinner was cancelled.  Shrilly the alarm bells are ringing, with no rescuers in sight while rebellion permeates the air because people are unable to pay for their most basic needs.  Does this mean we have to cancel Christmas too?

This, my taxi friends and brothers and sisters, is not funny.  I repeat, there is no humor to be found in this situation, no, none whatsoever. And the grim months of winter have yet to arrive.  God! I hate  to see what is going to happen.  It is not going to be a pretty taxi picture, and you can quote me upon that.  Heaven (and whoever resides there), help us!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Post -Vacation Taxi Notes---Reentering The Uncertainty Of A Conflicted Industry

It is becoming harder to come back, to immerse myself in a task less guaranteed than ever before, and that is definitely what taxi driving in Seattle has become, an hourly crap shoot mystifying and confounding the expectant taxi mind.  Taxi is unpleasant even when the going is easy, the money ripe fruit upon the passenger tree but upon adding unbridled competition and a sometimes barely functional computer dispatch system, you have prime ingredients for a never ending frustration and sorrow.

Thankfully I was, and remained in a good mood throughout the weekend, better able to take the punches and insults and prolonged uncertainty.  An angry and depressed cabbie is a defeated cabbie. Sustained resiliency is the key to sanity when working beneath the top light.  Without it, you are, at least I am, instantaneously nuts, and the crazier I become the worse the situation is, suddenly my taxi a spinning vortex, with everything out of control, cows and mail boxes and double lattes colliding in my very personal tornado. How can you make money like this?  The answer is simple. You don't.


New App Marketer

This month PSD/BYG hired a marketing specialist, Bob Cassirelli, to broadcast to the taxi public the expediency and efficiency of Yellow's new dispatching app.  Lost in all of the current shouting is that this app was the primary motivation for changing from the old to the new.  While it is completely understandable why folks are screaming to have the old DDS system reinstalled, it is also clear that the app must be given the opportunity to succeed.  If it works properly, potentially, and I repeat, potentially, all the turmoil these past six weeks will have been a bad dream.  Of course, the taxi jury remains out.  Over the next few weeks the verdict will be obvious.  Patience, as I have said before, is required.  And yes, patience fails when the bills come due.  I understand that.

Taxi Meeting This Past Saturday At Teamsters 117

Last Saturday at 3:00 PM owners and lease-drivers met with a union representative to discuss how to get Yellow back on the old DDS (or a newer DDS version) computer dispatch system.  The biggest complaint was the doing away of the queueing system that has been operational at taxi companies across the country the past 100 years or so.  The new system that Puget Sound Dispatch (Yellow Cab) is now using operates upon a "positional" basis, meaning that theoretically the closest cab get the fare. The problem drivers and owners have with it is a perceived lack of fairness because it seems you could be sitting somewhere patiently waiting for a fare, say an hour or more, and still not get the first available call, because, seconds before, a newly arrived taxi is three blocks closer, and they, not you are dispatched to the address.  And because business is down due to customer dissatisfaction, there have been less available fares.  As I have said, sitting for hours doing nothing drives out you totally out-of-your-mind. The anxiety is killing!

One obvious question that could be asked is why were the PSD/BYG owners and lease-drivers , meaning Yellow's customers, not asked whether they wanted or accepted this kind of major change in dispatching philosophy?  One continual confusion is not understanding who is Yellow's customer.  Still to this moment it appears that PSD/BYG thinks the taxi riders are their customers when in fact it is the owners and drivers who are their actual and real customers.  PSD/BYG is a leasing service.  The riders in the cab are the customers of the owners and lease-drivers.  Until that obvious business fundamental is recognized, conflicts between associations and operators will continue unabated.  Accepting the operational reality will go a long way toward eliminating any and all future argument.

Six Hours in the Cab and Not One Fare

At about 8:30 Saturday morning I came across an almost 17 year taxi veteran sitting on the Deca Hotel stand.  It was his first day back after a long hiatus of attending college and working elsewhere, Saturday is now intended to be his one and only taxi day.  Driving a airport taxi provides him with a huge advantage but there he was, in the cab since 1:45 AM and yet to have a fare. And this is someone who knows the business. Unfortunately he was mystified by the new system, and making it worse, the old MDT  in the taxi wasn't operational.  I gave him some quick tips but essentially I told him he needed to head to Sea-Tac and get in line.  A few minutes later he pulled off the stand.  Good choice!

"Good To Go" Not So Good

I was presented with a bill at Yellow for $33.60 for failing to pay the 520 Bridge tolls but the problem is, once I went down to the State of Washington "Good To Go" pass office, they told me that my pass was operational and my account was active and the tolls had been deducted.  I am still unraveling this saga but, as any cabbie will tell you, the troubles never end.  You do everything correctly and you are still bitten in the ass.  To call it frustrating is a gross understatement.

A Surprising E-Mail from the SPD

While soaking in wonderful Aguascalienties, I received an email from a Sergeant O'Neill who is in charge of the Traffic Division  for the Seattle Police Department.  In his very thoughtful letter, sent in response to my letter  addressed to Police Chief O'Toole, Sergeant O'Neill confirmed that SPD knows that Yellow is contracted to pick up at the Amtrak (King Street) station and that the stopping officer should not have ticketed me.  Further, O'Neill suggested I make a copy of the letter and present it at my legal proceeding, which I will do.  I later talked to him once I arrived back from Mexico.  He is a very reasonable individual. 

One outcome it seems is that, at least at Seahawk half-time this Sunday (the Seahawks defeating the Arizona Cardinals 19 to 3), there was no police presence at all.  What happened at the game's closure I can't tell you, my first fare, about 6 blocks away from the madness, taking me off to Mercer Island.  What is clear is that SPD responded in a positive manner to my letter, clarifying policy and enforcement.  At least at SPD there appears to be a new and more responsive operational attitude.  I can only hope that the Mayor's office and the City Council take notes.  Responsible resolution will be, and always has been, the best course.  Thank you, Sergeant O'Neill.

Incentive for Good Behavior

One of the messages coming over the dispatch tablet this weekend was the announcement of dispatch fee reductions for the best monthly performing taxi drivers.  There will be first, second and third place prizes.  What criteria this will be based upon I have no idea.  I could be cynical but that wouldn't be fair.  Maybe it will improve overall performance, wonders never ceasing to amaze!

New TAG (Taxi Advisory Group) Meeting Now Scheduled for Dec 10th

Craig Leisy's TAG meeting, originally scheduled for November, has been rescheduled for Wednesday, December 10th, 2014, running from 12:30 to 2:00 PM.  The location is the Seattle Municipal Tower, Room 4080.  Please note the room change.  The agenda that day is the "Implementation of Major Provisions in Ordinance 124524 during 2014-2015."   In an email response to my email sent today, Craig said undercover teams were operating post-Seahawk game.  It was incredible to see how blatant the town-car drivers were, lining up near the stadium clearly minus any fear they would be ticketed.  All I can say is "Bust "em, Dano!"

Something Good!

Early Sunday morning I was belled into the new Greyhound Station now located at 5th Avenue South & South Royal Brougham Way.  There I found a very agitated Gavin who had to get to Tacoma.  Loading all his stuff, including a table, off we went.  Later he told me about how he, "a 230 pound, 6" 2"" black man" has trouble getting cabs, complimenting me for "not batting an eye" and approaching him with respect.  I told him it comes with 26 years on the taxi road.  The positive for me, in addition to ending the night with a good fare, was being able to sleep in my own bed, providing my neighbors their first look at a parked Seattle Yellow taxi.  Gavin was great!

And Finally, A "Bad" Cab Driver

Coming back from Mexico, I intentionally scheduled a long layover in Los Angeles, California.  Arriving at 9:00 AM, my return flight to Seattle was scheduled for 5:00 PM, providing me a window of opportunity to visit the LA County Museum of Art and take in the traveling exhibit, "Marsden Hartley: The German Paintings, 1913-1915."  Taking the bus, I knew I had to rush despite having about 4-5 hours to do the round-trip.  The show was great, Hartley a long time favorite. 

Waiting for a return bus, I decided to take a cab to the corner of Hollywood and Argyle where, at 2:15 PM, an express bus would fly me to the airport.  The only problem was that this particular cabbie had never learned the "taxi imperative" that sometimes you have to move quickly to get your passenger to where he/she is going.  It didn't help that he asked me if he had to turn right onto Fairfax.  Though once married to a woman from LA, that was a long time ago and to expect me to know the streets was insane. 

With the driver seemingly in a trance, I demanded he let me out.  Unfortunately the fool intentionally locked me in, which of course was a huge mistake.  "Let me out of this cab!" I demanded, and tossing him a five, I luckily saw my bus, #370 rolling up, and zooming across a busy street, I jumped in and made it to my bus and then the airport.  What the idiot taxi driver didn't know was that I had planned to take him all the way to LAX if I had missed my connection. 

And this after all my great taxi rides in  Aguascalientes and Mexico City.  Twice in Mexico City I got the same woman cabbie taking me both times to the airport.  And what is so amazing about that is she is the first woman I've ever personally seen piloting a Mexico City taxi.  I over paid her each time, just happy to be to my flights on time.  There is good coffee at the Mexico City airport.  Try it sometime!


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Last Night In Aguascalientes---Writing

This is not my usual kind of post, given my emphasis is elsewhere, namely writing for writing's sake minus diversions and digressions taking me to other subjects, normally that topic being taxi in all its tattered clothing.  Sincerely then this is when I suggest you take a break if taxi is your sole interest, because, after next weekend's taxi travails, I will be back to taxi tried and true.

But if you are interested in knowing the real me, the self that doesn't care a lick about taxi driving, then stick with me and read poems not only by me but also John Clare (1793-1864), George Meredith (1828-1909), and Christina Rossetti (1830-1894).  Time permitting I will also include the last stanza taken from Thomas Hardy's (1840-1928) "The Oxen" and a poem, though it was never intended as this, WH Auden's (1907-1973) "Petition" which I see as an appropriate prayer or wish for all my brethren cabbies.  Writing and associated endeavors is my breath while washing dishes, bus driving, psychology, driving taxi have all been dumb labor, something to pay the bills.  There was, for an extended time period, when I read and performed in varied setting, included having my writing accompanied by interpretive dance.  I was in my early and mid-20s and didn't understand the opportunity's that were given.

One of my last featured poetry readings, in 2003, occurred in that northern California town recently devastated by fire, Weed.  While divorce and illness have provided major setbacks,  I have not forgotten who and what I truly am.  I am now shopping my new book in a way never attempted, finding salesmanship onerous and distasteful but whatever is necessary is what I will be doing.  The payoff is great, and the alternative unmentionable.  Like finding a difficult address, I am sick of the wrong turns.

Back in February of 2000, I spent a month in northern Wales at my favorite literary haunt, once Saint Deiniol's, now (William) Gladstone's Residential Library.  During that time a gentleman with a newly minted PHD in Thomas Hardy, James Whitehead, was selling copies of favorite poems at the dining room entry way for 20 pence.  He loved good writing, something he lived for, and was at that juncture searching for a University teaching position.

Included in that series during my stay were the afore mentioned Rossetti, Meredith and Clare, plus a contempt British writer whose name I don't remember but somewhere residing in a box is what was then a recent volume.  His picture displayed a rather plump, upper-middle class Englishman in a white leisure suit, looking like the local parson out for a personal call, thus his omission is solely due to a faulty memory.

Then, perhaps as a going away present, there were copies of my poem, "To & Fro" next to the dining room door.  The reception was favorable from a very literate and knowledgeable group.  One old priest was once personally acquainted with C. Day Lewis (1904-1972).  It is an understatement to say that everyone was well-read.  And today I am providing a very rough reenactment of that fabulous month minus my being nearly run over by a herd of rampaging sheep.  I'll let the good sheep roam freely the castle grounds while I remain confined to the blank page.

John Clare was a English farmer having a brief moment of writing glory then subsequently tossed back by the British Royalty to the rural rubbish heap.  His most well known poems were, like this one, composed in an insane asylum.

                                                             I Am

I am: yet what I am none cares or knows,
  My friends forsake me like a memory lost;
I am the self-consumer of my woes,
   They rise and vanish in oblivious host,
Like shades in love and death's oblivion lost;
And yet I am, and with shadows tost

Into the nothingness of scorn and noice,
    Into the living sea of waking dreams,
Where there is neither sense of life nor joys,
    But the vast shipwreck of my life's esteems;
And e'en the dearest---that I loved the best---
Are strange---nay, rather stranger than the rest.

I long for for scenes where man has never trod;
   A place where woman never smiled or wept;
There to abide with my Creator God,
     And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept:
Untoubling and untroubled where I lie;
The grass below---above the vaulted sky.

                           John Clare                              

What a statement of sorrow that is!  Perhaps, like Van Gogh's keepers in southern France, they considered artistic activity to be therapeutic.  I suppose in a manner of speaking it is though still not preventing Clare's hallucinations.

Next on the poetic agenda is George Meredith, a writer much favored by one of my writing mentors, JB Priestley (1894-1984).  Meredith is yet another important writer assigned to literary oblivion unless of course you are rubbing elbows in Oxford.

                                                          Kinship with the Stars

Cold as a mountain in its star-pitched tent,
Stood high Philosophy, less friend than foe:
Whom self-caged Passion, from its prison-bars,
Is always watching with a wondering hate.
Not till the fire is dying in the grate,
Look we for any kinship with the stars.

                                      George Meredith

Christina Rossetti, along with her brother Dante Rossetti (1828-1882) was a great romantic caught up in the cultural nets that was Victorian English.  You might know this oft quoted poem.

                                           When I Am Dead, My Dearest

When I am dead, my dearest,
   Sing no sad songs for me;
Plant thou no roses at my head,
   Nor shady cypress tree:
Be the green grass above me
     With showers and dewdrops wet;
And if thou wilt, remember,
    And if thou wilt, forget.

I shall not see the shadows,
    I shall not feel the rain;
I shall not hear the nightingale
    Sing on, as if in pain;
And dreaming through the twilight
    That doth not rise nor set,
Haply I may remember,
     And haply may forget.

                         Christina Rossetti

What a plaintive song, she another great individual whose life was cut short by illness and disease.  Try, try as we might, still we human souls are overwhelmed by sadness, or so it would seem.

And now a poem from Joseph (Joe) Blondo (1953 & counting).   Instead of "To & Fro" I present another metaphysical but one with a decidedly different tone.  Given I am on the road I left much of my library back in Tacoma.  I chose this poem because it is short.

                           God is

God is nice, thoroughly considerate,
allowing brief strolls in leafy gardens
alluring and confusing in both tendency
and practice, which of course is how it
should be when, undeserving of a single
breath, life opens swallowing you in one
momentous gesture of affection and
eternal good will.

                               J. Blondo

Hardy's poem "The Oxen" is my favorite Christmas poem even though I don't believe in Christmas nor Christ's modern attendant, Santa Claus. The word "barton" means farm yard.
The last stanza from "The Oxen":

"In the lonely barton by yonder coomb,
  Our childhood used to know,"
I should go with him in the gloom,
    Hoping it might be so.

       Thomas Hardy

Ah yes, sugar plums and dreams of Christmas, where under a tree sat gleaming a miniature Yellow taxi!  No, Hardy did not write that and thank God for something.

I'll conclude with Auden.  Considered one of the best of an era I personally think at times he was too formal, his literary tongue dislodged by a silver spoon.  He was close friends with one of my very favorite poets, Louis MacNeice (1892-1963).  Check out his short poem "Bagpipe Music" and his long masterpiece, "Autumn Journal."  If you like poetry, you will be glad.


Sir, no man's enemy, forgiving all
But will his negative inversion be prodigal;
Send to us power and light, a sovereign touch
Curing the intolerable neural itch,
The exhaustion of weaning, the liar's quinsy,
And the distortions of ingown virginity.
Prohibit sharply the rehearsed response
And gradually correct the coward's stance;
Cover in time with beams each those in retreat
That, spotted, they turn though the reverse were great;
Publish healer that in city lives
Or county house at the end of drives;
Harrow the house of the dead; look shining at
New styles of architecture, a change of heart.

                                     Wysten Hugh Auden

As I said in the beginning dedicated to all taxi drivers.  And if you gotten this far, congratulations, you now that a small introduction into my mind and psyche.  Scary? I hope not.