Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Why Does Holland America Cruise Lines Treat Its Foreign Passengers Like This? & The Philippine President's Avenging Angels?

One major positive of driving taxi is being immersed in life in a highly unusual way, suddenly aware and involved into matters normally outside your experience, scenarios you would have little to no idea about--- other people's lives as distant as our orbiting moon.  And what might be unique about my blog is its sometimes element of secret history, facts and personal details concerning the average person, quite often describing life as it truly is, and essentially unknown, for  you and me and everyone during this first part of the 21st American Century.  These next two examples, one about Holland America;  and the other concerning an international prayer group composed of older Filipino women holding their annual conference, is what I am talking about, encountering people and situations in a manner, as I have said, that is uniquely part of the taxi driving experience.

Holland America

Late Saturday afternoon I picked up a cruise ship passenger from Saint Lucia who had been kicked off the Holland America ship because he had failed to obtain a required Canadian Visa due to one scheduled Canadian port stop.  That he didn't know one was needed appears to fall solely upon the business shoulders of Holland America Cruise Lines.  The gentleman had done all his reservations online and never saw anywhere in print stating he must first obtain that very necessary Canadian Visa due to being a citizen of a country not having a corresponding formal "no-Visa needed" agreement with Canada.

One would logically think that Holland America would either have some kind of software coming into play when a foreign customer booked a cruise, fully knowing what would happen if the customer didn't have the required paperwork; or if not any kind of online pop-up, something clearly in writing warning people what they must have before boarding the ship.  The Saint Lucia resident said that he wasn't the only one that day told to leave the ship, he and a hand full of other foreign travelers, including a woman from China, being escorted off the boat to whatever fate beyond all care and concern.

If having their trip cancelled wasn't bad enough, even worse was the treatment received from Holland America  employees, being refused any refund along with having to pay for the cab ride back to the airport.  In the past, it was my experience that Holland America would provide a taxi voucher to the customer but evidently that is no longer the case, the blame and responsibility falling solely upon the aggrieved customer.  Mr. Saint Lucia said he had just lost the entire cost of the trip, a figure of over $2000.00.  That he was angry is clear.  And also insulted and confused that this could happen to him.

And what about the Chinese passenger, now stranded in an unknown city, minus hotel and airline reservations?  I truly don't understand how Holland America justifies this kind of treatment and response.   Do they not think that, unlike United Airlines, they will not be held accountable for treating their customers like numbers, and not like the living, breathing humans that they are? Despicable corporate behavior is my comment.  And totally unjustifiable.

Filipino Prayer Group El Shaddai

"God is more than enough!" she told me, the saying apparently a theme of her completely now international Roman Catholic Charismatic prayer group, "El Shaddai DWXI PPFI," founded by Manila (Makati City) radio station owner Mike Velarde.  Started in 1982 in the Philippines, this very orthodox Roman Catholic group has spread across the theological world to where it now has over 8 million members, giving credence to what I keep saying about people: you can convince them to become and believe anything and everything.  Even my late 1st cousin, Ed from Toledo, Ohio, a truly bright and modern individual, to his last breath believed that "Mary" was in his life, holding his spiritual hand.

My front seat passenger, along with her backseat friends, were all on their way to a Seattle waterfront hotel to attend what is a yearly gathering of her fellow "El Shaddai" members.  Now living in Maryland, she was part of the Washington DC chapter.  Originally from the Philippines, she, like so many other Filipinos, has travelled the world looking for work, having lived in the Mideast and elsewhere.  Currently she is taking care of an elderly woman in the DC-area.

What really struck me about her was her support for that murderer of his people, current Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte, who at last count has acquiesced to the killing, minus trial, of nearly 4 thousand suspected drug users and drug dealers in his country.  On the scarf she gave me is an emblem of a dove.  Raiding slums and indiscriminately killing people appears to be contradictory to any peace loving dove but she justified it by saying these folks deserved what they were getting.  I asked her if poverty wasn't their true crime, and if Duterte, if he was truly interested in justice, would instead provide real financial assistance to the hugely impoverished Philippine population?  She thought that was a good idea.

The New 1092 Struck on 4th Avenue

Poor Gabriel, on my second full day, was hit by a tourist in a big Jeep near 4th & Virginia. Thankfully, other than black markings left by the Jeep's bumper, there was no damage.  I am letting it go, and not requesting any money from the driver.  Just glad it was very minor because otherwise it would just consume more time than I want to give it.  Did you know that an accident occurs every 7 seconds in the USA?

Taxi Cartoon

I have tried to find out but can't confirm whether the cartoonist Peter Kuper ever drove a cab but in his 2000 collection published by Eye Press, "Topsy Turvy," on page 72 he has a cartoon entitled "My Checker Past," which I can relate to, having driven Checkers my first 2 taxi years.

Divided into four boxes, the first shows the cabbie approaching  his 1978 Checker Cab, saying, "and let me tell you, she was one in 5000..."

The second box shows him driving the cab DT,  the caption in part saying, "We kept wild hours..."

The third box displays a female passenger and "Through I've picked up a lot of women over the years, she (the cab) has remained my constant companion..."

The last box shows the back of the cab while driving up a street, "There will never be another like her.  On July 26th, 1999, NYC's last Checker cab picked up it's final fare."

My first NYC cab ride was in a Checker Cab, Jan 1990, with "she-who-can't-be-named" taking a cab from JFK to her first home in Brooklyn.  The driver was a real cabbie.  I remember that!

Postscript Wed 05/24/2017

My friend Stacy emailed Peter Kuper, asking whether he had ever driven a cab.  Kuper responded back saying, no but he rode in a cabbie friend's Checker Taxi in 1982, thus inspiring the cab cartoon.
















Friday, May 19, 2017

Riding With Rosa Parks' Ghost & Putting On A Cab & Eating At The Rickshaw

Last week's trip to Detroit and Toledo, Ohio, while jammed into too tight of a time frame, will forever live with me, even if I never return but as I have said, I believe I will be moved to the Midwest, at least the majority of my physical belonging, by summer's end.   Describing Detroit is difficult simply because it is many worlds orbiting around an over three-century long history.  Detroit is vastly interesting and complex, a cultural mosaic that is as American as apple pie,  Thanksgiving Dinner and of course that All-American icon, the automobile---the Ford Motor Company and the City of Detroit forever connected.

A real estate agent kept asking "where did I want to start my search?'  Given I knew nothing about Detroit, other than idle rumor presenting itself as fact, I picked a street named after that famous fighter for civil rights, Rosa Parks Boulevard, and started driving into the possibly the greatest urban devastation on the planet.  That it was both startling and unforgettable goes without saying the obvious.  As I drove past miles upon miles of collapsed buildings and destroyed landscape I imagined a shocked Rosa Parks riding beside me.

"Well Rosa, what do you think about all this?"

"Joe, I think that despite all rhetoric to the contrary, the civil rights movement has failed to accomplish what we set out to do.  While you now can sit anywhere on the bus you want to, if the bus takes you home to what looks like a bombed German city during WW II, I don't see how much progress has been made since the 1950s."

"Rosa, are you saying that racism is at the heart of this amazing neglect of a major American city?"

"I sure enough am!  If Detroit had been majority white this would not have happened.  They let this city die because all the whites were in the suburbs.  What we see should only have been written in a science fiction novel, and not manifested before our eyes in the 21st Century."

And with that Rosa Parks vanished, and I was left alone in the rent-a-car to contemplate upon a modern American disaster.  How long will it take to rebuild, if ever, this crumbling, burned out shell of a city?  20 to 50 years is my guess but I doubt if Detroit as a whole will ever be rebuilt.  While the area near the art museum is rebounding, the rest of city appears to be clearly deteriorating minus any real effort to stop it.

I was told there are $350.000 condos in the DT center.  Again, it is clear that while the rich are only getting richer, the poor in Detroit have been assigned a living hell.  If you don't believe me, then you too fly to Detroit and drive those insane miles down Rosa Parks Blvd.  You too will see the huge abandoned cathedral, stained glass windows broken out, past splendor now open to wind and rain and snow.  Unbelievable.

My New Cab

I now have another car, a 2011 Crown Victoria, as my new 1092.   I was going to describe all the "headaches" involved in putting it on but given that I again running out of time, let it suffice to say that the mistakes of others resulted in me going nearly insane as usual. I will say that the City of Seattle was not the problem, and Jan, doing the final meter test, was as usual, friendly and cooperative.  And the car has been dubbed Gabriel, after the angel, by "She-who-can't-be-named." Yes, good, Gabriel, please protect us all, sheltering all who enter 1092 beneath your protective wings.

Rickshaw Chinese

Saturday night, finding myself late in the north-end, and not wanting to go all the way back DT to the Honey Court, I ate at that longtime Chinese establishment, the Rickshaw, joining all the usual patrons who were singing Karaoke.  The place is dark anyway,  given there are no windows, so there I sat, trying to read the NY Times while regaled by mostly bad American pop music sung by Rock & Roll hopefuls better left to the Rickshaw and other such dives.

Looking around, it was obvious I was surrounded by those I usually meet post-bar in the cab.  They all appeared to be having a good time.  Me, I was eating a too dense egg foo young and mediocre "deluxe" won ton soup.  I too enjoyed myself, immersed as I was in current American "let's drink until we drop" culture.  Be glad they take cabs instead of driving home themselves.  I know I am.












Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Greetings From Romulus, Michigan

What happens to the over tired cabbie?  In my case I sleep 14 hours after pushing it to make it out the door and to Sea-Tac Airport upon a too crowded Monday morning 5:30 AM.   Believe it when you read that the Seattle-area has some of the most crowded roadways in the world, let alone the good, old USA.  If I hadn't known that Military Road South runs parallel to I-5 I would have been completely screwed.  Amazingly to me I found stretches of Military Road completely absent of other drivers.  As I have discovered long ago, the majority of Seattle drivers are devoid of imagination, all obediently following each other in "apple-pie order."  Not a recommended mindset when having to really get somewhere and finding your normal route obstructed and slowed.

Regardless, I got to the airport in plenty of time.  And even better, since I appear to be a good Alaska Airline customer, I was once again granted a TSA Pre-check waiver, meaning I was allowed to speed through airport security minus any invasive scrutiny.

The supreme irony is that only in these situations, boarding an airline, do I ever find myself treated as someone less than suspect.  Time and time again, where ever I go, I am subjected to "profiling" due to my lack of recent haircuts, police and others thinking there must be something wrong with me, given my ongoing choice to not look like them.  At least Alaska and Delta Airlines know that I am an "alright customer," above and beyond suspicion.  But if they also know I am a bit of a shaggy taxi dog I can't tell you.

And what the heck am I doing in Romulus, Michigan, which is where the Detroit Airport is located? Other than breathing the Midwest air I am checking out both the Detroit and Toledo, Ohio areas for houses large enough to contain my 7000-plus books.  For those who might think I am just your average hoarder, I recently turned down a bookstore-owner friend's offer to take "all" of her stacked-up inventory of stored books not popular for quick and easy sell.  No, all my books are hand-picked, many of which have been read or are slated to be read if I live long enough to have the time to sit down and read, read and read some more.  Yes, yes and yes, I am a bore, all I want to do is read, so bar and lock that door, and please, don't knock as you will just make me sore!

Yes, it is damn true, million dollar houses in Seattle are going for $50,000 in Toledo.  Why?  Well, while the reasons are many, they certainly do outnumber the potential dollars in my pocket.  Toledo is of course where everyone in my greater Blondo/Rick clan was born, thousands, beginning around the year 1900, bred and born in the Hungarian neighborhood of Birmingham.

As for little, old taxi me, I sprouted in late 1953 in that once-small but now very suburban western Washington town of Puyallup.  At the time my father was finishing up his degree at what is now known as Puget Sound University, a school  located in nearby Tacoma.  But yes, I am looking at Toledo, where my mother and all my grandparents and uncles and aunts are buried, and where I might be living at least part of the time.

And I am also checking out Detroit because the property prices are even cheaper, and if you can believe it, have spawned an urban gardening and farming revival located directly within the city itself.  "She-who-can't-be-named" is also very interested, bugging me to visit some of those Detroit organic farms and gardens, which I plan to once I finish this posting.  While I still hope to own some large acreage or big parcels of rolling prairie eventually in some place like southeastern Montana, moving away from Seattle to someplace much more affordable would be a start.

I envision all this being completed by summer's end.  And what about my driving taxi in Seattle?  I see this as a step-by-step transition.  I will remain in Seattle only as long as I have to.  If circumstances allow me to stop driving a cab I will gladly give my recently won medallion back to the City of Seattle, more than happy to never drive a taxi again.  I for one do not want to sleep the remainder of my life away, forever recovering from the exhaustion that is cab driving.  At age 63, the "wear & tear" is too obvious, dragging me in total down, down, down until I too am buried six feet beneath the ground!

Feds interested in Uber's Greybull

Uber, those transportation pirates, might be in serious trouble due to using software, dubbed "Greybull," to avoid law enforcement detection both in Portland, Oregon and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.   The US Department of Justice has opened a criminal investigation exploring what, if any, laws have been broken.

Recent reporting in the NY Times certainly infer that Uber could be in big trouble.  Only time will tell, but if nothing else this intervention by the Federal government should assist in tempering Uber's corporate behavior.

And to think so many have called the taxi industry lawless.  If we are, which sometimes seems true, we remain pathetic amateurs.  The best I can do to avoid detection is to turn off my top-light while speeding down I-5.  Does that truly help?  I seriously doubt it.

Local Bar Association

I received a letter stating that, since the Emerald City Law Group contacted me by letter, they did nothing wrong.  My question remains is how researching my private info for commercial purposes is legal and allowable?  And were the statements made in the letter sent by the law group true and verifiable?  I will be asking the bar to explore these and other issues.  As I have stated, I did not contact these folks and never wanted them to.  Just where and how they got this permission is something I am very interested in finding out about.

And one last thought.  Just as it has been found to be counter productive having the police investigate themselves, could this be a similar example of something better left to a more completely uninvolved agency?   While not implying anything out of the ordinary, the bar response certainly has me wondering just what in the legal world is going on?  Again, I didn't ask for any of this, having it thrust upon me by the Emerald City Law Group.  Instead of feeling protected, I feel victimized.  Not a good nor positive sensation I can assure you.














Thursday, May 4, 2017

"What In This Wide World" Happened To Mike?

Taxi, for better and often worse,  is an extremely intimate affair---two to five minute-long rides translating into quick and animated relationships, often special and memorable, arriving at the destination ending what could perhaps had proceeded for hours, if not years.  In other words, in a very brief span of time, you quickly get to know and become involved in the lives of complete strangers.

One recent example is Tina, a woman I keep transporting between the homeless camps and the Airlane Motel, and then once more back again to the bushes or whatever else she might be going, our ten minute rides a Birdseye view of Tina's ongoing struggle at maintaining any semblance of humanity dignity.  For me, while I may never see her again, I can't help caring about her and her situation, perhaps calling it human to human recognition of another individual and their plight to live and survive.

Mike, whom I saw again on a Tuesday afternoon as he staggered into the cab completely drunk, is another one of these folks generating my empathy and concern.  That he suddenly turned into a kind of monster was shocking to me, and why I decided to spotlight his story---a man who is now drowning after many years of remaining fairly safe and sane while standing upon more or less solid ground.

Picking Mike up at N. 85th & Greenwood, I was surprised that he wanted to go to the 3rd & Pine MacDonald's and not his room at the Seals Motel.  For at least the past year I have been transporting Mike from the Seals to various destinations and back again, getting to know him somewhat well, Mike a survivor of a serious industrial accident, having lost his entire left arm.  Our relationship over the months had, until two days ago, always been extremely cordial, Mike making a point of giving a good tip.  Again, it was a real surprise when suddenly Mike became somebody quite unlike the person I thought I knew.

Having fallen asleep, the trouble began once he awakened, making a few odd remarks but nothing unusual considering  how drunk he was.  I suppose it was a mistake on my part to not question him when Mike suddenly decided to change his destination to 3rd & James and the shelter where he was now staying.  Yes, some great upheaval has completely altered his life but just what I never had the time to find out.  And now Mike was instantly on the attack, angry that we were not at MacDonald's but DESC.

Asking him to consider that perhaps the alcohol was affecting his actions, I told him to "just give me $25." as I backtracked to 3rd & Pine.  Unfortunately my kindness and patience wasn't appreciated because Mike was now pretty much out-of-control, belligerent and surly, telling me to "wipe that stupid grin off my face."

Readjusting my parking place closer to MacDonald's, Mike paid me with a debit card while demanding a receipt.  Upon receiving the receipt he proceeded to examine it thoroughly, clearly and intentionally doing all he could to delay his exit, all his actions saying "f__k you!"; that I am going to do anything I want except perhaps getting out of your cab.

Understanding full well that this was complete madness, I said "Enough! Enough!" and swung around and opened his door, telling him that" I have had the patience of a saint" but now it was time to leave.  At the precise moment he started getting physical, three SPD cops showed up and escorted Mike out, asking if he would like to go to detox.  Having already accepted another fare,  I didn't stick around to see the conclusion but I did hear one officer mutter that he didn't need to be critiqued, Mike obviously now turning his wrath upon them.

Calling the tavern back, I voiced my concern, expressing that the bartender talk to him upon his next visit.  No, I wasn't mad.  Instead I only wished Mike a better conclusion given his present dire circumstances.  I speculate that somehow the money he has been living on has disappeared but how that happened I will probably never know.  in one sense, what occurred is just like the taxi I know and hate.  It is crazy and remains crazy.  Regardless of the money, driving a taxi is "nuts" and you can quote me upon that, compassion and sanity all pouring down the taxi drain!  Good grief! Charlie Brown, Good Grief!








Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Forever Guilty---Not Even The Roman Catholic Church Is This Mean!

You probably don't understand this but every moving violation ticket ever issued to you remains a part of your  permanent life record, transcending death.  Imagine you are at the fabled Pearly Gates awaiting entry and that long forgotten speeding 35 MPH in a 30 MPH Zone is brought up.  It is that bad, perhaps denying you eternal rest and the soothing songs of celestial beings caressing your once burning ears.

Dismissals, usually your only option other than paying the ticket, mean nothing because in any future case you can guarantee they will be held against you and used as further evidence concerning current guilt.  Read, and listen closely when someone in the news is reported as having done this and that, and quite often you will be told, other than a few tickets, that the individual up to this juncture has never committed a  serious crime.  But for some odd reason, at least odd to me, the person's list of issued tickets are somehow now pertinent to his/her current status, coloring him/her a particular shade.

Just why, I ask, is an alleged traffic violation given such overwhelming value, a value that never, ever receives exoneration?  You can be charged with murder and found not guilty.  You can takeover a Federal Wildlife Refuge, armed with the most deadly weapons available, all the while threatening Federal employees and destroying public property and still be declared innocent.  Yes, steal millions from clients, commit numerous war crimes, even sexually assault someone but you, innocent until proven otherwise, can walk free and clear when utilizing the best lawyers to defend you.

But attempting to get a verdict of innocence in traffic court is nearly impossible, a dismissal of charges usually your only chance at the slightest vindication.  Just remember, that doesn't make you innocent of that alleged U-turn or speeding violation. Instead, it means, that by some technical point, attorney gymnastics or officer error you have been allowed to avoid the consequences of your terrible misdeed.  But as I repeat, that  doesn't mean that it will ever be forgotten or forgiven.  That is not how it works.

And all this is true because those avenging angels called police officers have decided you are worthy of society's wrath despite reams of both recent and past evidence that police bias and misconduct has led to nearly countless questionable and illegal tickets and arrests, both here in Seattle and across the country. As the late Yellow Cab driver superintendent, and retired Seattle Police officer Barry used to tell us, when he was a cop, beating up suspects was a matter of course.  What could they do about it was the general response.  If they questioned why, the blanket excuse of resisting arrest worked every time to justify breaking an errant nose.

Transferring this to moving violations, of course this means that the officer's word is ironclad and irrefutable.  How can you question the sainted?  It isn't possible.  Even if they lie in their report, saying you confessed on the spot, no matter how unlikely that is, it remains their word against yours. So how can you win?  The truth is you never win, that ticket now part of your flesh and blood. Fun, huh?

As I implied in my heading, even those divine persecutors of all things evil, the nearly two millennium old Roman Catholic Church, offers more exoneration and relief than your average American court. What an improvement it would be if, instead of standing before a judge, you were allowed the benefit of the old-fashioned confessional, it working something like this:


"Yes, my son, you have some traffic sins troubling your automotive soul?

"Yes, father, I must confess I do."

"Then, go ahead, tell me all about them, remembering God is all forgiving, his son having died so you don't have to."

"Thank you father for your consoling words.  I do feel reassured, and trust I will be forgiven.  I must say it has been a rough week.  Monday I did ten U-turns but always making sure there was no oncoming traffic.  Tuesday I went ten over the speed limit on Aurora Avenue North at North 45th though any fool knows 40 MPH is not a just limit.  Wednesday I blocked the south-bound lane of Broadway East & East Republican due to someone flagging me at the north end of the block. Thursday a passenger living near Northgate, at about NE 92nd and 1st NE, decided that leaving one solitary hour before his flight was somehow reasonable, meaning at times I exceeded 80 MPH more than once just to get the fool on time to Sea-Tac.   Friday I screamed some profanity at some idiot who cut me off, making me slam my brakes, tossing all my stuff onto the floorboard.  And finally, Saturday night, after repeatedly warning the drunk that he had to stop telling me how to drive, told the guy he just had to leave.  And so he did, but not before telling me to go to hell!"

"There, there, my son, I can assure you will not be going to hell, not at least for the sins you have recounted.  While yes, you have sinned, at the same time you were just operating normally in what we all know is an insane workplace.  So, given the circumstances, all your sins are forgiven.  Your penance today is to read Robert Frost's poem "The Code"  and Gerald Manley Hopkins' "The Windhover."  In addition, please read William Watson's "World Strangeness" at least 3 times.  God knows he would have made a much better Poet Laureate than Alfred Austin. May you find peace and solace, my son.  May God stay with you.  You are forgiven and are  free to go.  And watch out for all those crazy drivers!"

"Thank you, thank you so very much father!  I feel so much better!"  Thank you for your kind understanding.












Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Crashes, Break-Ins & Springtime Baseball Has Sprung---A New Cabstand On Atlantic Street

Everything remains per usual in Taxicab Land----my taxi buddy E. destroys his cab on the freeway while swerving  out of the way avoiding yet another collision, his cab hitting a wall.  This after a month ago being hit head-on and damaging his cab's front end.  And all this after he was rear-ended by an Uber driver.  He is still trying to figure that one out after the Uber's operator's insurance carrier responded by saying he only held a personal not commercial policy.  In other not-so-pretty words, the guy was providing Uber rides minus viable insurance.

Lately I have been telling passengers, once the topic is broached, that before you go anywhere in an Uber or Lyft, first request to see their COMMERCIAL insurance policy.  If he/she can't, time to get out of the car. And after this conversation I ask my customer to guess how much I pay annually for insurance for me, Tom and Raymond?  The answer is $6000.00, and this with clean MVRs.  Again, another good reason to avoid all moving violation tickets because they hike up your costs.

At one point I believe Yellow's annual insurance rates were averaging ten-eleven thousand per car due to keeping on too many accident-prone drivers.  So one could say that regulators nationwide are allowing Uber and Lyft to endanger everyone concerned because of very poor insurance accountability.  As for my buddy E., he continues to have to pay and pay for the privilege of avoiding instant death while plying the taxi streets.  Good luck is all I can say!

And adding further outrage and to an already insulting business, you aren't even safe when your car is parked, as my 2012 Chevy Sonic was, at our taxi exchange point and broken into, the left-side passenger window smashed to smithereens.  For the past year we have been exchanging the cab near the intersection of S. Hudson & Colorado S., just across from what once was the entry to the Yellow parking lot, the thieves getting nothing of real value except what is truly valuable to me as they quickly swept though the two glove boxes, taking what they found.

Oddly, they also grabbed the Sufi prayer beads an old Sufi Holy Man gave me during a 1999 visit to Istanbul, Turkey, something I kept on my floor-installed gear shift.   All I can and will say is that I hate junkies, finding nothing amusing about addictive and destructive behavior.  While safe "injection centers"are all the recent health rage, does anyone ever ask these folks where they got the money to buy the heroin?

I am now thinking of a good alternative to our current location.  The corner around 12th & E. Jefferson used to be popular place to park your taxi.  That might be a very good choice.  If there is a positive to this incident, its that there is a very good chance, thanks to an adjacent business, All-City Fence and their 24-hour surveillance cameras, that the break-in was caught on film.  I will be filing a police report tomorrow.

New SafeCo Field Cabstand a Home-Run!

Something logical finally occurred when the City of Seattle put a two car cabstand on the Northwest corner  of South Atlantic Street & 1st Avenue South, placing it directly across from the Mariner baseball stadium.  The only problem was Monday, after the game, I found two Uber operators parked there.  Perhaps one of the police officers standing mere feet away will begin issuing tickets.  Boy, would that be another kind of home-run!

Falling in the "what took them so long" category

A new Yellow computer-generated message is now telling everyone that there are now penalties for dumping calls, saying a third offense means termination. How many decades did it take for this to become official policy?  Regardless, the newly stated stance concerning driver accountability is welcome, having personally grown tired of cleaning up another driver's transgression.  As I always say, just serve the bell and see what happens, one ride often leading to another.  Too basic a taxi equation, I know, for far too many of my fellow Yellow cabbies---now that I know my taxi ABCs----are you now proud of me?  No, I am not, your taxi illiteracy hurting me and everyone.

A real case of blind injustice

Thinking about it, the  cop who issued me the recent U-turn ticket also, in an inappropriate moment of generosity, gave me permission to further break the law by telling me I could proceed two blocks further north-bound on 3rd Avenue to take my right turn on Marion Street.  The only problem with that advice is that during the morning and evening rush hours, all vehicles other than buses are limited to driving one block and one block only on 3rd, allowing you to take necessary turns.  One could say then that his advice was totally contrary to his previous action of issuing me the ticket, and that it appears he felt an in-general permission to do whatever he wanted.

Unfortunately, that has been my overall experience with police in Seattle and King County, holding a discretionary permission to punish in one situation and in another, do nothing whatsoever.  While it might be impossible to regulate human behavior, it cannot be called fair.

And yesterday, a District Attorney located in San Bernardino County announced that the killing of a blind and mentally ill man holding a knife and rock was justified by the City of Fontana Police. They knew he was blind and schizophrenic  

How can a blind man holding a weapon other than a gun truly pose a threat to anyone?   Why not take a broomstick and knock the knife away.  Or just hit him in the head with the broom.  How could he stop you?   Instead he was shot dead with an AR-15 rifle.  If interested, go on-line and look at the various AR-15 rifles.  They look nothing like a broomstick.

No Longer a Hippie?

Over the weekend I picked up a woman originally from Germany who had written a book about Hippies and the 1960s.  Obviously having a personal interest in the subject I gave her a card with my email address on it, telling her she should email me because I knew she would like to know about this book about New Mexico communes I have been reading.

So far, she has not contacted me, which makes me think that, while she maintains an interest, she herself is no longer a hippie because the hippies I have known, especially back in 1969 and the early 1970s, were incredibly open to new contacts and people.  I personally have many stories, including ending up on a commune in 1970 while passing through Abbotsford, BC, Canada.  Two of my fellow hippies, Rick and Micheal, were living in Canada due to the American draft wanting them, against their personal wishes, to join military service.

Regardless, here is the title of the book which might intrigue you.  If new to the subject, the accompanying essays could be of great interest.

"Irwin Klein and the New Settlers---Photographs of the Counterculture in New Mexico," edited by Benjamin Klein.   University of Nebraska Press  2016

It really brings a pretty much long, gone era back to life.  As it turns out, "she-who-can't-be-named" moved to New Mexico and lived the rustic existence for a few years around 1970.  When I was 12/13 I lived in Grants, New Mexico during the 7th grade in 1966/67, Grants a rough & tumble town located along the legendary Route 66 Highway.

As near as I can remember, I did not see one hippie in Grants during that period of time.  In fact, contrary to peace and love, I was involved in 3 fights my very first day at Franklin Junior High.  But I did learn how to drive when I was 12, certainly a kind of hippie sentiment, my father flaunting society's morals and standards.

No, Dad, wasn't a hippie in the usual sense, just alienated and crazy, and I mean really, really crazy. Fast forwarding to late 1969, Dad could be found driving a cab in Denver, Colorado.  All I can say, he was eminently qualified.















Thursday, April 13, 2017

Beware! Emerald City Law Group Is Reaching Out For You!

It is never good getting a moving violation, in this case a U-turn ticket while serving a $5.50 HopeLink fare from 3rd & Cherry up to a First Hill methadone clinic---getting nabbed by a motorcycle cop when there was absolutely no other cars around.  But, as I know too well,  that certainly doesn't stop anyone from issuing an unnecessary ticket.  There can be craziness upon the local roadways 24 hours a day but a simple and benign U-turn is somehow deemed worth the time and trouble, plus of course blocking the bus lanes while the ticket is issued.

One could call my attitude self-serving but I will never, ever understand the necessity because I know there isn't one.  It simply doesn't exist, ticketing should be about public safety and nothing else; and not, as in this case, the iron-clad application of rules defying reason and commonsense. Seattle has been infamous for issuing jay-walking tickets at 4 AM.  Why, the usual out-of-town visitor protests, why did you give me this ticket?  To those of us whom are long-time Seattle residents, we know the answer, and it ain't a pretty one either.

And can you believe  Officer C___ even offered me legal advice, telling me to check the middle box because the magistrate issues warnings every seven years.  The only problem with his suggestion is that  it equates to being an automatic admission of guilt to the alleged violation; meaning by checking that little box I was giving up every legal right I have to fight the ticket.  Can police legally give legal advice while simultaneously issuing citations?  Logic also dictates that if the officer felt  what I did warranted only a warning, why didn't he just tell me just not to do it again and leave it at that?

But no, it wasn't the officer's suggestion rubbing salt into the wound, making me question just exactly what is going on here.  Instead it was receiving a "solicitation of service" letter to my home address from an entity calling itself the "Emerald City Law Group," and its owner,  who I assume is an attorney, Stryder Wegener.  I am sure you have heard the pubic warnings about scams perpetuated through the mail and over the telephone. The alarm rang upon my opening the letter.

 My very first thought was, "How in the world did these people have access to my private information?"  And when I called them at the number provided, they refused to tell me.  What the gentleman did repeatedly say to me was "Do you want us to represent you? all the while it being perfectly clear I was calling them because I was gravely disturbed by their unsolicited letter.

The letter itself, which includes my Seattle Municipal Court case and reference numbers, attempts to convince me that hiring them is my best option.  One quote is particularly telling:

"You can always fight the ticket on your own.  That costs you time to go to court (at least a half day off of work), time to prepare for court (several hours), and your changes of winning are slim."

If that isn't manipulative, I don't know the definition of the word.  They go on to say that they have an excellent track record of winning cases, providing the figures of 1,857 winning cases to only 38 cases loss.  Of course they provide no evidence proving this is true.

So what is true about about Emerald City Law Group and their attempt to sign on new clients?  At the very least their actions appear to be a blazon invasion of personal protections, acting upon some mysterious permission that they can and will do anything they want.  Whether they have broken any laws is something I hope will be determined by whatever responsible authority.  I have already filed a complaint with the State of Washington's Attorney General's Office.  They in turn referred me to the local bar association.  I will also be filing a complaint with and/or against the City of Seattle as some important questions need to be answered.

Is what Emerald City Law Group doing permissible and legal?

Are the records of alleged moving and non-moving violations,including jay-walking tickets, public or private information?

If private, how did Emerald City Law Group access the information?

If public, just how and why is this kind of information, including addresses and telephones numbers, freely available to anyone who wants it?

As said, I and the driving public require real answers to these questions.  That the letter from Emerald City Law Group is, to my way of thinking, predatory, is beyond any doubt.  Did I in any manner voluntarily provide them with my private information or request they contact me?   The answer obviously is not at all, having never heard of them before receiving their letter last week.

Again, that this is a serious invasion of personal privacy is clear.  The only remaining question is whether Emerald City Law Group will be held accountable.  I will keep you posted.  I am looking forward to knowing their response.  As should be clear, an issued ticket is never a trivial matter.  And Emerald City Law Group's actions only underline this reality.  Beware, and remain aware, is my advise upon this and other situations regarding traffic violations.

And if, like me, you get strange letters in the mail from unknown lawyers, whatever you do, don't sign up with them.  Instead, like me, contact the City of Seattle and others, asking,"just what the hell is going on?"  A good and pertinent question, I am sure you would agree.