Monday, October 29, 2012

As It Is

Though clearly disillusionment is part of the total taxi experience I think it is time I begin refocusing upon road tales again instead of existential moaning and groaning. Maybe every taxi driver curses his/her fate behind the wheel but one twenty-five year London taxi veteran expressed over the NPR band waves a singular pride that the "knowledge" required by the City of London is equivalent to an academic degree.  You sir! are completely correct with all of you English cabbies deserving of Bachelor of Taxi Science degrees.  I have more than once fantasied of a national driving academy that would teach every element of taxi along with sub-courses regarding a driver's particular city. We would also include Car Driving 101 as one essential element. I am sick of knowing that nearly everyone just starting out in a Seattle taxi are completely  ill-prepared for the experience, leading to failure and heartbreak.  Nearly two weeks ago a local taxi driver slid upon the steel-grated Ballard Bridge careening into a car and tragically killing one of the occupants.  Saturday night one of our drivers' crashed inside the Battery Street tunnel while occupied.  I was called in to pick up the passenger but Seattle "finest" kindly drove the person home.  The ticket was issued for driving too fast for conditions.  The faucet was indeed turned on this weekend, with over an inch of rain falling over Saturday and Sunday.  The Yellow lot was a swimming pool as the taxi sharks splashed through.  And now, in some but no particular order are a few weekend taxi occurrences for your reading displeasure. You might enjoy hearing how I told the totally bewildered young woman to "Get out!" but I hope you will bear with me for a few minutes and stick around and read the taxi goods before they spoil upon the shelf.

What Color Should My Hair Be Tonight

Can you an imagine a Halloween party for 22,000?  That is what I encountered Saturday morning as "Freak Night" roped them all in at $45.00-95.00 per ghoul at the greater Seahawk Stadium complex.  I accidentally accepted a call in the middle of the chaos, nearing getting a ticket in the process of trying to rescue a frantic woman.  I lost her amidst the madness instead finding four youngsters discussing the finer points of hair tinting.  Quite enthralling it wasn't as a young lady lamented her pastel decisions, wrestling with the conceptual brunette.  "Should she be one?"  Does anyone know the answer?

Novel Applications for the Modern Sports Page

He gets into taxi burping foretelling the possibility of vomit cascading into the interior.  A Seattle Times sports page was draped  across his lap along with the appropriate warnings.  Thankfully he made it to 201 Yesler Way with his stomach intact.

And with that, to be continued.

Part II 1:47 AM

Back home and ready to continue. The tea house was packed tonight and a trifle too social to get anything completed.  Normally I enjoy talking poetry with folks coherent upon the subject (rare I tell you that) but tonight I just wanted to get the writing done. I did just read a NY Times taxi article online talking about the intrepid New York cabbies braving the hurricane. Slow down and stay dry is my advice. Now more of the weekend just past.

Four Star Passengers

Post-Husky & Oregon State Beavers game, I pick up an older couple hailing from Corvallis who drove up for the game, a 4 1/2 hour drive minus traffic. Even though their team had just lost a close game they were the most gracious people. They held a rare wisdom, capable of judging importance.  I liked them.

Past Intoxication, Delirious & Dangerous

Belled in late to a Northgate restaurant, the couple were sipping full glasses.  Finally they come out, San Francisco Giant fans who had just watched their team beat the Tigers for the World Series title. The woman was pleasant enough but the boyfriend was gone, gone, gone, his voice and tone on the edge of violence.  She did her best to keep him under control.  He was ready to attack someone who had just unloaded a wheelchair-bound person near their house.  He was cooked.  He was an idiot!

Saved By Lake City (the 110)

Saturday was beyond busy.  Sunday morning was the morning after and besides anyone who was awake was watching the 10:00 AM Seahawk game on their television.  Six dollars my first hour.  Twenty for my second hour.  Making every attempt to remain calm I did a grocery run in Zone 110 then decided to wash the car as I had to do something to prevent madness from overtaking me. I was barely a minute into the wash when I got a call directing me to a neighborhood (non-business) address.  Maybe I said, just maybe and I was correct as off we went to the airport and $72.00 with tip.  From there my day soared. God! I hate this business!

The Young Woman in the Rain

Sorry folks but I am now past anything reasonable but lastly and certainly the least of them all this weekend was this silly person who doesn't know that you can not commandeer the taxi just because you THINK you are attractive and every man wants to ______ you but hey! you have to be polite and as I told her a million dollars would not have stopped me from telling you to GET OUT!  Winking gets you literally no where in my taxi. By the way, young lady, the intersection of Boylston and 10th does not exist, both avenues instead running on a parallel  plane 3 blocks apart.  And that my friends is how it is and the way it is

and sometimes I will even let four Bangladeshi students smoke cigarettes on the way to a concert in Bellevue even though I knew I would not be tipped though three of them made a point of individually thanking me for the ride. Must be a local tradition back home. So hey! you see I do have a heart (sort of)!  And yes if I wasn't exhausted and residing in indescribable stupor I would tell you more of the boring same, eighty-seven rides completed this weekend carrying the kind, the stupid and the simply lame minus a viable brain. And I did it all in an insistent rain which certainly magnified my undiluted pain.



Friday, October 26, 2012

Entry and Descent

Sitting at the Kuan Yin Tea House reading the news, I understand that I am avoiding the obvious.  Though only 6:10 PM in the early evening I have to pack up and get myself to bed.  Currently I have given myself no alternative. There are financial obligations to keep and so again two days will be given to driving a taxi in and around Seattle. I no longer want to do it.  My years of blind justification are over, as they should be.  It is not an exaggeration that I find myself looking at the prison walls of my own making so it isn't surprising that I am planning an escape.  Despite the taxi weekends a comfortable gaol it has been.  I can call it illness.  I can call it self-hypnotism. I can call it self-deception.  Regardless of genesis and fault the consequences remain.  I have kept and continue to keep myself from keeping the promise I made to myself many years ago.  To read and write and publish and daily continue my attempt toward deciphering this life and world and existence.  Reading the obituary of the historian Jacques Barzon serves to underline my notion.  His seminal book, "From Dawn to Decadence," remains unread amongst all the other partially read and unread books stacked at my bedside.  In a few hours I enter and descend into an underworld.  Call it Hades.  Call it a reality no longer worthy of intimate participation.  Call it my undoing if I remain, a scenario demented and grim.  I curse though having avoided one unacceptable conscription I have allowed myself instead to be drafted into something better left to someone else.  I have other items upon the agenda.  Clearly I will begin attending to them, saying goodbye and hello, welcoming myself back.  Hopefully I will look into a mirror and actually see and recognize this person.  I have been too long in the arrival as weekly I leave myself behind.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Tone & Tenor: Strain & Fatigue

Rereading my Monday posting over a number of times, there it was glaring back at me, unmistakable to the trained eye: the somewhat disjointed writing of an exhausted human being.  Not that the writing was all bad, not at all, especially holding some wonderful allusions and images but examined as a contextual whole its clear that a big bottle of epoxy is applicable, providing a necessary bonding.  The cause and explanation is simple.  The writer, me, my body and mind, were overtaxed, or more concisely, "over-taxied" to coin an imaginary word, strained and fatigued from too many hours laboring beneath the top-light.  I am somewhat surprised because I was far more intact during my earlier lunch with the licensing officials.  Though clearly tired, my brain at 11:30 AM was still quite whole.  Having observed myself for nearly fifty-nine years now, I know when I'm on or off.  I did get almost 7 1/2 hours of post-taxi sleep which is often more than the usual.  Tuesdays and Wednesdays normally are the days I catch up, averaging ten-twelve hours of reinvigorating slumber.  So it is extremely frustrating when my best effort upon a given day just isn't good enough. Everyone has either painted or written a few clunkers no matter how popular or famous or accomplished they are.  A Pulitzer or Nobel doesn't guarantee much other than you will be getting another contract.  Read John Steinbeck's "Travels With Charlie" and you graphically understand what I mean.  "Of Mice and Men" and "The Grapes of Wrath" are pinnacles. Clearly then anyone can have a bad book or essay or sketching.  The last Picasso show at the Seattle Art Museum displayed that the great man himself could be mundane and average.  Maybe it is all about sleep or the lack of it.  I am dreaming! of the future days when driving cab is no longer part of my weekly routine.  As my friend down in Arcata would attest, it is slowly and progressively killing me.

Many probably don't know that my writing foundation, the words and lines and sentences supporting me, is poetry.  At age twenty-three I was fortunate to have a poetry editor gig. Those three years in San Francisco were good years.  Why we moved back to Seattle I don't want to think about. Unintentional suicide is my final verdict.  Poetry will always will my first love, just like Sylvia way back in 1968 in Good Soil, Saskatchewan will always be my first girlfriend, teaching me the significance of kissing.  Lately I have been reading a bunch of mostly 18th & 19th Century English language poetry, inspiring me to write a somewhat lighthearted poem concerning taxi.  I believe it is only the third poem that I make any kind of reference to cab driving.  Perhaps when I am no longer driving I will feel compelled to explore further my taxi emotions.  Though free verse normally rejects rhyming, I decided to end with some non-regulatory rhyme similar to making an u-turn on a busy boulevard.

                                                                  Though Taxi

                                               Though taxi is not advised for the faint-hearted
                                                                 or the newly minted,

                                               it may not be for anyone anywhere contemplating
                                                                  health or sanity

                                               as commonsense and reason departs when the shift

                                               and you are carried away upon a passenger's decision

                                               south or north up and down rain dampened hills,

                                               remaining captive for twelve hours of the too long day,

                                               thankfully finally stopping and counting your hard-earned

                                               ruefully swearing over and over again,

                                                                    "those god damn sons o' bitches!"

Don't blame me for this.  Blame Longfellow!



Monday, October 22, 2012

I Remain The Same

I realize that this is probably only interesting to me, focusing upon my taxi navel but it appears to be a permanent change.  As I alluded to in my last posting, I have had enough of taxi.  Why it is so clear now as to two weeks previous  I can't say other than it is all about accumulation.  The dam is broken and my living room is flooded.  It is impossible to ignore the river trout swimming in the bath tub.  Or responding to our incredible local deluge yesterday, I am wet to the bone, the damp penetrating my essential core.  So this is my reality, this is my dilemma.  All that remains is my response.  Do I accelerate my books in progress, a novel known to me as "Flat Tire" and my partial childhood memoir, "To Age Thirteen" or do I just remain floating in the taxi morass while progressively sinking inch by inch beneath the debris?  I know the answer and I will take it.  My third unofficial job, that as local taxi advocate, has to be jettisoned.  I said as much during lunch today with two local officials.  I will slowly disentangle myself from my various commitments and by the end of my current term  upon the advisory commission I will call it quits.  Hopefully in the interval a small miracle will occur in terms of a book advance or something similar.  Because of course I am also ready to completely end all participation with driving.  This weekend the local driving environment became nonsensical, with enough serious close-calls to last a life time.  That my life could have suddenly terminated was clear.  Drivers were beyond anything that could be termed responsible or reasonable or rational.  It was madness. I saw the momentum building, finally translating into horrible accidents blocking rain slicked roads throughout the city.  Neither do I wish to be either participant or witness. So that is the long and short and the everything in between of it.  Sooner or later I will be resigning and this should be considered my letter of resignation, however convoluted my statement might ultimately seem.  Merit is only gained when there is nothing left to lose, or phasing it another way, when winning appears inconsequential and defeat is a misplaced victory.  I think Robert Zimmerman sang something to that efffect.

 Taxi has given me much. What both an insane and invaluable experience it has been.  I feel I have been a good and attentive student. Yogananda spoke of parallel simultaneous worlds and numberless planes of existence. As Jim Morrison advised, it appears to be time "to break on through to the other side!" I am certainly ready for a major transition to somewhere else with memory today taking me back to a much earlier time. I had just turned seventeen and I am hitchhiking from Denver to Seattle in early winter 1971.  Waiting for a ride in Hot Sulphur Springs, Colorado a young newly married couple in a big Cadillac picks me up and off we fly into the night, their sole compilation eight-track tape serenading us as we averaged 100 mph all of the way to the Mohave desert city of Lancaster, California.  The Doors were "breaking through" and the Electric Prunes were reminding me that "I had too much to dream" that night but I was wide awake as we flew through Utah and Nevada.  Maybe I too in this instance have awakened from a twenty-five year long dream world.  Where the hell am I! as I examine the room around me.  I have nothing against Washington Irving but I suppose it is past time being a taxi Rip Van Wrinkle.  Fables are fine as long as they remain literary mythology.  Incorporating fairy tales into everyday life reminds one quickly that prince or princesses rarely kiss the frog no matter how melodious your croaking.  Too often I have awakened from a taxi nap not believing where I am. Is this really Kirkland, Washington?  How could all this be possible but there can be no fooling around this time.  I know where I am!  Though Halloween is nearly upon us I have no interest in further legends springing from drowsy hollows.  That notwithstanding I sometimes act or believe otherwise, this is not fictional.  This is me  and only me living my life and I intend to get something constructive completed  in the actual here and now; and that folks, is the entire story and chapter and verse for this particular evening. Autumn has arrived, the leaves are rapidly turning but tonight I am pretending it is late spring transitioning into summer. Why it is 1969 and for the very first time I have flowers growing in my hair.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Too Much Of Everything Taxi

                                                                 For I have had too much
                                                                 Of apple-picking: I am overtired
                                                                 Of the great harvest I myself desired.
                                                                                          Robert Frost

I awakened early this morning disconsolate, feeling unhappy and exhausted.  Yesterday's special session of the taxi commission floated upon my consciousness, troubling me.  The actual meeting went well.  The commission has two new members and clearly we are progressing forward from last year's rough debut. No instead the problem is similar to the one voiced  in "After Apple Picking."   Having labored to be in a position of influence, the "great harvest" of authority is overwhelming, having personally touched each problem and issue, like Frost's thousands upon thousands of apples touching his fingers.  Especially it was the pubic commentary I found overburdening, knowing well their positions and concerns.  Full well do I know and understand that the "for-hire" folks have been screwed by poor bureaucratic decision making while simultaneously knowing I must balance their concerns with my industry.  All too intimate is the uniform issue, the black and white accouterments and apparel of the properly attired cabbie, potentially scary to some upon a taxi Halloween. Maybe my innate sympathies ultimately make me inadequate to the task confronting me.  Yes I have to make decisions and must do something, anything but what is fair, what holds lasting legitimacy?  Taxi is the epitome of temporal, permanency dissolving around the next rainy corner. But there are important issues looming like towering peaks.  How to get up and over is the question.  The usual taxi response is to press upon the accelerator, flying by the problem.  Lying in bed this morning there unfortunately was no gas pedal available. I was there with reality filtering through the shades, twenty-five years of this taxi business my coverlet and blanket.  Eventually I turned over and slept until awakened by the telephone. "She-who-can't-be-named" was pressing apples for cider.  It was delicious but had to be diluted.  How can I then "water" down my concerns and anxiety?  Short of completely walking away I believe I will just have to suffer through, something my Catholic heritage has taught me to do. When do I reach that final confession, that last determinative absolution?  I don't have a final answer and that for the moment is my current response poor as it is, bruised and destined for the cider-bin and press.



Monday, October 15, 2012

You Know Its Busy...........

Yes you know it is busy as hell when someone bashes your taxi and still your overall earnings are not affected.  Usually an accident of any kind sours the moment if not your entire shift but yesterday's incident, occurring at about 6:30 in the early evening altered little more than preventing me from taking my usual Sunday sauna at the West Seattle YMCA.  Having just fueled 478 ($65.00!) I left the 12th and E. Jefferson AM-PM and turned up East Terrace Street to service my bell at 906 Cherry.  Suddenly the idling car in the side alley to my left lurched out directly into my drivers-side door.  A loud crunch! as the narrow street prevented me from escaping the impact of the wayward Honda Accord.  An older Ethiopian woman had just experienced her first crash, choosing me and 478 for the traumatizing episode, mistaking the gas pedal for the brake.  As I did what was necessary, contacting the various necessary authorities she sat unbelieving, suddenly catatonic, her hands frozen shielding her face as she contemplated that all too modern experience, the car accident. I failed to tell her that she was only one of a paltry 11,0000 and could take solace.  If anything it should be considered fortunate that she uncannily aimed her vehicle at the exact middle of the door thus sparing 478 from further damage. 

As we waited for the police it became clear that there could be alternatives to punitive authority, and when her son arrived we agreed that it would be better that if they agreed to pay for the damages the impact upon his mother would be minimal.  And indeed the shop was wonderful quickly replacing the door by 1:00 this afternoon, telling me that $650.00 would be acceptable payment.  Calling the son all I have gotten so far is his voice message which is unfortunate because I sense he feels that I have somehow betrayed his mother.  Usual procedure at Yellow is to contact the insurance companies while knowing that everything will be resolved privately.  Yellow is positively paranoid about people making false insurance claims.  That this attitude comes from real experience I suppose justifies the sometimes hard line.  Regardless it appears the mother will escape minus a ticket and in real terms only a small monetary outlay.  I would guess that a commercial auto body shop would have charged her 2-3 thousand for her troubles.  For all their shouting, Taki and company do a great job repairing and maintaining the fleet. 

Humorous Category (sort of)

Last Thursday a friend came down to Tacoma to check out the local taxi scene and explore the various neighborhoods.  We also went to the art and car museums both of which I hold memberships.  When "she-who-can't-be named" found out I was assisting Mark with a possible return to the world of top-lights, she began shouting at me.  "How could you etc!" hating taxi far more than I do.  Given that we have taken many taxis together in faraway lands one would think her opinion would be somewhat moderated but no, for her taxi is poison and nothing will change that.  She knows that the only antidote is complete disassociation.  How can I disagree?  John missed our usual Sunday Chinese feast feeling it necessary to to decompress after his car broke down on the Aurora Bridge during a Saturday night rain storm.  He didn't like nearly being killed repeatedly by mindless oncoming traffic.  And I can't argue with that either!

Monday, October 8, 2012

When All The Same Isn't

Usually I know what I will be writing about when approaching this blog, rehashing themes and events of the just past taxi weekend though tonight none of it is interesting to me.  I know the topic too well.  Repetition is not sustaining though classic radio stations would have you believe otherwise, the same song ad nauseum five times or more during a given audio day.  A ride yesterday to Monroe, Washington did help, green pastures refreshing to the taxi soul, reviving memories of an old friend and 1973 and opportunities confused and lost.  Clearly I have had enough but as with the majority of my fellow earthly citizens I am chained to my current fate until I am not.  Hopefully it will not take death to alter the current scenery and scenario.  As it appears my future does reside in my typing fingers I should both continue and accelerate my efforts in that direction.  Friends have told me that I am the most consistent writer that they know, that I am always writing. Whether that is completely accurate it is true that I do or have done little to promote either myself or my literary efforts.  Better I become reclusive after the best seller than something that will never occur as I drown beneath never ending taxi weekends.  By age ten I knew I would be putting words together creating stories and narratives explaining the world I knew and would continue to examine.  Oddly it appears that I might finally be ready to exhale having held my breath too many years.  As my father taught me suffocation can be habit forming.  Maybe that is why I yearn for open desert and prairies, feeling hemmed and walled in by a habitual masonry.  Give me the open road though minus the big yellow car.  I will walk and sit quietly suddenly eleven again and reading "Something of Value."  I am in Kenya and the Empire is oppressive but still I am free, I am free.  Fort Chipewyan, Alberta was a watery heaven.  I am ready again to throw in a line almost instantly pulling up a three foot long pike, its flesh thick and white and plentiful, walking back along the granite-lined orange flecked lake shore.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Coyotes Are My Friends

Last Monday I worked the now infamous Seahawk & Green Bay Packers game then pried myself up Tuesday morning and made it over to the basalt cliffs and expansive coulees and the seven lakes that is collectively known as the Quincy Game Range. She-who-can't-be-named and I discovered the area back in 1989 and I have been going back every year since, this year making it four times.  Smoke from the still burning "Table Mountain" fire near Wenatchee was wafting eastward, with some related blazes visible from I-90.  The air quality was pretty good except for Friday when the air around the town of Quincy was rated as unhealthy.  That early Friday morning a pack or packs of noisy coyotes came quite near my encampment, perhaps a hundred feet or so, nothing stopping those partying canines from having a good time.  Their barking and yipping was welcome relief from the privileged attitude from particularly elitist fans.  Two fools who identified themselves as from some ESPN crew were unbearable, paying their five dollar fare with a credit card, announcing that taxi drivers prefer credit and debit cards.  Yes I enjoy supporting the banks with my three percent surcharge.  Word to the taxi wise: you are entering dangerous territory when you claim to know a cabbie's reality.  Why I begin to forget that I am officially a 70s era pacifist.  That's why a coyotes' howl is such refreshing honesty. Or the an owl's hoot echoing across the moon lit desert.  She-who-can't-be named says, and said Monday when she found out that I was working an extra day, that I always regret adding more taxi fun & games to my routine. How correct she always is upon the subject.

This just past weekend was at times frantic, more business that anyone could deal with.  I filled three trip sheets plus six, even making an additional 52 dollars after my now usual Sunday Chinese feast with taxi buddy John. Earlier in the afternoon an extremely kind and grateful passenger gave me a fifty dollar tip for returning his telephone.  He must have been a coyote in a past lifetime. There was also a big Cougars versus Ducks game which generated over sixty thousand in attendance.  But why must the animals fight?  Another weighty metaphysical question.

Tomorrow is the beginning of the new Taxi Commission year. Stay tuned as we try to make it a productive year.  So many issues and so little time.

I heard on Friday that some good results appears to have come from that landmark meeting we had with L&I about a month ago.  A Vancouver, Washington taxi company transitioned from a ninety-one thousand assessment to a seven hundred dollar credit after receiving credit for monies previously paid.  An amazing turnaround which proves what constructive conversation can achieve.  Commonsense is always the best solution.  How can it be any other way?