Friday, September 25, 2020

Greetings From Arcata, California: Heavy Smoke In Cave Junction, Oregon & Two Former Colleagues Away, Away From Taxi & Exhaustion Poem

 Fire in Southern Oregon

Hello from "hippie town" Arcata, nestled between towering redwoods to the north and south, Highway 101 being the "Redwoods Highway," more or less starting upon leaving Oregon on Route 199, the I-5 to 101 connector originating in Grants Pass.  The further southwest I drove, the heavier the smoke, telling me parts of Oregon were still burning.  I found one stretch of forest and roadway south of Cave Junction blackened by recent burns, scorched trees the leftover signature of a raging blaze.  Thankfully, rain is returning to parts of the Pacific Northwest, hopefully meaning an end to this year's fire season. Today the sun is shining in Arcata but Seattle and the entire state of Washington today is awash in what is described as an "atmospheric river" coming in from the Pacific. Maybe some of that moisture will propel more passengers into waiting cabs, us cabbies appreciating inclement weather's pushy assistance, the sheltered warmth of a dry interior.

No More Taxi for These Two

I recently contacted 2 fellows I know from the taxi roads, JS and KS, two cabbies, after tiring of sitting around not making during the initial Lyft/Uber aftermath, fleeingYellow Cab to our respective rivals, JS to Lyft and KS to Uber.   Both fellows are good drivers, road seasoned past reason and commonsense, and flourished in their new automotive homes, making a better living than during recent cabbie forays.  If anyone questions their decisions, understand, as I have ceaselessly pointed out over the years, the national and local taxi industries have viewed the working cabbies as little more than cannon fodder for the taxi wars, casualties in the mobile battlefield---the wounded and dead not their concern.  And living in Seattle requires real not theoretical money, Uber and Lyft initially a very good money maker but 28,000 drivers and one dire pandemic later, the situation is different for them, with many questions remaining. 

JS & Lyft

What I find amazing is how he has kept track of all of his rides, both Yellow and Lyft.  While currently sitting out since March 15th, from January 2017 to March, JS provided 17,452 Lyft rides, averaging 3 per hour.  When taxi business was good, I too averaged 3-4 fares an hour, about most you can physically do. 

In 20 years of driving Yellow Cab, JS complied 89,001 rides to a total of 143,999 passengers.  Those numbers are indicative of why I say the average cabbie meets everyone, a broad section of the world entering your cab. JS says he spent a total of 34,824 hours in a Yellow Cab; and driving 499,997 miles, or more or less to the moon or back, giving a new meaning to the term "moon struck."  Yes, driving taxi is sheer madness, and his astounding statistics proving that out.  Ya gotta be crazed to drive a cab, or once again referencing the moon, a lunatic.

KS & Uber

KS, a former "private detective" from Florida, and a Seattle cabbie from 1997 until his Uber defection, knows all too well life's underbelly, be it trailing cheating spouses to cab "drug runs" to snotty Uber techies taking a five block long ride, KS, an original iconoclast, finally leaving the "passenger carting around" business last November, returning to hometown Tampa to deal with his late parent's estate, glad to be out of his $2,300 a month Seattle apartment.  KS liked cab when it was good and left when it wasn't.  That he was able to survive working Seattle Yellow Cab Zones like the mostly residential 185 (the Eastlake) says how viable the industry once was and how it no longer is.  But KS is glad to out of it entirely, hating Uber, knowing what they are, and similar to taxi, not truly caring a "rat's ass" about its drivers.  The best anything KS got out of Uber was his Prius, before Uber, KS going carless unless in the cab.  Occasionally, I would give him a lift home. When I ever get to Tampa I'll say hello, knowing he'll put a "tail" on me as I leave town, never knowing what kind of trouble a cabbie can stir up, all of us talented that way, a God-given gift from the Devil himself, of course on Halloween at midnight in the scary gloom. 

Beat up by too much taxi poem

As any longtime reader have noticed, I make real attempts to keep all subject matter taxi related, this poem meeting that criteria because taxi is exhausting.  Try driving to the moon or circumnavigating the earth and you too will be ready for a long nap.

                                                       Yes, Too Much for Nothing at all


                                Stopping, I cannot move, exhaustion saying that's what I am,

                                but continuing on minus delay, a new energy prodding me to

                                nothing sustainable, I cannot keep going---broken health and death

                                my near horizon,  the sun 

                                                                          setting upon my poor head 

                                 and grievous brow, now gravestone grey coloring

                                                                                                      lips and eyes

                                speaking and seeing days tossed to the nettled roadside---weeds 

                                and thistle congregating in brownish and yellow yet green




Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Greetings From Roseburg, Oregon: The 911 Operator Asked "How Did I Know He Is Schizophrenic?" & A Tarnished Jewell & 3 Poems---Both Serious and Doggerel

Hello from Roseburg, where I am writing from my Motel 6 suite after driving nearly 400 hundred miles.  Where I am going?  Arcata, California where "she-who-can't-be-named" is waiting, already mad as a Brooklyn hornet because I forgot to bring along a promised backpack.  My only excuse, which is viable, is my state of near exhaustion.  Too busy for one aging human but tsk! tsk! a red and yellow casket, I have much to do but not enough time which explains why I have pulled myself away, to both get the work done and enjoy her sometimes sour yet sweet company.  I hope to be submitting my newest book soon. To say the least I gotta get it on before I expire from pure frustration driving me mad.

Is everyone nuts?

Most recently I find myself encountering the seriously mentally ill, be they inside or outside the cab, whether they are "secret agents" working for the Russians or passengers pursued by an entire town's populace or merely walking down the middle of the street defying anyone and everyone, I find them everywhere I go.  When speaking of pandemics, this category, the extremely mentally ill appear part of a national health crisis, these individuals disabled to the point of dysfunction, clearly needing professional intervention.   

Meeting one such person walking southbound on northbound 14th Avenue NW, barefoot and having no intention of giving way, I stopped as he proceed to step onto 1092's hood like some giant staircase, spiting upon the windshield, then leaping off onto the street once again proceeding southbound.  Calling 911 I got the now  commonplace bewildered operator asking unhelpful questions, and after telling her the guy was schizophrenic, she asked "how did I know," but before I could tell her I saw the gentleman collide with another car, the driver flying out and throwing rocks at this crazy person blocking the road.  

Reporting this I hung up, saying that "I've had enough of this!", the operator not understanding taxi is a rolling psychiatric ward where I see it all, having seen too much and tried of watching something unending: the ongoing saga of a nation in decline.  How much do I have to take before I too am wandering down the street howling at the taxi moon?  I do not want to know the answer is my answer.  Good grief!

O My Taxi God!

Jewel, fat and not lovely, clad in black hot pants and halter top, entered my cab from a Northgate-area hotel, her pimp having told me "she'll be right down."   Dropping her off at the corner ARCO, five minutes later there she was southbound on Aurora Avenue North fishing for customers.  Having seen this reality before, I never wanted to see it again, another innocent life poured down the local gutter.  Awful.

3 Poems

                             Detached Paperback Dictionary Page 695/696 Y-Z

                                                   Are You a Zebu?

                                 Yugoslavia?  Sorry, you no longer exist but in 1991

                                  a Skopje hostel gave me soup for breakfast,

                                 and someday I will visit Zanzibar carried dockside by   

                                 a zucchini munching zebu laboring a cart,


                                 then back once more to Zurich, a repast of zwieback 

                                 and beer, local Swiss zymurgy serving an excellent brew.

Dog gone Doggerel

                            michael caputo went off to pluto if only in his own mind

                            after saying the CDC was criminal, with a communist insurrection 

                            close behind.  Now he reports not to be feeling well, and with family

                            business to attend, makes it clear it's dangerous to be of one Trump's

                            friends, caputo suddenly ill, having swallowed a wrongly prescribed

                            GOP pill!

                                                                the Godfather


                                       Herman Cain, Herman Cain, he of the pizza brain

                                       went off to Tulsa mask-less attending a Trump rally

                                               but unfortunately, deadly folly

                                        COVID-19 striking Cain, and in three weeks

                                                                sad, so sad

                                                        Herman Cain was dead

                                             but not a word from the GOP was said

                                     Mister Cain sinking from their memory like a ton of


Sunday, September 13, 2020

Address Illiteracy Up The Yin Yang & What's In A Name According To PSD & What To Do When Psychotic Passenger Wants To Leap Out On The Freeway & What The Average Cabbie Really Wants & Metro Script Is A Real Account? I Don't Think So

 Passenger Relations 101

This week's report concerns that all important individual, the taxi passenger, who they are and what they do.  The alert cabbie understands, if deciding to, that they are observational anthropologist, sociologist, historian all rolled into one.  Add psychologist and psychiatrist to the mix and you see how multi-dimensional the cabbie's position is, having a front row seat upon life and human interaction as we know it.  A Saturday afternoon fare yesterday is a good example, pulling up to a Beacon Hill address, stuffing every inch of the cab with their belongings, including the distressed, ten-year old daughter crawling over boxes and bags tucking herself into the left passenger-side rear seat corner.  "We're Filipino," the father said, "were from the Philippines."  With fall approaching, his landscaping work is falling off, and the wife was laid off from her hotel job. "The Pandemic has changed everything."  I took them to one of the cheaper Sea-Tac area motels.  The fare was $35.00 but the husband insisted on giving me $50.00.  "Thank you, thank you, thanks so much for helping!" 

Not Knowing How to Read Your Own Address

Picking up the older "life-worn" African-American couple at the Ballard Safeway, the gentleman was instantly aggressive, giving me the an address of 2208 West Boston, placing it on the east-side of Magnolia and just off of Thorndyke West.  Obviously concerned about the fare, I told him I knew where it was but, as it turned out, they didn't though it was their residence.  As I turned west off of 15th West, he excitedly said, "No, no, no, you're going the wrong way, you have to go straight ahead."  Suddenly I understood they were going the DESC building at the corner of 15th West & West Boston, the address being 2208 West 15th Avenue. Pulling up, he pointed to the address, and yes, I told him, that's 15th West, not West Boston. All the guy had to do was walk up Boston and the read 1400 numbered addresses. 

After some back and forth, I think he finally understood what I was saying.  I also told him to just "Give me five!" which he liked.  I almost lost my temper but moans coming from the female customer told me to "cool it," this couple "broken," clearly trampled by life, realizing the last anything I wanted to do was add to damage already done.  To anyone believing that life in these United States is fair, equal opportunity available to all who seeks it don't know what they are talking about, invisible hands slamming and locking those theoretical open doors good and tight.  

Clearly, Names mean little to nothing to Seattle Yellow Cab

I'm telling you, I'm sick of it, going to an address and asking, "Are you ______?" and they respond, "No, I'm ________." It happens all of the time.  Friday I asked "I'm here for Larry." And where was Larry?  In the hospital, my passenger instead a woman going to a hospital.  Why should I care?  No one else cares.  I don't care.

This Falls into the Category of "Passing on the Problem"

Any time staff are too eager to help I know I'm in trouble because that's exactly it, making their trouble my trouble.  Bartenders do it all the time, having learnt to beware when the barkeep escorts the drunk to the cab.  Now when I see that, I drive away, fully knowing what I am in for, the displeasure of this particular someone's company.  But picking up an account fare is different, and the gentleman in question was worth $50.00 point A to B, making him worth the hassle getting him there but one quick look telling me it wouldn't be easy, no, not at all.  

He was crazy but the source or reason for his condition I couldn't tell you nor did I need to know.  He was whatever version of bonkers and was capable of nearly anything.  That was obvious.  I get going on the freeway, and seeing another Yellow cab, he starts saying "That's my cab!" and then says "What's in the trunk?  I want to you to open the trunk."

Further town the road he starts yelling, "Pull over, pull over, I'm going to vomit!" but having seen this story before in real time,I know when someone is on the verge of vomiting, and this guy was only faking it.  With the guy becoming considerably more agitated, with his volume increasing, I slide over to the side, all the while telling him he can't get out.  When I stopped, he half smiled and said, "I was only testing you."

Continuing on, I took the closest freeway route to our destination, knowing he could jump out at any time. Coming off the exit ramp, perhaps four blocks away from the detox center, he jumps out while asking me if wanted some peanuts?  Now walking parallel to my slow moving cab, I say, sure, I'll take some peanuts in the hope of having him reenter the car.  Reaching out my hand, he smiles, giving me a handful of salted nuts, seemingly appreciative of some real human to human contact.  Nuts I say and nuts it was, peanuts to almonds to cashews it was a crazy ride!

The Taxi Customer as Abstract Concept

One significant problem with taxi is that since there is no guaranteed wage, too many cabbies treat the taxi customer and passenger as kind of commodity, and the fact that this "commodity" is a living and breathing fellow human completely unimportant.  What then is important?  How far this commodity is going, equalling how much the cabbie will earn.  For most, nothing else is important.  You don't think it's true? Then I call you naive, or worse. 

How Can PSD Treat Metro Script like a Real PSD Account?

This is another "the people in charge don't know the reality" of what is occurring in real time.  Mere minutes ago an out-of-town passenger gave me Metro Taxi Script provided to her by a local senior center, those folks telling her to give them to any Seattle Cab Company.  This woman doesn't live here, is not registered with Metro, doesn't have a Metro Card or number but still, she is given the script to use like any Seattle or King County resident.  More shocking, she called the Metro Office and the fools there said that was okay.  I told her what she was doing was technically illegal.

And now Puget Sound Dispatch is forcing all us Yellow cabbies to treat Metro script like a PSD/Yellow-specific account, which it isn't.  No one, not even Metro, treats it like that.   If Metro is demanding that PSD process the script in a particular manner, then why is it that Metro is telling everyone to treat the script like real cash, which is exactly what they are doing.  

How can any sane person take this seriously?  Because, fool, you have to minus all argument or commonsense.  Wonderful!

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Reverse Discrimination? "Do You Live In This Neighborhood?" & Poem: "Waiting At Ueno Station"

 Did she really say that to me?

Yes, a middle-aged African-American woman did ask me whether I lived in her neighborhood, a northern section of Mount Baker a few blocks east of Martin Luther King Way South.  Why was she inquiring, what made her ask this question?  Because I had parked my cab half-way in front of her house on 31st Avenue South, intent on leaving it there no more than 15 minutes. Were there other parking places close by?  Yes.  Was there one directly across the street from her house?  Yes.  Was I parked legally, allowing me to be there for a full 24-hour day?  Yes, I was.  Since I was not doing anything wrong, what prompted her response?  

She did angrily say she was "paying $12.000 per year in property taxes," implying she must get something for all of that wasted money, even if it's only the ability to park in front of the house.  But it could also be that I was driving a cab, making me a kind of socio-economic sub-species, and white too, an insult to her injury, a caucasian lower-caste cipher staining her neighborhood?  It isn't the first time I encountered objections to my parked cab, something about the color yellow maddening to the upper-middle class mind.  

And now this black woman questioning me like she and other blacks would be questioned in most white American neighborhoods.  "What are you doing here?" she would be asked, with local police soon arriving to take her away, or worse, shoot her.    She asked what I was doing.  I still can't believe she stepped over that line, implying I was less than her.  Welcome to America, is all I can say---red, white, black, brown, yellow or blue---welcome to the simmering racial zoo.

Poem: "Waiting at Ueno Station" based on the novel, "Tokyo Ueno Station" by Korean-Japanese writer Yu Miri

                                        Kazu is waiting for me on page 172.

                                        Is he dying?   

                                        I will soon to know, the book concluding on page 180.

                                        It's raining in Tokyo.  He's homeless.  He's alone.

                                        If I hurry I can keep him company for a few remaining minutes,

                                       assessing the damage of a muted life disappearing from casual view, 

                                       mist obscuring yet another very personal history absorbed into

                                       a cemetery night.