Thursday, December 24, 2020

Christmas Doggerel---A Merry Woof Woof To You! & A Post-Birthday Surprise: A Fare To Pasco, Washington & Uber Driver Stabbed To Death In Issaquah

Donald & Mitch & Nancy's Special Seasonal Rhyme Just for You, Wishing You the Best Though the Rent is Due

Merry Christmas, oh deer!

Saint Rudolf, where are you flying this expectant midnight clear?

Where is the Congressional stimulus, where is the Corona beer?

Can we expect our governmental Santa to bring us Yuletide cheer?

And is it true, the mad elf Trump promising all those extra bucks,

two thousand dollar checks transported beneath the tree in USPS trucks?

Or is Christmas 2020 only another enormous political lie,

Pumpkin and Mincemeat pie in the pastry sky,

No happy American families rallying 'round the eggnog tree,

Instead crying in sad unison, their holiday festivities cut off at the bureaucratic 


 A Good Trip to Eastern Washington

Regular readers might remember my wonderful Hopelink fare to SW Washington approximately three months ago, the kind of long distance fare all cabbies dream about on chilly, wind blown nights.  This past Saturday, the day after my 67th birthday, I received my biggest fare so far these many years, a $614.80 Hopelink ride from the University of Washington Medical Center to Pasco, Washington, a town located way down on the Columbia River, a few miles north of the Oregon border.  If there was a negative, it was I-90/Snoqualmie Pass closing up behind me, forcing me to first drive west to Portland, then taking 1-5 the rest of the way back to Seattle.  

The drive in total was beautiful, bringing back memories of January 10th, 1973, when me and my cat Sniffer crossed the Columbia River during my move from Denver to Seattle, the rain-kissed green hills bordering the north side of the river impressive, making me think of Ireland, and indeed visiting that  Emerald Isle in July 1991.  Oh if only every day could be a Pasco Day, it would chase my taxi sorrows away!

Uber Driver Murdered in Issaquah, Washington on December 13th

A young couple from Nevada, in a misguided attempt to hijack an Uber operator, repeatedly stabbed Cherno Ceesay in the neck and head, killing him instantly before his vehicle ran off the road into a tree.  Ceesay, a 28 year old emigrant from the West African country, The Gambia, was an aspiring professional soccer player hoping to play for his home country.  Two days later the couple were arrested and are now in custody, each held under a two million dollar bail.  When these kind of incidents occur, I always question how prepared the victim was before deciding to drive professionally upon the streets of Anywhere, USA, perhaps not understanding the inherent risks involved allowing complete strangers into your car, Ceesay's death yet another sad note souring an individual exuberant song sung by someone simply wanting to live and be happy.  You must be careful is all I can say, another person's insanity taking your life away. 

Seward Park: A good place to walk

This week's "Seattle park of the Week" is a tiny peninsula jutting out in the southern end of Lake Washington, making it the perfect place to experience the lake without getting your feet wet, your walk a big circle either north or south, taking you east.  There are beaches, there is a play field and there is Seattle's Audubon Center where you can find out about the birds flying in that part of Seattle.  There are a number of ways to reach the park but maybe the easiest and quickest is to head east down South Orcas Street because it takes you directly to the park.  And once there, if inspired, you can keep walking down Lake Washington Blvd north or south taking you where you might want to go, enjoying the shoreline despite the speeding cars and intrepid bicyclists requesting your attention.


Friday, December 18, 2020

Why Roberto Stopped Driving Taxi In Mazatlan After 2 Years & What Is Wrong With The King County Sheriff Department? & Seattle's Ugly Face & Seattle Park Of The Week & New Periodic Feature: Seattle "Art Spots"

Roberto's Inability to fend off the "Bite"

The Mexican city of Mazatlan has two kinds of taxi services.  One is the traditional cab known throughout the world, usually equipped with top-lights and meters measuring cost per mile or kilometer; or as in Mazatlan, a zone-system utilized to determine fares point A to B.   Mazatlan also has another kind of more informal open-air cab topped by a metal canopy, a vehicle looking much like a large golf cart and manufactured by Volkswagen, with fares gauged by zones or flat rates or simply by what the operator wishes to charge.  

During my time in Mazatlan, I took a total of six cab rides, one being this kind of open air/golf cart version, their primary purpose quickly shuttling between the more tourist-oriented parts of the city, transporting passengers from the Centro (downtown) to the "Golden Zone" hotel district.  Of course they will take you anywhere you wish but mostly you will see them swiftly driving up and down the street running parallel to the beach and sidewalk promenade stretching north and south along the noisy Pacific.  It was in this kind of vehicle and environment that Roberto made his foray into the world of taxi, an effort destined for failure.   

Roberto is someone I met near my apartment building, the bottom floor housing a WIFI and mailing business, finding him using one of the available computers.  Having gone to elementary, junior and high school in the US, he spoke a highly proficient American English, easily passing as native born.  Talking about jobs and life, he mentioned his time as an open-air cabbie, lasting two years before giving it up, saying he couldn't make enough money to survive upon.  Their shifts where broken in morning, afternoon and night sections, meaning three drivers sharing the same cab, all hustling during limited, compressed hours.  Further complicating everything were the constant asking for bribes by local police, 20 pesos here, 10 pesos there, all these requests "biting" into his daily income.  He gave it up, tiring of a dead-end occupation taking him to where he couldn't go, poverty and starvation sorry conclusion to hours with little purpose.  

I found Roberto's situation compelling---educated, smart, talented---but still trapped, with no place to go, minus the options he obviously deserved.  He is now a kind of alcohol vendor, riding on his company supplied scooter, knocking on the doors of local bars and restaurants.  Roberto recommended the Golden Zone but as I said last week, it certainly is not my tourist cup of tea.  For him it's his economic salvation.  My view is different, viewing it as a blight, a cancer consuming everything good but obviously I have more choices, unlike Roberto, and others like him, toiling for Mexican pennies in the hot Mazatlan sun, local cops adding to the pain. 

You Won't Find This in Any Seattle Guidebook

As I was landing back in Seattle last Friday night, I was telling myself "I don't want to be here!" and one of the reasons is the ugly face I encountered Saturday morning on the way to pick up 1092.  I know this place too damn well which is why I can't wait to permanently flee the nightmare this city has become, understanding freedom begins by slamming the door upon nonsense dominating body and mind. 

It was a simple. commonplace situation, one tainted by an aggression embracing civility and tossing it into the nearest local cultural wastebasket. It all began by my turning onto eastbound South Walker Street off of southbound Martin Luther King Jr Way (the old Empire Way), and by avoiding the fool car speeding through the red light, I annoyed the upper-middle class man driving westbound on Walker crossing MLK.  Like too many typical "I don't know anything about driving a car" Seattle-lites, he lifted his hands up in gesture of "What are you doing?, and motioning him to roll down his window, said I was avoiding a sure collision, which he answered with a superior, sneering smirk, informing me, minus any doubt what he knew me to be: an inferior human being not to be taken seriously.  

Seattle is full of these kinds of fools and I am the only one who will tell you about them.  And why me, why am I aware of this creeping false superiority overtaking Seattle?  Because I got my "eyes open" and I can't stand it no more, no I can't, Seattle closing its eyes in a forever slumber. 

Legal? Road Raging

All I did was turn my cab onto 4th Avenue South to find myself aggressively tailgated by someone clearly out-of-their-mind.  Putting on my emergency flashers, I brought the offending driver to a halt, not interested in being attacked by some garden-variety manic.  But wasn't I surprised to find that the madman was a King County sheriff driving an unmarked vehicle, flashing his red and blue lights and leaping out, minus a mask, shouting and screaming.  As I calmly told him, "I thought you were a road-rager."  Shouting a bit more, he left, leaving me with "if someone had a gun they might shoot you."  Well, he was armed but didn't shoot me.  Was I somehow lucky?

A number of years ago, I had a similar encounter with a KC sheriff, and I have a letter of apology to prove it.  What is wrong with these folks is my question. Good god almighty!

Northacres Park, 12715 1st Avenue Northeast

This featured park of the week is a personal favorite because it allows me to sit in Zone 105 (the Northgate) waiting for a fare and enjoy the trees and also the barking coming from the nearby dog-park.  Northacres features a west and east side separated by a small forest and ambling pathways.  Park on the western end and your kids can roam the playground or you can all sit around the picnic tables beneath the towering Firs.  Parking on the east side, accessed from 3rd NE,  you can park with the permanent car campers, frolic with the bounding pooches, or if it is summer, play baseball or soccer in the expansive play field taking up most of the southeast corner of the park.  The only major drawback to to Northacres is its proximity to the I-5 freeway but ignoring that, you will enjoy yourself.  It's very easy to locate.  Go to the corner of NE 130th and 1st NE and you are there.  If you are sensitive, bring earplugs. 

Art Spots in the Seattle City: 66 Marching Metallic Men

Seattle was once an interesting town, and remnants of that bygone era are to be found here and there in nooks and crannies thought out the city.  Now that the Aurora & Denny Pink Elephant has departed to live in a museum, lost memories do remain, all you have to do is look for them.  One such memory is the art installation located in the 2400 block of 34th Avenue West, where you will find sandwiched between a Fire Department Station and an auto repair garage, a box containing 66 metal figures lined up in six rows, eleven little metal men per row.  Turn the big red metal wheel and you will set them dancing, their legs moving in a confined jig.  Why it's there I can't tell you but if you are on your way to Discovery Park, check it out.  You will be pleased is my guarantee.   And while you are at it, walk around "Magnolia Village" and see a neighborhood within a neighborhood, old Seattle hiding in plain sight.  And if you have a postcard to mail, there's the post office waiting to take your missive to faraway lands and cities. 

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Adios Mazatlan: Travel Essay---Mazatlan: Wonderful Tourist Destination or Cultural Sinkhole? & Cab Essay: Understanding Why Taxi Drivers Remain Maligned And Misunderstood

Since writing the following essay, I have explored the city some more, finding I like the downtrodden district surrounding the industrial port better, trucks lined up waiting to deliver their ship-bound containers destined for ports across the wide Pacific.  Passing an open doorway I saw a mother talking to her young child, a small boy in a colorful cotton pajama jumpsuit.  He was cute, a nice memory in a dirty, rubbish strewn part of the city.  Yes, life expressed in all its ways: good, bad and wonderful.

Mazatlan: Who Are You?

After years of traveling and visiting many countries and cities, I've concluded the best way to get know a new location, especially in an unfamiliar city, is to take local buses to where ever they might deliver you because, this being your first visit, in say Mazatlan, it's all new and different and educational---the bus your tutor and guide to much of everything you need to know.  And this past week I did exactly that, jumping on random buses to understand Mazatlan, its culture, its economy and its people, helping me in this quick assessment of a Mexican city extremely dependent upon tourism-based employment and tax base, all structured around one basic local commodity: its miles of splendid sandy beach. 

Once Mazatlan must have been a modest fishing village living off the bounty of the wide Pacific Ocean, the wonderful beach serving as a convenient home for the many small fishing boats still based here, myriad varieties of fish big and small swimming in their nearby watery abodes.  Then someone got the good idea to say, if we build a hotel, people will come to lie on the beach, swim in the ocean and eat all the fish we can deliver.  First one hotel, then a second and a third hotel until, like some crazy Monopoly game board, the beach front, especially in what's called the "Golden Zone," quickly became a kind of over crowded Las Vegas-style, middle-class oriented playground now occupied by towering hotels, sprawling restaurants and more gift shops than ever could be needed, all selling the same products and items up and down the beach.

Upon initially observing the "Golden Zone" from my bus seat, my first appalling reaction was "this is a monstrosity" constructed for no other purpose but extracting money from tourist wallets and purses, finding it beyond ugly, an insult to mind and spirit, insulting the very concept of a rational humanity.  Stepping off the bus before arriving at the marina, I stumbled back hoping to discover something good amidst this modern day ruin.  And I did, noticing a possible entryway to the beach, Mazatlan's shining glory---white sand to kick and run and roll in before chasing the beckoning blue Pacific waves. 

This particular stretch of the beach temporarily ends, abutting a leafy, rocky promontory providing a home for green crabs and small fish caught in temporary pools.  Walking toward the sea-battered and weathered rocks, I discovered a sandy nook allowing me to discretely change into my swimsuit and dip into  oncoming frothy waves.  It was wonderful, suddenly a millionaire enjoying my exclusive hideaway, providing me this assessment: Mazatlan simultaneously a rapturous pleasure and a hideous, cultural eyesore better avoided.     

But since I came here to visit the dentist, I won't complain, and when the coronavirus ends, the garish Bermuda shorts and cheap flip-flops reappearing once again making Mazatlan the paradise it certainly isn't, happy tears crying into flowing buckets of refreshing golden cerveza.  And please beware of bikini-clad American tourists sauntering down those white sand beaches, of course wearing those plastic sandals, meaning that the re-invasion has begun, the thoughtless barbarians thinking little except of themselves and personal pleasure gained.  

Essay: The Maligned Cabbie: The Question is Why

Have you ever been called a "bitch faggot?"  Well, I have, more than once.  What exactly is a "bitch faggot?"  Well, according to some passengers, a bitch faggot is a taxi driver.  How can that be, why would anyone refer to a cabbie in such profane, odd language?  And the answer is quite simple, though why it's an easy answer is not simple because how did a licensed profession, dating back to Oliver Cromwell and London, England 1654 (the 17th Century) become, in the minds of many, a kind of criminal activity?   

Is it because cabbies are criminals, and given any opportunity to overcharge a customer, they will, driving around the block, heading south when the destination is due north?  Some will always think so but gaining an extra dollar or two is not in the cabbie's interest, somehow implying if the driver doesn't steal, there is no money to be made.  But the obvious reality for all professional cabbies is that driving a cab is a money maker, especially if you know what you are doing, knowing your city's roadways and routes, making your passenger happy and you the cabbie just a little bit richer.  For the most part, it is the dumbbell cabbie, not the dishonest driver, who takes the wrong route, which is why the City of London demands that you know their city before you are licensed, famously known as the "Knowledge."

Yes, the knowledgeable cabbie is a good cabbie but why are even 30 year taxi veterans treated like  "thieves in the night?"  From my experience there are at least three probable reasons.  Number one is the reality of when you are sitting in the backseat of the cab, you are vulnerable and reliant upon the driver to get you from point A to B.  While that is also true when sitting in an airplane, unlike a cab where you are 16 inches from the driver, in the airliner you are 30 rows back and aren't in position to think you can tell the pilot what to do.  

The second reason is the never ending mythology that the cabbie is up to no good, which it seems comes from the free-form style of many cabbies, where conducting a U-turn or other such maneuver is commonplace and often necessary but for some observers, providing an unsavory view of the undisciplined cabbie, hence the "crazy cabbie" willing to anything, including stealing from your pocketbook.  Yes, not having a boss glancing over your shoulder does provide a kind of freedom but that doesn't mean it automatically translates into mischief and dishonesty.

A third reason is the misconception that driving a cab is easy, that only the mentally deficient are working beneath the toplight. And since you are "dumb as a brick," this makes you a disreputable human being.  But the reality is different, driving a taxi takes much skill, and as any London cabbie will tell you, you try learning 320 basic routes across London, its 25,000 streets and its 60,000 points of interest.  Ask for the precise route and they will tell you block by block by block from any given point.  Cabbies may be many things but stupid they are not.

And if you are ever in Seattle and lucky enough to get my taxi, go ahead, ask me how to get from 14th East and East Thomas to the corner of NW 80th Street and Earl Avenue NW?  My answer will depend on the time of day and the level of traffic at that particular moment, gauging all the variables before taking off.  

And if you want to be amused, I too can tell you block by block by block the entire route.  How?  Why I got the "Knowledge," the Seattle version that is, but admittedly I don't know all the points of interest, because, frankly, I'm not that interested.

New York Times "Metropolitan Diary"

Directly after writing the above essay, I came across this positive letter about a taxi ride in the "Big Apple."  It had the heading "Short Ride."

Dear Diary,

After hailing a cab one night, I asked the driver to take me to a place that was seven blocks away.

For some reason, I felt compelled to explain I wasn't walking since it was drizzling and also because I wasn't wearing walking shoes.

"No charge," the driver said.

I laughed.

When we got to to where I was going, I asked him how much the fare was.

"I said, no charge," he said.


And that I will say is a typical response from many a cabbie 'round the world.  Me too, I've said it too.  Often I say give me five because the ride is short and a dollar or two more making no different to me but when the passenger is clearly poor or on the streets, I feel asking for more is immoral and wrong, not something I need or want to do.

Seattle Park of the Week

Discovery Park, located on the western side of the Magnolia neighborhood, is a wonderful combination of wooded trails and Puget Sound tide pools.  Part of it is in the old Fort Lawton military base, something now owned by the city of Seattle.  The best I can say about the park is go there and wander the trails.  You will be pleased.  Easy access is to follow West Government Way directly into the park, an entrance providing a real sense on just how large a place it is.  Another good way are the southern entry points off West Emerson Street and the intersections of 40th West, 41st West etc.  Park and enter thought the gaps allowing entry.  It is a great park.  Enjoy, and if you have a dog, romp with that pooch sniffing all the way.




Thursday, December 3, 2020

Greetings Once More From Mazatlan: An Appreciation For My Archival Readers & Case Made For 24/7 Taxi Access To The Lower West Seattle Bridge & Argument For Prioritizing Cabbie Coronavirus Vaccinations & 2 Parks & A Poem

Ola once more from Mazatlan.  The CDC (the Center for Disease Control) has issued new warnings about traveling to Mexico even while American and other airlines are expanding their Winter routes into sunny Mexico in anticipation of more travel south of the border in the first few months of 2021.  My Alaska Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Mazatlan had about 90 passengers on board, with the vast majority either Mexican citizens returning or naturalized Mexican-Americans visiting family.  My Seattle to LA flight had 70 passengers.  

While clearly the threat is real, and I am not being facetious, why hasn't the CDC issued travel warnings concerning South Dakota, one American place where men are men and women are women and dying from the coronavirus is some kind of deranged cowboy/cowgirl badge of honor saluting their version of cattle country democracy, even if its from a coffin.  Or what about Iowa, now leading the entire nation in coronavirus infections?  The hospitals are overwhelmed.  You don't want to go there.

Still, Mexico, or least certain parts of Mexico are experiencing huge numbers of new infections.  And if it is true that obesity is an underlying cause of COVID-19 deaths, then the many truly fat Mexicans I saw downtown today are tempting fate, so many men and women obviously 50-100 pounds overweight it's startling---swollen thighs and bellies the too often prevailing norm.   I say this after consuming a huge dinner of fire-roasted chicken simmered in hot sauce, steamed squash, buttered noodles, tortillas, fresh cucumber and chocolate cake for dessert.  Hey, I'm on a kind of vacation of sorts, aren't I?

Readers ranging from India to the Netherlands are reading my back pages

Scanning recent reader commentary, many of you are reading posts dating back to as far as 2011, something both surprising yet extremely gratifying, making the weekly hours I put into this worthwhile, knowing I am communicating in a very real sense with many in the taxi global community.  Thank you once again for the continuing support, because as I said back in 2011, I am doing this for you, you my fellow cabbies and transportation professionals toiling beneath the beaming toplight. 

We should not be ticketed for picking up account customers in West Seattle

It is dispiriting that the City of Seattle continues, despite licensing and regulating taxi services, to treat the Seattle (and King County) taxi industry like the non-regulated vehicular traffic we aren't, forcing us to detour miles out of our way to pick up HopeLink and MV(First Transit) clients in greater West Seattle, denying us legal ( and easy) access over the lower West Seattle Bridge during prime daylight hours.  

Whatever decision is made regarding the damaged West Seattle Freeway Bridge, whether replacement or repair, it is going to take 2-3 years before traffic will resume over a high bridge, telling me it is time for the City of Seattle to recognize our essential services to the ill and handicapped communities, finally allowing us to use the lower bridge without the insult of SPD harassment.  The current policy makes no sense.  In this newly upcoming Post-Trump era, shall we all embrace rationality and commonsense, opening our minds to reality as it exists, leaving bureaucratic indifference and hubris where it belongs, in the sordid past?

COVID-19 Vaccinations for Cabbies

With new Federal guidelines in the planning, announcing who will be first in line for life-saving, protective coronavirus vaccinations, it isn't surprising to me that all us cabbies working nationwide transporting the ill and sickly to and hospitals and clinics have not been mentioned, and I can guarantee you, will not be noted due to our invisibility in the workplace, few understanding what we do and why we do it. 

Logically, at least in Seattle and King County, local municipal and county should be/ or are aware how invaluable we are transporting cancer and dialysis patients to life-saving treatment, and wouldn't it make sense to know that all of us cabbies are COVID-19 free and not potentially spreading the virus to an extremely vulnerable population?   To make that reality, we need to be prioritized for at least the second round of vaccinations.  Are we essential?  Of course, of course we are.  What isn't there not to understand?  Nothing, nothing whatsoever.  It is imperative we receive the vaccines.

Two More Seattle Parks of the Week

Given my quick preparation for this unexpected trip to the Mazatlan dentist, I forgot that I would be weekly featuring favorite Seattle parks, this week making up for my error by mentioning two and not just one park. 

Volunteer Park on Capital Hill: Haven't I walked very inch of that leafy acreage?

Capital Hill was my home for years, first walking that hill in 1973.  I met my former wife there and, sadly, divorced there.  I had my first Seattle job of any kind on Capital Hill and my first psychiatric position on the hill.  I owned two separate homes on Capital Hill, and Volunteer Park was my park, and in many ways, remains, my park.  I know that place.  Go there and climb, huffing and puffing, to the top of the water tower on a clear day and take in the best viewing platform in all of Seattle.  Go there when the Asian Art Museum reopens and marvel at the snuff box collection.  Go there and marvel at all of those huge, healthy trees.  Bring your dog and walk that walk, being glad you did. Access is off of 15th Avenue East and East Prospect or 12th Avenue East and East Prospect.  There are also some secret accesses off Federal Avenue East, if you know where to park. 

Carkeek Park in the Broadview

Carkeek Park, located north of Ballard/Crown Hill, is where you go to get lost in the woods, and it's easy to do, perhaps even shaking a paw of a resident coyote as you ramble those sword fern strewn leafy paths.  Behind (facing north) the old Art's Food Center (now the QFC), take the apple orchard trail and enjoy Piper's Creek.  Turn west down NW 117th off of 3rd Avenue NW and you will drive right down the middle to the center of the park.  There are also some very concealed entrances at Carkeek.  Will you be able to find them?  Only if you ask a passing raccoon. They'll know for sure, those sneaky rascals knocking over local garbage cans in the wee hours.  Yes, Careek is too big to miss so don't miss it, go there and cross the bridge taking you over the railroad tracks, getting your feet wet in the Puget Sound. Oh that water is cold! 

London's Cabbies are falling down

Expanding on something I previously mentioned in a recent post, London's rented "black cabs" are being stored in large numbers due to the disappearance of normal business due to the pandemic.  In a NY Time's article reported by Mark Lenler, he describes a muddy field in the village of Epping holding over 200 cabs, with more normal storage already filled.   It is a dire time for London's 21,500 cabbies, with only 3,500 currently working. 

Part of the issue is who owns the car you drive, you or a cab rental company charging cabbies $375.00 each week for their black cab. And if you want to buy your cab, due to a new rule dating back to January 2018, all newly licensed London cabs must be electric.  The cost of that new car is eighty-seven thousand dollars.  As a comparison, my faithful Crowne Victoria cost me $3500.00.  Big difference obviously. 

The cabbies who own their cabs are surviving, though barely.  The others are not doing very well, hoping for a return to business that may never happen.  And of course they still face the competition of all those unskilled Uber drivers making it even harder to be optimistic.  London's cab industry is a mess!

A Poem

The only relation to cab driving this poem has is that it would have never been written unless I had stopped driving and come here to Mazatlan for dental care.  What does taxi do for me other than that very important providing a living?  Well it steals my life, my brain, my very reason for existing.  Other than that I am having a wonderful time!

The background story is that after my divorce in 1987 I became a hunter for books, and loving Vancouver, BC and all its used bookstores, I would make my way north about five times a year and roam the book stores. Gerald Stern was at that point a fairly well known American poet/writer. This particular bookseller knew him.

                                                     Gerald Stern and a Bookstore


                         Tonight reading a Gerald Stern poem I remember someone

                         whose name I don't recall saying Stern was his friend, this 

                          same someone owning a Vancouver bookstore during a time

                          I roamed area shelves incessantly searching for books, more

                          books, and though this someone didn't say so, he was homosexual

                          and not caring if I wrote good or bad or nothing, desiring sex

                          but no, I was chasing literature, not him, embracing pages

                         late into any night.