A Draining Night

many things happened last night, each of them normally worthy of a post here. My first thought when I got home was that I should list everything, and then write a series of more in-depth posts all about the night of July 29th/30th. But when I saw the list, and it was so long, I figured I should just replicate it here:

I was in such a hurry to get on the list that I forgot my lease money at home. This ended up being a non-issue, as the weekend superintendent said I could drop.

While sitting around waiting/hoping to be called, L (a day owner) told me, H, and D about his health problems due to Agent Orange exposure. He takes 22 pills a day.

D, a driver I really like a lot, decided not to drive after all, but kept hanging around the garage and talking about his struggles with being bi-polar. I was supportive of him, but didn't realize until after I'd gone out that he must be very lonely and was basically looking/asking for help. I felt very bad for not asking him for his cell phone number.

E told me a great story about having to deliver two lobsters from Jake's to McCormick & Schmick's. What made this story funny was that he didn't charge them the delivery rate, but the passenger rate (including an extra dollar for the second lobster).

I was the last person to get a cab. It was a 7-7, which I prefer but are relatively rare, and had a CD player. The condition of my getting it was that I not smoke in it (I've been smoking like normal since around the time of the move, and it really sucks).

I gave R, the guy on whose reccomendation I got the job and someone I really respect, a ride home after getting in the car at 6. He gave me $20 for this, which was pretty unnecessary. I stopped quickly for a red light, and R told me not to that afraid of the Safety Board, R had resigned, and R (the one I was driving) might go back on it.

I then went home to take a shower, and arrived just as my wonderful roommate was taking various and sundry deliciously prepared fish off the grill and smoker. Some old friends showed up, and until 7:45 I enjoyed good food and company instead of sitting in the cab in a clogged zone.

My first "real" fare was the sister of Copywrite from MHz. I was listening to Ropeladder, the old MUSH records compilation, and we had a good conversation about indie hip-hop and old friends of hers from Columbus like RJD2, Blueprint, and Camu Tao who were growing more popular.

I picked up a black guy who was on crutches and had recently shattered a leg when a bus hit his bike. We talked about our mutual bike injuries, resulting surgeries, and how being uninsured is not fun in such a situation.

A white guy in his early fifties was going from Cocktails & Dreams to the Voodoo downtown. He was newly single, owned an adult bookstore, and kept nagging me to tell him about my sex life and where brothels were. I eventually told him where some brothels were, and he only tipped me a dollar.

I did the dumbest thing I've ever done at work, and locked my keys in the cab while buying water at the Chevron on MLK & Fremont. The dispatcher asked me who my friends working were, so that she could find me someone who would do it for cheap and spare me the embarassment of having a fleet message go out. I told her that I knew E and E were working, and maybe G. She said she'd get E to do it. While I waited about 20 minutes for E, I made an instant connection and friendship with B, a one-legged black Sufi in his early 20s. I'll hopefully be hanging out with him a bunch on slow nights from here on out, a really bright and kind person. We talked about people's bullshit, and how not to let it get you down. Finally an E showed up, but it wasn't the E I know, another woman who I barely know but enjoy a lot. She wouldn't let me pay her, and I felt bad that someone I don't know got specifically asked to do me a favor. She was really gracious though, as I would've expected.

My next trip was a Latino/a transvestite to Embers (gay bar downtown).

I drove some white stoner death metal fans with dreadlocks to a show at Sabala's. They spent the entire trip talking about their dream of becoming glass pipe and bong entrepreneurs.

I picked up a very drunk middle-eastern kid at Sewickley's Addition around 12:30 AM. He told me to be quick, he was late to work. He works the midnight to 8 AM shift at Taboo adult video at 82nd & Division.

At 1 AM, I picked up a very weird middle aged white couple who needed to get home with the groceries they'd just bought.

I took some drunk and racist white guys to a private party that underachieving Blazers power forward Zach Randolph was throwing at their friend's bar downtown.

After that, I got immediately flagged by underachieving Blazers power forward Zach Randolph's uncle and bodyguard. He had me rush him to the dive motel on 82nd & Sandy so he could meet his "young lady."

After dropping him off, I was immediately flagged by a black woman with a severe asthma attack who had me sprinting her all over Northeast. She paid me half what it cost, and tipped me with a container of shaving cream.

A little bit later, I got a message on my MDT that said "BRD MEMBER SAYS SLOW WAY DOWN." I told the dispatcher about the woman with asthma, and asked her to pass it along to the board member. He'd stopped working after the bar rush (of course), and she said he was the kind of guy who would write someone up. The dispatchers love me, though, and she said she'd make sure the board member got my message. Still, given my last experience with the Safety Board, I am afraid for my job.

At around 3:30, I picked up a nicely dressed, middle-aged heterosexual white couple who weren't all that drunk but were DUMB AS FUCKING STONES. They couldn't understand why there weren't any strip clubs still open. I ended up taking them to the brothel/arcade mentioned here

My next trip was a sobbing blonde woman in her early 20s at Legacy Emmanuel. She told me about having just left her physically abusive boyfriend. She was leaving her friend at the hospital, who was being hit by her boyfriend. The friend wasn't the one in the hospital, it was her boyfriend. Another guy had beaten the boyfriend into a coma earlier in the night when he saw the boyfriend treating my fare's friend like shit. The fare's friend's eye was still closed from being punched last week. The fare's friend, for some inexplicable reason, felt like it was her fault that her boyfriend was in the hospital. I will never be able to understand this.

At 4:30 AM, I took a man in Beaverton to buy edible panties for his girlfriend. He told me about how a helicopter almost crashed into a building when he was installing Air Conditioners downtown, but that it didn't make the news. He was really looking forward to eating those panties.

At 5:15 AM, dispatch took pity on me and threw me a $47 airporter from Canyon Road since I was one of the few people deep in the west side.

After that, I ran a small airporter where a college professor actively encouraged me not to go back to school. She's basically of the opinion that higher education is a soul-crushing intellectual prison.

I got a ride home from J, a female night driver I hadn't met before. She seems really cool, and we talked about racist cab drivers and the ways in which people subconsciously create circumstances that fulfill both their fears and desires.

Things I didn't do because for some reason I thought making money was more important since I'm leaving town next weekend:

Go to the Fridge's 100th year anniversary party, where many old friends of mine were.

Go to the PDX Pop Now! after party I was invited to, where I could've mingled with Portland's uber-hip indie rock elite.

Go to see 2 Oboes, my favorite musical act in Portland.

Anyways, I'm taking tonight off. I'm spent.


...We Call it Home

Last night was great, just very relaxing. The whole helping beaten women and fighting men with cerebral palsy thing had been starting to weigh on me, so it was wonderful to have just a nice, peaceful, bullshit-free, and lucrative evening.

It started with me hanging out at the garage for three and a half hours, and it looking like I wasn't going to get a cab. The last hour of which was spent listening to another cabbie my age talk endlessly about how he couldn't take much more of this job, and had to get a new one. Good times. I can certainly understand where he's coming from, but am still a ways away from that point myself. I'm still optimistic about and enjoying the job, it's when intense things happen in short periods of time that I start to get angsty. This cat was complaining about how boring the job was. I love this job when it's boring. Not "sitting around and reading because there's no work" boring, but the "everything's cruising along nicely" boring.

So I was waiting around with very faint hopes, not expecting to get a cab, and B waltzes in to get his. B is a swarthy, grizzled old cab-driver who's central casting's idea of a retired hitman who just wants to raise his granddaughter in peace. Raspy growl of a voice, shaved gray hair with a goatee, always wear sunglasses, stocky dude who looks like he can lick any SOB in the house. Homeboy's scary. I wish I could tell you what "B" is short for, because it's his actual name, and it's fucking perfect for him.

Anyway, he sauntered into the room, asked if me and the other two guys are waiting for cabs, then pointed at me, smiled, and growled "How would you like to drive my cab."

See, the grizzled old lease drivers love me. I don't even really know many of the other hip, young, cab drivers' names. But the lifers and I are chill. Whether or not this is a particularly good sign is debatable, but it tends to tangibly come in handy a lot more often than cultivating an impressive array of tattoos to show off around the garage would.

Anyway, my response to B was, and I quote, "Fuck yeah." B's got a nice ride. He's a lease driver, but he's got a steady on this pimped out little number with sheepskin seat covers. No great stereo, but it drives nice. So B talks to the superintendent, and I'm paying his lease and driving his car for the night.

I get out, do a quick little $15 fare, and then get a $35 trip out to Tualatin. Instead of deadheading back without looking at the map or screen like I often used to (my new project is learning the western suburbs), I check it out, and immediately after dropping off get a call like 20 blocks away. Going back to Portland, another $35. Do another $15 trip as soon as I got back, and I've paid my lease in less than 2 hours, with all of Friday night ahead of me.

See, that paragraph right there is another example of the kind of stories cabbies love, but aren't very interesting to most other people.

Not many stories tonight that were all that interesting. Had my second conversation in as many weeks about jazz drummers with someone else who knows jazz drummers. This guy didn't think I was crazy when I told him that while I could appreciate Max Roach, I'd just never been able to get into him. Also agreed with me that Danny Richmond is criminally under-appreciated. It's really all about Art Blakey, who too many people my age who are into jazz seem to have just not been exposed to enough of.

The guy who does the 3AM - 6AM show on KBOO every other Saturday morning has always pissed me off. He plays a lot of music by underground artists I know and love, and he always plays their most pop and/or subpar stuff. As a very serious music geek/snob, I've always found his aesthetic admirable and his actual taste seriously offensive, if that makes any sense at all. I always try to avoid this show, and just listen to the Friday night/Saturday morning blues marathon on KMHD instead.

At 4:30, however, I gave "Further" (the name of this guy's show) a whirl. And the first thing I heard were the opening bars to "Angular," the first song on Shopping Carts Crashing. He was doing some APC retrospective or whatever. I was just really happy, as I'd had the song stuck in my head Thursday, but hadn't listened to it, and it never gets played on the radio. I love me some Anti-Pop, I was the first person to play them on the radio in Portland, the person who introduced them to the Mercury, the person who introduced them to my college. And loser that I am, I've always taken some pride in that, of having discovered something I loved and helped get the ball rolling in bringing it to others. And this guy I can't stand hit me with just what I needed.

I know that this is interesting to absolutely no one, but it's the kind of small moment that can push the job from just a job to a lot of fun, suddenly driving around to music I love and explaining to the black kid in the back seat why I think this is the illest shit on earth, and him really digging it, the crazy vocals and wonderfully put together backing tracks, telling me that it's nice to have a cool cab driver for once (most of the hip young cabbies are definitely not working outer Northeast).

Then, of course, Mr. "Further" starts playing whack tracks from their solo projects, so I call him up, and it turns out that he doesn't even know any of the songs by name. I have him play "Tuff Gong" and "Driving in Circles," and everything's wonderful.

And yes, I understand completely that none of this makes me cool, and in fact reveals large swaths of my inner geekitude. But fuck it, I had fun last night. All my passengers were polite, many were fun, and some were interesting.

I'm listening to "Flatlands" by Sonicsum right now, whereas this morning I was listening to Earth. This reveals an enormous amount of attitudinal shift for people who have any idea what "Flatlands" and Earth sound like. Hm... let's just say for those who for some reason don't happen to be down with both drone metal and U.K. avant hip-hop that "Flatlands" always puts a smile on my face, and is a beautiful track constructed around a haunting old Tangerine Dream keyboard sample.

Earth, on the other hand, is essentially Dylan Carlson. Carlson played a huge part in inspiring the contemporary North American harsh noise scene (I'm especially looking at you, guys with guitar drones and effects pedals), but is most famous for being the guy who took Kurt Cobain to buy the shotgun Cobain blew his head off with (said shotgun having been purchased here in Portland at the much lamented Maury's Gun's Rack, formerly at SE 82nd & Woodstock). Some would argue that making Cobain listen to earth2 at high volumes would have done the job just as effectively though (I kid because I love, Earth is wonderful stuff).



Saturday night I got a call around 4 AM to pick-up at the Safeway at 122nd & Powell. The "additional remarks" on the order, where the phone number or fare's location typically are, said "Red dress, no cell phone."

I instantly started getting bad vibes. The chances of something good going on with someone wearing a red dress and stuck at Safeway at 4 AM in that neighborhood are basically nil. My assumption was that I was going to be getting a meth geek and/or prostitute.

Instead, I pulled up, and a gorgeous young white woman in a beautiful dress (not too revealing or conservative, perfectly suited to her body) waved at me. I pulled up, and the first thing I noticed was a two or three inch long cut and the beginning of bruising on her left cheek.

And suddenly I was furious. In control, and not outwardly so, but still completely livid. Not at her, of course. I once had an argument with a friend about whether or not it was messed up that I basically consider hitting a woman worse than killing a man. This woman had obviously been hit, and hit very hard.

She went into Safeway to tell them that her cab had arrived, while I sat in the cab waiting for her and gnashed my teeth. She asked me to take her down the road to 122nd & Holgate. When I asked, she told me that she'd been hit by her boyfriend, thrown from a car, and that then he'd come back and tried to pull her back into the car.

I pulled into the parking lot, and a man was sitting directly in front of us in my head lights, with a gash down the right side of his nose. "A lot of people getting hit out here tonight," I thought to myself. She told me that she was going to get her purse, and that I was to call 911 if she wasn't back in two minutes. I asked her if she was about to go back into a situation where she might be hit again.

"I don't know," she said. I told her that there was no way I was going to let that happen. I'd give her a free ride anywhere she wanted, if paying me was the reason she was worried about the purse. She explained to me that her keys were in the purse, along with the cell phone. I told her that I was going to go to the apartment with her, then, that I couldn't in good conscience do anything else. She agreed to this.

We got out of the car, and I grabbed my cell phone, rolled up the windows, and locked the doors. I didn't like the look of the beat-up looking guy in the parking lot. We walked up to a townhouse style apartment, and she knocked at the door several times. A dog barked on the other side, she said it was hers and seemed on the verge of tears. The lights were off, and no one came to the door after repeated knockings. "Let's get out of here," I told her. "I'll take you anywhere you want to go, a friend's, wherever, let's just get out of here." She finally agreed, and we turned to go.

Walking towards us was the man from the parking lot. He was short, but large. Large in a muscle-bound way. Large in a "Crabbie has no chance in hell in a fight with this guy" way.

"Can I have my purse back?" she asked him. Without a word, he unlocked his SUV, got the purse out, and threw it with moderate force into her midsection. She caught it, which impressed me. They stared each other in the eye for a few seconds, every muscle in my body tensed and ready to throw down and try my best, maybe brain him with the cell phone Naomi Campbell-style.

Then she turned and walked away.

We got back in the car, and I just started driving. She was headed to Milwaukie, her father owns two house across the street from each other. She had keys to the unused one. She explained to me what happened: he'd wanted her to have sex with another man while he watched. She hadn't wanted too. He'd gotten more insistent, more drunk. She'd gotten scared and left. He'd followed her to the bar she went to, pulled her into the car, punched her, and after she'd hit him with a large ring, he'd thrown her out at Safeway. She'd rushed in and asked them to call her a cab. She hadn't noticed him in the parking lot.

She was proud that he looked more beat-up than her. So was I. She's a criminal justice major, also teaches pre-school. She's studying forensics, wants to find missing children for a living. She's beautiful, smart, kind, and packs a punch. I felt myself falling for her, slipping into Travis Bickle land. I pulled myself out of it.

About halfway to her father's, she asked me if a white Toyota 4-Runner was following us. I felt my heart skip a beat and feel fatally stupid, I hadn't been watching for this. There was indeed a white Toyota 4-Runner behind us. I took a quick, swerving turn onto a side street before the truck could respond. A few more evasive maneuvers. The SUV wasn't there anymore, but I'd been so focused on trying to shake it I didn't see if it had tried to follow.

I also noticed that the passenger side mirror has been detached from its motor.

I drove her to her father's. She told me that the guy was history. I asked for her phone number so she could confirm the story about the mirror, as I'd have to write a report to cover my ass. I also gave her my card. She'd said that she didn't want to call the cops, to ruin the guy's life, that she just wanted him gone. I told her that that was fine, but that if she ever changed her mind, I'd testify for her.

I told her that she didn't have to pay me, but she insisted. The $30 on the meter, plus a $10 tip. It ends up saving a night of atrocious business luck, making it tolerable.

I didn't really give a fuck. I just wanted to stop at home, grab the baseball bat, and go back out to Holgate.

Instead I soon-to-cleared in zone 112, and went back to work.

I've been bad about updating the blog. I think that this is partly due to me not working as much, partly due to my recent move, and partly me generally being in kind of a funk of late. That this slacking also occurred just as a few people I don't know started reading and enjoying this is also both unsurprising and instructive. I'll try to be better about it.


Workplace encounter leads to Crabbie's meditation on human violence

A very interesting night, and it began with my being offered a very interesting opportunity. I'm going to have to be coy on that front, but it's pretty exciting.

Anyway, a story, though only tangentially cab related...

D.'s a cab driver who works the Felony Flats area, a part of town I also work with some frequency. I'll see him in the parking lot at the Fred Meyer on 82nd & Foster, and we'll shoot the shit and bum each other cigarettes. He's really tall, probably around 6'8" or 6'9", white guy who was in the Army. I always figured he was about my age.

He is, in fact, older. Talking to him today about how little either of us has enjoyed our past time on pain killers, he referenced being shot in the hip. I asked him where this happened, and he told me about his time in Somalia.

Black Hawk Down is a very excellent book and one of the more amazing pieces of journalism written in the last decade (much, much better than its jingoistic, "America, Fuck Yeah!" movie adaptation), so I guess I'll just reccomend it in lieu of recounting most of D.'s story here. Suffice it to say that he had a lot of friends die on that day. Himself, he was stabbed four times in the back after his commanders sent him back into battle even after he'd seen most of his platoon split up and killed or wounded. After being stabbed, the Humvee transporting him broke down, and he was shot twice in the hip while being carried on a stretcher. D. wasn't a Ranger, just one of the grunts sent in after them.

When he got back from Somalia, he went AWOL for a year, distraught over the death of so many of his friends. He "lived in Montana and grew a beard, like Rambo," then went back into the service for two years. Now he sleeps on a hide-a-bed with his girlfriend and doesn't make as much money driving a cab as he probably could. I'd always kind of smugly taken this in with a "more money for me" attitude, but now that it re-occurs to me as I write this, I think I'll probably give him some pointers.

I don't know what point I really have here - I'm neither trying to say "war is hell" nor "God bless our fighting men and women." Or maybe I'm trying to say both. I just think it's fucked up that people shoot and stab each other, basically. D. probably killed people while he was in Mogadishu, and people tried to kill him. This doesn't make him suddenly not one of the nicest cabbies I know, nor does it necessarily make the Somalis who were trying to kill him bad people. He raised this last point himself.

It's also sobering to me to realize that I'm not interested in helping other drivers make more money unless a) I like them and b) they have some quality that makes me feel they're deserving of my help.

I heard Elie Wiesel on NPR tonight, before talking to D., actually. I've never been one of Wiesel's biggest fans, but hearing him as opposed to reading him allowed to me to stop thinking of him as pretentious. He actually seems like an incredibly beautiful person. He said two things that struck me in particular, the latter of which I actually hurried to scribble down while driving on the freeway, given my fascination with stories and why they're told:

"Peace is not God's gift to us, it is our gift to each other."


"What else can we do today but tell the story, and hope the story itself becomes a prayer?"

I should add that this "D" is not the same as the one mentioned earlier. All cab driver names used in this blog are just the first initial of the first name, so there will be overlap and confusion. I guess that there are ways of remedying this, but I don't really care.


Bloody Hummus, DMT, Peter Carroll and Wu-Tang

A wonderful night last night, everything I look for in a Saturday. This also means that nothing terribly exciting or amusing happened.

I picked up a young, semi-conservatively dressed, white woman around my age at The Bloody Hummus House (a house where the inhabitants throw shows, I've seen friends play there and driven one of the people who live there before). We started talking, and only ten blocks before I dropped her off it came out that she was going to Mexico and Nicaragua to study with shamans. I asked her if she was going to be doing a bunch of ayahuasca while she was there, and she said that she was thinking about it but still very much on the fence. She then told me about doing DMT at a rave in Denver when she was 16, and hallucinating blood that streamed down the walls and got in her pores.

I didn't have time to give her my DMT soliloquy, but it's a substance I've always been fascinated by and thought a lot about, but never used. I've always kind of figured that it's something I'll get to experience when I die anyway. It was also a conversation I'd already had with friends the night before (I didn't work Friday, but instead went to see A Scanner Darkly).

She paid with a credit card, and while it ran I asked her if she'd read any Peter J. Carroll (founding figure in the creation of chaos magic or, as he often calls it, "freestyle shamanism"). She said, no, and asked me to write down his name and some titles.

As she was getting out of the cab, she asked what we were listening to. I told her that it was the first Ghostface album, and she got really excited and we had a nice 30 second conversation wherein she described The Wu-Tang Clan as "geniuses."

I guess my point in writing this is that I really love the fact that I live in a city where I can pick someone up at a place called The Bloody Hummus House, freely talk with them about extremely powerful hallucinogens and magic, and end the interaction with a bit of mutual Wu-Tang adoration. I guess this is actually many major cities, but it seems like the percentage of people that I can potentially have these conversations with, without the other person looking and acting like a complete fruitcake and fully believing in that stuff, is much higher here.

It's also probably a signal that I should have proposed to this woman, or at least given her my card, as we seem to think very similarly about similar thing. But she wasn't all that hot, and I guess that I'm just shallow like that.


Cheat Codes

"So where we headed tonight, sir?"


"Excuse me?"



"48th & Glisan."

The man I've picked up at the bar around 67th and Glisan is pretty dodgy looking, and speaks with the clipped tones of an autistic. He also seems pretty drunk. As I begin driving west on Glisan I punch buttons on the MDT, telling it that I'll be dropping off soon.

"Let me put in the cheat codes," he says.


"I can make it so we do an insane stunt bonus."

"No insane stunt bonuses in this car man, I lose points for that."

"How about flying? I know the code that can make us fly."

"I'm no good at the flying levels, and it's a short trip. Let's just drive."


This is by far the greatest Grand Theft Auto conversation I've ever had. The idea of entering a cheat code into my mobile data terminal and being able to suddenly fly or magically evade the police is delightful.

"Stop at the Plaid here."

I pull in so he can buy more beer, and then drive him home. "You should have let me enter the cheat codes," he says. He tips me anyway.


The Greeks

I didn't work last night, and'll be taking the next few days off to pack and move my stuff. In the meantime, here's another old story lifted from an email to a friend (some edits made, XXXX isn't the other company's actual name). And yes, I'm very aware of how appalling the language on this website is. It bothers me, and I swear that I don't talk or think in such vulgarities when I'm not driving a cab or relaying the experience to others. Anyway, onto the Greeks:

So it's about 1 AM on Saturday night, and I get a call for two cabs to pick up at Madison's, this bar that's basically at SE 11 and Hawthorne. I pull up and there's no one there, but at a building that shares a parking lot with it there's a bunch of yelling and screaming and people clustered around. I call the phone number that came with the order (part of driving a cab is that I have a cell now, it's like a virus in my pocket), and I talk to some guy who assures me that people will be coming out soon. I wait and wait, while these two overweight middle aged, olive skinned men throw wild punches at each other, and one is eventually moved by force to a XXXX Taxi (small company reputedly run by the Russian mob) that was there. Meanwhile more XXXX Taxis pull up, and another guy from my company behind me.

We wait some more, and all that's happening is a bunch of people yelling in Greek accents at the guy who'd been moved by force into the XXXX cab, and all I can think is that this is costing me money and who the fuck are these dumbshits that all they can do is stand around and yell the same things repeatedly at each other, none of which seem either particularly hostile or conciliatory, but more to be variations on "Hey, I love you Georgie!" and "No, Paulie, I love you!" and "You guys leave!" etc. It appeared to just be a bunch of drunk-ass people at a wedding, and I call the guy who works there again and tell him that I'm taking off, that the Russians can drive them all over town. He's really apologetic and gives me and the other driver from my company $10 each, which is supremely chill and understanding and something that no one ever does.

Anyway, just as I'm getting ready to pull out, this drunk ass woman throws her 13 year old daughter and 10 year old son in the cab and tells me to wait while she grabs her husband. I tell her I will, but that I'm going to start the meter. She proceeds to go back into the building, and I'm left with her extremely drunk children talking at great length trying to remember where there hotel is. I just ask them if their parents know where it is, and the girl says "no, I don't think so... was it the Vintage Plaza Suites? Union Vintage Plaza?"

I'm starting to get really, really pissed off, and finally the woman comes back with her shitfaced 15 yr. old son and insanely drunk fat husband. I finally get them in the car, and nobody knows where they're going, or seems particularly interested in finding out for me so that I can take them there, but rather in talking about whether the 15 yr. old's going to fuck his cousin or not (she's hot, he should, is the Dad's verdict). The mother occasionally hits the two boys really hard for no apparent reason.

Finally, it's determined that we're going to Georgie's house, only no one knows where Georgie lives. Georgie's in one of the XXXX Taxis (where a very similar scene seems to be taking place), so I get out to ask him. The problem is that Georgie is so fucking blind drunk that he doesn't understand the question "where do you live?" and does nothing but blink, rock back and forth, and ocasionally yell "I love all of you motherfuckers!" I ask if there's an address of some kind, and one of the women gives me one in Southwest that I've never heard of before, and the Russian driver mumbles something almost completely incomprehensibe (and what I can understand involves taking a right at an intersection between 2 streets that don't meet).

I go back to my cab, planning on telling the Greeks to pay me what's on the meter, get the fuck out, and never call us again, when the XXXX Taxi with Georgie in it drives by just as I get in. "Follow that cab!" screams the husband, and suddenly I'm all about it, as I'd never thought I'd ever get to be in a position where someone screamed at me to follow a car. So I tear ass out of the parking lot and follow the Russian (who turns out to actually be a very good and safe driver, which makes the whole chase pretty mundane and not very exciting). The mother and I get into this long discussion about whether I'm going to let her smoke in the cab, and it turns out that the answer is "yes" when she promises to both give me a big tip and pay the $50 fine if the superintendent catches us (as he likes to patrol that area). I figure that since we're going to Southwest, it'll be a decent amount on the meter, and thus a very nice tip, and maybe this whole ordeal will end up being almost worth it.

Anyway, we end up driving all the way out to Tualatin, with this insane multi-part conversation going on between father and older son (re: older son fucking cousin), father and mother (re: why are they going to Georgie's, and didn't the family love him?), and daughter and me (13 year old drunk as all fuck Greek girl from New York trying to flirt with 26 year old cabbie concerned with following a Russian and calculating how fast he can get back to Portland). All of these conversations are made even more fascinating by the fact that while all passengers are competent in English, they aren't exactly fluent, either (lack of articles, using adjectives for adverbs, etc.) It's not clear at all whether this is due to immigration, drunkeness or sheer stupidity, though all indications point to a combination of all three with a heavy weighting toward the latter.

When we finally get to Georgie's house, it's everything that a gauchely nouveau riche Greek (I should note that I keep emphasizing that these people are Greek as a means of tagging them culturally, not because I see an inherent relationship between one's being Greek and one's being dumb as a stone, but rather to point out that when Greeks are idiots, they are idiots in this sort of way), moron living in Tualatin would possibly want. We pass through two gates to get in, obnoxious landscaping that consists mostly of weeping willows whose branches hang out into the windsheld of cars driving down the lengthy driveway, gargantuan house with eight car garage and grand staircase leading up to fifteen foot high solid wood double doors, etc., etc.

$46 on the meter, I'm stoked. $4 tip, and another five minute wait to get out. After they've gotten out, and her parents are laboring up the steps and Georgie's still in the first cab hugging the Russian cabbie (and at one point even trying to French kiss him), the 13 year old girl turns around, pulls down the front of her incredibly expensive dress, and flahses me her tits.

I don't even bother booking in out in the western suburbs, I just tear ass back into Portland to get the bar rush - normal fucking drunk people my age, from my city. This job will turn me into a misanthrope yet.



I didn't work Friday night, just didn't feel like it after Thursday. From what I hear, I'm glad I trusted my instincts. Worked tonight, though, and it was okay. Summer seems to have finally caught up with me, but I ended up doing respectably.

While sitting around the garage for two and a half hours to get my name called for a cab (an absolutely thrilling aspect of working Friday & Saturday nights), I got to do some yammering with D. D's about the closest thing we've got to the cliche of a motor-mouthed, wise-cracking East Coast cabbie lifer. Most of our drivers are very much out of the mellow Pacific Northwest mold, with a few African immigrants and misanthropic troglodytes sprinkled in for color.

Anyway, D's a blast, and I always love shooting the shit with him. I tease him about not being fat enough to have really driven a cab for 21 years, he teases me about not being ugly enough to not have a girlfriend. So basically we complement each other through insults. I also give him tips on how to make more money, and he drops "customer service" knowledge on me, some of which I almost used today.

I was telling D that I have a standing rule: if someone's so drunk they can't stand, I won't give them a ride. D tells me that he'll take 'em that way, and'll even take people so drunk they can't give him directions. He takes them all right - he takes them straight to detox. And the kind folk at Hooper will not only peel the drunk out of your cab, but pay you out of their wallet. This is important information to have, especially as Hooper's in a very central location that's essentially at the intersection of three busy zones - not many good fares to there from most bars, but a trip there sets you up for something quick if you're paying attention to the MDT and using the "soon to clear" function optimally (this last sentence is me talking to D, whom I've been trying to teach not to be so lazy with the computer).

Tonight I picked up a guy who almost gave me occasion to put D's tip into action. His wife was with him, though, so we ended up going to their home in Vancouver instead. I pulled up to pick them up in front of the Kennedy School (for non-Portland readers, this is an old elementary school that's been turned into a bar/hotel/movie theater), and the man couldn't stand without his wife's assistence. His boss tried to distract me from this fact by bombarding me with questions about how much the trip would cost while they tried to get in, but this is exactly the sort of situation that locks were invented for. I eventually worked it out with the boss (who'd rewarded his star salesman a little too well) that the trip could potentially get up as high as $35 on the meter, and explained that there was an extra $50 charge for vomit in the cab. He handed cash to the wife, and I let them get in.

I've never had someone puke in my cab, a record I attribute almost entirely to my making it very clear to potential culprits from the outset what the cost will be. It worked again this time, as after we'd gone about 30 blocks the man tapped my shoulder and the wife cried "pull over!"

I did, and about two or three minutes of Linda Blair level theatrics followed (my apologies to those using the bike lane later that night). It was quite a show, and it took a fair amount of self-control not to whip out the phone's video camera function. He really did seem to get it all out, though, and perked up considerably after that in the sense that he stopped moaning pathetically.

They ended up being quite a nice couple, and the wife gave me a decent tip on the $30 fare. They were very impressed with the quickness with which I got there, that I knew how to get where they were going, and was cool and understanding about the whole vomit thing. A lot of talk about how amazing better my cab company is than the others in the area, and it being like a whole new experience. I thanked them, and told them it was by far the most stress-free vomiting experience I'd ever had on the job.


"Thank goodness you're smart!"

I get a call tonight to pick up at a non-existant address. I show up where it should be (8th & Brazee), call the phone number, and am told that the actual place to pick up is thirty blocks further north at 8th & Alberta.

As I'm turning
a block and a half away from the correct address, a strung-out looking white woman with stringy hair literally runs out in front the cab waving at me. I of course stop, and she tells me that she's the person I'm there to pick-up.

"Thank goodness you're smart!" she says. Shen then tells me that she's not from this part of town so she doesn't know the address. How being from a different part of town keeps her from reading numbers, I don't know.

She then launches into a stream-of-consciousness ramble about how it's good I was smart because that wasn't a good part of town for a white woman to be in (not true), how much she likes my music, it's Latin isn't it? (no) Pig Latin, no Lebanese (yes), she has lots of international friends, mixed bag, from all over, she grew up on an Indian reservation in Washington, do I know it? (no) She used to be a drug addict, but not anymore (unlikely), though she does drink (obviously), but she learned that drugs are illegal the hard way so she doesn't do them anymore. She got in a lot of trouble in drugs once where she's from in Canada, and it was serious enough that they could have taken her Canadian citizenship away even though she was born there (um, no). Do I have a card? (hell no) Do I have a personal number (hell no). She's only in town for a couple weeks and takes cabs to get everywhere, her estranged husband will pay when we get there. Wow, she likes my music. That wasn't a good part of town for a white woman to be in, all the white women she saw there were drug addicts (...). Here's how to get to 14th & Yamhill (incorrect, and thus disregarded). Oh, so you can go this way too? Hold on!

She jumps out of the car and I just shrug to myself, for this woman to run would be keeping in complete character with the night so far. But to my amazement, her husband indeed does come from around the corner, and does in fact pay me. In keeping with my expectations at the beginning of the trip, there is no tip.

I netted $5 an hour tonight. I could've ridden out my shift and bumped that up to around $10, but I decided to turn in early, something I've never done before. Being able to do some packing for my upcoming move and get a good night's sleep just struck me as being vastly superior to a work that, by 2am was solidly entrenched as my worst ever from a financial standpoint. The thing is, when the back-up super handed me my slip for a car I absolutely hate, I came really close to handing it back to him, saying "thanks, but no thanks," and not working tonight.

Always trust your first instinct.



My Desktop: 01.29.2006
Originally uploaded by powerbooktrance.
I've taken a good four nights off in a row now, both from work and updating this bad boy, so I guess I'll try to get back to telling older stories.

Something that I've really only touched upon in this blog so far, but is incredibly central to who I am and how I approach my job, is the fact that I'm a recovering alcoholic. This means that I used to drink (and, to a lesser extent, use drugs like a madman). It also means that these days the most powerful substances I put in my body are sugar, nicotine, and occasionally caffeine.

This is a good thing, both for me and you. Believe me, if I were giving you a ride home from the bar a year and a half ago, we were both going to get some practice at "letting go and letting God."

My first night driving a cab, I got a call to pick up at Ya Hala, one of my favorite restaurants in town. Lebanese place around 80th & Stark. I pulled up and they were closing down, the hostess came out and asked me to wait. She escorted out a middle-aged white woman who looked middle-class and respectable. She tried to get in the front seat, and I asked her politely to sit in back. Instead of doing so, she turned around and started walking toward 82nd. I got out and asked her if she wanted a ride.

"I want to go home." She said.

"Well okay, get in."

"I don't feel safe in the back."

"Where do you live?" (note that, saint that I am, I've already learned by my first night to measure my level of accommodation by the size of the fare)

"Around 26th & Taylor," she replies.

"That's cool, I'll move my stuff. You're headed in the wrong direction anyway if you're trying to get home" I did so. This woman appeared to be very drunk, and I didn't feel like I could in good conscience let any woman that tanked stroll around 82nd late at night (it's a street renowned for its prostitutes).

She got in the cab and immediately started doing this snuffling/crying thing. I asked her what was wrong, and she told me that she kept trying to quit drinking, but just couldn't.

I told her that I'd been sober for a while, and when she asked me how and why I'd done it I told her the truth - that I'd spent most of my life miserable and filled with fear, and most of my life since my adolescence drunk or high on something. I'd basically gotten to a point where I was sick of feeling useless and incapable of doing anything. That it took me another year or so of increasing desperation to finally put two and two together and realize that maybe I was so ineffectual and unmotivated because I was getting shitfaced all the time. That after failing miserably at attempts to control and moderate my drinking, I decided that I should give AA a shot, and that I've been sober ever sine. I also told her that the easiest thing for me, when I was tempted to drink or use, was to just compare my life then and my life now, and see just how much happier and positive I feel now that I'm sober.

"I just can't do it," she said.

"Are you happy?"


"Do you feel like you can control your drinking?"


"Do you think you'd be happier if you cut it out? That maybe you wouldn't find yourself in situations like this, crying to a cab driver at one in the morning about how unhappy you are?"


"Well, this is just my opinion, but it sounds to me like you'd be a complete idiot to keep on drinking."

"Take me to Zupan's to get some wine."

I explained to her that Zupan's was closed, as was Fred Meyer and the corner stores around her (I forgot about the Plaid on Belmont, and couldn't remember whether Walgreen's sells booze). "Look," I told her, "if you really want a drink, I'll buy the goddamn thing for you, but I can't tell you how fucking dumb that sounds to me."

And I meant it - I'm not the type to try and ram my way of life down anyone else's throat, and've always been of the opinion that the only way someone's ever going to be convinced they're alcoholic is if they somehow manage to convince themselves with their own massively self-destructive behavior and self-loathing.

So she asked me to take her to her boyfriend's. I did, and she asked me to come up to his apartment with her, because he'd have to pay me. He was sober too, and she'd be safe with him. We go up there, and she knocks on the door.

"Go away," he says.

"Please let me in."

"No, go away and leave me alone, I've got my own problems."

"I just want a hug."

"Fuck you."

"You always bug me for sex, and I just want a hug!"

"Go away."


We ended up leaving, with her of course doing her snuffling thing like ten times worse than before. I took her home, gave her the ride for free, and told her that in my opinion she'd be a lot better off going to an AA meeting in the morning, dumping her boyfriend, and not drinking.

I guess my whole point in posting this story is that in a lot of ways I'm profoundly grateful for this job. As a recovering alcoholic driving a cab nights, I get constant reminders of what my life used to be like, what it could potentially revert back to, and just how bad it could eventually get. Because honestly, I got pretty pathetic there for a while, and I don't ever want to get to the point that some of my customers get to.

And like I said, I'm no great preacher, but it's also good to be in a position where I can occasionally show people that there are other ways to go about things. And though this is a job, and I do it to get paid, there is a small satisfaction that comes in keeping drunks off the road.

But there's a bigger one in getting paid, and even bigger one in hassle-free nights that are light on the kind of drunken idiocy I used to specialize in.


Cripple Fight!

I had my first-ever physical altercation on the job last night.

I got a call to pick up at a sports bar around 82nd & Division. The guy inside told me he'd be out in a second, so I went back to the cab. I saw him get off his barstool inside, and he couldn't stand, and two men had to help him walk outside. My first instinct was to tell them he wasn't going to get a ride, but I noticed that his legs seemed to be moving weirdly in a way that didn't seem drunk so much as the way someone with cerebral palsy walks. They told me he was disabled and asked if I'd help him in when he got home, and I cheerily agreed. When he told me that he was going to 183rd & Stark, I was even cheerier.

He had some food with him, and began to eat it. As we turned onto Stark, I asked him in a perfectly normal, polite, and non-confrontational way to please not eat in the cab, if he could wait. Note that I didn't tell him, I asked, as not wanting the food to get cold is understandable, and this was going to be a good fare. He didn't immediately respond, so I kept driving.

After a few blocks, he started grumbling that I had to stop trying to fuck him over and take him to 183rd and Halsey. I was confused, and told him that I thought he wanted me to take him to Stark, and that I didn't see how I was fucking him over at all. "Stop disrespecting me, motherfucker," he said (and several other things in this vein) and some incoherent barkings about not spilling food. I pulled over and told him (not so cheerily, but still politely, in my "talking sternly to small children or drunk people voice") that it was okay for him to eat in the cab, and that I hadn't in any way tried to disrespect him, but that if he yelled at me again or called me names again, I was going to pull over and throw him out of the cab. I asked him if he understood, and he told me to just take him home.

I started driving, and he continued to mumble things. I made out a "motherfucker," and asked him if he'd said something. No response. "I thought so," I said, and kept driving. After about ten more blocks, he made a comment about stupid motherfucking white boys, and I pulled over and told him to get the fuck out of the cab. He continued to sit there, and said that he'd like to see me try and get him out of the cab, that I need to just keep driving. I told him that I'd made it clear I'd give him the boot if he was rude again, and that he had to get out. "Keep driving" he said, "I've got money and I'll tip you, motherfucker." "Get the FUCK out of the cab," I replied.

It went on like this for maybe a minute, until he told me to call the police, that he'd like to see me call the police as he'd whup my ass before they got there. This was actually something that had already crossed my mind (for numerous reasons, bodily throwing a crippled man out of my cab and onto the sidewalk at 109th & Stark wasn't something I was willing to do), and I pushed the voice button to talk to my dispatcher, and dialed the cops. As I was reaching for the cab's radio, I noticed him swinging a punch out of the corner of my, and pulled back out of the cab, the blow glancing off the side of my head.

"You either get the fuck out of the cab or sit and behave yourself!" I yelled.

"Pussy bitch motherfucker" etc.

I made another attempt to talk to my dispatcher (of course the cops were busy), and he grabbed at my shirt and tried to grab me about the throat. I turned, punched him (rather weakly, due to the seat between us) in the face, and stuck my thumb in his eye until he backed off. This got me some time to explain things to my dispatcher, who got the cops on their way.

I just stood outside the cab waiting for the cops to show, as the man refused to get out of it and continued to sit in the backseat yelling about what a pussy I was. After a couple minutes he got out to throw his food at me, bait me some more, and try to fight me. This was really just kind of sad and pathetic, because he couldn't stand or walk without keeping a hand on the car to balance himself. Whenever he made a lunge at me, I just walked calmly to the other side of the car, and he couldn't reach me.

His eagerness to fight was just really puzzling to me. I tend toward the scrawny end of the spectrum, but our brief tussle earlier had shown pretty clearly that I would be able to beat the shit out of him if I decided to do so. I'm not trying to make myself sound tough here - a drunk cripple is just never going to stand much of a chance against an able-bodied 26 year old man. I mean it was like me getting drunk and deciding that I wanted to beat the hell out of an NFL linebacker. Anyway, he kept yelling at me, and I kept telling him to chill out or leave, though toward the end I was starting to get annoyed enough that wailing on him for a bit and claiming self-defense didn't seem like that bad an idea, if for no other reason than to shut him up. But it was enough like the opening scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail without my indulging him.

Unfortunately, I didn't think to break out the camera phone for this occasion, so there's nothing to commemorate it.

A smoking-hot (the most stunningly beautiful woman I've seen in a long time, actually) blonde cop, and some standard-issue fat guys with shaved heads and goatees showed up after two or three minutes. I explained the situation to them, and they asked me what I wanted to happen. I told them that the incident had been annoying enough already, that dealing with pressing charges and whatnot would totally ruin my night, and that I didn't care what happened so long as the guy was gone. I assume/hope the pigs took him to detox, which was what needed to happen. I gave them my contact information, they gave me $20 out of his wallet, and I went back to work.

Financially, the night ended up sucking for a Saturday. I made more on Monday (though Monday was the best non-weekend night I've ever had), but again it was still more than many drivers made tonight, and I got a late start to boot. The cab had a CD player, which is always nice. Whole lot of Ghostface bumping in the whip, but not enough trips to the suburbs or airport. I think I was within Portland city limits all night long.


Another boring night

Another night that was about as average as could possibly be, no titillating stories of note. Some Canadians asked about prostitutes, and I drove a Nigerian engineer at Intel who went on and on about how he hated working the same 12 hour graveyard shift as me, and expressed every social frustration I feel about my job. He didn't tip.

My cab sucked: no City of Portland taxi permit, so I couldn't really work downtown (which is not a big deal, as I often purposely avoid taking calls there anyway). In addition, this cab had no stereo, no TaxiCam, and a broken driver's seatbelt. Bad fuel efficiency, too. The lack of a radio wasn't as maddening as before, as I've now largely adjusted to my reduced cigarette diet (there's no longer any point in referring to myself as having quit, as I seem to be averaging about .75 cigarettes a day in the past week and a half). Still, this was not a good car. All-in-all though, it was neither a good nor bad Friday. Just another night at the office. I'd tell an old story to compensate, but I need to wake up in six and a half hours if I want to work tonight.