The Grind

The Grind, Repeat

Before I get back to Inger’s Finger I need to talk about something. It’s something I saw in myself and in other cab drivers when I was a yungin. We all start the same way. Young and naive, full of energy and surety that we can slay every dragon that crosses our path. We meet dragons, slay dragons, go home with the boon, rinse, repeat, for a while until the dragons get wise to us and change the way they fight. We want to keep winning so we start the grind.

This photo of Royal Enfield Bike Tours & Rentals is courtesy of TripAdvisor

The grind is exciting at first. We have our health and it feels like we can do this forever. We can’t. 60 hours a week driving a cab builds into 120 and that early taste of easy success fades with a half-life we didn’t expect. It takes every bit of those 120 hours to chase down the money we need and even then, we fall short.

Some of us start with a familiar spot in a pew, graduated from choir boy to altar boy, on the cusp of college and a bright future. Cab driving is just a summer thing to get some extra money before heading off to college and an education in defeating really, really big dragons. Then something happens. Either bad news or good, either work. And the fall start of college fades further into the future.  We start to grind, trying to save that bright future from the scorch of a dragon’s breath.

El Camino Real al Infierno

Some start with a less admirable story and try to use the cab to grind our way up from the gutter where society tossed us. Sometimes it works and we make it to the curb. Yay. This space isn’t for the ones that make it. We are the other end of the curve, down there on a rock-strewn road through the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

It’s a frog in a pot thing. The heat rises in our lives, we become more frenetic, try to work harder until we collapse. Outside my cabin, on El Camino Real al Infierno, are rotting corpses of those who didn’t quit until their grind ended here. If folk are lucky the collapse gets them a ride to the hospital, jail or rehab, maybe all three. Whether their grind makes them a dragon scat neighbor of mine is determined by whether they stick with the truth that this is rock bottom and the way back up is life changing and very tough.

Wayne Ziegler’s moment came when he got hurt on the job as a contract welder. He was being paid under the table, had a functional addiction to cocaine, whiskey, and weed. He loved and left a long string of women who thought they could fix him up into the Daddy they never had. Women–don’t try this at home. Someone like Wayne will just break your heart. Go flirt with that guy in church you know. Much better.

Wayne’s Hell

So, Wayne came to Napoleon Taxicab with his health and a good head on his shoulders. But his knees were shot from welding for so many shifts. He had the usual middle-aged first world satellite of health problems–high cholesterol, high blood, high sugar, and chronic pain. He was used up.

But welding isn’t kind to old men like him. The big money jobs require physical stamina that he had lost. For a while, the three sirens–cocaine, whiskey and weed, could shout down the pain. Until they could not and he failed a piss test after getting hurt.

Cab driving was good for him while things began collapsing in. His longest girlfriend left with their daughter for a DC lawyer she met at Paper Moon. He couldn’t afford the house by himself so he moved to a no-tell motel. No job and thus, no medical insurance so his legal drug bills skyrocketed.

He started with the White Nurse. As always, it was good at first. And as always, the early good began to eat his soul. More grind. His even horizon narrowed from weeks down to days down to hours down to minutes. The addict’s choice: drugs or food, drugs or shelter, drugs or her, came down on drugs. He lost the hotel room.

The Street Doesn’t Love You

Wayne in the hospital. He couldn’t afford his drugs so his dealer said he could fight somebody for a little bit of White Nurse. Wayne, before all this, was 280 pounds of six feet eight muscle. He won bar fights when someone threw the first punch and Wayne didn’t feel it. When Wayne punched back the loser felt the punch in his toes. That was then. Now he was in the ER with a severe concussion and contusions near his kidneys. It hurt to breathe. He needed his White Nurse even more.

The ER doc called the social worker who started the intervention speech. Right, right. He was a mess but all he needed was a little taste and he’d be ok. He just wanted to get back to work in the cab. He’d be fine.

Hospitals can’t keep you if you insist on leaving. Wayne insisted. The Town Motel took sympathy on him and believed him when he said he’d have money for the room after his next shift. The taxi gods smiled on him and at 9:00 am he got a cash trip to Fredericksburg.

The street put him in the hospital and the street teased him with just enough money to get him through the next fourteen hours.

This is the end. The street doesn’t love you but it may give you what you need if you fight to stay healthy. Wayne fought to stay a step off the gutter and the street ate him. In eighteen months Wayne went from the gutter to the grave. He died from complications related to opiate addiction.

This is the Beginning

The grind is corrupt. It is evil. It wants your soul. If it takes killing you, so be it. There is a way to make the grind rock bottom. It takes discipline and strength from God. A place to start is Celebrate Recovery’s Eight Recovery Principles.

I didn’t imagine there were 1500 words on this until I met two corporate executives who were grinding at an expensive level. They worked 16-18 hours a day, flew over 200 days a year, seldom saw their families, and were shallow husks of humans. Nothing was left but the grind and it didn’t love them the way they wished it would.

400 words left. I lost my job. I am an UberX partner. It’s cab driving with better dispatch, nicer cars and shorter hours. The money is less than cab driving. I’m 58, almost 59 as I type this. I could be Wayne. No job and Medi-Share is stupid. It’s Obummer care but run by Christians, so that’s supposed to make it better. I can’t get my diabetes meds covered by Medi-Share. They don’t cover routine care. It’s only once I get sick enough to require hospitalization that they will step in. Sucks.

The right way to do cab driving or RideShare is the way the Henrico County Sherrif’s Office said they wanted to see it done. Each driver should create an LLC with its own tax id and run the money through the LLC. Do all the smart things one does to make a small business a success.

Transit Webb

So . . . out of the comforts of corporate cube rat life into the grind as a small business owner. Baugh Holding Company operates Transit Webb, which is the UberX business. In process is a second vehicle that will do Amazon Flex.

I’m too old for more cube rat life. There isn’t enough time left before I’m expected to retire to accumulate enough assets to secure my post cube rat life. Thus, I’ll go back to what I know, to the grind in a cab, with the hope that I can build a business which will pay me beyond the days when I can run 30 fares in 10 hours five days a week.

Transit Webb has been in business for only a month. There is no guaranteed outcome. I could join my festering corpse neighbors along the Royal Road to Hell. It could work and I could be fine. Time will tell.

Most of the entreprenuers I have met tell their rock bottom story. A retail fixturesmanufacturer who didn’t know that stores order their fixtures in the summer to be delivered in November and paid in December. His first year he lost $300,000.00. A brewpub owner who was a month away from breaking even and out of cash. He had mortgaged his home to start the brewpub. In a month he would either be homeless or assured of limited success. Transit Webb is limping along in a rented SUV with all my bills past due.

The stories have a theme: it is the end, the dragon is chewing us after dousing us with ketchup. All seems lost and yet, like the archetypical heros tale, something happens and we come out victorious. I don’t know yet what that will be for Transit Webb. I do know that for 16 years I get into these places where it looks like my new address will be a cot in a homeless shelter and then things work out. If you ask me how I feel as I type this I’ll tell you I feel like dragon scat. But so far, I’ve survived. More on this in upcoming posts.


Good Cab

Bad Cab

Oakland in the 1980’s was a bad place for a good cab. Taxi Unlimited was a front for marijuana growers. Transportation was a side business for the collective. Providing a beard to growers so they could launder money was its primary function. Even with that it failed. Dianne Wallace’s Taxi Taxi was a good faith effort at running an ethical and well managed cab fleet. She failed because the margins on the cab business are in the single digits. She was a single Mom trying to raise four kids by running a cab company. The family got through but not without damage. Bay Area Cab was shut down by the cops because it was deeply in bed with cocaine dealers. Friendly Cab replaced it and replaced Black organized crime with the Patels. Same corruption, different kings.

This is the milieu I brought with me to Richmond’s Napoleon Taxi. I came from a corrupt cab business that only cared about getting paid. The drivers I worked with in Oakland made sport of cheating, stealing and lying. The cocaine dealers paid rewards to young gang-bangers for robbing and killing us. I had to make a living with murderous customers and enemy coworkers. Punch line? I got very good at my job. I was a top earner in a market that fought me. Napoleon Taxi, in their training, felt like a breath of fresh air.

Like a good newbie I did the pre-shift checkout of the cab, got indignant when the night driver didn’t bring me a clean cab, complained about maintenance issues, and dutifully filled out all assigned paperwork. I did ok, with one week bringing in over $800.00. Then the old habits from Oakland crept in. I stopped doing pre-shift. I discovered that if I kept a handwritten waybill I didn’t need the separate lists of account work. After sending an e-mail notifying them of a problem with a cab and seeing that the e-mail was met with crickets my old cynicism about cab maintenance came back. It began to feel like Oakland and the ruthless indifference I remember.

Back Street Story

That’s the back story. Add to it my melancholy/choleric nature and it is surprising I wasn’t worse. This brings us to the triggering event. I did ok. I got myself ready, got to the garage on time, got a cab, got in, did a cursory check of the inside of the cab–meter works, tablet works, credit card machine works and has receipt paper, cab appears to be clean, good to go. Signed on, got my first fare, start driving to it and . . . discover a cell phone laying on the passenger seat.

Now, if you leave something in my cab you will probably get it back. But . . . you will get it back when I turn in the cab at shift-change. The twelve hours I have are worth $25.00/hr. to me. Returning your lost crap costs me money. No, I don’t want you to pay me to drive to your location and return your shit. You can wait. Unless . . . how much are you offering?


More things you need to know that help you understand why it ends up that this person could not wait. I was driving her cab. She owned it. She had done a night shift and had gone home–without her cell phone. The girl is one for whom her phone is a body part. Any time without her phone is like an arterial bleed. She *has* to have it. Addiction? Maybe. Only she knows that.

What this meant for me is that her phone starts ringing incessantly. Then it starts making noises different from a ringtone. She’s sending texts to it. Then my dispatcher calls me. I am to bring the phone back to the garage right ricky tick. No offer to find another cab for my fare. Nope. No consideration for the money I have to hustle that much harder for if I cancel this fare. This feels like Oakland again. So, I pick up the phone, reply to a text saying her phone is safe and to stop calling/texting it. Crime #1.

Crime #2

At the start of my shift I noticed that the brake pads on the left front wheel had worn down to metal-on-metal. This is something that can ruin suspension parts if it isn’t fixed. Folks, when your mechanic says you need brake pads, let him change the pads. It’s a lot cheaper than paying to have your suspension and drive train parts replaced. The cab company had put off replacing the pads so that now the pads and rotors needed replacing. I also noticed that the power steering was noisy. This could be as simple as being low on fluid and as expensive as a new steering rack and pump. But, it worked well enough that I could drive the car. Last, a third of the way in to my shift the transmission started slipping in first gear.

I reported the brake problem. I did not report the power steering problem or the transmission problem. In my Oakland days we would drive the wheels off of a cab. There is a reason sane people never by a car that used to be a cab. Us, the drivers, have wrung every inch of life out of that car. It is a new thing to me to have my cab company yell at me because I ran a cab for a shift when I knew it had serious mechanical problems.

My Defense

First, there are no fucks I’ll give to anyone I encounter in the cab business. Highest on my list of people for whom I have no empathy are fellow cab drivers. I learned my business from drivers who made sport of lying and stealing from each other. I am a mean cab driver. Next highest is my passengers. The quickest way to end my interest in your money is to cross the line between me and my customers. Somewhere equal to drivers is my opinion of cab company management. I’ve had to learn that Richmond is different from Oakland and I don’t have to be so mean.

Am I interested in the content of another driver’s phone? No. I gain nothing by knowing who her Facebook friends are or what her recent call history is. What I wanted is to get this annoying woman and her damned phone out of my cab so I can make money. But, according to her, I am some pervy voyeur who gets off on going through the phones of female cab drivers. Yuck.

I don’t have a defense for why I kept my cab on the road for 12 hours when I knew it was busted. The last thing I want is to come off the street and give up my time to getting the cab fixed or getting another cab to finish my shift. I’d rather drive it until it catches fire or needs a tow. Is this bad? Yes. I still do it.

Good Cab

The thing that is so odd to me and so good is that Jonathon of Napoleon Taxicab gives a shit. He cares. I got yelled at because I’d not followed policy. In Oakland, nobody cared as long as you paid for your shift. Richmond is different. Napoleon Taxicab is different. Napoleon still believes in bringing a better experience to their customers. I am happy I got chewed out and had to apologize.

Someone asked how a cab company can compete against Uber. It’s pretty simple. Uber is not a transportation company. It is a technology company that invented a way to order a ride through a phone. Their app is awesome. One problem–the quality of the car ordered and the driver working is a bit random. Uber assumes that they can overcome the skills gap of untrained drivers with their app. They assume wrong. Cab driving is a skilled trade that takes years to master.

We make it look easy. You get in a cab, mumble something about Social 52, and in a few minutes arrive outside the restaurant door. In the ten minute ride you might have confessed things that would make a priest blanch. We never skip a beat.

It is Not Easy

It’s not easy, though. The shifts are long, the pace is fast, and we can’t eat well or use the bathroom without consuming valuable time and money. We are expected to memorize thousands of addresses. We know that the Jefferson Hotel is in downtown Richmond and not in Jefferson City.

The job is dangerous. We drive around with our earnings for the shift. Cash accumulates on our person. Some see us as a mobile ATM. You threaten/hurt us and we give you money. This year a Napoleon Taxicab driver was murdered. We drive a lot of miles. The odds are in favor of us wrecking and hurting our passengers. We are expected to beat the odds and never wreck. We do beat the odds, mostly.

You would think that driving people from origin to destination would be an easy job. You would be wrong. Plenty try and fail. Napoleon Taxicab is one of the rare few who do it right.



You Look Like Dollars

This says something about you if you know what I am talking about. A guy driving a car, sometimes a cab or an Uber, sometimes not, stops for a woman on the sidewalk. She conveniently walks up to the front passenger window. They chat for a bit, the gist of which is that she’s willing to trade sex for a ride. It happens. The video stops before she gets to her destination. The video was never about the ride.

uk drunk womenI became a cab driver at age 21. I was the youngest member of Taxi Unlimited up to that point. Even then it mattered that my passengers got where they were going and I got paid. Later on Taxi Taxi got the contract to carry abused women to secret shelters. We were under contractual agreement to keep the shelter location and the details of the ride secret. Most of these rides were short. I did them happily.

Uber launched in Richmond in August 2014. I was one of the drivers who started at the launch. Very quickly I developed a trade carrying drunk, young women home from that night’s debauchery. There were some women from the University of Richmond who wondered if I would cross that line and do the porn trope that started this post. I will not. My job depends on the trust of the women who ride with me. My sense of right & wrong does not include my fat ass nekkid and dancing the horizontal bop with a young woman who began as an Uber rider.

There have been court cases in Houston, Chicago and other cities of Uber drivers who went there. They slept with (?raped?) a rider. Those guys were convicted in at least one case. They deserve the sentencing and labeling as a sexual predator. Assholes.

Riders look like money to me. I know that if I complete the ride I get money. I know that my bills are a bottomless, hungry maw I have to keep shoveling cash into. Riders are one way I get that cash. So, the UofR women and men who toyed with the fantasy in the porn trope are asking me to give up my money for some bump & grind. The ask is too big.

On initial contact with a rider I care about four things, am I going to get paid, is this rider safe, how much trouble will it be to get them out of the car at the end, and do they want to talk? I care about doing my job well. As the ride proceeds I care about completing the ride well. But, you, dear customer, do I care about you? Not really.

So, if this is now an unpaid incident with you, I need you gone ASAP. I actually like it if you cuss me out and storm off. It’s faster that way. Plus, if you had ideas about robbing me, I, pissed off and rude, don’t make an easy target. Gun? You better fire that thing in the first 5 seconds. If I have a chance to take it from you I will. As I do, I’m going to hurt you. Then when the cops show up I’m going to cry like a little bitch that you tried to kill me. You owe me $120.00 for the 2-3 hours I have to waste dealing with you and the cops.

Badly behaved customers make better content. Nobody really cares about the majority that get in my cab, get driven where they are going, pay me and get out. The customers that get remembered are people like Mary Garst, who wanted me to cut down a pecan tree in the front yard of a home in the Berkeley Hills. Or the guy who wouldn’t get out of my cab until I got out and began to wait for a bus to take me home and decided to also wait for a bus. Or the thirty-something puking customer. Or the coke-psychotic guy who spent $500.00 riding around the Bay Area to escape aliens who were spying on him.

Beyond you who are my present task, I care about getting home safely tonight with enough money. That frat boy fantasy of some beers with a hot, docile sorority sister, the porn trope one, is a nightmare for me. I lose the time it takes to traverse the narrative from, “do ya wanna” to blissful exhaustion. Time is money so it is money lost. I also lose whatever I spend on the way to cuddling after. Plus, and this is huge, there are so many ways that this could go south for me that it just isn’t’ worth it. I need to get you where you are going, get paid, get you out of my car, and get to the next ride.



Love is War

First Posted 09-Nov-2014

I had four riders in my car last Friday headed to a pizza place in Carytown. The girl sitting directly behind me and visible in my mirror complained that another girl not present, who had a crush on one of her friends, a guy, was getting all fussy about her spending time with the new crush. I listened to this and was reminded of something. Girls who are friends are not the same as boys who are friends or girls who are friends with boys. Since part of being modern is to include nuts who like nuts and bolts who like bolts, my point holds. There cannot be mere friendship when romance and lust enter the picture. A girl cannot just be friends with her paramour.

Loving-CoupleGirls can be friends with each other in a way that is different from the way they can be friends with boys. Ditto boys with boys. Our constant hunger for the hunt, for the conquest of her, is always present. We are either successful in bedding her, working toward success bedding her, or pissed off because we didn’t bed her. Women are not our friends. They are prey. They are still prey  when are blissfully sharing the post-coital moments cuddling as the rush of victory fades. Boorish, chauvinistic, piggish, yes. But, girls, ask a guy if there is no truth to this. I’ll bet he’ll back-peddle a bit before admitting that I have a point.

Same sex relationships don’t remove this aspect of the game of love. See, there can be no peace between men and women because of romance. The girl who complained that she felt pushed aside by the new girlfriend of one of her male friends was witnessing what happens when lust or love enters the room. It can’t be just friends anymore. Worse, is the game of “friends with benefits”. It always comes around to this question, “what are we?” If the answer is, “together,” then there probably is more sex, deeper commitment, and so on. I’ll have more to say on this–sex outside marriage.

Sex is a lot of things. One crucial thing it is–is to make babies. And babies and parenting mean a lifelong commitment to the child. It is life changing. A man’s life as a bachelor dies. In its place is a new life as a father. So, casual sex is toying with baby making and trying to pretend that it’s just a few moments of passion, a bit of horizontal bop without consequence. Once the hunt is on, once a guy starts pursuing a girl, he is headed for fatherhood and a potential death to life as he knows it. It is with consequence. This, then, is the bad news for the pretty young blonde who just wanted to be friends with one of her male buddies. It can’t be. He has gained a girlfriend at the cost of losing a buddy. In the near-term his friends have to adjust themselves to the new truth. He isn’t just him. He’s them, him & her together. So, love, sorry, your buddy is gone to be replaced by something new, a couple now called your buddies, plural.


Who the Hell is Pscyho Dish?

That would be me. Roger, a cook at the now defunct Richbrau, formerly of 14th and East Cary Street in Richmond, Va., gave me that name. I got it because I’d run on about some piece of tech I was enamored with, or some bit of pop-psych I’d picked up in a book I’d read, or some other philosophical epiphany that had come to me while filling idle time with another library book while churning out clean dishes. He couldn’t reckon a dishwasher who had a college degree in English, was widely and deeply read. Dishwashers were supposed to be from Central America, speak mostly Spanish, work like demons, and stupid as the bricks walls of the restaurant.

Vernon Street Bad HairI was an anomaly. Guys like me were not supposed to be pushing out trays of clean beer glasses and silverware. We should be smoking Gallous cigarettes at Babe’s on West Cary Street while talking about the upcoming release party of our next novel. Yet, there I was, in a vinyl apron, pissing off the wait staff because I’d sent out another tray of glasses and silverware 30 minutes before their shift ended. I know how to do two things well. Crank out clean dishes, pots & pans in a busy restaurant and drive a cab.

With dishwashing I don’t have to be social. Everybody can kiss my ass. The one thing the restaurant wants of me is to keep the place clean. Simple. Cab driving is a subtle art where done well it seems effortless. The driver is an automaton who hears your destination, drives there, collects the fare, drops you off and drives off into the night. Sometimes you talk to them and are entertained, sometimes not. But it is complex and dangerous work requiring intelligence and training beyond the few hours you get before passing your exam for your hacks license. I won’t get into what’s needed here.

I got the name Psycho Dish from a drug addict, ex-felon sous chef who had his brain fried by my presence. It didn’t help that I fought him off the waitresses he wanted to screw by hitting him in the grapes with a wet towel. Nor did it help that his one bellow at me to stop this or he’d beat my ass ended with him sprawled across the wet tile floor of the kitchen nursing a couple bruised limbs. No, I didn’t strike him. I just helped him hit the stainless steel work table used to prepare food for the line and bounce off the walk-in door. Never touched him. Think, Steven Segal. He learned not to mess with me or any waitress I was protecting. He called me crazy, Psycho because in his little ghetto mind that’s the only noun that fit. Am I crazy? Probably. I’ve learned to keep it together enough to have the little that I have. Roger was probably right about me. Still, he’s been seen on the streets of Richmond with a cardboard sign and I’ve got this job that pays twice what I’m used to making. I’ll call that a win. The cook and the psycho-dishwasher battle is won by the crazy dishwasher. It makes the name something new.


Beer After Work

First Posted 02-Aug-2015

roger-pe-anti-mail-order-bride-stamp-adThat guy, James Rustler? He’s had a few aliases. I think that’s the one he uses these days. There was another one from a few years back when he came home broke after flying to Thailand to meet a girl who promised him a happy ending. They all promise that. I seem to remember his face was bruised up when he met me at my job after work a few years ago. I guess Thailand went about as expected. Anyhooo. I saw some e-mails lately that sounded like he’d returned to crashing on his Dad’s couch. Wonder what it was this time? Yeah, James Rustler told it, got some of it right, but mostly told it wrong. He also talks too much and writes too long.

  • Interracial Romance My son’s Mom is Taiwanese. Nationalist Taiwanese of a father who was a general in Chiang Kai Shek’s army. The family ran casino’s in the resort area of Bei Tou for many years. Some of them hustled unsuspecting rubes in Ma Jong. When I say casino, I mean asian pleasure palace with bar girls, bottle service, happy endings and any number of casino games. The sort of places that were on the Japanese Salary Men sex tourist list of places to go. Understand now? Good. I married the shunned daughter of this family. 28 and unmarried means something in Taiwan. A Taiwanese businessman I met at the International student dorm told me that any woman shopping for a white ghost husband at her age could not be a good woman. She put herself through college and worked as a fish processing chemist because it was that or be human trafficked. So, the Triad Princess nickname has some merit.
    Whether Russian, Philippine, Brazilian, or whatever gets your dick hard, all of them face a similar challenge. America isn’t like their home country. Things are different. The English they speak is a small, pale shadow of American English spoken by natives. Reading anything takes great effort. For the Empress, the Totalist attitude toward conflict–that even playful insults were abuse worthy of arrest–were at odds with her upbringing. At home in Taiwan big arguments were fights settled with fists or worse. We don’t tolerate that here.
    The most common story among those fresh off the boat is that they lose a lot of their status and prestige in coming here. All the options are bad. The golden mountain they thought was here turns out to be a useless pile of brass tokens for Dave & Busters. It’s very common for the first generation to emigrate here to fight just to be poor, to afford the “or” in that word. Marrying a rich white guy as many of them hope to do, too often does not shortcut that struggle. So it was with the Empress and I. We have a son that is doing well. We could never bridge the cultural and language gap, the ways in which she was wounded from growing up hard and the lessons she brought from home on conflict resolution. You are stupid if you imagine you can escape the struggles of most marriages with a mail-order bride. That she is FOB doesn’t make it easier. It makes it harder.
  • MGTOW Men Going Their Own Way are pussies. Own your shit. Do the inventory. Figure out where you are broken, in pain, still carry resentment, where your empathy muscle is weak, and fix that. Remember that we are to love God with all our hearts, minds and strength, that we are to love neighbors and enemies alike. Be the temple reconstructed, the kingdom resurrected today, not later, not after the rapture. *THE* way to do this is in healthy relationships. God was right that it isn’t good for men to be alone. He made us for relationship. We are most alive in marriage. Are women annoying? Yes. Men are annoying as well. Ditto kids. It’s how we surrender to God, die to live, and allow ourselves to be transformed in relationships that makes us better. Suck it up, MGTOW, and let her put her toothbrush in your bathroom. You are welcome.
  • Personal Responsibility It happens to all of us. We get older. We can’t rave all weekend and be back to work Monday morning without some damage to our health. Our hurts, habits, or hangups really start to make a mess of things. As hard as we work to patch up our teflon suit so nothing sticks to us, that suit wears out and begins to fail. The escalating negative consequences accumulate until they become intolerable. Remaining irresponsible becomes nigh impossible. Some of us never quit and thus find ourselves in the hospital, morgue, jail or rehab. If we end up in the morgue then there is no further. We lived a hard, fast, indulgent life and left a ?pretty? corpse. From the hospital, jail or rehab there is another chance, another iteration of promising to change and perhaps, this time, actually sticking to it. Anyway, personal responsibility happens, get used to it.
  • Work Ethic I’d rather work. Simple as that. I’ve been on welfare and food stamps, unemployment, psych disability was offered to me, as was public housing. I made a choice a long time ago to struggle through keeping a job. I’m not very good at holding down a job. I get fired a lot. I’m also not very good at money so more than once, the lack of savings and the frequent firings mean I end up homeless again. As I edit this (20-Jan-2016) I had my unemployment cancelled by my former employer. Even that safety net isn’t as safe as it once was. Still, of my choices, I’d rather find the next job and try again to get back on my feet. It’s hard, sucks a lot, but having seen the other way, for me, it’s better.
  • Communism and Anarchy Communism fails. Once you declare the dominant paradigm to value need and deprecate ability people set about accomplishing just that. They arrange their lives so it appears they have tremendous need while hiding or sabotaging ability. Anarchy–the large scale governance without rulers, is a childish impossibility. Leadership does more than force you to do things you’d rather not. If humanity has any common thread over history it is our talent for conflict and unruly behavior. Collectivist, communal, socialist or other utopian schemes for removing distasteful structure and governance are only as good as the least well behaved in in a group. Us malcontents are going to drive the agenda, like it or not. Without governance to reign us in we foster chaos and crime. It doesn’t take long for those of us who were so happy about the loss of governance to start asking for the heads of the others of us who are being transgressive and transgressive. Poof. Anarchy gone.
  • Capitalism I had two hard & fast rules as a cab driver. Pay me and Shut Up. It is common to pay for the ride at the end in a cab. Most of the time I let that happen. But . . . for fares that gave me pause, gave me a reason to need control of the next 15 minutes with them, things changed. I’d stop the cab. I’d tell them, politely at first, that I needed at least $20.00 up front before continuing the ride. If they resisted in any way I’d get rude and demand that $20.00. If they argued I’d give them a choice. Pay me or get out. Simple. In over a decade I only had a few who decided they would neither pay me nor get out. The last guy to try that found himself in a cab parked in the middle of a busy intersection and I, his driver, sitting on a bus bench waiting for a bus to take me home. He asked me what I was doing and I told him, I was going home. He asked me how he was going to get home. I told him I didn’t care. He asked me what I planned to do with the cab. I said I didn’t care. I was going home. He thought about it for a minute, then stumbled to the bus bench to wait for a bus with me. Good. I left the bus bench, got back in my cab and went back to work. As for “Shut Up”, mostly I don’t care about you. I care about getting paid. I talk to you, dear customer, because I want to get paid. I don’t mind talking. Unless . . . for some reason you are annoying then I do mind and you need to pay me, now.
    Capitalism is easy. I have a good or service to offer. In lieu of barter, you offer me money at a price we agree on. I get the money, you get the good or service. Simple. Communism, socialism, whatever, introduces a third element that attempts to arbitrate the transaction so it is fair. We, collectively, as a society, agree to own nothing individually and let the commons own everything. In practice, this means that the government owns & operates most everything. The government has 350 million opinions on the definition of fair that in large part, don’t reconcile. There is no way to arbitrate commerce, to assure fair distribution of resources, and not piss somebody off. It’s almost assured that there will be winners and losers, but this time, it is the bureaucracy that chooses the winners and losers in the name of fairness. That never goes well.
    Since everything is owned by the commons there is no reason to value it or be good stewards of it. As a result, we don’t take pride in the condition or value of the resource and instead, tend to let it go to shit. Capitalism thrives as a black/grey market and you have Cuba, where there is the dollar economy, an avaricious Capitalist economy where the haves have always had and the peso economy where there is rationing and perpetual shortages. Oh, and . . . you can’t stop Capitalism. You can only drive it into the underground where it becomes controlled by organized crime. Every communist or socialist economy has a horrid problem with corruption and black market/capitalist trade. Yet, yet . . . if you remove government, society, us . . . as the brokers of fairness and let people own, buy & sell goods, services, land and other resources, there are still winners and losers but as we have seen in China, the wealth created is off the chain. Plus, it becomes possible to reign in the corruption and black market trade. We are seeing this now with the legalization of marijuana in some states and in defiance of Federal law.
  • March of Time Albany Hill is fine. The top of it where my grandmother walked so often and love so much, is preserved as a park. The evil capitalist real estate people she fought got to build on parts of the hill. Our favorite Asian grocery is built on the north side of the hill just over the city line in El Cerritto. My grandmother might have been pissed, but at some point we age such that the short trip to vertical becomes a victory. The one thing that has the best shot at immortality is our legacy, is the stories people will tell long after we are finished being worm food. I didn’t care about that when I was young. In my mid-thirties I was intent on being a Dad. My son got told by his Mom in one of her uglier moments that he was a mistake. She didn’t want to be pregnant with him. Doh. Too late. My son is here and that is a very good thing. The Webb name is in good hands with him. My grandfather, my father, me, and now, my son, all first born sons, all inheritors of a good name. We can’t change the linearity of time nor prevent our eventual move to 6th & Green. We can, though, consider our legacy and the stories people will tell after we are there. I have fond memories of Albany Hill, even with the condominiums that were built on its west side.
  • Mary Parker I think she failed out of rehab a bunch of times, relapsed a lot, learned the talk so the psych-ward docs let her out, learned what all ex-offenders learn about talking to Probation and Parole so they ended her supervision early, nearly spent her fortune in Reno and on cab drivers, until someone from the Ashram there at 52nd & San Pablo in Oakland, Ca. invited her to a weekend workshop and she found religion there. I’d rather she came to church, to Christ, but for Mary, the thing that worked was yoga and Hinduism. Fair enough. At least the last time she tried to bribe me so I’d buy an axe and cut down the pecan tree in the front yard of a North Berkeley neighbor of hers will remain the last time. I didn’t take the bribe. I talked Mary down and dropped her off at the Royal Cafe in Albany. She paid me with a generous tip

Asian Fare

First Posted 04-Sep-2015

Some years ago I told my buddy James Rustler about a late night run to Sacramento from Berkeley while I was a member of Taxi Unlimited. The ride itself was uneventful, the best kind as a cab driver. My fare wasn’t very talkative. All I could get out of her is that she was a courier. She was dressed in black—black turtleneck, black jeans, black running shoes. She was Asian and striking. Clearly mid-30’s and world worn. Some courier, being paid to take a cab from Berkeley to Sacramento. I dropped her at the Best Western near Old Town. The drive home . . . not so much. I spun out while trying to avoid a head-on crash with oncoming traffic. I almost made it. The other car was a beautiful 1960’s Pontiac GTO. My cab dented the other car just a bit. Enough to sully the near perfect restoration of this gorgeous car and get me in trouble.

art car bugLately, Rustler has been between jobs so he’s soliciting writing gigs and I offered to let him write for me. He did the thing about the clap causing the apocalypse. This is his second piece for me, offered without edits or commentary. My apologies to Rustler for the re-edit of his work after losing the first version in the latest crash of my site: “It was a hot summer’s night in the Year of the Rooster. The cab’s air conditioning wasn’t working right again, and keeping the window halfway rolled down only did so much. But once the driver had dropped the fare off at the airport, he’d roll down both from windows for the long trip back across the Bay Bridge. It would be a long drive back across the bay with no return fare, but it was late, and the peace and quiet of a little break from the customers would be nice. At the airport, the man in the three-piece suit who he’d picked up at the edge of the UC Berkeley campus got out without a word, gave him an unimpressive tip, and disappeared into the terminal. Well, at least he’d paid without a fuss.
The driver got back in the cab and leaned over to roll the passenger side front window down. The window fought him every inch of the way. He almost had it down when a tremendous thud shuddered across the roof of the cab. He looked up—something big had landed on the car’s roof, though (thankfully, he thought) nothing heavy enough to cave it in. He was about to get out and inspect the damage when whatever it was – or maybe, whoever it as – came sliding off the roof by the left rear door. A second passed, and then the door opened, and someone got in the cab. The door slammed shut with a heavy mechanical clank. ‘DRIVE!!!’ The voice was a woman’s—stern, commanding, but not panicked.
The driver looked back at her in the rearview mirror, but saw only her silhouette. The words ‘Look, lady, I’m not supposed to pick up passengers here, and besides . . .’ had just managed to escape from his mouth when he noticed, behind her in the mirror, two Asian men of about thir-ty approaching the car. One was reaching under his jacket for something, and the driver had a sudden sinking feeling that it wasn’t a business card. Two seconds later, they were out in traffic, accelerating away from the terminal. They had nearly reached the highway on-ramp when it occurred to him to ask where they were going, ‘Erm, so where to?’
The woman’s voice was flat, unemotional, unruffled by anything that had happened, ‘Golden Gate Park’. Half an hour later, they were stopped in front of the Dutch Windmill at the west end of the park. The driver was still processing everything that had happened. He was happy that she’d be getting out of the cab now. He was happy that in a few minutes he’d be on his way back to the east bay to pick up his normal clientele of junkies, crazies, and gang members. Nothing bad had happened yet, but there was something about her that spelled trouble. When the door opened and she stepped out, he felt suddenly like someone had taken a weight off his back. Until she knocked on the window. He had already rolled it down before the sensible part of his brain caught up with him, but when it finally did, it screamed out, ‘What are you doing?! Hit the gas!’
He looked up at her, intending to deliver a goodbye as he stomped on the pedal. But seeing her clearly for the first time showed her to be in her mid-20s, East Asian, short-haired, and gorgeous. His resolve weakened just enough to give her the chance to say, ‘Wait here. You can keep the meter running’. He did, without really understanding why. He watched her as she walked towards the windmill. She was dressed for action – boots, cargo pants, and a tank top, with a small black bag slung over her shoulder. He watched her curves while she walked up to a very specific rock, lifted it, retrieved something from underneath it, and carefully put it back in place. She was fit without being masculine, neither too slim nor too muscular. He wondered what her legs looked like under those pants. He understood why he had stayed with no small amount of disappointment in himself.
She got back in the car, closing the door with a loud slam, ‘airport. Lose the blue Impala that’s been following us since we got off 280.’
He hadn’t even noticed it, but now, as he looked back over his shoulder, he saw it parked along the side of the Great Highway. He saw the orange glow of the tip of a cigarette through the right side of the windsheild. He realized that the two men seated in the Impala had been waiting for her to retrieve the item, and now that she had it. NOW he hit the gas. The Impala awoke and hustled into traffic along the Great Highway a few cars back. He couldn’t outrun them in this old Dodge Dart remade into a cab – to do that he’d need something like a police package Crown Vic. Even then Impalas of that vintage had Corvette V8’s as an option. Lose the Chevy how?
It was 2AM, so losing them in traffic wasn’t going to happen. He had an idea. It was crazy, but this whole situation was crazy, and this wasn’t any more so than the rest of it. They’d crossed Westlake and Daly City with the Impala never more than a few cars back. He waited, thinking about the timing this would need. Just a few seconds off, and it wouldn’t work. But there was half a chance it wouldn’t work anyway, so all he could do was hope. He pressed down on the gas pedal, asking the old slant-6 to press on through 50, then 65, then 80 miles an hour. The cab’s k-frame creaked as it waddled down its lane going faster than was wise. All the while, the Chevy kept pace, staying just out of his mirrors and a few cars back. He looked ahead, and saw the overpass near Tanforan he was looking for coming closer. From the back, the mysterious lady hissed, ‘What are you doing? You’ll never outrun them in this thing!’
‘Not trying to, honey! Hold on to your tits!’, in a flash, the cab was a lane over to the left, tires screeching as it slowed by twenty miles an hour in the few seconds it took to reach the overpass. One lane to the right, the Chevy passed them, still doing 85. By the time they reached the other side of the overpass, the cab doing a modest 65, while the Chevy smoked its brakes, waving crazily in its lane as it tried to slow down. An instant that seemed like forever passed, with the driver wondering if his plan would work. And then he heard the siren and saw the flashing blue and red lights of the CHP cruiser that he knew sat next to that very overpass every single night looking for speeders. The cruiser pulled into the lane right behind the blue Chevy. The driver slowed the cab even more, letting the Chevy and the cruiser pass by.
Whoever those dudes in the car were, they were the CHP’s problem now. The timing had worked – by the time both cars passed the cruiser, the cab had been doing a sane speed in its lane, and the driver of the Chevy looked like a midnight highway racer who had spotted a speed trap too late and tried to get out of a ticket by slamming on the brakes. That was reckless driv-ing, and somebody was going to be getting a very expensive ticket. That is, after the CHP was done talking to them. Which was going to take a while. Faced with the choice of whether to try to run, and end up in a high-speed chase with half of the CHP following it, or to slow down and let them go, the Chevy did the sane thing and slowly pulled over.
The cab continued on its way. As he looked back in the rearview mirror, he saw that some-how, without his noticing, the mystery lady had changed into a prim gray ladies’ business suit that had apparently come out of the bag she had been carrying. Her voice didn’t waver a bit when she said, ‘Inventive. I’m impressed. A few minutes later, they were back at the airport, and the driver felt a little tinge of regret as he pulled to a stop in front of the international ter-minal. Driving a cab was normally boring, except for the few moments when it could be terrify-ing. This had been terrifying, too, but not the same way that the other times had been. This was exciting.
The door of the cab opened, then closed, and he heard the clacking of high heels as his pas-senger walked up to his window. She extended her hand, and instinctively he reached out and took the wad of paper that was in it. He brought his hand inside the cab, examined what she had given him, and fount it to be 10,000 Hong Kong Dollars. ‘Sorry, it’s all I have. I’m sure you can get it changed somewhere.’ Her voice was softer now. Almost pleasant.
This better not turn out to be worth twenty bucks. I deserve more than that for all this trou-ble. She smiled, which surprised him more than anything else that had happened that night, ‘That you do. I think you’ll be happy when you get it changed’. Then she turned and started walking away.
‘You know, I wouldn’t mind having you in my cab again sometime! he shouted after her. She turned, and with an expression that told him that she wasn’t joking, ‘Don’t worry – the next time I need a good driver, I’ll be in touch.’
He tried to think of something witty to reply, with, but by the time he had come up with something, she had disappeared into the terminal, and he didn’t see her again after that. Well, at least not until . . .”