Sunday, August 29, 2010

First Weekend Back

Weird scenarios and driving a cab go hand in hand like sex and babies. In the case of the cab driver, his participation is required for the birth of these stories about the people that he transports, from one location to another. He does it for a living, and depends on his fares to provide his livelihood. Fares are like wrapped containers that contain a variety of complex personality combinations. Sometimes you pick up a rich philanthropist who gives you a $20.00 tip after you drive him to the Portland airport for $120.00, while other times it’s a fast talking scam artist who gives you a sob story about why he can’t pay you today, but will call for you tomorrow and give you a big tip. This weekend was peppered with drunks, from a dozen bars, and venues doing everything from stopping at Taco Bell, before going home after the ZZ Top concert at the State Fair, to hitting another bar.

Around 9:00 PM, Friday night I picked up a guy at the Silver Dollar and took him down the road a few blocks to the Pink Elephant. On the short trip there he began to wax philosophical about the meaning of life, and asked me what kind of a legacy I was leaving behind, and then wanted to know what I would tell someone about life if I knew that I would be dead the next day.

“What advice would you give someone, if you knew that it was the last thing you ever said?” My passenger demanded.

“Do you read books?” I asked him.

“Yes,” he told me. “I like to read non-fiction mostly, biographies and informational books.”

“Have you ever read the Bible from cover to cover, until you understood it?” I asked him.

He looked at me with a shocked look on his face, and said that he never read the Bible. I told him to read it like a book, to try and make as much sense of it as he could, but to remember that it was actually a collection of shorter books, letters, history, poetry and even a play, all dealing with the subject of man and his relationship with God, at different points in time, as told by one particular culture.

“Yeah, but there are all the thous and therefores, and it get’s too confusing,” he said.

“Skip over the stuff that you don’t understand or that confuses you,” I told him. “There are chapters that are building plans that, unless you are planning on building those items and structures.”

“But it’s all important,” he insisted, “because it’s the inspired word of God. Do you believe in God?”

“Yes,” I told him, “but you asked me for advice about life, so I gave it to you.”

“Yes, you did,” he said, “you’ve told me more than anyone else has.”

The meter was only at $3.80, after our short trip, but he gave me a $10.00 bill and said to keep the change. I took one of my cards and wrote three things on the back, Bible – Steinbeck – Dostoevsky. Then I told him to start with the Bible and then begin reading the others, or read them all at the same time, since he could get them from the library.
I picked up two different lesbian couples at the gay bar in town, at different times. The first couple had me take them to Duffy’s hanger, so they could dance with a live band, but were upset when they saw the parking lot filled with motorcylcles, even though there were no Gypsy Joker decals. The second couple had me drive them to Jack In The Box and then to the fems house, with her butch. While were waiting in the drive through line, the fem, told me that I was creepy. To which I responded that all taxi drivers had a criminal background check every year. I was going to tell her that I quit storing my dead passengers under my house, but thought better of it. She gave me a $3.00 tip, so I guess I must have redeemed myself.

I picked up Jeremy, Norm Walters friend, who always asks for me personally, when he takes a cab. He told me that he was still reading my taxi blog, but wanted to know when I was going to write about him.

“I’ll have you in my next entry,” I told him, as I drove he and a friend to “Freeloaders.”

Sometimes drunks can be exasperating, as in the case with a group of 3 people that I picked up at Midnight on Saturday, at the Alibi. They couldn’t find their car keys, to get something out of their vehicle that they were leaving at the bar, so I waited for 10 minutes and finally started my meter. Then the guy gave me a $5.00 for waiting and said that they didn’t want to leave yet, and didn’t need me. After I did my paperwork and called it in, my drunk passengers got back in the cab and said that they changed their minds and wanted to go to the South Liberty Bar & Grill, so I called Larissa the dispatcher back, and told her. On the way there, they changed their mind and wanted to go to Taco Bell first, and then to their house. By the time that I dropped them off at home the meter was at nearly $30.00 and they gave me a $10.00 tip, and the female passenger said. “I would hate your job, if I had to deal with people like us.”

One of my last calls of the night was 2 guys, who looked to be about 30, that I picked up at Westside Station and drove to North Keizer. On the way there they talked about the 2 young women that they came to the bar with. They sat in the back with the one whose birthday they were celebrating. She wanted to do something crazy they said, and she was very drunk.

“I know,” one of the guys said, “let’s get naked,” and he took off his shirt. Then the other guy did and then the birthday girl took her top and bra off and the two guys began to…. Since I’m not trying to write a pornographic blog or shock, offend or disgust people, I will leave the rest of the details out. This led to a very explicit conversation about sexual encounters that we had. I had enough passengers solicit me for sex ranging in age from 23 to 76, both male and female, that I was able to keep their interest until I got them to their apartment.

It’s good to be back to seedy Salem, after the bustling fast paced insanity of traffic jams on the freeway, main streets and parking lots in Los Angeles. I once loved L.A., as much as I do Oregon now. The rain has washed the love out of me, other than in a nostalgic way.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Grateful Dead Bus Trip

I took a week off from driving cab, because I went to Los Angeles, where I lived from 1971 to 1982, when I was part of the Jesus movement, when I converted to Protestantism, after being a Roman Catholic for 24 years. The reason for the visit was to participate in a reunion at the church that I was an associate pastor at. My friend George Shearer contacted me about providing photos for a retrospective slide show, and helping to obtain a musical performer to minister, a couple of months ago. So I didn’t intend to do any blog entries because of this fact. However, since this blog is a spiritual document, what I think doesn’t matter, because like the writers of the Bible, sometimes I am inspired by the events that take place, with the realization that they transcend normality.

Our old friends from Los Angeles, Denise and John lent us their second car to drive during our visit, so we didn’t have to rent a car. The day that we were leaving they were both unavailable, so we had to drop the car off at their apartment and take a taxi to the Amtrack station where we had to catch our Greyhound bus. I put in a time call with City Cab, for 1:10 PM, and when it didn’t show up by 1:18 PM, we were concerned so I decided to see if I could use the phone of one of the apartment residents, since we don’t have a cell phone. When I went into the apartment courtyard there was a man of about 60 with a grey haired pony tail exiting his apartment. I asked him if I could use his phone to call the taxi company to see when they were coming, since our bus left at 2:25 PM.

“I’ll give you a couple of bucks to use the phone,” I told him. He let me use the phone and I laid 2 dollars on his couch next to the table with the phone. The cab’s phone answerer told me that the cab was on the way, and I thanked the man who let me use his phone.

As I was leaving he handed me my 2 dollars and said, “here’s your money back. Pass it on to someone who needs it. I’m not a Republican.”

I pocketed the money, as I wondered why a rich Republican would want my $2.00, and as I exited Kathy my wife called out and said that the cab arrived. After we loaded our luggage, I told the driver our destination, and asked him if he knew how to get there? He had a GPS finder, but said that if I knew the way that I could tell him. So I told him to take York Blvd, until it turned into Adams and we were on our way. I asked him how long he had been driving a cab and he told me 4 months. I told him that I drove cab in Salem, Oregon for 7 years and we exchanged complaints about demanding passengers who latter made up stories about their driver, and accused them of taking the long way, when you went the short way. He expressed his apprehension about the danger in driving people. I told him about the guy who sucker punched me and broke my glasses, who later paid me $1,000.00 in reparation. When we got to the Amtrack station and unloaded our luggage the meter, which ran hot, read $20.90, and I asked Kathy to give him $25.00.

It was in the 90’s as the sun beat down on us, in spite of a dozen palm trees attempting to offer shade, until we hid in the shade of a roofed waiting area, with 8 other people who arrived after us. There was a Chinese couple going to San Francisco, an Arab couple, sending someone off and some Latinos. When the bus arrived 20 minutes late the driver announced that there were only 4 open seats, which caused an uproar. Since we were the only ones with printed out tickets, we were allowed to board. It was 2:54 PM when we started heading North to San Fernando, and then Bakersfield, Fresno, Stockton, Sacramento, where the bus was cleaned. Next was Redding, and then sleep, until Central Point, where we stopped at 8:00 for breakfast. I had two burritos from Taco Bell and a diet Pepsi, and then we headed to Grants Pass.

When we started loading in Grants Pass, the bus was swamped with passengers, who then took up every available seat. So I had to give up my empty seat, where I kept my back pack with the broken zipper, when a young woman asked me if it was alright for her to sit there. I immediately removed my back pack from the seat and put it carefully in the overhead compartment. I sat on the inside, since I wanted to try and sleep if I could, since I only got about 4 hours, thus far. I talked to my neighbor, and found out that she was going home to Spokane, but found out that she had lived all over the country while she was growing up, and she was only 20. I told her that we were from Detroit, and then lived in Los Angeles, until we moved to Oregon in the 1980’s. Then our conversation seemed to hit a wall, or maybe I was too fatigued to continue. Whatever the reason, we both became reticent and I fell asleep, until I was awakened by the driver announcing that we were now in Eugene.

After a couple of people exited and an equal amount entered to occupy the momentarily vacant seats, the driver announced that the next stop was Corvallis, as I asked my neighbor, whose name was Dominique what she was reading?

“Archeon,” she said, and continued, “it’s about mythology and immortal beings.”

“That reminds me of ‘The Boat of a Thousand Years,” which was a science fiction novel about immortal beings who could not die, except by suicide. It began in ancient Pheonicia in the second millennium BC. It was a love story about these two immortals who had a love hate relationship for 3,000 years until they were part of an immortal group on a spaceship traveling to colonize a new planet. Dominique then opened up to me and began to tell me about her life.

“I’ll be homeless when I return to Spokane,” she said. “I’ll be living with a girlfriend for a while, but don’t know how long that can continue. I broke up with my fiancĂ©e, who was my boyfriend for 6 years. We were living together, and I was working to pay all the bills, while he sat around and hung out with his friends. I told him to get a job or leave, and he left. Then I lost my job, because I had a baby with no babysitter, since my boyfriend who was the father left. My mother is a crack addicted prostitute and my dad is in prison. I lost the baby and then I couldn’t get a job, even at McDonald’s. When I went to some churches for help, even $20.00 for food, they wouldn’t give me anything.”

“Then you were going to the wrong churches,” I told her. “Churches are like people, they are all different. Some will show you the door, while others will give you the world. Take a directory of churches from the phone book, then look them up on the internet and find the ones that are concerned with their community and have some sort of a homeless or unwed mother outreach, I told her. Union Rescue Mission has a place in Salem that helps women get housing and jobs. There are actually people who care and will help you, but you have to search them out.

I then told her of my history. How I was drafted into the Army and became a hippie after my discharge, and eventually moved to Los Angeles with my girlfriend, where we found Jesus, and lived for Him for the next two decades, as we expanded our family from 2 to 9. How we lost all of our possessions and became homeless in 1984, after moving from Bakersfield, California, to Detroit, Michigan, during the Reagan recession. Then I told her how I lost everything again in 2003 and was still recovering from it. I told her about 39 years of marriage, full of good times and bad times and times that I wish that I were dead, and hated the world.

I reminded her about how when we left Eugene the driver warned passengers about drinking alcohol, as well as using drugs. “They included the drugs,” I told her, because Ken Kesey, the father of the hippie movement, was from Springfield/Eugene, and when he died a few years ago they had a big parade for him. The Oregon Country Fair in Veneeta is the longest running hippie festival, that began in 1969, the same year as Woodstock. She told me that she had attended it about 6 years ago. I told her that I attended it in 1999, with my 21 year old married daughter. We exchanged many other commonalities that could only be related to by an awareness of the streets, as they existed wherever there were people. I told her that I was a taxi driver and saw every strata of humanity pass through my doors, from the worst to the best. Then I told her about my 28 year old son with a degree in chemistry that he earned from Oregon State University, by working in a pizza parlor, while he attended school and worked as an assistant research chemist, until he was struck down by an infection that ate out his hip socket.

“He’s been crippled for over 3 years now, and has had two hip replacement surgeries,” I told her. “Both of them have gotten infected, and now he is on antibiotic treatment, again, which is draining all his energy. This is the thing that is ripping me up inside.”

Then I suddenly flashed back to the “Grateful Dead,” again, and told her, “as weird as it may seem, the ‘Grateful Dead’ were the transitory element for me to merge the secular with the sacred. When most people are pressed to explain the meaning of the “Dead’s” name they often list morbidity, yet the truth is quite the opposite. The name comes from a collection of stories by English born folklorist, Francis Childs, in the 19th century, although the original source is much more ancient, dating back to the 2nd millennium BC.”

I told her that every time that I told the myth, it would move me emotionally to shed tears. Then I proceeded to tell the tale, “as the story goes, there is a traveler passing through a village, where he comes upon a corpse rotting on the side of the road. When he asks why the body isn’t buried, he is told that the man owed money and, because his debt was unpaid, he didn’t deserve to be given the honor of a burial. The stranger then uses his last resources to pay the corpses debt, so that it can be buried. As the traveler continues his journey, he is joined by either an animal or another human, who is the embodiment of the spirit that he paid the debt for. Then the traveler encounters a travail or situation where his companion provides the solution, fulfilling his obligation as the ‘Grateful Dead.’”

I dried my eyes as we were pulling into the Salem, Oregon Greyhound bus station, as I finished my story. When the bus came to a stop, I got my backpack and pulled out a copy of the Wittenburg Door, with my address and telephone number stamped on it. “Here, I told her, take this and read it, it may help you, I interviewed a homeless man who through God’s intervention began working with an art dealer, and became his partner, after the art dealers wife died of a horrible cancer. She took it, but when I offered her $20.00 she refused it, with a determined look in her eyes.

It was a test for me, because I had a $100.00 dollar bill in my wallet next to the $20.00, but I offered her the lesser of the two. I failed the test.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

I Blew A Hose

I blew a radiator hose in front of Lefty’s, downtown, so I had to get towed in again, which cost me an hour. Naturally the night had been slow, leaving me without a call for nearly 2 hours, when I called for help. As soon as I called the dispatcher, the phones started ringing, and calls went out, while I helplessly waited. Once I got a new cab, it was dead again, as I simmered, top down on Amtrack.

I got a call for McDonald’s on Ricky and picked up a dark skinned man in his early 30’s who looked like he was from India. He spoke perfect English, so it was obvious that he was either born in the US or arrived at an early age. He wanted to go to an address in the shallow South, but first wanted to stop at Bob’s adult book store on State. When we arrived the meter was at $5.50, and he asked me to wait for him, until he came out, as he handed me a $20.00 bill for up front money. Anytime someone asks you to wait for them, if it’s going to be longer than a few minutes you get up front money, so you don’t get burned, or complaints about the amount. At $40.00 an hour waiting time, the meter was at $33.00 when he finally came out and told me that he was going to pay me and stay there longer.

“What’s your number?” He asked, “I’ll call you when I’m done.

I gave him my card, and ended up with another call for the “Silver Dollar,” where I was supposed to pick up a female named Sandy. After I asked the bartender, I found out that Sandy was on one of the video poker machines, so I walked up to her and told her that I would be waiting outside. She had over $15.00 left to lose in the machine, so she asked me if I would wait.

“Sure,” I told her, “but I’ll have to start the meter if you don’t come out in a couple of minutes.”

She said, “okay, I’ll be right there.”

After a couple of minutes I started the meter, and by the time that she finally came out, it had increased $5.00 from the initial $2.70 flag drop.

When she saw the meter, at $7.70, she said, “you asshole,” I can’t believe that you ran the meter on me. None of the other drivers ever run the meter on me.”

I didn’t waste my breath by asking what she tells her boss, when he asks her to punch out and work for free. I bit my tongue and drove her to the destination that she gave me, in between insults. Her house was only a few blocks away, and she complained about my starting the meter while I was waiting for her, all the way to her house, so the total fare came to $9.90, instead of the normal $5.00, when we pulled into her driveway. She pulled out a wad of $20.00’s, $10.00’s and $5.00’s, and finally gave me a $20.00 bill and told me to keep the change, as she drunkenly stumbled out of the cab.

About two hours from the time that I left the guy off at Bob’s Adult Books, I got a call to pick him up. When I got I had to go inside and ask one of the clerks behind the counter where he was. One of them said that he would tell him that I was there, and he walked off to get him, as I got back in my cab and waited. My passenger came out in a couple of minutes and, since I already had his address I just confirmed that we were still going there.

Just as I was putting my cab in drive, a tall man, with dishwater blonde hair, in a flowered shirt came out of the building. He looked to be around 40 and motioned from the side of the cab, where he was walking. My passenger told me to stop, so I put the cab in park, with the meter still at the $2.70 flag drop. He got out and talked to the man in the flowered shirt, and then came back and told me that he wouldn’t be needing a cab now, as he handed me $3.00 and apologized for wasting my time.

It was around 2:00 AM when I picked up a Latino gentleman, at one of the Hispanic night clubs on Portland Rd. On the drive to his destination he tried to converse with me in English, but between my diminishing hearing, road noise, the dispatcher’s voice on the radio and his bad English, I had a hard time understanding him. What he wanted was to get laid, and he wanted me to get him hooked up. I tried to tell him that I didn’t do that, but could tell him where to go to set it up himself. He wanted to go there right now, but I told him that it was too late, since the bars close at 2:30 AM and it was almost that now. When I got him to his apartment, he paid me the fare, and then gave me a $3.00 tip. I was surprised since Latinos, who don’t speak good English usually don’t tip, so I said “thank you.” Then after a second I said “Gracias.”

“What did you say?” My passenger asked in an irritated tone of voice, that reflected the same kind of hostility that I would encounter if I insulted him.

“Gracias,” I said.

“I may be a Mexican,” my passenger said, “but I speak English. Don’t give me any of that gracias bullshit.”

“Okay,” I said as he got out of the cab. The next night I picked him up again at the same place and drove him home, but he didn’t seem to remember me, and when I got him there he paid me with no tip included.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Hindu Wrath

I got a call for Costco, on Mission, and found a couple in their 30’s with a basket full of groceries, and a hyperactive 5 year old waiting for me. After we loaded everything in the back, while I tripped over the 5 year old a couple of times , until we all got in and I found out their destination. After I put it in drive and started to cautiously proceed, since there was a lot of foot traffic, I had to slam on the brakes a couple of times. Then just as I thought that it was clear to go, a dark skinned man darted in front of me with a shopping cart, as he glared at me.

The man sitting up front with me, said, “I thought that Hindus were just crazy cab drivers, but I guess they can’t even drive shopping carts safely. Praise be to Allah,” he said, as I thought to myself, Hindu’s don’t worship Allah, their deity is Shiva or Krishna, among others, but I try not to correct my passengers, unless they ask for my input. Nobody like’s their cab driver to know more than them, unless it’s the “Cash Cab.” So I try to play dumb for a tip.

As I proceeded through the parking lot and onto Hawthorne, into the rush hour traffic, his continued reference to Allah and a Hindu made me think of a negative encounter that I had with a couple of Sikhs, a few years ago, since Sikhs combine Hinduism and Islam together, so the Allah reference would work.

“I was travelling South on Commercial, and turned into the Mongolian grill parking lot,” I told them, “since it’s the only way that you can get onto the street I was called to.”

As I entered the driveway, I saw 2 men with turbans on their heads, indicating that they were Sikhs, walking on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant. Their temple was just a couple of streets away, so it wasn’t unusual to see them in the area, but they became visibly upset when I drove into the parking lot. They started shaking their fists and yelling about something. The only thing that I really knew about Sikhs, other than the fact that they were the result of combining the best parts of Hinduism and Islam together, was that one of them assassinated Mahatma Gandhi. So I decided not to stop and see what upset them, but drove past them to my destination.

As we were laughing about Hindus, Allah and angry Sikhs, I caught a red light with two cars in front of me. When the light turned green, the car in front of me didn’t move, then the light turned red again, and their emergency flashers came on. I decided to pull around them, but, when I stepped on the gas I found that my cab was stalled. When I turned the key it failed to start my cab, and as I continued to try, I continued to fail in my attempt to get the engine going. Then the key wouldn’t even turn, as I pulled it in and out of the ignition, occasionally turning it upside down. Finally I had my passenger sitting up front with me try to turn the key, but it was jammed in the ignition.

I couldn’t believe this was happening, and at the same time my passenger started to talk about bad Karma. Finally I had to give in and accept that I needed a tow truck, and acknowledge the bad Karma suggestion. I tried to reach the dispatcher to tell him that I needed a tow truck and another cab to take my passengers to their destination, but because it was the busiest part of my shift the radio was jammed with calls and I failed to get through. Every so often I tried to start my cab while I was trying to get through on the radio, but failed on both accounts. After nearly 10 minutes, the key turned, the ignition turned over and my cab started, as I pulled in front of the stalled vehicle and finally got through on the radio.

“I’m going to 6059 Battle Creek,” I told John the dispatcher, as I turned East on Highway 22. We drove all the way to their house without any problems, and on the way there I vowed that I would never make fun of another religion, even if they were going to hell for holding a false theology. After I helped them carry everything into the house they paid me and gave me a $3.00 tip.

Later that night I picked up a woman who had been attending her 20 year class reunion, and had me drive her home. On the drive there, we began talking about how much 20 years can change a person. Then she started talking about how times were different from when she graduated from high school in 1990, till now. I thought to myself, “then imagine how different it is from 1965, until now”?

She told me that her daughter, who is now in high school, came out of the closet to declare that she was gay, when she was 12 years old. At first I didn’t say anything and there was silence, but then curiosity got the best of me and I asked how her daughter could determine that she was gay at such an early age.

“How old were you when you realized that you were straight?” She asked.

“Back in the 1950’s things like that weren’t even in our vocabulary,” I told her. She then asked when I had my first orgasm, and what I was thinking about.

“Naked women,” I told her.

“If you were gay then it would be naked men,” she said.

As we continued to drive the conversation became very explicit, and of a sexual nature, until my passenger said, “I can’t believe that I’m having this conversation with you, this is more intimate than I talk to anybody other than my sex partners.”

I didn’t say anything after that, but kept silent, until we picked up her boyfriend, at his apartment. Then we proceeded to a convenience store and to her apartment, where I dropped them off. She gave me a $5.00 tip and I thanked her for the conversation, as she and her male friend exited my cab.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

What Scares Me The Most

What scares me the most is knowing what people are really like. If this is the first blog entry that you’ve read, then you need an explanation, but if you have been following me through my shifts for a while, I think that you know what I mean. I’ll lean to the former and offer an explanation. I just began my 7th year of driving a taxi here in Salem, Oregon, on the 5th of July. During that time I’ve driven a minimum of 3 – 12 hour shifts a week, with an occasional 4th, to help pay the bills.

For the purpose of the following calculations, we will consider the time that I’ve taken off from driving a taxi, for the purpose of an occasional vacation, medical procedures or illnesses to be offset by the occasional 4th day, which varied from every week for a month, to one or two days a month, and even an occasional no days a month. Since there are 52 weeks in the year, and 3 days a week times 52 equals 156, that will be the base number. For a year. Each time that I pick up a fare, depending on whether I’m driving a sedan or a van, I may be able to pick up anywhere from 4 to 8 people. Then there were the times that before the seat belt law was passed in 2007, I could cram as many as wanted to squeeze in my van or sedan. I drove a clown car on many an occasion, and still do if the tip is right, since I could lose my license and get fired, if caught. But wait, I’m incriminating myself, so I want to announce that I repent of any wrong doing, and will walk the straight and narrow path of righteousness, and obey every law that Caesar requires me to follow.

For the purpose of this blog, let’s get back to the point, which is how many people I have driven in my cab over a 6 year period. Since the number varies from 1 – 7, how about if I call it the number 2, as my average amount of passengers? The number of trips that I do each day varies as much as the passenger do. If a driver has an average of 2 fares an hour, for a 12 hour shift, that is 24. Some nights a driver may have less trips, that travel longer distances, or it may be slow. Since I always work the weekend, on Friday & Saturday night, I am guaranteed 20 – 30 trips, regardless on the economy or time of the month. My other regular day is Monday, which is sometimes good, until 10:00 PM or even Midnight, and if the dispatcher cuts loose, some of the drivers that want to go home, even Monday becomes a 20-25 trip night. The other nights that I drive for a 4th shift are pretty much like Monday, and vary from week to week and month to month.

So for the purpose of my calculations, let’s say that I have an average of 20 trips a night, with 2 passengers, which equals 40. Then multiply 40, by 156, which we already established as the base number for a year. The result is 6240, which then needs to be multiplied by 6 years, resulting in 37,440. This means that I have driven 37,440 people. Some I only drove once, while I drove others multiple times ranging from a few to hundreds. I drove an arbitrary cross section of humanity, who by chance or planning needed to take a taxi, at the precise moment that I became their driver.

My passengers ran the gamut of possibility, from completely stark raving insane to alcohol poisoned drunk, from battered, abused and fleeing to spirit filled, rapturous and fulfilling their destiny. There have been drug dealers, prostitutes, strippers, students, seminarians, merchants, marines, mercenaries, young people and old people, and every kind of person that can be imagined, but the bottom line is I need to make some extra cash, and driving a cab is the best way for me to do it.

I’m a writer, and whether I appreciate it or not, driving a taxi gives me stories that most people only watch on their TV sets. If I’m going to be somebody’s TV program I want to get paid like one of the people on CSI or Sex in the City, but I’m only reality, and nobody wants to hear about that, because they live it, even if not as intensely as me.

Like this past Monday night, when I picked up an arguing couple at the Roxxy, and drove them home, while they had a borderline hysterical argument, about how much the guy played in the video poker machine after his girlfriend said enough. They were originally going to go to Stars, a strip club, but went to their apartment instead after the guy got in and was angry. The 15 minute drive was at a volume that even my diminishing hearing was able to understand. The only good thing about it was that the woman paid with a $20.00, for the 12.60 fare and said to keep the change, which is why I do this in the first place.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Problem

It was the worst of weekends and it was the best of weekends. Two cabs broke down on me, and I had to get towed in from highway 22, on my way back from Stayton, after my transmission went out. At the same time it was sporadically busy from the time that I started, until I got off both days, but for some reason the bar rush time was exceptionally busy, especially on Saturday night. The weather was hot, but not unbearable, when it reached the mid 80’s, so I had my air conditioning on most of the time, even when it got cool later, so the drunks wouldn’t get sick.

Early in the evening, while it was still light, on Saturday, I picked up a literature major from Willamette University, who was going out to the Eolo Inn, where I would wait for him for about ten minutes with the meter running and then drive him to Willamette Vineyard’s by Enchanted Forest. He would be using a Willamette Safe Ride charge. On the drive there we began talking about literature and told him that I graduated from Bible college and was a freelance religion and music journalist. That triggered the direction of my passengers diatribe on the first leg of our journey.

“The problem with most Christian literature, is that much of it is bullshit,” my passenger said, as I drove him to his destination. “It has to have a positive uplifting ending and message. However, life is not positive and uplifting, it is ambivalent, exhausting and concludes with death. Anyone who has actually read the Bible, from cover to cover, and has digested the contents, will tell you that there are no happy endings. Just take a look at the major stories of the Bible if you want proof of what I’m saying,” he continued, as I drove.

1. “Noah’s Ark – Everyone in the world drowns except Noah and his family, plus all the chosen animals.”

2. “The Tower of Babel – communication for the purpose of understanding each other is obliterated, as everyone starts to speak a different language, and are alienated from each other, which is the root of Nationalism and war.

3. The Exodus – All the Egyptians are either tormented by all the plagues or actually die, as the children of Israel happily march off to the promise land.

4. David and Goliath – A bellowing Philistine gigantic braggart, gets struck down and decapitated by a teenager, triggering the youth’s fellow soldiers to butcher enemy Philistine soldiers, in a glorious blood drenched victory.

5. King Solomon – A power hungry king’s kingdom, is reduced to civil war after his death because of the harsh injustices that were endured, while he was alive.

6. The Psalms – King David is attributed to writing many of the psalms, and he was a man after God’s own heart. Many of the most loved Psalms, like #1, #23 and #27 were supposed to have been penned by David. Yet at the same time he was the most blood thirsty of all the kings of Israel, and God wouldn’t let him build the temple, because of this.

7. The story of Esther has a guy hanged at the end, while everyone rejoices.

8. The story of Jesus is a horrendous saga of misunderstandings, legalistic rigidity and the reason for separating church and state, that ends in a torturous death.

9. The positive message is that after the torturous death, Jesus is resurrected 3 days later.

10. The Book Of Revelation – Everyone who is left on the earth after the rapture, if you happen to believe in this recent theological revelation, endures some kind of horrible death, either through persecution, divine punishments or the battle of Armageddon.”

“So there you have it,” my passenger concluded, as we pulled into the Eola Inn parking lot, he told me to tune in to AM 540, that his theology professor , Dr. Blackwell, was doing a live radio exposition of the book of Romans, that I could listen to while I waited. The meter was already at $16.00 when we arrived, but then he had a Willamette account, so I wasn't worried, as he went into the bar, and I tuned the radio in

The voice on the radio spoke about what he called a post Christian exegesis on the book of Romans, using the Revised Standard version of the Interlinear Greek – English New Testament.

“Tonight is the first night of our series on the book of Romans,” the voice said and continued, we’re going to call our study of this important book, that the apostle Paul penned, ‘Out Of The Box,’ because this study will be out of the box of most conservative theologians, but then you know that I don’t buy into that philologistic bullshit! So let’s read. Romans chapter one, verse one reads, ‘Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God.’ The epistle to the Romans begins with the writers name, Paul.

Formerly Saul of Tarsus, according to biographical information provided by a Greek physician named Luke, in the book of Acts. Paul was a first century marketing genius, who was eventually able to eclipse the then popular mystery religions of that day, with Christianity. Some of the most prominent mystery religions, of the 1st and 2nd century CE Roman Empire, were Mithraism, Serapism and Magna Mater worship. They involved a theological system that included resurrection, virgin birth, being born again, and cleansing by bathing in blood. The thing that set Christianity apart from the mystery religions was its non-exclusiveness. It was open to the entire population, irregardless of race, social status or sex.

Paul calls himself a servant. In the Greek it’s the word doulos, meaning a slave. So he was a slave of Jesus Christ, but at the same time he had a destiny, and being Jesus’s slave helped him to achieve his destiny. Paul’s destiny was being a messenger for Christ just like Hermes, Mercury or Tiu were for their respective supreme deities, Zeus, Jupiter, and Woden. The Greek word apostolos literally means one sent out with a message, and this letter is about that message.

Being separated, or set apart for a particular purpose is a recurring theme in the New Testament. That purpose is always the same. It centers around something called “the gospel of God”. In other places it’s called “the good news of the kingdom.” Whatever it’s called, one thing is for sure, it’s “good news,” because it’s the key to transcendence. Not just a mystical transcendence, but one having practical application in the material world.

Then my passenger came back outside and got in back in the cab, with the meter at $35.60.

“Take me to the ‘Bourbon Street’ instead,” he said.

As I drove there he wanted me to continue listening to Dr. Blackwell’s exposition, so we did.

“Verse 2,” Dr. Blackwell said, and continued, “which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures,” God promised the Good News a long time ago. All you have to do is read the holy writings that the prophets left. Nearly all religions have some form of holy writings, from the Hindu Upanishads, to the Islamic Qur`an. The Hebrew TeNaKh, which later became the Christian Old Testament, was ratified, as being the authorized Hebrew scriptures, by the council of Jamnia, between 90 – 100 AD. (3) The TeNaKh was accepted by the Christian Church, which it later added to the 27 books of the New Testament.

Then he continued, “verse 3: ‘the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh’. The key to enter the kingdom is the person of Jesus Christ, so the good news is also about him. According to the scriptures, he’s a direct descendent of David, the second, and greatest king of Israel. The same king who in 1000 BC brought Israel out of the bronze age, and into the iron age, where it established itself as an independent kingdom. The ties of this lineage are through the genetic posterity of the flesh.”

“Verse 4: ‘and designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,’ This descendent of David was the designated, destined and predicted “Son of God.” Besides being a descendent of Israel’s greatest king, He was also a direct descendent of the deity. This designation was declared in power. The Greek word, which is translated as power, in this passage, is “dunamei,” which contains the root word for English words, like dynamite, dynamic and dynamo. This is the kind of power that has its source in the divine transcendent realm. It is beyond human ability or comprehension. The proof of that power can be found in Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead”

“The name Jesus, is the English translation of the Greek Iesous, which is the translation of the Hebrew Yeshua, which in turn is translated as Joshua in English. Jesus was a common name among the Jews in the first century CE, about as common as being named Joe or Bob in the USA during the 20th century. All names have meanings, and Jesus, like Joshua literally meant, “God is salvation.” The common feeling among the Jews, at that time, was that they needed a savior, or leader, who would free them from the yoke of Rome, so they could regain their place as an independent nation.”

“The most popular form of government in the 1st century CE world, was a monarchy. Although both Greece and Rome existed as a Democracy or Republic, that was no longer the case. Ever since Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon, in 49 BCE, the Emperor has ruled an empire. (6) The Jews longed for a theocratic Monarchy, so it was logical that popular sentiment should lean towards bestowing the title of Lord or King on their personal choice, who would be Moses, Joshua and David all rolled up in one.”

By the time that the first installment of Dr. Blackwell’s study of the book of Romans was over, the meter was at $78.90, as we sat in the Bourbon Street parking lot. He filled out the Safe Ride charge for $100.00, with a $21.10 tip, as he opened the door and got out beneath a three quarter moon rising large in the East.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Last Weekend of July

Last Weekend had the full moon, but this weekend had thunderstorms on a sunny day for 10 minutes flying through the valley, requiring me to turn on my windshield wipers, as I pulled into the parking lot of one in a series of somewhat docile drunk pickups, that comprised the totality of Friday night.

“Me love you a long time!” My passenger dressed in a slinky red dress told me, as I drove her and the butch in slacks and blouse, that was her companion to the gay bar. The butch was reticent, but the beauty was rabid with excitement, as she told me that she was going to turn 40 and was going to Las Vegas to celebrate. Then she asked me what she should do and where should she go to have the best time when she got there?

“Catch a cab, and ask the cab driver when you get to Las Vegas,” I told her.

This answer made her happy, until she asked why we were taking the route that I was driving. When I explained that it was because she changed destinations after I started driving them to their first choice, she seemed satisfied, so we proceeded. When we got to the bar that she suggested, the parking lot was empty and the last of the people were leaving behind locked doors, so we proceeded to the first destination.

My talkative passenger continued talking about sexual topics, as she had done most of the trip, requiring me to engage her in subject matter that I wasn’t comfortable with, but after driving a taxi for 7 years, you learn to somewhat roll with the punches. Of course after driver’s think that they served above and beyond the call of duty, by tolerating their passengers pornographic propositions, cabbies will find themselves explaining to the boss why they were lewd and indecent. So when they asked how they could request me personally to come pick them up, I wanted to give them somebody else’s number, but it’s easier on my conscience to tell the truth, because the truth never comes back to bite you.

“It’s #25, I told her, we pulled into the parking lot, I handed her my card, with all the information on it.

“You’re not going to charge us $22.00 for the ride here are you?” The fem said.

I hate it when passengers can’t accept the meter, because of their own stupid drunken blunders, and sometimes ask them if they try to argue a lower price with the cashier at Walmart. However, in this case I didn’t, but just said, “give me $17.00 and we’ll call it even. They paid me, and they both gave me another $4.00 for a tip.

My next call was at Walmart, on Turner Rd., where a young woman dressed in very short shorts and a halter top got in the cab, with a small plastic bag. She was going to Keizer, and on the way there told me, that she worked at Pussycat’s on Market Street. I heard that Pussycat’s was a lingerie modeling venue, but asked her exactly what it was. She responded with the following answer.

“You know how you can buy a private dance with a girl at one of the strip clubs?” She asked.

Even though I don’t frequent strip clubs, I know all about them, because I have to go in them to find my passengers. I can tell you everything that you want to know about any of the 6 places presently in business, especially after this passenger.

“At Pussycat’s,” she continued, “it’s all private dances. You pay a girl to come in a room with you, and she’ll do whatever you want.”

I decided not to ask what they might want, since my imagination could easily fill in the blanks, but found out that she had been the girlfriend of #73, one of the taxi cab drivers that I was friendly with. Many strippers are unfriendly when I drive them, on work days, but become very talkative on their days off. Most strippers, regardless of the fact that they live off tips, are bad tippers, and so it was the case this time, but then her current boyfriend or handler was the one who actually paid me.

I picked up Larry the mentally challenged guy who has a season pass to the Volcanoes, the local minor league baseball team, here in Salem. Larry attends every game and will tell you blow by blow, what happened that night, whether you want to hear it or not, while you drive him home. As we approached the split where Portland Rd. merges with Lancaster, I began slowing down.

Why is that yellow light blinking? Larry asked.

“It means caution,” I answered.

“Caution for what?” Larry asked.

“It’s a dangerous 3 way intersection.

“Why?” Larry asked.

It’s at this point that you realize that you should have ignored him, and resist the temptation to tell him to shut up. Fortunately his apartment only took a few more minutes to get to, and I had him home in another 5 minutes. It was fairly busy and uneventful for the rest of the night, as I drove drunks from bar to bar, until around 2:00 AM, when I picked up a guy from Presley’s Playhouse. He was standing out front waiting for me, and got in the cab as soon as I pulled into the parking lot.

“Where to?” I asked my passenger.

“Just get me the fuck out of here,” my passenger exclaimed, and continued, “take me to Stars. Do you know where that is?”

“Yeah, I know,” I told him. Like I already said, a taxi driver knows every strip club in town, and why you would want to go there. So I called it in and began driving North down Commercial. On the way there my passenger, who’s name was Dave talked a mile a minute. Maybe he was on speed, then again maybe he was just a talker, but he was the personification of Neal Cassady, Jack Kerouac’s Dean Moriarty of the “On the Road” series.

“I’m one of Jerry’s kid’s,” Dave said.

“When was the last time that you saw the “Dead?” I asked him.

“He had Chuck Berry with him and it was in Eugene, I think, but then Jerry died. Do you know why Jerry died? It was because of his heart, he had a heart so big that it finally exploded. He died, and Ken Kesey went Cuckoo with Jack Nicholson over on Center Street, but he never saw the film. The Hell’s angels distributed Owley’s acid and then it was the day that the music died. That was the day that Jerry died. His heart was so big that he couldn’t take it any more so he died. It exploded. Dylan had it right when he sang about the wicked messenger, but what was that song that the Dead used to always do?

“Bucket of Rain?” I asked.

“No, I can’t remember, but do you know why Jerry died?” He asked and answered, “because his heart got so big that it exploded.”

I ended up dropping my passenger off at Canton Gardens, and then had to go to the Speakeasy to pick up the Dykes, that ended up not being there.