1966 Chevrolet Impala
Chances are good if you're reading this, that you may share some of the same ideas I have when it comes to the automobile. That in many cases, they all have a face - that they all have their own personality/idiosyncracies - and in all cases, their own story. Likewise, if you're anything at all like me, a time often comes when you find "the one" - and you fret and worry that it will somehow slip through your hands into the lap of another if you don't act immediately to your impulse. Such is the case with that tuxedo black on black basketcase in the photo above.
If you've read any of my other drivel on this mess of a website, you have correctly guessed that I love cars - especially ones that nobody really wants any longer. There is just something about a personal connection made with a car that you're able to bring back to life all on your own and largely based on poor purchasing decisions. I'm a sledge hammer mechanic; that is, I sort of run things by the seat of my impatient pants. It is often that I have to ask really dumb questions on forums where dudes chase expert status - measuring their effectiveness by the number count of how many times they've posted. It's a crap shoot - you may either get a helpful hand, or someone who gets their jollies off of snarky one liners to let idiots like me know what I already know - that I asked a stupid question. Anyhow -
My infatuation with the 66 Impala was immediate. I found it by complete fluke when messing around with Facebook Marketplace, which by the way, is infinitely better than ebay and craigslist. Backstory - and to be brief - I'm a bonafide Impala man. My love for the automobile started with my fondness of a 66 Impala when I was literally four years old, when my parents were looking at a dealership for a new car in 1972. In the back row, backed into the treeline was one; and for a fairly new car at the time, it's appearance was battered and left for dead as someone's trade in. It was red, devoid of hubcaps - and to me, beautiful; for years my family would snicker at my love for the "red chev" as I named it. I could not understand why no one liked it - it seemed to me, as a small child, that it looked sad nobody wanted it, much like my favorite bedtime story book and record, The Speedy Little Taxi. From that day on, my love for the battered and neglected automobile was apparently born - and while I have owned and still own several Impala's, my pursuit for the perfectly neglected 66 Impala began. There have been many many times that I was on the brink of 66 ownership, but - I never felt that feeling one gets when they find that special one; this was all about to change.
When I found this black one, I was stunned - and my 'lets make a bad purchasing decision" meter was fully engaged. It looked terrible, even by my low standards. Neglected. Abandoned. It was sitting atop a flat bed trailer, it's bondoed rear quarters hanging on by a fiberglass thread, with a crazy price tag on it of $2400 - reduced from $2730. Dang it! I immediately emailed the seller if he would consider a trade for my 58 Plymouth Belvedere 4 door - in much better shape than the Impala, to which he expressed interest. It was clear the seller - who was a really great guy btw, had likely obtained the Impala for cheap, but after determining it was in a condition he didn't want to bother with, was looking to score a little extra cash from an immediate sale. I made arrangements to check it out, which was 320 miles away down on the Jersey Shore. The purpose of my wanting to see it was made under the guise of my need to check it's frame and other maladies that the car may have; however, none of that mattered to me. The real reason I wanted to see it, was because I just wanted to see it. It could have been held together by elmers glue and paper mache - and if the car was only good to sit in and pretend drive, I still wanted it.
When I found the home - the Impala was still aboard the flatbed it had been on the day the seller had obtained it, and looked amazing. The seller was a good guy and pretty much outlined what I had already assumed - that he didn't care at all about the car - that is....where it came from or where it would be going, which are all the things I find infinitely intriguing. He explained he had several calls about it, but in all cases, the callers only wanted the 327 and 3 speed out of it. He told me he would tell them that was fine if you just want the engine and transmission, just come with $2400 and take it along with the car.
But then - he said something very nonchalantly when I pressed him for more about the car's story, containing my enthusiasm and expressing my question in a way that wouldn't reveal my inner psycho. He told me he had gotten it from the original owner. WHAT?! He told me his brother had bought a Pontiac Grand Am off a guy named Larry in North Arlington, NJ near Queen of Peace Church, which is the area they had grown up. He said when they went to get the Pontiac, they saw the Impala in the driveway in back of the house, hidden from street view (and had only been moved out of the garage recently). Inquiries were made, and Larry decided with his age (75) that he would sell the car - in hopes it would have a good home. So - that is how he got the car. To me, there exists an intrinsic value to a one owner vintage car. Monetarily in many respects - which I don't care about AT ALL, but really on a more personal level. The fact this car was a true one owner, with the opportunity existing to learn of it's REAL history, rather than the elevated and exaggerated ones a buyer usually gets, meant everything to me. This Impala was the one. Absolutely no doubt. After 44 years of my endless peeking in yards and forests, the universe hath delivered.
About a week later, I borrowed a friends truck, rented a UHaul trailer, and with a little help from my cousin, winched via come-along the Plymouth onto the trailer. By 7:00 am the next brisk morning, I was on the road to trade the Plymouth straight up for the Impala.
After 6 hours of travel, I arrived and we played musical cars and trailers. After loading the car onto my U-Haul, I departed the Jersey Shore with my new 1966 Chevy Impala. A real King of the Road, albeit on a trailer. I cannot express in words the pride and giddiness I had. The seller provided me with an old New Jersey Title, signed by Larry, with the "new" owner left blank. Ordinarily, I would have pressed him to fill his name in, and then do a reassignment to me, but - having his name left off, means he is no longer the seller, but rather, the middle man, which means......I'm the second owner. So - yeah.
On the way home, I was anxious to stop at the nearest rest area to really look at the car, without the unsettling annoyance of a seller thinking I'm all weird. Now, just prior to my leaving, the seller (excuse me.....MIDDLE MAN) had called and left a message with the original owner, stating that I had obtained the car, was very elated about it, and that I would be calling him at some point. After leaving him the message, he told me that Larry had been calling him for updates on the Impala, and described him as being very concerned about the Impala's fate. He also told me he would be pleased to know that a nutcase like me loved the car so much. So somewhere along the Garden State Parkway, I pulled over into one of those median rest areas and called and spoke with Larry. I was actually leaving him a message of who I was, when all of a sudden he picked up and said Hello. I stopped talking and said hello back, to which he replied "Keep talking." So I continued - and when I was done blathering on, we spoke at great length about the Impala. We made arrangements to meet in the very near future, where we could meet face to face and learn more about one another. He expressed great joy that his old car would be going to a good home and would live on. At the same time, he also expressed some confusion - and explained that he thought the man I got the car from, was going to fix it up. Things started to make more sense to me then, but I didn't want to get in the middle of that, because it seemed to me that both parties in this situation were good dudes. I just basically told Larry that it was my assumption that upon further inspection of the Impala, the guy I got it from decided it wasn't worth messing with - and left it at that.
Fast forward a bit - after some cancellations on my part due to weather, we did eventually meet at the Arlington Diner in North Arlington, NJ on Christmas Eve. I didn't tell him, but being the perpetual early bird that I am, with time to kill, I decided to cruise the area and did some recon on his home to see where my Impala once lived and plied. In his backyard is a very large cemetery. Using google maps, I was able to determine where his home was relative to the cemetery, and found the garage my Impala sat in for 25 years, untouched. Creepy right? No, not the cemetery.....me.....stalking.
Afterwards, I cruised in to the next town, Belleville, where I had earlier learned from Larry when on the phone, was the town where he ordered and accepted delivery of the car - although he couldn't remember the name of the dealership other than the fact it closed right after he bought the car. With the help of the Belleville Historical Society, I learned it was Leonard Chevrolet, and it had closed after the owners nephew shot and killed his owner/Uncle over what - I do not know. I was told it was on Washington Avenue, and was long gone, having been replaced by a Taco Bell most recently. Hey, what can I say, I like to know my car's history. Here's the spot - where the Impala was really born, on paper, the day Larry waltzed in with a pen and $3000 to order the Impala. And after screaming it's way out of it's mother, the car factory, it was nestled in here until Daddy Larry took it home:
Speaking of auto plants, one of the interesting things I also learned about the Impala - after decoding the cowl tag, was that it was made in the first week of December, 1965, at Tarrytown Assembly Plant. Tarrytown was shut down in the 80's, and was a large participant in polluting the Hudson River since the place opened. All the buildings have since been destroyed - but the jutting land mass can still be clearly seen from the New York side of the Tappan Zee Bridge. So, basically, the car was only made about 30 miles away from the dealership and Larry's home. As the crow flies - the Impala's home was about 5 miles from midtown Manhattan. A direct line from the home to this beautiful 9/11 memorial - is a great view of Manhattan.
Anyone still reading this? Actually, did anyone even start reading this? Anyhow - I finally met up with Larry. Here he is - the man responsible for ordering this beautiful 66 Impala - and keeping it around all these years. It was apropos that I have him pose next to my newer Impala.
A terrific guy - and an old hod rodder himself. He told me everything he could remember about his time with the car. He said he never did give it a name, and never thought of it as a he or a she, and called it "The Chevy" - but suggested that I call it whatever I like. The only long trip he ever took in the car was a camping trip in the 60's at Angle Pond in New Hampshire and some places in Massachusetts. He told me ordered the car exactly how he wanted it. Black on black. 327/4bbl. He was going to order the 4 speed, but decided on a 3 speed at the suggestion of his then fiance. Factory air conditioning too. The car has a Hurst floor shifter, and he explained that it originally came with a three on the tree shifter on the column, but that during really cold weather, he couldn't get it out of gear, so he put the floor shifter in. He said the trailer hitch on it was to pull a 52 Ford drag car he had to a local race track. He even showed me his first house at 74 Hendel Street in North Arlington where he first took the car home and where he would park it. He gave me loads of parts and wrote down things of interest that I may like to know, which was immensely appreciated. He told me the car never let him down, and that it would always warn him first of any impending issues, except with his wife - and that the car would routinely let her down. When I asked him how she felt about selling the car, he told me he didn't ask her, but that as the car initially went down the street on the trailer, her only comment was "That car always hated me" - then turned, and went back in the house. He told me he never wanted to sell the car, but surmised that with age - 75, comes a time to let go of things, and knowing that he would never get around to getting it back on the road, that it was more important to him to have it go to a good home. Plus, he didn't want his wife, Christine, to have to worry about it if that great big Tarrytown in the sky called. He told me he couldn't sleep for a few days after the car went down the road, but was thrilled I had such an interest in it. I assured him I had an open garage door policy for him - anytime he wanted to see it, touch it, drive it (when it gets to that point) - to feel free.
The car has been parked since 1993 (Inspection sticker still on the windshield). He said it ran fine when he parked it, but it was just at a point where the car was just older and wasn't used much. So, that was it. In the garage it went. At the time, it was just an old rusty car - no different than if someone today was to park a 1993 Chevy Caprice off to the side.
The following are some more pics of the car on our way home. When I got it home, the angle in my driveway is such that to just free roll a 4,000 pound car off all by myself was risky. I wanted it in the garage - so a good friend of mine, Mike Kollman at Hillside Auto - who is used to my shenanigans with cars, hauled it from his garage to mine for free. Mike and his wife have always treated me so well when it comes to this stuff. I asked Mike if he liked the car; his response: Nope.
So that's the story of The Chevy. Many more chapters to be written for this old 66 Impala. I've got a lot of work to do on "The Chevy." It's in rough shape - so rough, that nearly every part would need to be replaced if you wanted it to look mint. I'm not interested in mint. I'm interested in passing inspection.
And as if to reflect a little - think about this. If I had not pressed more about the car's history, or, if someone else had bought it for the engine and sold the rest as a roller, or just someone wanted it like me but had no inkling or care about history - this entire story would never have been known. Those story pages that existed, would have been forever erased. There would be no Larry. There would be no knowledge to others that one time when drag racing a Corvette that he popped a motor mount in it. Or that trip to New Hampshire to go camping. Or how much fun it was to pick it up their very first day with it. It's very important to know as much as you can about a car, beyond "paperwork" and "numbers matching."
And as crazy/dumb/pointless as this website may be to the few who stumble in here - I hope that some of my adventures in seeking out these cars may inspire others to do the same. It's not easy, and it's not hard. In the words of a dearly departed friend, Lynn Holland-Kelley - "Don't blow off doing something today that you will regret you never did tomorrow."
Thanks for reading!
If it's not Trending, it's not Happening.
Disclaimer: This isn't about being left, or being right. It's about being consistent. I'm writing this because those of us who try to remain consistent see and hear things that are real eye rollers. Maybe you'll feel this way about me. But what follows are my words, fueled by a social media breaking point, after seeing a recent photo montage by an acquaintance whose only consistencies, is screaming about everything that is "trending".
If you’re sharing ad nauseum, outrage over the recent airport/immigration events, or crayola crayoning signs that say “You are Welcome, You are Loved”, and then post pictures of yourself guzzling margaritas at a resort in Dominican Republic (or really any other Caribbean Island), you are either an unbelievable hypocrite – or cruising the recesses of your brain with blinders on. It’s proof positive that you really don't care about immigration and are woefully ignorant of the world & her citizens – and that all of your information in which you choose to rant about, comes from memes, headlines and trending indignation.
If you ever dare to stray beyond the walls and warning signs that separate the sandy beaches from atop your cute rented moped, you should know that so many of the people working at the resort, live in such a destitute level of poverty, that you couldn’t even begin to fathom the strife and worries they have on a daily basis. Healthcare? Forget it. I-Phone 7? Shut up. Hot Water? What an interesting concept. As are crosswalks. Food and Education? A tough topic. If you were to travel to a village with eyes wide open, versus blissful ignorance, and were to look at nearly every person in it, despite their good nature and happiness, you should know, that many would do anything, literally, to just visit the U.S. But they aren’t allowed to. And they never have been. There are only two ways they will leave that place nowadays – having lots of money/family ties with a years long convincing argument to the Visa center, or, the Major League Baseball machine likes what they see in a young player. So unless selling garden vegetables in scorched earth suddenly becomes prosperous or you can hit a home run, you will never, ever, experience the joy of landing on U.S. soil. And here all you had to do to travel, in between posting memes and tweets, was click ‘Book It!’ on Expedia. That is American privilege; you cannot possibly identify with what it is like to not have it. And if you want others to have it as you claim, you better enroll in a world history class and either become a real solution to the problems you see, or, carry on and just simply use these parts of the world for your pleasure.
The rest of your trip will be fantastic I'm sure. You will rejoice of your time there. The joy on your intoxicated face posing with the smiling bartender that you pretend to care about says more to me about you than any meme that you post could. You probably didn't even bother learning basic Spanish greetings before going. Next year, when you take a break from saving the world one hashtag at a time, you’ll go back. Whether it’s by plane or cruise ship. Whether it’s for the nickels on a dollar price, or the blue water, or more salacious reasons like partaking in legal prostitution (including children), you’ll go back. Maybe you'll share a heartfelt meme about Haiti next door, a literal hell on earth beyond the confines of the cruise ship port.
Plaster Saint personified.
So drink up, enjoy the all you can eat buffets of mangu and mofongo, clean sheets/towels - we look forward to your return and your empty, benighted and principled posts about world views, and how you left a five dollar bill to the maid who dredged your shower drain everyday. You’re a real man of the world.
Adventures at the NYC Taxi Garage
There exists a weird stillness to New York City at right about 4 AM. It could be 3:57, or maybe 4:10, but whatever the hands are pointed at, it's at that precise moment where there is no yesterday and no tomorrow - it's a void of sorts, where the glow of the street lit sky sort of bounces along not knowing where to go. So many things end at 4 AM on a Saturday night in NYC, and slowly, so many things start soon after. The phenomenon is experienced anywhere I imagine, not just New York, as I remember when I was a young patrolman on nights, when at about 4AM, I struggled with simple existence; the stillness, despite the noise and occasional sign of life knocking my conscious, was quite evident. It's that time of day/night, where you can say good morning or good night - and still isn't very clear what would be the correct phrase.
Anyways, on the spare occasion I drive a taxi in NYC, it is at this hour, 4 AM, when I start heading east over the Queensboro Bridge back to the garage to return the cab. There is a gas station nearby, and after filling up, I pull into the dark recess of the taxi lot. The first thing you see as you pull in, besides a blanket of sleeping taxi's, is a rather large, nameless man, who is as mysterious as he is strange. If he wasn't so huge and odd acting, I'd probably say something to him, but he just peers right through you as if he wants to kill you. His job at the garage, I THINK, is to make sure you filled the car up. When he isn't standing over the car looking through the person he's speaking to, he is lying down in the back seat of the nearest vacant cab that is parked closest to the entrance. He looks homeless really, but the garage, instead of giving him a booth, give him a car to sit in. His personality is the type that enjoys my idea of him, in that I dread him. I could be heading east on the bridge to return the cab whistling dixie from a good night's work, and then......I remember.....HIM. I have to show I filled the car up to HIM....the gatekeeper. The very first night I drove a taxi, and not knowing what to do when I was done (or starting), I pulled into the lot. I saw him climb out of the back seat of a battered Crown Victoria cab, it's doors all open and he, laying down in the back. The lot was dark, save for a few dim lighted bulbs scattered about and the cab's headlights, the latter serving as a warning call that it was time to do something. With the sound of traffic humming off in the distance somewhere, it is actually quite peaceful in the lot at night. Seeing all the busy taxi's tucked in and idle, their engines cold - their stillness as a result of this day and age of ridesharing like Uber. I digress.
So the large man walks over to me where I have stopped, and I greet him. He just stares down at me. I said hi again; he just looks at me. I ask him - "where do you want me to park?" - assuming that is what the point of his presence was, and he responds by asking if I filled it up. I told him I did, and gave him my receipt and the cab's rate card with starting mileage. He takes the papers, but doesn't look at it, he just looks at me. I didn't want to, really I didn't, but I gulped. I could sense that my adams apples' noisy bobble, was a poorly timed biological need, of which could signal a sign of meekness on my part. He liked that it seemed. I broke the awkward staring contest by stating the gas gauge in the cab was broken so it says empty, to which he snapped that he knew that. Actually, what he said, in an incredulous tone of disbelief, was "I know that......I know that." I thought it odd, in how could he know my gas gauge was broken, there are hundreds of cabs at the garage, but, that's what he said. He gave me the papers back, and said nothing. I then communicated a half question/half statement to him - "Park anywhere"? He said......nothing. I then idled away into the lot and parked the car in the first spot I could find. As I got out, I grabbed my hack license and bag, and closed the door only to find him standing at the trunk, watching me, and examining the car. I smiled and said have a good evening, to which he didn't respond.
Now - this guy is like this all the time. Through time, I was less intimidated by him, but still sort of kissed his ass by playing along with his whole "I'll kill you" persona. Recently, after a shift, I was in a really foul mood. I didn't make hardly any money, traffic was maddening and people in general were just a species of animal that I wanted to eat instead of nurture, including a deep fried gatekeeper. I got my gas, and pulled into the lot. The man of few words saunters over as usual, taking his sweet time, to which I hand him my gas receipt - saying nothing to him and looking straight ahead. He takes it, and with my peripheal vision could see that he confirmed my gas gauge was at full. Once I saw that, I thought it high time to stop playing his little power trip game. My immediate thought was that this jerk has been counting sheep in the back seat of a cab all night, and I've been all over creation trying to make minimum wage with a smile on my face. I simply drove off into the lot to park. With a guttural yell, he signals for me to wait, but I thought to myself....ya know what?.... no. You wait. I parked the car and noticed in the mirror he was following me so I sat in the car scrolling on my phone - I wanted him to work for this. He tapped the window, to which I annoyingly rolled down, and not yelling......but forcefully, I said "What?!" It was his 4AM moment. He was neither yesterday nor tomorrow. He was - quite simply, normal. Or maybe it was nice. Decent? Whatever word that is to be applied, it was a void. We both were in a void, because I flip flopped too. He politely asked me for my rate card, and then explained he just needed to make sure the mileage was appropriate for the gallons etc. I handed it to him, and while he was looking at it, I gathered my things and closed the door. I then apologized for not handing him it before, explaining my mind was elsewhere, you know.....hahaha, hee hee hee. And as fast as the void came.........POOF......like a black sucking hole - the void was gone. He was right back to....."normal". His normal.
C'est la vie.
I walked across the lot to the fortified office to pay the garage my MTA taxes, fees and tolls. While waiting for money for credit card fares, I glanced around the garage where all the cars are repaired. As usual, cars were on lifts, with night mechanics struggling with their own 4 AM void - heads tilted back as they rested in old lawn chairs. Collecting my pittance of money, I walked back through the lot to the street where my car was parked to go home. As I passed the Checkpoint Charlie of the taxi lot, I heard some music softly reverberating from the cab the gate keeper was in. He was seated on the back seat with his long legs firmly planted onto the ground watching me. I glanced over and nodded to the man whose code I can not crack. No nod in return, just a gentle leaning back into the back seat, like a redwood falling in the forest.
Oh well. See you next time.
Well, its been a whole year since I slid behind the wheel of a a real live yellow NYC Taxi. A day I shall not forget – the giddiness of being smothered in yellow frosting - the realization of a dream of sorts, and facing that fear of the unknown. Fear in not knowing what to do, and just where in America’s largest city I might end up – with zero help of any sort. Anyhow, I’ve successfully renewed my “anniversary” license, which is short for probationary, and am now valid until 2019. Hard to imagine that the first time I went to the city with my dad in 1977, and being completely inured by the looks and smells of the yellow cab, that I would one day be a part of it all. The junkiness of the industries’ fleet, and the grit and grime of the streets that I get to see. I look up to my cabbie friends I've gotten to know for sometime - Noah Forman, Edward Leavy, Erin Samuelsen and of course reading the insights of long time driver/blogger Gene Salomon.
Most people in my locale of Vermont have no idea that I do this. I think they see me in my personally owned retired yellow cab, and think I’m a nut anyways, so besides my Facebook, I don’t say much about it. Most people could care less, but to me, I’m quite content with it; deep down, I’m glad I did it, and do it. It’s an experience that cannot be taken from me. Besides London, England (which takes 3 years of intensive studying of “the knowledge” to become a taxi driver), New York is certainly the most iconic of cities when it comes to driving a taxi – although I’m smart enough to know that each city is unique in its own way with the same duties and challenges as New York.
The hardest part of driving a taxi in New York City, for me anyways, is finding my way at times. Manhattan is easy peasy for the most part, but there are times I find myself really struggling when an address outside of Manhattan is given to me. If someone wants to go to Brooklyn for instance, my initial thought is always the same: ‘Ahhhh shit”. It wouldn’t be bad if I traveled there often and knew my way around, or the fact that at times the person(s) in the backseat seem to always judge the way you’re going. And trust me, prior to even getting my hack license – I was well versed in the geography of the city. For the past 8 years I have cruised via car and bike all over the place. I’ve ridden my bicycle in all five boroughs and have an excellent working knowledge of the lay of the land. But often times, there are routes and twists and turns that are confusing – and one wrong turn, can send you into the wrong direction. It’s stressful – when that meter is running and that voice in the backseat announces angrily “where are you going”?
One of the last times I drove (I only do this on Saturday evenings btw), two guys and a girl hailed me at about 3 AM in Hells Kitchen. As I pulled the car over, the way they were standing in the middle of the street sort of with their back to me like no big deal, gave me this *feeling* that it wouldn’t be a great experience. Definitely not newbies to the city, they were certainly natives – but the way they spoke suggested to me they don’t often travel outside of their neighborhood. Mid Town Manhattan was not a place they ventured to very often, nor did they partake in ever hailing a yellow cab. Anyhow, they wanted to go to a street called Hollers Avenue in the Bronx. They offered no assistance with where it might be, and – which seems to be customary at times, assumed I would just know. No one would know, unless you live there. I mean really, how or why would anyone know where Hollers Avenue is? I looked it up on my phone and knew the area in which to go, sort of near Co-op City, so off I went. I hit the West Side Highway, to the Cross Bronx (I-95) – it seemed to me the easiest way to go and no tolls. The ride started off uneventful as I drove silently and they drunkenly conversing to each other rather loudly about their night. As I was merging onto the Cross Bronx, the smarty pants inquisition came. Now, I’ve merged here literally a thousand times, and it is ALWAYS bottled up for a short bit with I-95 truck traffic. One of the guys asks why didn’t I cross town and take the FDR? Then the girl states why didn’t I take 10th Avenue. Like they just know everything about the 6,000 miles of streets and highways in New York. Well, 10th Avenue was all post bar closing traffic with stop lights……and the FDR was showing red on google maps, plus I’d have to cross the Tri-Boro bridge which is a toll by the time I even got there. It just never ends. I was cruising at the speed limit in no time with no slow traffic at all and these people wanted to know why I was taking the most efficient way, all because of a slow merge. Anyhow – to me, this kind of stuff is what is the most aggravating. When I got to their destination in the Bronx, it was a dark and grimy street – it looked like an industrial dump right out of the 70’s/80’s - only the soft glow of street lights casting a hazy luminescence against the backdrop of old brick buildings, metal fences and barbed wire covered in spray paint tags, junk vehicles and thugs still hanging around on corners. In the distance, the yelps and whistles of night people could be heard in a land where the yellows really rarely roam. When I came to a stop and turned the meter off, there was nothing but silence except for the rear doors opening. Keep in mind, there didn’t appear to me to be any actual residence in this area that I could see, and I thought for a moment they were going to stiff me, and they spent some time whispering in the back. They kept pretending they swiped a card, but the computer system in the front tells me when a card is being swiped. They were clearly trying to pretend there was something wrong with the equipment, but there wasn’t. Dropping my affable country boy charm, I reached into the back through the partition and asked for the card, which he gave to me, and I swiped it myself. Presto – it worked. I handed him the card as it processed, and they got out. I yelled out to wait, that they needed to sign the receipt since it was over $25.00, but they didn’t care and walked away like my presence in the world was the biggest inconvenience of their life. No biggie – I still got paid. No tip though lol. Whatever.
I’m not sure I could ever do this job full time. 12 hours cooped up in a car that you can’t even adjust the seat in and fighting traffic literally all night with some of the rudest people on this earth, has a way of just kicking you in the gut. Honestly, most of the time, people are pretty friendly and rides are uneventful to the point you don’t even remember them. But sometimes, you end up with some really crazy and angry people. But at the end of the night, when you return the cab, you feel as though you really put in a days work, as you clean the cab out, remove your hack license from behind your head and hear the ticking of the engine starting to cool as it waits for the next driver to hop in. Once I’m done, I then climb in my own car and it’s off to my inlaws on Laurel Hill Place in Washington Heights to go to bed. What sucks about THAT is, there is never a parking spot and I end up parking my car in Fort George hear Highbridge Park. Lets just say, it’s not a very safe place for me to be roaming around at 5 AM and the nearly ¾ of a mile I have to walk is right out of that TV show “Naked and Afraid”. But when I get there, and when I lay my head down exhausted, I’m content with knowing I’ve traveled all over the city to places that only a taxi driver goes. Often times, when I’m back home in Vermont, I look out over the green mountains and it’s hard to imagine that that world exists – that city that really doesn’t ever stop. Some parts may sleep at times at certain hours, but make no mistake about it, the engines are always running, the booze is always in the bloodstreams, the crime is always creeping in the shadows, and that great white way is always illuminated with it’s bouncing lights.
This blog serves as a chronicle to my first ever 'juicy' cab ride. Not like a big can of V8, but more like a Juicy Juice Elmo Fruit Punch. But..... Juice, nonetheless.
Well, October is upon us - the insects have been departing their bugsy bodies into that good night, and the silence of autumn and pre-winter is here - with it's charming silence and times of reflection. Well, in Vermont anyways, in NYC, the noise never stops. What this also means, is that in just a few short weeks, the iconic body on frame Crown Victoria's, will also be entering that good night. On October 31, 2015, the garage I lease from, will be lining them up, and without so much as a flinch, be kicking them out of the parking lot for the new 'Taxi of Tomorrow', which has been sifting flour on the streets of New York for many yesterdays - all the way back to 2012. But now, it's the law. Sad days are here.
Now, to the annoyance of friends and family who are forced to listen to it, I've been spending my weekend time bombing around the boroughs as much as my schedule allows to really solidify the experience of my part time occupational interests. Interestingly enough, despite my preference of driving nights, I had not yet had any remarkable stories many might assume I have in terms of back seat casting calls. If anything, it's been unremarkable - people have simply climbed in for a ride - I take them there - and that is that. Many are pleasant, many are rude, a very few completely crazy. On a recent weekend, I hit the streets piloting medallion # 8M37, and decided to do a social experiment and head to the outer boroughs to try my luck at getting passengers, since it's well known that yellow cabs can not often be found there, and with the nice weather, things were slow in mid-town. I burned a lot of gas cruising Washington Heights, Hamilton Heights and the Bronx. People needing rides would actually put there hands down for me, in trade for a local black livery cab or green boro taxi. I ended up giving my wifey poo a ride from her parents on Laurel Hill Place near Amsterdam and 181 st. Street to her sisters place in the Bronx and decided to head back south where the old yeller's roam. But first, I stretched my legs over I-87 between Broadway in the Bronx and Bailey Avenue:
I was irritated that I wasted my time dubbing around outside of midtown, and to my great surprise, after dropping my significant other off in the Kingsbridge area, I was heading south on Broadway near 234th Street when an older and quite large Dominican guy and his wife/whatever flagged me down in front of a supermarket called Garden Gourmet.
He asked me if I was a flat fare, to which I told him I wasn't - meter only. He wasn't happy about that, telling me the green Boro Taxi's he can barter with, to which I pointed to the meter and told him whatever this says is the cost. So he said fine, take us to 163rd and Broadway - a straight shot. The odor of intoxicants emitting from his mouth was quite powerful, and I at once heard the unmistakable sound of what I believed to be an El Presidente beer being opened in the back seat, to which I confirmed in the mirror by watching him guzzle it. He had earbuds in, and was cranking some bachata, but was also having a convo with his Spanish speaking girl friend at the same time; I didn't understand how he could do that, but he was. She too had earbuds in. It made no sense at all to me. He was quite animated, and uh.....feeling that his oats were needing sowing. He was all over her in the backseat, to her acceptance and giggles. I could hear his empty beer bottle rolling on the floor, kicked by his foot as he started kissing and caressing her, and he was on top of her. Now, for perspective - it is still light out - it was just starting to become dusk. I continued on, occasionally glancing back there - and I noticed every now and then he would stop, and would simply sit up, look out the window looking angry, then immediately go back to his desire - and start mauling her to her giggles and.....in time....moans. Now, it's tough to see back there with the partition, as well as trying to play it cool and not be a perv, but at no time did any clothes come completely off I'm sorry (and a little glad) to say. But, judging by the moans and a couple of Spanish words I am familiar with, his pesky little fingers were doing most of the talking. Her foot kept kicking the partition, and Spanish, reverberated about the cab. She was leaned against the passenger side door, with him half on top of her, and feeling her contours. His earbuds were still in, and on full blast.....weird o rama. For quite a spell, I could hear her moaning, and well, I think you get the jist of what I assume he was doing with those chatterbox fingers, before he sat back and a favor returned. I couldn't remember if he wanted 165th or 163rd, so I kept asking, but got no answer from anyone, so I just guessed it was 163rd. Since he was sitting up at this point, I did everything I could to avoid looking in the mirror, so as not to interrupt whatever story she was telling to his belt buckled area. As we rolled up, the meter said $17 and he handed me a $20 as she collected and straightened herself out - and said to keep it. As he picked up his stuff and beer bottle, he closed the door, and thus concluded my first NYC Taxi back seat sexy time experience. I looked in the back seat at the next light to make sure there was nothing that needed to be cleaned, and there wasn't. Being the germaphobe that I am, I couldn't help to think about the back door door handle though. Ew.
So, my social experiment OVER, and quite pleased someone had gotten a little sort of kind of nookie in the back seat, I headed back downtown and immediately called Ori to apprise her of my events; however, she wasn't very enthusiastic about it. Hey, I'm a country kid, this doesn't happen where I come from! Anyhow, I grabbed a number of fares, but they were all short trips here and there. It was a weird shift -and call me naive, but I was surprised because many of the people that climbed in, were really rude. I dropped some tourists from France (they were very pleasant) off at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and rolling south on 5th Avenue turning onto 59th Street, an older African American woman and two young children hailed me at the light; I motioned to her to jump in. She wanted to go to 96th and Columbus Avenue. As I headed into Columbus Circle, the police had Central Park West all closed off near Trump Towers with an accident or something, so, I headed up Broadway and turned north onto Amsterdam, which runs north, parallel with Columbus Avenue, which runs south. So as I'm doing this, she rather nastily exclaims "Why are you going this way?" (I've heard this a few times...hey..I'm a rookie give me a break). I told her about Central Park West, and that this was the most direct route. On and on and on she sat back there griping - telling me I was scamming her etc. I told her I wasn't, and that the trip was so short, there really wasn't much room to scam anyone and assured her that I wasn't. Still, she wasn't having any of it, and I once again told her that the way I was going, really was the easiest and shortest route there was. I told her a number of times that if she wanted, I could cut across back to Central Park West (the portions that were now open) if she wanted, and she told me no. This lady just would not stop squawking in the seat that she's no sucker, and was mumbling calling me names, while the kids just sat in silence. Anyhow - before I got there, I killed the meter to just appease her - it wasn't worth arguing over the 50 cents she thought I was so hungry for, so it came to 10 bucks. She handed me a 10, grabbed those kids, called me a mother fucker and slammed the door so hard, it instantly brought rage to my head, but I decided to let my cooler side prevail. All it takes is for a passenger to dial 311 and make my life complicated, even if I'm in the right. I don't have the time or the inkling to deal with that over a dollar.
Towards the end of the night, I had picked up three young women on those lettered Avenues near East Houston Street; they had been out eating and drinking, were dressed to the nines, and thought they were just fabulous. Their stale booze breath, mixed with perfume and whatever eatery odor they were at, emanated throughout the car's interior. So the ring leader of this trio, starts chatting with me, but it was drunk brave chatter - all condescending......designed to make me think she was interested in my actual answers, but really just making fun, because after all, I'm JUST a lowly taxi driver.......all low key digs like that, to which her little friends would giggle and tee hee, and playfully telling her to stop it, like she is just like, so crazy tee hee. I played along - let them have their little fun, because at that moment, I had cut off an Uber car by accident, as sometimes it's hard to see what's behind you with those partitions. Plus, the seats in these Crown Vics sit really really low; I look like a munchkin in it. This Uber guy was so beyond pissed, he kept the horn blaring for an entire block. Then....as he pulled next to me as we rolled along, he kept blaring it. I was growing tired of it, so If he went toot toot, I went toot toot; and it was enraging him. Finally, at a stop light, he is on my right and honking for my attention, so I finally gave it to him and rolled the window down, to his great glee. It was an Indian guy - and he says "You. You IdeeiOUGHT. You IdeeiOUGHT". I told him to chill out, that I didn't see him, and that if he gets this pissed off at getting cut off in NYC, he's going to have an awfully long night honking and stewing. He then says "You IdeeiOUGHT". In the backseat, the ringleader girl is yelling at the Uber guy to fuck off, playing protector of yours truly. Ugh....booze.
So, between the gabbing little twits slyly poking fun at how poor I was, and this knucklehead next to me, I decided I'd had almost enough for the day/night. I managed to fall back into the patterned fold of traffic along 6th Avenue and dropped the privileged little Queens off on Broadway at Columbia University. Gee, what a shocker.
After fiddle farting around with a few other fares, I decided to call it a night - I'd had enough, and sailed my yellow steed across the Queensboro Bridge for gas and head to the garage. I parked the cab, returned the keys, proof of fill up and submitted my credit card purchases for payment, along with paying the taxes and crap that needs to be paid when you get cash from a customer. As I strolled through the lot to leave, I noticed 4M15 - the first cab I drove on my first shift ever, cooling off. I noticed it had new orange license plates and the roof ad was now Jimmy Fallon too. The whole lot was literally packed with cabs. Absolutely no one driving them. Used to be (as I've been told), you would have to wait an hour or more to get a cab to drive. But now - since Uber......the cars just wait for a noob like me. Also, summer time is slow too. Anyhow, 4M15 - is a car I am partial too. I have some plans for this car when it retires in two weeks. Specifically, those plans include driving it out of that lot one more time, and never coming back. I've made arrangements with the garage to purchase it. I spoke to a number of people about it - and as they told me....'there are others in a lot better shape' - but....well, you can only buy your first cab once, and this is it. Curtis, the service manager at the garage, is in charge of the vehicles. I've been bugging him with calls and notes, and he's been terrific to talk with. I intend to tip Curtis very well. Dead or alive....under it's own power or that of a flatbed, that car - is coming home with me. And THEN......my collection of junk taxi's, will be complete.
4M15:and following..a small gallery of pics for giggles if you're into that sort of thing.
Thanks for reading! Or...rather, thanks for looking! Um, clicking? Scrolling?
Till next time.....
I taped my phone to the dash of a taxi recently, while cruising for fares on Bleecker Street in southern Manhattan - a street known for it's bars and such. Instead of listening to the annoying rattle of the embattled meter in the car, I overlayed some soundtrack from the movie Taxi Driver, as well as the psycho babble from Travis Bickle, ending with just the silence of tires rolling (kid safe - relevant "c" words are not audible):
Video below the Bickle quotes.
All the animals come out at night - whores, skunk pussies, buggers, queens, fairies, dopers, junkies, sick, venal. Someday a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets. I go all over. I take people to the Bronx, Brooklyn, I take 'em to Harlem. I don't care. Don't make no difference to me. It does to some. Some won't even take spooks. Don't make no difference to me.
Each night when I return the cab to the garage, I have to clean the cum off the back seat. Some nights, I clean off the blood.
Twelve hours of work and I still can't sleep. Damn. Days go on and on. They don't end.
All my life needed was a sense of someplace to go. I don't believe that one should devote his life to morbid self-attention, I believe that one should become a person like other people.
Loneliness has followed me my whole life. Everywhere. In bars, in cars, sidewalks, stores, everywhere. There's no escape. I'm God's lonely man.
June 8th. My life has taken another turn again. The days can go on with regularity over and over, one day indistinguishable from the next. A long continuous chain. Then suddenly, there is a change.
June twenty-ninth. I gotta get in shape now. Too much sitting has ruined my body. Too much abuse has gone on for too long. From now on there will be 50 pushups each morning, 50 pullups. There will be no more pills, no more bad food, no more destroyers of my body. From now on will be total organization. Every muscle must be tight.
The idea had been growing in my brain for some time: TRUE force. All the king's men cannot put it back together again.
You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me? You talkin' to me? Then who the hell else are you talking... you talking to me? Well I'm the only one here. Who the fuck do you think you're talking to? Oh yeah? OK.
Listen, you fuckers, you screwheads. Here is a man who would not take it anymore. A man who stood up against the scum, the cunts, the dogs, the filth, the shit. Here is a man who stood up.
Now I see this clearly. My whole life is pointed in one direction. There never has been a choice for me.
DO NOT RESUCITATE
It's true, we can't deny mortality - even in the Big Apple. Some tough familial decisions need to be made on the yellow cabs of New York City. Not quite in a coma, but definitely standing idle in Heaven's waiting rooms across the city - with hospice mechanics standing by with morphine drips before that final grudging turn of the key to a dead battery signals the need to heed their living will instructions provided by the City of New York: DO NOT RESUSCITATE.
In case you haven't paid much attention to media reports on the yellow cab industry, the venerable and much loved yellow taxi of NYC, is dying. It's dying because of greed, politics, and flippant corporate arrogance. And at the root of this poison ivy list, lies the responsible party: Uber. Let me cut through the chase, and point out some bits that many don't understand - that is, what is the difference between an Uber car, and an NYC Taxi. The short answer is none. Besides the color - their functions are the same. They give you a ride. To hail a yellow cab, you raise your hand on the street. To hail an Uber car, you push a button on your phone. One is called a taxi. The other "ride sharing". But no matter how you toss the dice, the function and the intent is the same. Each provides a ride to a stranger from one place to another for money. Period, end of story. But there is a fine line and divide between the two - and it has to do with one being bogged down by regulation and high money stakes, while the other, pretty much devoid of regulation or big money - for both drivers and the parent company - in terms of investment.
Let us suppose, you want to own your very own yellow cab in NYC. It's a bit tricky here - it's not like you just go out, buy an old beat up police car and hit the street with a few licensing fees. You will need the following:
1.) $1,000,000 for a medallion (although less now, because of Uber), which is the cheap piece of tin unceremoniously riveted to a yellow cab's hood...it's license really - for the privilege of providing rides to people throughout the city and beyond.
2.) A vehicle, chosen from a small list of "approved" vehicles - although, as of September 1, 2015 - that little list will include only one vehicle - an ugly piece of crap called a Nissan NV-200 van, the likes of which are quite similar to the repair van Jaws busted up in the Bond movie, The Spy Who Loved Me.
3.) Acceptance that you're going to have to follow a list of rules and regulations that has become so bureaucratically exhaustive and unrealistic, that it can make an owl's eye balls spin. Car has to be new. Has to be yellow. Partition. Meters. Meter calibrations. Taxi TV. GPS. EZ-Pass. Credit Card Readers. Decals to the nearest inch. This. That, and a kitchen sink.
4.) A means in which to find suckers in this day and age that are willing to pay you roughly $150 to $200 per shift to use your cab when you're not in it, if at all.
5.) Be prepared to sell that car in no more than 3 years, and go through it all again - AND....if at the whim of the city they decide to approve a different vehicle, well.....buy partitions, rooflights etc. that will fit whatever vehicle is so chosen. Don't forget the stringent inspection process every three months.
For Uber. You must:
1.) Invest no real money at all. A medallion?! Ain't nobody got time for that! Or a partition. Or Taxi TV. Or GPS. Decals. Credit card readers. ETC.
2.) Have a car no more than 5 years old. The list is long in terms of choice. Want to drive a gas guzzling emission spitting Suburban or Escalade to combat the environmentally responsible Hybrids forced upon the yellow taxi industry? That will be fine. How about a 4 year old Impala ex cruiser with a zillion miles on it. That is fine. Just put NYC TLC plates on it. So, all that robbing of Peter to pay Paul by former Mayor Bloomberg - in an effort to have cleaner air, was all for naught. There are over 30,000 Uber cars that are flowing through the streets with no standardized efforts to make them environmentally responsible, while Nissan vans will be sitting still with no drivers to drive them.
3.) Want to drive? No problem. Get a NYC "For Hire Vehicle" license - no need for a traditional hack license. That means....No Taxi School. No studying. No Wheelchair training. No test.
4.) Have a phone (which you can also use for GPS - while a yellow driver can not). In fact, apps were disproved by the TLC that provided yellow cabs with the means to accept app hails. One of them was Zab Cab. It's dangerous for a yellow cab driver to utilize his/her phone. It's completely safe for an Uber driver. Whatever.
Many little goofball studies have been done by well intentioned individuals plying their way to the top of the youtube money train, to see who is cheaper, faster, etc. Sometimes one wins over the other, but in the end - it's really pretty much the same. Many factors play in that. Traffic patterns. A driver's knowledge (remember....yellow can't use navigation such as google maps). In fact, Uber's pricing, is based on the yellow cab industries' metering standards. And it's not like Uber drivers are from another planet and know the streets better - many are former yellow taxi drivers.
The term "iconic" is a term so often used to describe the NYC Taxi, that one just cannot help but wonder, if the wanton beat down yellow cabs are now getting, is all by design. I don't blame a driver who does this full time to jump ship really. One could buy their own car with a monthly payment, that would equal 2 or 3 days of a daily yellow lease. So, it makes sense for some perhaps. But something stinks - and it isn't the back seat. I don't depend on this job for my means of paying bills. But many do. Uber isn't creating new jobs really - just attracting ones from yellow cabs, green Boro taxi's, and black livery cabs. So for people who complain as well about yellow drivers being inconsiderate, or not picking them up, or not taking them to Brooklyn....well guess what - it's the same people driving you via Uber, vs. yellow.
Like it or not, the NYC Taxi is a cast character in New York. It is part of the landscape that rolls. It's that temporary reprieve from hectic energy - that still shares the grit and grunge of the streets you seek reprieve from, reminding you always where it is you are. It is one of the most single definitive trademarks of the city. Go to any souvenier shop in NYC and what do you find? Countless items with NYC Taxi's on them. Coffee cups, shirts, towels, pens, pencils, stationary, post cards, water bottles etc. It is one's way of showing where they were. Replace this with a picture of a black Suburban on these items....well, people might think you visited the front gates of the White House or a Presidential Motorcade.
When a movie production company is filming a NYC themed movie in Toronto, what is the best way to make an audience feel that it is in NYC?
a.) Have a couple of black cars on the street.
b.) Have one single yellow NYC Taxi roll by.
Answer: Used to be b. Pretty soon, just a.
And to make the point even more clear - here are some items whose flavor would totally change if one was to replace the word Taxi, with Uber. Things like Taxi Cab Confessions.....it wouldn't be the same if it was called Ride Sharing Confessions. The classic TV show 'Taxi' - wouldn't be much fun if it was called Uber. The show would have to take place in the living room of an Uber driver because Uber doesn't have garages.
Sigh. Uber Driver?
I like this movie. It's true you know - like Queen Latifah, there are people that really have always wanted to drive a yellow NYC Taxi. I'm one of them - ever since I was a kid.
While I imagine not a lot of people buy this calendar for eye candy - it's purpose is to be playful. If you think a picture of a naked man in the back of a yellow taxi is gross, well, put him in a black car, and we now have a craigslist personals ad.
The classic Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly movie, On the Town, wouldn't quite be the same - say nothing about the Broadway Musical:
Honestly, the list could go on forever:
I have to wonder, is there anyone at the Taxi and Limousine Commission that feels even the slightest pulse of pride or passion for their yellow/green four wheeled brethren? Has there been one single attorney there, that has said ' hey wait a minute...these Uber cars fit the definition of a jitney/taxi, and we have rules in place for that'? Has it bothered anyone at all, anywhere in the maze of government, that no one is fighting for the very people who they regulate - whether it is a medallion owner or driver? Is there one person, who has looked at the enormous amounts of data that the TLC collects - from how many miles a car travels in a shift, to how many farts were laid in a shift - and concluded 'Hey, these poor drivers are sometimes making less than what a homeless person makes begging for change'. Is there even a janitor there, who has thought - "If an Uber car isn't a taxi, then why does the taxi commission regulate them....or as is the case of reality, regulate them softly with their song?' And if there are twice as many 'rideshare' vehicles as their are taxi's, shouldn't there be a NYC Ridesharing Commission? I don't get it at all. Well, scratch that - I do get it. It's New York. The history of medallions, and color yellow, and all these rules are steeped in history. It is no surprise that anything that promises money - could circumvent this history with nary a breath blown.
So, in the words of Frank Sinatra, it's up to you New York - what's it going to be?
In any occupation, there is a great Broadway acting moment for all of us, when we first delve into the first day of work. The hopeful smiles, the faux kindness, the curiosity - that desire to not look like a fool or great attempts to impress a boss/co-worker etc., when deep down, we know we will likely fall to complacency at some point. Like a rude cashier....they weren't like that on day one or two or three - I imagine they were like "Hi, did you find everything today!?". Anyhow, for those who have found this site as a hopeful or first time licensed NYC hack, I'll share with you my first evening shift. Lord knows, there isn't a lot out there to read/see. I remember looking around just trying to see if someone out there would write something on how to operate a meter. Info was scant, at best.
I'm not going to pretend though, for even a New York minute, that I am anything other than a complete and total newbie noob - as green as a cab is yellow. I won't on here, and I won't in person. There is no 'on the job' training. There does not exist any practical practice. For many cabbies, they have no personal car to practice with. You basically just "go"....out into the streets and hope for the best until you sort of figure things out. Going to JFK? Well, it might be a cabbies first time too. Everyone is new at one point.
So, once you get your hack license - that is, passing your drug test, proving your identity and driving history, attending taxi school, a criminal background check and finally, the 6 hour NYC taxi test - your next stop is to choose a garage. There are a zillion to choose from. I chose Team Systems - it's also apparently called Metro Taxi, then again, their website calls it Team Taxi - I dunno, I chose it because it was a grimy looking sea of Crown Victoria cars and that the garage looked like it had been there since New York was called New Amsterdam. Plus, they had a website, which more than any others, sort of makes you feel halfway okay about calling or visiting the place.
I called the garage - and spoke to Mike - one of the managers and dispatchers there, and explained I was new and wanted to try my hand at hacking. Mike was polite, and told me no problem and to stop in to see the General Manager, Joe Hennessey - and he would bring me through the process. So - that is what I did. Joe, as I later learned on my own, is a WW2 vet and a veteran taxi driver from the 60's. This is a man who can tell you where the cracks are on a sidewalk in this city. He was very polite to me - and, if I may opine - was everything I imagined a NYC Taxi Garage Manager would be. Kind of hard and gritty, but with a soft spot for his drivers and the industry in general. His office looked like it hadn't seen a vacuum or dust rag since the day he first sat down; right out of any taxi sort of movie/show. He was great to deal with - we chatted as he entered my info from the forms I filled, checked my DMV license, and shared some stories with me. Plus, since my regular day job is much like one of his daughters, we both chatted a bit about that, as well as a personal story of a former police officer he was great friends with, who used to drive taxi at the garage that was killed in the line of duty. He gave me a quick tour, and told me what to do when I come in to start my first shift whenever I wanted. I like guys like Joe, and I have a lot of respect for them.
So, that was on a Friday, and the next day, I thought I would try my hand at a Saturday night shift. All this work and running around was finally at it's end - now it was up to me. Either I do it, or I don't. There are two shifts in NYC. 5AM to 5PM, and 5PM to 5AM. I went early at around 2:30 in the afternoon and spoke with Mike the dispatcher. Basically, you just hand Mike your hack license, he enters it, and while you wait in a driver's room, he will call you when a cab is available. Before hand, he asked another driver to give 'the new fella' a lesson on how to run the meter. I had not a clue how to run it, or the TLC computer's system, but the driver gave me a 5 minute crash course. How to sign in, how to sign off if I go 'off duty' for a break, etc etc. I was still sort of clueless - it's easy if you've done it for a long time, but for a new guy, well, it's a lot to digest - and like anything, was mostly forgotten.
About 10 minutes later, Mike called my name and handed me a key to a car, and I paid the lease rate of $134 for a Saturday night (as opposed to $109 for Sunday day shift. I gave him $135 with a buck tip, which I now regret, I think my first night out I should have given him more, but I just didn't know any better. Sorry Mike! So - with a trip card in hand, a key to car # 363, I strolled around the parking lot looking for the car, which was Medallion 4M15 - a 2011 Crown Victoria. I entered it's cavernous front seat, and with a moment of unease and some pride, placed my hack license in the bracket for passengers to see. That moment was the culmination of this entire process. I was an official NYC Taxi Driver. Probably hard to understand for someone not into it. Anyhow, the car was perfect for me. It had 167,000 miles on it and looked like a battle ship roped in port after the Pearl Harbor invasion. The seat was squished nearly to the floor and the back rest had some kind of board behind it for support, which would later kill my back. Gas gauge was busted, engine light was on - but yee haw, that baby had some bite to it. I was completely nervous, but I signed into the system, entering my hack license #, and rolled out of the garage to head over the Queensboro Bridge to Manhattan. But first, I needed to get my backpack out of my car, and take a pic of my first steed:
So...where does one go when they are behind the wheel of a yellow taxi? Manhattan. All yellow cabs point there noses westward to Manhattan. That's where the money is. The #1 reason a person takes a taxi is because they can afford to. Cabs are expensive. Mid-town and lower Manhattan is one of the few places that ONLY a yellow taxi can legally pick up hails (Same with airports). Black cars can't. Green Boro Taxi's can't, Uber can't either. That's why in Manhattan all you see is yellow taxi's and that no one wants to drive someone into deep Brooklyn...because the ride back you will likely be empty. Personally, I don't understand it, I'll go anywhere (plus, you're required to). In a yellow taxi, the money is going up and down the Manhattan grid. A taxi driver will likely roll up 6th Avenue a dozen times a day at least. Tourists, financiers, wealthy Manhattanites - they are all there.
So, as I head over the Queensboro Bridge, a wave of excitement and real fear washes over me as Manhattan looms nearer and nearer. "Oh My God". "Holy Shit". "Oh Holy Shit". "OMG Holy Shitttttt"....were my exact thoughts as the buildings became bigger, and bigger, and bigger. I come off the bridge with a plan to head to Columbus Circle, when I see an elderly woman waving at me - so I'm like ' whoa '.....I have to stop for this woman. Ohhhhh Sheeeeeetttttttttt. I pull over, and she and another older woman climb in. They give me the address, which was right around the area and was easy enough. Oh God of Taxi's thank you! I pressed the 'Hired' button on the meter. My first fare. The women were very nice and chatted with me, and she asked out of nowhere - "Where are you from, because you're definitely not from New York". So I told them, to which she asked how long I had been driving a taxi. I looked at my watch and answered her with a smile "About 8 minutes". After explaining that I meant that literally, they were astounded apparently, and extremely nice to me, and wished me the best of luck. The fact I lived in Vermont but chose to do this was something they thought was fascinating. So my first fare. Whew! I was on Lexington Ave at 93rd Street when I dropped them off, and right across 93rd was two women with a gaggle of kids with balloons waving me over, so I picked them up.
After dropping them off on York Avenue, I had fare after fare after fare. For the first three, I was screwing up the meter, because I wasn't ending it properly. I FINALLY figured it out on my own, after three fares (two that were upset because they couldn't pay via credit card). Basically, on the Centrodyne Silent 620 meter, you hit 'Hired"....then when done, hit "Time Off", then......THEN.....hit "Hired" one more time, which prompts the passenger on their on board screen to choose Cash or Credit. The computer system would then tell you what the passenger is doing....choosing a payment option, swiping the card...etc. So, it was NON STOP passengers until about 7:00 pm, and I pulled over to take a break on 55th Street and 9th Avenue.
As you can see in the above pic, my roof light illuminating the medallion number was on. I hadn't yet figured out how to turn the thing off when traveling empty. What this means is, is the car is available, and if someone wants a ride, I have to give it to them. Which, of course, happened. A young African American man approached me and politely asked if I was available, to which I naturally told him I was. What I learned later in the shift, was to turn the roof light off (it turns off automatically when the meter is in the 'Hired' position), was on the computer system, you need to follow prompts to 'Logoff' - and look for the reason why, such as personal, relief time, or to travel home (garage). If the roof light is off, you can refuse passengers. If it's on, you're on the hook.
So, I have always been fairly confident running/driving the streets of Manhattan. But it is a totally different experience when driving a taxi. First off, when cruising for fares, you need to be alert and looking for people hailing you. Secondly, it needs to be understood that people who are hailing you, know where they want to go, and for the most part - already have mapped it out in their minds. When they get in, they automatically assume you're going to be a human mapquest and just know exactly what they are thinking in less than a second. Of course, for newbies like me, we don't - and they have little appreciation for the difficulties this presents. Like any town - no one, and I mean NO ONE is going to be a geography pro without a lot of practice. I could take a 40 year taxi veteran and plop him/her in my hometown in Vermont, and it will take them weeks if not months to really know the landscape. I had one woman get fairly upset with me with an address. I was near Washington Square Park, and this long gray haired hippy woman climbs in and says she wants to go to 7th Avenue and 14th Street. Piece of cake right? Well, as I started, she immediately says in a rude and condescending tone - 'What are you doing?! I want to go up Greene Street". Well, um....what and where is Greene Street? Come on man, there are 6000 miles of roads in NYC. Anyhow, she has me turning here, there, and I am completely discombobulated. I don't even know where north is anymore, and feeling a little stressed out, because she is giving me a major attitude. Finally, getting to 6th Avenue, I head north. As I approach 14th Street, I see it is jammed up with traffic. So, like the new idiot I am, I turned left onto 13th Street....realizing immediately once I turned (and with her announcement at the same time), that I won't be able to turn north onto 7th Avenue since it runs south. Grrrrrrrr, I'm such an amateur! Anyhow, I immediately stopped the meter and apologized. She was pretty irritated, but she did say she understood that my intentions were good.
Once she got out, I stopped for three huge African American guys, who climbed in speaking French. They were buzzing on booze - but also spoke broken English and were being playfully fun. They said they were visiting New York and were having fun at some of the gay bars and wanted to know where the good ones were, to which I told them I hadn't any idea. They gave me an address to go to in the Village and along the way were swearing like sailors to which one kept playfully apologizing to me for - sticking his head through the open partition window. Once I got to their address, they asked me to go along with them, to which I declined. I am pretty sure they weren't serious.
As night fell, no matter where I would cruise for fares, I seemed to end up in those pockets of streets that are not on the grid - the Lower East Side, Bleeker Street...places like that - where the night life is. Nothing but intoxicated people climbed in and out. Booze breath emanated throughout the cab's interior; it's a scent I don't particularly enjoy. I actually don't have a lot of tolerance for drunks, but eh - I understand this was all part of the 'cabbie' experience. Some were pleasant, some were quiet, and only a couple were indifferent. Finally at 11:00 pm, I saw a space in front of 255 East Houston Street near a hydrant to take a break.
After taking a break for about an hour, watching the zombies urinate in doorways, hooting and hollering at everyone - I decided to brave the streets again. At that point, I had made approximately 18 fares or so, and went way beyond the breaking even point of my lease; I was in the black. I was still feeling less than confident about the lower streets, but eh....google maps is a huge help. Of course, the TLC does not allow the use of hand held electronics when driving, but you can while stopped, to at least give you an IDEA where you're going. For instant, at one point I was way uptown at the upper crust of Harlem at 148th Street and Broadway. A group of young people got in and wanted to go to Ludlow Street. Yeah, like any everyday average New Yorker knows right where THAT is. Got to check google. Honestly don't know how drivers did this job before these electronic maps. Wow. But of course 'New Yorkers" - and yes, that includes the boys and girls from everywhere but NYC, are pros and have little to no patience for error. I had this one older guy with a foreign accent go on a rant about drivers. I picked him up on South End Blvd., very well dressed and reeked of cologne. He wanted to go to 14th Street somewhere and says to me out of nowhere when we were almost there, that he appreciated having 'an American driver'. He said he liked my smooth accelerations, and was critical of 'non-Americans' driving performance and their lack of knowledge. He was very critical of drivers not knowing the geography well enough - comparing NYC cabbies with London cabbies. I did admit to him that despite my being American and familiar with NYC, that I was pretty challenged with lower streets. What I didn't tell him, was hey....if I make $100 profit after steering this yellow car around NYC taking crap from drunks for 12 HOURS, I will be lucky - so more training...?...ha, yeah right. Enjoy your prime rib dinner; I ate a bag of Bugles and a Dr. Pepper.
At 2:30 I did my last fare. An extremely intoxicated Mexican man that I picked up somewhere near Prince Street. I could barely understand his slurred spanish, and he wanted to go to 2nd Avenue and 103rd Street, which is East or Spanish Harlem - 'El Barrio'. Finally, an address I can deal with. So it was a nice cruise up Third Avenue, a turn onto 104th, and then down 2nd to 103. Once there, the passenger was completely knocked out. Yelling and clapping did nothing. He was slumped in the back seat, so I had to get out to shake him gently to wake up. He owed me $18.50, but after fiddle farting around with him, I ended up getting $18 out of him; I just wanted him out of my life at that point, because I had to get this car back to the garage. After saying adios to him, I kept that roof light off, and steered my amazing yellow horse south on 2nd Avenue for about 2 miles to the Queensboro Bridge, and went to fill the car up. After filling up, I pulled into the garage lot to park, and started the logoff routine. When you logoff the system, you will choose 'End of Shift', which then prints your fares, and credit card totals with tips. Don't forget your hack license that is behind your head that you posted at the start of your shift! Bring that receipt (and remember, credit card fares over $25 have to have their own separate receipts that are SIGNED!) to the cashier, who then pays you in cash. And that is it. Your shift is done. Congratulations, you're a NYC cab driver. Whether one shift or a thousand - a NYC Taxi Driver - better be proud of it.
And for your viewing pleasure, I made a video driving across the Queensboro Bridge - to the tune of the TV Show "Taxi" theme.
And that's....a wrap.
I've written this to streamline how to obtain a NYC Hack License. Otherwise, information on how to get your NYC Hack License isn't perfectly clear; there is a little written here, a little there, a little somewhere else - all an unnecessary hassle that leaves one befuddled. It's going to seem long, but I'm tellin ya....I've listed the ABC's, from A to C right here.
In order to drive a yellow medallion taxi cab in New York City, one must become ‘licensed’ to do so. This is called a hack license. The process for this is not as easy as one may think, but it is also not difficult. Many people are quick to judge the profession, when it is a very normal experience to hop in a taxi in New York, and find a driver who may not speak English very well, or be geographically challenged in terms of where it is you may want to go. In any event, as of this year, in the history of NYC ‘licensing’ – I became the first Vermont resident (that is I live in Vermont and have an Operator’s License in Vermont) to obtain my NY license to operate a yellow cab in New York City. The laws recently changed to allow persons from any state to apply for and receive a license from the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission. It used to be only persons licensed from NY, NJ, PA and CT could obtain that privilege. Here is the process for anyone ever interested in obtaining their NYC Hack License – and I am going to be as crystal clear as I can for those who may otherwise become confused by the bureaucratic tomfoolery that often inflicts persons when reading through rules and regulations. It isn’t hard to do….but it isn’t EASY either. If you follow this list, and the checklist provided online from the NYC TLC, you'll be fine.
There are a number of things you need to do in order to simply Apply, and then a host of things that need to be done, AFTER you apply. Ready?
1.) Fill out the New Driver Application, found on the NYC TLC website.
Don’t do the online version….do the live and in person route. It’s just going to make life easier. It’s two pages….name, your state and license number blah blah. EASY. Remember, you want to check off ‘medallion driver’ for the type of license. A FHV (For Hire Vehicle) is for black livery cars and other stuff we don’t care about. Your blood runs yellow.
Also - while there is no way to check that you actually do this, signing the application attests that you have watched
the TLC Sex Trafficking video. Be honest, and watch it. It's only 9 minutes. Find it here:
What the TLC wants to make sure of, is that no drivers get involved in assisting nefarious individuals in knowingly transporting victims of sexual exploitation, for extra money. Common Sense.
2.) Complete the 6 hour defensive driving class – which is online, and the TLC site has a list of places in which to do it, just pick one – it doesn’t matter which. I did mine through the NewYorkDefensiveDriving.com school – it was 30 bucks. It was also mind numbingly boring. It is timed, so you can’t fast forward. You are quizzed (and timed) after each lesson. HINT: Copy and paste the whole lesson into a word document so you can have it for open book purposes, because without it, the 4 questions after each quiz would be nearly impossible to answer correctly. You only have two tries to get the right answers. When done, you’ll get an ORIGINAL certificate mailed to you. YOU MUST HAVE THE ORIGINAL THAT IS MAILED TO YOU, to give the TLC with your application (and make a photocopy too to give them as well). It cannot be more than 6 months old when you go to the TLC.
Here is a link to TLC approved courses:
3.) Part of the application process is a medical form. Print it out – and make an appointment with a PHYSICIAN. Not a Physician’s Assistant. A regular Doctor – this is a MUST. Give him/her the form – let them give you a physical, and sign and stamp the form that you’re healthy enough to drive a taxi. Make a photocopy for the TLC as well. They will need that ORIGINAL form that is signed and stamped. It is good for 30 days.
The form is included in your application.
4.) Go to your local DMV office and obtain (with their small fee), a CERTIFIED Driver’s Abstract. This shows your driving record and that no money is outstanding anywhere for tickets etc. It is good for 30 days. They will stamp it and certify it. The ORIGINAL and a photocopy must be given to the TLC. Also – the TLC will not accept a Class “D” NY license….gotta be a class “E”, which means you can transport less than 14 people. Well, Vermont doesn’t go higher than a class “D” – there is no Class E. As long as your state’s license is equivalent to a NY Class E – you’ll be fine. If you want to be super prepared, like me, print a copy of your state license classes – or, get a letter from DMV (which might not be that easy). I think a printout of your state’s license classes will suffice. I had a letter….but they didn’t even look at it and gave it back to me. It is good for only 30 days prior to your application submission.
5.) Whatever, or however your name is listed on your Social Security Card, then your operator’s license must be IDENTICAL. My name on my Social Security Card says Michael James Ruse. But my license said Michael J. Ruse. So….I went to DMV, paid the small fee to correct/add my middle name. Just make sure the name on your license is the same as what is on your Social Security Card. When TLC says ‘No Exceptions’ – they mean it, so just do it. It’s easy.
When you have all of the above, go to the NYC’s Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC), located at 32-02 Queens Boulevard in Queens. It’s not to far from the Queensboro Bridge. New applicants are accepted from 8:00 AM to 2:45 PM. So….go early to avoid long lines, because trust me, they get really long.
Here is the entrance - through those open double doors:
Inside, you will go through metal detectors, much like an airport. Wait in line….put your watch/wallet/pocket stuff in a plastic bin, and walk through.
Follow the directions to the elevators and go to the 2nd Floor. Follow the lines and signs, of which are clearly marked. Security officers there will direct you if you’re confused. They were nice enough. Wait in line, with hundreds of others, and feel confident that you have read this blog and are prepared, as you watch 80% of everyone else in line get turned away after arguing with the customer service reps because they don't have everything in order. Do not argue with them if you're turned away. If you do everything listed here, you will be fine. Your first line to stand in will be a person who is making sure you have everything to save time. If you do, you’ll get a ticket number and then be directed to wait for it to be called – there is plenty of seating. You will notice the applicants make up a whole variety of cultures and ethnic diversity. European ethnicity is by and large the minority.
When your number is called, go to the booth so told, and give your paperwork to the customer service representative. The one I had was very nice and helpful. In fact, she and two other workers had some fun with me noting I was the only white person in the building (just having some fun with me - I took no offense, naturally). Once she makes copies of everything and enters data into her computer, she will tell you the cost ($159 total) - $84 for the license, and $75 for Dept. of Justice Fingerprinting. Pay via postal money order or credit/bank card. Once that is done, the service representative will hand you a small TLC receipt with your name and fees paid, with your future TLC license number on it. This will be your HACK LICENSE NUMBER. Do not lose it. Ever. And....remember it, you will need to know it. Then, you sit back down and wait for your number to be called again, where you will be photographed and fingerprinted (electronically). It is only about a 5 minute wait. Once your pic is taken and prints submitted, you are done at the TLC. My total time there, on a Friday, was approximately 40 minutes – from the time I walked through the door, to when I left. That’s pretty good. I was very prepared. They were all great.
Once you are done at the TLC, you are going to walk a block or two down the street to a place called LabCorp, where you will need to pee for drug testing. So, drink lots of water/coffee. It is located in a very nice building, with a coffee and donut shop right at the entrance, so have a cup of joe and relax for a few, and have fun watching all the other applicants walk in and get their bearings, just as you had just done when you walked through the doors. Just down the hall from the coffee shop is LabCorp. Go in to the front window….no need for an appointment if you’re a ‘new applicant’. The whole place is pretty much new applicants. Hand the woman your paperwork (your hack license receipt) and credit card (It’s $26). She will tell you to have a seat and she will then call you when she has entered your paperwork into the system. Once called, she will give you the paperwork back, and direct you to stand in line for the ‘cup’. Once you’re called to pee, you will take your cup into one of three bathrooms, then return it to the lab tech and wait with her. She will test it for temperature (in case you decide to use someone else’s urine to thwart your drug ways), and then seal it, with you initialing as a witness. Then….you’re done for the day. LabCorp will send the results to TLC – you don’t have to worry about it (unless you do drugs). If you do drugs and use someone else's urine - they are going to find out, which I am happy about.
Taxi School. There is a three day school, or an 8 day school. If you have absolutely no experience with NYC, then I suppose the 8 day school would be great. I did the three day school. There are four taxi schools in which to choose from; I have no idea if one is better than the other. If you are of average intelligence and have a decent working knowledge of the five boro's of NYC....that is, you can get around without freaking out, I think the 3 day school is sufficient. Remember, your knowledge of streets is going to come with practice and experience, not from the school. It is going to be up to you to know where up is up and down is down.
Here is a list of approved taxi schools for you to choose from:
H.A.N.A.C./NYC Taxi Academy 33-24 Northern Boulevard - 4th Floor Long Island City, NY 11101 Contact Person: Hasain Shakil Tel: (718) 433-0493 /(718) 709-1990 E-Mail: email@example.com Website: www.hanactaxi.com/
LaGuardia Community College NYC Taxi and FHV Driver Institute 31-10 Thomson Avenue – M-Building, Room M-143 Long Island City, NY 11101 Contact Person: Andrew Vollo Tel: (718) 482-5335 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.lagcc.cuny.edu/taxi
MASTER CABBIE TAXI ACADEMY 24-29 Jackson Avenue Long Island City, NY 11101 Contact Person: Terry Gelber Tel: (718) 472-1699 / (800) 955-8294 Website: www.mastercabbie.com
Kingsborough Community College Taxi Institute 2001 Oriental Boulevard Brooklyn, NY 11235 - Room T4122 Contact Person: Efim Vitomsky Tel: (718) 368-5189 / (718) 368-5052 Email: email@example.com
Just pick one. Call them up or apply online. It's that easy.
I chose Master Cabbie school. You MUST have done all these steps above before signing up online (you have 90 days to get this school done once you submit your application, so don't put it off). You will need that TLC receipt with your future hack license number. Once you pay for the school (mastercabbie was $135), you do the school and prepare yourself for the test. The test is ANOTHER fee ($25.00), and then, as of 2015, there is a $75 fee for additional wheelchair training, that the school will administer. And, of course, you will need to buy the NYC geography cross street map for an additional $22 (you'll want this for your studies, school, and to have in your cab). Also, you must take your TLC test at the school in which you select. Once you pass your test, the TLC will mail you your laminated hack license and then - you will officially be - a licensed NYC Hack.
But first....lets talk about 'taxi school':
Don't bother reading online reviews. Master Cabbie School has terrible 'reviews', but having been there, I can tell the ones leaving crappy reviews are just people who either failed the test, or don't have things in order. I heard many many many arguments between staff and applicants when I was there. What it all came down to, is people didn't have their stuff in order, and were given the boot, and they're mad. $135 for 24 hours is roughly 5 bucks an hour of training. Not that bad. Also, - and this is just an observation, but some of the applicants and Uber Drivers there to take a class were SO incredibly stupid, that the staff just are exhausted by mid day explaining the most basic of things to people who don't want to listen.
This is what the three day taxi school is:
Day one: Geography. You need your map. Absolute must. Without it, you're screwed. Not only that, it is a TLC REQUIREMENT to have in your possession while driving a cab. So buy it. You will learn how to read a map if you don't know how, and where relevant landmarks and streets are (in Manhattan anyways). It is illegal in NYC for a taxi driver to use your phone's GPS (even though many cabbies use them), so you really should learn these basics. Things like which streets go east (even numbers), and streets that go west (odd numbers). Certain Avenues go north, certain one's go south, and some are both ways. Exceptions exist however, all over the place.
Day Two: TLC Rules and Regulations. Your final test will be comprised mostly of these. It's really common sense, but you got to know them. Things like not refusing a fare to any place in the five boro's, Westchester or Nassau County or Newark Airport. What I basically learned is, the TLC's business model is that the customer is #1, while you the driver, are about #1,000,000.
Day Three: Sensitivity Training and Customer Relations. Want a good tip? Be courteous at all times. It's also required. Again....common sense being the theme of the day.
On another day to be scheduled, you will have to take a course on transporting individuals in a wheelchair. How to be sensitive to passengers with special needs, and how to properly secure a wheelchair in a wheelchair accessible taxi cab, which the city is hoping will be all cabs in the near future.
FINALLY, YOUR TEST:
The Test. It is unnecessarily tedious, but mostly because many of the takers, having come from other countries, do not understand our American standardized test sheets (or English very well). The TLC still use those fill in the bubble with pencil thingies that I haven't used since the 80's, called a Scantron. Learn how to use these. Many people failed the test because they couldn't figure out that when answering a multiple choice question on the test booklet, that you must color in the answer on the answer sheet, even though it was explained to some people a zillion times. Just filling out names and dates of birth before the test took literally an HOUR. Here is an example of what a Scantron test sheet looks like for anyone who doesn't know:
I realize this is all long, but seriously, everything I've written in here is what you either need, or need to do.
Things to know about the test. First, bring your OWN #2 pencils. If you don't, they'll kick you out. No hats, jackets, or phones allowed. No maps or scraps of paper. If you talk while your sitting, even if someone next to you asks you a question, the TLC will take your test, and you will be asked to leave. And I can't stress this enough, MAKE SURE YOUR PHONE IS EITHER OFF OR STOWED AWAY SOMEPLACE ELSE. That is a fast track ticket to FAIL. Also, arrive EARLY. If you're late by even a second - the TLC will not allow you in.
Basically, bring a pencil, show up early, sit down, and shut up. They will provide you with their own maps for the purpose of the test so don't worry. Any geography questions, you will be allowed to look at a map.
This is what the test is:
English Proficiency: 40 Questions and must get 21 points out of 40 to pass. If you fail English, you fail the entire test. It's not difficult, even if you don't speak English well. A tape will be played with a person saying 20 different addresses. You simply pick what they said out of a multiple choice answer. For example: The tape will say 880 Fifth Avenue. The answers to choose from will be something that sounds similar, so A.) 818 Fifth Avenue B.) 880 Fiftieth Avenue C.) 80 Fifth Avenue D.) 880 Fifth Avenue. After those questions, you will listen to a story. There will be five questions about the story you heard. Finally, there are five questions from a story you will read. 45 minutes is allotted for the entire English proficiency.
Geography: 50 Questions as well as 15 map questions. A few were tricky, but manageable. If you can read your map, you'll do fine. I would suggest learning and studying landmarks in Manhattan.
Rules and Regulations: There are 35 of them . Most are common sense. Can you refuse someone a ride from Manhattan to Brooklyn at 3 AM? No. Things like that. But...you need to study because there are questions about suspensions and things that will require you to study the rules (your school will provide you with this booklet).
Then, by the Grace of God, after all this running around, using vacation days, commuting to Queens, studying, worrying.....you will have become a genuine, NYC Yellow Taxi Driver. Where do you find a cab to drive? I'll leave that up to you - there are several garages to choose from. You pay the garage to use (lease) their car and medallion - and presto magico, you're your own boss. Work as little or as hard as you want. The cab owner doesn't care if you make nothing or a fortune. You paid for the use of the car, that is all that matters to him/her.
Okay. So you've made it this far, but here is ONE final thing you'll need to know. After you've passed your test and gone home, don't expect that license to just magically appear overnight in your mailbox. It can take 1 to 90 days. For me, it took five weeks. Even though you've passed everything you're supposed to do, the TLC then takes all that stuff you've done, and go through it all for approval.
How will you know it is approved?
For me, I would check their link everyday for 'active licensees'. It is updated everyday, and there is no rhyme or reason in terms of your hack license number. On the day I wrote my name in the search bar, and it appeared....was the day they mailed it out. That is how you know. It's frustrating having to wait, especially if you really need the job to work, but hang in there, it will get done. You can always call too....I did once, and the woman was extremely pleasant and helpful. Here is the link to check for active licensees:
But once you get it, you are good to go. So the pay isn't always going to be great, and people can be challenging - like any profession. But have pride in being a part of something very iconic, and for the love of all things, treat your customers with respect, have a little smile - and just do your best. Or, get tickets. Up to you.
I know it was perhaps unnecessarily tedious and long, but how I've written this, is how I would have liked to know. Hope it helps!
For as many years as I can remember, there has been an old Mercury Colony Park station wagon mulling around town - of which I have always kept my eye on. Not only because it has the same 80's lines of a Family Truckster, but also - and most especially - because it had the classy wood applique wrapped around it's exquisite lines. The owner is a very nice man and has used it as his main mode of transportation.
As the years have rolled on, Vermont salted roads in the winter has taken quite a toll on the car - as happens to all cars around here. It happens to get repair work at the same place my taxi does - and about two months ago when it was parked there, I inquired to my mechanic, Dr. Barry, as to what was going on with it. Dr. Barry told me the owner was done with it, and it was going to the junkyard by week's end. After a moment of a mild but conscious cardiac arrest - my voice started to work again and squeaked out...."uhhh NO it isn't". Dr. Barry told me the car ran perfect - would go anywhere, but the rust in the rear quarters prevented it from passing inspection. He said he was doing the owner a favor by simply parking it and then hauling it to the station that takes old cars to that Wally World in the sky. He told me if I wanted it, I could have it - at a scrap price. Well, at least that's what I thought I heard - truth be told the moment when I heard 'If you wa...." - I blurted out SOLD before he could really finish. So this will sound weird to those who are void of any emotion with an automobile, and I get it - it's fine, but the thought of the car going to a crusher absolutely drove me nuts. I went home knowing I had a few days as to how to pull this off. Challenge 1.) Where do I put it. Challenge 2.) How do I convince the lady of the house this is a wise decision. Anyhow - my challenges overcome - and now that I have it, I sort of look at it sometimes and think 'huh...you would totally not be around right now if I hadn't pulled into Dr. Barry's that day'. Quite honestly, the days of finding big rear wheel drive body on frame cars at junk price have become nearly extinct. In the 80's you could buy muscle cars, wagons etc. from the 60's and 70's for absolutely nothing it seemed. Not so today. This wagon is likely one of the last opportunities for me to do that. Thank you God of Autos!
In any event, this charming 1987 Mercury Grand Marquis LS Colony Park station wagon, was thus immediately saved from the crusher or...worse...demolition derby. Why is a demolition derby worse? Well....a crushing is like when you take your pet to a vet to get euthanized. It's *fairly* quick, and the respectable thing to do. But a demo derby? It's like taking your pet first to the Colosseum and letting it get mauled and beaten first. I've never enjoyed demolition derby's - it's just too much for me. About as exciting as watching in between plays at a high school football game in a town where you know no one. Don't judge me on it, it's just how I'm built. ANYHOW....this lovely wagon was made in the same factory as 8D69 - St. Thomas Assembly Plant in Talbotville, Quebec, Canada. I have an entire blog written somewhere in this nutty site of mine about my visit there once for work - it was AMAZING.
So - I took the wagon home - and indeed, it runs quite well. The interior is actually perfect and rides like a Lazy Boy recliner. Dual exhaust, tow package, power seats all around, cigarette lighters/ashtrays in all the doors in case the kids want to smoke and third seat in the back. But that rust....ugh...the rust. Oh well - I'll do something for it. The wagon and 8D69 have hit if off, mumbling to each other in car speak of their infancy and birth in Talbotville. Here are some pics and video - the first pic above is how I found it - tucked in between other similarly fated vehicles. The wagon seemed to glimmer at me - hoping I might notice it so save it from it's death sentence. It didn't have to wink very hard, I noticed it the moment I pulled into the lot, as usual. So funny, I always knew I would end up with this car:
Why waste batter power when you can use FIRE!
After I got it home, I later stopped at the old owner's home and informed him I took his wagon home, to which he was very pleased - and hopeful I may be able to fix it's rust. He told me he owned it for nearly 20 years, after purchasing it from the son of a woman who had passed on. The woman lived in Florida and at some point the family drove her car north. I get a lot of ribbing for it from my friends, but in general, car enthusiasts understand it's charm - or inevitably relate it's close existence to the Wagon Queen Family Truckster. I personally love it - and it will have a good home with me. And even if I couldn't have it, I would/will do everything in humanly possible to make sure it falls into the hands of someone who will appreciate it's survivorship and the wholesome memories it invokes in people who grew up in or around the great American Station Wagon. (Even though it was made in Canada). My intention is to make a video called 'Will It Make It?" - and drive this monster to Florida and back - something Orianna and I did years ago in another high mileage woody wagon of mine. Here is a video of that - if so inclined. What's that? You're not? Okay.
Do your part - save a wagon, TODAY! (And don't forget those taxi's!)
HOW I KICKED MY ADDICTION TO EATING AND DRINKING JUNK
For a long long long time, instead of the term, Eat Shit and Die, it was more like Eat Shit and Live, just not as long as you could. On the outside I didn't look very overweight at first glance, but on the inside, visceral fat was going to turn me into that bubble gum chewing chick in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I was loaded with it. I'm no Joe Gym Superstar, but I hope the simple steps I have learned about, might help a few others to start making healthier choices in their lives. No fads, no gimmicks, no money required. Just a brain, and a breaking point met.
Funny how losing weight for people, has become a friendly whimsical “journey” in today’s parlance. In many ways, I like the term, it makes the process, less of a process, and more of an individual story.
Now, I’m going to warn you right now, I’m going to use words in this blog that make people squirm, and make them feel ashamed, or – completely misinterpret what I say and/or take the terms personal. Words like “fat” and “obese” and “disgusting”. Grab a Kleenex if you must. But before you think the word is akin to ‘retarded’, I must make note, that the word fat, is completely acceptable. That yellow shit layered under our skin that bounces around, or, in my case, had glued itself to my heart and liver, is called…..FAT. And, if you’ve seen pictures of it, it is DISGUSTING. When you have a lot of it, the term used to describe it is OBESE. It isn’t called skinny, fat itself (the yellow stuff) isn’t beautiful, and having a lot of it doesn’t make you healthy. I refuse to become politically correct over perfectly good terms and descriptions to make people that are comfy with unhealthy choices, feel more comfy. When I went to funeral school years ago, the first time I had to do an embalming was on a morbidly obese man – and it was the first time I saw what fat really was, and I’ve never forgotten it. So, having said that, for the thick headed, I'll say it in even more simple English: If you're overweight, and have curves, I'm not judging you. I have family, friends and MYSELF that has had and has curves - I think you're all beautiful, physically and emotionally. This is just MY personal experience with fat, so please don't get ass hurt if you choose to read it. People are reading this right? Right? Hello? Moving on…..
It's so beautiful, its what make those curves so curvy that curvy people share memes about on facebook. It isn't cute, it isn't beautiful, it is a storage tank of toxic waste and pending illness. (I'm talking the fat itself, not PEOPLE) <---disclaimer for whiners.
I’ve never been really “fat”. Blessed with a high metabolism, when I was young, I was the opposite of fat; I was skinny. And, as a skinny person, much like an overweight person, I didn’t like to be labeled or made fun of based on my structure. Being called a skinny little shit, sucks just as much as being called a fat ass (can you tell I was bullied a little?). When I was young, I actually wanted to gain weight….not body builder weight, but actually be….fat…sort of…- I know that doesn’t make sense, but it's the truth. In any event, between my DNA and the fact I was a very physically active kid on my bike, made that desire an impossibility. Weight gain in my family has historically started in our 40’s, and goes two places…..our throats and our midsection. Now that I’m 44, it became uh….rather noticeable – I had these jowls in place and what appeared to be the cusp of giving birth to an 8 pound baby, yet you could wrap your hands around my wrist like it’s a bicycle handlebar. I could no longer suck in my stomach – and I could no longer feel the bottom of my rib cage. When I rode my bike, I noticed my former ability to fly up hills, was more like the Wright Brothers first attempts at trying to fly. In my 30's, I could pedal my bike up the access road of Mt. Ascutney, bottom to top - in roughly 35 minutes.....nowadays, steering a car up it felt like an inconvenience. Not good. My breathing was a bit more labored even while sitting, and I was just generally comfy with the idea that this is what happens when we start to get old. My back was always killing me, and nerves were always getting pinched when I would take a deep breath. All signs I would dismiss that a nice fresh bag of Lay’s Sour Cream and Onion could cure while watching the Food Network. If raising a child and then living a sedentary lifestyle was my life goal....well.....goal MET.
My ‘journey’, started with Orianna, whose challenges with weight has plagued her her entire life. Always trying to unsuccessfully hide it, always starting tomorrow, always ending before even starting – she, one day, put one foot forward and hasn’t looked back. I started with her. We started on a Sunday. We just stopped, cold turkey, (lean of course haha) – this path of self destruction we had been on for way way way too long.
I won’t pretend though, that my “journey”, can compare at all, to either hers, or so many others. Orianna’s weight is primarily subcutaneous fat (the kind that you can grab a handful of), whereas my weight isn’t really heavy, but is what’s called visceral fat (the kind that you can’t pinch, but is INSIDE of my body wrapping itself around organs). Pot belly fat is visceral fat, and is a silent killer. But that doesn’t mean my little road trip down weight loss lane is any easier – because this visceral fat…?....it isn’t easy to get rid of I can tell you that. It is condensed, compact and really enjoys its home. Subcutaneous fat doesn’t mind getting evicted. The more you move, the more it moves out of town. Visceral fat, is a pain the ass tenant – it ignores the eviction notices and takes a lot of effort to move.
By far, one of the biggest motivators for the both of us to lose the yellow and change what we shove in our mouths (for food), was the television show, Extreme Weight Loss, with Trainer Chris Powell. Under normal circumstances, I dislike reality TV, but damn – the visual progress of some of these individuals is truly inspiring, especially the truly committed and kind ones. There are a few who are whiny little bitches who threw away an opportunity that so many would give for, but – they are still interesting to watch. How one can understand what is expected on a TV show/weight loss regimen, then write to Chris Powell begging to be a part of it, get selected, and then make an ass of yourself is absolutely beyond me. Chris Powell is amazing. The epitome of health, both physically and emotionally. He's tough and he's sensitive. Below is Chris and client Mike Epstein, who is amazing too....the link to his website and episode is found below. Mike is one of the persons that really inspired me; as while I may not be heavy like he, his interests and nature were similar to my own.
Orianna is losing lots of weight, and I – have lost a shit ton of that nasty visceral garbage inside of my guts. While losing the weight is hard for me, the journey itself is not. I love it. I love burning this stuff away. I look forward to my runs, whether outside or in the gym. It hurts. My shins are killing me most days, with a sprinkling of ankle or knee pain just to remind me I won’t win a marathon anytime too soon. When I get up from a chair, the first 5 steps you might think I’m learning to walk again, but other than THAT….I feel great. Gone are the days of McDonalds. Gone are the healthy eating options at Chili’s with their Taco Explosion Salad at 1700 Calories! I can't believe I used to snarf this shit down like nobodies business. Gone is soda…..period. Dunkin Donuts….?.....more like Dunkin Done. I just simply refuse to have it, no matter how much I WANT it! (Although those desires have subsisted in time).
Our not so secret?
1.) Myfitnesspal is an app we use. You can do it online too. Has a bar code scanner on the app to make recording easier in most cases. We record our calories for each meal and snack. Orianna does not eat more than 1200 calories a day. My goal is not to exceed 1800, and I usually end up consuming about 1600 a day. You can add ‘friends’ if you want some motivation, or just keep it to yourself if you wish. You can share your food diary as well, or not. Just gotta be honest about it, otherwise, you’re wasting time lying to yourself. Some days, you might go over a bit – and it happens, but it’s helpful to see others knee deep in the struggle with you (if you add friends/strangers).
2.) We workout. Everyday. No if and or buts. I don’t care if one of my testicles drops, or I’m operating on no sleep……I’m going to workout. One day a week is reserved for a rest day. If you hate running, use the elliptical. If you hate that, use the cycle. Whatever you use, bust a nut for at least 30 minutes – imagining in your mind that all that so called pain, is your fat cells, by the thousands/millions/billions, are melting away….because that is exactly what is happening. You are literally, BURNING fat. Disgusting, yellow, fat. And ignore the Schwarzenegger’s in the gym, despite our sensitivities, no one is judging you. No one cares, because at least you’re there. Then, add the calories burned in your myfintesspal app, and hey hey hey.....looks like you just earned something tasty to munch on if you want.
3.) Watch Extreme Weight Loss episodes online for inspiration, they become your friend – that you are not alone. Mike Epstein, Chantell and Bob the cop from Season 3 – and others…..just amazing people. So incredibly strong and I love it/them. You’re gonna bawl….trust me, plus – they have facebook pages and personal blogs as well. Mike Epstein’s is www.pickthepounds.com. Mike is so personable and thoughtful – he has challenge coins you can win, and my guess is if you were to write him a note, he would probably feel compelled to write back.
Is it hard? Not gonna lie – yes. I’m a sugar addict. And a junk food addict. I used to eat, for lunch, just a bag of chips. My nutritional level was in the toilet. I love junk. I love fast food, but I just flat out stopped having it. I still eat chips with a sandwich, but they are portioned. It gets easier, you just have to be strong enough mentally to know, you simply cannot chow down on them. I find now that I can see and feel the differences in my body and health, that this keeps me even stronger. Most people won’t admit this, but I’m kind of a quiet judgmental little prick now in the grocery store when I see people buying nothing but shit, or maybe I'm just jealous lol.
For me, on a personal level, there really is no excuse. We always try to justify or validate reasons why we need to eat an entire bag of Doritos in one sitting, or to supersize our fries, or how we have no time, but – in the end they are all lies. You don’t need extra time in a day to make healthier choices. Counting calories and other nutritional needs is not time consuming at all. For some I can understand that working out is a bit harder, especially if you have a non supportive spouse, or no significant other at all with kids to take care of. But, if there is a will, there is a way – it can be done, the commitment can only come from ourselves. Some use injuries as excuses, but again – I’m sorry, not trying to act all Mr. Fitness here but – I have my own share of such things and work around them. And if you grew up on Boo Berry and Count Chocula for breakfast, well.....you are now officially smart enough to know, you can change these old learned behaviors.
First step: Watch the shows.
Second step: Feel that inspiration inside of you….embrace that thought telling you that you can do this, because I am 100% confident that you can.
Third step: Tell that other thought that keeps telling you reasons why you can’t to shut up. It’s an old cassette tape, and no one uses cassette tapes anymore. Have fun unraveling it, snapping it, and then throwing it away. Occasionally, this voice will speak to you during a workout, promising you reprieve and goodness if you just stop. Don't be fooled...it's just an echo of the old voice. Ignore it.
Fourth step: Watch the shows. Repeat, repeat repeat. Here just a couple links to get you started:
Here is Mike Epstein's http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m5lOZuPm-xo
Here is Chantell's http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CmwfMh8mlG4
Here is Bob the cop's http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jwE1n0TiwG4
Fifth step: Take that first step – make your own journey. Do it alone, with a partner, or sign up for Zumba classes or Spinning classes if you prefer social connections. Just take that first step, and then share your journey with others! You will see and feel the difference – I promise you.
It is I, in the backseat of one of the cleanest NYC Taxi's ever, doing chin ups. Plus, it's one of the oldest. And I'm in love with it.
So there I was, on Park Avenue at the Waldor-Astoria Hotel where I had gone to meet up with my friend, Jacqui, who was visiting from England. Having a few hours to kill, we decided to head to a store in lower Manhattan, so, a taxi was the most friendly option in which to travel from where we stood. Being as I am, I went to summon one on my own, without the aid of the doormen and their silly whistles, and got just what I wanted: a beautifully dressed Crown Victoria just dropping some passengers off. Disregarding the doormen's slippery system of cab procurement, I led the way to the waiting taxi and slid into it's cavernous backseat.
Traffic was ridiculous through Grand Central Station, and we had moved about a tenth of a mile and the meter was already on $18....*OOF*. Anyways, I casually talked with the driver, and as I often do, segue'd into my usual interest in his car and asked what the mileage and year of the car was. I thought for sure he would say 2011, but instead, learned it was a 2008, which means it's not too far away from being exactly the kind of car I love. Anyhow, what a great guy - I have a lot or respect for NYC Taxi driver's, it's not an easy job. It is hard work, lots of sitting, lots of stress, and lots of dealing with pretentious and verbally assaultive a holes. But what was most amazing about this driver, as opposed to some of the deaf mutes I've been driven around by, is this driver, Jaime Pulido-Pulido, informed me he had been a driver for 30 years. 30 years! Most places that have employees for 30 years, are given flags and pins to wear....some kind of commendation or recognition. Not so when you're a self employed here one second, gone the next taxi driver. I watched him drive, softly making the car dance down Broadway and I imagined in my mind, that underneath his silent positioning through traffic, that there was nary a street he hadn't been on. I wonder what he has seen in 30 years of driving a NYC Taxi. Really amazing. I say kudos to him - a human MapQuest for NYC. Throw him an address, and that car will point to right where it needs to go, no googling or apps necessary. He wouldn't know this about me; however, my close friends know it to be how I think. When I initially got in his taxi, I told him we needed to go to Spring Street, and asked him if he knew where it was. DUH! What an idiot I am.....of COURSE he knows where it is. I'm so embarrased. Anyhow, here is Mr. Pulido piloting his office, relaxed and at home doing what he does best. Note how clean his plexiglass divider is. In my old taxi, I had to practically take a sander to all the phlegm and snot that was smeared on it.
Best part of the ride though was this: I asked him what he was going to do with his 2008 Crown Vic, which was teetering just over the 350,000 mile mark, just like my 2006 one. He threw his hands forward and motioned he would give it
away/sell it.....move it along. *takes deep breath*. I told him in the car, and I'll say it here now, while on my knees begging:
Dear Mr. Pulido,
Please, and I mean pretty please, with cherries on top and a bucket of whip cream, please please please allow me the
honor, of commandeering your beautiful taxi when the TLC rudely declares it unfit for duty. I do not want a police car. I do not want a low mileage cream puff. I do not want my father's Oldsmobile. I want....7F64. There is no one, and I mean no one, on this earth or beyond, that will care for your car more than I. I mean look at this website....I'm completely insane. I will love,
honor and cherish 7F64 for all the days of my life, through sickness and in health, good times and bad, till death do us part. Mr. Pulido, as the father to 7F64, I am asking you, with all due respect, will you please give your 7F64's
hand in marriage to me? It will bask in the quiet solitude of the green mountains of Vermont. It will be garaged, maintained, washed, waxed, driven and stared at for hours at a time. I will steer your steed of nearly 6 years to places it would never see if not for a nutty son in law like me. Palm trees of Miami, streams of Yellowstone National Park, the Coast of Maine, the deserts of
You can see her anytime you wish. You can take her out anytime you wish. Tap her on the fender. 10 years from
now, when your present 7F64 is a fading memory as you steer the ugly Taxi of Tomorrow Nissan around, instead of feeling nostalgic, you can take the best 7F64 you ever had, out for a spin.
There is no one who will take better care of your car. One thing is for certain, it will never see the confines of a crusher.
When we got to Spring St. and Broadway, he *seemed* to like my pleading negotiation, and handed me a pen and his notebook in which to write my name, number - and this website's address down. But, by the time I closed the door, he hadn't gone 30 feet and a new passenger slid in my buddy 7F64's interior; perhaps I was already a forgotten passenger - #4.580,981 to Mr. Pulido. I shall pray not. Here are the pics as she slipped away....what a beauty.
Even if Mr. Jaime Pulido never was to read this, which I am 99.9% sure he likely won't (same could be said for anyone!) - I say God speed for all his years doing this job. Unlike most people who utilize cab's in this and other cities, I find the occupation itself fairly fascinating - and really, you never get a break. Eyes always darting around, hands and feet constantly having to react - it must be exhausting. I've driven all over New York in my car, after just a few hours, I'm ready to steer it off a cliff, so the fact this man has been doing it for 30 years and is still nice enough to even talk/smile with a passenger, I say - THANK YOU.
As I get older, I have noticed I am less immune to being stricken with sudden emotional outbreaks.
Years of cynicism has kept it in check. But, on this day, I could not help but notice there was no immunity.
Zach Sobiech. 17 years old. Kind hearted. Full of dreams. Brimming with ideas, talent, positivity, hope, acceptance and joy. The word unfortunate is a sick joke when used to explain that all these wonderful attributes of his, are gone. And so is his life. His body ravaged by a rare and uncurable cancer, he has left a void in those who personally knew him too deep to ever fill - and it has extended worldwide. I first read about him on SoulPancake; I’ve learned much about him. I’ve seen the interviews and I even liked his song; but death has a way of shaking your mortalitymometer. He has become more real. And I am very, very saddened by it.
And like the 5 stages of death, I’m angry. As usual, I'm angry at God. I'm angry at people who abuse themselves. But most of all, I’m angry at myself.
How dare I.
How dare I have a bad day. How dare I, be upset at the price of gas. How dare I, get annoyed over trivial day to day matters. How dare I allow myself to be inconvenienced by really anything. Shameful. Unforgivable really.
And how dare you. How dare you spend time wasting away with gossip, hate, moodiness and passion for affairs that never matter in the end. How dare you, try to change whoever you are, or how you look. How dare you, have easily attainable dreams and do nothing about chasing them. And how dare I.
How dare us all.
Last week, millions of us were salivating in wanting to win the Powerball lottery. All Zach wanted, was another day. I’m rich beyond his wildest dreams with the wealth of time and health. I have a bank full of days; often invested poorly. I open my wallet and buy time by the glassful, rarely finishing it, and pouring it down the drain. And for that, I am sorry. How dare I.
I will just let his kind eyes and wonderful song speak for itself.
A mighty woman with a Crown Vic, whose flame is the imprisoned lightning, and her name, Mother of Exiles.
From her beacon-hand, Glows world-wide welcome; her
mild eyes command, The air-bridged harbor that twin cities
When one is downtrodden amidst the concrete staging of New York City, it is invariable the only saving grace for worn feet, is the warm refuse of a yellow knight. This was the case on this day, when I felt it to be a physically responsible decision to hail a taxi on 10th Avenue and 57th Street.
Out of the invisible fog of chaos, there approached a Crown Victoria, it's right blinker serving as a beacon of light, or eye wink of sorts, as if to communicate to me "I got choo bro". Sighs of mental relief echoed in my frontal lobe as this hero of the street came to whisk me from my waried weariness. And so it was, as 5J42 rolled up next to me in a gentle roll, as if readying itself to be tied to a dock. I opened the door, and allowed my parties in tow entry into it's innermost sanctity. But alas, things seemed different. Now, I've ridden in a lot of cabs before, all blending into the next as is customary for some utilitarian experience, but in this instance, some mysteries were about to unfold. First off, I noted the driver spoke perfect English, devoid of any hint of birthright elsewhere, secondly, the driver said HELLO, and thirdly, a distinct audible sensation in the driver's voice, that hinted of motherly instincts. ALAS.....as I looked through the partition glass, to what was revealed to be one of New York City's rarest specimens; a female driver. I hate to say that, as if people keep count of such things, but one must admit, it is a noteworthy discovery. I would have named this discovery; however, I learned her parents beat me to it, and thus she was already named: Erin Samuelsen, AKA The Girly Cabbie. A part of her must get so sick of people always commenting about it.
As I gave my destination, 9th Avenue and 36th Street, we rolled up to gentle speed, and in doing so, I asked, as I always do, about the mileage of the car and my usual segue into my ownership of similar automotive grace; it's damn near a script. 100% of the time, a driver either doesn't give a shit at all, or, feigns some sort of interest. Actually, let me make that about 80%, because there has been a few who were captivated by...wait, not captivated, but rather mildly interested/amused in my tales. Which is fine I might add, I have to remember at times, that this is their WORK, it would be like someone saying to me they bought an office chair from my office and really love it and write stories about it lol. Anyhow, on this occasion, once I revealed to the driver my idiocy, she actually proclaimed, to my utter surprise, to having read my blogs, with what I am hoping was an approval rating of at least two thumbs up. I was like 'no way!', she was like 'yes way!'. I mean, not like she had pin ups and posters hanging in her room of my car, but seriously now, one must admit, that hearing that, is like opening a package of Chuckles to share with a friend and they inform you they like the green one. Yes!
Now, I can't put in words the giddiness I had in my heart over finally meeting someone who actually has at least some knowledge of my taxi's existence. At least beyond those of whose throats I shove it down. Many of my friends are sick to death of it. Anyways, Erin told me she too, has a blog, which naturally outtrumps mine since SHE IS a NYC Taxi Driver, and gave me the info: www.girlycabbie.blogspot.com . More on this in a bit.
As we were gabbing away, she was the maestro conductor of her cab, making the car dance from lane to lane with smooth grace which served as the strings section for her orchestra; the blinkers serving as a light drum tap. At times, her hands would summon the horns section when things got dramatic on the road - and executed with precision. You could feel the raw emotion of her genuine frustration each time a shithead would pull in front of her. Effortlessly, 5J42 would lead the pack and bear down on slower moving cars, the tick tock of the tires against potholes and cracks serving as the tympani. Instead of a medallion number on her roof, there should be a Treble Clef.
Seriously, what a great trip. She was very friendly, and an excellent driver. You see, Erin gets it. Yeah, in a city of 9 million people, there are going to be many occasions you're going to pick up a self absorbed dickhead. But, what so many taxi drivers fail to understand, is that a NYC Taxi ride, really is so much more to so many people who climb in them. They are not *just* transportation to people. If you decide to think that you are nothing more than a rude ride, then that is exactly how you will be treated - and so will others. I know it comes as a GREAT SHOCK to some, but most of the people riding around in cabs, are um....this funny thing called visitors and tourists. (And quite frankly, most of NYC's residents, are big shots from Kentucky and Lake Wallapalooza who just moved there anyways). Riding in a taxi for a tourist, is often the one chance where it feels safe enough to talk to someone who knows something, about some stuff....in NEW YORK. I've written about this before, with my first taxi ride in New York back when I was a kid. I still remember him and I still remember the car. I've had so many dickhead taxi drivers in my life, and it's a shame, because I'm a big tipper dammit! LOL. Alright, enough about that. My point is, Erin did everything right. She was safe, alert, friendly, and got me to where I wanted to go without feeling like an inconvenience. So many more taxi drivers could learn a great deal from her, especially if they rely on tips. Hey, I'm a cop, and I've had a lot of shitheads in the back of my cars through the years that I didn't particularly like, but I still was friendly to them if they did decide to talk. I mean, it's fine if you don't, but really now, how often does a friendly taxi goofball like me climb in your car? Not often.
Once we were dropped off, we snapped a pic, and I skeedaddled back to Vermont. When I got home, I naturally checked out her blog and to be perfectly honest, I was pissed off and embarrassed that I didn't have any knowledge of her write ups, because I thought I had seen them all. Typical google - put the bullshit and long closed ebay auctions on page one, and the good stuff on page 10,000. Anyhow, it's a wonderful blog of her adventures - nice little stories; I highly recommend them. There is no bravado or exaggerations of nuttiness, just simple pure stories of her travels. Check them out! www.girlycabbie.blogspot.com
When I got home, I told my Dominican Diva I had met another woman in New York and showed her the pic. She told me "that's nice, will you go to the store please I need some moisturizer and hair product." I was like, "hey, excuse me, did you hear what I said? I said I met another woman and we are both taxi afficionado's!" Ori simply said, "hurry, the store closes in 15 minutes." Okay, gloves off time, I told her "look, I'm sort of a superstar okay, she's read my stuff and she likes 8D69" - Her response: "14 minutes now, get going".
5J42 idles down amidst police vehicles, completely confident despite the fact it actually had a headlight out.
And off into the night, the yellow knight rides to summon the poor, the wretched, the tired, the blah blah blah. Makes me sad this last year 2011 Crown Victoria will be done as a NYC Taxi in one more year, and likely squished not to many years after. Maybe.....just *MAYBE*, Erin will buy it, paint it pink and take it out on the open road. And now, she will have pics of it while it was a New York City Taxi. Her steed in the wild west of the east.
Get out of my dreams.....get into my car
People LOVE to opine on my bizarre automotive idiosyncrasies and the condition of the clunkers I save. I've heard them all. None of them phase me. It's like telling a homeless drunk that beer is yucky pooey. But, if you're like me in anyway, what follows is a short little diddy on a 1953 Packard Henney Ambulance I saved some years ago, as well as my 69 Mach 1 Mustang. My interest in the Packard was re-spurned after the Longmeadow Police Department sent me a pic of it when it was new. Many Many thanks to them for posting it for me; it means a whole lot. Lots of pics to follow for those who don't like to read! Or don't know how! If you've ever dreamed of just fixing up a derelict car, perhaps this blog of mine will inspire you. NO EXPERIENCE NECESSARY.
Everyone that knows me, knows, without question, that I am a complete WHACKADOO when it comes to our streamlined friends on wheels. I really don't care what it is, - if it's a car that is deemed derelict, I want it. It's an unfortunate affliction I have, since unlike baseball cards, I can't put my babies in a dresser drawer or shoebox. I can't save them all unfortunately.
ANYWAYS.....nearby, there is a nice oldtime Vermonter on an otherwise abandoned dairy farm, who, since the 40's, has been collecting cars - many of which were towed there by himself with a tow truck he used to operate for extra money. On this property have been 100's of old cars, dating back to the early teens of the 20th Century. None are for sale, and certainly none are to be looked at, unless you want to look down the barrel of a shotgun; he won't let anyone near them. UNLESS.....he likes you, and trusts you are not there to lowball him on an antique car just to turn around for profit. It's strange really, because he doesn't really care about any of them, but hey, it's his property. Luckily for me, this man has always been great with me, and in general, has let me take possession of a few beauties through the years, for free. He knows what I'm like and knows I won't take something unless I am absolutely seriously in love with it. Even without it, he has always granted me access at my own will to roam about and do whatever I please, whenever I have wanted. It's been my private Garden of Eden for many many many years. If I need a break from the world, I go to the junkyard. It's just me, the whispering pines, and old iron to veg out in.
In 2007, when metal prices were up, he decided it was finally time to clear some of the property, and many cars were scrapped. Not all, but ALOT. The ones that went, were flat out scrapped. Not parted out. Not placed up for sale. But rather, picked up with a cherry picker and dumped into a shredder. Word traveled fast about the goings on, and I raced there, nervous as hell what I would see. My fears were true, my beautiful friends were gone, and many more were in line to go. I was frantic. Just as I walked up to the picker, he was maneuvering to pick up a 1953 Packard Ambulance that I had liked. It just got done killing a 53 Buick Roadmaster woody wagon (Only 9 known to exist and priceless....this would be #10). I freaked. I waved to the guy to stop - for the love of God. He powered down and opened the door to inquire of my distress. I told him to wait 5 minutes. ...don't touch the Packard. I found Dave in his shop and begged him to spare the Packard. Long story short, he obliged. I told the picker to leave the Packard, and I turned my back on the rest of the carnage that would occur.
In any event, I knew the ambulance was originally from Longmeadow, Massachusetts. I recently sent a pic of it to Longmeadow PD's facebook page, and within a day or two, they replied by posting a pic of the ambulance when it was new, in 1953. 60 years ago.
I was stunned. There is something about an old car with a history, especially one where there is photographic evidence to spur the mind. It makes one love it all the more, since there is less imagination, and more reality. I had spent time with the Packard after saving it, brushing the crud and needles off of it. I knew it had been parked in that spot since 1970, and even spoke to the guy who had it brought there. He told me he bought it and used it for a car when he was in college because it was interesting. He was shocked it was still in existence, and genuinely pleased, asking for directions to come visit it (after I cleared it of course with the property owner). The back window was taken out by a local hot rod car shop for some reason prior to my saving it, and I asked them to sell it back to me - they refused. Some car shop. I scoured around for a Packard rim for the front left wheel but had a tough time of it. I asked Packard collectors online, describing what I was dealing with, but OF COURSE, everyone had a high price tag on it....sometimes car enthusiasts really frustrate me. Does everything have to be about money? Anyways, I finally found one, put a tire on it, dug a hole to jack the thing up, and put the wheel on - and that is about it. Although, believe it or not, it was the hardest and longest wheel change ever in history.....twas NOT an easy job. Partially because the thing weighs as much as a Battleship. I've joked about this before, but when I opened up the back door, I felt like there was a rush of spirits that raced out with sounds right out of an Indiana Jones movie, until I remembered the fools at the hot rod shop already let them out when they removed the left rear window. Anyhow, here is how it looked right before I saved it and some time after:
I know. People see this, and they see hopelessness. Where the unenlightened see a basket case, I see great potential. It was rare when it was new, and even more so now - not in terms of money, but in terms of....try and find another one. And so as to show that I put my money where my mouth is, here are some pics of one of my proudest (just ONE of them that is) saves, from this same junkyard. Roaming around one day I glimpsed the unmistakable lines of a 69 Ford Mustang Mach I fastback. No engine. No transmission. No rear axle. No front end assembly. And NO WAY OUT. Parked since 1978 trees and other cars surrounded it. Here is what it looked like when I found it:
It was the words of a nay sayer that fueled my saving this car, after I showed him those pictures above. A local firefighter, he looked at them and said this, which I shall never forget "It's a ghost, a shell, it's nothing. You'll never get it out of there". ORLY? I worked my ASS off on this car. Mike at Mike's Car Care in Westmoreland, NH - a fellow Mustang restorer, was kind enough to give me a rear axle after I showed him the pictures. I then surfed ebay and bought the front assembly and drum brakes on ebay out of a parts car in Texas for $1 (but $99 shipping, ouch...it was heavy). Also on ebay, I bought an engine and transmission in New Jersey and went down with a trailer and hauled it back. I hand carried that heavy axle through the woods and amongst mosquitos, snakes and mice, I jacked up the car, and precariously installed the axle with new u bolts. I then installed the front end assembly and drums, found some Ford rims (including one that it was resting on), and put the tires on. I slowwwwwwwly lowered the jack, tightening my jaw with every half inch as the shocks and springs creaked after having been asleep in the weight department for so many years. But alas, for the first time since 1978, the muscle car was standing proud, although I expected the rear springs to go right through the trunk. I chopped trees down, and using a tractor, skidded them out of the way and gingerly moved 10 other cars and other assorted antique metals out of the way. Like the nut I am, I even washed it during a rain storm out in the woods, and later WAXED it (at the least the parts that could be waxed lol). I hired a flatbed and hauled it home - and wow, did it get a lot of looks. It looked amazing. It had been a long time since the hood of that car felt the whip of wind rush over it's deck, or hear the sounds of traffic and life. I remember at a traffic light in Springfield, some little kids were on the sidewalk and I heard one of them say "WHOAOOO....look at that car!".......only to be followed with, "what happened to it?" LOL. Little kids...lol. Anyhow, at home, I installed the engine and transmission, bought a used carburetor online, a makeshift gas can and fuel line and BOOM....she fired up and ran. Yeah it's a wreck, yeah just about everything on it looks shot, but unless you have done this, I cannot explain how great it feels in terms of accomplishment. A ghost? A shell? Nothing? Nahhhhhh.
Slowly, I bought other little parts, snarfed some here and there off another red 69 Mustang in the junkyard that was utterly destroyed, and had fun just messing around with it. I did my best with the interior and everything worked in it as it should. I even like the front end all snarling (although I did manage to get a front bumper for it off the red car). I even dug through what is called "Pope" books at DMV Headquarters (pre-computer records), and learned it's last owner lived on Hyde Street in Bellows Falls, VT. Either way, this car was only on the road for 9 years.....and DAMN....it must have been street racing the minute it left the dealership. Poor thing. I installed a 351 in it, installed dual glass packs on it, and whooooo - what a snapper. It basically made this sound when you started it up: GLUG GLUG GLUG GLUG GLUG. Beautiful. Just BEAUTIFUL.
A lot of people give me jabs for some of these little nuances of mine, but what they fail to understand, is - I don't care. It fuels me. I'm proud of my relationship with shitbox cars. It's what I love to do. Do I restore them to period correct? Nope. Do people actually dare whine about that sometimes? Yep. Are many of them really beyond a running parts car? Yes - but it's a personal relationship. I hate it when people start picking apart things wrong and adding up the calculator. Seriously, if it wasn't for me, this Mustang would have been thrown in that crusher eventually too. You see, I'm just the first cog in the wheel for that road called "fixing up". I'm the EMT in the process. I just give them a little TLC, elbow grease and life, which is exactly what I get from doing it in return. I've done this with countless station wagons, cop cars, you name it. I always find them good homes for that next step, whether it be a restoration or just someone who wants to put it in a garage and listen to the radio in it at night. Did I mention I usually do this for free? It's all good either way. You treat your car right, it will always treat you right, right back.
I am.......the car whisperer.
Oh. Well well well. It has been awhile since I've routinely updated things on here - so many things to rant and cry about, but....just haven't. With winter blues comes cabin fever in the forests of the Great State of Vermont - and the rattled streets of NYC, of which I certainly have. My chum of the road, 8D69, is hibernating for the winter, but shall soon awake in another 8 weeks to feel the whip of the wind over her hood. So...what follows? Well - less rant, more...authentic and truth. But needs to be said nevertheless.
Life has a funny way. We are often too busy to really think about it, but everything we possess in life – both spiritually and materially – was spawned from each spark of our ancestry. One diversion in movement or thought, and POOF – we might not be here. So it goes – that in this game of life, we create and forge friendships – little sparks – that can ignite into things that it is hard to imagine, much less comprehend. Some philosophers have gone bat shit mad thinking too much about it. If just one of my Dutch German grandfolks (above pic is actually my great x9 Grandfather, funny it has the word taxi in it) kicked the bucket the day before *ahem* you know what happened with great x9 grandma, well…the chain that led to little old me would be broken. And along the road of life, new chains are welded. New links are added here and there and some are broken. But what follows, is a chain that extends from the USA – to Australia.
Everyone knows I like the Paralympics. I’ve blogged about my reasoning before – I doubt anyone cares to hear about it again. What is important though – is that I like them. I don’t care what country one hails from, or particularly what sport an athlete does; however, I admit I have my favorites.
During the 2012 Paralympic Games, I, like so many others, were pissed that the games were not getting the same coverage and attention that the attention whore Olympic Games were getting. I mean – these guys/gals get so much attention, I think they have personal trainers that actually massage their throats after they are done eating. Paralympians though? Yeah – not quite the same ‘attention to detail’ – often having to fend for themselves with training and, at least in one occurrence I am aware – PAY their own way to the most important games of their careers. That’s like telling someone they’ve won a vacation on a cruise ship, but…you just have to pay for the fuel on the ship. If you’ve ever watched the Paralympic Games – it is amazing to see not only an individual overcome a personal challenge, but that isn't nearly as cool as just watching the uniqueness of their athleticism that is really amazing. It is those challenges overcome, that do make the paralympics that much more satisfying/unique - at least as a spectator.
Now, during these games, I was suckered a bit, like most people, into reading articles and facebook posts from different teams – and led to believe that the same support system existed for their Paralympic athletes, as any other athlete may receive. I was wrong. Way wrong. Wrong like saying 2 plus 2 equals a pepperoni pizza. What does an athlete do when their own team does not provide the basic tools in order to perform their sport? Well – they rely on family and friends.
Brydee Moore, professional javelin and discus tosser, holder of 24 Australian records, 3 Oceanic records, ranked number 1 in the world in all of her disciplines, and 1 cm from a world record (the width of a clipped fingernail) was one of those athletes who was not provided with the basic tools, yet managed to still perform for her team and country – and did so with faith in her abilities and faith in herself. She unselfishly placed herself second, and placed her team first. Brydee Moore, through hard work and determination, earned her spot in the 2012 Paralympic Games, and while there – performed with maximum effort, under less than ideal conditions. Firstly, she was very ill prior to the games - and I don't mean she had the sniffles - I mean gravely ill, the kind of ill that necessitates the use of an IV and 4 hour interval Doctor visits. The kind of ill that sucks the will to live out of oneself. The kind of ill that doesn't scream "lets go on an intercontinental trip to London hurrah!" The kind of ill that if it was MIchael Phelps, a priest would have been giving him his last rites. And if that wasn't enough, once the worst was over, the mere task of just getting to London...?...well, lets just say she wasn’t clinging martini glasses with Sir Roger Moore in first class on British Airways. How do I know? Momma Moore.
A pic of Brydee and her first coach - the man who influenced her early on with athletics in her life - and remains a part of her world and training today. If it wasn't for all those Russian medals he earned as an Olympic athlete being in the pic, I would have probably photoshopped my face over his - but no one would believe I won even one of those, or that Brydee Moore would be caught dead riding around with Mike Ruse in a old NYC Taxi, even though Estonian pop star Getter Jaani loves it http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wcIsznnsRl8.
But let me tell you a little something about Donna Moore, who is Brydee’s mom, or, according to Google’s American to Australian Translate feature, “mum”. At first glance, one might correctly determine that she is very proud of all three of her daughters, that she is a seamstress, likes to cook, often tags her daughters in things to their chagrin, is a hell of a party host/planner, and that her husband Jim and she are hardworking middle class parents and have spent their latter years as most average people do; working, paying bills, keeping their heads above water and rarely - if ever, putting themselves first. Really no different in Australia than it is any other place on earth, least of all the USA.
The Moore Clan celebrating a birthday in regulation approved Moore themed style. Brydee's father James, sister's Daragh and Shanlan, mum Donna, and Brydee.
So, imagine the quagmire, when faced with the pride of having a world class athlete, and also knowing there is some royal mistreatment being dealt by a few individuals who hold some proverbial cards in her career. I personally have been down this road before - I wrote a poem about it once http://www.travelsinacab.com/2/post/2012/11/blatta.html. Perhaps this is a small percentage of my devoted interest; I don't like to see good people messed with - much like Donna. You see, in the animal kingdom, when a cub is messed with, a momma bear reacts instinctively to destroy any threatening menace. But Donna realizes, much to her misfortune, that there does exist laws to protect the menacing evil in human society, so has rather met the threat head on without resorting to making headline news, by writing, calling, documenting, fighting. It’s hard to fight against power. Power in our human world does not always rely on strength, but rather strength in numbers and shielded by rules, red tape and government/corporate indifference. To large organizations that are fat with support – cubs are numbers. To them, cubs are nothing to flourish and grow - they are a food source - and like all cackling hyena's who circle prey, they can't do anything without numbers. To them, mother bears are a mere speed bump to the tidal wave making machine of red tape; easily broken. But Donna isn’t exactly the type to lay down as a speed bump – more of a “block the road with my car” type of speed bump. She doesn’t give up. Methodical and patient, Donna is the tiger crouched in the grass – waiting for the slow moving prey to get just close enough to rip her claws into, remove the fur and make a blanket out of it for her little nephew. And this doesn’t just extend to the trials and tribulations of the nitwits playing around with Brydee – it extends to EVERYTHING. Just the other day, some company was diddling around with a clothing order that she was dissatisfied with (they took money for an item not in stock) – and my newsfeed popped up where she wrote some rather choice words about her experience. No tags. No attention. Not a status update (that came later as a warning for others), just a big hearty 'in your arse' from her to the company.
What does Donna and her family *really* think of this seemingly weirdo American cop with a NYC Taxi, who is so adamant in joining the ranks of Brydee Moore support/fans? Well, while I am not privy to dinner table discussion, I can tell you this – my right ear hasn't rung too loud, and that I have been treated with a warm kindness, if not tolerance – especially since they've never actually met me. But since I am on the other side of the globe, I think it’s a fair assessment that no one is in danger of my stopping by and announcing ‘oh hi, I was just in the neighborhood’; therefore, my persistent fact checking in support of my fav Aussie athlete is indeed well intentioned, and I've assured everyone that they can throw out the restraining order paperwork. But seriously, on their own volition, they have sent me parcels containing a little taste of Australia – including commemorative Australian Paralympic items. Hey look, I know I’m a weird guy, a bit eclectic and affable by nature, but when I latch onto something I either like or support – I am true blue. And I am honest when I say that the Moore’s friendly nature in appeasing my sense of self is one of which I have the utmost gratitude.
But nothing, and I mean nothing – could top the package I received last week sent to me from the suburbs of Melbourne. I opened the box, and inside was one of the most treasured things a person like myself could ever receive; the actual jersey that Brydee wore during events at the 2012 Paralympic Games – and she signed it for me! To any person, achieving the honor and distinction of being a Paralympian or really anything that matters most to someone is one thing, but to have as a memory something tangible like a jersey and number plate – are usually things that are deeply personal – something one would definitely hang up for viewing pleasure. But here it was, in the Green Mountains of Vermont. Made in China, worn in London, sent to Australia and onto the USA, this jersey has more miles than a space shuttle mission. The generosity and selflessness to send me this, is immeasurable. This jersey is something that is very representative of a person’s real timeline, not a social media timeline that is easily erased. This is not something that gets thrown in a box and stored in an attic. This jersey represents a deeply personal time in Brydee Moore’s life – and she parted with it knowing it would be appreciated in the hands of someone else; that is character. This in and of itself shows a selflessness that is rare beyond imagination. The fact that she parted with this, shows she puts others first. This, is what Australian Athletics needs more of. I mean hell, that clown convention can’t even reply to email! This is the type of athlete they should be mowing deadwood over for. This, is the type of athlete all games need more of. This….is the type of person we ALL need more of. How many other admirable athletes exist out there that would do this.?. Not many. Do you think Lance Armstrong would part with one of his yellow jerseys (even though he didn’t earn them honestly)? Nope - he arrogantly snapped a pic of them framed in his living room two weeks ago. Do you think U.S. Ski Team’s resident drunken dipshit Bode Miller would part with any of his things? Do you think that if he did, it would be for a simple fan? HELL NO. You know how sometimes you want to be nice to someone, so you give them something very meaningful, and the person really doesn’t give a damn? Well, I’ve been duped before with this, but – as a receiver – this is one of the nicest things I have ever received, and it was sent with no expectations, no agenda; just a pure and kind gesture. This jersey was paid for with a lot of blood sweat and tears - and she didn't even get someone to carry her suitcase.
There is a a lot more I want to say; and I hope circumstances develop in a positive way for her so that I never actually have to say them. My hope - and part time mission - is that the route to future APC games and the Paralympics in 2016 for Brydee and fam has more coasting then pedaling. I'll be paying close attention to *that* development, and I remain hopeful those who in charge of decision making, take a more proactive and humanistic approach to one of their most valuable team members, because Brydee isn't a "cub" - she's a young woman who has given her all to Australian Paralympics - and represents her role in the most admirable of ways. It would be a disservice to not express their pride in her representations - both on and off the field.
It’s amazing these little nuances in life. These little sparks. This jersey would not be here if not for those sparks. One of those sparks, ironically, is this yellow submarine in my garage. That was the spark that led me on a more personal level to the Moore family (well – a few other reasons too of course). If it wasn’t for this taxi, this site would not exist, and the Moore family would never known me. Well, they definitely wouldn't have known what a Twinkie looked like (I sent them one of the last ones ever made). I would likely never know what street they live on. I would never know the sordid details of the behind the scenes nonsense that occurs in some Paralympic circles. I would have never known of the betrayal Brydee has suffered at the hands of a colleague she once respected. I would never know that Brydee prefers a Coke to water. I would not have downloaded Voxer and actually hear the cool twang of their Aussie accents, or be told that I have my own. I’ve been writing for years as a sideline. Of all the things I’ve written, Brydee Moore up until most recently, was the most read article/blog I’ve had in some time. On this website, it has by far been the most read. What I glean from all this, is one doesn’t need a jersey to be a champion. One doesn’t need a medal either. Sometimes, all they need to be, is present. Since I have the jersey, then I guess 2 out of 3 isn’t bad.
Welcome! This week's write up is a follow up on Australia's National Gold Medalist and Paralympic star, Brydee Moore, after competing in the 2012 London Paralympic Games.
Well, the 2012 Paralympic Games are done. Everyone has packed up and gone home to resume life as it was - to either work or play or to continue to train - but in all cases, bask in the glory of knowing oneself earned the honor of representing their country as the best of the best. So, as readers may recall, I wrote about two particular athletes for the paralympics that were 'ones to watch' - and my prediction did not disappoint. Naturally, in watching the games I also learned about a whole lot of others too that dropped my jaw, like USA's Matt Stutzman and his incredible talent with Archery; just unbelievable. However, regardless of it all, and to be perfectly honest, as much as I like athletics and sportsmanship and competition, in the end, I'm not one to get all hepped up on medals; but lets face it, what athlete DOESN'T strive to earn one/two. I think it's great when someone earns them of course, but - well, not everyone is ever going to get one - and to me, and I mean this with all my heart - just being ASKED to represent one's country in the olympics is worth GOLD. Whether your event ended falling flat on your face with a mouthful of track or caught the flu mid week of the games....you - are - an - olympian. That is gold - and I really mean that. There are approximately 4,200 athletes selected for the paralympic games. And since the Paralympics is naturally international in scope, that of the roughly 7 Billion people on earth, the chances of being selected for the Paralympic games are about equal of being able to walk on the moon or become President of your country - at 0.000059999999999999995 %.
Australia's Brydee Moore
So - since I've become rather vocal about the Paralympics, I'm not one to give lip service - dropping a name here for posterity - when I say something, I mean it. So having said that, one of the athletes I wrote about prior to the games was Ms. Brydee Moore of Australia, who competed as a F33 Classification in Athletics, performing her sport with the Javelin (F33/34/52/53) and the Shot Put (F32/33/34). By all accounts, it's nearly a miracle she was able to attend, having suffered a serious leg infection earlier in the year that required both hospitalization and lots of bed rest at home. Given her prognosis and Doctors orders, this made training difficult - having to rely on her own set of values/determination - and a system of family support and training from home. However, as the old saying goes - there is no rest for the weary, and for Brydee, she continued her training no worse for wear and in spite of the challenges she was forced to overcome; an apparent character attribute that serves her well. Here in the U.S., Paralympic coverage was an embarrassment, but my son and I were able to livestream Brydee's javelin competition on September 3, 2012, from one of the few websites that offered it. For those who do not know, Paralympians are categorized within a classification, much of it based on a particular disability and the degree to which such disability effects their range of motion. Brydee is a F33, which means that as a person with Cerebral Palsy, she generally performs her athletics starting from a seated position. So, for Brydee, Bib # 1029, to perform her javelin throw, she is seated in a device she (as I have learned) calls a basket, which is a seat securely quadpodded to the ground. In the middle of this device, is a gripped pole for her left hand to hold onto for counter torque of her body when it comes time to whip that javelin like a tennis ball wails when it hits the blades of a lawnmower. My son and I watched Brydee take the seat and grasp the javelin - concentrating her energy on where she wanted the javelin to land. And like any great athlete with honed muscle memory, she whipped that javelin into the air slicing it - making it part ways like an airfoil over a jet's wing. The camera followed it's trajectory until it pierced the stadium's grass. A couple of throws were jetted about - her final mark landing 10.55 metres away! If you're an uncivilized metrically illiterate American like me - I'll give the answer to what you're wondering: that is nearly 35 feet! Remember, this is starting from the seated position. Sit down in a chair and grab ANYTHING. Now spring yourself out of that chair and try to whiz your projectile of choice 35 feet. You probably won't be able to do it - trust me. And while a Javelin is aerodynamically efficent, it is also long, clumsy - and, if released at just the wrong time, won't go very far. It takes lots of practice, muscle memory and skill to develop any sort of prowess at throwing Javelin - at least to the extent of having any hope of success.
Above Photo: It takes courage to stand before a crowd of 80,000 people - let alone PERFORM before a crowd of 80,000 people.
Okay - On to the women's Shot Put in her class, which was held on September 6, 2012. The sport of Shot Put has been around for thousands of years, believed to have hailed from an old Celtic tradition. The original tradition of throwing a stone evolved into throwing a cannon ball from the 1700's and from which the term 'shot' derives from. The shot used in the first modern Olympics was apparently made of lead, while the modern day shot is made of smooth iron or brass. Shot Put has been an Olympic event since 1896 and a women's Olympic event since 1948. A shot put ball can weigh anywhere between 8.8 to 16 pounds. I don't care what any armchair athlete says, either of the two is heavy, cramped in your neck and then forced to throw, which is exactly why it is a sport. After a number of attempts, Brydee zung that shot put like a grenade out the window of a preschool with it's pin pulled - with a best mark of 6.05 meters; nearly 20 feet, slightly farther than she threw at the 2010 Commonwealth Games of 5.85 meters. Now.....20 feet. Think about that. Pick up a 10 pound dumbbell in your house. Crank it into your neck. Then, without the benefit of an overthrow, toss that dumbell the distance of my taxi. You likely won't do it. You won't even do it standing up and spinning. But also, try doing it in the middle of an olympic stadium with thousands of people staring at you, with judges close by, in addition to snapping/whirling camera's and enormous pressure. In any event, Brydee did as she does in most anything she sets her mind to - and killed the Shot Put.
Now, its worth mentioning here that scoring the 2012 Paralympics is a bit complicated. I watched and looked at resulting ranks for a lot of different events with absolute confusion. I also watched competitions that were completely full of wonderment, like swimmers with the use of only one arm competing against others with the use of both arms - etc. etc.. Final scoring results of competitions were really perplexing. Brydee is ranked Number 1 in the world for her classification. Since the games have ended, I have learned a few things. For instance, when you compare Brydee's 2012 results with some others, you will see that she has less points than those who threw at a lesser distance. Are you confused? Well, let me explain why this is the case in MUCH easier detail in how scores are figured and finalized:
Got it? Yeah I didn't think so...just what *IS* this? Well, this is the RAZA system, so named in recognition by some pot bellied math whiz named Maz Raza. Since 2010, athletes in the Paralympics compete in a limited number of events by combining classes, and adjust their scores based on the extent of their disability. In short, what this means is the competitor who throws a shot put or what not the farthest may not win a medal, if another thrower with a more severe disability exceeds expectations for their class, which results in skewed results. In fact, the maker of James Bond's watch, Omega, erred in tallying the scores for the F35/36 women's discus by using an outdated formula, which meant the gold medal was awarded to the wrong athlete.
The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) abandoned it's traditional form of scoring in 2010 in favor of the RAZA System. The Raza System uses a Gompertz curve, or Gompertz function, named after Benjamin Gompertz. It is a sigmoid function; a type of mathematical model for a time series, where growth is slowest at the start and end of a time period blabbity blah blah blah blah. Bueller? Bueller? *Raises Hand* "MAY I GO TO THE BATHROOM?"
In any event, this is a topic for a whole other write up. All I will say right now, is that at the heart of any large machine, always lies an unattended and forgotten about monkey wrench. In the case of the Paralympic Scoring System, it is a distinct possibility that the monkey wrench are good intentioned people reaching out to and relying on others who over complicate things. RAZA is easy, simple, and fair! Said no one ever. (Except Mr. Raza, $$$$$$$$), Perhaps there are many variables I have not examined; however, I think it's likely a fair and normal criticism. It's easy for guys like Raza, sitting with his graphs eating potato chips trying to figure out new and inventive ways to keep his formula useful and relevant with the IPC - he already won his POT OF GOLD.
In closing, I certainly had fun watching this year's Paralympic Games. These athletes work harder than anyone - without the benefit of salary, a gaggle of resources, and in many cases - sponsors. Paralympians rely on what Olympians had to rely on since 1896 in Rome, which is sheer determination, desire, personal achievements and hard work - and for that, they have my deepest admiration. There were a lot of advertisements in the U.S. during the Olympics in how they inspire people. Well, for me - I am more inclined to be inspired to do better athletically when I watch guys like Matt Stutzman shoot a bow and arrow with his feet, or Brydee Moore whiz a javelin 35 feet starting from a seated position. I bust on Michael Phelps a lot, but do you *really* think he practiced his laps at the town pool? Or had his dad massage his shoulders at the end of an afternoon training session? Or actually PAY for those goofy earphones he wore before every event? No to all of the above. To me and so many others, a Paralympic athlete is to be revered - to be admired, for all their lives even when no longer competing. Look at my long dead relative Albert Gutterson - it's been 100 years and the University of Vermont's gymnasium still bears his name. For a Paralympian like Brydee Moore, not only is she first in her class, she IS first class. She is mindful of the responsibility that comes with Olympic stardom - and continues to give much of her time to assisting, training and motivating others in becoming the best they can be, whether it be for personal goals or to be one of the .0.000059999999999999995 % to represent their country as a Paralympian - and I just love her for that - there is nothing more noble on this earth then to give of oneself in so many thoughtful and selfless ways. For all the struggles she has overcome and for all her hard earned accomplishments - either in the past, present or future - I say, WELL DONE MATE. Admiration Earned.
Next week: A follow up on my next over town hero, Alicia Brelsford Dana of the U.S. Paralympic Cycling Team. Until then, here are some photos of Paralympian Brydee Moore taken while at the London games:
Boom! Crash! Bang! - went the fireworks at the opening day of the 2012 Olympics in London - signifying the beginning of competitive games where countries press forth their most able bodied athletes to achieve greatness in their name. So, fair enough - as the world’s hungry watch 10 years worth of food blow up in the night sky to mark the games - it does indeed inspire millions of people, which is wonderful. I am an American - born and bred in the State of Vermont - the Green Mountain State, which is like a big town in New York, but close enough to Boston I can see it on a clear day if I‘m high up enough. However, just because I am American doesn’t mean I root just for my own countrymen and women - I’ll root anyone on if I feel they deserve it and have a heart that weighs more than gold. But, unlike the media frenzy that concentrates on gold gold GOLD during the Olympics, there is something else I am far far FAR more interested in. The Paralympic Games. Folks, this IS the Olympics still - and I am going to let you in on a little secret that NBC hasn’t figured out - it is far more interesting, more challenging and chock full of really amazing competition. I first became more aware of the Paralympics after watching them when the Olympics were held in Atlanta, GA and my country was in a tizzy over our hosting. In all the games since - the events I’ve been personally more interested in have usually been dominated by Australians - like Lyn Lepore in the Sydney 2000 games in road cycling, which is a personal favorite of mine. In addition to the Paralympics, I was further inspired with admiration for individual disabilities after discovering the story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah - who as a young man with a severe disability, rode his bicycle across his country of Ghana to raise awareness to the plight and prejudices of the disabled
in his land. He is an absolutely amazing man - and I would highly recommend watching the documentary on his awareness work entitled Emmanuel's Gift. He still gives back to this day.
Now, most people know that in the world of sports and physical achievement, there is no greater honor then for a person to be chosen for competition in the Olympics. Like any word can sometimes illicit a prejudice, the terms ‘Olympian’ and ‘Olympiad’ usually conjure up images of great physical prowess and skill. Those words are accurate descriptors in our mental image of just what prowess and skill is and how mere armchair competitors view it. I remember a number of years ago when I learned I was distantly related (like so distant, I would need binoculars) to former Olympian Albert Gutterson, who won a gold medal 100 years ago for broad jump during the Olympics of 1912 in Stockholm, Sweden.
I looked at his picture from those days – so young and full of life, and it reminded me of greatness - although...it would have been nice if his name was Scott, or Alex, or Max etc.....lol (kidding). When I see the family homestead nearby, I can’t help but be fascinated an Olympian grew up there. Now, I am not one to get emotional over photos of persons I’ve never met; however, this was different; he was an “Olympian” – it made me feel proud. Why did his existence and Olympic accomplishment make me proud? Simple. Anyone can live a life of work and weekend play - and merely contribute the bare minimums to the betterment of this world, which pretty much sums up most of my long deceased relatives lives - but an Olympian? It takes a special and unique person to qualify as an Olympian – no question about it.
Now, let us peer behind door # 2 to examine another word(s) that can conjure a prejudice; “challenged” or “disabled.” I imagine that when one hears these words, the prejudice that comes to mind is someone who does not have the same range of motion that perhaps an ‘Olympian’ possesses. So, for discussion sake, what then happens when these two descriptions/prejudices above collide? That is to say, a person who has challenges yet is also an Olympian? I’ll tell you what happens; amazing things. It is true unadulterated amazement that any individual can be so strong physically AND mentally so as to transform themselves out of a debilitating challenge and then use their bodies in such ways that most ‘able-bodied’ persons couldn’t even think of. To me, a person who has physical challenges is far stronger than those who do not. When one isn’t challenged in life, they become weak and complacent. An individual who is challenged, is always honing their skills and goals in life. I personally have a quandary with the word disabled or disability. The word, which accurately describes a condition in a sensible non-offensive way, it does to me denote a certain unavoidable stigma; I just dislike it. I rather see a person for who they are as an individual, rather than resort to labels.
So as to make my point, lets stick with Australia and let us now look behind door #3, in which I will use as an excellent example - we will find Brydee Moore. Brydee is a long time competitor in the world of sports. Brydee has been competing in sports since 2001; I think it’s safe to say that sports and competition are her life. In 2006, Brydee’s goals of competitive discus throw and shot put received a serious bump up the big time scale, when she competed in the 2006 FESPIC Games earning herself two gold medals and later, during the 2008 National Championships in Beijing earning three gold medals while representing her native country of Australia.
Brydee has 16 gold medals at the National Championships to her credit, including her latest haul of three gold at the 2012 Nationals. She holds the Australian records in her classification for all three of her throwing disciplines and her shot put length of 6.47m is not far away from achieving the world record. And it doesn’t stop there, Brydee continues on her path of competitive sportsmanship to this day, having competed at the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games and now, acceptance for a second time into the Paralympic Games at London 2012. That’s right, Brydee is an Olympian.
But what makes Ms. Moore so inspiring in her skills, is that not only is she an Olympian, she also has some physical challenges in her life. Prior to my stating this, you probably conjured up an image of a toned glistening woman flying over hurdles on the field in full Olympic regalia – royal horns bellowing and crowds in full cheer. And, consequently, now that I’ve thrown the words ‘disability or challenges’ into the mix, your imagination may have been playing a few tricks in the mental imagery department. Trust me on this - there are no tricks here; there is serious tonage and glistening going on. Diagnosed with cerebral palsy at 11 months old, it would seem clear that Ms. Moore has not always had an easy road to travel upon - and that is for certain. But – this hasn’t slowed herself down a bit – she is out there in this big world showing it what she can do and inspiring so many thousands of people as well as many who may have similar worries/challenges as herself. I liken it to this comparison: while many of us cruise through life complaining about the need to inject Botox into our glistening non challenged BMW bodies, Brydee has souped up her Holden Commodore….and the BMW is afraid. Very afraid. So while us BMW’s sit in the garage resting on its laurels and name brand reputation, Brydee the Commodore is wrenching a turbo and dual exhaust to her Mad Max engine. Physically challenged? Disability? Just words…..mere sounds one makes with their tongues – and in the case of Brydee Moore, actions speak louder than words. Brydee has a personal motto; “see the athlete, not the disability.” And for the record, I would rather arrive at a party in a Mad Max car than a BMW - far more attractive, superior performance and way less maintenance costs.
Now, for the U.S. Paralympic team - as I edit this blog, I just learned in the town right next to me, is a U.S. Olympian who will be competing in the London Paralympic Games; Alicia Brelsford Dana, from Putney, VT. I couldn't believe it when I read this in the paper - that a stone's throw away is a hand cycling olympian. Amazing! Here is a link to the article, which explains it best: http://www.reformer.com/localnews/ci_21259962/racing-london-putney-woman-rides-wave-support-paralympics
What is really amazing, is I've seen her before naturally - I practically live next door - and while I have admired her strength as I lazily drove by in my car, I never imagined this person would be competing in the Olympics. Paralyzed from the waist down after suffering a fall, this single mother seemingly juggles it all - and still had the fortitude to qualify for the paralympics, so now I'm even more thrilled to see what happens during these games. No matter what her outcome may be, I am proud and thrilled for her. No matter what the color of a medal is, whether gold, silver, bronze or empty handed, I still think it's amazing to even qualify for the Olympic games; every Olympian is a win. Naturally, I immediately sent her a friend request on facebook so I could inundate her with daily posts of my fandom; she is going to be SO sorry if she accepts it!
I love the Paralympics. And the reason I enjoy them isn’t because of some noble thought that I *should* watch them, but more because any person who has a disability and can do something better than someone who doesn’t have a disability, is a true Olympian. I have mixed emotions about the term Paralympics, but – I suppose it is really semantics. I have entered numerous bicycle races in my life, and if I may brag - earned bronze on three occasions in the U.S. national championships in the late 90's for obtacle course, slalom and a distance road race. I have also run a few piddly fiddly 5k’s in my time, and on such occasions, there have been persons who have also entered who must use a different vehicle to meet their specific bodily needs – i.e. a wheelchair. Each time I have been intimidated – because I know…this guy or gal is going to make mince meat out of me. I know this to be true not because their bodies are toned with the obvious effects of practice, but because I know mentally they are absolutely committed to DESTROYING me. And, barring some mechanical failure on equipment, they always do.
Cody McCasland, 8, from Colleyville, TX, shown here in the Ranger Triathalon. Cody is a double above knee amputee born with a rare birth defect called Sacral Agenesis that caused his legs to form both missing tibias and knees. Doctors, in his best interest, amputated his legs at 15 months old, and Cody has never stopped challenging himself physically. He raced the 100m swim, 2.2 mile bike ride, and 800, run in under thirty minutes. Future Olympian? I hope so!
I am a man of perfect motion. I can walk, run, roll, cartwheel and roll out of bed in no time flat – and admittedly take this ability for complete granted. If I am in a stadium and feel the need to visit the restroom, I can run to the bathroom with the best of them – and be in and out in no time flat. I do not know what it is like to limp, or have no feeling in any part of my body, or to know what it is like to live with the daily challenges one faces who does have such things to bear. I have had, however, a brain injury - which is occasionally recurring with intracranial pressure, after having been smacked upside the head repeatedly by a complete nutcase I was trying to arrest several years ago - and have spent my fair share of time in the CT-Scan torpedo tubes, from constant headaches to continual swishing noises in my left ear. But anyways - it is nothing compared to what others suffer. But back to physical prowess......I have lifted a discus and a shot put – and they are heavy. To throw a discus and a shot put for far range and in control takes practice and skill. I thus have tried throwing a discus and a shot put. I admit, I thought it would be easy – I mean, it’s just throwing an object right? I grappled my hands around its cold steel and instantly felt awkward, unable to comprehend how one can really hold onto something so odd shaped and heavy, and throw it at a controlled distance; much like a Frisbee on a windy day. I wound up, took a deep breath, and with one felt swoop – exhaled a small scream and threw the discus – imagining in my mind where it would it land….that being approximately two miles away ala Clark Kent kicking that Football from the original Superman movie. I think it landed about 5 feet away and like a bad golfing slice about an equal distance to the right of where I expected it to land. I tried again. And again. And again – each time gaining the same result. I came to a conclusion after GIVING UP, that, indeed – throwing a discus and even more so the shot put…takes skill and obvious practice. I’ve never thrown one sitting down – but as I sit here in my chair and pretend, I know it is extremely difficult. When I was a kid, I wasn’t particularly fond of running, despite my (at the time) built for speed body, so I thought perhaps being good at discus and shot put would be good, but alas – nope….I then just stuck to my bike. All people are good at something – and when they find out what it is, there are no limitations to hold them back; not even a disability - as proven by the athletes in the Paralympics.
I am quite familiar with Cerebral Palsy and it’s oft time frustrating effects; I know many people who live with it, and likewise, I have my own personal familial issues with this and other afflictions that affect the mind and body. I have witnessed the occasional and understandable decline of the human spirit when such challenges exist and when it seems life is a constant struggle. I’ve seen the frustration, the teasing and all the other stuff that goes along with a life of challenges. The hopes and dreams we all share, can sometimes be compounded for persons who have disabilities. I’ve always been an advocate for such individuals; I’ll never stop with that – and for the most part, my reason for having even become a police officer was an inherent desire to become a more prominent advocate in the battle to end the chronic finger pointing, senseless prejudices and abuse. I remember my Aunt Jean Lemire and my cousins Robbie and Kenny Blake, who had so many debilitating challenges in their lives. Wanting so badly to ‘fit in’ – to find and experience the things all human beings yearn for: to find that love of their life, to have a family, to drive a car, to experience a first kiss, to own a home, to run, to jump, to escape…if only for a moment. It crushes MY spirit just thinking about them, now gone, and it hurts to know how they felt so much of the time.
As the Paralympics start to gear up – I urge people to take an active interest in this serious world of competition; you’ll be amazed. I also would urge people to reach in their pockets every now and then and throw a couple of bucks toward organizations that provide assistance on so many levels to individuals who face life at times with a constant head wind. Give up one pack of cigs a month – after all, it won’t kill you, it will help you – it’s a win win! If you know of families who have equipment needs for small children who want to compete in sports by all means lend that hand and donate. There is no greater calling.
So, from August 29, 2012 to September 9, 2012, the Paralympic Games will be in full swing. On August 31, 2012, give a cheer to Brydee as she enters the arena for discus while representing Australia and my new best fanned neighbor Alicia Brelsford Dana as she handcycles her way into history representing the United States - the only paralympic athlete from Vermont. I suppose I am supposed to cheer for the USA - and I most certainly will, especially Ms. Breslford Dana; however, since my new/last Chevrolet Caprice police car was made in Australia – and is the sickest most insanely fast cruiser I’ve ever had, I will also have to make an exception here and root for the land down under as well. Actually - I root for everyone; geographical boundaries really don't mean much to me.
Above: My Australian made for USA cop car. Took so long to get here it was a "year" old by the time I rolled out of the fleet garage with it. It is a Chevy Caprice, but - so I've been told, is called a Holden in Australia.
Root for your favorite team and event - I know I will be – because I’m a fan – and I bow to the greatness of all Olympians, whether they walk into an arena or arrive on wheels. The truth is, we all have challenges – some are just more visible than others. From my cab to yours – enjoy - and please check these links to learn more about Cerebral Palsy - as well as a wonderful video series by Charisse and her journey with Cerebral Palsy - it is her hope to further awareness of it and break people from having an uneducated and otherwise uninformed conclusion of just what exactly it is. She encourages people to cut/paste her link to learn more - she is just such an inspiration - I promise you will be hitting subscribe faster than Ms. Brelsford Dana can ride her bike - well, pretty close anyways.
I was talking the other day to an acquaintance of mine at a local market, after I wheeled into a parking spot in my taxi. After the usual back and forth check up on each others families, he started asking questions about my car as he softly kicked my front bumper. Besides the kick, he said a few things that I purposefully neglected to tell him pissed me off. More often than not, most people pass off my choice to drive around in this old retired New York City cab as either interesting or eclectic at best. Deep down, it doesn't really matter to me and I know it doesn’t really matter to anyone else; I drive it because I love it – not because I expect others to love it. However, every now and then, some people say some of the dumbest things to me about the car, which no matter how it comes out, means one thing – which is that they think it’s a great big piece of harvested dog dung. So okay, I get it, the car isn’t for everyone. But acoustic guitars aren’t for me. Neither is football. Nor do I particularly care for escargot – I also hate sand in my toes and, lately - people in general. BUT, if it is something you very clearly like, I am not going to turn the switch to the "gonna tell it like it is" and state to your face that I don't think you should them. I might think it, but – I’m not going to judge you for it.
So – besides the offensive brush of foot to bumper - a common theme here was mentioned by him…..the first thing he said, was the color was atrocious, and asked why I don't paint it (heard that one already a THOUSAND times). Next, was the mileage was so high that why don’t I sell it for parts (okay that was a new one). Third, it must be disgusting to sit in - and I couldn't pay him enough to sit in it (heard it a few times, and know it has been thought of a lot).
I’ve touched on these points before in my write-up http://www.travelsinacab.com/1/post/2012/03/top-5-perils-of-owning-a-retired-nyc-taxi.html. In short, 1.) I like the yellow and the markings. It is the car’s identity. Without them, it is just another unmarked looking cop car, albeit a tad longer. I have a brand new unmarked cruiser for work in the garage – so no fun there (at least for me). 2.) The mileage is high indeed, but it runs great and I don’t care if the engine blows sky high – I’ll rebuild it if I have to – I am never ever going to give up on this car – and the more people verbally bitch slap it, the more I love it. What type of fool would buy a car, register and title it only to sell it for parts? LOL. Idiot. And disgusting? It is no more disgusting than a park bench, or a booth at McDonalds – it’s just a car and it was no more filthy than any family minivan I’ve poked my head into through the years. I’ve ridden in a lot of NYC Taxi’s, and don’t recall ever being in one that was offensively gross. I wanted to tell this friend of mine his breath and personality offended me, but – since I have COUTH, I didn’t.
Let me put it this way. In the world of automobile enthusiasts, it is true my car is not yet old enough to be categorized as anything remarkably amazing. That is fine with me; I’m not looking to display it anywhere (although some places do, like the store in Times Square, Forever 21 has one in the downstairs floor. I don’t see any Subaru Outbacks on display anywhere).
But what it does have, that no other car on the planet has, is STREET CRED. That’s right – it has respect, and I know it. When you pass a NYC Taxi outside of its home in New York, you know this is a car that has done, seen and heard it all. If cars could talk….. There cannot possibly be another car on this planet that has a harder life than a taxi - especially a NYC Taxi. Hard starts – hard stops – hard corners - all piloted by overworked, underpaid and irritable drivers. All day, every day. Every week, month and year…..year after year (although police cruisers do share some of the same work ethic as it's taxi brethren). My taxi has a very distinct honor that is bestowed upon it. According to the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission records, 8D69 was the oldest taxi in New York City from September to October in 2011. It is the last 2006 model year to ever operate as a taxi in New York City. 8D69 was a taxi from February of 2006 until October of 2011 – almost 6 years total, which is past the limitations of NYC TLC’s rules of 5 years or less if owner operated (an extension was filed and granted for it).
I am quite certain in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, that any person who owned a former Checker went through the same litany of remarks I go through. Very likely, most people ended up deep sixing the cars after due time. Now – here it is in 2012 – somebody count how many NYC Checker’s are around. Not very many – and the one’s that are, grace magazines and are a hit at auctions. Here is another challenge – somebody find me a 1994 Chevy Caprice NYC Taxi. How about one of the thousands of Dodge Diplomats/Plymouth Gran Fury’s from the 80’s. How about just a plain old 10 year old 2002 Crown Victoria stretched NYC Taxi. GOOD LUCK.
The bottom line is this. I love my car. I loved it the minute I saw it for sale. I’ve traveled to a lot of places in it that I am 100% sure it would not have cruised into if I had not bought it. I don’t buy things I don’t like. I also don’t make websites or write blogs about things I don’t like. And likewise, I don't insult others for things THEY like. So here is my deal. You let me like the things I like and I'll to do the same. Deal? PERFECT.
True Story. A little pointless to anyone but myself....but true nonetheless. You see, I met another taxi. My taxi. No, not the one and only 8D69 that I have now, but one I will have in the future; my own personal taxi of tomorrow. It’s fate. It’s Kismet. It’s…..it’s……BEAUTIFUL. This past weekend, I walked down 157th Street in Harlem to the no man’s land portion of Broadway to hail a cab to take me all the way down to Pier 36 on the lower east side. As I crossed Broadway to align myself with southbound traffic for a hail, I noticed a rather shiny looking Crown Victoria waiting at the stop light. I think it winked at me….you know, like when digital editors place a twinkle on someone’s teeth as they smile with thumbs up with the little pling type noise. As I turned myself to hail this cab, I noticed the driver was already preparing himself to cut off the car to his right and pick me up. As it did, I did as I usually do, and made a mental note of its medallion number, 7H22. My son and I climbed in and I told the driver where we needed to go. Unlike most assholes that probably climb into his car, I didn’t expect him to be a computer program and know exactly where Pier 36 and Montgomery Street was, so after some messing around on his GPS, he found his route, gave her the gun and off we went.
Sitting in the back of the cab, I noticed it appeared to be brand new. I chummed up to the driver and asked him if the car was the last of the 2011 Crown Vic’s to which he stated it was. We chatted for some time and I explained to him my affinity for old NYC Taxi Cabs, to which he politely laughed at, and expressed either feigned or genuine interest. He asked me to write down my website’s address so he could check it out in a little book he had with other tidbits of info that was important to him. Anyhow, I asked him how many miles were on the car and he told me nearly 110,000 miles. He told me he was leasing the medallion and owned the car himself and leases it to another driver so it is constantly on the go 24/7. I asked him what he would do with the car at the end of its taxi life and he said either junk it or sell it, and apologized that he didn’t hold the same emotional value towards them that I did. I joked with the driver his plans to junk it didn’t set well with me, but that the selling part did. I told him he absolutely MUST sell me the car when he would be through with it and reiterated I was dead serious. Like rotting, festering, oozing in the ground dead body serious. He told me he would and started to warm up to the idea that his car could retire in style with a psycho in Vermont and conceded it would be sort of neat in later years to know it was still in existence and maybe see it again. We continued yakking away as he absolutely flew down the FDR – yeehaw! When we arrived at my destination, he asked for my contact info and said he would definitely keep my info in his little book he had for the future. After I paid my fare and tip, I told him I wanted to take a snap of his cab, to which he heartily agreed to, and actually made a new fare that got in after me wait until I gave him a thumbs up. Nice guy – I was psyched!
Now….could it have been a line of bullshit? Maybe. Did he even remember me by the end of the day? Probably not. But….get this. Later on in the day, my son Max and I visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art off 5th Avenue for something to do. When we were through, we went outside and were hanging around. As I was messing around on my phone, my son proclaimed “Hey dad…look, its 7H22!” ß--(what an awesome son). I looked up, and there before us, glimmering under the sun with its shiny lava yellow paint, was indeed, 7H22. Of all the roads and streets, and of all the 13,287 cabs roaming around, there before us was the taxi we road in earlier. MY taxi. Like a scene out of American Graffiti, where Richard Dreyfuss goes after Suzanne Somers in the always elusive white Ford Thunderbird, I ran to the light to give the guy a wave; unfortunately, the light turned green and he hammered the gas. I was able to snap a photo real quick of it driving away.
Now uh, excuuuuuse me, but – that is pretty cool. If you click on the pic, it should enlarge enough to see the plate. Now...if I have to camp out at this guy’s house and stalk him, I will own this car! It will be MY Taxi of Tomorrow. Of course, 8D69 takes precedence in my life and always will, but it can’t hurt to have a garage mate can it?
This weekend I actually met quite a few really neat cab drivers. There was one in particular, Amr Masoud, an Egyptian fellow that my son misheard to mean that his name was Jepson...not "Egyptian". This guy….lol – what a trip. I didn’t want the cab ride to end; he was that fantastic. Just a real honest to goodness hardworking father of two little ones, bombing around NYC 12 hours a day trying to keep his head above water. I can’t explain it any further than to simply say he was a super nice guy – and, naturally, I liked him even more that he thought my travels in 8D69 was neat.
Then there was another older guy in what I thought was a 2011 Crown Victoria; however, it was a 2008 – it was just superdee duper clean. Nice guy - and quite a careful driver. He is the only driver I have been with that actually drives at a reasonable speed. Many times I have had conversations about taxi's with drivers, and every one of them complain how it costs $50 to fill up a crown vic versus $25 to fill up a hybrid. These same drivers are the ones when the light turns green, floor it to race to the next red light 100 feet away - all day, all night.....vroom brake. Vroom brake. Vroom brake. Or, when dropping me off, floor it to merge back onto the street. It is NO WONDER you spend so much on fuel! Anyhow - it is none of my beeswax, so....blabbity blah, below is the 2008 car - looks like new. The guy said it had to retire in a few months and would be painting it and using it as a personal car. Kudos my good sir!.
On Sunday, I was riding my bike up the Avenue of America’s, when my heart wept for a fellow Crown Victoria, medallion 5N96, as it sat with its underwear down/hood up and on display for all the muckety mucks to point and laugh at. I rolled up to it on my bike, and asked the driver if I could help. He told me he thought it was electrical, as he went to start it and it wouldn’t even turn over and told me I could take a look see if I wanted. If I wanted? Are you kidding me? I almost jumped up on a building and did a swan dive into this thing. I reefed around in its nasty oily engine compartment and determined there were two issues with this old Ford. First, its battery terminals were loose and second, a loose wire to the starter relay. A twist here, a bang there – and R R R R R VarOOOOM…..my roadside surgery was a success! I didn’t even mind having the dingy grease all over my fingers….I was proud to wear the bloody residue of a fellow NYC Taxi Crown Victoria. Happy Motoring my new friend! Happy Motoring.
On Friday night, I took a cab and wow....this guy was whacked out of his mind. I don’t think he realized I had a young man (my 16 year old son) with me, as he talked for 50 streets about the size of his dick and how many women he has stuck it in. I was shocked when at one point, he turned onto Christopher Street and stopped his cab in front of two woman hailing cabs – when he rolled down his window and yelled “heya baby, you a wanta my bigga sausage?!”…before spinning his tires and racing down the street. Yeah…uh…that was different. I did NOT tell him about my website! Lol.
Lastly, I stopped at one of my fav shops in Queens and another in the Bronx to say hello to the assorted pieces and parts of cabs that once plied the streets of New York. Always a good time here and nice folks that seem to find me interesting enough to wander around as I need/want!
What was the point of this blog? None. Absolutely none - except to document the fact that 7H22 WILL be in my stable someday. That is pretty much it. Thanks for reading - !
I have often found that decisions made at the top of any organization, often punitively affect others who usually have better than average ideas - if they were only asked. Hence – I have an opinion on the state of affairs as it concerns NYC's new “Taxi of Tomorrow” – the Nissan Whatever Thingie. In a city filled with so many people that hack and saw through bone and skin to look good, the first thing that comes to mind when I see a picture of the new taxi is it is UGLY.
Dang….it’s like they glued a 1984 Lee Iacocca Caravan to the back of a rich kid’s golf cart. Sure, perhaps it’s functional for a passenger and caters to the whole ‘oh look at the tall buildings’ crowd (like moi!), but really now, when you get done cutting the crap…. it is just a TAXI, so what is with all the to do and bureaucratic micromanaging of forced ownership. I've mentioned it elsewhere before, but according to statistics I’ve read, the average fare in NYC is approximately 2.7 miles. Who rides in a car for 2 miles with their eyes glued through a rooftop window (that will never get cleaned)? I can only guess, but to me....people get in….people get out; unless you're a *really* interesting character, the vehicle and the driver are forgotten about the minute the door closes. The sucking black hole that is Times Square or a business meeting draws peoples’ energies to the next thing, as soon to be 13,000 identical yellow abominations roar by. Although, I have to be careful with that statement, because prior to my ever spending as much time as I do in NYC, a taxi ride really can be an unforgettable experience for a tourist - and it sounds hokey, but a taxi ride really is a 'must do' when in New York for short term visitors. Of course I like them all the time, but HELLO>>>>I'm sort of a taxi nut in case you hadn't noticed. My first one was in the 70's in a Plymouth Fury and it was a wild ride. But in general theory, for everyone else....it's just a ride. My brother has been working in Manhattan forever, and has never taken a cab - but that is because he is cheap cheap cheap; his personal vehicle has ROLL UP windows!
Most people would not realize this, but the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission have had restrictions and requirements for years on what kind of car a medallion owner is authorized to operate and use in NYC. Most of it has not made much sense to me, but what DOES make sense, is if a person is going to shell out $1,000,000 for the privilege to operate a taxi in NYC, they should be able to decide what kind of car they can use. For instance, at present, a medallion owner can operate the "Barnum and Bailey Clown Car of Tomorrow", that is....a Prius, or they can even choose to drive the last of the soon to be extinct V8 Crown Victoria’s, but they can’t have a mid-sized Chevy Impala. They can have a Malibu, but still no Impala. It doesn't even make a lick of sense. Impala’s are sold as fleet cars – they come in heavy duty packages for police work – they are good on gas, reliable, parts are plentiful, they ride great and are far roomier than a Prius. So…I would imagine a medallion owner would be within their right to question the integrity of thoughts that went into making the decision to just buy ONE particular vehicle, or what the real backdoor story is on how this has even become a reality. I'm no doomsayer, but, well.....someone is making a coin off this - and it isn't for noble "green" reasons either. It just seems weird is all.
Now, I think it is neat that a lot of time has been spent by engineers at Nissan in placing great emphasis on passenger comfort and safety, but let’s be honest, it’s not like they didn’t have an $incentive$. In it's recent unveiling, they brag about the little things they have refined, like the hump in the middle of the car where your feet go is gone.....but, well…of course it is gone...it is a van - no real breakthrough there! But this then begs the question: have we as a society become SO inconvenienced to move our bodies or take the 1.2 seconds it takes to lift our legs over the hump while sitting down that an entire industry has had to change and acquiesce to our pampered needs? It just seems…..excessive. Other super things in these cabs are iphone chargers or what not. I give it ONE night in the village until some person shoves gum in it. If I was a medallion owner and an owner operator, I would be unhappy to be mandated to buy a particular brand of vehicle - especially when other cities are free to do as they please in terms of transportation choices. In addition, I wouldn't be pleased to be forced to buy a vehicle that generally accumulates between 300 and 400 thousand miles during a service life that hasn't even been *really* tested. People are territorial about vehicles – they define a person and often there is brand loyalty involved. Relationships are forged between owners and mechanics and dealerships. With these new taxi’s, not only are the vehicles expensive, but once those taxi’s come rolling out of the factory, I would bet dollar to donuts parts for prices will be through the roof (after all...it IS made of glass) and customer support will be spotty at best, simply because it is pretty much only New York City medallion owners that will be buying them. Will the TLC pay all the sledgehammer mechanics to receive training/certifications for them, or will they all go to a Nissan garage for repair? Will the partition companies jack their prices since they will know medallion owners will have to pay the price? How long will it take to buy a fender for one of these when it gets crinkled? In any event...all this stuff costs money, and just who do you think will be paying for these inflated costs in the long run? Passengers. Hack owners will increase lease rates….drivers will be forced to pay and hence, be making even less money than what they make now – and they will justifiably bark and scream for rate increases, which will in due time eventually happen – especially with gas nearing $4.50 a gallon in NYC. I know it’s a tough concept to consider, but the man or woman who is required to take our gumptions with a smile on their face with a full breakdown of their personal identity for us to gawk at on the partition have a life and bills to pay too. I know what you're thinking........you're saying to yourself....Hey Mike.......
Okay fine.....moving on *puts cat cradle back in soap box*. Now....as a person who doesn’t work in an office setting, but rather relies on a car that serves as an office, I can attest that it is important for a driver to have some input in what it is they purchase and/or drive. My department gives us a choice in what to use, based on our work needs and our physical properties. Essentially, the TLC requiring medallion owners to buy these vehicles is akin to someone making an office worker buy a certain office chair to sit in all day. It may kill your back, or you may be too big or small for it, but…..sorry…..its ‘required’ seating and it would make the customers so much happier to know you're their SERVANTS – lol. New York City Taxi’s will always have customers….you could drive a moon buggy and someone is going to hail it. While it is important to think about passengers, I personally think it is even more important to think about drivers. I don’t know about anyone else, but I WANT a driver who actually envisions their occupation as being exactly what it is; a profession. I want someone who has been carousing the city’s streets for years; who knows the lay of the land; who is honest and takes pride in his/her work. If you really think about it, for far too long cab drivers have been unfairly demonized by the world's xenophobes – and since the late 80’s, have been repugnantly lumped and categorized into being uneducated, non English speaking societal castoffs. This is unfortunate, as it simply isn’t true - not by a long shot. Like any occupation, there are wayward sons carrying on and I have certainly had my share of crappy and rude drivers, but come on - they are not cast members at Walt Disney World - how many smiles does one have to give to make a five dollar fare?! Now, take a hack that has been driving in relative comfort the past 20 years in a vehicle he/she likes and then force them into something they don’t like for 12 hours a day…? Well….customer service…..oh how I will miss you. Hacks will be driving through Times Square chucking stuff at the 'customers' as they laugh away the day with families in the pedestrian walkways.
But hey who am I? I can’t pretend to know the ins and outs of the industry anymore than I know why hipsters from Minnesota now living in their 8’ by 8’ apartments in Brooklyn think Buddy Holly rimmed glasses look good. Perhaps my dog and pony show blog is akin to a hotel doorman writing a blog about the unfairness of declining milk prices for farmers. I think the long and short of it for me, is the vans are just ugly. New York obviously panders to tourism and consumerism, so to me....my opinion counts. It is a place where image is everything….from those Buddy Holly glasses suddenly becoming trendy again to sporting purple plaid like Herb from the old TV show WKRP in Cincinnati would wear; it is a place where ‘iconic’ takes on a whole new meaning. NYC Taxi’s, whether you like them or not, ARE New York. How often do you see a picture of Times Square without 30 of them lined up? With these new vans, it is going to look like 30 DHL delivery vans lined up; so standardized and dull with a twist of made not here, and assembled not here.
In closing, whether or not these Nissan's are right or wrong for New York or whether they are sharp or ugly is really a matter of personal opinion - and obviously, judging by some of the bed sheets I see women wrapping themselves in walking through the fashion district...well....lets just say opinions on what looks good and what doesn't vary GREATLY. Perhaps in five years I'll just get used to them and end up buying one when it's all old and decrepit....after all....it IS a NYC Taxi....*gleam sparkles from glistening gleeful eye*. I just think it is wrong to make individuals buy certain products. I wouldn’t expect musicians in New York be forced to buy a certain trumpet or for drunken panhandlers be required to buy Becks vs. Schlitz. There are so many decent vehicles in which to choose from for medallion owners to buy that are good for New York, it’s passengers, it’s drivers and themselves, so – let them be the ones to choose. Occupy Nissan! (kidding)
This section of the site is not specific to my taxi travels. They are not really rants either. It is more of a space for me to simply raise awareness to topics that either inspire or frustrate me as an individual.