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.
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.