Thursday, October 2, 2014

Real Cab Rides: True Taxicab Confessions By A Former American Cabdriver

Copyright 2014 Edward Dalton

Dedicated to Patrick Crone, a cabdriver who was murdered on the job and to all other cabdrivers throughout the world who met with the same fate: THEY WILL BE REMEMBERED.

(For a cabdriver memorial and general cabdriver information web site link to: .)




Edward Dalton
P.O. Box 702
Providence, R.I. 02901

(Cab companies are encouraged to freely advertise in the comment section at the end of this blog.)

Edward Dalton and Point Street Bridge. 


Joseph "Joe" Goto - Sculptor, Painter, World War II Veteran, 1916-1994.


Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky, 1821-1881.


Patrick Crone
First Narrative Arc
George Harrison
Drug Run
Learning Chinese
Mama Didn't Try
Maybe There’s Another Eddie
The Taxi Dispatcher
Waiting For Him To Go
Front Money
Bits and Pieces
Second Narrative Arc
Typical Night
Drug Mom
Survivor’s Guilt
My Favorite Taxi Story
Thomas L. “T-Love” Allen
Biggest Tip
Nine Hundred Dollars
The Drunk
Hit Lady
It Could Have Ended Worse
Not Zulus At All
The Happy Couple
Ms. Misery
Robbing The Paralyzed Man
A Stabbing At Night
Sex Stories
Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman
A Cutting Remark
Puking Passengers
Third Narrative Arc
The 11 Commandments of Cabdriving
Classical Music
Angel in the Back Seat
Most Inspiring Passenger
The Good Things Cabdrivers Do
The Star of Christ
Miracle At Brown and George Streets
A Work of Art
Pictures of Dead Souls
The River of the Radiant Angels
In Memory of The Station Fire Victims
The Right Path
More Famous People
Star Over Haven Brothers
Fourth Narrative Arc
Justice for Patrick


Don't Feed The Monster!
Don't Use Uber! (This article
follows glossary.)
Rhode Island State House seen from Prospect Terrace in Providence.  (...The state's motto is: "HOPE." It should be: "YA GOTTA KNOW SOMEBODY..." )

       Murder was on my mind when I started driving a cab.
     My own.
     You would not be crazy to think this. 
     When it comes to being murdered on the job in the United States taxi driving is dangerous work: Four times more deadly than being a police person when I was driving (1992-2004).(Source of statistics: United States Labor Department.)
      In Providence, Rhode Island - a cold, corrupt, kind of crumby and scummy and often deadly-dangerous Northeast Coast of the United States "mini-city" - psycho killers lurk. (Re: "Patrick Crone," the first story following this introduction. In 1993 Crone was pushed or thrown from his cab going 80-miles-an-hour then struck and killed by an innocent motorist. Jose Rodriguez was another Providence cabdriver murdered - shot in broad daylight - in 2007.)
     Something unexpected happened before the Grim Reaper flagged me down.* 
     Despite the fact that much of the job (ah-hem) SA-UCCCCCCKED! - I found there were good things about it.
     Don't get me wrong.
     Much of the job would make anyone toss their tacos.
     One vomito item:
     When I first began driving at least 30 percent of my taxi jobs involved doing drug runs* and taking these unfortunate addicts to get hard drugs such as heroin and crack cocaine at various drug houses.* In addition to a few hot bars where (I allege) politicians, the media and the police (federal, state and local) watched and did nothingnothingnothing while drugs were sold, virtually all these drug houses were located in minority neighborhoods. Then, in a manner of speaking, the minorities got arrested and did everyone's prison time. (Re: That line in "The Godfather" movie where a Mafia guy speaks at a gangster conference and says in his city he would keep the drug trade with: "...the darkies, the coloreds. They're animals anyway so let them lose their souls..." Also, re: Archives of The Providence Journal - the State of Rhode Island newspaper of record - regarding Clown Town,* a minority neighborhood where many drug houses were located. Also, re: "Race, Incareration, and American Values," by Brown University professor Glenn Loury.) 
     Yet these terrible drug runs* and drug houses and other bad things aside, one of the good aspects about the job was that back in 1992 when I began driving much of humanity engaged in this "extremely primitive" ritual: Instead of living their lives on their smartphones THEY OFTEN TALKED TO ONE ANOTHER.
    Since driving a cab opened me up to all the folks of the human race I even had some pretty interesting conversations.
     In my first few weeks of driving I met a guy whose hobby was collecting airport memorabilia; another Hong Kong scholar who discussed Far East politics; and many powerful uneducated types that the 19th century American poet Walt Whitman advised us to: "...walk freely with..."
     Finding your way around the 420 miles (676 kilometers) of the spider-like streets of my olde City of Providence was a fun challenge.
     And the women...
     ("Take me to the stars...")
     There was, of course, the Providence cabdriver culture and lingo that utterly fascinated me. (See entire Glossary.)
     Then there were the other drivers.     
    On any given night in this tightly packed 191,000 people 19-square-mile (50 square kilometers) place, there'd be about 50 of these larger than life drivers.
    I can still see them standing with their cabs in the back of the Providence Train Station with the rays of the white hot electric late afternoon sun blasting on them.
    When I first joined the ranks of "Big Red" and "The Englishman" and "Kay" and "The One Whose Name I Do Not Permit You To Hear," I felt like I had just been initiated into this courageous  undiscovered urban tribe. (And driving around in safety-partition-less Providence cab coffins took a bit of guts. Crack (Cocaine) Was King when I began driving and desperate folks placing a knife to  your throat was a common event...)
    Cab driving was only supposed to be a temporary job.
    The Big Plan was to stay at it for a few months and seek safer work.
     Weeks turned to years and as the Harry Chapin song goes I was still: "...driving in my taxi…”   
     Murder stayed on my mind.
     But in my single man's life another good thing the job did was to blast away galaxies upon galaxies of loneliness. 
     As was the case with the noble Russian emigrant writer Gaito Gazdanov - a World War II French Resistance fighter who was a cabdriver in Paris - yet another plus was that the job allowed me enough time off to write. 
        In 1993 I even began writing about some of my taxi experiences for the Providence community newspaper, The East Side Monthly; later for a Cox Cable web site OSO.COM; then Providence Monthly.
     Along with much new writing, most of those original and rewritten stories are on this basic "one page" blog...

A couple of points:
     1. Unlike the way speech was recorded in the family publications, I have restored the language and included adult situations. OTHERWISE SAID: "Real Cab Rides" is not "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm".  
     2. There’s a glossary of various terms at the end of this book. There are single asterisks (*) next to various words to refer you to it. I suggest you glance at them when you're finished with the various stories.
     3. Throughout this book there is a series of four narrative stories. These are meant to show readers how driving a cab changed me and how cab diving changes others. I won’t tell you now what happens but this book has a happy (but real) ending. 
     4. A shout out to the citizens of the world who get on this blog. You don't know how great it is for me to know that people from (in order of appearance) the United States, Germany, France, India, Malaysia, Romania, Poland, Macedonia, United Kingdom, Ukraine, Canada, Turkey, Venezuela, Lebanon, Belarus, Italy, Brazil, China, Russia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Hungary, Bulgaria, Portugal, Taiwan, Netherlands, Vietnam, South Africa, Bolivia, Belgium, Thailand, Mexico, Sweden, Kenya, Ireland, Spain, Uzbekistan, New Zealand, the Philippines, Indonesia, El Salvador, South Korea, Japan, Bahrain, Latvia, United Arab Emirates, Kazakhstan, Ecuador, Australia, Switzerland, Mauritius, Slovakia, Benin, Azerbaijan, San Marino, Hong Kong, Chile, Israel, Serbia, Norway, Singapore, Barbados, Finland, Greece, Argentina, Denmark, Columbia, Djibouti, Turkmenistan, Moldova, Cambodia, Kyrgyzstan. Cape Verde, Kuwait, Guam, Estonia, Slovenia, Algeria, Czechia, Cote d'Ivoire, French Polynesia, Peru, Isle of Man, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Iraq, Austria, Andorra, Jamaica, Saudi Arabia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Dominican Republic, Georgia (the country), Palestine, Mongolia, Cyprus, Honduras, Angola, American Samoa, Malta, Morocco, Egypt, Guinea, Armenia, Ghana, Senegal, Togo, Tanzania, Uganda, Uruguay, Lithuania, Seychelles, Qatar, Guatemala, Sao Tome & Principe, Burundi, Iran, Congo-Brazzaville, Luxembourg, Myanmar (Burma) read this. I am deeply honored by your interest, and, as is the case with murdered cabdrivers, say a spell of protection for all my readers on a daily basis. (And a shout out to Google for giving "Real Cab Rides" a world audience!)
     5. Though I am now an old fart of 73 (Yikes!) who collects Social Security retirement benefits, I still work (part-time) as a shuttle driver for First Transit at the Rhode Island School of Design, a job that  takes me through various parts of the city. ("...Not motionless will he remain in this land forever beautiful...") My oh my how Providence has changed for the better. Unlike the way I often depicted it here, the city is no longer as run-down as it was and filled with drug houses.
     Still, to paraphrase a great line by local poet Stuart Blazer, the past is like a dead star whose former light shines on everything.  The city remains a corrupt and often dangerous place... 
    All this said,  I must also insist that Providence is indeed a holy city and was a most important city of the American revolution: We stood up! Much of it is picture perfect beautiful, too, especially the east side of the city where live (mostly) the propagandized/mutant/BORING-beyond-belief rich white folks - (aka: "The Undead...") - who are pretty indifferent to poor  city minority kids suffering in one of the worst public school systems in the nation (Re: Archives, The Providence Journal regarding the Providence school system); and the Brown University and Rhode Island School of Design students, hard working and decent young people, really, who should just take their eyes away from their phones for 10-seconds. (P.S. And at the risk of raising shouts for my immediate execution, I will hereby stop pointing my finger at the no-mind white people for a moment and offend the Taliban-like clerics of The First Church of Critical Race Theory by stating: The adult minorities of Providence don't really seem to give a crap about their children receiving a poor education, either, OTHERWISE CHANGE WOULD HAVE HAPPENED!!!)  
      6. Rome wasn't built in a day and as of  July 2022 I am still "tweaking" the text. I suspect this tweaking will continue for some time, probably until, well, that last long drug run, partner. Frankly, I love being able to revise and revise and revise...I am one old dude who thinks the Internet is better than Woodstock! (I saw The Grateful Dead there...)  And I encourage people to support Wikopedia, too! Peace...(And Charon the taxi rower who hauls the dead on the River Styx: I'll be hitting the road in some years and I'm wondering if the place you work at is  hiring...Yeah, I got experience!..I'll only work nights, though...You get better tips...Sure I been t'Hades! Whatcha gotta do is take on right on Broad then...Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita mi ritrovani per una selva oscura, dude!)

Partial view of College Hill from back of Providence Train Station. (Now this view is blocked by new buildings.)

Patrick Crone
      Late at night when cabdrivers gathered in the ghostly-light of  Providence's Kennedy Plaza, Patrick Crone didn’t stand around like a tough guy and brag about how he could have single-handedly won World War II.
     Neither did Patrick just barge into your taxi’s back seat and open up about the latest “wild thing.”
     If you were parked on a taxi stand when Patrick’s green Arrow cab pulled up, you didn’t have to grow an extra pair of eyes to make sure he didn’t steal your next fare.
     The single and shy 31-year-old – who worked hard and helped support his widowed mother – was an honest and decent man.
     One night in the fall of 1993 Patrick picked up one Thomas E. Damiano, then 29, of Lanham, Md., at the Providence Train Station. The police later said Damiano was drunk and under the influence of cocaine. He told Patrick that college students were threatening him.
     Patrick began taking Damiano to a nearby hotel.
     On the way the Maryland man told Patrick he had enough money to be taken on a 50-plus mile ride to Wareham, Mass.
     Patrick started that journey and later, according to authorities, told Damiano that he had to get off the highway – Route 195 – to get gas.
     At that point the passenger accused the driver of being part of an evil conspiracy and ordered Patrick to keep driving.
     Patrick did as he was told.
     Patrick was pushed or thrown from the cab that witnesses estimate had been traveling at 80 miles per hour. 
     Patrick was dragged by the taxi some distance - then he was struck and killed by an innocent motorist.
     Damiano – who was charged with murder, kidnapping, larceny of a motor vehicle and possession of cocaine – claimed the always reasonable Patrick jumped out of the moving cab “without warning...”
     While no one may know everything that happened that night, all of us know that Patrick’s life ended in a horrible way.
     The clear thinking ones among us knew what happened to our friend could have happened to any one of us.
     Said one Providence driver:
    “Driving a cab is like playing Russian roulette. You never know when your number is up.”
    In the United States when it comes to being murdered on the job driving a cab is one of the most deadly there is: Four times more dangerous than a police officer’s according to the United States Department of Labor. (Note: When this story was originally written these figures held true.)
    The brutal truth is that Patrick Crone’s number happened to be up…
     I went to Patrick’s wake and it was good to see other cabdrivers there.
     Their presence showed Patrick’s family that we cared about him and that he didn’t die without having known many people who loved him. 
      I did not go to his funeral but I know that during the procession a cab from every company in the city was present and that every Providence cabdriver who knew him still grieves for him.
     Patrick Crone was murdered.
     Over 20 years have passed and Patrick Crone is still mourned…
     A couple of weeks after he was buried I got out of my cab at the Providence Biltmore hotel cab stand. I walked up to a driver who was a good friend of Patrick’s.
     “So…how was Pat’s funeral?”
     The driver stared ahead.
     “Sad,” he said. 
     In a distant kind of way the driver went on: 
        "I mean the guy was the nicest guy. Kept to himself. Never bothered nobody. Never stole a job from anyone…Nobody had a bad word to say about him…Nobody…”
     A mechanical street sweeper began making its rounds, its harsh and grating sounds echoing through the city and growing louder as it neared us.
     Into the darkness the other driver kept staring.
     “Me, too,” he said with a whisper. “Me, too…”
     (Because the courts of Massachusetts ruled he was improperly read his Miranda rights, in the spring of 1996 after a plea bargaining arrangement, Damiano, the murderer of Patrick Crone, was set free with time served in prison while awaiting trial – 18 months – and 10 years probation.  See the last story in "Real Cab Rides":  “Justice For Patrick.”) (Note: In the United States whenever a person is arrested s/he must have h/his legal rights - or Miranda rights - read out by the arresting police person.)
Rhode Island School of Design campus
Rhode Island School of Design Professor Michael Fink and his beloved Italian greyhound Greta. 
       In Providence, Rhode Island, USA, one great person from whom a struggling artist or writer can seek advice is Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) Professor Michael Fink.
       “Mike” read many of these taxi stories, gave them a good review in Providence’s East Side Monthly and asked how the experiences changed me.
       By presenting four narrative accounts in Real Cab Rides I hope the professor has been answered.
       I also hope readers understand what People of the Meter have to put up with…
      ***** Besides being an intelligent and a supportive man, Mike has been teaching at his one-of-the-best-on-the-planet-art-schools since (get ready) 1957. He sets a fine example for his students and older workers like me, is really deserving of a national citation of sorts.
      Like Patrick Crone and the other cab drivers "Real Cab Rides" is dedicated to, he, too, will be remembered…
     P.S. After 64 years at RISD on June 2, 2022 Mike  retired...      
View of Providence River from Crawford Street Bridge. To the far left African slaves sometimes landed; here two dolphins were recently cited.

First Narrative Arc

(This is the first of four narrative arcs in which I show how cab driving changed me.)

"...And from there they went to Beer..."  Bible, Numbers 21:16...

   “…I just had the last fuckin' beer I’m ev-a gonna wanna have f'the rest of my entire fuckin' life and I want to go to that detox place (A place where alcoholics go to get sober) they got over there on Oxford Street. So take me there, Mister Cabdriver. Take me t'that detox center that they got over there on..."
     As the stocky, 50-ish guy in the awful brown striped shirt    stormed into the back seat, that was the announcement. 
    With a stare faraway and soft tones nostalgic, when we rolled the man said more: 
    "Yeah, I was just sittin' in that bar where you got me at. I was just drinkin' an' thinkin' an' lookin' around at all the bottles of booze on the wall up there. "Fuck this!" I said to myself. "Yer gettin' way too old f'this kind-a shit!" I said t'myself..." So then I had the bartender call up your cab company, had one more beer just for old time's sake, y'know, an'...Here I am! I'm with you! I'm ridin' in your taxi an' I'm about to start a brand new…”
     A little black cloud seemed to cross his face.
         I think (KA-THUD!) we hit a pothole.
    "An-n-n-n' - d'ya think I'm makin' the right decision here - sir? Do you, in your opinion, think I'm doin' the right thing by quittin' drinkin'? (You're a cabdriver and a man of the world! What do you think - sir!?)"
    I gripped hard the sticky red steering wheel.
        I looked through the cracked windshield.
    "I'd say quitting drinking is a good thing for you to do."
    "Ya think so? Ya really think so!? (Tell it t'me straight, now! I'm a big boy an' I wanna know the truth!)"
      I thought more.
     "Yes. You quitting drinking should be a good thing."
     "Yeah...yeah...'cause ya wanna know what jus' happened?" 
          "Well, ah, you did..."
     "I was jus' sittin' in that bar where you got me at back there. I was jus' sittin' aroun' an' listenin' t'the drunks an' everythin'. "Fuck this!" I said t'myself. "You're gettin' way too old f'this kind 'o'..."" 
     By the way:   
         This hot and muggy pre-dusk evening was the very first night I had ever driven a taxi.
     Due to my lack of cabdriver know-how I even headed to this Oxford Street the long way - taking a right up a street called Broad  and entering into the urban dark forest over the busy Nile River of a superhighway.
     Little cars driven by guys with mustaches came bat-ifically at us.     
     On a sidewalk across from the former YMCA, a skinny and long winter-coated homeless guy gazed boggle-eyed at a supermarket cart.
        I kind of laughed.
    My life was pretty much like that unfortunate (my guess) Vietnam veteran's.
     Here I was: Forty-three, a bit depressed, single, a little lonely, a little depressed, exactly $37 to my name.
     It wasn't the cost of doing endless lines of cocaine or throwing away my money at roulette tables ("...Tomorrow I will rise from the dead...") or spending everything on comely ladies with erotically propitious derrieres that had led me to such a sorry state - especially the part about the comely ladies with the erotically propitious derrieres.  (I couldn't get laid! All the forces of the universe were against this! Me having sex with a woman was against some fundamental natural law!)
     It was some dark and stark and Siberian exile-like years of trudging through lower depths streets (I had no car) to reach graveyard shift minimum-wage security guard posts in order to read and write and study and try to keep my eyes open. (I did all this writing and reading on graveyard shifts between solitary night watchman rounds.) 
    Work supporting myself and extremely hard work trying to make it as a writer: That's what destroyed me.
    If only I had drank my brains out in some dark Lethe lighted rooming house and screamed about the government! If only I hopped trains from Coast to Coast while laying back and looking up at the stars! If only I had  done nothing then my current poverty wouldn't have been so maddening, then my current poverty would have made sense `cause I had worked my ass off to be such a flop!          Oh well.
          It was what it was.
     Anyway, I wasn't a quitter.
     Look at the trouble James Joyce had getting "Dubliners" published or how hard it was for Jack Kerouac to get "On The Road" in print or how few people even knew the poet Arthur Rimbaud's name when he was alive. Even totally great writers have to put up with a lot of grief, so how could I - a writer who was not so great - complain? Like one of those smiling and broken-glassed  World War II Japanese soldiers they'd find on some obscure Pacific island still fighting Americans years after the war ended, I would just continue my furious attack on The Slimy and Diseased and Totally Disgusting Walled City of  Fascist American Publishing.
    Anyway, besides my gosh-hanged-going-absolutely-nowhere writing career I could still see The Big Picture.
    Like - I had my health, my relative youth, my elderly parents were still alive - "Hail Maurice and Fanny Dalton!" - I had clothes on my back, a couple of friends, a can or two of chili and tuna fish in the cupboard and unlike that poor veteran who was probably still hearing the chop chop chopping sounds of Army green and camouflaged helicopters and land mines (BOOM!) ex(BOOM!)ploding - AND WHO NO WAY IN HELL SHOULD HAVE BEEN HOMELESS (AUTHOR'S MESSAGE!) - I had a roof over my head. 
      I even had a job.
   I had been fired from my last security guard post for littering and then mouthing off to some seriously unprofessional Providence cop. (He used the word "retard" and I chastised him for this. Then he used his clout to get me booted: NAME  OF COP AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST.)
      I had been out of work for several months. 
      Because of the feudal local bureaucracy it had been a living hell for me to get my hackney cabdriver's license. 
   And while I hated it, hated it, positively hated it -
     "...An' d'ya really think I'm doin' the right thing by quittin' drinking? Do you, in your opinion, sir, think I'm doin' the right thing here?..."
     Tall black clouds stacked like great piles of chipped Eight Balls loomed in front of us.
     By a weed-high cemetery where zombie junkies cast away A.I.D.S. infected needles and desperate crack ho's bobbed their heads up and down and up and down giving bargain basement/blow jobs - ("Parlez-moi d'amour redites-moi des choses tendres..." R.I.P. and apologies to Lucienne Boyer) - the pale horse/white taxi 36 - the little cab that really shouldn't have - puttered past.
     WE SELL MEAT - a crudely red lettered plywood sign atop the entrance to a neighborhood store announced.
     Where filthy guys would sometimes come up to your parked cab, knock on your window and plead for a dollar, a dollar, hey, just a fuckin' dollar f'a fuckin' cup'o'fuckin' coffee - ("Hey: I don't do drugs, buddy! Look into my eyes!...") - there, too, the taxi wandered.
     I glanced at the multi-colored nova of broken glass cast shimmering on passing side streets, reflected on the splotched and hideous and Crimes Against Art "ballooning" graffiti on various buildings, saw a really fearsome Black transvestite with solid thighs and big arms in a red sequined mini-skirt ("Yo, Cookie!") - and somehow realized we were lost. 
    As I pulled the cab over to recheck my crisp new black and yellow map book, though, my passenger wasn't mindful of the dilemma and just continued - (..."starin' out at all them bottles of oozo an' tequila an' the gin one with the picture of Alfred Hitchcock's mother...") - his repeatingrepeatingrepeating epic.
      (Oxford Street, Oxford Street,  Oxford Street - now I couldn't find the friggin' street in the friggin' map book...Oxford Street, Oxford...)
     Then a light bulb flashed brilliant white in my head and I remembered something: 
     See, way back there in the hippie dippie days when I hit the rowdy road I once meandered to Morocco. And when I'd sometimes get lost in any labyrinth of a medina (casbah) I'd just pretend to know where I was going, a strategy that worked a-maze-ingly well  once in Marrakech.  ("Wow, man, how did you find your way out of here? Wow...Wow, man..." my sweet codeine cough syrup swilling Colorado girl companion would wonder.)
     So as the drunk in the back seat repeatinglyrepeatinglyrepeatingly went on, I flung the map book on the bucket seat beside me, stomped a sole of a jogging shoe against the worn-silver-metal-showing gas pedal and - just drove. 
     Like had been the case in North Africa I haphazardly sped down a street, came upon a stop sign and just - took a left.
    I'd reach the end of that street, happen upon another stop sign, turn my head this way/that way and just - make a right.
    As all this was happening, the sky grew darker and rain drops blessed the windshield  like the drops of holy-water cast at a high mass by a red clothed bishop. Against the cab's white metal hood and a slate gray sky "baby bits" of water shot up from the splattering droplets like the protons of atoms. As the windshield wipers flapped flapped/flapped flapped, the rain then came down - as thick as a river as thick as a river as thick as flapflapflap river.  Rain pounded the cab's roof as meticulously timed as a drum solo by a musical great like Ed Blackwell/Charlie Watts/like the pre-execution snare drum roll before a military hanging - "They're hanging Danny Deever..." - of olde.
    Suddenly, a heavily muscled arm of dirty white thick lightening  thrust down from the firmament and FLASHED white giant spotlight eerie bright, illuminating our dark and meaningless and FLASH absurd/absurd world without a moral order.
    And thunder KA-BOOMED. 
    And thunder KA-BOOMED.
    I kept driving like a holy fool, bits of water seeped through cracked roof and from the lightening lighted FLASH red upholstered back seat a soulful, fluid red throbbed now, a light-filled red like the red in a Baroque painting. That  crimson color seemed to cover the drunk like an aura in a Rembrandt painting. Then - KA-BOOM-KA! KA-BOOM-KA! - from the drunk's wondering face came a question:
     "Say buddy: Do you know where you're goin'?"
     "No!" FLASH I straight-out answered.
      And maybe because the intense drama of the FLASH storm inspired deep thoughts - the lightening flashes and everything would have kind of reminded you of that scene by the stormy sea in "Hamlet" when the already crazy Hamlet speaks to the ghost of his disgusting lying pervert overrated father (see end note) - I answered the drunk on a philosophical level:
     "I don't know where I'm going but - does anybody!? I mean, you start your life and you have the same old tragedies. You take too much acid. You have a crumby marriage. You spend years - years - writing novels that no literary agent or publisher will even look at. (FLASH! KA-BOOM-KA! FLASH!) And after all this genuinely hard work you end up so broke and desperate that you have to drive a cab to support yourself. But don't you worry. I may not know where I'm going in my life but I'll surely get you to where you're going in..."
     "But how're ya gonna fuckin' get me t'(KA-BOOM!) fuckin' Oxford Street if y'don't fuckin'..."
      "Because I fuck-ing will!" I FLASH/flashed back, furious that he hadn't listening to me now, gripping the steering wheel and (insanely) trying to get him to improve his diction. "I'll fuck-ing get you to fuck-ing..." 
     Rain reigned.
     The cab stalled.
     I swore murderously loud, re-started the cab, stared out at the rain gleaming black asphalt street surrounded by big hulking barns of three deckers.* Like a mad Ahab chasing Moby Dick I drove the cab (FLASH!) wildly, mindlessly and with a look of homicidal madness (probably) radiating from my eyes.
     The drunk rocked and banged in the back seat like he was old time sailor on the deck in a Cape Horn tempest. He got quite frightened of my driving, too, because:
    "Say, buddy. (KA-BOOM) I know how I tole ya I wanted t'quit drinkin' an' everythin'. But..."
     "(FLASH) Forget it!"
     "But your drivin' is makin' me (KA-BOOM) crazy! An' I could really use..."
     "(FLASH) You are going to do what  you set out to do. And I am going to help you do it. BE A MAN AND FACE THE FIRE! It's detox," I said raising an arm and making a fist in utter madness.  "Detox (FLASH)! or death! (FLASH!)"
    So I kept driving with the intensity of Charon rowing the quivering dead up the River Styx. 
     I drove in utter madness. 
     Furious at The Fates for not allowing me to get to this Oxford Street (FLASH! FLASH!) I drove. 
    The drunk (KA-BOOM!) shook and cowered in the back seat - ("I need a drink, buddy! I need a drink!") - while considering (probably) the raving passion and the wild driving of the lunatic (me!) that had just appointed himself his fateful master. 
     The storm raged; lightening flashed.
     "I need a drink, buddy! I really need a drink!" (KA-BOOM!)
     "Detox!" (FLASH!) "Detox!" (FLASH!)
     Only when the drunk began sounding like a pathetic little lost kitten - ("I really need a drink, buddy! Please take me to a bar! Take me to a bar, pleeeease!") - did I finally come to my senses and (somehow) get back to downtown Providence.
     The storm ended, in the sky a star or twelve winked and twinkled.
     We parked outside a bar on Empire Street (Muldowney's). For some reason we got out of my drunken taxicab of Absolute Reality, stood on the rain cleansed asphalt.
    "Listen," I told the man. "I'm a new cabdriver, OK? I really don't know what I'm doing, man, and that's the truth. So hey: Let me try to take you to Oxford Street again. I'll just take you and you won't even owe me any money. (How's that? That sound okay? How's that?)"
    The drunk pulled out five beer-drenched dollar bills from his wallet, looked at me as though I were a demon,  pressed the money in my hand.
    "You take this money!" he quaked while pointing a finger at me.  "You take all of it!.."

EPILOGUE: Readers should note that the lightening FLASHES and thunder KA-BOOMS did not happen as precisely as here described. The dialogue, while essentially real, is also a little off. (But hey not much!) Yet the descriptions and events that happened on the ride itself are definitely on-the-money and an electrical storm indeed happened on that early July 31, 1992 evening when I drove my first taxi shift - and not too far from where baseball legend Babe Ruth briefly lived - around 500 Elmwood Avenue and near Columbus Square - when he played for the long defunct baseball team, the Providence Grays.
    The drunk, incidentally, was my second run of the night, the first being taking a good looking female zombie from the train station "over there" (hee, hee) to 132 George M. Cohan Boulevard. 
    " Wow! I just started driving a cab today and you're my very first passenger!" I said with sunshine and radiance and warmth.
     "Well, good luck on your new career," the white corpse oozed back in  typical "Die Neighbor!"/"Fongool Neetop!"/"Ya Gotta Know Somebody" City of Providence fashion...
    (End Note: Hamlet's father and my "Hamlet" theory: A few people in this William Shakespeare play believe the ghost of the elder Hamlet existed so I'll go along with this. But how could the ghost be coming up from Purgatory where murderous revenge would be against Christian thought? More likely, he was coming up from Hell and lying his phony heroic warrior/great guy/everybody-says-he's-as-nice-as-Bill-Cosby-man, ass off. I say he molested/raped his son and thus induced Hamlet's madness. I say Prince Hamlet's real motive for pretending to be mad was to cover this deep and real madness: Junior suffered from a "split personality" disorder. And he must have been totally crazy to have screwed up things with a honey like Ophelia. Sure, sure: She must-a been a pain in the ass. But from what I've also scholastically extrapolated, she, ah, had her good points...) 
George Harrison (1943-2001) as I remembered him.


[NOTE: I was at a party given by the magazine I wrote for - Providence Monthly - right after this story was published. I was standing amid four or five people. "I don't think it was Harrison you had in your cab," scoffed what I believe was a thuggish and bullying undercover cop in an effort to make look like garbage. You could have been right officer! (Now go let drugs get sold in minority neighborhoods and bars and let criminally connected bookies and pimps walk the streets like arrogant rats...) Still, it was the soul of the passenger that made me think the person was George Harrison and I genuinely believe it was he who I had in my taxi...(The police don't just put their knees to your necks, let me tell you.  RE: CHURCH COMMITTEE REPORT: DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., A CASE STUDY. This government report is free and online.)]

      At the Providence Westin hotel this English guy and his wife got into my cab.
    “Take us up to Brown University!” Englishman demanded.
     “Sure, but where exactly? Brown is kind of a big place so…”
     “Oh, just take us there!” he snapped all fascist/elitist snitty snotty. “We’ll tell you when we get there!”
     I felt like smashing the dude.
     If a cabdriver smashed everyone who spoke down to him like this, though, the cabdriver would have so many broken fingers. 
     Anyway, I wasn’t thinking about the dude or his particular psychosis.
    As I drove up hills there was a baroque piece on the classical station. Instead of dwelling on the bad I just concentrated on the beautiful and relaxing music.   
    I got the feeling that the passenger seemed to like that music. I think it even changed his overall impression of me: My playing that music helped me break through that stupid world-wide myth of how all cabdrivers are hideously uneducated, without any appreciation of the arts, etc. [P.S. I've driven cabs with at least one unemployed classic's professor (one Professor Nicholas Sterling), musicians, law students, a few reasonably wealthy people, a few neurotic geniuses, etc. Now, in 2022, I drive a taxi-like shuttle bus with a graduate of Harvard.]
      Right as we came upon Van Wickle Gates at Brown University, in fact, the guy wasn't nasty at all. He even said:
    “Driver: Can you, ah, please stop here?..”
    For some reason we all got out of the cab.
    He paid the fare, added a good tip, looked  at me.
    “I really liked the music you had on the radio,” he told me.
    “Yeah, well, playing music like that helps make the world a more peaceful place.”
     The words I said seemed to impress him and the two of us kept looking at one another. As we did I even felt this powerful force coming from him.
     Better said, as the passenger and I stood in the empty street, I realized his soul was as solid as steel.
     Spiritually, my passenger had heavy strength, the same kind of inner strength you’d find in someone like a general, a major executive or: The Beatle George Harrison!
       It took me years to figure it out and though I could be wrong that’s who I think he was.
     At the time I gave him a ride George Harrison had a son who attended Brown University.
     He was reportedly in Providence at the time of this ride, staying at the hotel where I picked him up and in town to visit his son.
     The woman he was with looked like how someone later described the late Beatle’s wife.
     He was much older looking than the George Harrison I remembered.
     But – there was his soul, of course, the kind of immensely strong soul one would have needed to have lived through all the chaos and pain and beauty that a Beatle lived through.
     More than anything that's what makes me think it was George Harrison who I had in my cab...
Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970). "May you stand in the Halls of Triumph in the presence of Osiris..."
P.S. I saw Jimi Hendrix at (ironically) Brown University on Friday, March 14, 1968. (The Soft Machine was the opening band.) Fantastic! In the green farmer-like overalls he was that night wearing Hendrix seemed to project that same steel-like emotion as did (I believe) George Harrison...The vibes!...(And Jimi: There's something weird about your death, dude...OTHERWISE SAID: I say you were murdered...)
"Clown Town" - specifically, Portland and Somerset streets - where drug runs* were common. (Re: Glossary, Clown Town.) Note: Virtually all Providence drug houses* were located in minority neighborhoods - and I certainly do not believe minorities are a bunch of drug dealers. I believe these drug houses were put in minority neighborhoods because the powers that be knew that they would be more likely to remain there and it was therefore more financially advantageous that they operated in these neighborhoods. There were seldom any drug houses in white neighborhoods. I also allege the state media did nothing to link the authorities to the peculiar presence of drug houses in these areas.  (Media people: Stop buying into the myths that "Mexican Gangs" control the drug trade or that pharmaceutical companies were the force behind the current drug crisis. It's de facto racist to think the Mexican groups are the force behind this plague; Mexicans are (generally) good, morally minded people. The police and politicians of the United States  have much control of the drug trade: Investigate them!  Also, as this book plainly shows,  there was a drug crisis long before the pharmaceutical companies got blamed for it. And don't you worry: I say the police and politicians made money from it and that people in the media benefited by turning a blind eye to it.)

         When the grimy guy pressed the $10 bill in my hand and told me we’d be going to a notoriously bad street and coming right back, I knew what the deal was.
       We were doing a drug run.*
       “Drug runs” – Providence cabdriver lingo for rides in which you usually do return trips transporting people to buy drugs like heroin and cocaine and crack cocaine – are a fact of life in this city’s taxi business.
       No drivers like drug runs because druggies* don’t tip.
       They force you to go into neighborhoods where the Angel of Death does h/his heaviest trade.
        Poverty pretty much forces Providence drivers to make these journeys, though. If cabdrivers refused what they thought could be a drug run, they’d be cutting into their company owners’ profits – not to mention their own daily bread.
      Losing money aside I was disgusted by this particular drug run.
      See, besides bringing along his wife the guy in the back seat was taking along his little daughter.
      “So – how’re ya doin’, buddy?” Drug Man wondered.
      “All is well,” I straight-out answered. “How’s everything with you?” (Note: I am bisexual and I'm a little tired of the often banal homosexual code. Is that hot enough for you, buddy?)
      “Yeah…ah…like I say, we’ve got to go to Burnside Street for a second and then we’re coming right back. I forgot my keys* at a friend’s house and (COUGH! COUGH!) I gotta go pick `em up!...”
      As soon as there was a break in the traffic we rolled.
      I wasn’t up for an intellectual discussion. But like a lot junkies the guy got a little nervous: He seemed to be wondering whether or not I was an undercover cop.
      “Say! I ain’t seen you aroun’!” he began his less-than-artful questioning.
        “Nah…probably not.”
     “Whaddaya (COUGH! COUGH!) work nights?”
     “Yeah…Too lazy t’work days.”
     “Har! I hear ya, buddy!”
      He let out a little laugh and turned to his wife. (“This ride should go all right,” he muttered.) “Yeah, right!” he then said to me. “I’m too lazy t’work days too, buddy!..”
     For a while the cab wound through these street-canyons with walls of crumbling three-deckers,* toddlers playing in the street after dark, the latter day people of the abyss.
     Heavy check day* traffic aside I knew this ride would be an easy one and with $10 in my pocket at least I didn’t have to worry about getting paid.
     Soon the little girl spoke.
     “Daddy! Daddy!” said she in this bubbly  child’s voice. “When we go to the supermarket the next time can we get some really really crunchy cereal?”
      Through my rear view mirror I could see “Daddy” catching me looking at his daughter and him.
      (“This kid!” he joked with me in this oily way as he looked into the reflection of my brown eyes.) “Sure, honey, sure! We can get really crunchy cereal the next time we go to the supermarket. You’re my little sweetheart and we can get anything you want!”
     The child started asking more kid questions - and I started feeling sick.
     I mean, the guy was trying to make me believe he was some kind of great  father when he was really bringing along the kid into the dangerous world of drugs so the police, maybe, wouldn’t  suspect him of anything.   
      I wanted to murder him. 
      As it is I’m pretty talented at mental torture.
      “Yeah, like I was telling you, I only work nights. But in a couple of weeks I’ll be graduating from the Providence Police Academy and Buddy Cianci* told me personally he’s gonna recommend that I get onto the force. (Man, I’m lookin’ forward to that!)”
     Now keep in mind that despite my good physical health I was years past starting out as a rookie police officer.
    But the junkie fish in the back seat swallowed my lie hook, line and sinker.
    He squirmed a little.
    The tension in the cab got strong.
     For the first time since I picked up this guy and his family I even started to feel afraid.
     See, right then I remembered hearing about this particular druggie.
        A day man* told me this passenger had a hot gun that he wanted to sell.
     At that very moment he was probably even carrying it.
     I kept my cool, turned a corner near a supermarket, felt the tension in the cab get stronger.
     After awhile druggie spoke.
     “Say, pal (COUGH!) come to think of it, instead of going to South Providence* right now we need to do a little shopping. So why dontcha stop here and give us your card. Ah, maybe we’ll call ya back later, buddy…OK?”
     I considered all this.
     “Hey, man, you’d, like, be doin’ me a great favor if you didn’t call me back.”
      Despite my hatred I didn’t mean to say that. Especially when you considered the way my words kind of oozed out of me, it all sounded like a deliberate insult. 
       Then I decided: Fuck apologizing.
      The thought of so many good fathers and mothers busting their asses at crumby and low-paying, non-mob connected union Rhode Island jobs so they could put their children through college (or something) - while this sack of shit was bringing his little innocent daughter into the world of violence and drugs - well, it was kind of hard for me to warm up to him.
      So I stopped the cab and held out the guy’s change like I was a cat dangling a rat by its tail.
      He took the money without comment and got outside the cab, his giant bunch of keys rattling outside his jean-pocket like the  heavy irons of the Charles Dickens’ Ghost of Christmas Future. 
        Through the big plate window supermarket where we had stopped customers stood in lines by cash registers. In sight of them he slyly glanced at his comely - wife then pointed up his index finger like he were showing her something. OTHERWISE SAID: He was pimping his wife: Hello! Anyone aroun' this place got their eyes open? Hello! Have I gotta explain everything t'youse!?..(Pimping is a growth industry in Rhode Island...In Providence - I allege - criminally sanctioned pimps - and similarly deemed bar cocaine dealer and bookies and loan sharks - have the same social status as mystics, prophets.THESE ARE THE SADHUS OF PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLAND!)

*****"Some old men are still alive but the old Junkies are gone...We are a legend, invisible but legendary, as prophesied..." "Back on Times Square, Dreaming of Times Square..." Allen Ginsberg
     This piece was originally published in 1993 when drug runs were common in the Providence taxi business. I’d say in my career as a Providence cabdriver that I’ve done at least 300 drug runs and during my first years of cab driving at least 30 percent of the entire Providence cab business itself involved transporting people to buy drugs. Now drug houses have largely shut down. These days drugs in Providence are bought by private arrangement, or, (I allege) at various bars and coffee houses...The police and the  media still do nothing... Manufactured Consent...It's small wonder that so many people of this country do not trust the media...
Van Wickle Gates, Brown University

Learning Chinese 
      The Asian-American students I was taking to the movies were a great bunch of kids. 
     We all talked and joked for a while and soon they started telling each other swear words in different languages.
     I taught them a couple in Italian. 
     Then I asked them to teach me how to swear in Chinese.
     They did: They taught me how to say “Dew Low Mow.” 
     It means: “Go fuck your mother.”
     The kids roared with laughter at my feeble attempts at pronunciation.
     “You don’t say “dew” like that! It’s more like…”
       After a couple of tries, I had the expression down perfectly.
     “Dew Low Mow!” I joked when they left the cab.
     As often happens in my company when kids go to the movies, the driver who first transports the group is asked to go back. 
     In the darkness of the parking lot of that movie house a group of Asian-American kids who seemed like my former passengers headed to my cab and began opening the cab’s doors.
     “Dew Low Mow!” I greeted them with a laugh.
      Steely silence.
      These students were not the same group I had first driven…

P.S. In my experience as a cab driver - and, in recent years, as a First Transit van driver for the Rhode Island School of Design - I must say that the very best class of passengers I have transported has been Asian students from China. These kids are consistently polite and respectful and egalitarian. So often I have dropped off a bunch of these students and when leaving the vehicle each one will personally thank me. ("Thank you very much, sir!" I  hear that every night I drive!) I've read there is Asian hatred in this country but it's surely not coming from me or any of  the drivers I work with...
     I only regret that there is really no freedom of speech at institutions like Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design: Specifically, kids who are here studying from China - there are now about 360,000 of these students in the United States - cannot freely speak of the social problems of China. If you ever ask them about various issues, they kind of (wisely and fearfully, I suspect) "play dumb." It's my further belief that there are informers and Chinese operatives working on College Hill to watch over these genuinely nice and polite and respectful kids. If one of these students says something negative about China in a class - like, for instance, how  one million Uyghurs are in prison camps and Uyghur women are being sterilized, how the late Chinese President Chairman Mao killed 80 million people, how current Chinese President Xi Jinping should do us all a great big favor and just fucking die - the Chinese police will find out and "visit" their parents in China the next day. (Re: Archives, The Economist regarding spy experiences at University of California, Irvine, California; also, recent article(s) in The New York Times regarding the presence of Chinese scholars here in the United States allegedly stealing intellectual secrets and how the FBI are hunting the scholar/spies down.)
Blog Guru Evan Owen, A Tremendous Friend Who Is Also A Decent Illustrator And A Talented Musician
      (For much of the time I drove a cab (1992-2004) credit cards were not used. People paid in cash and usually at the end of the ride.)
     We stopped on the one-way back street.
     My young passenger gave me a sneaky look – then busted out of the cab without paying.
     The street was slick with ice. 
      I shifted to Reverse and gunned the gas pedal to catch him.
      He slipped, went up in the air all arms and legs in his loose homie clothes and landed on his butt.
      I (fortunately) slid to a stop...
      In Providence, the cab fare is usually collected at the end of the ride and sometimes people "run"*.  “Runners”* - Providence cab drivers’ slang for these passengers who slip out of your cab without paying – come in all shapes and sizes, too.
     While runners are usually solitary males under 25, there have been reports of much older runners – and many times when carloads of passengers jump out of your cab without paying.
     This form of petty thievery is an equal opportunity crime.
     Young white males have run on me, gay male couples have run on me, black lesbians have run on me.
     I even heard of one instance of one pregnant woman who ran:
     “This woman was so pregnant she looked like she’d be delivering any second,” said the late Robert Hines, a trustworthy driver. “So when she told me that she had to go into her house for the money, I didn’t think anything of it. But the wind-up was that after I waited a couple of minutes this little boy came out and said: “Hey mister? Are you waiting for that pregnant lady? `Cause she just went behind that house over there and jumped right over a fence!””
      I’ve also heard some stories – and I do stress the word stories here – about what some cab drivers do when they catch runners:
     “…So I just held the fuckin’ kid’s head and told his fuckin’ friend that every minute from now on if youse don't pay…(and so on and so on and…)”
     “…When Big Red caught a runner he used to follow the runner into their house. And the longer he had to wait for his money, the more often things in the house would get broken. Big Red waited for five minutes for you to pay him? There went a dish. Big Red waited 10 minutes? There went a television set. There were no two ways about it: Big Red rode you and he was gonna get paid…” (Note: Having known the late Big Red I say this story is true.)
      One driver told me a runner story that even beat the pregnant woman one.
     His words:
     “…It was this really snowy night, see, and I gives a ride to this colored guy all dressed up there in them flashy kind of pimp clothes. He looks like he’s got money on him and that he’ll pay. But when we gets to where we’re goin’ – them housing projects there by Salmon Street – he gets out of the cab and runs. So I get out of the cab and start chasin’ after him. But after he gets about 10 feet he slips on some snow and tears his pants – and I slip and fall on the snow, too. So then we the both of us get up, see, and the guy runs another 10 feet. He slips again and loses his hat – and I slip! Finally, that guy with all his torn clothes and lost hat gets on top of this hill behind a fence while I’m at the bottom. He’s outta puff. His once good clothes are all raggety and torn. Snow is all white and falling and coming down on his head. For a second we just stare out at each other.
      And I just start laughing my ass off.
    "“Hey, nigger!” I shout as snow keeps comin’ down all around us. “Was any of this worth a four fuckin’ dollar cab ride!?””
     Even if you do have a comical runner story to tell, runners do test you sense of self worth.
     Here you are, a cabdriver who has taxied around saints and sinners and a person who should be a little more street-wise than most.
    One day some two-bit sleaze bucket comes along and takes advantage of you.
     Every movement of your passenger – every change in the tones of h/his voice, various expressions, etc. – should be glaring clues regarding a person’s action. For all your seeming knowledge about people, though, you get fooled…
     In the 1990s The New York Times had an article about veteran police detectives in Manhattan. These experienced law enforcement people prided themselves on their ability to tell whether or not a person is lying.
     The point of the account was that these good and experienced detectives didn’t have any more of an ability to detect a liar than did some rookie cop.
     To quote from Bad Boy, the autobiographical book by the great American crime writer Jim Thompson (see note at end of this article): “…There ain’t no way of telling what a man is by looking at him. There ain’t no way of knowing what he’ll do if he has the chance…”
     OTHERWISE SAID: We all can get burned now and then.
     As for that awful feeling you get when someone takes advantage of you, well, that appears to be harder to deal with.
     By waiting to collect your fare at the end of the ride (as we do in Providence) you kind of open up your heart.
     Sometimes your heart get stomped on.
     In this light getting ripped off is a spiritual violation: Having it happen to you triggers all kinds of negative emotions and sometimes brightens memories that you desperately want to keep in blackness.
     Of course, you can avoid getting ripped off.
     You can demand money in advance from every fare – as some drivers will.
     Sadly, a few cabdrivers I’ve known have been notorious for asking for money up front from young Black males…
     While I do think it’s a good idea to sometimes to collect your fare money in this fashion I also know that by always asking for cash in advance you’re losing something more precious than money: You lose your trust in humanity.
     The truth is that most cab customers are basically decent people. I refuse to shut down whatever trust I have inside me because of a handful of creeps.
    One last thing.
    You can go for months without give a ride to a runner, or, like rotten bananas, you can get them in bunches.
     On just one recent shift I had a few runners: One being this white trash scumbag. He said he just got two monthly checks from the government. 
     Another runner was an urbane Black gentleman in tortoise shell glasses. That guy disappeared into an alley.
    Maybe because I was having good nights and could more easily reason away their scumbagitude, I just didn’t feel so badly about “losing out…”

***** I got turned onto the crime writer Jim Thompson by a daring and beautiful skydiver woman who once got into my cab with her even more daring skydiver boyfriend during the Extreme Games they held in Providence a few times. (She’d video-tape her boyfriend doing daredevil stunts when they were free-falling thousands of feet above the earth.) She said she liked reading Jim Thomson. “You mean Hunter Thompson!” I stupidly argued. “No,” said the courageous Californian. “I mean Jim Thompson…” (Check out Thompson’s "The Killer Inside Me": It’s a seriously great read.)

A factory in Olneyville, a Providence neighborhood

      She plopped into the back seat and told me she had to pick up the daughter at the police station.
      That 13-year-old had gotten into some kind of jam!
      I drove to the police station and Mother got out.
     When she got back in with the child, I could just about believe my ears:
     “Them fuckin’ pigs!” the fat kid exploded. “Them fuckin’ Providence pigs are the biggest fuckin’ cocksuckers there are!”
     Startled and genuinely astounded by the daughter’s outburst – The kid was so young! – I expected Mother to do something.
     The big woman with the huge breasts stuffed prominent in her stained Big Tweety Bird t-shirt only listened.
     “I mean, fuck!”  fatty girl went on. “After I fuckin’ belted that motherfucka Jason (Her brother?) and the pigs came I, like, swore at a fuckin’ Providence pig. I mean, like: Wow! Ain’t those cocksuckers never heard the word “Fuck” before!? I bet the niggers in South Providence* use it wid `em all the fuckin’ time!”
    Though Mother remained silent, through my rear view mirror I could see this faint and peaceful Madonna-like grin that was beginning to form.
     “Well, I guess those police won’t want to see you for awhile,” she sweetly stated.
     “Fuckin” A they won’t wanna see me, Ma! And let me fuckin’ tell ya, Ma, when the pig handcuffed me started walkin’ me into his fuckin’ cruise-a, I spat all o-va that fuckin’ pig! Ha! It was beautiful! All my spit was drippin’ and droolin’ all o-va his fuckin’ face and there wasn’t a thing they could could do to me about it `cause `o’ my age and the fact that I’m a girl!”
      We drove past bankrupted businesses, grim Providence neighborhoods, dark and dead industrial centers.
      In a calm tone, Mother told that pride and joy of hers how she had that day spoken with the daughter’s social worker.
      That caring professional said the big-little one was starting to have sex.
      “That fuckin’ bitch!” daughter foamed. “I ain’t never tellin’ that Jew cunt nothin’ no more!”
     While Mother tolerated her daughter’s profanity and everything, you would have still thought she would have been just a mite upset about the 13-year-old girl’s sex life.
     Not this Mother.
     She just gazed fondly at her daughter and said:
     “Now did you miss Mommy while you were in jail? Did you? Well, Mommy sure missed you! So come on: Give Mommy a kiss! That’s it! Give your Mommy a great big hug and a kiss!...”

Providence is filled with three story - or three decker - apartment buildings.

Maybe There’s Another Eddie
     I was flipped the first time it happened: Getting a woman in labor for a passenger.
     “Hurry!” the expectant mother yelled.
      I floored it.
     “(Oooooooooh…)…I be havin’ my baby any second, Mister Cabdriver!”
     “Yeah, Mister Cabdriver! (Oooooooh!) I think it be almost comin’!”
      “Not yet, home girl! Not yet! Just hold on for three minutes more, sugar…”
      The next time I got a woman-in-labor in the cab I was more adept at dealing with people and various situations.
     “Oh, wow, so you’re going to have a baby?” I fibbed to this later encountered mother-to-be. “Well, hey, don’t worry about it. Believe it or not I’ve delivered babies in this cab before!”
     “Fo’ real!?”
     “Oh yeah!”
     Unlike the previous time the taxi vibes got calm…
     “Say, Mister Cabdriver?” this one asked when we got to the hospital and attendants helped her get into a wheelchair. “What be yo name?”
     She touched her big stomach and thought about this for a second.
     Next:  “Edward…If I be havin’ a boy I be namin’ him that! Edward! Ha! I like that! I like yo name, Edward! (Yeah!)…”

Taylor Street - where drugs got sold and young people (mostly) got murdered. In the "hot" bars where cocaine got sold by the metric ton (I allege) to the entitled rich white people it was seldom violent. Nor did the media people - a few of whom would be present and drinking up their paycheck and taking journeys with Captain Morgan and being "wined and dined" by various informers and early parolee snitches, of course - make any kind of stink. I only write the following for shock value, only to make people rise from the dead and not for racist reasons: "Fuck the niggers and the spics!" That was the vibe on streets like Taylor. 

     “Death, Maria. That’s your sister’s future: Death.”
      It’s past midnight and we’re in The Drug Lands.*
      We’re parked at this run-down Providence drug house* the federal, state and local police have tacitly allowed (I allege) to operate for some time.
     The motor is on, up the street a group of kids are hitting us with the evil eye.
      I’ve just told this innocent 20-year-old in the back seat what she can expect of her sister’s future, her sister that just left the taxi and rushed inside the drug house.
     I’m only hoping the hard truth about her sister make her do something to help her sister.
    “Death?” Maria wonders with her brown eyes gaping. “You say my sister’s future is death?”
     “But why? Why only death, you say!?”
     “Because your sister’s a junkie and (I know you know this) she’s, like, this prostitute, too,” I tell Maria. “So if drugs don’t kill her she’ll end up in some hospital dying of AIDS…” (Note: At the time this story was written getting AIDS was considered a death sentence.)
     I stare at the meter and listen to it click.
     I check the switch near the dashboard to be certain the overhead “TAXI” light is turned off, too.
     The cab’s motor is on and it’s in the Drive gear.
     To prevent the car from easing forward my foot is on the brake.
     “But why death!?” Maria asks. “Why she do this!? If she knows she gonna die, why she here? Why she do the things she do!?”
    “I MEAN ME,” Maria interrupts rapidly talking and with her hands all wild flashing in this Spanish way. “I know why I’m here, OK!? I know! It’s like – all this time my sister goes out to get drugs I don’t  know what’s going on, I don’t know why she does it. But tonight I decide to understand her better…I want to see what the kick is going into a place like this, you know!?”
      Glancing behind Maria, I spy a boarded up house with rotting wood that has been spray painted with graffiti.
     “To see, to see,” I say shaking my head at everything. “You see those kids around that street corner, Maria? (Don’t look now!) They try to lead junkies to the wrong drug house so they can ambush them and take their money. You see that guy leaning on the telephone pole across the street? He’d have sex with you for five dollars. You see that house your sister just went into? She’s probably shooting junk in there with some other junkie’s needle…”
    “Man,” I go on as I let my voice soften, “you don’t want to see, Maria. You don’t. You want to be home with your kids and in bed with your husband. You want to be with your family in a place that’s filled with love and not in some place like this…”
     “I know, I know,” Maria agrees. “Now I know, yes, but before…Before I don’t know…Before…I had to see, you know? I had to…”
     A few more cars park near the drug house, a few more people knock at its first-floor door.
    Anxiously, I look at the taxi meter:
     Six-seventy-five. ($6.75.)
     Earlier, when Maria’s sister said she’d be leaving the cab for “a couple of minutes” I told her that no matter what happened I’d be leaving once the meter hit $7.
     Maria, who knows I will leave when the meter clicks at $7, catches me eyeing the meter.
     She reaches over from the back seat, presses against me and starts blasting the horn.
    “Jesus!” I yell as I gently push her away. “What the Christ are you trying to do!?”  (Readers: This is what I did say. As an older and wiser and more mentally stable man I sincerely regret profaning the name of the Prophet Jesus Christ.)
     “Hey!” she yells back and gives me this chin-jutted-up defiant look. “My sister told you she’d be out in a couple of minutes and she should be!”
     ““She should be, she should be!” I mock her. “Here I am in West Crackville waiting for some junkie and at the same time I’m getting a lecture on civilized behavior! Gee, Maria, you should write a book on manners. “Maria’s Rules of Etiquette While Scoring Junk and Cocaine in South Providence,” you can call it!”
     As my own poisoned laughter soon fills the cab, Maria's beautiful face softens and she looks at me in confusion.
    “Hey, mister,” she tells me. “Maybe I don’t know the right way to be when I’m in this place, OK? Maybe I don’t know how to be cool and everything, mister. But I love my sister. Don’t you see that!? I. LOVE. HER. And I just don’t want you to leave her in a place like this, OK, mister? I just don’t want her to die here…”

The author drinks a cup of coffee in front of a once popular and long running Providence drug house at the corner of Burnside and Reynolds streets. At 3 a.m. - with all the cars and other cabs parked with their motors running in front of the place - going here seemed as normal as going to a drive-through window at an all-night McDonald's. And because scoring drugs was so organized and normal - when, in fact, it really shouldn't have been - there was a genuinely comical and surreal aspect to the entire scene. ("Hi! I'll have two eight balls of coke and a bundle of heroin, please...")

The Taxi Dispatcher  
    “Pull the strings!…” A line Bella Legosi said in the movie Glen Or Glenda by cult film director Ed Wood.
     (The dispatcher’s name has been changed.)

     With children he didn't support scattered to the four winds and his bragging how he had unprotected sex with at least one prostitute in the cab office (See: End note) - while his third or maybe it was his fourth wife stayed home with even more of his kids - you bet the guy was a sleaze-bucket.
     The way he gestured was another thing that made you sense something scumbaggish about him.
     When he rambled on in his grainy and marbly and regionally accented voice, he'd point the tips of  upright thumbs in your face. His hands and arms moved as he spoke then. But each hand and arm were slightly out-of-sync with the other. 
     Like, if you just watched  him talk in that dingy and dark cab office, you’d swear this one evil twin pulled strings that controlled the right side of his body while this other evil twin pulled strings for the left.
     And whenever he slapped you on the back or anything the shit fly really made you feel dirty inside.
     “Mike” the taxi dispatcher was easy to work with, however.
     After having labored under many petty and talent-less heart attack inducing tyrants, having a no-pressure kind of supervisor (as Mike was) was to me all that mattered.
      It wasn’t exactly this top government secret that Mike was clipping the company for an occasional dollar or three.
     Like some hard-working single mother waitress openly treating herself to the occasional free hamburger, say, that’s all I figured Mike’s “stealing” amounted to.
     How much Mike stole and why he stole were things I learned in time…
     As it went, one driver gave Mike the Taxi Dispatcher $50 a week to get “fed*” – or to be dispatched to – the best and highest paying taxi jobs. (See: Glossary entry: Feeding.)
     Another bribing driver bought Mike hearty breakfasts of steak and eggs and apple pies and big cups of coffee and.
     Still another driver supplied Mike with marijuana and pizza in exchange for a good fare “now and again.”
     When there were a lot of advance calls for high-paying morning airport runs, Mike would go out of his way to sell a couple of these runs to drivers from other companies.
     There were also the Providence College fares with these  beautiful young women who were friendly and polite and who always threw you the bomb* tip.
     I suspect Mike would see to it that these runs would go to this independent cab owner with this crumby little mustache and this  "sly-as-all-get-go" smirk.
     Considering that Mike qualified for this hefty monthly Social Security disability check – this was in addition for being paid non-taxed and unrecorded cash to work 40 hours a week “under the table” - you’d think all this stealing really helped him have plenty of cash.
     But Mike was always broke.
     See, it wasn’t enough that he had a beautiful and motherly wife and toddlers who ran up to him with open arms and shouted: “Daddy!”
      Mike The Taxi Dispatcher lived to have That Great White Powder – Cocaine: The Drug of Choice of the Boring and Spiritually Dead - harpooning straight into his Cozy Nostrils…(The whiteness of the powder...Wonder ye then at the fiery hunt?)
      Like a lot of low-lifes who you meet on the streets of Providence you can believe the affable Mike was popular.
     All kinds of powerless uneducated went freely into the cab office on the night shifts Mike worked.
     Once, for instance, Mike called me back on the radio to the office whereupon a companion offered to sell these cruel and Satanic looking martial arts knives.
     “You feel safe driving a cab with one of these, buddy!” the "oh-so-subtle" guy informed me.
     Another time Mike again called me back to the office and as soon as I got there this piece-of-shit Providence police officer (a relation of Mike’s whose name can be made available) announced that I was under arrest.
     The boy in blue soon let me go: The fellow shit fly with the gun and the 500 cops and the thug/criminal friends and the corrupted press licking his big fat ass was only foolin.’ (HAR! HAR! HAR!) 
     In a swaggering and bullying manner the Cult of the Guido* Primordial Slime then adjusted his belt in front of a couple of spare taxi tires…
     Junkies selling hot radio scanners – always selling them for that “magical” drug denomination of $20,* please note – would make periodic visits when Mike was on the board.*
     Male and female prostitutes and scumbag heroin addicts and various dirt bags/police informers also made regular stops, the abyss of the office also being filled with on-duty cabdrivers doing nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing. 
     (Incidentally, at one point during Mike’s tenure one of those fellow drivers was this dirty frail little alcoholic who brought in a 24-bottle case of cheap beer to drink and share with others during his own 12-hour driving shift.  Another was this exceptionally filthy drug addict who would arrive at work, siphon gas from an idle cab, instantly sell what gas he stole and then score some heroin. No need even telling you of at least two cabdriver/pimps working at the place…"Yo: My girlfriend here is really into that fine French cookin'...." TRANSLATION: "My girlfriend can give you a blow job..." P.S. When I worked at this company there were, I allege, two undercover cops also driving.)
      You can bet Mike found his calling holding court here.
      Like a pig in slime he loved it.
      “Ha! This is Rhode Island!” he’d say with his marbly voice and a typically out-of-sync thumbs up. “Ya think the police ain’t corrupt in this city, Eddie? The politicians? Fuck, man, everyone’s corrupt in Providence!...” 
     Maybe Mike would then start telling me some sad, sad story  about the poor little kids he hardly saw. 
     As was usually the case during these Happy Family Kodak/Pre-Selfie moments, he’d hit me up for: “…a loan, just a loan.”
     If I gave him “a loan, just a loan” I was the greatest fucking guy in the entire fucking Northern Hemisphere, man.
     ‘I FUCKIN’ OWE YOU BIG TIME, MOTHERFUCKER!” Mike would sickeningly announce in his marbly voice and with an unwanted (UNCLEAN! UNCLEAN!) back slap. 
     If I was temporarily unable to become Mike’s personal ATM machine, it became Let's-Keep-Dispatching-Ed-Dalton-to-the-Drug-Lands-Time.* (Maybe he'll get shot, y'know?)
      One typically cloudy and disgusting Providence afternoon I got to the cab office and Mike wasn’t there.
     “Where’s Mike?” I asked the owner.
     “He don’t work here,” answered the ostensibly fatherly man.
     “He’s gone on to greener pastures,” the same hard-working owner shrewdly continued right before getting into a transmission fluid rant.
      After months of losing his shirt, understand, the harried owner finally caught on to Mike’s thievery and some of the wild things that happened after his own day shift.
     He gave Mike and half the night drivers their walking papers.
     Without a corrupt dispatcher at the helm, I had this great money making night, too.
     The nights that followed were similarly high-booking* ones.
     Literally, I made double what I made when Mike was dispatching.
     I then began to realize just how much Mike had been indirectly robbing - from me
     Shortly after Mike got fired I spied him in the company of this white-haired cocaine dealer/driver going through the Drug Lands.*
     (Mike had his face down and wanted to avoid seeing me. You see, he owed me that magic druggie* amount, $20.*)
      I also saw Mike leaving this Downtown* drug bar in his black leather motorcycle jacket with his eyes fly-like agog, his face unshaven and his shoulders hunched over.
      Was Mike talking to himself!?
      I’d say yes.
      I even started hearing tales of Mike somehow being involved with the kind of wayward gay men who would troll near the big white marble Rhode Island State House after dark and then somehow acquiring these unfortunate people’s gold watches, chains, money…
     Hot off the Providence cab rumor presses:
     Mike was now snorting cocaine - like crazy!
     More front page news:
     Mike’s wife just dumped him- for absolutely no reason, according to Mike – and an openly gay man Mike lived with now supported him.
     Extra, extra! “Read” all about it:
     Mike got fired from another cab dispatching job for once again stealing!...
     “Hey, Dalton! Dalton! Guess who I saw the other day?” asked another fellow company driver. “I saw Mike! He called up our company from that dive they got over there on Weybosset. So right as he was getting into the cab I recognized him and – bam! I just took off and left the son of a bitch standing there in the street!...”
       (Alas! How the mighty have fallen!)
      You know, in the taxi business there are many fair and honest dispatchers.
      Cabdrivers always give dispatchers the bad rap and most of the time dispatchers don’t deserve it.
       For all the knowledge of streets and place a taxi dispatcher must possess, as a rule I’d say they’re vastly underpaid.
      Yet in the world of cab driving, I’d say there are probably hundreds of dispatchers as corrupt as Mike.
      Hell, thousands.
      Besides the violence and the long hours and the health problems and everything else, corrupt dispatchers like Mike are one more aspect of the taxi business cabdrivers must endure.

(End note: The way Mike had sex with at least one prostitute is worth describing:
      In that dingy little cab office there was a bar-like counter on which Mike had temporarily placed the big silver microphone through which the radio-connected taxi drivers were dispatched. With the prostitute stripped and kind of "buns up kneeling" and pressing the upper part of her body upon the counter - and Mike "wheeling and dealing" from behind while simultaneously holding up and dispatching through the microphone - that's how he bragged he "did it." 
     Sayeth Mike The Scumbag: "I was tellin' Joe t'pick up at The Biltmore an' I was, etc..." Also, special thanks to the late Frank Zappa for the "buns up kneeling" and "wheeling and dealing" clauses...Who could imagine they would freak out in Providence, Rhode Island? Dr. Robert Hyde with those illegal CIA MK-Ultra experiments at Providence's Butler Hospital in the 1950s did, Frank!) 

***** When Danny DeVito played the slimy dispatcher on that old TV show Taxi he was so on the money. And speaking of cabdrivers and actors, you better believe that every driver I’ve ever met loved Taxi Driver with Robert DeNiro…(And you know, during my cab driving career I knew this beautiful young woman who looked like she could have been DeNiro’s daughter – or the daughter of Jesus Christ in the painting  "The Incredulity of Saint Thomas" by Caravaggio. So: Hi, Rene! I hope you achieve great things in your life as I do believe you will!)
Robert DeNiro, "Taxi Driver."

"Incredulity of St. Thomas" by Caravaggio 
Haven Brothers', where the guy in this story bought his hot wieners. (Building to the right is Providence City Hall.)
This is Samuel Beckett (1906-1989) and who the passenger in the following story looked like.

Waiting For Him To Go
     Hot wieners are a popular fast-food item in Rhode Island. They are like American hot dogs in accompanying hot dog bread rolls with onions (sometimes) and hot sauce on the top…
      The passenger got into the cab near Haven Brothers, a famous Providence fast-food place, where he bought some hot wieners. Like a squirrel with its little paws grasping onto an acorn, he sat in the backseat and gripped the meat-filled rolls.
     As long as a passenger didn’t make a mess of the food s/he were eating, I was fine with that. (Once, for instance, a fat black woman  ate an entire fried chicken in the cab.) This guy didn’t seem to be a messy eater, either.
     Yet while he was sitting in the darkness and eating, he started making these awful sucking and lip smacking and gasping eating noises with his mouth.
     Slurp! Suck! Slurp! Lips Smacking! Gasp! Gasp!
     Ghouls devouring corpses would sound less hideous!
     A cabdriver has to have a thick skin when it comes to dealing with the public.
     This guy and his disgustingly weird Walking Dead eating noises –Slurp! Suck! Slurp! Lips Smacking! Gasp! Gasp!  - really got to me.
      The most memorable thing about the guy, too, was that he was the spitting image of the late modern playwright Samuel Beckett when Beckett was about 50.
      I must have stopped at a meaningless red light or two and waited in isolated agony for the light to change to a somewhat hopeful and possibly even meaningful green.
      What was I really waiting for?
      Slurp! Suck! Slurp! Lips Smacking! Gasp! Gasp...
      To twist around a line from Beckett’s most famous play, Waiting for Godot:
      I was waiting for my passenger - to go!...

Providence City Hall with Haven Brothers' Diner to the left. (Photo taken from Kennedy Plaza.)

Front Money*: Two Epic Sagas
1. A Lady
    She barged into the cab all geeking* away and up-and-started speaking non-stop:
     “I was just taw-kin’ t’ this faggot in the bar, right, and my boyfriend punched the faggot in the mouth! (Yabelievemyfuckin’boyfriend!?) The faggot wasn’t doin’ nothin’ but…”
      “Ah, gee, wow, pardon me for interrupting you. But since you’re going to Warwick (a city about 10 miles away) I’m gonna need front money…”
        We stayed stopped by the gray iron riveted Point Street Bridge.
      Smoke and fire filled her eyes.
     “Front money!? Hey: I don’t give cabdrivers no fuckin’ front money!”
     “Well, you know, it is company policy to get…”
     “Hey, buddy, buddy: I don’t give a flyin’ fuck what kind of a fuckin’ company policy there is! Hey, I fuckin’ got money! I fuckin’ got three fuckin’ hundred fuckin’ dollars on me, buddy! And anyway, I’m a lady! (Ya fuckin’ got that, buddy!?) Yer dealin’ with a fuckin’ lady, here!”
     Me asking this woman for front money had not only stopped her torturing Boyfriend Story: As I secretly hoped it even pissed her off so much she demanded to be let out.
     Once she left the cab, in fact, the shapely, well-dressed, extremely beautiful young woman with the foul mouth – the lady, that is – dramatically turned up her chin and literally looked down her fine Roman nose at me.

 2. The Great Mother Lover 
   One night when I first started hacking,* a shady looking thumbs up flashing seedy looking kind of guy approached my cab at the Providence Biltmore hotel cab stand. He said he was going to New Bedford, Mass. Back then going to that ancient whaling town and then really big heroin town was about a $50 run. The guy didn’t have front money. (Asking for front money for such a long journey is not considered an insult.) It was a slow night and he did have some luggage. Since I could keep his belongings locked in the trunk as a kind of deposit I decided to take a chance.
     On the way he kept on telling me how much he loved his mother.      He went on and on about her.
     He also said – over and over, buddy – how he definitely had money at the end of the ride.
      “My friends got it and I got good friends over there in New Bedford, buddy! The best fuckin’ friends in the world, buddy!”
     He said something about starting a restaurant, too. I think his friends and that wonderful mother of his were all going to help him open it…Like it had been when I was a kid and had to endure the torturing sagas of my sadistically long-winded Irish uncles - Rooming house tragedies! Labor union heroics! - it was one of the many times in my life I wish I had been born deaf…
      When we got to New Bedford, we started going into an old and grim housing project that looked like it had been around before the Druids built Stonehenge.
    We stopped in front of one pale red bricked building.
      The Great Mother Lover with the wonderful wonderful mother and the cool ass groovy doovy friends got out and headed to a door.
      After a long while The Boring Great Mother Lover came back.
      “I am, so, like, fucked!” he articulated.
“My fuckin’ so-called friends of mine were supposed t’fuckin’ come through for me but…”
       “Oh, hey, wow, hey: Man, I understand. But in a case like this, see, I have to call my cab company. I’ll find a pay phone down the road. Hey, I don’t want to do it, buddy. But…”
       That was total bullshit, of course. When I left him standing in those pre-cell phone days – “Don’t worry, buddy! I’ll be right back, buddy!” – I went straight to the New Bedford Police Station with his suitcase in the trunk.
      The police of New Bedford were helpful.
     The desk sergeant –(Medeiros? I think this fine gentleman was of Portuguese descent…) – patiently and warmly listened to my story. Together we went through the guy’s luggage. (“His mother! His mother! For talking that much about his mother he should be slammed into the electric chair!”) In time we found some identification and a police man went to where I dropped the passenger.
      About a month later, I met the passenger. He gave me $50 and I gave him back his luggage.
      He got most of his luggage, that is: A dispatcher stole a sweater. I ripped off some cologne and note paper. (His mother, his mother…I’m a different person today but at the time I insisted on a tip of sorts for having to listen to his mother saga…Let he or she with ears understand me, buddy…)
      And hey: A shout out to the New Bedford Police. Fifty dollars was – and is – a lot of money for me.
Providence's Turk's Head Building is unique architecturally. But to me the most interesting thing about the place has always been how someone drowned in front of it during the hurricane of 1938 when waters flooded the city.

        There was a driver from Economy Cab at the house.
       I pulled up.
       Soon a driver from Corporate Cab arrived.
       A pizza man started banging on the door as did a delivery person from a Chinese restaurant.
       Next, the weary beneficiary of all these calls stood in her doorway:
       “It’s my ex-boyfriend!” she told us. “The so-an’-so has been sending people t’me all night!”

This is a view of Providence's historic Benefit Street, a street that was in existence before California was even part of the United States. The yellow wooden building to the direct right is the famed "Shunned House" Providence's own great horror writer H.P.Lovecraft wrote about in the story of the same title.

H.P.Lovecraft (1890-1937). Literary people have consistently put him down. But in my opinion he was a great prose stylist. Oh, to be able to describe things like Lovecraft did. The things he was writing about may have been a little strange but it's this author's opinion he was one of the best prose stylists in American history. (And believe me, I am alone in this opinion.) Seriously, you should read at least one of his stories - and I do recommend "The Shunned House" for openers...Here's a link for most of his writings: (WARNING: HE WAS ONE RACIST DUDE!)

Bit and Pieces
Rage, Rage Against The Dying Of The Green Light!
     Before the cab even moved, the young woman in the back seat started talking about the musical legend Bob Dylan.
     “Man, you’re talking to the biggest Bob Dylan fan that ever lived,” I told her. “I even know all the lyrics to most of his early songs.”
     In that way some woman will look at a man who says something wild like this, she gave me a hard stare. 
     To test me, in a challenging way the auburn and leggy one with burning blue eyes quoted a line from one of Dylan’s songs:
     "“But nothin’ really matters much…”"said she. 
     "“It’s doom alone that counts…”" I shot back to finish the line.
      Her eyes filled with light.
     “Fuck man!” said she with wild enthusiasm. “You really do know Dylan!”
(The Bob Dylan song quoted is: "Shelter From The Storm.")
      P.S. I had a student from The Rhode Island School of Design in the RISD-RIDE mini-van that I now drive and who I took to Fourth Street. That poor guy had to listen to me quote just about the entire lines of Dylan's "Positively Fourth Street"!

My Favorite Cell Phone Conversation
(Readers note: When I started driving a cab in 1992 there were few cell phones. Towards the end of my cab driving career everyone had them. Frankly, it would have been impossible to have written this book had there been so many cell phones. Here, however, is my favorite overheard cell phone conversation.)
THE CORPORATE CORPSE (who was obviously on the phone with his wife):…So…How were the grandkids today?...Cooooool!....That sounds like a really nice time!....Oh, is that what Jamie said? Well you just tell him that he’s my favorite grandson…Oh really?...Cooooooooool! (It was revolting to hear this guy say the word “cool,” incidentally: He profaned The Beats - and Abraham Lincoln in The Cooper Union Address, of course. And don’t even get me going on coolibah trees, mate, or you’ll come a-waltzing matilda with me!)
THE CORPSE (ending the conversation with his wife and suddenly getting what I suspect was Girlfriend on the phone):…Yeah…yeah…Sure…We’ll go skiing…Don’t worry…I’ll definitely be able to get away next weekend…Any hotel you want to stay at…Sure…Don’t worry…I just got a bonus. Did I tell you that?...(Then sleazily): See ya later, honey!...
P.S. The day after Lincoln delivered The Cooper Union Address in New York City – a speech that defined him as a sophisticated intellectual and pretty much put him in the White House - he visited Providence. Imagine: Lincoln in Providence at the time of one of his greatest triumphs: That is cool...(Get it!? That's a quote from The Cooper Union Address. Get it!?)

I Really Pissed Him Off
      I picked up the guy at some little bar.
      He tried to barge into the front seat with me.*
      When I said no…
      “You asshole! All the other cabdrivers let me sit up front with them!”
       In silence I drove.
     “Who do you think you are, buddy!?” he went on. “Just who the fuck do you think you are!?”
      Road bumps and more abuse with thoughts of some bill I had to pay and personal regrets about giving Kat that twenty dollars she must have already shoved into her fucking arm and.
       Eddie presented his closing arguments:
      “Ah, who gives a flyin’ fuck about what you think! You think I give a shit!? Let me tell you something: YA CAN’T HOLD YA LIQUOR! YA CAN’T HOLD YA LIQUOR!  Dude, I’d be polite if I were trippin’ on acid, stoned, on painkillers and drunk out of my fuckin’ mind! (Fuckin’peoplethatcan’tdrinkcan’ttaketheirdrugs…Disgusting, disgusting...)”
    This craziness shut up the guy.
      To rob from William Shakespeare in "Hamlet": "..the rest is silence."
      My next fare happened to be two typically respectful and well-mannered young college women, you know, people who would work hard and actually do something in their lives.
     When we stopped at Brown and George streets the blond beauties sat in the soft sun light of the Providence spring.
      “Sir?” one asked. “Did you know that your back seat is a little wet?”
      Sure enough, the drunk I had flipped on sneaked a leak on the cloth seat.
     He left behind a little puddle of urine…

Been There
      After about an hour at the train station I was hailed by The Suit.
      He was going to the Providence Biltmore, which was then a measly $2.50 fare.
      The lack of money I’d be earning for all the time I had “invested” waiting angered me but I kept calm.
     Suddenly some driver cut in front of me.
     “Motherfucker!” I roared.
     Soon enough I remembered my passenger.
     He didn’t deserve that!
     “Sir:” I said in a last ditch effort to be a professional driver. “I apologize for swearing.”
      “Oh, hey, that’s OK,” he said in a friendly and good-natured way. “Some of these drivers you got out here…”
      “No, sir, it’s not OK,” I told him. “You’re the passenger. You deserve to be treated with more respect.”
       When the short fare ended, I turned to collect my fare.
       Sympathy and compassion shone from his eyes.
       “Listen,” he told me. “A long, long time ago I used to be a cabdriver. Short fares, rotten people, crazy drivers…I know what it’s like…Believe me, I understand what you go through…”

Words Of Wisdom From A Providence Cabdriver (And Not This One)
      “I get great tips all the time. People leave me five dollar tips, ten dollar tips. I go home at night and I’m genuinely amazed at how much money I make on tips, genuinely amazed…The thing is, when people get into the cab I’m really nice to them. I’m cheerful, pleasant, polite. If they want to talk about sports, we talk about sports. If they want to talk about women, we talk about women. Whatever they want to talk about we talk about. You see, when I get people in the cab I just become a total phony and fool them for five minutes or so. And that explains why I get such huge tips: I never let passengers see the real side of me…”
Front view of Providence's Johnson and Wales' campus

(This is the second of four articles in Real Cab Rides in which I show how cab driving changed me as a person.)
     So anyway she was about 25, brunette, a prostitute.
     We plowed into her place on America Street - a one way street in Providence located in the Mickey Mafia* part of town - where a young woman with bad skin and greasy blond hair was slouched at the kitchen table.  (“Hey: Got a cigarette? Hey: Any of youse got a fuckin’ smoke? Hey…” - that was the blond's greeting.)
      In the sink a dish of left-over spaghetti rotted; the room had a dirty aura; you got the strong feeling a rat was going to jump out and bite your Pee Pee Pole. 
     To clip a line from the demented scumbag great French writer Louis-Ferdinand Celine, I should have used my brains and been a coward and ran.
      The prostitute I was going with had her good points, however, and the door to the darkened bedroom was open.
      Into the Valley of Death wandered Eddie.
      I looked around at the depressing room in sadness. (Hey, why didn't I have a girlfriend around this place!? Hey, that wasn't right! Hey...)
      I started unbuckling my belt.
         Enter: The Angel.
     “Oh my Goo-ord!” said she in Masshole* speak. “My bouy-friend just came in!” (Translation: “Oh my God! My boyfriend just came in!”)
      By this time as a cabdriver I had cruised by many a rocky “straight.” So in a smooth and relaxed and calming kind of way I lied.
     “Oh, wow, don’t, like, worry about your boyfriend: I GOT A GUN.”
     Exit: The Angel.
      The prostitute had brought me back into her apartment so Pimp-O-Boyfriend would beat and rob me, I later theorized.
     (“No, Eddie, no:” later warned a coke head dispatcher: “You never go back to their places, Eddie…”)
      In the dimness of the bedroom where fell shadows in the gray dawn Eddie walked from the bed.
     White light fear vibes bright blasting when I found the street-tough and brave women seated rigid at the kitchen table with iron hard facial expressions.
     “COUGH!” from the coward pimp “bouy-friend” who was - Swear to you! - hiding in the bathroom with its thickly painted green wooden door shut. “COUGH!”
      All of which is to say that soon after I became a cabdriver one of the changes that happened was that I started having sex with prostitutes; in my first year of driving virtually every dime I made went to them. In the wee hours of the morning, I, a man then in his early 40s, literally prowled around the streets of Providence for - especially - white women in their 20s who were brunette. Though I strongly suspect a Mickey Mafia* prostitute was once provided for me - long story - never before had I knowingly had sex with prostitutes. 
      When I was eventually tested for AIDS, incidentally, my blood work turned out great: I was nonplussed. What saved me from my gravest plot at Providence’s Swan Point Cemetery is that I used condoms – even when receiving oral sex. 
      I also think it’s pretty pathetic to write about my having sex with female prostitutes (and other women) as I imply in this book without disclosing my true sexual identity. Again, I consider myself bisexual.
      But if you want to call me gay, even though I despise this cop-out word knock yourselves out...
      [For your information the standard price I was paying for coitus in Providence in the 1990s was $40-$50. For me paying $100 for a menage a trois was common. Generally speaking the women I went with were in their 20s, seemed healthy, were pretty good looking, were OK people whose company I enjoyed. To you Christians: The first person to see the resurrected Jesus Christ was the reformed prostitute, Mary Magdalene.  
     I say all this because I've found that many men who go with prostitutes condemn them. Disgusting hypocrites! Get ye back to the tormentors belonging to Shu! Then, too, there are the women who hate prostitutes and prostitution but who do nothing about, say, all these "Asian Spas" where poor Asian women are treated as sex slaves - or who, like prostitutes, want a man with money... 
     The ostensibly invisible and criminally connected prostitutes I allege the authorities continue to allow to operate in bars and other public places were more expensive, no better than the ones I went with. Unless I blanked out or something I never went with a guy prostitute - and these boring, boring, borrrrrrrrring gesture-challenged guys were everywhere. The police only seemed to stop the women.] 
      To return to good Professor Michael Fink’s question on how the taxi journeys (and the job itself) changed me:
     I got cruder and ruder.
     I even littered a little.
     To really really give you a strong example on how the job brought out one of my arguably bad qualities: I would regularly take people for rides, collect the money for the jobs and not write down the jobs. (In Providence, a cabdriver writes down each job and the amount of money earned on a typing size piece of paper called a trip sheet.* Also note that a driver's money intake wasn't computerized in the 1990s.)
     I flew* jobs - or stole, that is to say.
     Like many of the other drivers who flew jobs - or stole, that is to say - I could have easily reasoned away my thievery: Your boss unfairly gave choice jobs to another driver; few legislators in Rhode Island government gave a rat's ass about low-paid non-Mickey-Mafia*-mobbed-up/high-paying-union workers like cabdrivers so you had to make up for this; the sordid urban culture in which you a part of inspired this kind of bad behavior, etc.
     “Flying jobs is like your vacation pay and your pension and your medical coverage all rolled into one: So steal. Take whatever the fuck you can get. Nobody in Rhode Island is gonna look out for you but you,” one life-hardened driver advised me under the glaring light of the sun in back of the train station.
      I’m not saying I was better than any of the other cabdrivers.
      But I stole because I felt like stealing.
      I stole because I wanted to steal.              
      I stole because I was a thief.
      With me, stealing a dollar or eleven a shift was a calling, a ritual, a holy act of rebellion.
     In my first year of cab driving, I would not - could not - begin a night’s shift without flying* my first job.
     Stealing was my rejection of traditional ethics and the expression of a primal and real impulse.
     Stealing was a way to connect to my soul, had an almost religious meaning that only fools would try to explain.
     In our urban tribe of hunter-warrior-cabdrivers and evil god taxi dispatchers, it was, for many, taboo not to steal.
     “Ya can’t trust a cabdriver that don’t steal,” a Rhode Island cab company owner once allegedly professed.
      My cab would be dragging through the Negro streets at dawn, a couple of gun-toting homies would be in the back seat conducting a crack symposium - (yoTAKEALEF’…) – and I’d have a couple of stolen bills securely buttoned in the frayed front pocket of my red corduroy shirt.
     The Life of Eddie was a little bit rough around the edges – (“….yonomesayin’…ISAYTAKEALEF”…) – but it had its howls…
     Stealing helped me maintain a sense of personal power, improved my self-esteem, provided me with a street dignity of sorts. In the early 1990s, in many circles of City of Providence cabdrivers I became quite the legend.
     “Here comes one of The Dalton Gang,” a one-eyed cabdriver and-later-to-be-convicted-rapist would joke at my apt American outlaw/bank robber last name.
     Though I always gave the company owner a decent cut, stealing a bit helped me survive – at least emotionally. I clawed those stolen bills with cat-like glee.
      I loved robbing my boss. 
      I felt so spiritually great about doing it. 
      It made my job in such a corrupt place fun, challenging, joyful and fulfilling. 
     “You can take the nicest guy in the world, put him behind the wheel of a cab and in six months he’ll turn into the worst scumbag there is,” a company owner once allegedly told the late poet and Providence cabdriver Dave Church.
      I'm not sure you could call me a nice guy when I began driving.
      ("You're not a nice guy, Ed," said a cabdriver who would eventually make a decent enough death threat to me. "You're an OK guy, Ed...")
      I will say the overall world of cab driving helped me make my own sane choices to become a lot worse than I was.
      The noble and not at all demented great French writer Emile Zola would have agreed….(J'Accuse!)
       Various other ways that the job changed me:
       1. I don’t consider myself an alcoholic, but at age 37 in 1986 I gave up drinking. On my 44th birthday in 1993 a communist pizza maker and his buddy that I regularly rode offered me a shot. I accepted – and after seven years of staying sober I again started drinking. (Though I haven’t officially quit drinking the last time I drank was in March 2011.)
     2. Kidney stone problems began happening to me in 1995. The doctor I went to never cured me but would just write scripts and scripts and scripts of Vicodin for the pain. (And it was no problem getting refills, either.) After awhile of taking Vicodin and finding myself really enjoying them, I’d let any vagrant kidney stone painfully pass without using medication. Then I’d save the Vicodin for what I considered "more important" occasions.
     I never got addicted to Vicodin and will still use them for pain and pleasure.
     I never had a liking for this dangerous opiate before becoming a cabdriver. To a large degree the job and the very culture of the cab business - most people you met were on something - kind of inspired me to use this drug. (And what an illegal Vicodin connection I had: A poet! His doctor would write him endless scripts and then he'd sell his Vicodin to me for about a dollar a pill.) (Note: I know Vicodin is a dangerous drug and I do not recommend it to anyone.)
    3. Though I used marijuana when I was a teenager in the 1960s, a seriously bad LSD trip in 1968 stopped me from using marijuana throughout most of my adult life. (I couldn’t get high on weed or I’d have these horrible LSD flashbacks.) After having dealt with the root reasons of these flashbacks, Herr Doctor, in 2002 I began “seeing” good ole Mary Jane again, one reason to relieve myself from the boredom of cab driving. Except when I was driving a taxi or going through a dry spell I pretty much stayed high for two consecutive years: I'd wake up in the morning and get high, I'd go to bed at night and be high. (When I did buy weed it was usually below the standard market price: About $130 an ounce. It wasn't "top of the line" weed - sometimes it was packed so tight you practically had to break it apart with a fireman's ax - but it was plenty powerful and got me plenty high.) 
     4. I don’t know anyone else this happened to, but on a boat between Italy and Greece in 1973 I quit smoking cigarettes. Almost a full 20 years later the stress of driving a cab in Providence made me start smoking again. Within a week, I was up to a pack a day. (In 2001 I quit smoking cigarettes. Re: The story on this blog: "Biggest Tip."  By the way: I sometimes even got cigarettes cheap. Thieves who would steal them and would come around at various cab stands and sell them to cabdrivers at $10-$20 a carton. To foreign readers that's 20 cigarettes per pack and 10 packs to a carton.) 
     P.S. Alcohol and pain killers and marijuana and cigarettes were drugs I began using after I became a cabdriver. Incredibly, I have never in my life knowingly used cocaine or heroin or meth. (On the soul of my dead parakeet General Douglas MacArthur I swear this is true.) Since a cabdriver is in constant company with heavy drug users, s/he is constantly being tempted to use drugs. I’ve known a coke head and a junkie or two before the meter; in the cab business drunks are all over the place. (In addition to smoking a pack of Kools and a pack of non-filter Lucky Strikes a day, as just one example, a driver I knew would daily drink a twelve-pack of beer and a quart of cheap whiskey. He was younger than me and big surprise: He has been dead for several years.)
       The fact that I paid for my vices so cheaply is arguably one of the perks of the job. You meet so many passengers and other drivers that you can't help but get these kind of deals. (At one point, for instance, I could have bought cocaine for $10 a gram which I understand is a good price. Heroin I could have also purchased inexpensively. And again: Many of the prostitutes I slept with so inexpensively were - nothing to complain about, at least.)
      Finally, I say there are many addicts and smokers and pill poppers and alcohol drinkers behind the meter who wouldn’t be substance abusers if they were working in another industry.
      I say the stress of driving a cab will drive you to drink – and other drugs. 
      Then, too, a driver is constantly facing so many temptations - more so than workers in other occupations. 
     The Devil is always trying to sell you something.
     ("Guns, pills, hey, I know this girl whose...Whatever you fuckin' want. I can get you anything, man...")
     5. When I was 43 and began driving I weighed about 195. Shortly before I quit driving I weighed a medically obese 240 pounds. (I have since lost much of this weight.) Combined with the stress of the job, when you drive by one inviting neon-signed convenience store after another it’s tough to avoid donuts and potato chips and pizza and…
       Judging from the dozens of drivers I have known, it’s my observation there is much fat in the cab business. For a driver to weigh 400 pounds – to be dangerously overweight, that is to say – is not unusual. For many driving a cab is a weight-gaining job.
     6. Another physical change that happened to me were lung problems. During the first year that I drove I had a cab that sent out odorless but harmful fumes in the interior. By the summer of 1993 I developed a painfully gut wrenching TB-like cough.
     That non-cigarette related cough (my opinion) lasted for about a year.
     Cancer causing fumes represent another issue cabdrivers must put up with.
     7. Driving any kind of vehicle involves a lot of stepping on a brake and shifting your foot to the gas pedal.
     When you daily drive a few miles through an urban area, this kind of repeating physical motion isn’t bad. When you average 100-150 miles every night driving through the same stop-and-go traffic this can get to you.
     It got to me.
      During the winter of 1994 my right leg was in such constant pain it was hard for me to sit down; I swallowed more over-the-counter pain pills than I should have. 
    Turning you neck at every corner, twisting steering wheels for days on end, stepping on the brakes…These may seem like little things, but they do change you in physical ways. (See next entry.)
     8. Since the late 1970s I suffered from lower back problems. Regular exercise helped solve this as it does now. While there were only few times in my cab driving career when I was knocked out from back pain, by the time I quit driving a cab I sometimes hobbled around – another terrible physical change due to cab driving. Note: There are many broken driver’s seats in taxis that overweight drivers unintentionally break and that cash-strapped companies neglect to fix. Cabdrivers with back problems really have it rough in the cab business. (And try driving a cab with a broken driver’s seat and a bad back for a standard 12 hour shift!)
     9. I think fear is a good emotion and from time to time I do like to feel it: Like a flare soaring over a battlefield, fear lights up your soul; experiencing fear makes you know you're alive; it's an emotion we should be grateful to be able to feel. But I say to constantly be in a state of fear is bad. And when I drove a cab I was in a state of fear. Usually every night I started my shift I'd wonder: "Is this the night I'm going to die?" So many times I thought the passenger behind me was going to put a knife to my throat, so many times I feared for my life. This is not a way to live and I do believe it has bad health and psychological consequences. (See next entry.)
     10. For me one of the most negative changes that happened because of driving a cab - and something I discuss throughout "Real Cab Rides" - was that it made my depression stronger.
     Like, right before I became a cabdriver I had for years been a night watchman. Because I was always alone this was a great job for me, someone who had suffered from depression for years and who thought it was positively great to walk about two or three miles on each shift in complete and blessed isolation.
      With the full approval of my bosses I also wrote and studied between my walking tours of duty. (Note: This can be such a great job for a writer, an artist, a student, hint, hint.) All my free time, which was five hours a shift, was used for my benefit. Though I was still depressed, because I was walking around a lot and accomplishing so much intellectually my depression was seldom out of control.
      In 1992, however, circumstances led me to become a cabdriver.
     What a change!
      I was never alone and this was a pretty good thing. But I wasn’t walking that much – which was bad - and though I was able to write on my time away from the cab, when I was on the job there was little free time to study and write. Though the job could be really interesting, a lot of time I was dealing with stupid crap - and depressing crap - like cars breaking down; putting up with passengers telling you about their stupid problems; having near violent arguments over quarters; dealing with heavy traffic and stopping at red lights; putting up with passengers who treat you like dirt (this country can be such a classist place!); and doing utterly meaningless and soul murdering journeys through the Drug Lands,* etc.
     Cab driving itself can be so depressing. Putting aside the tedious and meaningless job of driving itself, you’re constantly going into the most run-down and physically depressing places. During the first year I drove, in fact, a lot of the money I earned was from taking really unfortunate and often junk-sick and pressuring people to these depressing and kind of dangerous places to buy cocaine and heroin at the many long-term Providence drug houses.* (The police and the political officials had to have known these places existed and did nothing about them: The people of the state were having blinders put over their eyes and that in itself was depressing!)  
     I wasn't helping people: I was helping to hurt them - and that got to me.
     Midway the journey of this life I entered a dark forest.
     In the early 1990s if you went about seven blocks west from where the Providence YMCA used to be,* OK, and then you took a left near the McDonald’s, OK, as many times as I did, you, too, may have abandoned all hope and got as depressed as me…

*****For the record: What I went through was no big deal since I obviously survived and a lot of other people of the world go through sooooooooo much worse.  Being a cabdriver also changed me in ways that were arguably good: I became less judgmental, better able to deal with people, more willing to listen to other points of view, and, greatest of all, I ended up having a strong faith. You may find this funny but I think becoming a cabdriver was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I’ll say a little more about this later.
     Still, I say showing the bad parts of driving a cab will make more people aware just how hard driving a cab is and make more people sympathize with drivers.
      They’re up against a lot…

The author walks through  the Drug Lands*. "He who walks alone accuses the whole world," said the American writer Ralph Waldo Emerson. (Oui! And "J'accuse" the American intelligence community for failing to end the drug trade in this country and the media for not addressing this issue.) Re: Glossary entries for Clown Town - where this photo was taken - or the Drug Lands. Also note that while the author is certain drugs were once sold here, he has no proof drugs are still being sold here. At least one guy was recently murdered around here, though. 

Typical Night
(Readers: There was a good columnist in San Francisco who wrote a regular column under the name The Night Cabbie. Though the following article is similar to his style, it was written long before I ever read one of his worthy pieces.)

Ride One
      A dime tip from some student.
      On my two-way radio Jose is freaking – “Youse guys are a bunch of idiots! – and in the darkened heel of my palm the little silver head of FDR shines.
      Angry at the young woman’s cheapness, I open a window and flip the coin into a snow bank.
      I zoom down Angell Street, and as soon as I reach the Kennedy Plaza cab stand a drunk skeleton-of-a-woman - who looks like she just came out from a rock`n'roll club - blasts inside.
      “Fuck!” she informs me. “It…Is…Like…So… Fucking… Cold… Out… There!”
      “Yeah…Great…Where to!?”
      “Not yet!” she yells as she grabs me hard on my shoulder. "Not yet!"
       Two big thugs in black leather jackets and rings through their cheeks next pop in.
        “WHHHEEEEEEWWWW!” bellows one in my ear. “IT’S COLD OUT THERE!”
        “Pa-leeeeeeze!” I bitch. “If you wanna ride you gotta keep the noise down!”
        The beasts calm, I get moving, one guy lurches forward and pretends to vomit on the floor of the backseat.
        Ms. Skeleton shakes her dyed-black-and-mop-like hair.
        Her X-ray thin skeletal hand goes up in the air. Then she laughs with her friends and they all sing these dirge-like lyrics:
         “…Take. A. Razor. Blade. And. Shave. Her. Cunt!”
         As for the guy I kind of yelled at, that one is hating me with such a passion it’s like molten lava is flowing toward me.
         And when we reach their street…
        “Just keep drivin’ `til you hit the fuckin’ house!” one screams.
        “Hit it, hit it! Hit our fuckin’ house, motherfucker!...”

Ride Two
         Jose has stopped dispatching and now Bobbie – a cool enough guy – is on the board.*
        “Edward, kind sir?” he asks over the radio. “Would you be so good as to pick up a party at The Choo Choo* (*The Train Station)?”
         The trains have stopped a-rolling for all night long.
         Out from icicled shadows, as it goes, this Dracula kind of guy in a long black trench coat comes forth.
       Destination: Some crumby West End* street.
       Crunch, crunch over some ice and snow goes my little taxi – then zoom, zoom it flies on the perfectly plowed highway.* (*Readers from other parts of the world should be aware that it often snows in winter in Providence and for months it is gray - and cold.)
        As train tracks and old factories and other cars blur past, my passenger sulks in the dark corner of the back seat and fingers his rat-tail mustache.
       I drive, turn on the classic station, endure Vivaldi.
       Only when we get off the highway and he changes direction – a bad omen in the cab business* – do I start to fret. (*OTHERWISE SAID: If you called out a job to your dispatcher and you ended up going to a different place, it would be difficult for the police to rescue you from any possible harm.)
     This could be the guy who last week reached over the back of a typically non-safety partitioned Providence cab and held a knife to a fellow drivers eyes.
      (“That guy sure knew what he was doing, OK!” Vin’s words echo in my mind. “He just fooled with his mustache for awhile and then changed the direction of the ride and…”)
      But hey.
      You gotta hide your fear away.
      As I sometimes do when I sense trouble from a passenger, I even become Insane Cabdriver Who’s Probably On Crack.
      I therefore start handling the steering wheel in these heavy and macho ways.
      I drive faster. Faster, I drive…
      When the guy tells me to stop I even skid to this wild kind of halt.
      Now I’m sweating bullets – but I’m thinking the fear I’m feeling is coming from my passenger. For having this power of reason, I am not at all fear-paralyzed.
      I turn and give him a positively murderous glare.
      He pays...

Ride Three
      Next stop – Gerado’s.
      That (was) this popular Providence gay bar where this six-foot-tall and heavy black drag queen waddles into my cab: Her braids look as solid and cumbersome as the iron chains that connect an oil tanker to a wharf.
      Since I’ve given many transvestites rides, her appearance doesn’t confront me.
      We head to South Providence, start going west on one of the main streets. Distant three deckers* seem jumbled up like the houses in an Impressionist painting by Paul Cezanne.
      I feel a breeze on my neck.
      “Must be a draft,” I think.
      I keep driving along studying the buildings.
       I again feel the breeze. 
      Reason: The queen is "seductively" blowing air at me!
      “Don’t!” says I.
      “Oh….soorrrrryyy! You don’t like that, huh!? Gee! Sooorrrryyy…”

Ride Four
      With all that I’ve been through I’m a wee bit on edge.
      Peace becalms me, however, when the next fare hops inside, presses a bill or two into my hand and tells me that he lost his keys* (Cough! Cough!) at a friend’s house:  Based on that “lost keys” (Cough! Cough!) line I know we’re going to be doing a drug run,* and I know exactly what to expect.
      We head into The Drug Lands* and stop at a corner – near Temple Street, to be precise.
      He tells me to drive around the block while he steps out to fetch “those keys.”
      After returning from around the wastelands of the snowy block, I find him shivering near a snow bank:
      No keys!
     Same deal at another nearby three-decker: I drop him off and drive around the block and when I return – still no keys.
     We swing by a drug house* on Dartmouth Street where oh-so-many keys seem to get lost and found.
     As my pal vanishes into an alley, I glance at some graffiti spray-painted on the side of a wooden three decker, art that’s doubtless the work of some young hooded homie.
     The murky shadows of darkness make the graffiti seem a little evil. There is an ornate quality to it, though, and it impresses me with its fine and detailed craftsmanship: It is Byzantine, Arabic.
      It’d be great if the obviously talented kid who did it NEVER gets gunned down and gets to go to art school.
      I spot a beat-up old white car prowling a block away. The guys in it – gun toting crack crews, thieves, corrupt cops? – seem to be giving me a hard look.
     Fortunately, my passenger is finally successful.
     He shakes snow from his feet and jumps back in.
      “Say, buddy: If I give ya a couple `o’ more bucks will ya drive me to the fuckin’ Shell Station on Valley and Atwells? I fuckin’ gotta get me some baby formula for my son!”
     We get to the store I watch an animated thumbs-up gesturing conversation between the bearded clerk and the passenger.
     When he get back in and The Big Yellow Taxi starts going to his original destination I start to wonder:
      He bought his drugs for himself – but he must care for his child, too. He has his problems but he must not be such a bad person.
     I even have the urge to tell him there are drug-treatment programs that are available for people like him, there are nightly meetings he can even attend. He's young and his life is far from finished, I feel like saying.
     People with addiction problems are hard to reason with, I’ve learned through bitter experience, so I just shut my mouth and just get him home.
     We stop outside his house, a three deckered place that makes me think of that wintry and icicled country house in the movie Dr. Zhivago. Suddenly, I just reach out and give him this hearty and manly kind of handshake.
     “Good luck!” I tell him with feeling.
     “Yeah,” he says, kind of surprised by my show of warmth. “Good luck to you, too!”
     He skips back into his abode. I grip my steering wheel, start slip sliding away on the ice-rutted back street.
     As I crank up the Mozart - the 11th Sonata, I'll say - I realize it’s been a typical night…
     Some nights it gets wilder…
This is the neighborhood where I took the idiot in this story to get her drugs. (Near Academy and Atwells avenues. Swear to God, though I certainly haven't used as many drugs as these people I'd say I've transported more drugs than the writers Hunter Thompson and William S. Burroughs combined...)

Drug Mom
     The shirtless boy was so underfed his rib cage bones were plainly visible.
       In the messy room where he rested you could see a dime-sized purple sore on his skin.
       What would have really gotten to you was the way he twisted his neck and smiled.
       He had grown used to being half-starved.
       Useless crack head mother was at the open door and yelling:
      “I h-h-h-ain’t payin’ for no motherfuckin’ cab ride!...”
      How I came upon such a grim scene takes a bit of going into Reverse:
     For a couple of weeks I’d been transporting Mom from her not so pleasant East Side street to the West End* and back.
     While these kind of round-trips mean the rider is probably buying cocaine or heroin, I never suspected this woman was a druggie.*
     For one, when my cab pulled up she was always ready.
       Two, there was never a problem collecting money – yet another hard drug-user clue.
     One night she got in the cab.
     We went through street canyons of abandoned factories and three-deckers* to the same shabby neighborhood we always stopped at.
     We drove back to her nice and modern Section Eight* house at the bottom of the hilly street. (*A government subsidized housing unit.)
      Instead of settling up as she usually did at the end of the ride, she left the cab and mumbled that a friend would be coming out to pay.
     Fifteen minutes after my passenger went into her home – 15 minutes filled with a couple of loud blasts from my horn: Nobody!
      Now in my career as a cabdriver I seldom called the cops. But $25 was the fare. It was (and is) a lot of money to me.
     Enter next four Providence police people:
     “Are you going to pay this driver?” one cop asked when the druggie opened the door.
     “My fuckin’ friend is supposed to pay him!”
     “Oh….Where’s your friend?”
     “I don’t fuckin’ know! But she’s the one who’s gonna pay him! I h-h-h-ain’t!”
     “I get it,” added another cop. “You pay for the cab all the time but tonight the driver is giving you a free ride?”
     “Hey! I don’t need this fuckin’ shit from you! What’s your badge number, anyway? I’m gonna get in touch with the city! I’m gonna tell Sergeant Brown all about you!”
     During this scene I looked through the open door and saw the poor and skinny boy who had at least one sore on his body that I told you about. He was reclining on a couch in the middle of one mess of a room.
     Make no mistake: The child was not as skinny as those pictures of starving African children that you see.
     Judging by the behavior of his mother and everything else, you knew he was undernourished, though. That sad and slow way he twisted his neck and managed a grin at the world – wow – it kind of got to me.
     A girl of about 10 – the sister of the boy, I think – was merrily hopping around the house near the arguing adults. She was wearing a dress. I couldn’t tell you how skinny she was but I will state that she was underweight.
     As Big Mama kept screaming, one street wise cop said something to me about coming and taking her children away if she didn’t pay.
     “Oh, wow, man, no way!” said I, This Child of the Sixties. “If it comes to breaking up her family, I don’t give a shit about the money!”
      “Listen, pal: Those kids would probably be better off if they were taken away from this Mom…”
      The next day I went to work and got some surprising news from “Kay,” a good person and a hard working dispatcher, driver.
     “Hey, Ed: That woman who owed you that money paid it. She said it wasn’t $25, though, and that the police lied. So she only gave the day driver that picked this up $20.”
     I didn’t care in the least about my passenger’s possible lie of maybe being short-changed a little by the scumbag police informer/day man* that collected the fare.
      I got the lion’s share of the money – for which I am eternally grateful to the Providence Police for helping me get.
      Later that night while I was waiting for a fare at the Providence Biltmore cab stand.
     Joe Lima, a hard working elderly driver from Portugal, pulled up to me and I told him this story.
     “Ooooooh, I know that woman!” said Lima in his thick Portuguese accent. “She always go to Somerset (Street) and back. I know it for-a the drug, too! A couple a week `go her and her-a skinny skinny boyfriend ride my cab to motel way out-a there – Seekonk, Massachusetts. (What a wad of bills the guy have on him! Oooooh, I don’t like look on him. Let. Me. Tell. You!) I guess they go motel to smoke-a the crack and fa-uck alla the night!...”

This is the famous picture of the Kent State shootings that I refer to in the following story. 
"The Battle of Alexander at Issus" (painted 1529) by Albrecht Altdorfer (1480-1538). This is also the painting I had in mind in this story.

Survivor’s Guilt
(Note: The name of the other cabdriver in this story has been changed.)
       The shabby boggle-eyed guy was bopping along all confused on the busy superhighway's southward emergency lane.
       As my headlights shone on him I thought it might be a good if I stopped and gave the poor bastard a ride somewhere.
      What with all the last-call-from-bars drunks on the roads at this time, it was possible some crazed young Masshole* might come along and kill him.
      I felt a cool spring breeze coming in from the cab's open window.
      I looked at a patch of stars above distant white oil tanks.
     “Fuck stopping,” I decided.
      Hey: I wasn't out here to be my brother's keeper.
      I was out here to survive and make money.
      So I swerved the cab onto the exit ramp, got to my gas station-based office and ordered a cab ride to my home. 
      "Art," a new cabdriver, was giving me a ride. As we flew northbound on the highway from where I just came from, he began to tell me about a recent encounter with a prostitute - or a “Cabbie `Ho!” story, if you will:
     “…So I was takin’ her t’River (Street), right, and she just jumped up into the front seat, right. “Honey,” she told me. “I need a little money,” she told me...”
     The wide black and white-lined superhighway rushed before us dreamy smooth.
     Traffic thickened – stop, go – thickened…
     As Art went on cars were now parked by the road and people were standing beside the silver gray guard-rail. One long haired young woman was leaning on a guard-rail and waving up her arms in despair. (Re: The famous 1970 photo of the woman at Kent State waving her arms.) The rest of these mostly young people were still, hushed.
     The City of Providence loomed in the distance like a city in the background of a Renaissance battle painting.
     There was the scent of lilacs in the fine crisp air.
     Through the gestures of young people in the spring of their own lives there was even a subtle kind of painterly movement the crowd made towards something: That something was a body sprawled down  on the asphalt like a half-empty sack of potatoes. In the neon brightened glass-and-metal littered emergency lane Death Itself stared straight in your face.
     The highway tragedy was so recent that as the our yellow taxi inched past a tire-smeared cement barrier, a young stoic young mustachioed guy stalked up to the body, gave it a gentle kick.
     No blood.
     But the impact of the crash seemed to have knocked off the corpse’s shoes. 
     I could only see one bare foot sticking out from the blue jeans.
     Where other foot?...
     We didn’t stop for death; traffic cleared.
     “Ah…You were saying about that girl?”
     Like he, too, had seen nothing, Art jump-started his saga, his now more rapidly told tale having a chilling quality. While he described the prostitute’s advances  - ““Just keep drivin’ honey,” she told me. “I kin blow ya right now while y’drive, honey,”she told me...” – in my own mind something r-r-r-ripped.
     That dead body we saw could have been the homeless man I had earlier seen walking on the nearby southbound emergency lane, the confused person I didn’t stop for because I was just thinking about money.
      Maybe the guy had crossed from the…
      In my beloved third floor apartment as I always did when my shift was over I grabbed all the cash I that night earned.
      Most of the bills I got from passengers were small ones. For some reason,  whenever I held them between my fingers the cash the cash always made me feel good, great – better than I even felt from getting a paycheck with a bunch of numbers.
     That night as I held the wad of mostly one-dollar bills drenched with beer from the college kids or lush with the perfumed sweat from Bomb Body strippers, I recalled the scene back on the highway.
      I looked down at myself in my apartment with my fist clutching the wad of pale green cash.
     It was like I was some large cat with blood dripping from his mouth that was mindlessly clawing and torturing a tiny dying bird.
     I staggered a few feet.
     As though I were in a sort of trance, everything began to fade like sparkling stars getting blocked out by drifting gray-white night clouds.
     Incredibly, like I was someone else, I was also aware this mental fading was happening.
     Then my mind went blank.
     In the shadows of my tiny kitchen I stood paralyzed and thought of nothing, nothing, nothingnothingnothing…

***** For what it’s worth, the body I had seen on April 28, 1996 was not the dazed man I had earlier spotted, but 37-year-old Debra Cruz of Fall River, Mass. She had been walking along that section of the highway after leaving the car of a friend with whom she had been quarreling. Ms. Cruz was then struck by a hit-and-run driver.
     After presenting Ms. Cruz in what was doubtless her worst appearance on this planet, out of respect for her family I want to add this:
     Ms. Cruz was so much more than a corpse that someone left to rot on Route 95. She was a very real person – a beloved mother and daughter and sister. She had a soul. She struggled and wept and felt pain and joy and celebrated life like the rest of us.
     From my heart to Debra Cruz:
     “Oh you young men of Shu of the morning, who have power over those who flash among the sun folk, whose arms move about and whose heads sway to and fro; may I move about everyday…”
Lupo's Heartbreak Hotel is a famous Providence music bar where I have  transported many musicians and passengers. Of note are the exquisite murals by the entrance done by artist Dan Gosch. To see them are worth the trip to Lupo's.  

My Favorite Taxi Story
     I was flying along when she came into view: This gorgeous Hispanic woman slipped into a tight fitting evening gown.
     Like a figure in a dream she was standing in this foggy mist on the edge of a wet cobble-stoned street.
     She smiled; I slammed on the brakes.
    When she delicately slid her beautiful body onto the back seat I got a closer look:
     Long black hair, coal-black eyes, legs that went on forever….
     We drove in silence.
     “Can-I please-a smoke, senor?” she wondered.
     “Hey, no problem,” I told her in this relaxed and trance-like way. “If you wanna smoke, senorita you go right ahead and smoke…”
     I floored in onto the superhighway and caught another glimpse of her in the rear-view mirror.
     She lit up a crack pipe and took this gurgling, death rattle of a gasp…

A view of the Providence harbor from India Point Park. 

Thomas L. “T-Love” Allen
    A  cabdriver we call “The Rebel” was having an after-work beer and Thomas L. “T-Love” Allen was in the cab office telling The Rebel this:
     “I know I’m a lucky man. I got me a good wife that I’ve been married to for over 20 years now. I can’t complain. I love Carol, she loves me, and you just can’t ask for anything more than that in life.”
     “Ya got yourself a good woman!” The Rebel shouted.
      “I sure enough do,” agreed Thomas with a smile. “I sure enough do…”
     Thomas, a gentle giant of a man and a top-notch automobile mechanic, passed away before the time I stopped driving.
     When they say the good die young, you can believe me: This means guys like Thomas.

*****Without good automobile mechanics there would only be bad cab to drive. Where I used to work at Yellow Cab, though, we had great mechanics. Thanks brothers Jimmy and Billy Morris and the late Thomas L. “T-Love” Allen. Thanks, too, to the late David Morris. You and your family made the job of cab driving as good as it can get…
The Providence Atheneum is a private library. Its Greek Revival building was completed in 1838. Here, poet, spiritualist and American transcendentalist Sarah Helen Whitman pretty much broke off her engagement with Edgar Allan Poe.
(Sarah wanted Edgar to stay sober and he didn't.) There's a fountain in front and there's a legend to it: It's said that if you drink the water from it you'll never leave Providence.  I once drank a lot: Here I am! 

Sarah Helen Whitman (1803-1878). A typically beautiful Providence woman.
Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849). I got a funny feeling he wasn't such a good tipper - and I know if I had him for a passenger we'd be doing a Drug Run.*

Biggest Tip
    What was the biggest tip you ever got?
     People ask me that and I’ll tell you about one: One snowy night two airline people I took up to Charlestown, Mass. gave me a $110 tip.
     That wasn’t my biggest tip.
     My biggest tip happened in August, 2001 when an 11-year-old girl named Melissa and her mother got into my cab.
     This tip also came to me because of a promise I kept.
     You see, during our long journey from Warwick, R.I. to Worcester, Mass. Melissa made me promise her that I’d stop smoking.
     I kept my promise.
     It has been over 18 years since that ride but I have given up smoking cigarettes.
     I feel great.
     Thanks, Melissa, for the greatest tip I ever got and which I am going to give to cabdrivers and people everywhere:
     Stop smoking cigarettes.

*****Let’s do the math: Twenty years of not smoking a pack of cigarettes a day – which I used to – at a mean average of $7 a pack comes to about $50,000 saved. Besides getting myself in better physical condition and keeping my health, what a great financial tip this turned out to be. 
Sarah Helen Whitman's house on Benefit Street. If Benefit Street were located on the West Coast they'd probably charge you $20 to walk on it. When it comes to old buildings Providence is one of the most European cities on the North American continent. 

Nine Hundred Dollars
(Note: The name of the dispatcher/cab driver has been changed.)
     “I have $900 on me. And you can have all of it if you kill me.”
     I drive.
     “My life is over. Over. And I swear I’ll give you $900 if you murder me tonight...”
     To backtrack:
     It’s a busy June night and life is excellent.
     Gorgeous women are getting into my cab and leaving me tremendous tips.
     Other folks are respectfully asking me to take them on long and high-paying runs.
      My pockets are stuffed with cash.
     I've even made so much money that for the rest of the night I just feel like turning off the cab’s two-way radio, taking things easy and staying off the sheet.*
     But “Dave”  is dispatching from the office, I always work with the guy, and when he asks me to pick up some fare on Steeple Street I go.
     The light-skinned man with the opened black shirt and the butterfly tattoo on his hairless chest seems normal.
     Not until we start racing on Route 95 and he makes his murder-me-for-$900 request does his wack-ball side come to light.
      “I’m not kidding about paying you to kill me, I’m really not,” he tells me. “I have the $900 on me: That’s not a problem. And I want you to kill me because – because – I’m just going through the motions. Can you understand that? Every day – every single fucking day – is the same as the day before. And man…I just want it all to end.”
     Smog and exhaust fumes waft into the cab and I scratch my head.
     You might think $900 is peanuts.
     With my low rent it’s enough for me to live on for a month. (In 1997 when this all happened, for me it just about was.*) (*As of now, 2019, it still is!)
     This “great love” for my fellow man isn’t really what’s stopping me from taking him up on his offer, either.
     It’s a couple of other things:
     One, if I did kill the guy with my luck I’d get caught.
    Two, I guess I’m not hit man material because there’s just something about his whole deal that freaks me.
     So I just drive along and fly past a roaring-loud, grime-caked tractor-trailer.
     “Look, man," I tell the guy. "I can’t kill you.”
     “Well, maybe one of your friends can! Maybe you know somebody who wants to make an easy $900. Come on! You’re a cabdriver! You must know somebody!”
      As the country song goes: “I got friends in low places.”
      There are some guys I know who are so money warped they’d do anything for a buck. (For a “Buck,” too, buddy, if you, hey, hey, see what I'm tryin' t'tell ya, buddy!)
     A couple of months before, some woman even gets into the cab and right out-of-the-blue announces that she “sets up hits,” – that is, has people killed and for a bargain basement price: $1,000.
      But I don’t feel it’s such a great idea to mention her or the greedy guys I know to this passenger…
     “Listen,” I argue with Mister Kill Me For $900, “for me to, like, even arrange this thing would be impossible. If push came to shove and someone talked I’d be implicated in a major crime. No, sorry. I can’t possibly do this.”
     “Jesus! What the fuck do you have to do t’get yourself killed in Providence*!?
     “You can’t find anybody!?”
     “Hey, man, why do you think I’m asking you!?”
     “Have you ever thought of just doing it yourself? I mean, suicide?”
     “Yeah. Oh yeah,” he tells me. “As a matter of fact I tried it about a year ago but it was a botched attempt. I ended up going to a hospital for about six months because of it and…”
     At some point I tell my passenger this:
     “I’m not going to shit you and tell you that life is worth living. I think life can really suck and if you want to kill yourself, hey, fucking go for it. But as they say suicide is a permanent solution to what can be a temporary problem, and pal, considering your current condition, I think you’d be making a serious mistake if you decided to kill yourself right now. I mean: You’re drunk. You seem like you’re depressed, pretty fucked up. Now’s just not the right time for you to do or even think about something as important as suicide…”
     Interestingly enough, my little speech leads to the existential question (To be or not to be, blah, blah…) which leads to modern French existential literature, which leads to (and how can it possibly not?) that genius piece of  crap Louse-Ferdinand Celine.
     “Celine’s the shit*!” I shout out while making a fist and shaking it in awe and enthusiasm. “And before you give any more thought to suicide you gotta read Journey to the End of the Night. You might even kill yourself after you do read it, but at least once in your frigging life you will have read something.’
     The suicide chat ends and we spend the rest of the ride talking about Celine, Camus, Flaubert, Zola. (Only the Russians can write as well as the French!) I’m even sure the guy isn’t about to kill himself when I drop him off in Central Falls, Rhode Island. For all my solid advice and concern, though, there’s no tip for Eddie….
      I go home to dump off some of the money I have me and heeeeeerrre’s Rebecca of the bomb body, naked and zonked on the bed and watching - on full blast volume, you bet - some soul vacuuming American movie. 
      I give her all the details of what happened with my suicidal passenger.
     “Wow!” she says, shooting up all blessed points and curves. “You, like, just told me that story, man, and it sent a fuckin’ chill right through me!”
      Later that night at the cab station I even tell a couple of other drivers about Monsieur-Kill-Me-For-$900.
      They're not as impressed as Rebecca. But for about the first and only time in my life as a cabdriver I think I’ve finally –finally – told them a story they can’t beat.
      Young Danny can’t beat it.
      Even Ralph.
        Dave the dispatcher and also cabdriver who sent me to the passenger in the first place tops my story.
     “Nine hundred?” Nine Hundred?” he wonders. “You know, the same thing happened to me a long, long time ago when I first started driving a cab in the 50s. But in my case the guy I had offered me $2,000. And the wind us was that when I told my mother about him he turned out to be a distant relation of ours. He had family problems and I think he eventually did kill himself, poor bastard…Nine hundred, though? Nine hundred’s all the guy was going to give you? My guy was going to give me $2,000- but yours just offered you $900, huh?”

*****Whenever I had taken in more than $100 or so I’d go home and dump off the lion’s share of the money then just leave myself with enough bills to make change. (I drove a long time before paying cabdrivers with credit cards came into action.) I figured if I was going to get robbed thieves wouldn’t take me for everything. I hope sensitive readers will realize the kind of pressure cabdrivers live with that inspires them to unload the bulk of their money. Imagine how it is to go to work every day with the lingering thought that this day you may get a knife held at your throat and robbed.
       Also – this necessary rant: Celine’s a piece of crap because of the anti-Semite books he produced right before World War II: In a way this literary giant of the world wrote gave the Nazis a little more intellectual backing to go on with their extermination plans. Though I think he was a great writer who made tremendous observations - he has influenced my writing like few other writers have - I condemn him as a human being… 
    Same goes for Ezra Pound: A great poet – the best poet to date of the United States, in my opinion - but not someone I’d ever want in my cab: Fuck him if he suffered in Pisa, Italy. What about the people being shoved into the ovens due to some of the crazy things he said on his fascist radio show!?    
The Braga Bridge in Fall River, Massachusetts and where the guy in the following story tried to commit suicide.


     “Death is a warm puppy…” (Me.)

     When my passenger started opening the back door I freaked:
     “Close that door!” 
     We were driving at about 70 in the thick of these Masshole* drivers at the top of a high suspension bridge.
     “You! Close that fucking door!...”
     The ride started like this:
     My sociopath/on-parole taxi dispatcher (honest) told me to go into this ritzy Providence restaurant and tell the doorman the cab he called was there.
      I got out of the cab and did that.
      This kind of weird but well-dressed guy – who looked like he could have been the twin brother of this dead pal of mine started following me.
     I asked the guy where he was going but the yuppie-duppie just ignored me.
     It was the burly doorman, who came out of the restaurant and practically threw the guy into my cab, who supplied that information: He was going to Fall River, Massachusetts.
     Now cabdriver instinct told me not to take this passenger since he seemed unaffected by the reality of Providence.
      I was therefore convinced he’d be numb to the understated aesthetics of Fall River.
     When the doorman flipped me two crisp twenties for this bomb* the love of money overcame me, though.
     So I put on this great Providence oldies station (JB.105 FM), my quiet and kind of uneasy rider seemed OK with that and the little cab started its little Journey to the East.    
     Life was good – at least for three minutes.
      Because after that every 10 seconds or so my non-talking passenger began shouting out in this high-pitched way:
     “Ooooooh! Ooooooh!”
     Thinking of the nearly complete darkness inside the cab and the man’s strong resemblance to that dead pal of mine, those little  shouts were a bit freaky.
     But it dawned on me that maybe the poor guy was suffering from Tourette’s syndrome, a sickness that plagues its sufferers with involuntary verbal outbursts.
     Only after several minutes of traveling on the dark interstate and enduring this passenger’s periodic yelps (“Oooooh!...Ooooooh!”) did the man do something that was much harder to reason away:
     He leaned forward and propped his chin on the right-front passenger’s seat. Then he gaped out at the world like some kind of lost little puppy.
     Positively no passenger I had ever given a ride to had ever did the lost puppy thing.
      What his next move was going to be I couldn’t say…
     Darkness, tires whining, the mystical and holy American road the great American writer Jack Kerouac native spoke about.
     Soon: The city’s high suspension Braga Bridge looming before the lights of the City of Fall River like this immense kind of sacrificial altar. 
     And when I got to the top of that bridge and thought I'd be finally getting rid of the lunatic and was going about 70 miles an hour in the thick of high-speed traffic -  that's when the passenger opened the back door and started looking down at the blurry asphalt and the black water far beneath it.
     “Close that door!” I yelled, sensing a suicide in the making. “Close that fuckin’ door!”
     Becoming a more menacing driver than even the Massholes on the road with me,  I swerved a bit by the steel bridge girders to rattle my passenger a little and get him to listen to me.
     “Close that door!” I kept screaming while cold air blasted inside the cab and my heart really pounded. "Close that door!"
      The passenger closed the door.
      With my heart still pounding in this heart-attack-rapid way, I raced onto this narrow and elevated exit ramp that’s about 100 feet over the ground.
     “Say…Why don’t you slow down!?” my suddenly speaking passenger asked me right in that good-for-a-suicide-jumping-place.
     “I am slowing down!”
       “No…no…” he went on with this eerie kind of calmness. “Why don’t you really slow down? Why don’t you stop the cab and let me off right here?...”
     The ride ended after I got to this convenience store, a clerk called the police and the police took the poor guy to a mental hospital.
      My memory of that ride and how the guy tried to kill himself, well that, to reflect on the writings of Marcel Proust is something that shades my view of the present.
      Every time I approach the Braga Bridge I always remember that night.
      Several months after this happened, I was transporting a female passenger to Fall River. Like I’ve done with just about everybody I’ve since taken across that bridge, I was telling her the story:
     “That was probably the scariest fare I’ve ever had. Like, when that guy looked like his next move was going to be jumping out of the cab, you wouldn’t believe how fast my heart started beating. I really thought I was going to have a heart attack, I really did…”
     The woman considered everything I told her and sighed.
     “Ah, ya should-a fuckin’ let `im jumped (excuse my English),” she told me. “Anyone that stupid deserves t’die…”
     (By the way: This is an exact quote. I don’t think the woman was a cold person but that night she must have been upset: I was giving her a ride to her mother’s wake…)

*****Incidentally, Marcel Proust recounts a pretty funny cab story in Remembrance of Things Past. (Betcha can't find it!) As long as I’m parading my limited French literature/cab story erudition, there’s a hilarious cab sequence in Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary…And don’t forget the positively immortal cab scene at the end of Journey to the End of the Night by that aforementioned genius/sack of shit Louis-Ferdinand Celine. Then, of course, there are the fictional cab stories by the Paris cabdriver and Russian emigrant writer Gaito Gazdanov…Gazdanov’s look at the Paris underworld of the 20s and 30s rivals that of Henry Miller’s, George Orwell’s and Celine’s…Check out his Night Roads. When it comes to literature, you just can't beat the French - and the Russians, of course...

Providence Place Mall is a great place to shop, eat, see a movie. It was built during the time I drove a cab. (Oh to be eating cheap Thai food or pizza with a view a Five Star restaurant couldn't top!)

The Drunk
(Note: While the dialogue in this story is real, the identity of the speaker and a few other minor details have been changed.)
     Like he were this Egyptian archaeologist who had just dug up some fantastic hieroglyph, the drunk leaned on his cane and stared at my cab in awe.
     Disgusted, I pushed open the back door and watched as he flopped in.
     “Where to, sir?”
      In doe-eyed wonder he kept staring in the distance.
     “Where to!? Where to!? Hey, pal: Where’re ya goin’!?”
     Jolting back his head and slam gearing into consciousness he slurred out he was heading to this West End* strip club, a place he said he’d been going to:
     “…fer years.”
     Dreading another sound from him, I punched on the meter.
     He did say something else but I just kept ignoring him with a Polar Bear-like fierceness.
     You say one wrong word to them and they’ll want to kill you.
     If you’re nice to them they’ll never shut up.
     As sometimes happens my next far was at the same spot where I unloaded the drunk.
     “Terri,” a 40ish woman who works at that strip club as a bartender, is a regular customer of our cab company.
     Keep in mind the dyed-blond Texas native and former topless dancer is not exactly your ladies’ auxiliary type.
     Nevertheless, Terri is a decent enough sort who regularly puts in double-shifts among female beauties and male monsters in order to support herself and her two teenage daughters.
     After we started moving I gestured to my former passenger with my thumb.
     “Think they’ll let him in?”
     Ignoring my joke and gesture, Terri looked back at the guy as he twisted beneath a fizzling neon strip club light and groped with his wooden cane.
     “That guy? Ha. I know that guy! No. They probably won’t let him in. And it’s too bad.”
     “Too bad!?”
     “Yeah,” Terri went on, “with the way the kid are nowadays they’d never show a man like that any respect.”
     I floored it through a yellow light and steered the cab along.
     ““A man like that” is someone who made the deliberate choice to become a drunk,” I felt like telling Terri.  “Let him start attending AA meetings.”
     But in her gritty Southwestern drawl, a real American growl of a voice that never fails to evoke images of lonely vistas and the sounds of howling winds, Terri took a deep drag on her menthol cigarette.
     She told me this:
     “Ya know that guy’s a veteran, dontcha? Yeah, well, he served in Vietnam way back when. That’s how he got that cane of his. And the way he drools over himself – He’s a cripple, ya know! – them are all part of his war injuries. And when he did come to the club in the old days when I was still dancing we all felt bad for him. Like, he’d come in, slobber over his beer and wouldn’t bother nobody. Back then we all knew where the guy was comin’ from, ya see, so we just left him in peace…”
     “Sometimes girls who’d just begun dancing at the club would come up ta me an’ complain: “That fuckin’ guy don’t fuckin’ tip us!” they’d tell me. Then I’d explain to them who he was, what he was all about, that sort of thing. The poor guy. Once people found out what he’d been through they all felt bad…”
     “Oh, I gotta admit that sometimes he could be a pain. Some nights he’d be in the center of everything and start getting’ inta everybody’s way. “Come on, honey,” I’d tell him on them nights, “I gotta move ya!” Then I’d walk him over to a place in the corner, somewhere where he’d be outta all the commotion…”
     “Now I don’t know what happened to that guy in Vietnam, I really don’t. But it must-a have been somethin’ real horrible, somethin’ real awful. Forget about his wounds and his cane and everything. Forget about his droolin.’ Something must-a happened to him there, something that must-a done a number on his mind…”
     “Like, he’d come inta the club and sit there and was there – but at the same time he wasn’t there. (Ya know what I’m tryin’ ta say?) He just looked out at the world with this kind-a blank stare as though there was nothing,’ nothin’ in `im at all…”
     “But…I guess there was just this thing inside of him, something somewhere that just made him want to go out and be with a group of other human beings. Does that make any sense? That guy was all fucked up, but he just wanted to be around people, even if the people was nothin’ but a bunch of strangers…”
     A cat flashed before the cab.
     I swerved out of its path…

And here I will not ask for tips and donations but that you support veterans' groups, make sure veterans always receive the best hospital treatment and that no veteran is ever homeless.  

A gondola in Waterplace Park. Having gone to Venice, Italy, I must say the Providence water is a similar wine-colored green. Schools of fish can be seen in this very spot.

Hit Lady
    “Look, sugar, look: Let’s cut the bullshit: You know what I do?”
      “I set up hits!”
     “Thass right! I you want anyone murdered I can have it done for you for a fuckin’ thousand dollars!”
      At that particular time I had no urgent need for her services.
      To be a good cabdriver and to just keep the conversation going…
      “How much is it to just have someone beat up?”
     “Beat up!?” she asked a little insulted. “Thasss all you want!?”
     “Yeah,” I said as I turned a corner. “Nothing big time.”
     “I don’t know…(Just beat up? Thasss all you want, right!?)…how `bout fifty bucks?
      So she gave me her beeper number…
Bishop Harkins Hall, Providence College

It Could Have Ended Worse
     The Providence College (PC) kids I got at the bar were all a little drunk but also polite and respectful.
     Four of them wanted to sit in the back seat so the passed-out really drunk fifth one – a young woman – could stretch out upon their laps.
     “Go for it,” I told them.
     (Please keep that passed-out PC young woman in mind.)
     Having five passengers in the cab is illegal.
     Because of my high regard for students – they’re generally polite and virtually always tip Providence cab drivers – when I transport them I definitely bend rules.
      After a few minutes of the cab ride, there was a pause in the friendly conversation we'd been having.
     I kept driving, focusing my eyes on the icy road.
     Right after hitting this slushy brown pothole, though, I felt this light, comical-like tap on the back of my head.
     “OK, OK: Stop that,” I said with a laugh, thinking that one of the seated kids in the back seat was hitting me for a prank.
     There was more silence and I drove along.
     The cab hit another bump. In seconds I again felt that strange little tap on my head.
     “Hey kids: Now come on: Stop hitting me like that!”
      I kept driving.
     When the cab again hit a bump I again felt my head get nudged.
     This time I half turned around to the passengers. In this solid but affectionate manner – like the harmless way a father might horse around with his 20-year-old son – I then started hitting this muscular, hockey playing looking young  guy.
     He was the kid who had been tapping me on the head, I figured.
     “Hey, you! Don’t hit me again, man!” I joked with the hockey kid while lightly whacking him.
     I turned around and went back to my driving and…
     One more road bump.
     One more head tap.
     “Oh, so ya still wanna play games, huh!” I told the hockey kid in a joking way, of course – but this time hitting him with a lot more force. “I’ll teach ya, PC!”
     The ride soon being over, I let this crew out right at the main side entrance to Providence College. Since I had to get outside – to help this group get the young woman who was lying on their laps (remember!?) – we soon all stood together under the bright campus lights.
     The hockey kid I hard but affectionately hit looked at me like a bull about to charge.
     (“Don’t, don’t!” a young woman whispered to the angry looking kid. Don’t!”)
     “Whhh…what’s the problem?” I asked the young woman a little confused. “I mean, I knew I was hitting your friend but…”
      “OK, sir!” said the young woman, cutting me off before I could explain about the head taps and also talking to me in a tone of voice just bursting with sympathy. “You be sure to take good care of yourself, sir!”
      “Ah…yeah…ah…” I answered her in bewilderment. “Yeah…ah…”
      Later I understood everything:
      Unknown to those four kids sitting upright in the back seat – and also to me at the time – the source of the mysterious head taps were coming from the passed out young woman who was stretched out on the other four kids’ laps.
     She probably had a hand sort of resting on the top of the back seat, a hand that was hidden from everyone’s view.
     As my cab hit various bumps in the road, that hidden hand of hers must have slapped against my head reflexively, unconsciously, in that funny feeling way.
      The things I was saying to those kids to “Stop hitting me…” and the solid thumps and whacks I gave the kid I thought had been tapping me for a joke, well, neither he nor his friends had any idea why I was saying or doing what I was.
      They all must have read me for some kind of maniac!
      Yeah, they were kids from PC who were all half in the bag, the kind of kids that some neighbors of the college will bad-rap until eternity.
      But while we had all misread the situation, those students I gave a ride to that winter night acted in a way any one of us could learn a thing or two from.
      The kid who wanted to fight me listened to reason and he thought before he acted: A very reasonable young man, he was.
     The sympathetic young woman who paid me mistakenly thought I was a psycho. You could tell by the kind way she said “SIR,” though, that she really cared about my well-being as a human being.
      Most importantly, she was the one who persuaded her male friend not to fight me.
     She was my angel – and you couldn’t have anything but praise for a young woman with such an amount of caring and sensibility.
      I swear, college students like these are some of the best passengers a cabdriver can hope for.
          ***** Speaking of PC, two things:
First, the students at this college do know how to have a good time but they also work during the week. They're also respectful of older people and were beloved passengers among Providence cabdrivers. Second,  Dominican priests teach at this college and to state an opinion (as a person who is not a Christian) I am tired of all the bad press priests these days receive. It’s like they’re the only class of people that molest children!  (Hellllllllooo: I've known some pretty twisted newspaper editors, politicians and cops! QUIT USING ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AS YOUR CHILDHOOD SEXUAL ABUSE SCAPEGOATS! THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH IS NOT THIS BASTION OF PERVERSION.)
      Once such great priest I would like to mention – though he was not a Dominican – is the late Father Bernard Duval. He once diagnosed the genius/scumbag poet Ezra Pound and was even my psychiatrist for a couple of years. Like thousands and thousands and thousands of other priests, Father Duval was a fine man…
P.S. Duval was at St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington, D.C. where Pound was a patient. In Duval's opinion, Pound was not fundamentally crazy but had been traumatized by his post-war incarceration in Pisa, Italy. This diagnosis endeared Pound to Father Duval. 

Not Zulus At All
     At the new company where I started driving you often went home with a fist-full of cash – but times were hard.
     Tons of guys were coming out of the woodwork and wondering if there were any cabs available for them to drive. As was my fate during most of my working life, I was pretty much living  hand to mouth, too.
     The pressure was really on me to be Mister Perfect.
     One cold and rainy December night I was dispatched to Continentals, this shit box of a strip club near to the atomic sized Providence harbor. (Continentals got shut down after a doorman was gunned down in front of it.)
     After a good five minutes of waiting, a trio of beautiful trash talking black women with flashy tight-fitting clothes and bomb bodies got in the taxi and sa-lammed, motherfucker, the fucking passenger doors, motherfucker, behind them.
     “We’re goin’ to the main Bonanza bus terminal so snap on it!” demanded the fearless leader.
        I hated the ho for bossing me like I were a dog. But to keep the peace I just clicked on the meter and gripped the thickly padded steering wheel.
     Eddie drove.
     Cutting icy rain sliced down hard and sharp as wipers flapped/flapped on the windshield; ancient New England factories loomed near like medieval torture castles.
      I kept driving and just doing my job. But in a voice that sounded as brassy as a trumpet the alpha stripper suddenly blasted:
     “Hey! Where in the motherfuckin’ hell are you motherfuckin’ takin’ us, cabbie!?”
     My head jolted.
     “Gee, ah, you want to go to the main bus terminal, right? Well, that’s where…”
     “The fuck you are!” she blared. “You’re takin’ us the long way!* The short way” – and this she said like she were talking down to a little kid – “would be if you went over that big, big bridge and you got on the big big highway: Honey!” 
     (Giggles and snickers in the backseat.)
     “No,” I corrected her. “That’s the long way. And if I went that way it would cost you more on the meter…”
     Truth: We may have stopped at a few red lights by the way I was going. But the waiting time the meter would click in would not have added that much money to the meter. Her way would have cost some dollars more and wasn’t that much faster. 
     Since she seemed so angry I tried to reason with her:
     “Listen, I’ll tell you what: I can shut off the meter, take you back to the club, start the meter again and go the way you want. To tell you straight, I’ll be really happy to do that, too, since your way is longer and means more money in my pocket.”
     “Ha-errr-not now, motherfucker!” she stammered as I started to turn. “Not after you’ve taken us this far!” (Note: We had only gone about two blocks.) “We’re in a rush to get to our bus and – and – if you fuckin’ go back we’re - we're - not gonna fuckin’ make it!” (Ah! So they were in a rush! THEN WHY DIDN'T THEY GET INTO THE CAB WHEN I FIRST  GOT TO THEM!? A common cabdriver complaint, incidentally.)
     “Well, look, like I told you, this is the short way and it is the cheap way. And anyway, what time is your bus?”
     “Yeah, well, it’s seven-ten now. Don’t worry. I’ll get you there in time.”
     So with her in agreement with me I kept going my way – cutting through the brick canyons of what’s called the Providence Jewelry District.
     Naturally, every slow-poke driver in the world got in front of me.
     Traffic, red lights, backseat grumbling, drunk and abusive drunk dispatcher Malcolm's (not real name) squawking on the cab's two-way radio…Massholes*…Icy rain coming down...Can't-drive-for-shit-Massholes...
      “You’re such a motherfuckin’ liar!” the beautiful stripper roared. “We ain’t gonna get to our bus on time now! You’re just tryin’ t’fuck with us! You’re just taking us this way which you very well motherfuckin’ know is the long way!”
      “Ha! You think because we’re black that we’re stupid: That must be it. Well, this nigger ain’t stupid. And this nigger ought to bust your motherfuckin’ windshield!”
      After she made this threat I wanted to toss* the whole bunch. It would have been easy since we were right then approaching the back of the old main Providence Police Station. A zillion (mostly) good cops used to dealing with this kind of stupid shit were inside.
     Like I told you, though, I had just started working at my cab company, was kind of hard up for cash and Mister Perfect Eddie here didn’t want any kind of scene that may get back to the boss.
     Maybe that beautiful black stripper sensed I was a little fearful.  
      She let it rip:
     “I get it. You know we’re in a rush to get to our bus and you just want to fuck with us and take your lazy-ass time. (Yourottenhonkeybastard…) You want us to miss our motherfuckin’ bus so that way you can take us to Boston (Note: That’s where the bus would be taking them.) and then make more money from us!”
     Since I knew that no good would come from me arguing with her I kept silent.
     “What!?” she went on. “Is this how you treat your own bitch!? You use her, too!? You make your bitch support your lazy white ass!? (Thesefuckin’whitecabdrivers,girls.
       Dem,” a fellow back seat languid one agreed in this kind of nodding-out-on-bad-heroin North Carolina drawl…
      “Well I got news for you:” psycho one screamed. “We ain’t dumb niggers. What!? You think we’re a bunch of fuckin’ African Zulus or something!? Is that what you think!? (That’swhathethinksgirls! That'swhathethinks!) Oh yeah: Because we be nigger strippers you think we must be dancin’ aroun’ with big bells hangin’ outta our - our - cunt holes like the fuckin’ retard Zulus they got over there in Africa!”
     (And here a roar of laughter.)
      I wanted to say something like this:
      “The Zulus are a people filled with courage, intelligence, grace, kindness and dignity. No way would I consider any of you a Zulu.”
      I knew these women had no clue regarding their own black past, as it went.
      To paraphrase the writer James Joyce, history was a nightmare from which they weren't at all trying to awake. 
      If I told them how in 1879 courageous Zulu warriors defeated the technologically superior British Army, for instance, they would have gone out of their minds…(How could they have not respected the subtle brilliance of their own tribes, kin? How could they have eschewed their own glorious cultural and racial history? To now paraphrase the French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss, they were the savages...The real horror...The real horror...)
     When we got to our destination at the main bus terminal – and with time to spare, for sure – the young women got out to get into their bus.
     The United States Justice Department was beginning to shove minorities into prison at the same rate the still beloved (sickening!) mass-murderer Chairman Mao starved millions of his own people to death. But these fine looking black strippers had  "triumphed" over the poor white cabdriver with the depression he was suffering from and the $367* (*a reasonable estimate) in his checking account. 
      The meter was at around $7, too – the rock bottom price it would have cost to take that ride.
     Ultimate insult: The women left the cab without paying.
      I could have had a police person follow them on the bus and demanded the money for which I had earned, of course.
     I was pretty confused at the moment from all the abuse, however, and the driver of a car I was blocking in the lot was honking and honking.
     And anyway, if some kind of scene with the police happened even if my boss believed my story I would still be bringing more headaches into his life of this transmission that needed to be changed and that insurance fee he had to pay and that driver pimping the 14-year-old boy in the front seat he had to speak to.
     No way was The Problem Employee Spotlight going to shine on Eddie.
     So I just put the fare on my trip sheet* and - to be the perfect Rhode Island Slave Worker - I paid for that cab ride out of my own pocket.
     It was an excellent move.
     “Is Dalton’s cab ready?”
     Those were the holy words I heard when I got to work the next day and those were the only words I ever heard: AND FOR YEARS!
     The rent got paid, I got to understand what cabdrivers have to suffer through, in time I didn't have to be so perfect and I even lived long enough to write about this. 
     What a gift that ride was - and to me worth a a lot more than seven measly dollars. (I've loved writing and re-writing this story! I've really gotten into it; it helped me learn to approach writing in a visual way.)
     You bet I didn’t think that ride was a gift then.
     As the cold icy rainy kept clawing on the windshield of the yellow cab as I was pulling away from The Bonanza Bus Terminal in old Cab 5 – old Bullah’s cab, and a cab I then shared with “Little Tony,” the day man* whose relation Nicholas “Nicky” Bianco was once the under boss of Providence’s Mickey Mafia* (to simply record some minor details) – I felt pretty miserable, though. 
     I stayed in bed depressed for days about this ride, too, as I have from the effect of the many times when people just commanded me to take me to where they were going; snatched money from my hands like I were a disease filled, mindless rodent; or, in general, treated me like crap knowing full well they had the money, the power, that the laws would be on their side and positively nooooooooo-body would give a rat’s ass about my rights as a non-union worker in the United States of America - especially in the  State of Rhode Island where the General Assembly and state government couldn't care less about workers' rights or cabdrivers getting murdered on the job. 
     Hath not a cabdriver eyes?
     Hath not a cabdriver hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions?*
(*I base my negative statements about our local government on this: Although I have changed my opinion on this issue, for years I petitioned members of the General Assembly to pass legislation to mandate safety petitions in cabs. You just can't believe the run-around I got.  After all, I was just an honest citizen with little money trying to pass a law to improve the lives of cabdrivers - not some corrupt rich lobbyist shoving a couple of lines of coke (or procuring a male or female prostitute or something) in some lawmaker's direction. What further gets me is that in Rhode Island the ruling party is the Democrats, a political party - full-disclosure - that I largely support. It pains me to admit this, but the Democrats of Rhode Island are the filthiest scum you can imagine.  If the Republicans ever wanted to provide the people of the United States with an example of how bad things could be if the Democrats were in power, all they'd have to do is to show folks the State of Rhode Island. They'd have a field day!) 

A former Olneyville factory. Near here - and I can definitely prove this - fish once rained from the sky. (Check out:, "Rain of Fish" by Edward Dalton.) Link:

The Happy Couple
     That’s what the doorman said after he flipped me a $20 bill and told me to keep the change.
     This dumpy blond woman who had been in the back seat during this money exchange started boo-hooing but her tears didn’t get to me.
     Then the angry looking Cult of the Guido* boyfriend with the perfect haircut and the perfect leather jacket stormed into the back seat and more or less ordered me to move it.
     Iron silence when we drove up the highway entrance ramp.
     But when we got on the highway and entered the thick and crazed high-speed traffic…
     “Ya cunt!” Boyfriend exploded at Girlfriend as hot summer air BLASTED in through the cab's open windows. “Yer the dumbest fuckin’ cunt on tha face of the earth!”
      Girlfriend shrank into her seat.
     Boyfriend lurched toward her and aimed his bull-dog face inches from hers.
     “Ya hadda fuckin’ bring it out, dintcha!?" he screamed. "Ya hadda fuckin’ bring it out!”
     “I’m sooorrrryyyy!” Girlfriend screamed back in this squeaky   little voice.
     “I’m sooorrryyy!” aped Boyfriend as more hot summer air kept BLASTING in. “I’ll make ya sorry, ya fuckin’ retard cunt!”
      Judging by his fierceness and the shaking of his fist, I thought that the guy was about to hit the woman.
      For some reason all I could do was stomp on the gas pedal.
      “All those people know now!” Boyfriend raved while I started flying by everything. “Every-fuckin’-body knows!”
     “I tole ya I was sooorrryyy!”
     “Ya cunt! Ya fuckin’ stupid – stupid – (long pause to consider the appropriate word) – cunt! Ya hadda say it, dintcha!? Dinnnnnttttccchhhhaaa!?”
      Through my rear view mirror I caught glimpses of Boyfriend holding his fist practically on Girlfriend’s chin.
     Girlfriend simply brought out this atomic-sized bit of crumbled pink Kleenex and she brushed Boyfriend’s fist away.
     “Listen bust-a!” she roared while suddenly getting wild and heavy with him. “Things weren’t eggs-actly purr-fect fer me at that mothafuckin’ wedding reception, eith-a! Ya know that uncle o’mine who ya thought was such a nice nice guy fa buyin’ you that bee-ear!? Ya remem-ba him!? Well that mothafuckin’ AIDS faggot raped me when I was seven! Oh yeah: That nice, nice – faggot motherfuck-a – shoved his dick inta my pussy! Dontcha understand!? I was just a little girl! I couldn’t take a piss fer a week!”
     (“Jesus,” Boyfriend mumbled as he slithered back into a corner. Then - accurate quote: "The driver doesn't need to hear this.")
     “Yeah! That’s what fuckin’ happened ta me, OK!?" Girlfriend  went on. "My “nice, nice” uncle had his queer ass faggot way with me when I was little! And I hadda sit right next to the cocksuck-a t'day!”
     Hot and roaring loud summer’s air kept rushing into the cab and there was a moment of heavy silence. 
     For what it’s worth, my heart went out to her.
     As is the case with millions of all Americans, you see, I also endured childhood sexual abuse and even a life threatening rape when I was 12.  
     Like the atomic bomb was to Hiroshima, that’s what being molested and raped has been to my heart and soul and mind and life and.
     And I even had this urge to say something, you know, to try to make the woman in the back understand that what we had gone through is, tragically, common and something no one should ever be ashamed about.
     Reflecting on the hysterical way she was sobbing, as it went, I just didn’t feel the vibes were right for a heart-to-heat talk.
     More importantly, combined with her letting out some kind of hideous secret about the guy and the woman’s  brutal rape confession, for a moment reality didn’t even seem real:
     Life had this thick and flowing and looking-at-the-world-from- under-a-river-like texture to it like we were living through some kind of fluid, Hollywood film.
     Racing along, I groped with the movie sensation and started thinking it had to be a death omen.
     But Boyfriend said something that brought me right back to cinema verite reality:
     “Ya know, cunt, ta-marra I’m fuckin’ gonna leave ya! Yeah, ta-marra I’m gonna pack my bags – and move in with my moth-a!*” (*Perfect quote.)
     “I guess things’ll be good fer you then!” Intellectual Giant Girlfriend quipped.
     “Damn right they will be!” Boyfriend said as he nodded and he crossed his arms across his chest in this boyishly determined way. “And ya wanna know why they will be!? Ya wanna know why!?”
     “Fuckin’ tell me!”
     “`Cause Mom’s my favorite girl, that’s why. Mom’s my favorite girl! And when I move in with her we’ll get along absa-lutely fine!*” (*Another exact quote!)
     In time we got off the highway and onto this cemetery-like, strip-malled American street with the unspeakable-crimes-against-graphic-design-neon-signs. While my passengers seemed to have calmed down, I hadn’t. To clip a line from the god/writer Charles Bukowski, I was still driving like a caveman, blowing off red lights, the works.
      I couldn’t wait to get rid of these lunatics.
     When we finally pulled in front of their house – and the meter stood a $12 – I could hear some muttering:
     (“Oh, the doorman gave the cabdriver $20?” “Yeah.” “Well, after we get out change back let’s give the guy a buck…”)
     That’s right.
     After practically killing each other idiot Girlfriend and Boyfriend had one thing they agreed on:
      The Almighty American Dollar. 
     They also had the dead-wrong notion that they had something to do with paying for the ride THAT THE RESTAURANT WAS PAYING FOR and they decided to really open up their hearts, sisters and brothers, and let me keep an entire dollar.
     Oh wow!
     With that dollar I could go to Dunkin’ Donuts and get myself a small-sized coffee.
     Or maybe get copies of The Providence Journal and The Pawtucket Times: Hot times were a-comin'!**(**At that time you could do all this with a buck - and please see the first endnote.)
     Starting to get intensely furious at how I was forced to be in the middle of this couple’s "life-and-death" shouting match - and how they thought my suffering was only worth a measly frigging buck - for the first time since they started fighting I stopped being so rigid.
     “You people don’t have any change coming,” I told them.
     Heavy silence.
     “Say buddy,” soon said Boyfriend, “that was my fatha’s money! (It was, wasn’t it? It was Dad’s money, right?)”
     “Yeah,” said Girlfriend. “I don’t know…Wait…Maybe…Yeah…It could-a been…”
     “Yeah, well, like I said,” I went on, pissed off and disgusted beyond belief. “Ya got no change comin.’ The doorman gave me $20 and told me to keep it. So that’s what I’m doing.”
     “I think that’s our money,” said Girlfriend. “I think…”
     “Well, I tell you what:” I continued. “What I can do is get my dispatcher to contact the restaurant. They can call you up or something and straighten this thing out.”
      Like it were a kind of human claw I stiffened my fingers and thrust my hand out cat-like for the radio microphone.
     “No way!” shouted Boyfriend. “Ya’ll probably lie!”
     A few houses down from us some dog was barking away, a muffler-less sardine-sized car blasting out heavy metal music exploded past us.
     I was looking away from the guy. By the way I was slouched before the steering wheel and the dash board lights, I must have appeared as laid back as the Buddha.
     While I surely wasn’t as stiff as I had been when they were in the thick of their wild fight, while I had even reached for the microphone in this kind of crude animal-like way, I wasn’t all that confident.
     I’m not a fighter.
     My best action would have been to have given him “his change” and just gotten my ass out of there.
     For reasons that went beyond courage or financial gain, as it was, I was just so intent on keeping all that $20 the guy would have had to have murdered me to get me to part with any of it.
      Maybe sensing how determined I’d gotten about keeping that money, Girlfriend and Boyfriend just got out.
     “Wait, buddy, just you wait,” Boyfriend threatened me as he went. “Someday my fath-a and I are gonna meet up with you down where all the cabs go! We’ll be seein’ you!”
     “Fine,” I sighed, half in relief and half in disgust at his wussed-out/ "I'm Nauseated (Sickened) By Rhode Island" (I.N.R.I.) threat. (See second end note.) “You and your Dad do that.”
     As that dog kept barking and barking, I stayed parked for a while in front of the couple’s home, wrote some information down on my trip sheet*, lit a cigarette, blasted out (for a change) some Jimi Hendrix on the radio.
     I really earned that $20.

End note: Two things: One, I can respect the fact that for a lot of people a dollar is a lot of money and I was genuinely appreciative of receiving this kind of gratuity. But in the instance of this ride and all the intense arguing that I had to witness, I just didn't think a dollar was worth it. Two, I.N.R.I., the letters at the bottom of the Cross of Christ, are a Latin acronym for "JESUS OF NAZARETH, KING OF THE JEWS." Without diminishing the Prophet Jesus Christ or the seriousness of the Crucifixion itself, though, I sometimes think they must mean: "I'M NAUSEATED (SICKENED) BY RHODE ISLAND." I'm convinced if the Son of God that so many righteous people worship came down from heaven and visited this state - with at least one untouchable union the United States Justice Department doesn't have the guts to investigate (Check it out!); drugs being sold in bars - I allege - while the police virtually monitor the sales; minorities getting shoved and shoved and shoved into prison; bookies and various "connected" criminals rambling around like smirking, arrogant rats; alcoholic media people having the macs pulled over their heads by police informers/undercover cops; school systems from hell, etc. - He'd lift up His purple robe, get on His hands and knees and puke out His guts... 

Another view of "Clown Town." (Re: Glossary: Clown Town.)

Ms. Misery
         My fellow company cabdrivers hated her fucking guts.
      She got in my cab one sunny day and I decided to find out why.
     “Say, it looks like we’re gonna have some nice weather for a change,” I said in a happy way.
     “I said: “It looks like we’re…”
     This time:
     “Oh, I don’t know anything about the weath-her. Can’t you see I’m busy right now? I’m think-ing!”
     Thus went my first encounter with the beast.
     To be certain, I was more than a little offended by her “I’m think-ing!” remark.
     She seemed to be saying that because I was a "lowly cabdriver," I couldn’t possibly have the mind to think.
     For what it’s worth, I did learn a lesson.
       The entitled and elitist Brown University scholar/scallop was someone you had no chance of getting close to…
     With my hands on the wheel I kept giving her rides.
     A silent pilgrimage to a bookstore.
     An icy junket to The Rich White Boring People Supermarket.
     “Home!” she’d demand.
     Through the Trust Fund Gulags of Providence’s East Side* we’d wander…
     One day I had been twisting around the streets of Providence and climbing up Waterman Street and looking at all the RISD* girls – Some of them Chinese girls be honeys, yo! – and smoking a cigarette and.
       I put out my cigarette when I got to her, right – but:
      “Wow, yeah, just, like, before you got in the cab, right, I was…”
       As I was a (generally) professional worker serving the public, I should have made sure all smoke had gone from the cab.
      The mean and superior way she spoke to me – it made me want to reach over the seat and start banging over her head with a rock. 
      Acts of violence against women are disgusting and leaves a man – so I’ve been told – with deep lasting emotional scars.
      As the great Carl Olson - a local hero - once sagely told me: "You can't fight a woman. You have to outwit them..."  
     At least one time when I was henceforth dispatched to pick her up I ignored her smoking complaint.
     I made sure one of my stinky and I mean real stinky non-filter  Gauloises cigarettes had just been consumed – all while the cab windows had been sealed shut.
     So I got to her.
       She opened the door:
     Like we were both leading characters in some “Cheech and Chong” heavy smoke marijuana movie, this solid wall of the most foul French fumes filled the air.  
     While this was happening, I greeted her in the most glowing manner:
     “Why hello, Ma’am! How are you today! Where to!?”
     My fake polite behavior alone stunned her: No driver was ever this nice to her! Added to the thick cigarette smoke, I suspect her blood pressure went up a couple of notches. (Full disclosure: My goal was to give her a heart attack: I AM NOT A SLAVE. I AM A MAN.)
     Other drivers lacked the killer instinct.
     If she really got out of hand with her abuse and superior ways some drivers would up and crudely tell her where to go.
     When she called up our cab company there was even one driver she instructed the dispatcher not to send: She had “an incident” with (NAME OF DRIVER DELETED), a competent veteran cab driver - but a real fruitcake - who got into these rather intense and peculiar, shall we say, blow-outs with passengers.
     A few drivers in our garage-based company would gather near the late Carol (Morris) Allen, a good woman and kindly business manager. Amid sounds of grating electric garage tools and The Rebel’s Apocalyptic Drunk Rant Du Jour, these drivers laid down the law.
     “Hey Carol: Don’t send me to that woman no more!”
     “Yeah,” stinking rat bastard (NAME DELETED) might stutter as the gas station air hose bell r-r-r-rang/r-r-r-rang. “I h-h-h-hate that stinkin’ `h-h-h-h-ho!”
     Always complying with state and local regulations, the company itself would promptly dispatch a cab to the woman. Even so, the woman was so hated there were times it was tough for her to get the assigned driver to fetch her.
     It would be some dead-ass night in August and all of us – old Danny especially – would be hanging around the train station and creating powerful urban tribal myth/magic.
     When someone knew it was this miserable woman he was to pick up – her regular pick-up Brown University address broadcast on the cab radio was the giveaway – he took his sweet-ass time getting to her.
     Why, if some righteous person told us cabdrivers that through our negligence the passenger had been stranded in the rain and got a fatal disease, it would have been Party Time.
     “In dreams begin responsibilities,” wrote the poet Delmore Schwartz.
     Call us irresponsible.
     It was our dream she kicked the bucket…
     One late fall night into my cab the beast blobbed.
     As I drove along the fall-in-beautiful-friggin’-New-England-leaf-bloated streets, I just started thinking how dealing with people like the Superior One in the back was all part of a cabdriver’s job, that’s all.
     Hey, I should just drive.
     Hey, I should just count my blessings.
     I was breathing! I had arms and legs!
     Besides the which, Good Ole Rebecca hadn’t hit me up for money in days: Days! (This was a miracle.)
     For no reason, though, I began feeling the most revolting sensations.
     Like my insides were alive with bugs, misery – sheer human misery – began creeping around my soul.
     The feeling was overpowering me and since I was in such a good mood I couldn’t figure out why I was feeling such misery.
     Then it hit me:
     The misery I felt came from the spirit of the woman I was giving a ride to and without trying to, I was somehow "feeling" the woman’s spirit.
     I didn’t like the feeling.
     Judging from the sheer power of these creeping little “miserable” sensations, I realized I had always felt a little like this when this woman was near. I just hadn’t felt this feeling as strongly as I had that day.
     Leaves kept falling down in swirling eddies and the soul-rich shadows of old, European-like Providence fell upon the big yellow  taxi. With dash lights luminous and the holy steering wheel firmly under my grip, I began thinking that misery was probably the most basic part of the woman’s spirit.
     Misery was the one thing she could and did communicate through her abuse, superior attitude, coldness.
     Joy, love, peace or the feeling of respect that most passengers send out was not a part of this person’s emotional vocabulary.
     Misery – the waste land of her soul! 
     This considered, I decided at once to stop being such a freaking bozo with things like my crazed and flaky Smoke and Politeness Torture.
     The woman was already so broken as it would be impossible for me to make things worse for her.
      Like waitresses and waiters and bartenders and bank clerks and traffic cops and nurses and doctors and lawyers and judges and students and prostitutes (who are loved by God) and real estate agents and the good and greatly appreciated weed dealers of this planet (Here! Here!) and bill collectors who are just doing a job  and consistently polite Donkin Donuts people and supermarket check-out women and basically harmless elderly writers WHO ONLY WANT MAJOR CONGRESSIONAL INVESTIGATIONS OF THE CITY, STATE AND FEDERAL POLICE OF THE NATION AND A SERIOUS  LOOK AT THE UNITED STATES JUSTICE AND DEFENSE DEPARTMENTS (YOU FUCKERS CAN'T END THE DRUG TRADE!? ARE YOU FUCKING PATHETIC!?) - like you, too, maybe – I should just put up with her.
     Too late.
     A few days after my “misery” observation, one driver made it his sacred mission to cut out the lady from our ranks of regular riders:
     “I didn’t swear at her or nothing,’” said the decent and honorable co-worker. “I just got her in the cab one day and straight out told her how none of the drivers in the company could  stand her. “Lady,” I asked her. “How can you have any respect for yourself as a human being and still use our services knowing that all of us hate you?””
     For awhile we never saw her.
     “Gee, that woman sounds like she was mentally ill,” said Kristen Burr an astonishingly beautiful and intelligent young woman who read one of the first drafts of this story. “And if I knew someone who was that miserable, I’d try to help that person, Ed.”
     “Yeah, ah, I guess,” I told this Radiant Goddess and the Dostoyevsky-like heroine of my life. “But you gotta understand that she treated us all pretty badly, so, like, the last thing we had on our minds was helping her. Anyway, she didn’t want us to get the slightest bit close. Like, you couldn’t even talk to her about the weather…”
       (And Kristen: I do hope you and your dog Noah have a great life. And don't forget you've got to stand over my grave and say The Spell of Coming Forth By Day Triumphant Over All Enemies: That's The 17th Spell in the R.O.Faulkner translation of The Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead published by the University of Texas: THIS TRANSLATION ONLY!  Believe me, Kristen, I'll be really pissed off if you don't!)     

Artist representation of Providence founder Roger Williams (1603-1683), one of the greatest people in American history: He stood up.

Robbing Paralyzed Man
     “OK, OK: I won’t bullshit you. I just want to go to South Providence to get some cocaine,” my passenger told me. “It helps me with my pain…”
     Coming from anyone else I would have laughed.
     This guy was paralyzed from the waist down, though, and I had just put his wheelchair in the trunk.
     My heart went out to him.
     When we got to the Drug Lands* I even did something that I’d never do for another drug user:
     I got out of my cab and started knocking on doors.
     No luck reaching anyone until we rode around a little, he spotted someone and Homeboy with the loose fitting gangster clothes got in.
     “Yeah, yeah!” I heard Homeboy tell Paralyzed Man. “I know ya be in a chair an all. But don’t worry, yo: I’ll hook ya up!”
     After Homeboy reached out – with his black bandaged index and middle fingers wedged together in this Christ-like, great painters’ way – Paralyzed Man handed over these two crisp twenties.
     Homeboy next vanished into the cold January night.
     As Homeboy instructed us, we then went around a corner and waited.
     Fifteen minutes went by and it was as plain as day that my physically challenged passenger had been hoodwinked.
     “Junior, Junior!” my passenger later called out to a well-known neighborhood drug dealer. “Where the fuck were ya! You were supposed to meet me here, man!”
     “Ah, gee,” stammered good ole Junior, “I…”
View of Kennedy Plaza. It's a clean and orderly place now. (Note Providence City Hall in the background.)

(Note: The name of this youth has been changed.)
     “See!?” Keith would ask you as he pointed with his index finger to the sky. “See!? Them other federal agents are up there looking out for me. See!?”
     Keith, “a cab groupie” who gestured Troll King Big when he spoke, hung around at night at Providence’s forever-being-renovated Kennedy Plaza. Then, back in the mid-1990s, it was a center-of-the-city square where people met bus and heroin connections and where undercover cops with faces that looked like maps of Ireland tried to “blend in.”
     The shabby looking minority youth in the blue paper-thin nylon jacket was a likable kid who said he was 16.
     He bragged to the cabdrivers about his “top level” government security job, too.
     “See!?” he’d say and point. “See that plane! I work with them people!”
     I knew Keith was lying, of course. He was probably making up this "government security guard" bullshit because he had no real home and his shame, maybe, drove him to lie.
     When one smirking and now dead alcoholic driver reported something Keith said – “Keith told Big Red that (NAME OF CABDRIVER DELETED) pays him $20 to diddle him…” – it was only then what I had also suspected was true:
     Keith was yet one more underage Providence male prostitute.
     Keith’s sexuality is something that I respected.
     It angered me to think that someone so young was selling his body, though, enraged me to think of an older cabdriver using a kid for sex.
      As motorcycles roared in front of the big stone steps of City Hall and bikers yelled at each other in conversation, one day I confronted Keith:
     “I know what you tell everybody about being some kind of secret agent or whatever the fuck you say you do is pure horseshit.”
      Keith looked at me in a “tough guy” way and spit.
     “Ha! You don’t know nothin’!”
     “Listen,” I went on, “just because I kind of walk the straight and narrow doen’t mean I’m blind.  You’re a male prostitute.”
     “Yer fuckin’ crazy!”
     “Crazy!?” I shouted back. “You’re the one who’s fucking crazy. Did you ever hear of AIDS? Don’t you know you could die from what you’re doing? You’re just a kid! You shouldn’t be doing what you’re doing!”
     The motorcycles kept roaring and Keith hooked a thumb to a shoulder.
     “Say, buddy,” he said above the noise. “I don’t know what the fuck ya talkin’ about, see!? I work for the government, see!? I got 20* fuckin’ guys workin’ under me, see!? I make big, big bucks around this place, buddy. I even got radio contact with that airplane flying right over us now. See that airplane!? See!?”
     Changing the import of the conversation from a verbal one to a  visual and (tacitly understood and easy to deny) more important and more meaningful one - a common Rhode Island politician ploy, incidentally - Keith pointed his finger widely and dramatically towards the sky. (OTHERWISE SAID: What Keith was verbally saying wasn't as important as the gestures he began making; if you really wanted to know what he was trying to communicate you should have just watched him.)   
      Everyone from City Hall to the Federal Courthouse building and the Providence FBI office could have noticed and understood this movement. (OTHERWISE SAID: The city and federal police would have had to have been dead not to know what this kid was up to, a kid, by the way, who hung around and made his glaring, crude and dramatically visual gestures at Kennedy Plaza for a few years.)
     “Yeah,” I said, disgusted and just wanting to vomit at his playing-to-the-rafters/let’s-hook-up-for-sex-gesture. “Believe me, Keith: I see…”
      So it went.
       Keith kept hanging around the Kennedy Plaza cab stand doing what he did.
      I’d watch his un-fucking-believably-boring-finger-flashing ballet and listen to his bits and pieces of: “The  Duh Buddy Code.” (I.e.: “I like steak, too, buddy! See, see, see what I mean!?”)(P.S. “THE DUH BUDDY CODE” IS A GREAT SECRET IN THE PROVIDENCE UNDERWORLD! ITS TRUE MEANINGS MUST NEVER BE REVEALED TO ANOTHER LIVING BEING! LOL!)
     One hot and humid and putrid and typically frigging disgusting beyond belief Providence summer night I was stopped in traffic near The Galaxy. That was this notoriously bad gay bar at the corner of Empire and Washington streets where handsome and oh-so-dashing young hustlers with major cocaine habits would befriend white-haired grandfatherly homosexuals who looked as  yechtifying as I do now. (Oh yeah, man, you could just tell they had so much in common..."Parley-moi d'amour, redites-moi choses tendres..." Apologies to the memory of Lucienne Boyer...)
     In the ghostly glare of the purple neon sidewalk light there was Keith: Every muscle in his body was limp. Kind of like a human reptile he was leaning against a building and trying to sell his body.
     “Hey: You should be home doin’ your homework or something!” I wanted to shout. “Hey: You should be watching TV or hanging around with kids your own age!” I wanted to shout. Still, I said nothing.
     When my cab inched right near where Keith was leaning I finally spoke:
     “You’re in the wrong place,” I said, my voice cracking pathetic and like shards of my soul were tumbling out of me. “You’re in the wrong place, Keith.”
      Keith just kept leaning like a lizard then spit like a tough guy.
      “You don’t know nothin’,” he said….

****** After writing this story, I found out one more fact about Keith.
       He was 14, not 16.
       I got a little flak from various readers, too. More than one guy did not like it and one reasonable enough woman who I had for a passenger wrote me an angry letter.
     It made gay people look bad, wrote the decent and fundamentally nice person.
     I am not out to offend gay people. (I’m bi-sexual and I'm not upset.) But when people have sex with underage people – whether those people are gay or straight – I will speak against this as rudely and as vividly and - perhaps - as ungentlemanly as I can. There are certain times, I say, you really have to tell it like it is. 
     Another thing that happened after the publication of this article was that Keith suddenly vanished from the scene. (Good! Something I wrote probably had a positive impact in the community! Good!)
     Also, Kennedy Plaza has been cleaned up in recent years. There is neither underage male prostitution nor any heroin dealing that I have seen: Former Providence Police Chief Dean Esserman - a great and unjustly hated cop who was wisely appointed by now Congressman David N. Cicilline - did a great job straightening things out here. 
     [Truth: In the early 2000s an addict was caught shooting up heroin in a rest room in Providence City Hall. (Re: Archives, The Providence Journal.) Anecdotal evidence also indicates this was a common practice. "I used to shoot up in City Hall all the time," related a recovering addict.]
     Finally, the cabdriver who used to have sex with Keith suffered from cancer and died a prolonged and hideous and meaningless death in some shit-stinking nursing home.
     The gods and the goddesses obviously exist - and the world is brighter…

North Gate Cemetery (North Burial Ground) in Providence. A sacred place where one of the signers of the Declaration on Independence (Stephen Hopkins, 1707-1785) is buried. Many headstones here date before the Revolutionary War. If you like walking through old New England cemeteries this is the place for you. 
A Stabbing at Night
    We cabdrivers raced to the scene where he'd been hit.*
     Blood was thick red on his work coat, splattered on his trip sheets, trickling down his car seats.
     Right after the ambulance rushed him to the hospital, I visited the nearly murdered cabdriver in the Rhode Island Hospital Intensive Care Unit.
      With heavy gray eyes in the gray and black room, Daniel “Danny” Cyr looked up at me from his stretcher:
     “I’m tellin’ ya, Eddie, I didn’t have a chance. Those guys I picked up didn’t ask for money. The three of `em just got in and started stabbin’!”
      “What did they stab you with?”
         “Hunting knives.”
      “Hunting knives!?”
      “Hunting knives,” Danny repeated as a steel beam seemed to go from his eyes into mine. “They used hunting knives, Eddie…”
      During the stabbing – which left the white-haired then 59-year-old cabdriver with a punctured lung and knife wound within a quarter of an inch (.635 centimeters) of his heart – one of the attackers reached over from the back seat and began stabbing Danny in his head.
     This prompted the nimble driver to reach up and grab the pointed end of a blade. Doing this saved Danny’s life but it also nearly cost him one of his fingers.
     “Whoa! Whoa!” I told them guys as I held the knife away. “Ya want money!? I’ll give ya money!” But they didn’t wanna hear it, Eddie. They just kept on stabbin’…”
     (The attackers Danny picked up through a bell job* snatched $150 from his shirt pocket. They left the foster father of three for dead…)
     When I got home from the hospital, like Danny asked I called his wife Sandra to let her know he was OK.
      “I don’t know what I’d do without Danny!” she cried. “Me and the kids depend on him…I LOVE HIM SO MUCH! (Don’t you tell me he’s gonna die, now! Don’t you tell me that!)”
     “Sandra, listen: I’m not gonna tell ya that because he’s alive. (Ya got that!?) I swear to you, Sandra, I was just there talkin’ to him at the hospital, OK!? And I know he’s gonna pull through!”
     After that little call ended, I stumbled around my little apartment, poured out a shot of whiskey, downed it in one gulp.
     While skidding and screeching into The Land of Nod, I just couldn’t shake the image of three guys thrusting big hunting knives into my friend’s body like he were some killed deer hunters were cutting into…
     Next day at the little cab office there was this loud and emotional discussion about Danny and the danger of driving a cab in general.
     Unless a driver undergoes a rigid licensing procedure, it’s illegal for cabdrivers to arm themselves in Rhode Island. (P.S. One: As we ban machine guns I say we ban assault rifles. But as this and a few other stories in this blog/book demonstrates, sometimes you need a gun. Two: Instead of thinking changing laws will stop gun violence, we should work on changing our cultural values so that anger isn't always correlated with gun violence. AND WE DON'T NEED POLITICIANS TO  CHANGE OUR CULTURE.)
    That there isn’t a state law requiring all taxi companies to install safety partitions in cabs was something else we talked about.
     These partition-less cabs give out-of-towners the impression that Providence is a friendly and safe place.
     But the tourists are having the wool pulled over their eyes.
     The lack of safety partitions – and other safety devices – also shows how little lawmakers and those who elect these children of impotent revolt care about the welfare of working people like cabdrivers.
     (This also said, though I favor safer cabs I am against mandating safety partitions in the current models of most cabs.)
     In between all the talk and gas tank bells ringing, there was this one question I kept asking myself:
     With those hunting-knife animals who attacked Danny still free, how was I going to have the guts to get through my shift?
     I drove my cab toward the center of the city and had a few thoughts on this.
     I could always say I wasn’t feeling well and go home early, of course.
     When I considered the stark image of Danny in my mind with all that blood spill over his trip sheet,* another option would be for to just forever quit driving.
     I did a couple of bell jobs.*
     I parked at the Providence Biltmore hotel cab stand.
     With little success, I tried to do the crossword puzzle.
     Between fares I’d get from here and there, drivers I barely knew pulled up in their cabs next to me.
     “Hey: How’s Danny?” they’d shout out.
       I’d tell them they had operated on Danny that morning and he was pulling through. From what I’d heard the Providence police were on an urgent mission to nab the attackers: I’d say this, too.
     Fear that night in the little city of Providence was thick. Beneath the shadows of City Hall and throughout Kennedy Plaza itself, it electrified everything…
     “Just a few more hours to go,” I told myself while fidgeting and chain-smoking.
     “Just be cool and watch out for yourself and in a few more hours you’ll be able to leave. Anyway, you’ve got a day off tomorrow.”
     This thought helped me cope – for a while.
     Think of the money you’re saving!” I next told myself. “If you can just hang onto this job for a while longer you’ll be able to start that small business you want to.”
     “Sure. You’re doing a dangerous job. But so what? At least you’re doing a job you didn’t have to be related to someone to get…”
     Still, my shift just wasn’t ending.
     I had more fares. I was making money, traffic was light and everything should have been fine and dandy.
     I still couldn’t get beyond the fear I was feeling, though.
     “Listen, Ed:” I finally asked myself. “If you were in a battle you wouldn’t run from the battlefield, would you? You’d still stay in the war, wouldn’t you!?”
      In the night I considered the craziness of that question.
     See, I wasn’t a soldier on a battlefield.
     I was a cabdriver.
       Like hundreds of thousands of women and men throughout the world, I was just trying to earn an honest living…
*Danny survived the attack, came back to cab driving and died of bone cancer in 2001. His assailants were never caught.

A view of the Rhode Island State House from the back of the Providence Train Station.

Sex Stories
      When I started driving a cab in 1992, the AIDS plague was at its peak. The word was the sex that used to happen between passenger and driver had ended.
      “Back in the `80s it was impossible to drive a cab on a Saturday night without having some horny woman wanting to have sex with you,” said the late Providence cabdriver Stan Kosa.
      During my time driving male prostitutes ran through the streets of the city as they do to this day (Re:"Keith”) – but it seemed few female prostitutes plied their trade.
     OTHERWISE SAID: The Leaning Against Walls/ “How’re Ya Doin’, Buddy!? Hey: I'm Hangin' In There, Too, Buddy!” Brigade was always out there. The women in red - who weren’t one tenth of a nuisance as the boring male prostitutes - were selectively and unjustly arrested (my opinion) and placed behind bars of steel. 
     “We used to get calls from the ships in the harbor asking for girls,” said one driver regarding the times of the mid-60s to the present. “Then we’d just go round up some whores who were hanging around the city. We’d take the whores to the sailors. The cabdrivers would get huge tips. Them days are gone.”
     “AIDS has had a negative impact on the entire taxi business,” another knowledgeable driver also pointed out.
     When I started driving, street prostitution in the entire 19-square-mile city itself was also considered scarce by the standards of previous years.
      While the AIDS crisis seems to be under control in the United States, I cannot credibly tell you if things regarding prostitution are “picking up” in the streets of Providence. 
     Here, though, are a few various kinds of Sex Stories from the time I drove…

A Thoughtful Passenger
     One look at the woman in the stained tight red skirt and the guy in the work clothes and you’d know she was a prostitute and he was the john.
     We went a block or two.
     With me the hooker got nasty:
     “Hey: Don’t take us the long way!” she complained.
     “Hey: I know how youse cabdrivers are always tryin’ t’rip off everybody!” she further complained.
     I didn’t squawk.
    She was saying all this so she could pretend she was all concerned about the john’s money and then later hit him up for a pack of menthols.
     Convincing herself she was also better than some cheap prostitute was also the force behind her green fuse.
     Like, we sometimes tell lies to other people to survive but the lies we tell ourselves are the ones we really have to get away with. (I.e.: I only come into this bar to socialize, he beats me because I can be a real bitch, I was never molested as a child, etc.)
     When we stopped the prostitute noticed the guy was giving me a two dollar tip.
     “A fuckin’ dollar is enough!” she protested.
     She huffed and puffed a little, then got out and stood right before the cab in the saintly halo of a street light.
     She was about 25, brunette, looked French, had perfect breasts and her tight skirt with the stain on it was very revealing.
     She even had a bit of acne that made her pretty face even more soulful and beautiful.
     I thought she looked pretty good and I'd say my expression before the dashboard communicated that.
    Wisely, the john stayed in the back seat and tucked some large bills into various pockets.
     He seemed to smile as he noticed how much I admired her.
     When he started leaving the cab he clasped a solid working man’s hand on my shoulder.
     “Don-tcha worry, boss, don’tcha fuckin’ worry at all,” he told me with a deep raunchy laugh. “I’ll be sure t’throw in a frig or two for you, too!..”

That Delicate Third Wheel
     He was about 20, muscular, handsome.
     The two young women in the back seat with him were both hot to trot.
     “We can both go with you!” said the pudgier of the two.
     “Sure! You got condoms, right?”
     “What’ll we do?”
     “Whatever you want.”
     (Another pause.)
     “Sure – but not my friend.”
     “Why not?”
     “She’s shy,” the young woman whispered…

Then I’ll Go To Sleep
     It had been a long shift for the strippers I’d been riding home and they were both going to call it a night.
     “Gee, I think I’ll just get in a hot shower and go to bed,” said one.
    “Yeah,” said the other stripper with a yawn. “I’m just gonna put on some oil and masturbate…”

The Lesbian Capital of the World
     “Listen: I’ll take you home but would it be OK if I gave my fellow driver a ride? He lives along the way.”
     “Sure!” the woman agreed.
     My kind of rough-around-the-edges-co-worker sat next to me  while the nice lady sat in back.
     “Gee,” I told my pal. “I’ve been getting some pretty long runs lately. A couple of weeks ago I went all the way to Northhampton, Massachusetts.”
     “Hey I know where that is! And let me tell you something: No matter where you go in that town you see nothing but lesbians. Northhampton must be the lesbian capital of the world!”
     I cringed!
     What if the kind woman in the back seat were gay and my co-worker had offended her?
     But the passenger suddenly laughed – as we all soon did.
     “Gee…Northhampton is the lesbian capital of the world, huh?” I quipped between laughs. “Well, I have to make sure I go back there!”
     “Yeah,” added the good sport of a woman amid the laughs. “You never know about some of those lesbians!...”

A Redeeming Quality
     (This story was told to me by another cabdriver who is a devout Roman Catholic and a reliable source.)
     “…I got her in the cab and all along the way she complained about her boyfriend. Her boyfriend does this, her boyfriend does that. Finally, I asked her:
     “If you hate your boyfriend so much why are you still with him?”
     “He’s a good pussy eater,” she told me…”

An Unusual Financial Arrangement (See: Glossary entry: Work It Out In Trade.)
(This one was told to me by another credible cabdriver.)
     “…There was this one woman we used to get in South Providence and take to someone’s house and then take back to her house. The thing was that she never paid for her ride in cash: She’d give the driver a blow job for the five buck fare…”
      “…I remember the first time I got her: I had given her a ride and was parked right back outside her house. She was sitting up front with me and told me what the deal was.
     “OK,” I told her.
     She was pretty good, too!...”
P.S. I once gave a ride to a straight enough seeming guy from Providence to the next city over, Pawtucket. He was on the front seat next to me and started speaking with his index and pinky finger at one point outwardly extended. “Do you go for hanky panky?” he asked. “What do you mean?” “I can blow you for the ride,” he said. (I took the $12 in cash instead.)

What Is Woman?
     “Two tits and a cunt: That’s all a woman is!” stated the Providence taxi dispatcher.
P.S. What is man? Two hairy ballsie wallsies and a bumpity bumpy pee pee pole?

A Mouthy Guy
     The guy kind of yelled out that he only had $20 on him and needed to get to Woonsocket, R.I., a city north of Providence.
     He had a kind of brutal face – an ax murderer kind of face – but he had this delicate and perfectly conditioned and shiny looking page boy haircut.
     Your nightmares are my bread and butter.
     On the highway I got fearful: With his muscled arms gesturing in scary ways he shouted out various myths in a weird and wild way.
    At one point even told me how he wounded his feet in Vietnam and how much he suffered when he walked.
     “But that’s OK…When you say the ride’s over I’ll just fuckin’ get out! Then I’ll either walk or spend the fuckin’ night freezin’ in the cold…”
     “Oh, ah, hey,” I said, my ears ringing because of his loudness but sympathizing with him, “I’ll try to get you as close as I can to your home…”
     On and on he kept going, him shouting at me boring me but also scaring me. Then, too, there were the “good guy” “nice person” sensations I was feeling for helping him: Wow! It was such a fucking hideous ride!
     When we got to Woonsocket I’d given the illuminati about $7 more for a ride than the $20 he paid me.
     He was fully aware of my generosity and told me this when he finally got to his house.
     “Hey, ya really fuckin’ helped me out!...Not many fuckin’ cabdrivers would help out a guy like me – even if they was a wounded Vietnam veteran. What’s yer name, anyway?...Edward…”
     “Wow, I got me a idea, Edward: How wouldja like t’come up t’my place for a minute? Hey! Wouldja like that!? I got a really goooood bottle of French wine and this nice, nice chunk of cheese up there! Whaddya say!?...”
     “Ah, no, no,” I told him politely. “To be perfect straight with you…”
     “Well…well…yeah…OK…but a least shake my hand, Edward! Shake my hand! What you did for me, man, I’m tellin’ ya, Edward, it really touched me, ya know? It touched me right here!...”
     He brought out a meat hook of a hand.
     I shook it.
     Then the big scary guy with the axe murderer face and the perfect boy boy hair cut brought his head against my chest – and then he brought his head down to my crotch.
     He was aiming for my zipper and trying to give me a blow job!
     “STOP!” I shouted as I pushed him away….

The Work of God
     They were a drunk young couple and they in the back seat just teasing each other.
     You know:
     “You squeeze the toothpaste the wrong way!”
     “You snore!”
      The guy soon said something rotten:
     “And by the way,” he told the young woman, “ya got lousy tits.”
      By the pained way she snorted out a laugh, I could tell the young woman was holding back tears - all of which made me angry.
     “Listen, young lady,” I said. “I don’t mean to intrude in your conversation or anything, but your boyfriend is dead wrong. You have perfectly lovely breasts. Don’t listen to him…”
     “Oh yeah?” Boyfriend wondered after a heavy taxi vibes moment. “Well…if you think her tits are so great, buddy, how about giving us a free ride if she lets you see them!? (“Hey, what about it?” he asked his girlfriend. “Show him your tits and instead of paying for the ride I’ll buy ya another six-pack!)”
      “Yeah! How `bout it?” the young woman herself now asked!
      When we came to a stop instead of being paid the five dollars they owed me, Boyfriend left the cab and Girlfriend stayed in the back seat.
     A car went by us.
     With her bottom lip quivering, she hoisted up her t-shirt and revealed these small, exquisitely formed breats that you usually only see in Italian Renaissance paintings, breasts that were angelic.”
      (“The nakedness of woman is the work of God…” wrote the poet William Blake.)
       After this revelation, she pulled down her shirt and got on the street and joined Boyfriend.
     Like a young lioness she roared in Boyfriend’s face…

Picture Central Park Without A Sailor; Rum, Sodomy and the Lash; The Newport Scandal of 1919
     They were four big broad shouldered redneck Navy guys who I was taking to a strip club.
     They said they hated homosexual men.
     “Fags!” shouted one as I drove. “I ain’t never seen so many fags as in this fuckin’ city! This must be the streets of San Francisco!”
     “You must have nothin’ but fags in Providence!” added another. “I’d like t’kick the shit outta all of them!”
     “Faggots! Ya got faggots here walkin’ around in these wife-beater shirts*! (*Sleeveless t-shirts.) If one of them faggots touches me, I’ll fuckin’ kill him!”
     I drove.
     I endured.
     “Where are you from?”
     One named a beautiful southern state with many fine people who were not at all like these clowns.
     “Oh yeah,” I said. “I know that state. And the thing you gotta understand is this: There are gay people in your state. Tons of them. But they’re all in the closet about it. There are even probably more gay people in your state than here, considering your state has a larger population…”
     We headed down on the very industrial Allens Avenue.
     Buried railroad tracks periodically popped out from the asphalt and dust and dirt encrusted silver rails. I felt as though one of the sailors would reach over and punch me for saying what I did. For some reason, though, I just didn’t give a fuck what happened…Fear: I felt that, too…
     I soon dropped off the guys at the strip bar and I even felt fear more.
     About then it hit me:
     It was the fear of the sailors I felt, their fear of being young and insecure about their own sexual identities.
     The “closet thing” I said must have gotten to these kids – who should have been extremely proud of being in the United States Navy but need to learn respect for others…

Primordial Slime Young Women
     The four elegantly dressed college aged young women in the cab were drunk and loud and boring.
     Someone they all knew was a bitch.
     Oh yeah?
     Well someone else was a real fuckin’ bitch!
     As I kept driving what I can see now as only a terrible college prank started happening:
     “Ah, you’re so handsome!” one in the back seat joked as she reached over from the back set and really started caressing my chest.
     “Hmmmmm,” offered another in the frong seat who rubbed the inside of my leg, “wanna fuck, cabbie!? Want me to – Ican’tbelieveyouguysareputtingmeuptothis! – suck on your dick!?”
      The right response for me would be to have told them to knock it off.
      Considering that they were touching me in direct and solid ways – as they all eventually did – in my holy book slapping any one of them would have also been OK.
      Lord knows, if I had hit them there would have been hell to pay.
      Though my action would have been justified, in a court of law these young women would have pancaked into precious victimized angels: Oh yes, they would have.
      As far as me telling them to stop?
     This caressing/sexual proposition college prank happened so fast I was kind of stunned and speechless.
      And hurt.
      Like, the kind of homely one in the front seat smirked at one of her friends as if to say she’d never have sex with anyone as old and as faded as myself.
     Having ceased their little game as quickly as they had started it, I just kept driving.
      Since I knew the ride would soon be over there was no need for any heavy action now.
      I was so shaken by it all, I guess, for some reason I even decided to end the ride on a light note, as a way, too, to let these young women know they hadn’t rocked my boat. (Then, too, I endured much childhood sexual abuse, much of which I had then not fully dealt with: This figured into the way I acted.)
      “Well, see you later, amigos!” I said in a cheerful manner.
      “Ha, amigas,” one corrected me…

The Hard Sell
      We were riding through a section of Providence called Olneyville and the young woman was slouched on the seat beside me so that nobody in the world could have seen her definitely decent body.
     That was a good thing, too, because in a crazy second “Diane’s” breasts suddenly came out and her pants got down and she started masturbating.
     “Come on:” She said while she flashed me. “We can have sex for $30. That’s all I need. I have a court date on Monday and…”
     “No, no, look,” I told her, kind of freaked out by the suddenness of her stripping. “You don’t have to do anything. I’ll just give you $20 and you don’t have to do anything. (Seriously: I will just give you $20 and you don’t…)”
     “What?” she asked, while grabbing one of my hands and bringing it to her breasts. “Don’t you like me? Is that it?”
     “No…ah…certainly not! It’s just that right now I’m a little broke and…”
     “You don’t like me! I can tell! You’d don’t like me!”
     “No…no…it’s, ah, not that, it’s…”

Scary Ride
     One of my scariest rides was the time I picked up this fat woman on Westminster Street and took her to the Providence neighborhood called Olneyville.
     She was kind of hideous and looked like she’d been smoking crack for about 600 years.
     She got in front with me: Both of her big breasts with these big tattoos on each one were mostly exposed.
     “I like-a sexual things…” she kind of moaned out in her Spanish accent.
     “Ah…ah…” I stammered.
     “I like do things sexual,” she went on as she leaned back and showed me more of her breasts. “Hmmmmm….Sexual things…Hmmmmm….I’m a-like things sexual…”
      She was going on and on like that. I kept looking at her breasts practically falling out of her blouse with the tattoos on them. Though I did go with prostitutes then, there was something about her that was positively frightful: She seemed to send out these tidal waves of fear.
     We kept driving along.
     “Hmmmmmm…..Sexual….You like?...You like-a the sexual…”
      This frightful ride eventually ended.
      Come to find out, I dropped The Sexual Horror off at her mother’s house…another whack-ball, let me tell you!

*****It was moving day for the Mom of this woman. Mom got to the cab with an assortment of household goods and a little dog and a cat. (Yes, there are times when people call cabs when they’re moving!)
       All through the ride, the dog and the cat were running around and fighting in the cab.
       All through the ride, Mom was calling the animals’ dippy kind of Spanish names and telling them to be quiet.

Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman

Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman: A Sighting*
     There I was, with my arms hanging out the cab’s open window, talking and gesturing to a cabdriver called “Young Robert” who just barely beat (seriously) a gun rap.  I must have looked like the most crudest urban cabdriver in history.
      Then I felt the vibe:
      It was coming from the front of the then Providence Westin hotel. Someone had a small, palm size video camera and was aiming it – at me!
      I looked at the camera – and it seemed like it was Danny DeVito of Taxi fame who was pointing it!
     We caught each other’s eyes for a moment. A look of recognition must have flashed across my face and DeVito (I think) vanished behind a white van.
      I think it was DeVito who held the camera, you see, because then DeVito himself definitely came into view and his lovely wife and fellow actor Rhea Perlman was besides him….
     (This happened in the late summer of 2003.)

Carly Simon

***** A few years before this I saw the singer Carly Simon in front of the same hotel. I have never in my life seen anyone with teeth as white as Ms. Simon’s: They really sparkled. To be completely straight with you, though, it wasn't her teeth I was really looking at... (See glossary entries: Sightings and Captures.)
Whoopi Goldberg
****** Once I got a woman with long black braids in the cab: I asked her her name and she said her name was Marsha. Bullshit! I say she was Whoopi Goldberg – whose daughter was graduating from Brown University that weekend. “That was Whoopi Goldberg you had in your cab, Ed,” agreed The Rebel, a fellow driver.
Alex and Ani City Center. (Providence Ice Rink.) A great family place.

A Cutting Remark
     With her delicately coiffed silver hair and her nice looking pastel yellow wool outfit, the elderly woman seemed genteel.
      Looks can fool you.
      “So, cabbie:” she erupted as soon as we rolled, “beat up any women lately?”
      “Ha. I’ll bet you do! I’ll be you push them to the floor and kick them in the teeth!...Are you married?”
     “W-w-what?” I asked, a little confused and startled.
     “Are you married? That’s what I asked: Are! You! Married!? (What!? Are you deaf or something!?)”
     “No. I’m one of The Grateful Divorced.” (Exact quote.)
     “Any children? (Children!? Do. You. Have. Any…)”
     Considering this psycho’s age the right thing for me to have done would be to ignore her.
     She had so pissed me off, though, that the “Cabdriver From Hell!” software into my brain got downloaded.
     So regarding the kiddie question:
     “Oh yeah,” I lied. “I’m divorced. But I do have kids. I guess I got about six or seven kids. No wait. It’s nine. (And both hands off the wheel here and some ponderous finger counting.) Yeah, nine…”
     “Nine! You’re a cabdriver! How can you possibly support nine children!?”
     “Oh, I don’t support `em,” I went on. “What I do is get all these young black girls from the ghetto pregnant and I just dump `em. (Let the government support the kids, you know!?)”
     By this time we got to the woman’s short-fare destination, which was the Providence Biltmore hotel. She got out to pay me.
     With her frail body shaking in anger, she snapped two crisp dollar bills from her purse and firmly pressed the money into my hands.
     “You know something, mister, with all those poor colored girls you get pregnant!?” shouted out the primly dressed grandmotherly woman. “They ought-a cut that thing of yours off! That’s right! They ought-a cut off that thing of yours right at the root!”

Puking Passengers
      When you transport enough drunks it’s bound to happen:
      One of them will eventually vomit – sometimes on you.
      The person vomiting will usually be some college kid who has seldom been drunk. So after being puked on once or twice, when I see a bunch of kids running from a bar to my cab – and one looks a little green – I always make sure the windows are wide open.
     “Listen,” I tell the woozy one. “If you think you’re gonna get sick, don’t be embarrassed about it. I’ve had to puke once or twice in my life because I drank to much. Your friends have all been sick like you, too. But just tell me before you get sick, OK? Then I can just stop the cab. (And I’ll keep the meter turned off while you do it…)”
     This little speech seems to relax the sick one enough so no vomiting happens…
     I once had a couple of drunk kids who couldn’t have been older than 17.
     They were going from Providence all the way to some naval preparatory school in Newport, which is a long ride. One looked like he was about to toss his cookies.
      I gave them my little speech; we reached an understanding.
      The whoozy kid was a real gentleman.
     “Sir?” he repeated a few times during the 60-minute journey. “Could you please stop your cab?”
     I did as he requested; he went about his business.
     Considering how he must have been feeling, you couldn’t have asked for a better class of passenger. Some good readers will argue it was wrong that he was so young and so drunk. I say the fact that he was so physically ill and polite speaks well of his parents, the preparatory school he was attending and the United States Navy.
      The late Providence cabdriver/genius Joshua Seth Lovett told me the funniest passenger vomit story:
     “…I was taking these two guys to Pawtucket and one of them was sitting in the front seat, the other was in back. We were going about 60 on Route 95. They were both drunk out of their gourds and they were both puking out the window. But the one in the front seat kept throwing up on the one who was puking out from the back seat! What a riot! All this vomit was dripping down from the one in the back seat – and he was so drunk he just kept laughing his ass off…”

Mahmood Bhatti, Toronto, Canada: Murdered in 2006.
Barney McDonald, County Tyrone, Ireland: Murdered 2002.
Colin Winstone, Bristol, England: Murdered 2005.

Rober Woodger, Sydney, NSW, Austrailia: Murdered 2007.
(A photo section of women cabdrivers who were murdered is elsewhere on this blog.)

Third Narrative Arc
(This is the third of a series of articles in Real Cab Rides in which I show how cab driving changed me.)
     It was a good year, 1997.
     My parents were alive and within walking distance of my apartment.
     My elderly Italian-American mother could barely hear me when I spoke.
       ("Eddie, Eddie: What did you say, Eddie!?"
       My dementia-suffering Irish-American father would rant and rave about the friggin’ heat of friggin’ New Guinea where he served with  the 11th Airborne Division in friggin' World War II. On hot summer days - under our beloved pear tree with the delivery trucks from the cookie factory next door roaring and a good kindly neighbor's Cape Verde records a-blasting - he got into this friggin' rap - a lot.
      (To be hitting 50 with both of your parents still living is a big thing, I say.)
     There were also the lady friends who I got to know through cab driving: “Rebecca” and “Kat.”* (*These are not their real names.)
     Besides her various, ah, good points and astounding spiritual qualities - there was this palpable wall of warmth around her - Rebecca showed me the light.
     “You beam when you write, honey! You light up inside!”
     On an exquisitely long middle finger Kat wore the sacred ankh tattoo. ("Elle etait fort deshabillee...Et de grands abres indiscrets...Aux vitres jetaient leur feuillee...Malinement, tout pres, tout pres..." "Premiere Soiree" Arthur Rimbaud...)
     She spoke with love of the goddess. 
     (Rebecca and Kat: May you stand in the Halls of Triumph in the presence of Osiris...)
     In 1997 I still had life as a writer.
     The great American writer/poet Charles Bukowski - Hail Bukowski! Hail the god! - wrote that when you leave your typewriter you leave your machine gun and the rats come pouring through.
      For some years at this point the taxi columns on which this book/blog is based were being regularly published in Providence’s East Side Monthly. (And a shout out to publishers Barry Fain, Richard Fleischer, John Howell and Providence Monthly publishing director Jeanette St. Pierre.)
     I stuck to my ancient green-screened IBM-XT "machine gun."
     NO RATS!
     Since I am one of those people whose idea of paradise is to be able to breathe and see and walk and think - Big things! - and have the latest issue of The Economist on a park bench before me and just have a great big cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee HOT AND LIGHT AND EXTRA SUGAR, PLEASE around this place (other big things) I was a pretty happy camper.
     In that good economic time with Providence restaurants booming and plenty of jobs in this disgustingly crooked state for even workers without any political/Mickey Mafia*/Gotta Know Somebody*/Blow Somebody connections, I only needed to work three days a week to support Dee Ole Writing Monkey On My Back.
     We cabdrivers made good money: “In them days.”*
     I had cash for newspapers, cash for bottles of Johnny Walker Black, cash for Vicodin, cash for 19th century French and Russian novels (Them's the writers!), cash for gifts and records and tapes, cash for the guys who needed a dollar, buddy, hey, just a dollar and cash for the occasional ménage à trois.
     Lesbianism is the apotheosis of human sexuality.*(*Apotheosis means "the ideal example.") 
       This I learned the hard way…

      And here, fellow writer Jack "m" O'Keefe offers a poem:
      Women are gentle when they go down on each other.
      When they go down on each other women are gentle...
      A woman burns when she licks her lover's clit.
      When she licks her lover's clit a woman burns...

       I had “gone native” as a cabdriver and due to my columns was a respected member of the Providence taxi tribe. I was a poor man but I felt rich, free, like I owned the world. I’m a lot different now but looking back I kind of like the crude person I became with the drug and woman connections; the knowledge of what budding politician was snorting the ole marching powder like crazy; what politically appointed hack judge was screwing over the drug addled minorities, robbing them of their rights; which hot bar the police would never look at in which the most cocaine was sold (Readers: I can name at least three bars in which coke was sold at the time the city and state and federal police had to have known about!); what bookies would never - Impossible! Impossible! - get arrested (Ha, Ha! LOL! Bookies are the sacred and untouchable holy men of Rhode Island; here police approved - I allege - bar pimps and bar coke dealers have the social status of mystics, prophets, sadhus...); and I will plead the Fifth Amendment and remain silent, your honor and distinguished ladies and gentlemen of the jury, if you ask me about hospital hits, Jake.
    "Bartenders and cabdrivers know a lot," said the astute, gentlemanly and well-educated Barry Fain, one of my East Side Monthly/Providence Monthly publishers.
      I was considered: “…a no-bullshit driver…” according to my boss at Yellow Cab, the late Dave Morris. (That judgment was the equivalent of the Congressional Medal of Honor for Providence cabdrivers.)
     “Better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven…” wrote John Milton, the great English poet and acquaintance of Providence’s heroic genius founder Roger Williams.
      Milton nailed it.
    What warm and friendly people worked with me:
     The late Thomas “T.L.” Allen and his recently deceased and kindly wife Carol; Billy and Tom Morris; the late Dave and Theresa Morris; drivers such as “Russ,” “Big Red,” Paul “Paulie” Calise, James Allen (Or: The Englishman who sounded just like that cockney guy in the musical “My Fair Lady”), Joe Lima, John  Amori, “Jose,” “Tony.” “Tiny” (“Big Tiny” and “Little Tiny”), “Reebee,” “Danoe the Clown,” Daniel LaFlamme, the late Stan Kosa, Jack Bandoni, the late Danny Cyr, “Harry,” Margo Lopes, “Kay” (who was a damn good dispatcher and a damn good person for putting up with me for so long!), “Little Eddie,” Jack Walsh, “Ralph,” “The Rebel,” “Haitian Joe,” “”Mohammed,” “Stan,” a couple of “Bobbies” and one or two “Bills,” "Mike," William “The Veaze” Veasey (I recently worked with this guy at First Transit!), the late and missed genius Joshua Seth Lovett, dispatcher and former Providence Police officer Joseph Arujo and other city cabdrivers like the late Hank Turgeon and others.
      The late Dave Church – a soulful and obscure poet who wrote a poem about the murdered Providence cabdriver Patrick Crone and who helped me freely and immensely as an executive editor for earlier editions of this book (May the goddesses and gods be with him...) – drove at the time.
Dave Church (1947-2008). He had a heart attack and died in his taxi.
    As did John (Charles) Paul: This intelligent and well-read cabdriver’s knowledge of the history and the language of the Providence taxi culture is much deeper than mine and had a profound impact on this book; without Paul’s insight this book could not have been written. (By the way: There are streets in Providence that correspond to each one of this cabdriver’s names.)
     For positively no ill felt feelings, another beloved Providence cabdriver will not be mentioned only because he told me to never write of him…Shalom…Shalom…Shalom…
      Sure, there were feuds and solid walls of hatred and sometimes rather heated “intellectual discussions” between drivers: "Subtle" critiques regarding one's sexual orientation and death threats were common.
     There were even a few drivers back in the 1990s who were such maggoty rotting pieces of garbage they ended up in prison for sex crimes: One for forcing a female passenger to have oral sex with him, another for molesting a boy. (Though the woman was a cab passenger at the time of her attack, the boy's sexual assault occurred away from a taxi.)
     Negative aspects aside, if you could consider cabdrivers and mechanics and dispatchers as part of this undiscovered urban tribe, it was a tribe to which I indeed felt a strong kinship.
     Many times I wouldn’t have wanted to be with other people - like at the Providence Train Station…
    [Readers note: To date, this part of the train station has been renovated and changed from what I here describe. Also,  cabdrivers must now wait in front of the train station for fares.]
     On the road that connects to the train station, small groups of us would often gather outside our waiting cabs.
    Some would stand before the thick round fence with its 30-foot drop.
     Others would sit across the road on the short wall. That wall enclosed a small garden in which there was a small tree whose leaves changed colors by the hot days of summer.
     In front of the westward lined cabs was the rear entrance of the train station where passengers hailed cabs.
     The garden is long gone and there are recently constructed buildings blocking this view.
     But in those days, if you turned east from the station, you could see many of Providence’s restored Colonial and Federal and Victorian era buildings perched on a tree filled hillside. 
      In fall this somber hill changed: With the trees' autumnal leaves of red and blood-veined oranges, under a sun that will know no death the slope looked like a stellar explosion.
     Turning to the west of that hill and looking behind the wheat colored train terminal was (and is) an immense structure that fit well with nature’s fiery palette: The “new” looking but century old white marble Rhode Island State House. With its great round stone dome and various ornaments, it is a virtual construction of Ancient Rome.
     When summer respectfully departed and the radiant college students returned to this holy city, we cabdrivers waited between the pagan looking temple of laws and the old New England hill of burning autumn...
     Sometimes in those day, if you looked above the train station’s silver clock and nearby construction cranes, there would be a tan/ golden-colored hawk gliding on air currents: Twisting, floating and seemingly stopping on a sunny beam. Like a divine falcon anchored before the everlasting sun it never seemed to move never seemed to move never seemed to...
     Sometimes –with the leaves on the eastern hill ablaze and a god-hawk/Horus coasting – the clouds from the west would be a deep soft purple streaked bright with thick and jagged lines of molten lava red. 
    Heavenly fields of purple velvet lined red by the fiery light of the setting sun the setting sun moved gently above the marble white State House and above the train station; the velvety soft clouds seemed like the plush inner layer of a messianic robe that was about to be placed upon the weary shoulders and aching backs of the Providence cabdrivers.
      And the train.
     I loved the way that train rumbled in the distance. It had this slamming sound, you know, this crude crashing noise of steel and courage and newness and hope.
     I loved how that brash godly train-coming-in sound lifted the spirits of the cabdrivers, created such a change in our souls.
     Steel wheels and cars of silver/silver rumbled rumbled and slam slam rumbled as the train the train came from the south and under the train station, or, if from the north, the train passed beneath the soot blackened tunnel train that long dead workers sweated and bled and sacrificed their souls and built.
     “Here comes the train…”
     “After all this time…”
     “That fuckin’ useless who-ore* (*the train) from New York City  is finally here...”
       Being alive and experiencing scenes like this did made me think I was mentally healthy.
     For all my optimism I continued to be depressed.
     People noticed one sign: I went on major sleep marathons.
     One family member thought these long sleeps were a sign of laziness.
     Another cab acquaintance put me down after he found out I was then at times sleeping for 14 to 24 hour stretches.
     “What’sa matt-a: Can’tcha get outta fuckin’ bed!?” 
     Rebecca gave me most cause to think about my Rip Van Winkle-like snoozes, though.
     So we met in June 1997, she put out The Warm Soul Vibe, I ain’t sayin’ nothin’ else – so t’cut t’the chase:
      The night before our final split-up we had a pizza-related fight. 
      Next freezing and sunny morning whilst driving there happened a one scene modern play:

      EDDIE THE DEPRESSED CABDRIVER: Hey: I ain’t gonna get ya no fuckin’ bagel or, or, or – Hey: I ain’t gonna get ya no fuckin’ cup`o’coffee, either!
     REBECCA OF THE GREAT SOUL AND SLAM BODY: Oh yeah!? Yeah!? Well how how just a fuckin’ cup of coffee? Huh!? How about that!?”
      EDDIE: No! Fuck you! No! (Ungrateful fucking bitch...)"
      Then, dropping her off at That Last Address of Love, Rebecca shifted her bag, got ready to leave the car.
     And when she opened the door and started moving outside...
      “Well - ha - don’t spend the rest of your life in bed!”
      Some people might think that was a cruel thing for Rebecca to have said. (Gee: As I re-read it, I think it was hilarious!) Bear in mind that Rebecca had a tremendous soul, I have no complaints about her and (yes) I will always kind of like her. 
      As time flowed, I would be spending more time in bed than even Rebecca had referred to.
      Days and days of sleeping and perchance dreaming and getting up and going to the Pee Pee Room and going back to bed and…
      I wouldn’t shave.
      I wouldn’t bathe.
      I’d sleep.
      Man, I’d really sleep...
*****In a few places in Real Cab Rides I refer to Providence itself as a holy city. Here’s why: When our angelic founder Roger Williams came here in 1636 he established Providence as a haven for people of all creeds and religious faiths. This so aptly named city of Providence was therefore founded as a homeland for EVERYBODY and as a place where religious – or non-religious - persecution should not ever exist. As far as I'm concerned this makes Providence one of the world’s most holy cities…(And by the way: Rhode Island was the first colony to declare its independence from Great Britain. Roll over China: WE,  THE PEOPLE OF RHODE ISLAND, STOOD UP!) 
Though I am no longer of the Roman Catholic faith, this statue of the Virgin Mary in front of St. Raymond's Church on Providence's North Main Street reads: "Pray for World Peace. Remember Our Dead..." I couldn't agree more.

The 11 Commandments of Cab Driving
     In Providence, R.I. this is a most basic cab driving commandment.
     Your dispatcher instructs you to go to some side street no taxi has gone to in generations.
     And when you get to where you think the street is - there’s not a street sign.
     Many times, for lack of street signs here, you’ll never even know what main street you’re on.
     I say when you’re near where you think you should be and see a street that lacks a sign just drive on it.
     It’s the one!
     Cabs are like magnets.
     Say you’re picking up a passenger on a dead-end lane where nobody will have driven a car for hours. Should you be foolish enough to block a driveway, it wouldn’t take more than 10 seconds for another motorist to need to get into that driveway.
     If you stopped your cab in the middle of Antarctica you’d probably start a traffic jam.
     It’s 3 a.m. and your kindly dispatcher has just commanded you to get a fare on some war-zone street in an urban neighborhood. (In Providence drivers generally work with dispatchers.)
     No sense looking at house numbers.
     Your people are waiting near the run-down abandoned house where the six menacing guys are hanging around and selling crack.
     Yes, that house.
     The one where the kid just walking to his girlfriend’s house was gunned down the night before.
     (Note: I’m definitely not trying to be funny. And Angel Cruz, a fine Providence youth who was indeed shot to death in 2000 walking to his girlfriend’s house: You are not a statistic!)
     Sometimes when people used to ask me to switch the station I did.
     Knowing from experience I’d gain nothing by accommodating them, I sometimes just forced them to listen to classical music.
     There were times when I would put on their music, however. Long after they left I even found myself enjoying it.
      You know, I think I could have been a heavy metal rock star.
     Or, yo, yo, yo: A rapper, yo.
     You got lucky and caught “a bomb,” local cabdriver’s lingo for a lengthy and good-paying fare.
     Nine times out of 10 your passenger will be some drunk who’ll go on and on and…
     Comes with the territory.
     There were times when passengers either frightened me or were too wild for me to handle. Many times this former cabdriver illegally went through red lights – after cautiously stopping and looking around, you bet – just to bring the ride to a faster end.
     This is not the wisest of driving policies.
      I do hope the police everywhere can be sympathetic with cabdrivers who sometimes have to do this. 
      This self-explanatory commandment should make you understand why you’ll always wait a little longer for a cab if you ever call one from a coin laundry. For all of the above-mentioned reasons cabdrivers take their time fetching fares from these places. (Supermarket customers are a pain for a lot of drivers, too.)
     They “feed” – or give choice jobs – to their pals.
     They’re rude to the people who call up.
     In the cab business, no group of workers are hated more.
     You just took some guy 50 miles from Providence to Boston.
     Mike just took this super-model on a three hour trip all the way to Manhattan.
     A passenger just offered you $900 to kill him?
     Dave had a passenger who offered him $2,000.
     You just gave one of The Beatles a ride?
     Somebody else just gave a ride to someone even more famous.
      The people you’ll always remember are the evil creatures who gave you a hard time.
     But the vast majority of people you get in your cab are nice people, the kind of folks who (at times) make cab driving a pretty good job.
     We do live in a cruel world.
     To paraphrase what World War II Holocaust victim Anne Frank wrote, though, driving a cab has shown me that most people of this world are basically good.
     (And bigger tips, too!)
Ludwig Van Beethoven. (Playing your music on my radio probably saved my life, Ludwig.)

Classical Music
      People I’d been riding were all peaceful and polite - and I was bored.
     When this weird old guy started wandering to my cab I got hopeful.
      With his skinny white legs sticking out of his paper-thin purple Bermuda shorts – and on such a cool night – he looked like some rare tropical bird who'd do something entertaining.
     Sadly, Ancient Birdman was silent for the first few blocks.
     Mozart played on the classical music station as we headed to his destination, the Rhode Island City of Pawtucket.
     Only after we suffered through a couple of red lights did his feathers get ruffled:
     “Hey: Where in the fuckin’ hell are ya talkin’ me, buster!?”
     “Why, home, sir. I’m taking you…”
     “Bullshit, buddy, you ain’t takin’ me home! I been in this car for five fuckin’ minutes now and you ain’t been takin’ me nowhere! This ain’t the way you go to Pawtucket! You know that! This ain’t the fuckin’ way you get there!”
      I cranked up the Mozart, looked out at the dark world, clicked off the meter.
     “Listen,” I told him. “I’m, like, getting this real funny feeling that you’re not such a happy camper. So I’ll tell you what: I’m not gonna charge you anything. I’m just gonna take you back to where I picked you up.”
     “Well, that’s fine by me! That’s fuckin’ fine by me! I don’t need the likes of you takin’ me aroun’ an’ aroun’ in circles! I wasn’t fuckin’ born yesterday, mister! I know how youse cabdrivers work! (Think ya kin fool me!?...)”
     Yet in hushed tones of deep respect he added:
     “But by the way, sir: I really do enjoy that classical music you have there on your radio…”
     Now when I got into listening to classical music in the taxi I can’t exactly recall.
     I might have been reading in my apartment and found myself listening to a violin concerto on one of the region’s classical stations. (WCRB 102.5 of Waltham, Mass.).(Note: The station I now listen to is 88.7 FM.)
     As I pored (probably) over Charles Bukowski for some reason I really got caught up in it.
     There was something soulful being communicated by these violinists.
     Since bad vibes often lead to a knife at a cabdriver’s throat, I was concerned with regards to how the back-seat folks would respond to a Rachmaninoff.
     “What’s this shit!?” one burly biker blasted during a delicate piece. “Metal! Yo: Play metal, chief!”
     After a few weeks of playing classical music in the cab, though, I was amazed at the responses to the symphonies and fugues: Like the aforementioned Ancient Birdman just about every passenger enjoyed it.
     As time passed, the classical music even became a symbol of who I was as a person. While I toiled before the meter and put up with the exclusionary babble of corpse/elitist passengers – WHAT PRICE REAL ESTATE! – the full-bodied notes of brass and woodwinds made me understand there was a more meaningful “discussion” to which I was always a welcome guest.
     I also noticed classical music had a calming effect, both on the people I rode and myself.
    People weren’t as rowdy as they were when I had rock`n’roll blasting.
     I was calmer.
     Like the music in a movie complements the action of a scene, the music I was playing was sometimes perfect for what I was living through.
     There’s nothing like listening to Rossini’s “The William Tell Overture” when you’re on a historic laundromat run* and passengers are sweating the meter.*
     Not to mention the effect the first few measures of Beethoven’s “Fifth Symphony” has on you when you’ve just been dispatched  to the most fearsome three-decker in The Drug Lands.*
     “The Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s “Messiah” has on many occasions served me well - but especially when played to the nightly departure of some demon of a dispatcher.
     As for that awesome sense of victory that overcomes you when you’ve just received a huge tip - if you’ve been recently enriched when you’re listening to the cannon section from “The 1812 Overture,” you’ll swear Tschaikowsky wrote that for taxi drivers.
     (And for the record I've always loved "The Blue Danube Waltz" by Strauss when you're driving among legions of drunk Massholes* after the bars break*; and let's not ever forget Mozart's "Piano Sonata Number 11" - the number of my all-time favorite cab, incidentally. That goes really well with Drug Runs.*)
     Sometimes the classical music even made a particular fare more ironic.
     Like one summer a few years ago I was dispatched to a Providence Minority Concentration Camp.* After fearfully peeking at the porch, four homey-type youths in their late teens and early 20s emerged from this dark alley.
     They were all affecting that defiant bad-neighborhood walk, that slow ballet of hopelessness and (my opinion) rightful disgust that intimidates so many, me included.
     I felt like flooring it.
     But as they got neared to the cab one shouted:
     “Yo! Yo, Edward, Edward! Remember me, cousin!?”
     Very relieved that I knew the kid, he and his compatriots all piled in and we started heading for their destination. My friend explained he had been short a few dollars a few weeks before and I – “Yo, Edward!” – had trusted him for the remainder of the fare. (At this point he graciously reimbursed me.)
     This bit of news caused the young men to warm up to me.
     One of them even leaned forward and brushed back the Christ-like hood of his sweatshirt.
     “You, Edward: Who dat be on the radio?” he “axed.”
     “Beethoven,” I told him while cranking up the volume.
     “Yeah. He lived about 200 years ago. He was the shit.*”
     “Beethoven,” the youth repeated with a nod.
     I know we all so often expect people to act a certain way based on their outward appearance, their speech.
     Most people would take a look at me and think because I am a cabdriver I should be listening to something else – and I expected these young men would want to be hearing rap.
     Surprisingly, though, as if they were all a group of the most cultured music fans dressed in the finest evening clothes, the hooded youths began listening to the music with a passion and intensity that only the most ear wise would.
     Without another word between us, we just kept driving in awed silence as the sounds of Beethoven - "Moonlight Sonata," I'll say - cut through the heart of Providence…

P.S. It's about 20 years since I first wrote this story. These days, though, when I drive the shuttle van I drive for the Rhode Island School of Design, I listen to country music.

"Amor Vincit Omnia" (painted 1602) by Caravaggio (1571-1610).

Angel in the Back Seat
(A shout out to Mark Taber who is a fan of this story, a gentleman and yet another great Rhode Island musician.)

      When she got in the cab I was too depressed to turn and look at her.
      When she asked me how my night was going I was too depressed to lie.
     “Well, I’m just plain miserable,” I told the young sounding woman. “Those other drivers I was talking to where you got into the cab are even more miserable. Like, this one guy’s ex-wife won’t let him see his daughter. Another man needs some kind of lung surgery. I’m telling you, you wouldn’t believe some of the troubles middle-aged men have.”
     After saying this I expected an iron wall of silence.
     “Well, I don’t doubt middle-aged me have their share of problems, sir. Life is tough for everybody…It stands to reason that’s it’s tough for middle-aged men, too.”
     After hours of putting up with my nasty taxi dispatcher I was hearing the voice of someone who was nice.
     After hearing all these depressing stories from my fellow drivers – I was even listening to someone who seemed happy.
     Yeah, with my back pain and the really defeated way I was feeling, my life was not a peace scene.
     All these hellishly gray piles of ice and snow everywhere you looked that disgusting winter – that was also depressing me.
     So I forgot about my problems and asked how things were going for her.
     She told me that she had some bills to pay and she was working at one full-time job and one part-time job.
     One of her jobs was in Providence. The part-time one was somewhere in Boston, 50 miles away.
     Since plenty of people in my state work two jobs and what Rhode Islanders consider tough commutes nothing she said was unusual.
     The way she said everything was.
     Her voice was liquid, smooth and filled with real hope.
     And maybe it was because it was the first time that night I was in the company of someone who refused to let life defeat her.
     Because when she began telling me how her goal was to save some money and finish divinity school, something wild happened:
     My heart – the spiritual vessel that’s in the center of your spirit – just burst to life in me and made me aware of its presence.
     Like some island being born and thrusting itself upward in a roiling sea, my own heart burst up inside of me and began slamming out these pure and huge and intense feelings.
     I had a great mass of emotional sensations.
      I couldn’t ever remember feeling like this.
     When my own fear of these wild sensations caused my heart to vanish, I was so moved by this – miracle – I even had the urge to cry.
     Like the macho man I pretend to be, I “got a grip” on myself.
     “You know, I think you’d probably be a good minister,” I said. “I think (gulp) you have a gift…”
     Time passed.
     My nasty dispatcher had vanished to parts unknown.
     The pain in my back eased.
     My fellow drivers seemed to have their problems worked out.
     One sunny morning I even spied a bright yellow crocus springing up to life besides a sidewalk on the green green lawn in front of my beloved apartment.
     Welcome to tomorrow.
     Standing outside my cab at the train station one warm and pleasant April night, I was shooting the breeze with some other drivers.
     We were talking about women.
     Spaketh Vin:
     “Man, I don’t care which one you guys have had in your cab: That stripper from Olneyville that goes to the Foxy Lady or even that blond waitress who goes from Mount Pleasant Avenue to the Westin Hotel. There’s one that’s got `em all beat. She usually goes from Kennedy Plaza to…”
     Then he named the exact address of the young woman I have give a ride to some weeks before.
     “You don’t mean the one who wants to become a minister, do you?” I asked.
     “Yeah, Eddie, hey, that’s the one! Ha! You’ve given her a ride, too! Man, is she the most gorgeous woman that you’ve ever seen in your entire life, Eddie?!”
     It’s kind of strange that cabdrivers meet so many beautiful ladies.
     Without exaggeration I meet at least three women on any given shift who most men – and “one or two” women – would clearly like.
     Again, because of the sheer volume of great looking women a cabdriver transports, when a driver raves about how good-looking a woman is, the woman he’s talking about has to be as gorgeous as any woman can ever be.
     Although “Vin” began talking about this woman’s physical virtues – (“Didja look into those eyes of hers, Eddie!? Didja!?”) – I had no idea how beautiful was the aspiring minister.
     Like, she got into the cab I was too depressed to even look at her.
     She paid - and I was so moved by what she had made me feel I just grabbed the money without looking at her.
     I don’t know how to explain this, but here goes:
     When a customer is angry I find myself getting angry.
     When a customer is warm I start feeling the same way.
     To feel like I felt with this young woman, too feel, that is to say, my heart rise up in my soul…
     There’s no doubt in my mind that I was giving a ride to an angel.
     What she looked like didn’t matter…

Most Inspiring Passenger
     “I don’t know why people won’t work at McDonald’s,” the 20ish passenger told me. “I worked there for a time. There’s no shame in it. You just go to work, do your job and times goes by for you. Then you go home.”
     Naturally, I agreed.
     For so many it’s OK to stand on street corners and sell crack to pregnant women.
     Putting on a brown uniform and serving a child a Happy Meal is beneath them.
     This regular rider didn’t mind any kind of honest work.
     She was attending Rhode Island College full time, had a full-time job monitoring problem children at night and a part-time job.
     Long, long hours would normally make anyone cranky.
     Not her.
     She was one of the most cheerful people I ever had the honor of giving a ride to.
     “Oh, hi! How are you, tonight? You know you got here right on time…”
     No matter what kind of mood you were in, that’s how she greeted you.
     What made her such an inspiration wasn’t that she was working hard and going to college and always in an upbeat mood.
     It wasn’t that she performed at least one heroic deed, either.
     (She told me once the fire department had been called to the building where she guarded troubled teenagers. After she and the kids evacuated the building one youngster cried out that a cat was inside. You guessed it: With the possibility of facing a fire she went back into the building to save the youth’s cat.)
     What made her such an inspiration was that she was going through all that she was going through.
     And she was legally blind.

Gaito Gazdanov (1903-1971) was what you would call a great cabdriver. In addition to being a fine writer, this emigrant from Russia and cabdriver of Paris, France fought in the French Resistance and saved many from the concentration camps. People so often have a negative view of cabdrivers but they should remember that there are Gazdanovs among their ranks.

The Good Things Cabdrivers Do
     Cabdrivers do good deeds all the time.
     Here’s one example:
     Once I was on one of my long walks and I saw a Yellow Cab parked on the street.
     When I got closer there was one of the drivers I then worked with – Ed Gray – who was helping a physically challenged elderly woman get from her doorstep to his cab.
      There was Ed being gentle and kind and steadying the woman by holding onto her elbow and making sure she didn’t slip and fall.
      It was a simple act of kindness.
     But the point is what Ed was doing is something every decent cabdriver does on every working shift.
      Helping the elderly and physically challenged people is a normal part of the job.
     Speaking on behalf of Ed and so many other drivers, many times a cabdriver will take up bundles of groceries up the stairs for elderly people.
     They’ll be sure that the wheelchairs and walkers of physically challenged people are firmly secured in the trunks of their cabs.
     Most of them will always wait in their cabs and watch for women passengers to open the doors to their homes and get inside.
    Cabdrivers are sometimes counselors: They’ll encourage the younger passengers to stay in school (like I have done) or help other passengers through the problems of life.
     I have certainly seen cabdrivers assist the police and help at the scenes of highway accidents.
     There are also times when cabs act as emergency rescue vehicles so injured people can get to hospitals.
     During the Battle of Marne in World War I, City of Paris cabdrivers were even enlisted to take French soldiers to the front. (Then, of course, there’s the previously mentioned great Russian writer/Paris cabdriver Gaito Gazdanov who fought with the French Resistance and personally saved many from the Nazi death camps.)
     In many companies, cabdrivers are emergency couriers for crucial medical supplies like blood, plasma, even body parts like human hearts.
     People have such a negative image of cabdrivers when they’re often as helpful as police and fire people.
     The fact is most cabdrivers are decent people just trying to earn a living.
     In my years of driving, I have seen many different types of religious books in cabs that a driver will study and pray over.
     As is the case with Ed Gray, I’d say a lot of cabdrivers are worth their weight in diamonds…

The Star of Christ
     “When they saw the star they rejoiced with exceeding great joy…” (St. Matthew, Chapter II, Verse 10.)
      She walked through the night and appeared in my cab’s front seat like a vision.
     “My car’s stuck about a mile up the road,” she said while pointing an exquisitely long finger.
      I gazed at her black hair, her smoky gray eyes and this well-poised body behind which Christmas lights shone.
     “Ah, that way?”  I asked while pointing (ha!) my own finger like hers.
     I didn’t know what could be on her mind. But she was so drop dead gorgeous I was “up” for anything.
     In the course of getting to her car, though, she told me her children and her husband (CURSES!) were waiting up ahead.
     And when we reached this beat-up little car her family emerged: A couple of children about five years old who hopped to my taxi like they were about to go on some great adventure - (“Oh boy! A taxi cab!”) – and this drunk and average looking guy you’d never expect to be married to the Nephthys beside me.
     The ride ran perfect for about 10 seconds.
     Then the husband flipped:
      “Well, ya really fuckin’ fixed it up good this time, Beth!” he  exploded. “Ya really did!”
     “Beth” silently stared out at the highway and I kept driving, shocked by the guy’s outburst.
      “I mean, why’dja fuckin’ hav-ta reach ov-a,  grab the car keys and throw `em out the window like ya did!? Why, Beth!? I know I’m drunk but I could-a still driven! Now I gotta come all the fuckin’ way back here ta-marra! (Ha! If the pigs don’t tow away the car!) Yeah, ya really outdid yourself ta-night, Beth! Ya really did!”
     Beth still kept ignoring the guy and looking into the distance. While the children seemed to take the father’s outburst in stride (to them it must have been an everyday scene), I tried to ignore everything, too.
      Frankly, the guy intimidated me.
     “I mean, out the fuckin’ window, Beth! Out the fuckin’ window!” he kept raving. “Yeah, I’m a little fuckin’ drunk! Big deal! And I’ve driven that fuckin’ car with more fuckin’ drinks than I have in me now, bitch, and nothin’ ever happened! Ya just didn’t hafta snatch the keys outta the fuckin’ ignition and throw them away!”
     While the “man of the house” continued his drunken rant, I raced along and considered the stars shining in the crystal clear December sky.
    It being just a few days before Christmas, I guess it was normal for me to consider that sacred star of so long ago...
     According to the Gospel of St. Matthew, wise men saw the star of Christ in the east and traveled to worship their god.
     Following that comet they came to a manger where they found their messiah wrapped in swaddling clothes.
     Under that celestial orb which was the most brilliant symbol for one whose soul exploded with light, they gave their holy infant gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh.
     As we traveled along, this pastoral familial scene of the first Christmas filled my imagination.
     While the husband kept on hollering – “Are ya gonna fuckin’ say somethin’ to me, Beth!? Well!? Are ya!?” – I also began to think of Christmas as we Americans think of that holiday: You know, perfect kids unwrapping their perfect presents in some perfect house on a perfect, snow white Christmas morning; the whole perfect family merrily gathered around a perfect banquet table of the most bountiful delights.
     Christmas is like this, huh?
     Well, for people who are extremely lucky it is - and I say God bless them, too.
     But let me tell you something:
     Christmas is also about strong young fathers clutching onto their friends and crying their eyes out (in the back seat of your cab) because their ex-wives won't let them even see their kids on Christmas Eve. (This happened to me.)
     Christmas is about people eating dinner in houses where the vibes of hatred are so strong it's a major effort for everyone not to drag out the guns.
     Christmas is about motorists driving like kamikaze maniacs so they can get some stupid gift at some crumby mall; mindless idiots torturing you with tales of their wonderful families (these "My Wonderful Family!" stories happen all the time in Rhode Island) and the great food they ate - while you were alone, half-starving and eating an expired can of Dinty Moore stew; a sharp increase in drug runs* when people get Christmas cash; alcoholic brothers coming over your house and getting so nasty and wild you have to call the police; useless junky daughters telling everyone their troubles and hitting up Grandma, who has one foot in the grave, for $20*, etc.
     For a lot of people the Christmas season really sucks.
     And the fact that only the lucky few (my opinion) can live up to this “perfect family at Christmas myth” that the out-of-touch, "Manufactured Content" media shoves down your throat makes the day harder for many to handle; the impossible myth drives many to suicide, I say.
     (The first Christmas definitely had its flaws, too: Imagine: A poor young pregnant woman being denied a room and having to go into labor in some filthy barn...How bad could it get?...)
     Still, even though I am not a Christian I ultimately do consider December 25 one of the most joyous of days.
     Peace on earth!
     Good will to people!
     All this I always find worth celebrating - even on a day as often disgusting as is Christmas.
     (God isn’t dead. Humanity is. But I say we rise from the dead and take some of the evil out of this world. Hail Atum, Shu, Tefenet, Osiris, Re, Horus, Thoth, Nut, Geb, Isis, Nephthys, Seth, Anubis, Imsety, Hapy, Duamutef, Qebehsenuef, Nedjehdjeh, Ptah, Nefertum, Min, Wennefer, Bastet - the whole gang…)
     As my Christmas thoughts ended we got closer to our destination. The drunk husband’s voice started cracking and there was even fear in it.
     “Sooo, this is my last show, r-r-r-right Beth!?” he wondered. “That’s what you said, r-r-r-right? One more time that I get drunk like this yer leavin’ me!? (Not even gonna talk about it, r-r-r-right!?”)
      Maintaining the power I now realized she had, Beth continued to sit in silence.
     As the AIDS activists used to say: “Silence is death.” 
     Beth was killing her husband. 
     We reached their tiny suburban home and the husband left the cab with the still happy children. I felt a little ashamed at myself for having allowed this scene to have gone on.
      I even got a good close look at the husband’s pasty white face: I knew I shouldn’t have been intimidated by him at all.
      Beth, who obviously wore the pants in this family and was paying for the ride, proceeded to take two new and crisp $20 bills from her purse with those exquisitely long fingers of hers.
     Considering all that happened on the ride, she looked even more beautiful to me than when I had first encountered her.
     As I again regarded her luxurious hair and beautiful figure, I had the urge to tell her something that would warm her, something to make her “feel good.”
     “Ditch that bozo,” I wanted to tell the stunningly gorgeous young mother. “With your looks it’ll only take you about half a heartbeat to find another man.”
     Because I wanted to redeem myself for being a coward and not standing up to her husband, though, I also had the urge to tell her something much more.
     So I turned to her.
     I stared straight into her smoky gray eyes.
     Incredibly, right as I was about to speak, I felt this little electrical charge sort of shooting out like a tiny star from eyes.
     “Merry Christmas,” I then said as my voice filled with a depth and richness that surprised me.
     “Merry Christmas to you, too,” she shot right back…
Right by the tree is where I nearly killed the Brown University student in the following story. 

Miracle At Brown and George Streets
(In memory of the non-terrorist war dead of Iraq and Afghanistan.)
     She got out of the cab.
     I hit the gas pedal too soon.
     She got startled, slipped on the ice on the ground, fell.
     When I stopped and got out of the cab she was face down in the street besides the curb.
     From her head to her feet half of her body was under the doors of the big American cab and between its front and rear right wheels.
     She looked dead.
     As though butterflies were pulling her up on strings, though, with her blond hair flowing on the back of her fine leather coat you could see the outline of her frail shoulder blades moving.
     Then she rose.
     She’s lucky.
     To land under a cab like that without getting hurt is almost impossible.
     I’m lucky.
     I caused her fall.
     As though butterflies were pulling her up on strings, though, with her blond hair flowing on the back of her fine leather coat you could see the outline of her frail shoulder blades moving.
     Then she rose...
 ***** When I stopped the cab and got out that cold early March night in 2003, I had this strong urge to run. I made myself stay and when I did it felt like this evil spirit was leaping out from the lower part of my body: It felt like a kind of exorcism. Then to see the dead looking young woman slowly lift herself up from the icy street - that was like witnessing a resurrection.
      The beautiful young woman was incredibly gracious about everything, too. She couldn't have been any more polite and understanding. She elevated my opinion about the entire student body at Brown University, who are, in my opinion, pretty much all fine and hard working young people, great young people, really.(An opinion: Many of the students at Brown are the hardest workers in the state...)  
      Of all the rides I've written about this one had the most profound effect on me....
      For days after it I stayed in my apartment in a state of shock and crying and just considering how lucky the young woman was, I was...
These days when I'm doing an underwear run I always go to Max Formal on North Main Street in Providence. The signage for the business was designed by internationally known artist Shepard Fairey before he became famous. Fairey attended the Rhode Island School of Design and was running a company called Alternate Graphics when he designed this sign. (And Paul Formal: You owe me a pair of underwear for this!)
Shepard Fairey is better known for this creation. I believe he first put up stickers of this in Providence, too. I distinctly remember one at the foot of Waterman Street.
A Work of Art
       "Helen" and “Bob” – an elderly couple I was taking to a restaurant – were joking a little.
       Helen said:
     “You know, Edward, I would have been a great artist if it hadn’t been for Bob!”
     “Bob, like, stopped your painting career?” 
     “Yes he did!” she insisted. “I would have been a great painter. But then Bob came into my life. He ruined everything!”
     I drove past the Federal Courthouse with its statue of blind justice holding scales.* (*This courthouse is shown in the Woody Allen movie Irrational Man.)
       This old couple seemed to be in a playful mood and I decided to play along with them.
     “So, Helen, now tell me: How long have you been married to this here guy Bob?”
     “We’ve been married over 50 years.”
     “Fifty years! Wow. That’s a long time. And has it been a good marriage?”
     “Yes,” said Bob. “It has been good.”
     “Do you both still love one another?”
      “Yes,” said Bob.
      “That true, Helen?”
      “Oh yes.” (Big comic sigh.) “Yes we both love each other.”
      “Well you know Helen, I know lots of people who are married to each other who are more or less room mates with joint checking accounts…”
       (“That very true!” Bob agreed.)
      “…so I say if you still love one another that’s nothing to shake a stick at.”
      I drove near the canal near downtown Providence. By the Crawford Street Bridge that crosses into the east side of the city I had a thought.
      “Hey, Helen, I just remembered something: Like you my ex-wife was an artist!”
      “You’re divorced?” Helen wondered.
      “Ah, hmmmm, yeah. Bothofusdecideditwouldbebestifwejustendedit…”
      “Did you ever get remarried?”
       (A painful question!)
       “Ah, no.”
       “Any children?”
       (Another zinger!)
       “Ah, no. No children.”
       “You must have gotten married for life,” Helen concluded. “You’re like a swan, Edward, someone who finds a mate for life.”
       “Ah, yeah,” I said with a gulp. “Yeah, ah, I guess so…”
       For whatever reason, when Helen made that "married for life/swan comment," it really hit me hard: I had wanted to be married for life and have kids and grow old together with my wife…and…(gulp)...
        Maybe sensing my change of mood, Helen started joking again about how – during the 1940s – she had lived in New York City’s Greenwich Village. “Those were the best years of my life,” she told me. Then we got to the restaurant.
       Bob paid for the fare and walked away and Helen started walking away.
       I was still feeling badly about my failed marriage and everything and suddenly, in this hard-core urban cowboy cabdriver way, I hung my arm out of the open cab’s window.
      “Hey Helen!” I suddenly shouted. “Hey: Ya wanna know something Helen? The hell with that painting career of yours! Because maybe your marriage was a work of art and you’re the one who made it possible!”
      Stunned, Helen stopped in her tracks and turned to me.
      What I told her got to her now!
      “Life is art,” she practically whispered.
       She blew a kiss at me.
       I was a little surprised - but with my own hand nervous and shaking I blew a kiss right back…

North side of war memorial honoring women who served their country.

Pictures of Dead Souls
(Readers  note: This is neither meant to reflect the opinion of cabdrivers of the world nor any of the people involved in this publishing venture.)

         From streets of shattered glass they’d appear:
      The teenage mothers and the little ones.
      Once inside the cab the children would scream and jump up and down and jump up and down and scream and jump…
      “Listen: Tell your kids to sit back!”
      Those were the magic words and for about 10 minutes a month I became the closest thing to a father the kids had.
       With the weary teenage mother’s faces mirrored on the cab’s windows, we’d drive. 
       By rundown tenement buildings with walls blotched by graffiti - by fences with prison-like barbed wire on the top - we’d drive.
      The kids would stink.
      The mothers would stare ahead like zombies.
      “Click,” went the meter….
       You could say many of these teen mothers had been defeated by the knowledge that they’d never go to any senior prom, never attend college, never escape poverty. OTHERWISE SAID: In a manner of speaking these mostly minority mothers were slaves and were going to stay slaves.
      When we ended the ride at (usually) whatever Minority Concentration Camp* we ended up at, the awkward and nervous (usually) Mom would often pay for the fare with a cold and clammy handful of pennies and nickels and dimes...
       I believe that parts of the souls of these young mothers were destroyed by having to do the hard work of caring for children when they themselves were children.
      I believe when you stop young girls like this from getting abortions – or prevent them from having access to birth control devices, proper reproductive education, etc. – you are murdering their spirits.
      For my own unique religious reasons I believe it’s a woman’s divine right to control what goes on inside her body. To outlaw abortion to me, a religious person, is sinful and disgusting and - get ready - Satanic.
      Pictures of dead fetuses I have seen.
      It pains me to look at them.
      But I can show you pictures that are so much worse:
      I can show you pictures of dead souls…
      (Who is the least among us? The person without a soul.)

Big Sur, California

The River of the Radiant Angels

"...And when it's time I'll go and wait besides a legendary fountain
Till I see your form reflected in its clear and jewelled waters
And if you think I'm ready
You may lead me to the chasm where the rivers of our vision
Flow into one another..." 

"Wasn't Born to Follow," Gerry Goffin and Carole King
      One summer long ago living off Canary Row in Monterey, California there were times my friends and I traveled.
     We went south on the steep coast on the prisoner built highway  with its wide views of sky and surf.
    We went south to Big Sur.
    This realm of boulder and cliff and pastel mist was a place dreamed…
    With backpacks and a little grit we’d hike eastward on a well-traveled trail. The dusty path winded beneath spark-like blue sky and threaded through the sun-drenched Santa Lucia Mountains with their sun-parched trees.
     At one point there was a rise.
     Here, when you faced the west, you could see beyond the trees of the distant rising mountains, see beyond the sea-crushed cliffs.
     Like an emerald cupped between a woman's breasts, above you was the Pacific Ocean.
     Under blue sky green sea gleamed…
     At the end of the hike, we set down packs at a place called Barlow Flats. Beside the river that sliced through tree-walled canyons we made camp and instant friends.
      Fires were lit, stories were told.
      When the high flames finished their elegant dance and the red embers got white-ash gray and black-lined indented, we snuggled into sleeping bag cocoons.
      Darkness filled the chilling little glen of gushing water and star-tall trees.
     Sleep came quickly, caressing, as though the kind hands of the god Anubis were touching you and welcoming you to the death, welcoming you to the death, welcoming you…
      In the warm mornings we wandered.
     With shorts and bare feet we went west through the knee-deep river with its fluid field of smooth tan speckled watery encased rocks and pebbles, west past large half-submerged boulders scorched and hot by the sun.
     In the river-sculpted pools naked young people swam, their bodies blurred beautiful when they gripped toes against rock and slid beneath the cool and clear water. Upon rocks and ledges other nude ones shined, their sweat-anointed flesh made star-twinkling by the sun’s white beamed light.
     Handsome young males: Broad shoulders, thin hips, cowboy faces, and, if you will allow the polite subtly, equine. With postures relaxed these long-haired men of the west met your eyes with peaceful and soulful gazes.
      Such beautiful young females, as well: Lean and womanly bodies with derrieres – to maintain a respectful tone – that were slightly pink, implicitly muscled. It being the fashion of the day, the ladies had long and sun-bleached hair that dropped luxuriously past finely shaped breasts to their waists.
     As you walked through the water and looked at each other, a beam of soul light sometimes flashed out through eyes of blue or gray or black or brown or Northern Light-like green.
     That sacred light would shoot in through your eyes and flash into your soul.
       As for the water – it rushed.
     It rushed and roared and swirled past brown flecked pebbles and sand in the river in the river in the river of the radiant angels…
     Soon you stepped up on a boulder and got naked.
     You gripped a foot on sharp, burning rock, glimpsed at the blinding sun, looked into the star sparkling like water and then:
      You dove.
     With all your youthful energy, into the fresh clean liquid coolness of soul and youth and star-like sparkling water:
     You dove.
     Stars, abysses: Become the stars!
     Science tells us we are made of atomic bits: The stars and the blackness of space are kind of like what we really are as people.
     And I say time can be stretched: Stretched!
     You dove.
     Now you’re probably wondering:
     What does this have to do with being a poor white guy driving a cab in Providence?
      Some times this fine memory of my youth got me through the evil shifts.
      Some nights my life as a cabdriver was even better…
      Time can be stretched: Stretched!
      And so you gripped your hands upon the wheel, figured out what street you were going to in the Drug Lands,* took a deep drag on your Marlboro, smiled about the two women you had over your place the night before -  and then:
      You drove
The people who died in The Station Fire.

In Memory of The Station Fire Victims

      I see another fire, a fire that doesn't kill you or scar you.
      I see another fire that is pure, everlasting and soothing to feel.
      It's the fire of love.
      This fire comes from the people who will love you all forever and who will never let you die...

    [The Station Fire happened at a Rhode Island night club on February 20, 2003. A hundred people perished, many more were injured. About a year before the tragedy I even took some passengers to the place. I was surprised it was a wooden building and thought it looked like a fire hazard. It's my gut feeling people were getting paid off to let such a fire-trap operate. Real justice regarding The Station Fire hasn't happened; I believe the Grand Jury was queered...P.S. For a great book regarding The Station Fire I recommend "Killer Show" by John Barylick. I literally cried reading it...] 

View of Providence from Point Street Bridge.

“Midway the journey of this life I was aware that I had strayed into a dark forest and the right path appeared not anywhere…” The Divine Comedy, Dante Alleghieri

      I was lost somewhere in Dighton, Massachusetts when I saw a sign that said: “The Labor In Vain Stream.”
      Right after seeing those words sign I came upon a cemetery.
      Countless motorists must have driven along this road and drawn the same darkly poetic observation I did: That you work all your life - and then you die.  
      Somewhere further along the road the glowing blue lights of a little country police station beckoned me.
     While stopping and asking the police for directions was an option, it wasn’t my hunter/gathering male makeup that stopped me from doing that.
      I wanted to stay lost.
      So I turned onto a back country road.
      Giant, haunted-looking trees loomed above…
     When I first began driving a cab I once took home a group of Cambodian refugees from a hospital.
     All went well up to Providence’s Roger Williams Park. When I reached that park’s carousel I got lost and started going around and around.
     Surprisingly, the Cambodians were patient and polite.
    When I finally did get them home and they were leaving the cab, each of them gazed at me fondly – and bowed!
     In time I learned the streets of the area so well that I could never get lost, though.
     I’d drop off some person in some war-zone neighborhood thinking I was lost.
      Then I’d spot an old familiar drug house* and easily get back to the center of the city.
     I’d deposit some drunk in some town I seldom went to, get lost but soon figure out the way back home.
     I became something of an expert on city streets and neighborhoods of Providence and the various places surrounding it.
     I knew the shortest way to take people, knew exactly what house I was being dispatched to just by hearing the dispatcher saying the number.
     When people pulled up to me and asked for directions – when cops and taxi dispatchers and even veteran cabdrivers asked me for directions – I knew just what to tell them.
     (“Calla Street? Well, you go up Eddy until…” “Somerset? OK: Go on the street with the Y and…” “Woodbury? Gee…Let me think…Oh yeah…”)
     All that wonderful chaos and confusion and mystery that made my first years as a cabdriver so interesting got misplaced as a result of my increasing street knowledge.
     Like a child who perceives life in a beatified way and who grows to forget a once holy life view, I lost much of my innocence.
     When I did finally get lost, the last thing I wanted to do was find out where I was.
     I didn’t know where I was, I didn’t know where I was, I didn’t know…
      Yes! Terrific!
     Let me waste away but please don’t give me directions.
     I was feeling fear and anxiety and enjoying every second of it…
     It goes without saying that in the physical sense most of us think we know where we are. Because of the Earth’s rotation and solar and galactic shifts, though, our precise locale always changes.
     Like the American writer Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, you’re never where you were a second ago nor will you ever be “there” again.
     More to the point, while we’re also subject to the criss-crossing paths of circumstances and the byways of our decisions, we all think we know where we are in our lives and therefore where we’ll end up.
     Why, we’re majoring in premed and destined to become physicians.
     We’re high-powered CEO’s at major corporations and bound to stay that way.
     We’re sleek and beautiful women whose lives will continue to be perfect.
     In short, we believe we have so much insight and control over our destinies when really we’re in this constant state of “being lost” since much of what happens to us is beyond our power.
     (I.e., instead of becoming doctors a dream dictates we become rabbis and that’s what we become; the corporations we run end up bankrupt and we wind up living in homeless shelters; we get diagnosed with breast cancer and discover our life isn’t progressing as perfectly as we thought it would – incredibly, it gets a lot more meaningful, more appreciated, better.)
     Our sense of false security does enable us to better cope with our lives.
     (To believe we don’t have control over our lives can be debilitating: We become these precious “victims.”)
      On the other hand, not realizing that we’re all a bit lost also makes us numb to the real beauty life has to offer.
     Our unrealistic outlook helps us to avoid emotions like fear and anguish, shunned sensations that serve to highlight the mystery – and joy – in our lives. We gain a deceptively comfortable way of considering things and lose that real and child-like sense of wonder.
     We labor in vain.
     We die.
     It’s the truth: When I realized I was becoming un-lost that winter’s morning I was relieved.
     I began hearing my dispatcher’s voice on the cab’s two-way and knew that somehow I made it closer to home.
     When I finally happened upon a main road with a bold sign pointing the way to Providence this genuine sadness overcame me:
     You see, I had left my dark forest filled with all its fear and mystery.
     I was “found again…”
*****Years ago I worked in a steel plant where I noticed the critically acclaimed abstractionist sculptor, the late  Joseph "Joe" Goto (1916-1994). He was holding court with a group of hard-core welders. (Goto would sometimes visit Tower Iron in Seekonk, Mass. to get pieces of steel for his metal sculptures. No less than the famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright would design special nooks in  buildings in which to place them.) Years later, I bumped into him in a Dunkin’ Donuts coffee shop.(At that point I was struggling to become a writer.)
      “What bit of advice would you give to a struggling writer or artist?” I asked Joe with his own - swear to you - soul of steel.
       He gave me some of the most brilliant advice I have ever in my life received:
      “Make death your friend..."
         Yes, Joe: Accept and cherish the sometimes negative emotions and experiences that come with this life, use them if you can and realize that all of this is part of what can be a sacred and blessed life. Warmly embrace the idea of one's own physical death, too, and welcome the Angel of Death to your own abode as a most honored guest: Hail Anubis! Let's both blast through those white bright fiery portals to eternity! Come over any time you want, dude! (But you're gonna hafta bring some weed, OK?)
      (And Joe: Maybe in a hundred years the work that you and I have done on this earth will be regarded as masterpieces...)

More Famous People
The late Senator John Chafee
Senator John Chafee (1922-1999)
     The older man in the tan raincoat hailed me at the Biltmore hotel cab stand.
     When he got inside:
     “Well, this is an occasion!” I said.
     “An occasion? Why?”
     “Getting a United States senator in the cab!”
     See, the older man in the raincoat turned out to be United States Senator and former Secretary of the Navy John Chafee. The senator – who was also a World War II and Korean War veteran – was in town for an ecological conference at Brown University.
      Chafee liked the classical music I had on the radio and we drove up Waterman Street.
     As we passed Faunce Arch of Brown University, I had so many things I wanted to ask him: Specifically, regarding the problems cabdrivers have.
     Then I thought:
     “No, Eddie: Just do your job and give this person a peaceful ride.”
     So I did my job just as Chafee did for all the years he had served his country.
     At the intersection of Thayer and Waterman the also former governor of Rhode Island started asking questions:
     “So: What do you do when you get someone in your cab when they want to go to Potters Avenue?” (Back then, this was a street mostly populated by poor minorities.)
     “Take them,” I said.
     “And what do you do when you get someone who wants to go to (and then Chafee named a notoriously bad place).”
     “Take them,” I said again…
     I got a good wholesome feeling from Chafee as we stood outside the cab at the end of the ride.
     “We’re both in this together” –that was the vibe.
     Like all good Rhode Islanders the late senator was a good tipper…

Ruth Simmons
Ruth Simmons
      The black woman with the luggage that I picked up at the airport when I was driving for Airport Taxi looked like a nice woman.
     “Well, here’s a cleaning woman I’ll be taking to South Providence,” I thought for my own prejudicial reasons.
     On the highway to Providence we chatted.
     When we got to the turn on Route 95 that offers a broad beautiful view of the harbor I got a big surprise:
      “I’m the new president of Brown University,” Ruth Simmons told me.
      (Ruth Simmons served as president of Brown University from October 14, 2001 – June 30, 2012. She was a good tipper, too.)

God Shammgod
God Shammgod
     I once gave a ride to God.
     I rode him to Providence College.
     For some reason I needed to see identification:
     Sure enough!
     The name on the piece of plastic said God – or God Shammgod, that is.
     Before he played basketball for the Washington Wizards and various international teams, God Shammgod played for two seasons at Providence College when he was a student there.
     (God did not tip.)

Haven Brothers

Star Over Haven Brothers
(The cabdriver’s name and a few details in this story have been changed. The fictional driver’s name used – Angelo Ricci – is one  used in a few stories by the great Providence horror writer H.P.Lovecraft.)

      Back in the Day* when cars were big and television screens were small Angelo Ricci and friends prowled into a bank.
     “Why hello, Angelo!” greeted a friendly teller. “I haven’t seen you since we graduated high school!”
      Under harsh bright bank lights Angelo stood.
      “Shut up, you!” said Angelo. “Me and my friends didn’t come here f’no fuckin’ class reunion!”
      Guns were soon taken out of pockets which was followed by the usual instructions.
      “Hey! All-a youse! Hey! Hit the floor!”
         A hefting of coarse brown sacks filled with precious stacks of crisp green paper next occurred...
     This was followed by various comments – “Let’s go: Let’s go: Hey, we got  plenty…” - then the Squealing of Tires Ritual was celebrated.
     The High School Reunion Gang stole $30,000.
     “Booze an’ who-ores and gamblin’: That’s how we spent the money, Dalton. We all of the us (sic) went down to New York City and blew that cash in a week!”
     Some time after this a not-at-all-cheap State of Rhode Island judge gave Angelo Ricci, to use prison slang, “a dime.”
     “Spending” what is the common term for a small silvery coin that represents one tenth of a U.S. dollar took ten years.
     “See, we scared this one refined old lady so much she plopped down on the marble floor and crapped her ass. (That’s why, see, Dalton, the judge gave us the big jail time.)”
      During his decade behind bars Angelo was trained by the oft times good State of Rhode Island in carpentry.
     Today, this also honorably discharged Korean War Veteran runs a small cabinet making business.
     He drives a cab: “On the side…”

     Now in 1993 a cab stand was located across the street from Providence’s European looking City Hall and a beloved fast food truck trailer parked each night next to it called Haven Brothers Diner.
     While the gray stone Second Empire Baroque City Hall would fit perfectly in Paris, France, the silver and red lettered Haven Brothers’ is a symbol of old industrial Providence.
     To a lot of local people this shining trailer on wheels is like a shrine.
     The sides and the axles and the very tires of Haven Brothers Diner are tattooed by the spiritual vibrations of many.
     If many a native were to go on a journey from which few travelers return and upon returning see Haven Brothers under the foggy halo of a street lamp, say, many a person would know s/he were once again in the loving arms of the City of Providence.
     Many a person would know s/he were home.
     One night former convicted bank robber Angelo Ricci saved this other eatin’ – this Haven Brothers – from doom.
     As it was, Cab One, the powerful and great white 1985 Chevrolet Impala cab I was driving had a problem: When you stopped the vehicle with the motor on and put the automatic driving stick in Idle gear, the transmission of the car would sometimes slip into Reverse gear and the cab would start racing backwards.
      This had happened to me a few times when I had been stopped at red lights but I had always been alert enough to stomp on the brakes.
     One cool fall night, I parked my last in line cab on the Kennedy Plaza cab stand with its rear silver bumper pointed towards Haven Brothers’.
     Forgetting about the aforementioned mechanical problem I put Car One in Idle gear and stepped outside.
     All 3,500 pounds of the (approximately) 17-foot by 6-foot cab went flying backwards!* (*In approximate kilograms and meters: 1,600 kilograms; 5.2 by 1.8 meters.) 
     I rushed back to the racing cab and reached for the door and failed to…
     Quickly - from the other side of the cab – Angelo Ricci opened the passenger door and flashed lightening-bolt inside.
      He saved Haven Brothers and all the good people in and around it from harm.
      But there’s also this:
      Right at the time of Angelo’s heroic deed there was a kind of whiteness.
     It was like this phantom of a star had descended and half-lit the earth around the cab stand and the gray stone City Hall and Haven Brothers itself.
     You should note this star-like light is a matter I remember as a much older man in the kind comfort of my 4:20 a.m. home, kind bud.
     Further, I have never talked with anyone, even Angelo Ricci himself, about the starry sight.
     Like a stilled white horse of the Apocalypse, Car One stopped in the middle of the street.
     All of reality – the other now excited and animated cab drivers, the line of parked cabs themselves, this little red sports car (I remember) with its silver exhaust pipe p-p-p-puttering away –  everything whirled and whirled into the abyss of…
     “Wow, Angelo, how did you…”
     “Didja seethat? Wheeewww! Didja see that, Dalton! Ha!”
     “Ah…ah…I just…ha…I just…”
      I soon got back in the cab and touched the steering wheel that Angelo Ricci had just touched:
     Angelo’s brave cab rescuing act - brave considering how fast he acted and how he could have easily been hurt - was a heroic ballet of fiery truth. And after this event he awed me.
     From filling out his trip sheet* to giving directions to lost motorists at the Biltmore Hotel cab stand, every gesture and every word of Angelo’s was something I now marked and stored away like the blessed librarians at Providence’s Brown University’s John Hay Library will forever keep safe a book.
     If I were sitting in my taxi in line at a cab stand when Angelo approached, say, instead of fusing eyes on newspaper I put down any reading material – and listened.
     It would be a hot day in July, maybe, and we’d be waiting for fares at the back of the tan stone Providence Train Station. The white marble State House would be standing before us like an ancient temple. Above the skeletal tips of high construction cranes, a hawk – its golden feathery wings stretched – would be stop/floating in crystal blue skies before the sun the sun the sun the…
     Angelo would recount ancient and modern Providence tribal cab lore.
     He would sometimes even tell me much saltier stories involving the days when he was a young tough fearless criminal.
     Like: Once dragging out a heavy safe from a factory and taking all night sledge hammering it open and then finding only small change.
     Like: Running with hoodlums through Providence’s outlaw canyons of three-deckers* and pale red factories.
     The heart-felt battles between the criminals themselves and the police – according to Angelo Back in the Day* both cop and robber were passionate on this oft ramshackle stage of life:
     “…and let me tell ya something, Dalton: In them days, Dalton, when the cops would catch you doin’ something wrong, they wouldn’t read ya yer rights or any of that fuckin' crap that they do there now. Them cops: They’d just grab you by the fuckin' collar, take you down to the back of the police station and beat the livin’ crap outta ya. Ha! Fuck it! We didn’t care. (Are you kidding me?) We loved it, Dalton! We fuckin’ loved it!”
       Angelo had a passion for life in Providence.
     As he stood by my cab on summer days and told his great stories, with the view of any sky flying hawk it was even possible to imagine Providence herself – cloaked and be-jeweled and crowned in the royal finery of all her holy seasons:
     The view of the marble State House itself from Prospect Terrace with the late summer sun setting red and big behind it; the fiery leaves of fall crinkling across ancient skull and boned engraved black stoned graves (IN PROVIDENCE THE DEAD ARE REMEMBERED!); the glow of blue and green and red and orange Christmas lights from the old houses of Benefit Street where George Washington and Edgar Allan Poe and Joe Goto and Elizabeth Prophet and Diane Arbus and Nathaniel West and H.P. Lovecraft so many other brilliant souls have walked; the homey three-deckered South Providence itself blanketed by snow and crowned by a gray wintry sky; the rose colored petals of spring that carpet at least a few sidewalks the author can refer any Doubting Thomas to; the view to the west from Federal Hill* towards the medieval-like churches in the distance; the saved bay with its sails and ships and white wind turbines turning; the silver Point Street Bridge with its riveted iron, iron, as iron as the Harpoon of Shu; and the fires the fires the fires in the cauldrons reflecting wavy red in the rivers…
    Providence:  He let you see our holy sister of religious freedom and revolution.
    Providence: He showed you the goddess.
    Knowing him for his Haven Brothers heroism all of Angelo’s stories really cashed in.
    [You could take what he said to the bank (groan!), of course...]
    As it was, the memory of his courageous Haven Brothers physical act also gave him a divine quality of which I had never before been aware; this paragon of animals Angelo Ricci honored his mortality in a godly way.
     Others will argue, but it’s my view that a lot of cabdrivers – good and hard working ones like Angelo Ricci especially – are like modern rowers on a kind of celestial ship.
    With our cars of many colors we drivers of many colors take you down streets of love and hate and hell and hope. Though the ride itself may be brief, each ride is a worthy symbol of the journey between birth and death.
     And the souls of cabdrivers touch the souls of many.
     The often steel-like souls of cabdrivers meld and mesh and join with those whose souls are weakened by vice and addiction.
     The souls of other cabdrivers blast to light thanks to the souls of the sometimes godly passengers. Their sacred light shines into a cabdriver’s poor – yet most blessed of spirits. (“Blessed are the poor in spirit for they shall see God…”)
     For many people becoming a cabdriver is the same as entering the Gates of Hell; there are corpses before the meter.
     For me becoming a cab driver was the opposite.
     As has been noted, Angelo’s bank robbing and criminal days are long gone.
     He’s just an ordinary guy now, who, despite his criminal record, should be nevertheless honored as a United States veteran and for putting bread on the table for his family.
     That older looking cabdriver with the sturdy brown jacket and the strong hands at the wheel, though, is famous to a couple of people:
     He once jumped like a lightening bolt into a racing cab and saved Haven Brothers Diner and all the people in and around it from harm.
     In at least one former cabdriver’s eyes, he also made a ghost star hit down white electric on the streets of the holy city of Providence…


Linda Faison, St. Petersburg, Florida, USA: Murdered in 2008.

Cathy Stickley, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, USA. Cathy is in the center of this photo with her children. She was murdered in 2011.

Lois Ivory, Grand Prairie, Texas, USA: Murdered in 2008. 
Seerajie Singh, Stabroek, Guyana: Murdered 2006.

Fourth Narrative Arc
(This is the final of a series of articles in Real Cab Rides in which I show how cab driving changed me.)
     During the winter of 2003 depression hit solid.
     Sleep extravaganzas!
     Monster 20-hour “snoozes”!
     “Itty-bitty cat naps” of seven hours – or longer!
      I buried days.
     When June was bustin’ out all over there was probably the most boring suicide attempt in world history.
     [Yeah, so Eddie the Cabbie went to bed and popped a whole lot of codeine tablets. (Yawn.) Ten hours later Eddie the Cabbie woke up. (Yawn.)]
     To be sure I passed for something more than what my late father would have called: “A vegit-ta’bill…”
     But I was dying.
     Depression – the disease I say that had been really fueled up by my stint as a cabdriver – now owned me.
     I did manage to break free of depression.
     How I did is where this cabdriver must go on a little bit of “the scenic route…”*
     First off, my religion is that of an Egyptian polytheist or what many others would deem a pagan. Let me tell you everything about it: NOT!
     Anyhoooooo, one day in 2003 two missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints came a ringringringringing at my door.
     The Mormons stood on the front steps in the late afternoon sun in crisp dark suits. 
     Eddie the Cabbie, who was kind of grubby and depressed with Jimi Hendrix (probably) a-blast, creaked opened the door.
     After polite introductions I told these young men they had no chance of converting me. (It’s possible they suspected this, ha, ha.) One of the good changes that happened to me driving a cab, though, was that I became more accepting of all kinds of people. Besides, I respected these young Mormons – these strangers in a strange land – for the courage they had to go door-to-door to present their religious views.
     The next day the young men and I sat on my porch.
     Around my still Lowden Street Pawtucket home, Thumb-To-Shoulder-Hooking-Mutants-Of-The-Power-Mower-Fetish conducted loud and spiritually yechtifying lawn rituals.
     The Mormans and me drank water. We had a heart-felt discussion of our religious views.
     At one point I wondered what gave these Mormons the courage to go door-to-door.
     “We pray every day (for courage),” offered one beaming youth. “That’s the first thing we do in the morning. And once we have prayed and read Scriptures, we go about our daily work…”
      (For the record, I gave these fine young men a copy of The Egyptian Book of the Dead (or The Book of Going Forth by Day).* They gave me a copy of The Book of Mormon which I have since read. (*The book I gave the Mormons was one by Dr. Ogden Goelet published by Chronicle Books of San Francisco.)
     Some time after I decided to do a lot of what the Mormons did and to pray every morning.* (*I do, of course, also read a little from my various holy books each day.)
     Only in my case, I decided to start daily saying “spells” – or holy words, as I prefer to call them – from my religious books.
     From the R.O.Faulkner translation of The Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead published by the good people of the University of Texas* - in August 2003 I started saying one section of holy words (or one spell) a day. (*Note: This book is different from the one I gave the Mormons – and it is crucial to specify the Faulkner translation: While I consult and revere the E. A. Budge and Goelet translations I seldom say holy words from these editions.)
      After about two weeks – or around September 1, 2003 – I was up to “The 17th Spell,” a section of holy words takes about 20 minutes to say.
     When I finally got to the end, this is what I read and said:
     “…As for anyone who shall read it for his (or her) own benefit, it means being hale (or healthy) on earth, he (or she) shall come forth from every fire and nothing evil shall reach him (or her). It is a matter a million times true; I have seen and it has indeed come to pass through me…”
      Based on those last words I decided to continue to keep saying this 4,000-year-old spell. Maybe something good would happen.
      The words themselves seemed to flash out and into me like steel beams.
       I connected.
       One night I even had a dream of a beautiful woman (goddess?) walking to me through the stars in space.
       In another I called out to the god Anubis, the beloved son of  the god Osiris and the goddess Nephthys. (All these deities are mentioned in The 17th Spell.)
       After a month’s time of daily saying these powerful words a kind of miracle happened:
      My decades’ long depression seemed to have ended.
     I know it took about a month for my depression to go into remission, to be purely scientific, because I remember the day my  depression got under control:
     It was Wednesday, October 1, 2003 – incredibly strangely bizarrely enough – the 10-year anniversary of the death of the beloved Providence cabdriver Patrick Crone.
     As it happened, I had about $80 in my pocket.
     Since I’ve always been a financial genius who knows how to wisely invest his money (Ha!) I figured I’d go into a bar.
     I hadn’t had a beer in months and knew of a bar where the woman bartender  had tattoos of the sun on her arms and also had a really really good – I mean, really really good - body.
      Let's go! I'm there! Take me to the stars!
     The light that afternoon was fantastic.
     The sky was clouded over, but you could see an electrical brightness to the light of that day, much like the light that seems to be hidden under the surface of a great painting.
      I ended up walking west down Providence’s hilly Halsey Street, a street on which there is a good western view.
     In a letter to a prisoner I wrote what next happened:
     “…In the far distance there was a panoramic gray sky sheltering the City of Providence like the heavenly sky in a real Renaissance painting. And there were beams of sunlight shooting through the clouds and filling your view like giant curtains of light, sheets of steely brilliance…
     “A sheet of light spread over the Veterans Memorial temple that is “bombed” (spray-painted a “blotched”) with such large and crude graffiti.* (*In 2003 before this building was renovated, this was the case.) In the glorious distance, the spray painting itself seemed religious, iconic…More sunlight and more clouds as I looked to the west, the west, the beautiful west…and the magnificent gray white clouds slowly edged and rolled above the Providence skyline toward an indiscernible oblivion…”
     “Being on that East Side hill and seeing it all was like trekking few a few days on some unknown Tibetan mountain, turning on a narrow and twisting trail and suddenly viewing a huge, ancient monastery in the beatified distance, a city of hidden biological treasures…Spectacular! A Shangra-la! I stared out the sight and I felt so great about things, so great to be alive…”
     That’s when I’d say my years-long depression started to become very controllable.
      The way it seemed like this one huge sun-filled cloud slowly tip-toed cat-like out of sight to the south…
     My depression that had been made stronger by so many light years of driving a cab broke free of me right then…
     A few things: I am not trying to discount logical or other reasons why my depression seemed to have vanished on this anniversary of the death of Providence cabdriver Patrick Crone.
     I will say that while my depression may not have been cured in the strictest medical sense I have slept reasonable hours for over a decade, do not consider myself clinically depressed, have certainly not attempted suicide.
     Also, I am not trying to push the holy words of The 17th Spell at anyone. 
     I will now just issue this strong warning:
     I will also say this: If you want to end your depression – or lose weight, improve your self-esteem, etc. – pray daily for 20 minutes IN YOUR OWN FAITH.
      Prayer availeth much as it tells you in The Bible, or, as stated in The Koran, one should fortify oneself with prayer.
     If you are an atheist consider saying positive words to yourself daily.
     Many (like me) think this is also good for you…
***** I have been daily saying The 17th Spell for over 16 years
     “…Nevertheless, I would not have learned as much – and only half of what I know would be enough to poison many human souls forever – if I had not become a taxi driver…” Gaito Gazdanov (1903-1971). Russian writer, émigré, World War II Resistance fighter and Paris cab driver between 1928-1951.
     I earlier wrote about how cab driving changed me in ways that were as bad. I deliberately gave you negative examples to make people understand how driving a cab has a terrible impact upon other drivers - psychologically, physically, morally, etc. Then, hopefully, more people will see them as human and less cabdrivers will be murdered.
     However, to get back to fully answering Rhode Island School of Design Professor Michael Fink’s excellent question, having been so poor I had to drive a cab turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened me.
    For a basically shy and nerdy type like I was, I think driving a cab opened me up and made me warmer to the human race in general.
     Cab driving also provided me with memories for an entire life time and made the days and mostly nights when I was in my 40s and 50s one of the most interesting – and best – eras that I ever lived through. (I was, of course, a night man.*) Swear to you: I had more fun being a kind of fat and middle-aged cabdriver in Providence than I did when I was a skinny hippie in my early 20s going to Woodstock and Big Sur and Alaska and Crete and...
      Though I drove mostly part-time – by Providence, R.I. definition – it seems like 50 years of living got jammed into a decade. Despite some of the regrettable things I did back then, I am proud of those years. ("Non, rien de rien, non, je ne regrette rien..." R.I.P. Edith Piaf...) For one, I paid my own way and for two, I stayed at my machine gun as the worthy American writer and poet Charles Bukowski put it. (I never quit writing, that is.)
     Driving a cab gave me a bird’s eye view regarding the tickings and tockings and the alarm clock B-B-B-B-Blastings of the entire human race – something important for any writer to know. The dialogue I heard and tried to memorize: Yo,  that was the best part! (By the way: If people object to the language in this book they must object to reality; if people spoke differently this book would contain no profanities.)
     I became a less fearful person. I learned how to handle difficult and potentially violent people in good sane ways, learned to become a bit of a psychologist. A psychologist I once gave a ride to told me that cabdrivers were the best psychologists, in fact.
     I saw things I never would have been aware of had I been in another occupation. In Rhode Island, probably the most drug taking state (on a per capita basis) in the United States, it’s hard to believe how many drug houses they used to have in Providence and in minority neighborhoods only – Weird! Weird! Weird!  – and how taking passengers to one of these places at 3 a.m. was almost like going to an all-night McDonald’s. Various cars were parked in front of these houses, cabs from different companies were sometimes there, there was a surreal aura to the entire scene.
      Some of these drug houses were in business for months at a time.
    It’s my opinion that the federal, state and local police of the United States are more connected to the international drug trade than most citizens of this country realize – a view I happened to develop through my years as a cabdriver and an opinion I would have never had had I not become a cabdriver. (I've also come to understand that we live in an informant culture and that government operatives - and foreign government operatives - are everywhere. Trust me: There were, I allege, "one or two" undercover cops driving cabs in Providence as there are certainly, I allege, "one or two" foreign and United States spies attending the colleges here.)
     Then, too, nowhere in the world have I seen so many beautiful woman as the tons and tons and tons of beautiful women who nightly got into whatever cab I was then driving. Wow!
     As Gazdanov also explains, because of constantly driving itself, cab driving helped me develop a kind of “hunter’s eye,” a phenomenon he discussed in his novel Night Roads and which he claimed (and I agree with) most experienced cabdrivers acquire. At least according to one worthy study, because of the amount of memorization of streets a pre-GPS cabdriver had to possess, it’s scientifically valid to say that part of my brain grew because of the job. 
     Opinions, rituals, gestures, the streets of the city itself, all the things you heard and were a part of…A small city, Providence, but one that mirrors humanity.
     For a writer, it was also one of the best experiences I could hope to have had while living here. Frankly, I’m glad it was Providence, R.I. USA  where I became a cabdriver. Driving a cab here seemed to be a lot less dangerous and violent than it would have been in another city, yet it still provided me with an authentic look of being a cabdriver in an urban setting. Cabdrivers from Sidney, Australia to Dublin, Ireland, to Mexico City, Mexico to Tokyo, Japan should be able to relate to these stories and identity with themselves in it. (And they do. They look at this blog quite regularly.)
     And these stories in Real Cab Rides will be deemed true and real by cabdrivers throughout the world because of their extremely common nature.
      Except from my suddenly beginning to say that ancient Egyptian spell there are positively no extraordinary occurrences in this book.
      Stories from so many other cabdrivers throughout the world are probably a lot more interesting and unique. Ask them:Virtually every cabdriver in the world could have written Real Cab Rides. And, taking this idea from the late California cabdriver Randy Collenberg, I do think there should be more books like these: Not just cab books, either, but books by waitresses, bartenders, tow truck drivers, bus drivers (definitely!), police people, fire people, emergency room people, etc. 
     I even remember a book by a financially poor student from Maine who put herself through Brown University by working as a stripper: Imagine the guts that took! (Specifically: Ivy League Stripper, by Heidi Mattson: It’s a great and inspirational read and a book that should remain on library shelves for centuries and one that helped inspire me to write this one...)
     No matter how meaningless our work may seem, I say we bring meaning to our work - and our own lives - when we write about our work experiences.
     Because of the relative smallness of the Providence cab community, an essential “tribal” phenomenon particular to cab driving itself could also be observed; I think it would be useful if anthropologists studied the various cab cultures throughout the world. (This brings to mind “The Last Cowboy,” a scholarly paper by one Kimberly Berry about the cab culture in Halifax, Nova Scotia and accessible through WWW.TAXI –LIBRARY.ORG.)
    In a way, my being a cabdriver was kind of like the experiences the American writer Herman Melville had when he went to sea and observed the customs of his fellow sailors, the technical aspects of various ships, the sea itself. (Call me Eddie…Whenever my dollar bills are too wet to fit in the change machine of the Rhode Island Public Transit Association buses or the people at Dunkin Donuts don’t hear my order for: “AN EXTRA LARGE LIGHT REGULAR WITH EXTRA SUGAR…”; whenever there are too many twigs in my weed or undercover cops pretending to be homeless people asking for spare change on Providence’s Thayer Street - that the often brilliant young students are too naive to perceive as undercover cops - give me the evil eye – I figure I should take to the meter…)
      [Incidentally: Though I did drive for Airport Taxi in Warwick, R.I. for two years (1999-2001) and a few of my experience there are recorded here – and through this time always drove through the City of Providence – it was mostly in Providence itself where I drove.]
     I often think of how I had the arguably negative experience of being a cabdriver but how I also turned it all around by writing about it. I gained value from this job and learned an important lesson as an artist. As my acquaintance Joe Goto said: "Make death your friend." Yes, you really do something when you embrace the negative - which is one way you can interpret Joe's statement - and use it to your advantage. The bad things you live through can be your greatest gifts, especially if you're a writer...
     To write something similar to what the angelic World War II Holocaust victim Anne Frank wrote, cab driving also showed me that most people are basically decent.
     Though the psychological effects of driving a cab nearly killed me, ironically it was because cab driving changed me to where I would always listen to other people’s points of view that I was able to learn from the example of various people – including people who are so different from me, like the Mormons. (Hey! And I got a book outta this lousy job! No bad! And there are even more stories I'm writing about this part of my life!)
      If my late pal and fellow cabdriver and genuine genius Joshua Seth Lovett were still alive he'd laugh his ass off at the next line.
      But as far as I'm concerned the Mormons saved my life.
      Because of the courageous young Mormons I met, I have a much stronger faith, and am, I believe, a better person.
     For what it’s worth I am now a person who prays for the souls of murdered cabdrivers – and other folks – every day.
     I last drove a regular taxi in the City of Providence in the spring of 2004.
     However, until just last May, I was, in a sense, still driving a taxi in Providence: For the last few years when the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) was in session I drove part-time (night shift) transporting students and other people affiliated with this school from place to place. 
    "Not motionless will he remain in this land forever beautiful..."
     P.S. And RISD students, who attend one of the best art colleges on earth and have to have some brains to get to go here. This is incredible but I found at least six of you didn't know this: REMBRANDT WAS AN ARTIST! (AND I AM TOTALLY SERIOUS ABOUT STUDENTS AT RISD NOT KNOWING THIS!)
    By the by: When I published many of these stories in other past print editions I was on a mission to have safety partitions installed in Rhode Island cabs. I tried to do this by having state legislators pass a law requiring them. (Ha, ha! You think the state legislators of Rhode Island care about workers who don't belong to some mobbed up labor union!? Ha, ha! My bad! What a fool I was!) At least three times – once through the financial help of a family member who gave me $50  – Thanks Beth! – I sent letters to each state legislator regarding the matter, the last time being in 2010.  I even got a pretty good death threat because of my wanting to put safety partitions in cabs. The fellow cabdriver/pimp/police informer who threatened me said he knew four or five guys who could “hunt me down.”
       He wasn’t kidding: We both knew the same people.
       Big surprise: The death threat aside, I have changed my mind regarding mandating safety partitions based on carefully considering a New York Times article by Fox Butterfield. What happens to back seat passengers who bang their faces against these safety partitions in an automobile accident and need extensive plastic surgery? This was one point of Butterfield’s up-to-snuff and well-researched article. I now think more studies should be made regarding safety partitions – since it is the passengers whose welfare is most important in the taxi business, of course.
       Also, though I did quit cab driving in part because of the serious-enough death threat, I changed my mind and stopped doing work regarding safety partitions at least six years after this extremely minor, of course, 2004 Life of Eddie death threat episode.
     However, if I ever became rich and famous- or if someone rich and beautiful and smart like the current popular singer and part time Rhode Island resident Taylor Swift wants to help me me me – the one and only thing I want to do is to establish a benevolent fund and foundation for cabdrivers of the world. And, certainly, I want to do this after consulting and brainstorming with experts in this field, that is, THE CABDRIVERS OF THE WORLD. Additionally, I simply want to establish  the fund, and, besides contributing to it, nothing much beyond that.
     (This should be great news to the cabdrivers of this world!)
     You know, when a cabdriver is murdered their families are often left in poverty. With the input of others more knowledgeable than myself I do want to establish some kind of organization to help these families, even prevent these murders.
     In this world cabdrivers currently get murdered at the rate of one per week. If people only got the message that cabdrivers were (mostly) good people and that they do a tough and dangerous job – that, in fact, there have been cabdrivers like Gaito Gazdanov who fought in the French Resistance and saved many from the Nazi death camps -  that alone would make this murder rate decrease BECAUSE THEN CABDRIVERS WOULD BE REASONABLY HUMANIZED.
     I bring light.
     Get ready, too: I want to name it The Ahmed Hussein Ahmed Fund in honor of a cabdriver who was murdered in Minneapolis, Minnesota and as a way to show people of the world that regular working Americans  like me - who is 70 and still works, by the way – honor fellow workers of all religions and races.

Ahmed Hussein Ahmed: Murdered 2003.

     [This letter-to-the-editor appeared in Providence’s East Side Monthly in June, 1996. Its subject concerns one of the main reasons I scrimped and saved to publish (in print) a few previous  (and shorter) versions of this book: The slap-on-the-wrist sentence a cabdriver’s killer received. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts profaned the death of Patrick Crone by allowing his murderer to have remained at-large. Additionally, I wanted (and want) to ensure that the name of the slain cabdriver Patrick Crone lives on long after I’m gone - and known on every country on the planet.
      Patrick Crone: You were not some nothing cabdriver who I will ever allow the people of the world to forget. YOU ARE OF THE LIVING. (And Patrick Crone: As of 6/14/15 your name was known on every continent; they've heard of you from Brazil to the Ukraine, from China to Italy. P.S. As of October 2019 they have heard your name in over 100 countries.)
     To cabdrivers of the world: I know you all know someone like Patrick Crone.
     Many of you reading this have even had close brushes with death yourself.
     I say we forever end this senseless carnage of cabdrivers.
     People of all faiths: Pray for cabdrivers.
     People of all views: Work to give cabdrivers a better perception in the public eye and help to improve the standards of their jobs...]

     I think Raymond Crone – beloved brother of the late Patrick Crone – said it best:
     “We just lost our faith (in the judicial system).”
     Thomas E. Damiano, 31, of Maryland, was not tried for murdering Patrick, a 31-year-old Providence cabdriver, on the night of Oct. 1, 1993.
     Instead, he was allowed to plead guilty to the reduced charge of manslaughter and received a slap-on-the-wrist sentence: Time served before making bail and probation.
     This light sentence happened because after he allegedly kidnapped and pushed Patrick out from his moving cab (which was then traveling in Massachusetts), Damiano wasn’t instantly read his Miranda rights.* (*In the United States when people are arrested they must be told their legal - or Miranda - rights.)
     Instead, when the Fall River police discovered Damiano – who was high on cocaine and drunk near the taxi he stole and wrecked – they treated and questioned him as a witness and handcuffed him for his – and their – protection.
      Only when they brought him to the scene of Patrick’s death – and the Massachusetts State Police identified him as the prime murder suspect – was Damiano read his legal rights.
     Then, at the murder scene, the person who had been raving about “a conspiracy” out to get him gave more testimony regarding the cab ride from the Providence train station that ended in Patrick’s killing…
      Because of this delayed reading of his rights, Massachusetts Judge Richard Chin ruled that everything Damiano had said – even those crucial statements made after being properly read his rights – was inadmissible as evidence.
     Damiano, according to Chin’s ruling, made statements before being properly advised he had the right to remain silent. That, according to the judge, somehow made all of his testimony inadmissible.
     Chin’s judgment was then supported by the Massachusetts Supreme Court. Even though Damiano began talking while he was being restrained by the police (again, Damiano had been handcuffed as a safety precaution), that court also ruled he should have been read his rights as soon as he was handcuffed.
     Since most of the evidence against Damiano therefore couldn’t be used, state prosecutors reasoned it would be difficult to prove his guilt and settled for a lesser sentence.
     Thus, in addition to the 18 months in prison Damiano served before making bail, the man who allegedly told Patrick he had a gun and to keep driving, and, (according to prosecutors), pushed the driver out of the speeding cab, was subsequently sentenced, on May 14, 1996, to 10 YEARS OF PROBATION* – with counseling sessions to attend and community service to be performed.(*When you serve probation in the United States it usually means you see some official once in awhile and then go your merry way.)
     While many think the Fall River police botched their job with their ill-timed reading of Damiano’s Miranda rights, considering the situation they were confronted with that night this veteran cabdriver feels they should be left off the hook.
     Despite the dangerous way he was acting, when they discovered Damiano the police afforded him the type of consideration all citizens should receive.
     Restraining the high and conspiracy babbling man while questioning him as the witness to a crime appears to have been a professional action.  Damiano was shirtless when police found him. He looked like a victim, not a perpetrator.
     In no way should their treatment of Damiano have affected his testimony in court.
     I sympathize with the local and state police on this matter. They are just supposed to catch criminals and are not required to have doctorate degrees in the proper reading of one’s legal rights. But I feel extreme anger and hatred towards Chin as well as the higher court of Massachusetts for upholding Chin’s decision.
     It may correlate with a soul-less legal code that the reading of one’s Miranda rights be as delicately timed as the kiss of shame in a Satanic Black Mass.
     But it has nothing to do with the heart and soul of American justice.
     Under no circumstances is justice ever served when a murderer and kidnapper is allowed to go free without a trail while his victim lies cold in the ground and his family and friends grieve.
      (Unless a miracle happens, because there was no trial we’ll never come close to finding out what really happened in those last minutes of Patrick’s life. Such a mystery adds salt to our wounds.)
     While I also suppose this ruling and its upholding by the higher court could be viewed as “one bad call,” it’s an action so outrageous it shrieks of other ill-considered decisions.
     When you see one cockroach in the sink it’s a safe bet there are other bugs around.
     When judges make rulings like these you can reasonably believe they’ll make other whoppers.
     I believe Chin and his state Supreme Judicial Court colleagues would be doing a great service to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts if they stepped down from the bench; and the people would be performing an important civic task if they forced them down.
     This may be out of accordance with their limited understanding of humanity. But the millions of hard-working people like Patrick – who, in Patrick’s case, work about 60-hours-a-week (he helped support his mother) – have enough problems with judges like these molesting the law.
    (Also consider: When it comes to being killed on the job being a cabdriver is statistically almost four times as dangerous as being a police officer. What kind of message does a ruling like this send to criminals? That cabdrivers are disposable people!? Cabdrivers aren’t nobodies. Cabdrivers vote, work and influence millions of people. They deserve much more respect than what they get; they deserve much more status. As is the case when the police get killed on the job, when cabdrivers get killed in the line of duty they deserve memorials and parades, too…)
     I say laws should be enacted – laws with teeth – that ethically enable the police to obtain evidence from suspects without possessing the savoir-faire of a Harvard Law School professor, laws so simply written it would be impossible for judges like Chin to botch their interpretation.
     What does it take to understand that allowing criminals like Damiano to walk freely because of a legal technicality impedes the safety of society and makes hard-working people like Patrick’s brother Raymond – who  earnestly seek justice - lose faith in our legal system?
     How can we allow ourselves to become slaves to a judicial process that derives its strength from us?
     Get ready:
     Judges don’t rule us.
     We rule them.
     Laws don’t suddenly pop into being.
     It’s through the people that they’re made or changed.
     (It’s never your courtroom judges of the United States. It’s always ours!)
     It’s clearly within our power as citizens of a democratic republic to alter the behavior or judges, give them the boot if we want – and to transform the laws through which their power is attained.
     At the very least Damiano’s probation board – Patrick’s only hope for justice at this point – should see that this killer completes his probation without the slightest deviation from the proper rules and regulations.
     If being five minutes late for a probation meeting is enough cause for Damiano to be sent back to prison, many who knew Patrick would encourage the zealous enforcement of such a stipulation.
     It’s far too much that Damiano is alive and among us while the beloved Patrick – who passed from this world in such a horrible way – is gone.
     Indeed, we’ll be watching to make sure Damiano complies with the most rigid probationary regulations and if he doesn’t – and the authorities fail to incarcerate him – THERE WILL BE HELL TO PAY.
     Oh, by the way, Damiano, I haven’t met you but if I did there is one thing I would want to make sure you knew.
     It’s about that conspiracy you told the police about that night my friend Patrick Crone was murdered.
     You don’t have to get drunk, sniff cocaine and kill a cabdriver and then imagine there’s a conspiracy out to get you.
      There honestly is a conspiracy out to get you.
      It’s real.
      I’m in it.

                       -THE END-

     October 1 – the day Patrick Crone was murdered – is now a day in which I generally visit my parents’ graves, walk east to west over Providence’s Point Street Bridge and while crossing it wish the greatest of all wishes: That I keep my faith.
         On this day I also say special prayers for the soul of Patrick Crone – and the souls of all other murdered cabdrivers.

(And here I will not ask you for tips and donations but just to remember that cabdrivers are only human, and, if you have a faith, to pray for them…)

View of the Point Street Bridge.

(This glossary of Providence taxi terms was current as of 2004. As of now, 2019, new words and expressions could probably be added, other phrases would be deemed obsolete. There are also a few expressions which are relevant to cab driving here but largely represent my own opinion. Also note that ride hailing services like Uber have killed the local taxi business and the Providence urban/tribal cab culture has been virtually decimated. There are still cab drivers in the city but they neither make anywhere near the money cabdrivers made decades ago nor appear to have the street knowledge previous generations of cabdrivers had. This entire glossary, therefore, is pretty much reflective of a forever vanished way of life and a dead language: Quid pro quo, Vini, vidi, vici! All this said, ghosts who knew the lingo like Big Red and The One Whose Name Will Not Be Mentioned will forever haunt the sacred streets of Providence...)

A BELL JOB – A fare when a customer phones a taxi company and a driver is subsequently dispatched to a customer’s address. (Example: “I just did a BELL JOB on Fountain Street.”)

BELLMAN, A GOOD BELLMAN, NOT A BELLMAN, A BAD BELLMAN – A cabdriver who will consistently work the bell (take phone-in work from a dispatcher) and never refuse such jobs is considered A BELLMAN or A GOOD BELLMAN. (NOT A BELLMAN or A BAD BELLMAN are opposites. Also, though women do drive cabs in Providence, their gender is seldom referred to in this definition.)

A BIG ASS – A way of saying that a cabdriver has the good luck to get a great and usually long-distance and high paying fare. (Example:  “That Mike Mello has A BIG ASS: He’s always going to Boston.”… “Man, did I have A BIG ASS the other night. I made some money, let me tell you.”)
     A second definition of A BIG ASS – as Margo Lopes, another legendary Providence cabdriver told me - is that a cabdriver has the willpower to wait somewhere – usually for hours – for a long-paying fare to get into h/her cab. (By the way: It is nothing short of heroic for a woman to work as a cabdriver in cabs in Providence, anywhere: Male drivers who look down at them are not my friends.)

A BIG SPACONE – In a city where one of the most dominant ethnic groups is Italian, this Italian expression roughly translates to “a buffoon.” In the Providence cab business A BIG SPACONE means a show-off driver who hangs around the center of Providence and brags of tremendous tips, tells lies of being asked by gorgeous young women to have sex in exchange for rides and so on. (Example: “Go hang out with all of the BIG SPACONES on the Plaza!” Norman the cab dispatcher told one driver.)

A BIRD – A fare to T.F.Green Airport in Warwick, R.I. (Example: “I did three BIRDS today…”)

A BOMB – Among Providence cabdrivers any fare that goes more than 20 miles is considered a high-paying fare or A BOMB. (Example: “I was having a lousy night – but then I caught a BOMB to Newport.”) (Note that when referring to destinations in BOMBS – or any other job – often the name of the destination is the only thing mentioned. Thus: “I caught a Boston…”, “I bagged a Newport…”, etc. Also the words “catch” or “bagged” are used: Providence cabdrivers are essentially tribal and unconsciously consider themselves to be hunters.)

A DAY MAN, A NIGHT MAN – A cabdriver who works days is considered A DAY MAN. A NIGHT MAN drives nights. DAY MEN are by and large what most Americans would deem normal people, and while DAY MEN have certainly been assaulted and robbed here – indeed, Providence cabdriver Jose Rodriguez was murdered in broad daylight in the nearby City of Pawtucket in 2007 – their fares largely consist of business people,  college students and generally other harmless folk. NIGHT MEN (which I was) tend to be a less normal and are constantly dealing with drunks, other potentially violent sorts. During the years I drove there was a constant shortage of NIGHT MEN.

A DRUGGIE – A drug user of crack-cocaine, cocaine or heroin.

A FLAG DOWN, A FLAG – A passenger who hails down a cab from the street as is often done in bigger places like New York City. In his own book of cab stories – "Cab 10: The West Coast Cabbie" – the late California cabdriver Randy Collenberg reported using the same expression once over the radio to his dispatcher. However, the passenger he picked up didn’t quite hear him and thought the gregarious Collenberg said he had just picked up “a fag.”
     Also, a sidebar story: I once transported a passenger from T.F.Green Airport to Wheaton College in nearby Massachusetts. The blond and blue-eyed young woman told me that she was from Northern California. “Wow, there’s this cabdriver’s website I sometimes log onto,” I told her. “The guy used to drive in this Northern California town called Arcata and used to write for this paper called The Arcata Eye. He’s been compared to the Los Angeles writer Charles Bukowski. But he and his wife just died in a car crash…”                                                                                
     Incredibly enough, the young woman had been a passenger of Collenberg!
     “Gee, that’s terrible that he died,” she said. “The guy was so kind, so warm…” (To check on the veracity of this account, besides her physical description and the fact the she attended Wheaton, this young woman had been a White House intern. People from Eureka, California – where I believe she hailed from – should know who she is. She must be in her late-30s by now, 2019. Incidentally, “My Greatest Adventure” by Collenberg is the funniest cab story I have ever read…)

A GOOD BELL, A BAD BELL – A company that has many customers calling for cabs is considered to have A GOOD BELL. (A BAD BELL is clearly the opposite.)(Example: “You can always make money at Yellow Cab: They got a GOOD BELL…”)

A GOOD BOOKER, A BAD BOOKER – A driver who earns (or doesn’t earn) money for a company.

A “HE-SHE” – A transvestite. (Example: “I took a HE-SHE to North Providence.”)

A  NO PARTY – When you’re dispatched to an address and nobody is waiting for you. Most cabdrivers get at least one NO PARTY a shift – and to get three in a row is not uncommon.

A  PART-TIMER – Any Providence cabdriver who works less than 60 hours a week, or in the company I worked for, 72 hours a week. (Definition provided by former boss and late local cab authority David Morris, self-made man and owner of Yellow Cab of Cranston, R.I.)

A PARTY – A fare, riders. (Example: “I have A PARTY going to Camp Street…”)

A WHORE RUN – Taking a passenger to any neighborhood where street prostitutes congregate so the passenger can hook up (for sex). [Business is then conducted between the passenger and the prostitute. If a cabdriver has any brains h/she will stay out of the selection process (and any consequent monetary discussion) since undercover police officers occasionally hop into cabs pretending to be looking for prostitutes. During the time I drove, the cops wouldn’t go into the many bars where (I allege) Mickey Mafia* approved pimps and prostitutes (and drug dealers and the sacred bookies, of course) peacefully plied their trade and were (I allege) part of the pay-off/informant process: The people in blue (I allege) were only seeking the "cowboy" independents.]

“ARE YOU A COP?” – A most lame-ass question! Typically, a cabdriver will be asked this question by a druggie passenger. The rationale for it is that if an undercover police officer is asked that questions and denies being a cop, the druggie can’t be arrested. This is not only false reasoning but such a question can be introduced as testimony in court.

BACK IN THE DAY – The 60s, the 70s, the 80s…Times past…Auld Lang Syne…

BACK IN THE HACK – To get back in your taxicab and again be ready for work.

BARS BREAKING, WHEN THE BARS BREAK – When the bars close for the night in Providence (which is 1 a.m. on weeknights, 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday). At this time, on weekends especially, the city turns into a zoo: The young Massholes* who migrate here on weekends are drunk and blasted on drugs and racing around like rats in heat: The state and local police, I allege, just let them own and rule the streets. (The Rhode Island liquor lobby is powerful and I allege the local liquor industry wants to sell as much booze as it possibly can.) Tragically, one minority city policeman – Sgt. Cornel Young Jr.  – was mistakenly killed here by his fellow Providence Police officers (seriously!) right after THE BARS BROKE; two other innocent college kids were abducted and executed – gang-land style – at this time.

BEATING THE MIKE – When a driver speaks before pressing the button on the radio receiver and thus fails to communicate much of his information to the cab dispatcher. New drivers BEAT THE MIKE quite a bit. (Example: “Say that again, Car 9. You’re BEATING THE MIKE.)

BEING AVAILABLE – Being willing to take a phone-in job. (Note: At most Providence cab companies you’re always asked if you’re AVAILABLE. To be directly ordered to get a job would mean you’re technically employed by the company and heir to all rights and benefits workers in the United States should have. Generally a driver leases a cab in Providence and is not technically employed by anyone.) (Example: “Cab 11: Are you AVAILABLE?” asked the dispatcher. “AVAILABLE answered the driver.)

BELL WORK – Phone-in jobs.

BOOTLEGGERS – Modern Providence BOOTLEGGERS neither possess their own stills nor purchase truckloads of liquor from people like Al Capone. Yet a few enterprising souls stock up on cases of beer (typically) and sell six-packs to discerning consumers (after the bars and liquor stores close) at inflated prices. BOOTLEGGERS sometimes even feature their own after-hour “clubs” set up in living rooms. I've never attended these parties but one driver insisted they could be a lot of fun.

CABBIE – I can’t say that all Providence cabdrivers spurn this expression. But I’m on solid ground when I say cabdriver or cab man or cab woman are the preferred terms.

CALLING OUT A JOB, TO CALL OUT A JOB – When a cabdriver announces over the radio that h/he’s going somewhere with a fare.

“CAN’T COMPLAIN, DON’T DO YA NO GOOD…” A “self-explanatory” one-size-fits-all and typical Rhode Island expression filled with an inordinate amount of psychological denial, the appropriate “witful” response being: “NOBODY’S GONNA LISTEN TO YA IF YA DO!”…Call me an oddball but I believe a lot of good happens when you do complain. If it wasn’t for complainers like Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., for example, civil rights for black Americans may not have happened.  

CHECK DAY – This is the day or days of the month when welfare stipends were issued, the first of any given month being one of those days. The Providence taxi business was always booming on CHECK DAY. (Example: “It’ll be CHECK DAY next week. Then I’ll make some money,” observed one Providence cabdriver.)

CHIPPING A JOB, TO CHIP BIG – When a cabdriver doesn’t record the full fare amount and steals a bit of money for h/himself it’s called CHIPPING A JOB. TO CHIP BIG is when a job is a return trip, say, and the cabdriver doesn’t record the entire amount on the return fare. [Also note: “Chipping” is a junkie expression in Providence. It means to use a couple of bags of heroin every so often and thus avoid becoming addicted (which, according to what one drug counselor/passenger told me, is virtually impossible).]

CLEAN WORK – Fares in which passengers are decent, harmless, easy to get along with. Students and tourists and city’s hospitality workers and regular riders are in this category. (Example: “Those Rhode Island School of Design kids are all CLEAN WORK…” P.S. And those kids from RISD are good kids, very intelligent and - generally - polite and respectful and hard working young people…If only they learned a little bit more art history...There were, for instance, at least six students I gave rides to in recent years who didn't know Rembrandt was an artist - and I swear I am not making this up...)

CLIPS AND GYPS, CLIPS AND RIPS, GLOMS OR GLOMMING – Various ways of referring to ways of scamming companies out of an extra dollar or three, like not recording the exact fare amount, not recording waiting time, etc. (Example:  “I should-a only took in 110 the other night but CLIPS AND RIPS pushed it t’150…”)

CLOWN TOWN – An infamous drug neighborhood that was located on Somerset and Portland streets in South Providence where children got shot and sometimes sold drugs and a place that was (and is) populated by most decent blacks and Hispanics. It’s called CLOWN TOWN for two reasons:
      1. The houses were and are all pastel or “clownish” colors.
      2. According to one passenger the people who sold drugs: “…be nothin’ but a bunch of clowns.”
      Awhile back a woman student from Brown University wrote an excellent article about Clown Town that was published in The Providence Journal. The piece was criticized by local community activists for being racist. (The article was certainly negative – in a real and justifiable way – but was not racist: The student who wrote it, in fact, was a person of color.) Then the same activists held a rally in Clown Town to protest the article’s publication.
     Clown Town wasn’t that bad, the activists asserted.
     Tragically, hours after this protest, a young man was gunned down from across the street from where the demonstration had been held.
     Clown Town was every bit as evil as the student reported.
     However, it must be reported that this neighborhood has improved since the early to mid-1990s when I drove a cab and since the young woman’s account appeared.
     I had in the mid 1990s written an article in which kids on mountain bikes dealing drugs in Clown Town were mentioned. A few weeks after my article appeared an adolescent was arrested for selling drugs here. The Providence Journal then published a few stories about Clown Town. 

CULT OF THE GUIDO – CULT OF THE GUIDO is a self-invented expression that to me evokes images of Providence’s great horror writer H.P.Lovecraft’s Cult of Cthulu. It specifically refers to Americans of Italian descent (like me) who are (unlike me, I hope) kind of boorish people. It used to be that the men wore the slicked back hair and the leisure suits, the women had the corpse thick make-up and the Big Hair. (“Fashions” change, though.) Instead of considering the glorious history of Italy and spirits like Virgil, Cicero, Michelangelo, Dante, Giotti, Fellini– And hey: I could go on a long time with the Roman and Italian names here, buddy! – CULT OF THE GUIDO people only seem to honor people like the late Providence Mickey Mafia* green shit fly mobster Raymond L.S. Patriarca: In Rhode Island that dead thing is their god. People who are CULT OF THE GUIDO do not know their own glorious Italian history. People who are CULT OF THE GUIDO couldn’t tell you the difference between Caravaggio and canoli – and wow, do I have a story on this!
     P.S. An allegation: The late Patriarca – a criminal genius: NOT! – couldn’t have lasted as long as he did unless various corrupt authorities were helping him. He handled the money, the money: Hey, hey: He handled the money – and did not, in this former cabdriver’s opinion - possess real criminal brilliance.  At best, Patriarca was the head supermarket check-out person of New England crime. (HEY CARLA! CARLA! GET OV-A HERE! THIS FRIGGIN’ SALAMI WON’T SCAN! CARLA! HEY CARLA!)
Raymond L.S. Patriarca (1908-1984)
They claim the putrid languid one "ran" things...The myth of his great and unstoppable power works well for the corrupt and bribed police and various politicians, of course...

CUTTING THE TOWN – Going from Point A to Point B the shortest possible way. Because of the virtual maze of streets (roughly 1,700) in Providence’s 19-square miles, no tourist could ever do this, few Providence natives even can. (Experienced cabdrivers know this city better than the police and fire and rescue people, I’d say.) It takes at least a year of steady driving before a Providence cabdriver is properly able to CUT THE TOWN. (Incidentally, New York City is a grid town with many logically numbered streets. Most of the streets of Providence have names and must have been laid out by spiders on hallucinogens. And yes, there are indeed 420 miles of streets in Providence, kind buds. (Source for street miles: "The Prince of Providence," by Mike Stanton.)

“DO YOU GO OUT?” – A prostitute’s question, one interpretation being: “Do you want to pay me to have sex?”

“DO WE KNOW THESE PEOPLE?” –  A question drivers sometimes put to dispatchers when they’re dispatched to a sinister address.

DOWNTOWN, DOWNCITY, THE APPLE, THE CITY – Expressions connoting the business center of the City of Providence that has been revitalized in recent years. Streets are kept clean, there are new parks and new hotels, the sidewalks (generally) are safe to walk around, etc. Providence could now serve as a model for how the central parts of cities in the United States should be. Here the central campus of Johnson&Wales is located as is one of the finest shopping malls in the United States – and also the oldest (The Arcade) indoor shopping mall.

DOWN HERE OR OUT HERE – DOWN HERE OR OUT HERE has no geographical meaning in Providence. It simply means working as a city driver. (Example: “I’ve been DOWN HERE since the 80s,” Bobby H. said to me.)

DRUG HOUSES – Houses where drugs were sold, which, in my experience in the early to mid-1990s, were usually in South Providence or in the West End of the city, specifically the minority neighborhoods. Most DRUG HOUSES lasted only for a few weeks – but some were in business for months, like ones near the corner of Burnside and Reynolds streets. One, on Providence’s Grant Street, stayed in business for several years. These days drug runs and DRUG HOUSES are rare in Providence. Most drug sellers now arrange to meet their clients at random locations. Then, too, (I allege) people continue to buy drugs in various bars and coffeehouses and the authorities (I again allege) continue to turn a blind eye to it. 

DRUG RUNS – Taking passengers to where they purchase drugs, specifically heroin or cocaine. When Crack was King in the early 1990s I did at least one DRUG RUN a night.

EAGLE PARK – A blue-collar Providence neighborhood on the west side of the city.

EL GATO – Spanish for “The Cat” and my now rarely used nickname.

FEDERAL HILL – The so-called  "Italian part of town” – though most Italians have since moved to the suburbs. Some of the best Italian restaurants in New England are located in this area as is some outstanding Victorian architecture. Regrettably, the place also featured the headquarters of the dirt bag Patriarca crime family, which, according to the FBI, controlled all organized crime in a great part of New England.
      While I don't think this neighborhood is a blatantly corrupt as it once was, I'd say a few Mickey Mafia* “executives” still work on FEDERAL HILL.

FEEDING, GETTING FED,  TO BE FED – The most highly charged and explosive concept in the Providence cab business. It means to be unfairly given choice and high-paying jobs by a particular radio dispatcher.
      FEEDING is unethical but it happens – though not as much as most drivers insist. Still, more than any other topic of conversation, hearing about who got FED, what company did the most FEEDING, etc. is the most prevalent topic of conversation among area drivers. I seldom worked a single night in Providence without broaching this topic with another cabdriver. Considering Providence cabdrivers, though, I’d say most of them are a courageous and independent lot who risk their lives on each shift. To say any one of them is getting FED implies a passive nurturing of sorts: Most Providence cabdrivers FEED themselves.
     (Examples: “You motherfuckin’ faggot asshole! I’m  gonna kick your fuckin’ ass! You got FED that Boston! That should-a been my Boston, you fuckin’ cocksucker!”  a driver pointed out…”Eddie, Eddie, let me tell you something: There’s FEEDING going on in this company!” sayeth Paulie.)

FLAT RATE – A prearranged rate to a particular location, usually a destination that’s far away. Also, while many think that a FLAT RATE will be cheaper (than a metered rate), sometimes it’s not. Unscrupulous drivers often charge high rates to out-of-state destinations. [Note: It’s legal for a Rhode Island cabdriver to charge any rate to take a passenger over the state line. However, all rides within the border of Rhode Island must be set at (or under) the metered rate of $2.50 per mile or it’s illegal - but Uber drivers  flagrantly "get around" this law.] [Example: “What’s your FLAT RATE to Boston?” an innocent passenger asked Arnie* (*Not his real name), a scumbag driver notorious for ripping off passengers.]

FLYING JOBS, FLYIN’ `EM – When a driver gets a fare and doesn’t record it on his trip sheet – or essentially robs a company owner out of h/his take of the fare. Company owners can determine whether or not a driver is robbing a company by meter checks, or, easier, by checking miles traveled on the odometer. Since it costs $2.50 for each mile traveled in Rhode Island cabs, a driver who gives his company at least $1.50 for each mile traveled probably isn’t FLYING JOBS.
     In some circles FLYING JOBS is even considered proper etiquette; it’s a defining tribal ritual; if you don’t steal you’re deemed an oddball.

FOODIES -  Food stamps – or food coupons that welfare recipients used to pay for  food. Occasionally customers would pay for their cab fare in FOODIES.

FOX POINT – A well-maintained Providence neighborhood located near the city’s East Side and largely populated by students and people of Portuguese descent. Also: Birthplace of American songwrtier/Broadway impresario George M. Cohan. More important, where angelic and scholarly Providence founder first landed in 1636 after fleeing from the Taliban-like Puritans.

FRONT MONEY – Fare money paid in advance. This is usually requested by Providence drivers when an unknown passenger is going for a ride exceeding $10. (Unlike other cities Providence drivers are usually paid for the ride at the end of the journey.)

GAMMING – Herman Melville, the great American writer and author of the whaling masterpiece, "Moby Dick," noted the phrase GAMMING to describe what happened when two Nantucket whalers met up with each other on some faraway ocean and gathered together to exchange news of home, chat, pass on mail, etc. I use the phrase in reference to the days when Providence cabdrivers would find themselves parked together in front of some popular drug house and would generally wink at each other, give each other the nod. (It was, of course, common for cabs from various companies to be parked in front of any particular Providence drug house, so frequent were these journeys – and so long-term were many of the drug houses.)

GARBAGE RUNS, SHIT JOBS – Extremely short fares that a cabdriver doesn’t make much money on. Also, picking up (or dropping off) fares at landromarts, supermarkets.

GEEKING – To be heavily under the influence of cocaine, a condition sometimes categorized by loud and illogical speeches, ranting arguments.

GESTURE OF ANOTHER CABDRIVER BARGING INTO THE BACK SEAT OF YOUR PARKED CAB TO TALK – Be you friendly with them or not, it’s common practice for other drivers to pop into your cab when they may feel like it.

GESTURE OF A SINGLE MALE PASSENGER BARGING INTO THE FRONT SEAT WITH YOU – Usually, this means the guy is an aggressive gay male – even though he may not fit the stereotype of how gay males are supposed to appear, act or speak, buddy. (Note: In Australia, this – and the following entry – are not applicable. In that country it’s common practice for passengers  to sit up front.)

GESTURE OF A SINGLE WOMAN PASSENGER BARGING INTO THE FRONT SEAT WITH YOU – Generally, a woman who  does this is a prostitute.

GESTURE OF HOLDING UP ONE’S MICROPHONE TO ANOTHER DRIVER – Say a driver is first in line at the Providence Biltmore hotel cab stand and people inside the hotel have phone another company. If phoned for drivers are holding their microphones so that the first-in-line-in-the-stand drivers can see it, it means they’ve been called to pick up a passenger and are not stealing a job.

GESTURE OF IMMEDIATELY OFFERING FRONT MONEY  - Some minorities - especially young black males – will automatically offer you front money when entering your cab. Because of racism they want to assure you that “even though they’re black” they’re not going to rip you off. (I refused to encourage this behavior. I have never been a saint when it comes to race relations, but it shamed me when a minority kid who is clean and respectful offered me money in this manner and it is one vivid example of how entrenched racism is in the United States.)
     This gesture of immediately giving a cabdriver front money is also a junkie gesture. (And unlike young black males from junkies I encouraged this gesture.)

GESTURE OF INSTANTLY CUTTING OFF A CONVERSATION WHEN PEOPLE ON THE STREET APPROACH YOU FOR A TAXI – If two drivers are talking – and someone who wants a ride walks up to one of them – it’s not unusual for the driver getting the fare to instantly turn from a fellow driver and leave the conversation dangling. In the Providence taxi business work dominates – and no offense is ever meant, taken.

GETTING ROCKED, ROCKING – To have rocks thrown at your cab. This happened to me once in Providence’s Chad Brown housing project. I had just dropped off some nice older women and was driving away and a kid on a bicycle hurled a rock through my windshield (which cracked it) and then threw another rock through the window right behind me. (That second rock crashed the window and missed my head by about a foot.)
     (Example: “Don’t send no cabs near Prairie and Oxford tonight,” a cabdriver warned others over the radio. “Some kids on the street just ROCKED me.”)

GIRL – A woman, usually a young one. Used quite often in cab companies but never intended to exploit or denigrate women. In the Providence cab business when a female is called a woman it’s usually an indication that she’s elderly. (Example: “Pick up that GIRL going to Brown…”) [Note,  too, that women in the Providence cab business use the word GIRL consistently. And the GIRLS of the Providence cab business earn their keep and are tough as nails: Male cabdrivers who don’t like women cabdrivers are not my friends; it takes a lot of guts for a woman to drive a cab and most men - an opinion - don't have that kind of courage.]

“GO DOWNTOWN AND PLAY TAXI!” – When taxi dispatchers are angry with a particular driver they might suggest this. To tell a driver to GO DOWNTOWN AND PLAY  TAXI, therefore, is to imply a driver isn’t a worthy cab person.

GOING AGAINST THE GRAIN OF THE JOB – Not taking your passengers the shortest route. This can happen if you’re a thieving cabdriver or if you’re new to Providence. Sometimes GOING AGAINST THE GRAIN OF THE JOB is necessary because it appears like you’re taking people the short way and it keeps the peace. Like once I took a woman to a hotel using this back street shortcut. Even though the way I was going would have knocked a dollar off her fare, she flipped, accused me of robbing her.
     That said, to make it seem like you’re going the shortest way, it’s sometimes necessary for a cabdriver to GO AGAINST THE GRAIN OF A JOB.

GOOD MILES, BAD MILES – Generally, getting at least a dollar per mile on your odometer for your metered fares. (BAD MILES is just the opposite.)

HACKING – Driving a cab.

I FORGOT MY KEYS – Typically, druggies will say this when they get in your cab and you’re about to go on a drug run. I’d estimate that at least 90 percent of the time I transported people to get drugs it was because they said they forgot their keys.

IN SERVICE – An expression said by a cabdriver to a taxi dispatcher that indicates h/she’s starting h/her shift or that h/she’s resuming driving after taking a long break.

“I’VE BEEN HIT!” – On rare occasions this phrase is announced over a back cab radio channel – and it’s the most dreadful expression a fellow cabdriver can hear: The driver who’s saying this has either been stabbed, shot, assaulted, is just about dying. (My friend the late Danny Cyr said it on the radio once after three guys got into his cab and instantly started stabbing him with hunting knives. Re: “A Stabbing At Night.”)

JUICING THE METER – Having a meter that’s illegally and preposterously high-rated. At least one independent cab owner was notorious for this but all other Rhode Island cab companies are honest in this regard.

“KILL THE HEADLIGHTS!” – A standard druggie request when you drive your cab near a drug house since druggies don’t want to attack attention from the honest Providence cops - of which there are many, of course - people who’ll rob them.

LAUNDROMAT OR SUPERMARKET RUNS – Fares to and from laundromats and supermarkets. Drivers hate these treks because they deal with the added aggravation of loading laundry (or shopping bags) into their cab’s trunks. Usually, they don’t get tipped for these jobs, either.

LEF’ – Providence argot for the word left, used by both poor whites and many blacks. And as long as this is my book, let me indulge myself by taking the opportunity to shout out: THERE’S A “T” AT THE END OF THIS WORD!

MARRYING THE JOB – Say a cabdriver is first in line on a street cab stand and people approach the driver wanting a cab – but maybe have to walk across the street to get their luggage. If the driver really wanted the job, that worker would stay close enough to the passengers so they would remain in sight and did not slip into another cab. The driver would make a commitment to the job or would MARRY THE JOB.
     This MARRYING THE JOB usually occurs when passengers are going on a long fare: Nobody will ever MARRY a trip to a laundromat, for instance.

MASSHOLES – Massachusetts drivers who are, in this former cabdriver’s opinion, the worst drivers in the United States. (Yes, worse than New York drivers!) To me the warning emblem of a skull and crossbones on a bottle of arsenic is less foreboding than the sight of a white and red Massachusetts license plate. I used to avoid parking next to a vehicle with Massachusetts plates. When I would be driving and saw a bunch of them skitting along, I’d sometimes (honest) just pull over and let them pass: THEY SUCK AS DRIVERS! (This said, it must be stressed that the residents of Massachusetts are as kind and as decent as anyone. Additionally, any cabdriver who makes his living driving in the City of Boston – The horror! The horror! – should be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor…How do you Boston cabdrivers survive!?) (P.S. The Oxford English Dictionary has added this term to its dictionary.)

MICKEY MAFIA – Providence once had a Mafia that ruled a large part of the relatively small region of New England. (And big frigging deal, of course: Tell that to people from Texas or California and they'd laugh their asses off. Oh wow! A large part of New England!? LOL!) These days – with mobsters getting arrested for really dumb crimes like extorting money from strip club owners – it just doesn’t seem like the same ole Cult Of The Guido* mob. To my way of thinking, these days the Providence Mafia is kind of “Mickey Mouse” – or MICKEY MAFIA. Frankly, the Providence Mafia was always Mickey Mafia and couldn’t have been successful – my opinion - unless the various police and political authorities were aiding and abetting it; Congressional findings back this supposition; in the United States organized crime has historically been a marriage between the authorities and the out-gangsters; according to Felipe Calderon, the former president of Mexico, the drug trade in the United States could not exist unless it had the cooperation of the authorities. P.S. In The Mafia Encylopedia by Carl Sifakis, “Mickey Mouse Mafia” was a term applied to the West Coast Mafia organizations. But to quote Allen Ginsberg: “Who digs Los Angeles IS Los Angeles” – and I say the Providence Mafia is the original Mickey Mafia. We never had a great Mafia in Providence: No way was Raymond L.S. Patriarca calling the shots by himself; Patriarca couldn't have taken a piss - CAN WE TALK? - unless some corrupt City of Providence detective were holding onto his Pee Pee Wand...

MINORITY CONCENTRATION CAMPS – When teenagers sell drugs on the street, kids get shot in front of their own homes and fearful people live sequestered in their own homes, such a neighborhood is no better than a prison.  More to the point, since mostly Hispanics and blacks live in places like this, I call them MINORITY CONCENTRATION CAMPS.
     This society isn’t as deliberate (as were the Nazis - or Joseph Stalin or Chairman Mao, of course) about killing people. But when it comes to slowly exterminating races or cultures (by allowing crime-riddled areas and spiritually depressing places like these to even exist) I’d say we’ve got the Nazis beat. (The Holocaust couldn't have happened here!? It's happening. Wake up! So is The Great Leap Forward!)
     Oh: Like it’s some kind of yuppie corpse corporate chant I would hear this expression in the cab a lot: “Well, you know, all cities have their bad areas…” This statement is certainly true – and I’m sure there are even worse MINORITY CONCENTRATION CAMP neighborhoods than those you find in little old Providence, R.I. But it drove me crazy when I heard that “all-cities-have-their-bad-areas” slogan because the defeatist attitude it conveys is unacceptable. It’s like people are telling you that ultimately there’s nothing we can do to change these neighborhoods: Wrong, I say!
     One more thing: Just because a large minority population exists in any one area doesn’t make it a MINORITY CONCENTRATION CAMP. And in Providence there are many great neighborhoods whose dominant groups are minorities.

MUCKLES A JOB, TIES UP A JOB – Say a company has a regular rider who tips well. If drivers MUCKLES A JOB, they get good riders to constantly request them, maybe give the person their cell-phone number, etc. (Example: “Ralph sure MUCKLED THAT JOB with that stripper from Fantasy’s…”)

OFF THE SHEET – Not working with a dispatcher and consequently not being dispatched to phone-in jobs by a dispatcher. Sometimes a cabdriver goes off the sheet voluntarily. Other times they’re ejected from the sheet by dispatchers. (Examples: “Tonight I’m workin’ OFF THE SHEET.”… “You give me any more crap and I’m throwin’ ya OFF THE SHEET!” said the dispatcher.)

OLNEYVILLE – A Providence neighborhood characterized by crazed junkie-prostitute street walkers and a lot of substandard housing. Sadly, a lot of nice people live here. Even some of the junkie prostitutes are fundamentally nice people, too, who have a history of sexual abuse and are unfortunately addicted to drugs because they’re self-medicating and trying to bury the pain of their childhood. (To quote that genius scumbag Louis-Ferdinand Celine: "The biggest defeat in any department in life is to forget - especially the things that have done you in..." To quote my fellow writer Jack "m" O'Keefe: "Remember, remember, remember...")

ON A MISSION – A job that takes you to various parts of the city (and takes up a lot of your time), usually because the passenger wants a prostitute or drugs.

ONLY ARREST MINORITIES – I allege that so many Mickey Mafia connected and police informing bookies and coke dealers and prostitutes operate in bars and coffeehouses in Providence without getting touched. (To me their criminal activity seems to be approved by the various  authorities.) But the young black or Hispanic males who are selling weed on the corner (or something) are shoved and shoved and shoved into prison like sacrificial victims. From what I’ve read for every white person in prison in this country there are about seven minorities. (Check out what Brown University professor Glenn C. Loury has written about this – and to whom I am indebted for the “sacrificial victim” analogy.) I do say this without generalizing about any specific organization but ONLY ARREST MINORITIES appears to be the motto of the leadership of the Providence Police, the Rhode Island State Police, the FBI and the United States Justice Department. Without a doubt there is an incarceration holocaust going on in this country AND WE SHOULD DO SOMETHING TO END IT!
     R.I.P. Michael Brown.)

By the way: On St. Patrick's Day 2015 Jack "m" O'Keefe came over for "the smokin' of the green" and he insisted I put in this poem. Please note that I have only allowed the use of the words "kike"  and "nigger" and "coon" and "jig" - for their necessary shock value; I am not trying to hurt anyone's feelings and am sympathetic to the struggles minorities have faced. Also note that this poem is not specific to Providence, R.I. - and that the author has encountered many Providence police people who are not the least bit racist and are great and compassionate people. From my heart to the people of the United States: RISE FROM THE DEAD!

                           ONLY ARREST NIGGERS
                               By Jack "m" O'Keefe
      Said the veteran cop to the rookie cop:
     "Only arrest niggers. They're the only ones you should bust. Only arrest niggers..."
     "Only arrest niggers. Not the trust fund kikes that buy our coke in the bars. Not the organized bookies that the pussy Attorney General says not to touch. Not the reporters buying the blow in their own fucking newsrooms, f'Christ fucking sake, not the rich college kids. Only arrest niggers..."
     "Only arrest niggers. Them other people have the lawyers and the connections. Them other people can usually beat the charges and sometimes pull the strings to ruin your career. You won't rise in the ranks if you go after them other people. Only arrest niggers..."
      "Only arrest niggers. The coons have the records. For jigs prison is their only home. Monkeys belong in cages eating bananas, and anyway, nobody gives a fuck about the niggers - especially the niggers..."
       ("And by the way: Those "Asian spas" all over the place where the women servicing the clients are  like slaves: The FBI don't see them, the women who are always bitchin' about the treatment of  women don't see them, so we don't see them...")...

OUT OF SERVICE – To either end your shift or to leave your cab for an extended period.

OUT  ON A CASE – Because of the amount of driving they do – and the amount of lunatics who drive through the streets of Providence – cabdrivers here get into accidents often. Through legal expertise culled through years of listening to other drivers’ accident woes (and from extended conversations with countless lawyers who hop into the back seat), they also have the common sense to know that when you are involved in an accident to never sign any legal documents at the scene of an accident, always ride in an ambulance to a nearby hospital. (These actions are not intended to scam insurance companies but are simply done from prudence.) To be OUT ON A CASE, then, is to be out of work while waiting for an insurance settlement to be resolved. (Example: “Where’s The Englishman (Jim Allen)? I haven’t seen him in a while.” “Haven’t you heard? His car got totaled on Allens Avenue and he’s OUT ON A CASE.”)

PLAYING A STAND – Waiting at any particular stand – be it a street stand or a stand connoting a particular geographical region. (Note: The word “play” is used here -  and in many similar expressions – since driving a cab is a bit of a game of chance.)

PUTTING YOUR BALLS ON THE SHEET – Putting down everything you made on a shift, including all your tips. Drivers sometimes do this to ensure that all the great paying fares go to them, etc.

REQUESTS – A customer who calls a company for a particular driver. One driver, who no longer works in the city (and who worked for a now defunct company) had all REQUESTS that used his services to get cocaine. Another retired driver – “Patent Leather” – had a lot of people in what I call Mickey Mafia for REQUESTS. The story goes than an investigative reporter wanted to talk to this Mickey Mafia driver – but the driver shrewdly declined giving an interview: The Providence Journal made Patent Leather an offer that he could refuse.

SCANNING, TO BE SCANNED OUT OF A JOB – Some unscrupulous drivers listen to radio calls going out to various companies on police scanners. Then they’ll try to beat drivers to a particular address and get their fare. All of this is illegal but it happens.

SHAGGING – Being dispatched to a job that’s not in a cabdriver’s immediate vicinity. SHAGGING occurs because of favoritism, a dispatcher “has it in” for a particular driver, just plain incompetence or because there’s simply not enough cabs from a particular company on the road. (Example: “At that company you’ll finish a job in the City of Central and they’ll SHAG you all the way over to The City of Cranston.”)

SHORT POSTING – Parking maybe 10 car-lengths ahead of a first-in-line driver on a legitimate city cab stand and then taking the first person who hops into your cab. A second definition of SHORT POSTING would be when you know a regular rider will be taking a cab at a particular time in a certain part of the city and you position yourself so your cab will be around that particular area at that particular time.

SIGHTINGS AND CAPTURES – A SIGHTING is spotting a celebrity on the street. A CAPTURE is getting a celebrity in your cab. Like, I once SIGHTED  Carly Simon and I  CAPTURED  George Harrison (I believe) and the late Sen. John Chafee (absolutely).

SILVER  LAKE  - A largely blue-collar Providence neighborhood west of Route 95.

“SOMEONE’S STEPPIN’ ON YOU; SOMEBODY WALKED ON YOU…” Dispatcher expressions meaning that your radio transmission couldn’t be heard because some other driver was trying to use the two-way radio at the same time. (Example: “Say that again, Car 5. SOMEBODY WALKED ON YOU…”)

SMITH HILL – A neighborhood west of Route 95 where the Rhode Island State House is located.

SOUTH PROVIDENCE – The southern part of Providence has a lot going for it: Great building stock, plenty of good people and many ethnic restaurants. Still, at least when I drove a cab, there were many areas that were positively frightful and where drugs were being sold in the streets. Additionally, with its mostly minority population, SOUTH PROVIDENCE is more demographically like what Providence really is.
      But Providence, really, is a tale of two cities: You have the more affluent and mostly white people on one side of town and the poor and mostly minorities on the other side; Providence is still a segregated city, less so than it used to be, but segregated nonetheless. If you spend any amount of time in South Providence you will see this…(Few people who ever visit Providence do, though, which is kind of sad. Beautiful things really happen in South Providence.)

STANDARD SHIFT AND STANDARD WORKWEEK – In Providence (and many other American cities) a standard shift for a cabdriver is 12 hours, a standard workweek is five shifts. (There are only two work shifts, therefore: Days and nights.) An extremely hard-working company owner I knew (the late David Morris of Yellow Cab) told me once that 60 hours a week for a cabdriver isn’t really full time. Said Morris: “To be a full-time cabdriver you have to work 12 hour a day, six days a week. Anything less than that is part time…”
     However, even work 72 hours a week is not the maximum for many city drivers. It’s not uncommon for drivers to work 14 hours a shift for several weeks at a time (as “The Rebel,” one driver who I knew, occasionally did.)
     The longest shift I ever worked was 19 hours. Considering that drivers here have stayed in their cab for much longer stretches, a measly 19-hour shift is nothing to write home about. Residents at hospitals pull longer shifts all the time, anyway, as do soldiers and mothers of the world.

STANDS, THE A STAND, THE B STAND, THE ONE, THE VALLEY, etc. – There are a few spots on the streets in Providence that are genuine big city-like cab STANDS where drivers wait in line for fares (like at Kennedy Plaza and the Providence train station). However, in individual companies there are STANDS that denote a region of the city, like THE A STAND (which is the East Side of Providence), THE B STAND (which is South Providence), etc. And on these geographical STANDS drivers also wait their turn for a job – with the order of who’s getting the next job managed by the taxi dispatcher.

STEPPIN’ – Temporarily getting out of your cab, say for five minutes. This is probably one of the most used expressions in the Providence cab business. (Example: “I’m STEPPIN’ to get a coffee.”)

SWEATING THE METER – Passengers who are obsessively and visibly and verbally worried about each additional quarter increment on the meter. (Example: “I took those people to the Public Tap and they SWEATED THE METER the whole way.”)

“TAKE THAT CAB AND PARK IT!” – When dispatchers are angered by a driver, they’ll sometimes issue this command which means a driver must bring h/her cab  back to the cab station and go home for the night.

“THAT MONEY WENT SOUTH.” – Related to flying jobs, THAT MONEY WENT SOUTH is an occasional expression that implies a driver didn’t put all metered money on the trip sheet, somehow cheated a particular cab owner out of money due.

THE BELL – This antiquated sounding phrase literally refers to the phone in any Providence taxi company’s office that customers ring up when they want a cab. But THE BELL really means the customer base (of phone-in riders) for cabs. To say any particular company has A GOOD BELL simply means that many customers call that company for cabs. Unlike larger cities where drivers earn their living from people who hail taxis from the street, THE BELL dominates the Providence cab business. When you hear drivers say it, the phrase even seems to possess a hallowed aspect.
     No man is an island – especially in Rhode Island.
     For whom THE BELL tolls?
     If you’re a Providence cabdriver it tolls for thee…(Example: “How’s THE BELL over at Corporate Cab?”)

THE BOARD – In Providence cab companies there is a single phone with a few available incoming lines. But when a dispatcher is answering the phone it’s referred to being on THE BOARD. This may be a carryover from the day when THE BOARD for a cab company was indeed a switchboard. (Example: “Look out: Jose is on THE BOARD.”)

THE BOARD IS CLEAN, THE BOARD IS JAMMED – Dispatchers’ expressions denoting the amount of bell work that needs to be done.

THE BOOK – A filled-out and lined trip sheet combined with the money you owe a company for a shift. (Example: “That guy ain’t getting a cab until he hands in his BOOK!”) Also, what you earn for your company in a night. (Example: “What do you usually BOOK (or earn) at Checker?”)

THE CODE – A phrase that’s sometimes alluded to in Providence cab-driver circles. Essentially, it’s the code of ethics by which Providence cabdrivers live which translates to treating people like they treat you.
     Like, a single mother has the decency to tell you she only has $4 dollars on her for a $5 fare?
     You forget about the dollar and just drive her to her door.
     A drunk who has given you a hard time mistakenly gives you a $50 bill instead of a $5 bill?
     You pocket the $50 and gloat about it for days.
     Another driver steals a job from you?
     If you don’t outright fight him, you steal many jobs from that person in the future.
     Sometimes when adhering to THE CODE a driver doesn’t exactly deal with people in what you’d call a traditionally moral way. But making it as a cabdriver here is a lot about survival of the fittest and sometimes traditional moral values just happen to go out the window…We’re all a bunch of social Darwinists, you see, with just a touch of Machiavelli.
     We take a lot of them Kierkegaardian leaps, too.
     And when it comes to the philosophical importance of words, roll over Wittgenstein!

 THE DROP – The initial fee a customer must pay once they sit in a cab, which is $2, The meter doesn’t begin clicking – at 25-cent intervals for each one tenth of a mile traveled – until one tenth of a mile is traveled – or about 35-40 seconds has been waited.

THE DRUG LANDS – Neighborhoods where drugs are sold, which are usually in poor and depressing areas in which minorities live. (Obviously, a self-invented expression.) (I.e.: “El Gato drove through The Drug Lands…”)

THE EAST SIDE – The good part of town located east of Route 95. There are terrible neighborhoods here, too, but generally streets are crime-free with police all over. Here there are great parks, restored New England homes, a most beautiful cemetery. Here Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) are located. (Incidentally, among other artworks on display at the RISD Museum there is a really impressive collection of Impressionist Art...For a city as small as Providence to provide such a collection is  outstanding…)

THE FULL BENEFIT OF THE DROP – After THE DROP – which is the $2 fee a passenger must pay once the meter is clicked on – Providence meters don’t start clicking at 25 cents for each tenth of a mile traveled (or between 35-40 seconds of waiting time). If you were to only go a hundred feet or so, say, the meter would remain at THE DROP charge, $2. Cabdrivers hate these short runs, but repeatedly getting THE FULL BENEFIT OF THE DROP cuts down on travel distance and helps a driver achieve “good miles” at the end of any particular shift.

THE JUNGLE – South Providence, so called because it’s a high-crime area.

“THE KIDS ARE BACK, THE KIDS WILL BE LEAVING.” – “THE KIDS” are the college students who attend Providence’s six colleges and who account for at least 15 percent of the city’s cab business during the academic year. THE KIDS, by the way, are all pretty good customers.

THE LINE, THE LINEUP – Some years back Japanese tourists visiting Providence were rightfully impressed by the way area drivers behaved: At any designated taxi waiting are, Providence cabdrivers formed a line and waited for any particular passenger to take a cab. There are exceptions, but Providence cabdrivers are remarkably civilized with regards to waiting-in-line.
     In Providence it wouldn’t matter if a driver’s rent were due and the family were starving the death: The driver would still wait in line for a fare. (Usually, that is: And the unpardonable sin among city cabdrivers is not waiting to take a fare and stealing one.)
     THE LINE-UP also refers to the order in which cabs are ordered on any particular dispatcher’s master sheet.

THE MAGIC WORDS – When cabdrivers hire out to a company THE MAGIC WORDS an owner must tell them are these:
      "These are the keys to your cab. Do what you want with it.”
      If veteran Providence drivers hear anything more – (Like: “Don’t sit with all those bums at the train station!”) – they may consider it a warning to seek work elsewhere.
      You must understand that Providence cabdrivers are ferociously independent, their independence due to the fact (at least during the time I was driving) that nobody wanted to drive a cab. It was tough for company owners to find even the worst kind of person to drive a cab.
      Thus, it was beneficial for company owners to say THE MAGIC WORDS.
     (Example: “He said THE MAGIC WORDS so I started driving for him…)

THE NORTH END – A blue-collar Providence neighborhood located west of Route 95.

THE OLD DAYS, THE OLDEN DAYS, IN THEM DAYS – The 1970s, the 1960s, the decades veteran Providence drivers consider the glory days of the area cab business. Then people called up for cabs all the time, these older drivers tell me…A second definition was recently implied by a driver in reference to the time just a few years back when I drove and most Providence cabdrivers made a good day’s pay when they worked a shift.
     Thus spaketh Paulie: “Eddie, Eddie: You remember how it used to be in THE OLDEN DAYS? Eddie, Eddie: You remember? Remember all the money we used to make IN THEM DAYS, Eddie?...”

THE PACKAGE – Old-time Providence cabdriver talk for money you owe a company owner that’s wrapped up in your trip sheet.

THE RHODE ISLAND DIVISION OF PUBLIC UTILITIES AND CARRIERS (OR: THE PUC) – The state agency, which, among other activities, regulates the state’s taxi industry.

THE SAFETY NET – When rich executives lose their jobs they can always cash in a mutual fund or two. That’s their cushion. When poor people lose their jobs (in Providence, at least) they can become cabdrivers. That’s their SAFETY NET.

THE SCENIC  ROUTE – To be accused  of taking a passenger THE SCENIC ROUTE is to imply the driver is trying to rip off the passenger by making the journey longer. Once a Providence cabdriver had the critically acclaimed author and Brown University professor John Hawkes in his cab. “Take us to 18 Everett Avenue,” Hawkes reputedly told the driver.  So the cabdriver started doing that – and in the shortest possible way. But after a few blocks Hawkes allegedly turned to his wife and said: “Oh…I see the driver is taking us THE SCENIC ROUTE…” With all due respect to the late and hard working Hawkes and his surviving family, having tried to read a couple of books by him I’d say as a prose stylist he often took his  readers on THE SCENIC ROUTE.

THE SECRET NUMBER – The secret code number – which won’t be revealed here – sometimes used by drivers to indicate they’re having major problems of the violent kind with a passenger(s) and the dispatcher should immediately call the police. [Example: “Yeah, this is cab (THE SECRET NUMBER)…(And note that there is no cab (THE SECRET NUMBER) in the entire city.) I’m still waiting here on Somerset…” (Upon hearing a driver use THE SECRET NUMBER an alert dispatcher will then call the police and tell them of a driver’s location.)]

THE SHEET – The master sheet by which a taxi dispatcher records jobs, maintains an order of cabdrivers on various stands.

THE SPLIT – How much cabdrivers share with the owners of their companies which used to figure out to be 50 percent of the metered work. (The driver gets to keep tips.) These days – which soaring insurance rates and other company expenses -THE SPLIT is much less.

THE TAXI GODS – I’ve only heard these deities referred to once, but like my fellow cabdriver implied, when it comes to justice THE TAXI GODS are swift.

THE WEST END – Loosely, Providence neighborhoods west of Route 95.

THE WHORE HOUSE – This is not a self-invented expression and I have heard at least one driver use it in reference to The Providence Journal  building on Fountain Street. (The Providence Journal is the state’s major newspaper.) Rarely used, though.

THEY RIDE  - A dispatcher’s typical response to the do-we-know-these-people question. THEY RIDE means that any prospective passengers are known and nonviolent.

THREE DECKERS – if you’ve never heard of these heard of these housing units you’re probably from another part of the country, the world. Here in the Northeast we have a lot of these housing units in which apartments are stacked atop each other in threes; you’d be surprised, too, at how nice some of these apartments are inside. And to get a good picture of Providence and its surrounding cities, try to see lots and lots and lots of THREE DECKERS.

TO BOOK – To earn money. What you’ve BOOKED means what your fares have totaled on a particular shift. (Example: “What do you BOOK at Checker?”)

TO CLEAR – To be finished with a particular job. (Example: “Car 11?” asked Kay the dispatcher. “Are you clear yet?”)

TO DEADHEAD – Although I saw The Grateful Dead at Woodstock in 1969 (they played on Saturday night) and consider myself a Dead Head, TO DEADHEAD in Providence taxi slang means coming back from a long job, usually, and not having any paying passengers in the cab. (Example: “I had a run to New Bedford but I had to DEADHEAD it all the way back…”)

TO GET THROWN OR KICKED  OFF THE SHEET – When a taxi dispatcher isn’t getting along with a particular driver the dispatcher will sometimes THROW the driver OFF THE SHEET. That is to say, the dispatcher will take away the driver’s name from the master trip sheet – then the dispatcher will give no more bell work to that driver. (This is less serious than being told to park the cab, as the THROWN-OFF-THE-SHEET driver will still be able to pick up flag downs and wait at city cab stands and not necessarily lose a shift’s pay.) Always the variants of the words “throw” or “kick” are used in this OFF THE SHEET expression, violence in the cab business being unconsciously expressed verbally. (Example: “Ya give me any more crap and I’m THROWIN’ YA OFF THE SHEET!”)

TO FLATTEN  YOU OUT, FLATTENING YOU OUT -  When a taxi fare is $4.25, for instance, and a passenger only gives you $4. (Example: “All these people ya send me to pick up keep FLATTENING ME OUT!” good ole Ralph the cabdriver lamented.)

TO METER – Certainly, the word meter refers to the mechanical device that records the steadily ticking monetary amount of any particular fare. But in the Providence cab business the word is generally used as a verb. (Example: “I METERED the job and it came to $21.75…” “What did the job METER?”)

TO PASS – To be offered a job by a dispatcher and decline it, or PASS. [Since most Providence cabdrivers lease their cabs from various companies – and are therefore not technically employed by them – theoretically no company can make a driver do any work. Drivers are usually asked if they’re willing to accept any particular job. This, however, is one of the most complex rules in the Providence taxi industry and drivers who consistently PASS usually find themselves without a cab to drive.] (Example: “None of youse can PASS tonight, ya hear that Mister Dalton!?” said Kay the dispatcher.)

TO RUN (FIRST DEFINITION) – Passengers who leave a cab without paying. (Example: “I took some kids to Western Street and they RAN.”)

TO RUN (SECOND DEFINITION) – Here the verb RUN is used in place of the verbal form of the word meter. (Example: “The job RAN $27 and change…”)

TO WORK IT OUT IN TRADE – When cabdrivers give rides to prostitutes and they render sexual services for the fare.

“TOO MANY PLATES OUT HERE” – A common lament these days. It means the city has issued too many hackney plates to cab companies and because of the increased competition it’s that much tougher for a city driver to earn a decent living. Around the turn of the millennium free plates were issued at a rate that suggests corruption. Strictly speaking, the Providence taxi business has virtually died because of the increased number of drivers and plates freely given, and now that (an opinion) corrupt City of Providence and Rhode Island state officials have rolled over and given Uber the store, the taxi business in Providence is just about dead.

TOSSIN’ SOMEONE – Ejecting an abusive, drunk or potentially dangerous passenger. (Example: “I had some guy that started giving me some shit so I TOSSED him…”)

TRIP SHEET – The single sheet of paper on which a driver records fares, mileage, etc. Regrettably it’s important than any driver keeps an up-to-the-minute account of destinations: It helps the police apprehend a murderer in case a driver is killed by a passenger.

TWENTY DOLLARS – When I first started driving a cab, this figure of TWENTY DOLLARS seemed to be a popular one among hard drug users. If they had a stolen police scanner to sell, for instance, they would generally ask TWENTY DOLLARS for it. If they thought their grandmothers would turn a trick for you, they’re request TWENTY DOLLARS. Then they would use that TWENTY DOLLARS and buy a couple of bags of heroin, a bump or three of cocaine.

USED TO BE – In Providence, directions are often given by identifying landmarks that have ceased existing, have been torn down, etc., or where such-and-such a place USED TO BE.

Vincent A. "Buddy" Cianci Jr. (1941-2016)


    "My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;

      Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair..." "Ozymandias," Percy Bysshe Shelley

     Vincent A. “Buddy” Cianci Jr. was the mayor of Providence during most of the time I drove a cab. Though he was not an angel he was a can-do mayor who did many good things for the city -  like constructing new parks, revitalizing inner city neighborhoods and establishing the nation’s first Gun Court. As I wrote in Providence Monthly this charismatic person also changed the spiritual destiny of Providence and made the people of Providence once again start feeling good about their home. (For reasons explained elsewhere in Real Cab Rides I say Providence is a holy city.) Though there is no way I’m implying he was a messiah, I will flat out say Cianci made the City of Providence and many of its citizens rise from the dead.

     Unfortunately, Cianci got mired in a scandal called “Plunder Dome” and ended up going to prison for five years. [The FBI went after him and a few other seriously minor dirt bags in Providence City Hall. They de facto murdered - an opinion - a pretty nice lady - Rosemary Glancy - who definitely helped a lot of people but who twisted a couple of numbers and took - get ready for this "shocker" - a $100 bribe. (The shame of this otherwise hard working woman's arrest and the shock of her stunningly unmerciful incarceration brought on her early death, I say; if anyone should have gotten a slap on the wrist it was the kind and caring Rosemary Glancy.)  The FBI got - No shit! - a greedy wife beating snitch in on the circus, spent millions on this investigation and trial - all the while allowing drugs like heroin and cocaine to be sold by the ton in the hot bars and in South Providence, ignoring the child prostitution occurring under their windows (Re: The story in this blog called "Keith"), letting the terrible Asian spas operate and allowing the minorities of Rhode Island to get shoved and shoved and shoved into prison. Then, even though Cianci was found innocent on over a dozen charges - The federal dorks with all their agents, lawyers, technology and money couldn't prove a  thing! - they nailed him on the  RICO statutes in which a person who is just suspected of running a criminal enterprise can be deemed guilty...] 
     After his release he hosted a radio talk show (Don't ask!) and lost an election for mayor.
     Readers should note that despite the unconstitutional (an opinion) RICO conviction, he was, nonetheless, a twice convicted felon...
     Man, what a crumby and rotten and sleazy bastard he was, to be truthful. (I shook his hand once:  THE VIBE: THIS MAN HAS FORNICATED WITH THE DEAD!)
      He was once accused of raping a woman - and I do believe he did it.
     Yet he did so much for the city they should have a statue* (statute?) for him...
     As the scumbag artist Caravaggio was to painting, so, too, was the accused rapist and thug Cianci to the City of Providence.
     Caravaggio once assaulted a waiter with some artichokes.
     Cianci once assaulted a guy (get ready for this one, yo) with an ashtray and a fireplace log.
     Caravaggio painted masterpieces.
     Cianci's masterpiece was the transformation of Providence...
     (*Ambrose Burnside was from Rhode Island and was one of the worst generals in the Civil War. Yet we have a statue of the incompetent bastard riding a horse in a park named after him.  If we have a statue for Cianci I say we have him riding with the top down in his blue Mercedes Benz with a runny nose, holding onto his toupee and racing to Central Falls, R.I..."And I dreamed I seen (sic) Cianci up on Angell Street, looking like a king without his throne...He was driving with the top down in his blue Mercedes Benz...A man like Buddy C. must ride alone...Yes, a man like Buddy C. must ride alone...")

 “WATCH OUT FOR HALLOWEEN!” – Two things Providence drivers have to concern themselves with on this night: Passengers who use the excuse to wear masks and rob drivers – and adolescents who throw eggs at cabs. In this city this kind of hell-raising got so bad that at least one area cab company used to just shut down on this night. The owner knew he’d just have (and here’s a groaner for you!): a skeleton crew.

“WHY DON’T YOU GET A REAL JOB?” – This question is sometimes put to cabdrivers and it's always meant as an insult. After all, a common perception is that cabdrivers do nothing all night but hang around and tell stories to one another. When they finally do something all they do is drive. And anybody can drive, right? But a few things:
       1. Sitting around and waiting for work isn’t being lazy. Just the act of positioning yourself for a good job takes ingenuity: For instance, you have to know what times particular trains are arriving, what time any particular convention will be ending, whether or not you should be playing the bell, etc. (It’s a lot like making investments in the stock market only using a cab to help you.)
       2. Driving itself – especially when you sometimes drive 12 hours straight and non-stop – is work, and, in The City of Providence, sometimes stressful and dangerous work. Just to avoid getting into an accident some wild Saturday night – when the city and state police just let young drunk drivers rule the streets and the highways – takes an act of God. (And oh yeah: How about sitting for 12 hours straight when have a bad back or other medical problems? Personally, I’ve had some pretty hard nights “just driving.”)
     3. To be just a passably good cabdriver in Providence you have to keep a mental file of hundreds of streets (I drove before computer tools to help you find streets existed) in your head and know the shortest way to take people to and from streets you may seldom go to.
     When you consider there are about 1,700 streets in Providence this kind of mass memorization is anything but unskilled. And then, not only considering the memorization of streets, consider the act of getting from one obscure street to another obscure street the shortest way. Driving a cab is regarded as unskilled yet it is a job in which one’s basic intellect should be strong. (In London, England the Black Cab drivers have to know about 20,000 streets. Hail these gods and goddesses, I say!*)(*Note: This was written before GPS devices were popular. Man, real cabdrivers don't use GPS devices!)
     4. Dealing with every single type of person – in every possible state of mind – takes a bit of wit, wisdom. You practically have to be a psychiatrist to drive a cab and a pretty courageous shrink  at that.
     [Just consider: Your first passenger is a young woman who can barely speak English and is simply terrified sharing the same space with a man; your next passengers are Uzi-toting cocaine dealers; your next fare is some knock-out stripper who suddenly gets in rap with you about Russian literature or something. You need well-honed behavior skills dealing with this incessant change of lifestyles, morals, intelligence, personal moods. This constant psychologically flip-flop can really get to you, too. To deal with this successfully takes a person who’s resilient. At least it’s recommended that a cabdriver be an amiable and socially liberal person.]
      5. When you’re visiting a fellow cabdriver in the hospital who nearly just got stabbed to death – or you attend the wake of a 31-year-old driver who was thrown from a cab that was traveling 80 miles an hour – you know that you’re not exactly employed in some dream-like “unreal” occupation.
     Since I respect police officers and firefighters (and hail the services they perform) I’m definitely not trying to be disrespectful. But how many times I wished I could have been a police officer or a firefighter – or even a soldier in some relatively non-eventful war: Because when it comes to being murdered in the line of duty these people have is easy compared to cabdrivers! (A statistic: The  most recent report from the United States Department of Labor stated the murder rate for cabdrivers is 30 per 100,000 workers – or four times the murder rate for police work.)
     In answer to that lame ass question then: “WHY DON’T YOU GET A REAL JOB?”
     (As long as I’m on the subject, I’ve got to say that when police officers and firefighters die or get murdered on the job they always have these huge parades. Sometimes the police officer or firefighter will be posthumously promoted so surviving family members will be able to collect a more general pension. I say great to all of this.
      When a cabdriver dies? Well, that person never gets parades – and the family is generally left with huge medical bills and funeral parlor expenses. A murdered cabdriver may have saved your daughter from getting raped (by transporting her through dangerous neighborhoods), saved you from getting killed by some drunk driver, hauled gallons and gallons of blood to various hospitals (as cabdrivers in many companies do) – but no such honor is afforded the cabdriver. And no to afford them  this kind of honor is wrong…so fundamentally wrong…)

WORKING OR PLAYING THE BELL – A cabdriver who is responding to requests from a taxi dispatcher to pick up passengers who call for a taxi. (At many Providence companies drivers have the option of not taking any (or all) bell work.]

“YA COULD-A…”  You’re driving your passengers down some street you haven’t been to in years and you’re trying to take them home, say, the shortest and quickest way. You’re doing the best you can and you could probably use a little bit of help from the basically dead people you have in the back seat, but you don’t get any until you go by a major intersection. Then you’ll hear a back seat corpse say: “YOU COULD-A.” It’s all part of being a cabdriver, I guess.

“YA GOTTA KNOW SOMEBODY” - Rhode Island’s official motto is “Hope.” It should be: “YA GOTTA KNOW SOMEBODY."

“YA NEVER KNOW IN THIS BUSINESS” – Another one-size-fits-all kind of Providence cabdriver expression that is appropriate for any circumstances. It’s August (a traditionally dead month in this city) and you’ve made more money than any night in the year? Some sophisticated lady just stiffed you for a fare? Well, YA NEVER KNOW IN THIS BUSINESS.

“YOU’RE TAKING ME THE LONG WAY!” – White passengers have accused me of taking them THE LONG WAY. But I find this accusation is more prevalent among Providence blacks. I’ve got to say that taken as a whole Providence blacks are a lot more polite and respectful than Providence whites; without trying to pander they’re warmer, friendlier, spiritually wealthier. But for so many area blacks this “YOU’RE TAKING ME THE LONG WAY!” lament seems to be their one and only rallying cry…

(Tips and donations through Pal Pal or to: Edward Dalton, P.O. Box 702, Providence, R.I. 02901.)

(This article was updated on October 26, 2017.)
     Uber is part of a process by which women are treated like garbage, homosexuals are executed and criminals face limb amputations, beheadings and even crucifixions.
     As wild as this sounds here's why it's true:
     In a way to further enrich itself the oil-rich Kingdom of Saudia Arabia recently (in 2016) invested $3.5 billion in Uber. This makes Saudi Arabia Uber's biggest investor and owner of about six percent of the company. There is even a man from Saudi Arabia who is now in a position of power on Uber's board of directors.
     As you may know women must wear long and uncomfortable robes and veils in their murderously hot desert country.
     Generally, they cannot even leave the house unless they have a male guardian.
     In recent years a woman was raped in the kingdom. She, the victim, was sentenced to 200 lashes and a six-month prison sentence.
     Forgetting about her suffering she was found guilty of leaving her house without a male guardian. (Hillary Clinton spoke out against this and helped prevent this sentence from being executed.)
     Homosexuals have it extremely rough in Saudi Arabia. They are subject to fines, floggings, chemical castrations and even executions.
     Criminals are often subjected to limb amputations.
     Public beheadings are a regular event. In 2015, in fact, there were over 150 of them.
     During the Arab Spring a few years ago a government protester was sentenced to be beheaded - then was crucified...
     Now Uber presents itself as a "cool" new company. 
     But when you use Uber you are enriching and feeding the monster Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Uber's biggest partner and one of the most cruel and backward places on earth.

    To check out these facts read recent articles on the Web regarding Saudi Arabia's $3.5 billion Uber investment, also check out the great website Wikipedia for background information regarding human rights violations in Saudi Arabia.
      By the way, although my last name is Dalton, I am no relation to Jason Dalton, the crazy Uber driver and mass murderer who in February of 2016 killed six people and injured two others.
      Finally, feel free to print out or reproduce this article. 
     Thanks, Edward Dalton...

Google: Uber And The Monster - and watch my You Tube video!