Monday, May 28, 2018

Get `Em While They're Hot

What's that?

You still haven't bought my book, Confessions Of A New York Taxi Driver?

Well, good news, your holding out is about to pay off, at least if you own a Kindle.   HarperCollins is now offering the ebook edition for a mere $4.99 on Amazon.com. The price had always been $10 and change, so -- what a bargain.

Just click here and you're on your way.

Say what?

You need further convincing?

A promotional video or something?

Well, all righty, then... scroll down on the Amazon page and there it is!



Wednesday, December 06, 2017

The Fan Strikes Back

Baseball.

It's the one sport I am really a fan of, and I have suffered much because of it.

As a kid I was raised as a fan of the New York Giants baseball team by my father, himself a lifelong devotee of that franchise, and I worshipped the players. Then, when I was nine years old, they packed up their bats and balls and moved to San Francisco, taking my Willie Mays with them.  What a slap in the face to an innocent child who'd done nothing but love them!

It was the first in a long series of betrayals that were yet to come.

There followed four years of abandonment and bitterness.  The only baseball team left in town was the Yankees, but switching to them at that time was not an option, as I'd been thoroughly indoctrinated to see them as The Enemy.  So I trudged through empty days in some kind of baseball purgatory, left on my own to play second base for my Carvel 91 Little League team without a role model to emulate nor a guide to show me the way.

Strange thoughts of retribution began to creep into my universe.  I would find myself sitting in class in elementary school with my attention drifting to mental scenarios of Horace Stoneham, the owner of the Giants at that time, showing up at my front door and begging me for forgiveness.  I would insist that he move our Giants back to New York City and come to my school to make the announcement with me at  his side.  He'd give me a bunch of tickets to games.  He'd send Willie Mays over to my house to give me tips on hitting.  My friends would see me hanging with Willie and would be jealous.  Billy O'Reilly would offer to be my best friend if he could just get to spend time with Willie, too.  Of course I would not allow it.

Not surprisingly, my grades began to suffer.

But in 1962 it looked like things might be starting to turn around. The New York Mets were created as a new National League expansion team, and, although they were awful in terms of winning games, they served as an adequate replacement for the Giants.  Things went along smoothly until 1969 when they made the mistake of winning the World Series.  With their fans now expecting them to play like winners, they immediately began to implode.  Nolan Ryan, a rising star who went on to become one of the best players in baseball history (and today has thousands of kids named after him) was traded away.  Tom Seaver, who had earned the nickname "The Franchise", was let go in a silly contract dispute.  Mets management thought it would be a good idea to decorate Shea Stadium with gigantic neon stick figures of baseball players and to have a huge plaster apple rise from a huge plaster hat whenever a Met hit a home run.

I felt my intelligence was being insulted.  Hey, Mets, I'm an educated baseball fan.  I don't need flashing lights and electric apples to keep my attention on the game. Still, I followed the team and rooted for them even though they quickly descended into mediocrity and worse.

Then in 1975 free agency arrived, thus planting the seed of the fan's moral dilemma.  From a human rights point of view players of course should be able to be paid what the market will bear.  Who are the owners to prevent players from offering their services to the highest bidder?  Slaveholders?  It was actually heartwarming, for a while, to see the big stars making big money.

But things soon got out of hand.  Apparently what the market would bear, what with all the TV revenue, ticket sales, concession sales, trademark income, and so on, was more than anyone could have imagined.  The average annual salaries of Major League baseball players ballooned from $113,000 in 1979 to over $3,000,000 in 2006.   And that was the average!  The big names were making tens of millions per year with guaranteed contracts that paid them that money even if they had bad years or sat half the season on the bench.

The average working person began to have a hard time relating to this.  A teacher or a cop makes barely enough to keep food on the table and maybe not even enough to take the family to a baseball game, but some guy who can run a little faster, throw a ball a little harder, and hit a ball a little better can make... what?  Tens of millions of dollars for playing baseball for just a single season?  Some began to question the values of our culture -- a disconnect was setting in.

You would think that when some guy is making millions of dollars a year for playing a game that he'd be happy with what he's got, perhaps even thanking his lucky stars every day for his good fortune.  But no. In 1981 the players and their union thought they should get more.  So they went on strike, canceling 713 games.  In 1994 there was a lockout (this time the owners wouldn't agree to the players' demands) which abruptly ended the season in August and cancelled the entire post-season, including the World Series.

Then, to make matters even worse, in the late '90s we found out that many of the star players were actually cheaters.  Some guy whose name was on your kid's t-shirt was actually jacked up on "performance-enhancing drugs".  Aside from the betrayal of trust that it loudly proclaims, this even tore away at the history of the game. Now when a new record is being approached (such as the number of home runs hit in a season or in a career) the question invariably arises as to whether or not the new record should count in the record books if the player had ever been found to have been taking PEDs.

You know, with all of the perfectly valid things to become cynical about in this world, baseball should not have been one of them.  But it was.  I myself had become so disenchanted about the way things were going that I decided I was a "free agent" as a fan in 1985.  My loyalty was no longer a given -- it had to be earned. I had to wonder why I was even bothering to pay attention to these overpaid, pill-popping cheaters.  After some soul-searching I realized what it was.

It was the game itself.

Baseball.

It's the most intriguing, most theatrical, most balanced, and most intellectual sport ever invented.  Consider this:

In baseball...

--- there's no clock.  A game could theoretically go on forever.  There's no possibility of a tie.  I love that.

--- it's a game in which a contest between two individuals (the pitcher versus the hitter) immediately shifts into a game between multiple team players the moment the ball is hit.

--- it's a game of likelihoods, represented as statistics, which keep you thinking as the game continues, not just watching.

--- you don't have to have a huge body to play it at its highest level.  In fact this year a player on the Houston Astros, Jose Altuve, who stands at just 5 feet, 6 inches, won the Most Valuable Player award in the American League.  A player on the Yankees, Aaron Judge, who is 6 feet, 7 inches, came in second in the voting.

--- it's like a symphony, with diminuendos (moving slowly) building into huge crescendos (increasingly unbearable tension with every pitch).

--- you can get to know the players as individuals.  They're not hidden behind masks, like in American football.  They're not in constant motion, as in many sports.  Each player on a team comes to bat four or five times in an average game.  This gives the fan opportunities to become familiar with them as personalities, similarly as you would come to know a character in a drama.

And then there's this, as aspect of the game I find especially endearing:

Baseball is the only sport in which a fan in the stands can, in certain specific circumstances, become an active and legal participant in the game itself.  When a batter hits a ball in the air that is heading for the stands, once the trajectory of the ball crosses the point that separates the stands from the playing field, the rule book states that the fan in the stands has as much right to catch the ball as the player on the field who is also trying to catch it.  If that player is on your team, you should get out of his way and let him catch it.  But if he's on the opposing team, the fan should try to catch or deflect the ball himself before the player can get to it.  For that specific moment the fan in the stands is actually a player on the team!  

Every once in a while this magnificent aspect of baseball actually determines the outcome of a game.  October 9th, 1996, was one of those times.  The New York Yankees were playing the Baltimore Orioles in the first game of the American League Championship Series.  Late in the game Derek Jeter hit a long fly ball to right field that was descending close to the fence.  A twelve-year old kid named Jeffrey Maier reached over and scooped the ball into the stands.  It should have been ruled fan interference but the umpire called it a home run and a great controversy ensued.  Nevertheless, the call stood (this was before they used videotape replays to decide close plays) and the kid became instantly famous.  He was dubbed the "angel in the outfield" by the New York media and appeared on talk shows.  Not only that, but he went down in baseball history and to this day any good Yankee fan or serious fan of the sport knows his name.

To see a video of the incident, click here.

To see a video from The Today Show which aired the next day, click here.

Okay, all of the above is to set you up for what occurred in my taxi in the early morning hours of August 30, 2002.  Here is a story from "the vault", one I have told to many passengers in my cab but never before gotten around to writing -- a tale of retribution by a fan who just couldn't take it anymore...


I'd started my shift late that night and that, along with a few lousy rides, had dampened my mood.  Plus there was something else going on that night which was really bothering me  -- the deadline of yet another threatened baseball strike was set for midnight.  If an agreement wasn't reached by that time, the season would come to a halt -- there would be no baseball the next day and, who knows, maybe not for the remainder of the season.

I'd been following this on the radio, of course.  Just after the midnight hour an announcement came over the air that the deadline had been extended -- the negotiations between the owners and the baseball union were continuing on into the night. This was hopeful, but it was still maddening to me as well.  Just the idea of millionaires thinking their working conditions could warrant a strike...  it was infuriating.  This strike thing was really getting under my skin.

The night went on.  Business was slow.  According to my trip sheet, at 2:09 I picked up a guy and a girl coming from a bar on 47th Street between Broadway and 8th Avenue and took them to 26th and 6th.  After dropping them off I headed back to 47th Street and at 2:24 picked up another fare, two young ladies, and took them to 89th and 2nd.  I then drove downtown to see if I could catch a fare at a club on 56th Street between Park and Lexington Avenues.  It was a good move.  At exactly 2:51 four people came out of the club and entered my cab.

Three of them were beautiful young women, well-tanned and well-cleavaged, wearing skin-tight party dresses.  They squeezed together in the back seat.  The fourth passenger was a guy who might be called a "cool dude".  He had on an expensive-looking suit and wore his hair in abbreviated dreadlocks -- not the full-length kind that would go down below the shoulders, but a shorter version that ended in mid-neck.  It was an unusual look that caught my attention.

As he sat down next to me in the front seat, he immediately took control of his new environment.  "Hey, man," he said, "let's get something else on the radio." Then, without bothering to ask me if that was okay, he reached over and changed the station from the one I had on ("oldies" rock and roll) to one he preferred (hip-hop). He then turned around in his seat and started carrying on with the girls.

It was a severe breach of taxicab etiquette.  Passengers in party mode often want some kind of dance music to keep them in the groove, and requests are always honored.  But to reach over and change the station without even asking... well, that's beyond rude.  It's belittling to the driver, as if he's not there, not really a person.  And, although it is a mode of public transportation, it's still my car you're in, buddy.

Nevertheless, I choose not to make an issue of behavior like this.  My thinking in these situations is, okay, this passenger is acting badly, but he will be out of my life in ten or fifteen minutes.  Most people are relatively polite and there are always a few who are too full of themselves to notice, or care, how their behavior affects others. That's how it is.  I can tolerate this.  There's no need to take a stand.

I pulled out from the curb and drove east on 56th.

"So where are you heading?" I asked, since no one had yet given me a destination.

"Just go downtown, man, we're gonna find another club," the cool dude said, then he turned around again and continued chatting it up with the ladies.

I made a right on Lex, which goes downtown.  The party was continuing as we drove along, the music loud, the laughter loud, and the driver not enjoying the experience. As we approached 34th Street I was told by the cool dude to pull over and stop beside an all-night deli.

"Just getting some cigarettes," he said, "back in a minute."  He got out of the cab and was joined on the street by one of the girls from the back seat.

As I watched him open the door to the deli, it suddenly hit me -- I realized who this guy was!  This was Tony Tarasco, a baseball player currently on the Mets, an outfielder, who had once played for the Baltimore Orioles.  Earlier in the season I'd read an article in the newspaper about him, about how he'd been in a gang in Los Angeles when he was a teenager and was able to leave that behind to become a big-league baseball player.  It showed a picture of him with this hair style, the abbreviated dreadlocks, which was why I recognized him.  And if you watched the above video you would already know that it was Tony Tarasco in right field in Yankee Stadium on October 9th, 1996, who was trying to catch the ball that was deflected into the stands by the young fan.

Well, wasn't this interesting!  Here it was, nearly three in the morning, a baseball strike pending, and I've got a baseball player in my cab who at the moment was buying cigarettes and was not yet done partying.  I looked at the two girls in the mirror -- beautiful, so well put-together, all that cleavage, a couple of Jayne Mansfields. They were making small talk between themselves. One of them, apparently, was from Sweden.

All these bits of information began to whirl around in my mind... my long-lost Giants, the hapless Mets, millionaire athletes living in bubbles, the steroids, the strikes, the magnificence of the game itself, soaring ticket prices, radios, the magnificence of the game itself, night clubs, cigarettes, the magnificence of the game itself, cleavage...

I was starting to feel emboldened.  I reached over to the radio dial and turned it back to my own station.  That was more like it.

The door opened.  Tony Tarasco and the other girl got back in the cab.  Right away he noticed the station had been changed.

"Hey, man, what happened to my music?"

"Oh, the girls didn't like it.  I turned it back."

A complete lie, but at the moment it seemed like the right thing to say.

There was a hesitation.  And then, in what can only be attributed to divine intervention, at that very instant a bulletin came on over the radio with the latest news about the baseball strike. Both of us stopped talking and, listening intently, we learned that the negotiations were still continuing on into the night.  Then, just as the report ended, I seized the moment.  Turning to my station-changing passenger, I went into a loud and angry mock tirade that went pretty much like this:

"If those MOTHERFUCKERS DARE go on strike, we're NEVER coming back!  NEVER! FUCK these over-paid millionaires! FUCK THEM!  Less than a year after 9-11 and THIS is what these MOTHERFUCKERS want to do?  Go on STRIKE?  Oh, boo-hoo, you poor little baseball babies, you only made three million dollars last year!  Are you KIDDING?  Go on STRIKE?   FUCK THEM!  I'm telling you, man, if they go on strike, we fans are NEVER coming back!  NEVER!"

He seemed to have enjoyed the rant.  With a big smile he said:

"Oh, man, you don't know who I am!"

There followed what in the theater is called a "pregnant pause".  If life were a novel, this would have been the moment of climax, when the hero knows that his war has been won, his journey done, his object of desire attained.  All that remained was procedural.

Savoring the moment, I flipped my demeanor to cheerfulness, and smiled myself.

I said:

"Oh, yes, I know who you are.  You're Tony Tarasco.  And I've got two words for you, Tony..."

He was stunned, truly, as if he'd been caught by a right hook to the chin.

"What?"

I went for the knock-out:

"Jeffrey Maier!  That kid's more famous than you are!"

His bravado went flying out the window.  He seemed to have descended into an introspective spin and was at a loss for words.  Finally, he said:

"Well, I don't know about that..."

What followed was a civil back and forth about the pros and cons of the looming baseball strike.  My point of view was, among other things, that it was less than a year after the Twin Towers came down and thousands lost their lives.  Millionaire athletes going on strike in times like these would be the epitome of greed and disrespect.  His argument was that it's a short career and players need to be thinking about their grandchildren.

I looked in my mirror at the three curvy ladies in the back seat.  It was hard to imagine them as grandmothers.

By the time we arrived at the new club, any hard feelings that may have arisen from my sneak attack had dissolved.  Tony turned out to be a good sport.  At one point he showed me an electronic device he had attached to his belt with which he would vote either "yes" or "no" to whatever agreement might be reached in the negotiations.  I thought that was cool and pretended I was going to try to yank it away from him.  He enjoyed that, which I appreciated.   It showed me he was a guy who could be kidded around with.

"Vote 'yes'," I demanded as we reached their destination, a new club.  With a smile and a wave goodbye (and an excellent tip, I must say) he and the girls were gone.

The next day the news was that an agreement had been reached and the players had voted to accept it.  There would be no strike.

Later I learned that Tony had been quite correct about one thing he'd said to me -- it is indeed a short career, at least for most players.  Two days after he was in my cab, he played in his last game in the Major Leagues.  His career as a player was over, although he has remained in the game as a coach.

But I was correct about another thing.  I have told this story to scores of passengers in my cab, each of them describing him or herself as a baseball fan. I ask them all if they remember the name of the kid who deflected the ball into the stands.  The great majority of them do -- "Jeffrey Maier"!  But only one passenger so far (who turned out to be from Baltimore) remembered the name of the player who was trying to catch that ball.

So you can go to a baseball game, try to catch a ball that is heading right toward you and, if Fate decrees it, you can wind up being better remembered in baseball lore than many, if not most, of the players who actually played the game.

Baseball -- the magnificence of the game itself.




Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Tenth Anniversary of Pictures From A Taxi

November 24th was the tenth anniversary of my street photography blog, Pictures From A Taxi.

You know, New York could be called a street photographer's heaven.  People of every description, things that suddenly jump out at you from their secret hiding places, profound oddities, dogs, the occasional coyote... this city is just begging to be photographed.

I decided to start carrying a digital camera (with a hefty zoom lens) around with me in my cab in 2006 for several reasons.  For one thing, it would make my already adventurous profession even more interesting.  Instead of just waiting for the light to change, I am scanning the the sidewalks for a shot.  A second reason was because with digital it is so much more doable than it had been prior to that revolution in the world of photography.  No more waiting for your film to be developed.  Instant editing that would have taken hours in a darkroom.  And a third reason was because I wanted to add "mass" to the "significance" of this blog, which is mostly text without many pictures.  Instead of just publishing random shots of New York to accompany the posts here, I thought it better to create a whole new blog of nothing but photographs.

That was ten years ago.  For quite a few years I was publishing a new picture virtually every day, so the quantity of pictures has really added up.  There are to date exactly 2,220 posts, each consisting of simply a picture, or maybe two or three if it was warranted.  There would be many more, but let me tell you something about street photography -- you've got to be really fast!  For every shot I got there were ten I missed because I didn't have enough time to pick up my camera and shoot.  Things happen very quickly out there, plus I'm often moving myself (although I'm proud to say that on some occasions that has not prevented me from getting the shot).

Recently I completed a rather massive project of indexing all the pictures in the blog by subject matter (which I should have been doing all along).  So if you click on the label below each picture you will see other pictures with the same theme.  And of course if you click on the picture itself it will blow up in size, quite possibly revealing details you may have missed in the smaller version.

What I have decided to do to celebrate this momentous occasion is to pick out my fifty favorites from all these images.  Since November I have been re-publishing one photograph a day from the collection, a picture that in my own opinion is one of my best.  (I apologize in advance to all the pictures that were not chosen.  You know I love you all, but let's be honest, some of you are just not as good as the others.)

So I hope you'll click on over to Pictures From A Taxi to check out the ones I've chosen -- in no particular order, my Fifty Favorites.


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Educating Joey Essex

I appeared recently on British television in an episode of the popular reality show
Educating Joey Essex.  The idea of the show was that Joey comes to America to learn about the American election.  I was Joey's taxi driver on two days of shooting.  First, picking him up at JFK and then driving him and the pro-Trump bloggers "Diamond and Silk" to the Trump Tower in Manhattan.  Joey had to keep the peace between me and Diamond and Silk as we had a bit of a difference of opinion about the candidates!

Great fun and a terrific crew.

To see an interview of Joey Essex talking about the show, click here.

To see Diamond and Silk on YouTube click here.

Pictures:





Tuesday, November 08, 2016

The American Way

Below is a post I wrote and published the day after the election of 2012.  It is a reminiscence of an extraordinary experience I had while casting my vote for President and Vice-President of the United States in the election of 1984. I think it's particularly relevant today...


As I entered the voting booth yesterday here in the United States, I was reminded of what was a very special Election Day occurrence I witnessed in 1984.  Although it's a divergence from the usual taxi theme of this blog, I would like to share that story with you.

In 1984, also a presidential election year, the contest was between the Republican incumbents, President Ronald Reagan and Vice-President George Bush (the elder), and the Democrats Senator Walter Mondale for president and Representative Geraldine Ferraro for vice-president, the first female to run for the second-highest office in the land in American history.  I lived in a part of Queens called Forest Hills at that time and, as it happened, that was also the area of New York City where Geraldine Ferraro made her home.  Now, my home was a one-bedroom apartment and hers was an expensive single-family house with a front and back yard, but that didn't matter.  We were neighbors.  

My polling place was located in the gymnasium of an elementary school, P.S. (Public School) 101, several blocks from my home, and I walked there at around 1 p.m. on Election Day.  As I approached the school, I could see that the place was more or less surrounded with media and police vehicles, and I realized why they were there: this was the same polling place where Geraldine Ferraro voted.  I entered the gym and as I was busy signing in (which is how registered voters record that they have shown up and cast a vote), there was some commotion around the entrance, and in came the candidate herself.

Well, the place went abuzz.  She smiled and waved to everyone and was immediately surrounded by television reporters and the like.  Many in the room, including myself, approached her to shake hands and wish her well.  And then something happened that struck me as being unseemly.  A group of Republican supporters on one side of the gym started chanting, "Four More Years", repetitively and in unison, the message being that they wanted her opponents, and not her, to be elected.  That went on for about a minute and then kind of fizzled out on its own.

Ms. Ferraro was quite used to this sort of thing, of course, and it did nothing to alter her smile nor to abate the excitement in the room.  After a while she entered a voting booth, one of those contraptions with a lever that opens and closes a circular curtain for privacy, to cast her vote.  A few booths down, I entered one of my own.  So what we had here, only several feet apart, were the candidate for the second-highest office of the United States of America and a taxi driver both exercising their right -- considered sacred by many -- to vote.

To me, this demonstration before my eyes of how we in America choose our leaders was a truly wonderful and inspiring event.  What I realized during my walk back home was even more wonderful and inspiring, however.  It was that when the chanting of "Four More Years" suddenly interrupted the mood in the gym, nothing happened.  Not only did none of the many police or Secret Service agents in the room move forward to hush them, no one even thought of doing so.  It was a public place and they had the right to express their opinion, period.  The freedom of speech, guaranteed to all by a constitution that has stood since 1789, is so engrained in the psyches of the citizenry that it is completely unquestioned. 

And that is the American way.   

Thursday, October 13, 2016

More Donald Trump Stories From My Cab

In looking through my journals recently (I've kept journals of my most interesting fares since I started driving a taxi in 1977) I came across two more Donald Trump stories, both from 2011.  I contend that firsthand data (you witnessed it yourself) and secondhand data (someone you know witnessed it and told you about it) can be valuable in validating or contradicting third-hand data (the media).  So with that in mind, here they are, again without embellishment.

1. January 31, 2011 -- I picked up a sixty-ish Hispanic woman and drove her to JFK, a forty-minute ride, at 4 a.m.  She told me she worked for many years for a very wealthy woman who had just died at the age of 94.  This elderly woman had a home in Palm Springs, California, and an apartment in New York City in Trump Tower.  My passenger said she is now returning to the Palm Springs home where her husband is a gardener.  I asked her if she ever meets Donald Trump in the Trump Tower building and, if she does, has she ever seen him NOT wearing a suit and a tie.  (This was on my mind ever since I'd noticed that in all the years Trump has been showing up in the media I had never seen him without a suit or tie, even when a TV camera would show him sitting in the stands at baseball games.)  She said that she had met him occasionally in the elevator and, no, come to think of it, she had never seen him wearing anything but a suit and a tie.  She said Trump was always polite and interested in her opinion about the service in his building.  She recalled that he asked her once if the doormen were friendly.  She also added that the doormen say that Trump doesn't like to shake hands with people and that she sometimes sees his young son being pushed around in a stroller by a nurse and followed by two bodyguards close behind.  

"That's the price of being too famous," I said to her.

2. June 30, 2011 -- I picked up a young Hispanic man in Queens and drove him to Washington Heights in Manhattan, a thirty-minute ride, at midnight.  He told me he works in maintenance for the Trump Organization and that the next day he will be taking a test for his license to operate boilers (a big deal for him).  I asked him if he had any Donald Trump stories and he recalled one.  He told me he had once been working at the Wollman Skating Rink in Central Park, which is managed by the Trump Organization, and Donald Trump personally fired one of the workers because he wasn't dressed in the proper uniform -- instead of a black shirt and black pants, he was wearing a white shirt and black jeans.  "Asshole," my passenger said.  He added, however, that the perks of his job are great.  (No mention in my journal of what the perks are, unfortunately.)  

He said that he has seen Trump not wearing a suit and tie, "but only when he's going to play golf." 

He also told me that the owners of residences in the Trump building on Central Park South pay $80,000 a month for the maintenance of their apartments and that the man on the top floor, a penthouse, "owns a major bank."  This last bit of information I found particularly interesting because it gave me a gauge, a little measuring stick, by which to better comprehend the difference in wealth between the 1% and the rest of us.  

$80,000 a month for maintenance.  I own a small condo myself.  I pay $103. 

  

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Donald Trump Stories From My Cab

No, I’ve never had Donald Trump in my cab.  Now that would be an interesting story, of course, because it would be firsthand data for me, secondhand data for you, as opposed to information received via the media.  However, since the primaries began in February of this extraordinary election year in the U.S., I have had several passengers in my taxi who told me Donald Trump stories of their own.  And that does count for something.  It’s source information, unedited.

Here they are, in chronological order, without embellishment:

1. March 8 -- an older gentleman, in his seventies I would say, got in the cab in Midtown and we drove up to his Park Avenue address at 81st Street.  ("Park Avenue address" is code, btw, for "old money, very wealthy").  He was on his cell phone for most of the ride, but when he'd ended his call I asked for his opinion about the upcoming election.  Without needing any prompting, he told me he'd once had some kind of business deal in progress with Trump (no specifics were given).  He said he'd never met him in person but had spoken with him on the phone.  He said he should change the name of his book from The Art Of The Deal to The Art Of Changing The Deal At The Last Minute.  

The implication here, as I understood it, was that Trump was unscrupulous, not good to his word, sneaky, and that the deal, whatever it was, did not go forward. 

As he left the cab his parting words, referring to Trump, were, "He's a bad man."

2. May 3 -- I had a middle-aged woman en route to the News Corp. Building on 47th and 6th, where Fox News is located.  She told me that her husband works as an "ad director" there, meaning he arranges which commercials will be shown in which time slots.  She said that recently her husband and a colleague were waiting for an elevator to arrive in the building and when the door opened there stood Donald Trump with a couple of security guards beside him. As her husband and his colleague moved forward to join them in the elevator, they were stopped by the security guards.  But Trump intervened, allowing them to come in with them.  As they rode together in the elevator, however, there was no conversation with Trump because her husband, she said, was "in shock".

3. July 10 -- a middle-aged man in my cab told me he is a construction contractor in Florida.  He said that a friend of his had once been in charge of a Trump construction project there and at one point during the operation he pulled all his workers off the job and refused to allow them to continue working until he was paid the money that was owed to him for work already done up to that point.  Apparently Trump had a reputation for not paying his contractors and his friend was wise to this.  The ploy, my passenger said, was successful.  Trump paid him what he was owed and the construction continued.


4. August 7 -- a 30-something woman going from 30 Rock (Rockefeller Center in Midtown) to the Upper West Side.  After chatting with her for a few minutes she told me she is a makeup artist at NBC and used to work on the show "The Apprentice".  Realizing I had a rare opportunity here, I began quizzing her about what it was like to actually do Donald Trump's makeup and, of course, what about his hair?  Here's what I learned (and this is breaking news)... 

a) His hair is real.  At least, it's not a piece.  She couldn't say whether or not he has plugs because she didn't work on his hair and couldn't get in there, but it's definitely not a toupee.  

b) Regarding the orange face: Trump has a skin condition known as rosacea (the enlargement of facial blood vessels, giving his cheeks and nose a flushed appearance).  She said that when she worked for him she used makeup that gave his face the appearance of a natural skin tone.  Now, however, he does his makeup himself and is using a yellow substance which, when applied over the redness of his face, creates an orange tint (yellow + red = orange).
According to my passenger he won't listen to advice that he should change to another cream or ointment.

c) What it was like to be an employee of Donald Trump: she enjoyed working for him, was treated respectfully, and was well paid.  She said if she worked only half a day she would still be given a full day's wages.

d) Trump's children: she liked them, too.  The only thing she found objectionable about any of them was that Donald Junior is a hunter.  Other than that she thought they were fine people.

e) Would she vote for him?  No.


For me, stories number 1 and 3 add credence to reports we’ve been hearing for months that Trump has a long history as an unscrupulous businessman, a shark swimming in the shark-infested waters of real estate development, that you cannot believe what he says, and that he is not to be trusted.  Stories 2 and 4 lead me to believe that on a personal level he can be a nice guy.  Story 4b suggests that reports are true that it is difficult or even impossible for him to accept advice from people who are experts in a field and that he trusts his own instincts above all else. 


Ah, the things you can learn driving a taxicab in New York City!  Should I come upon further stories from a firsthand or even a secondhand source, I will pass them on.

For more of my thoughts about this election please click here for the post, "What The Man From The Atomic Energy Commission Told Me".  

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

What The Man From The Atomic Energy Commission Told Me

You never know who will show up in the back seat of a taxicab.  It’s like a talk show on wheels, really.  A guest enters, we chat for a while, then he or she exits and the next one gets in.  It’s quite a remarkable human situation, if you think about it, especially in a city like New York where the movers and shakers of the world tend to congregate. 

Back in 1992 I had a passenger in my taxi who made a puzzling statement to me and this statement, considering who he was, has kept me thinking about its meaning ever since.  This story is actually one of the most frequently told stories to passengers in my cab, although I’ve never written about it until now.  And I do so now because with presidential politics being what they are in the United States at this time, I feel a responsibility to share this information. 

My passenger was an American man who I estimated to be in his ‘70s at the time.  I remember thinking that he looked to be in great physical condition for his age and that he mentioned to me that he walked ten miles a day, which impressed me.  I don’t recall how it came up in conversation, but somehow the following datum emerged: he told me he had once been a member of the Atomic Energy Commission. 

Whoa.  You may not be old enough to know what that meant, but if you were around in the ‘50s and ‘60s you most likely do.  The Atomic Energy Commission was the highest level federal agency in the United States which regulated the use and development of atomic energy, including the creation of new types of atomic weapons.  In terms of its importance to the country, it might be compared today to the National Security Agency (the NSA) or the CIA.  Top secret, hush-hush agencies with great, sometimes controversial, responsibilities to the security of the country.  

Realizing that I had a rare opportunity here, I tried to make the most of it in the limited time we would be together.  I know I asked him several questions which he was glad to answer, but there is only one thing I specifically remember asking his opinion about, something I’d already had some attention on for a few years.

And that was this: it had occurred to me some years prior that there seemed to have been a shift in the public consciousness concerning the threat and consequences of atomic war.  It seemed to me that people weren’t nearly as concerned about it as they had been before.  You didn’t see articles in the papers or magazines about it anymore, or hear people talking about it anymore.  Nobody seemed to be worried about it anymore, even though the Cold War was still going on.  I don’t know when this change occurred, but I supposed it was a gradual thing that may have started in the early ‘70s, perhaps when the Viet Nam war ended — I don’t know.

When I was growing up in the late ‘50s and throughout the ‘60s, the seriousness of even the possibility of nuclear war was very much in the public consciousness.  I would say that it and the arrival of television were the two things that shaped the psychology of my generation.  These two developments created a significant “generation gap” between us Baby Boomers and our parents, actually.  They had lived in a world where nuclear bombs and televisions did not exist.  This resulted, I think, in a different view of the world for us and certainly a different view about warfare.  For all the millennia preceding the advent of the atomic bomb, warfare meant men fighting directly against other men with some sort of hand-held weapon or by shooting short-range explosives at each other.  Even in the most horrific wars, it was still understood, if not consciously then subconsciously, that when the war was over, or even if it was never over, the human race would still exist and although it might change for the better or worse, there would still exist what is called “civilization”.

The invention and then the proliferation of nuclear weapons, however, changed that very basic reality.  For the first time in human history, weaponry had been created which could mean the extinction of civilization, if not the extinction of the human race itself and perhaps even all forms of life on the planet.  Man had developed the means of destroying himself as a species.  And this would happen not through masses of armies going up against each other but by certain people pushing certain buttons which would launch the nuclear missiles.  Thus the new reality was that even if everything seemed harmonious and peaceful, this world would always be a very dangerous place.  It could all end tomorrow, complete destruction, just like that, if certain people pushed certain buttons.  That’s a pretty depressing thought, isn’t it?

I grew up knowing, and worrying, about this.  With the Cold War brewing it was always in the back of my mind that this day could be the last day.  This fear was heightened considerably by the Cuban Missile Crisis in October of 1962 when the Soviet Union and the United States came to the brink of nuclear war.  It was horrifying.  

I remember one specific incident which occurred in my 8th grade music class during the crisis.  Our teacher brought out a record of the music from a new Broadway show called Fiorello! about the former mayor of New York City, Fiorello LaGuardia.  We were to listen to the record and there would be a discussion about it when it was over.  She placed the record on the turntable and we waited for the music to begin.  However, this show didn’t begin with music.  It began with the blaring siren of a fire engine.  (Mayor LaGuardia was famous for showing up at fires.)  The entire class, hearing the sound, let out a collective scream.  Not a funny, teenage scream — a real scream of terror.  That’s how on edge we were, and we were only kids.

So I brought this up with my passenger.  I asked him if I was correct in my observation.  Did something change?  Are people in general not concerned about the possibility of a nuclear holocaust like they used to be?  He thought about it for a moment and then told me that I was correct, it was true.  And then he added this comment, and these were his exact words:

“A country that’s worried about a nuclear war is a country that won’t buy a new car.”

I don’t remember if I asked him what he meant by that.  I don’t think I did, actually, maybe because we were at the end of the ride.  But his comment has stayed with me all these years.  If it had come from just anyone, I suppose I would have forgotten about it the next day, but this was coming from the guy from the Atomic Energy Commission, so it carried significant gravitas.    

After giving it much thought, and after hearing the opinions of many passengers in my cab, I came to the conclusion that what he meant was that a country of worried people was bad for the economy, with the implication being that a robust economy was an important ingredient in keeping the peace, not only in America but around the world.  Plus this: what’s the point in having the media and governmental agencies agitating the population about nuclear holocaust when there’s nothing the average person can do about it, anyway?

I decided he was right.  This made sense.  A population which believes the world may end tomorrow might well turn out to be a population of nihilistic, live-for-today stoners.  What it takes for a society to prosper — the steady flow of commerce — could be reduced to a trickle.  No Brillo pads to clean your sink.  No gravy on your mashed potatoes.  No invention of the iPhone.  No Pokemon Go.  If things get bad enough in a country, people will become desperate.  Governments can be overthrown by violence and atomic weapons can get into the hands of some very destructive people.  So the man from the Atomic Energy Commission was right. 

Or was he?

As this presidential election cycle rolls forward in the United States I have given his comment even more thought, and it seems to me something was overlooked.  A country that is not keenly aware of what atomic weapons can do is a country that might elect a rabble-rousing loose cannon to the presidency -- a person who could conceivably blunder our way into a nuclear holocaust.  

So there is something the average person can do about it.  He or she can understand that the risk of atomic warfare is the number one issue in any presidential election, and vote accordingly.  No other issue even comes close.  Not bad trade agreements, not student debt, not illegal immigration, not even psychotic lunatics opening fire in airports.  

Please consider this: the president of the United States, when it comes to nuclear war, virtually has the power of God.  By his or her command all we know of civilization could quite suddenly come to an end.  By his or her command billions -- billions -- of people could perish, perhaps even every human being on this planet could perish.  Perhaps even every living thing on the planet could perish.  Is that not the power of God?

So temperament, sanity, intelligence, and empathy mean everything in a presidential election.  It’s the great decision we as Americans must make every fourth year, and it tests our wisdom as a nation.  Candidates who are rude, impulsive, thin-skinned, angry, and impossible to give advice to can be elected to the offices of mayor, governor, and senator all day long, and sometimes are.  

But never to the presidency.

The motto of one of the great American presidents, Theodore Roosevelt, was “Speak softly and carry a big stick”.  There are plenty of big sticks in the United States arsenal.  It’s the “speak softly” part that is so important in a nuclear age. 

If you’re an American, I do hope you will give this your most sober consideration before you vote.


*********


There are links to several Wikipedia pages in this post.  I’m giving three of them again here in case you missed them:







I suggest that you to go to these sites and read the articles. I know it’s disturbing to read this stuff, it really is, but I feel we cannot afford to be unaware of what is really at stake in this and in every presidential election.  Go to the Cuban Missile Crisis page first and listen to the riveting audio of President Kennedy addressing the nation.  Then imagine the wrong person being the president at that time.

I feel strongly that all Americans need to be conversant with this subject. "The Nuclear Age" should be required study for everyone at the high school level, in my opinion. 


This is the world we live in.  


Let’s not kid ourselves.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Driverless Taxis? My Op-Ed in The Guardian

There was an announcement in the worldwide media several days ago that Uber and Volvo have been working together to develop the technology for a driverless taxi and that the first of these cars are already being tested on the streets of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania (USA).

Is this the beginning of the end of the profession of Taxi Driver?

I was asked by The Guardian, one of the UK's top newspapers (with an online edition for the US), to write an Op-Ed on this disturbing news...

Click here:
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/aug/22/driverless-cars-taxis-cabs-uber


Monday, April 11, 2016

Harry Belafonte

The great Harry Belafonte and his wife Pamela Frank were passengers in my cab yesterday.  Cheerful and exuberant, he took a minute to oblige my request for a picture.

If you are not familiar with Harry Belafonte, please click on the link above and check out his Wikipedia page.  He has been an inspiration to millions, including myself, since the 1950s, and he continues to be.

Would you believe he is 89 years old?



(Photo by Pamela Frank)

 

Monday, March 28, 2016

What It Takes To Get Rid Of A McDonald's

Here's a question I've asked dozens of passengers in my cab over the years, and I'll ask it to you now: have you ever -- in your life -- noticed a McDonald's that, once it was there, ceased to be there? Think about this for a minute... I'm talking about every town or city you've ever lived in, every town or city you've ever known, every highway you've ever driven on that had a rest stop, every mall you've ever shopped in: have you ever known of a McDonald's that went away?

I'll bet you can't name even one.

I say this because no one in my cab has ever been able to think of one.  Well, actually there was one passenger who could.  He said there was a mass shooting in a McDonald's in San Diego, California, in 1984 in which twenty-one people were killed, and in the aftermath the McDonald's Corporation decided to raze the building and donate the land to the city rather than reopen it.  However, a new McDonald's was eventually built just a few blocks away.  So it's debatable as to whether or not this counts.

Wondering why this was so, I learned through conversations with passengers and with a bit of research on the net that in the great majority of cases the McDonald's Corporation owns the land upon which the restaurants are constructed.  A realtor in my cab recently told me, in fact, that people are mistaken if they think McDonald's is in the hamburger business.  Actually, he said, they're in the real estate business.  The value of their real estate holdings, including the land itself and the buildings, is more than 28 billion dollars.

So imagine my surprise when I drove up 10th Avenue in Manhattan a few weeks ago and noticed that a fence had been constructed around a McDonald's at 34th Street and it was shuttered up.  This was especially interesting to me because this very same McDonald's was, in fact, demolished about twenty years ago and I remember thinking at the time that it was the only one I knew of that had ever gone away. Especially strange, I thought, because it was one of the very few restaurants in Manhattan that had its own parking lot.  You could actually park your car and go into the place to eat, unheard of in the real estate paradise known as Manhattan.  And now it was gone?

No!  What happened was that, Hydra-like, it came back!  A new, bigger, two-story McDonald's arose in its place and was super-sizing the fries, sodas, and shakes all over again.  What, I had to wonder, could it possibly take to kill off one of these joints?

The answer to that question requires a closer look at what's been happening in the section of Manhattan that is bounded from north to south by 34th Street and 30th Street and from east to west by 10th and 12th Avenues.  It has its own new name: "Hudson Yards".  "Hudson" because the Hudson River is right there next to 12th Avenue and "Yards" because the construction that's underway there extends over the West Side Rail Yard, where trains headed for Pennsylvania Station come, go, and hang out.  It's a massive real estate development which when completed is expected to consist of sixteen skyscrapers with more than 12 million square feet of office, residential, and retail space.  An extension of the Number 7 subway line -- a massive construction project in itself -- was recently completed and opened for business with a station on 34th Street between 10th and 11th Avenues, the first new subway station to open in New York City in twenty years.

It's a big deal.

So why did the McDonald's go out?  Well, it was due to the value of its land, of course.  We all know about "location, location, location" and this is a location wet dream.  It's about an acre of the most prime real estate imaginable, literally adjacent to the new subway station.  Who was the genius who years ago decided to acquire a plot big enough for a parking lot?  Incredible.

I had to wonder what the price could have been for the McDonald's Corporation to sell out.  Happily, I was able to extract this information from two recent passengers in my cab.  One was a real estate lawyer and the other an executive of the development company which bought the land. (It's amazing to me how, when I decide that I want certain information, somehow a passenger shows up in my cab who provides me with it.  It's been happening for years -- a phenomenon, really.)

Anyway, what do you think it was?  Before you read on, just sit back for a minute and think about it.  An acre of land in the middle of a huge, huge real estate development in a whole new section of Manhattan that has its own new subway line -- what do you think that's worth in today's dollars?

Okay, here's the answer (drum roll, please)...

One hundred and forty-four million dollars, including the air rights.

One hundred and forty-four million dollars.

So now we know.

That's what it takes to get rid of a McDonald's.


Sorry, Morgan Spurlock.


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Weeknd

Tuesday nights at around 3 A.M. -- that's an interesting time of the night for a taxi driver in New York City.  It's the time when the streets are not only at their emptiest, but when the "creatures of the night", so to speak, are most likely to appear from the shadows -- and that could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on the creature.  I was getting ready to end my shift at that time a few months ago, not in a creature-of-the-night mood, really, so when I saw a relatively normal-looking pair of humans hailing me at the corner of 54th Street and 6th Avenue in Manhattan, it was a welcome sight.  The two of them -- an attractive, young white lady wearing a tight-fitting party dress and a hip-looking black guy carrying a guitar case -- jumped in and the guy said they wanted to go to the Affinia Hotel at 31st Street and 7th Avenue.  The doors closed and we were on our way, but we went barely a block when there was a problem.

The guy suddenly realized he'd left his card (credit card) in the bar.  This meant we had to loop around to 5th Avenue, cross over on 53rd Street back to 6th Avenue, and then make a right turn on 54th Street, where the bar, a place called Connolly's, was located.  This was okay with me, of course, as it meant more mileage on the ride, assuming he went into the bar, got his card, and we continued on to the hotel.  The young lady, however, was not comprehending the problem.  She thought he said that he'd left his card in his car and didn't understand how that could happen.  After a prolonged discussion, the guy finally realized her confusion and told her the card was in the bar, not in his car.  "My car's in LA," he said.  They both laughed.  Well, he laughed.  She guffawed.  This misunderstanding was not merely funny, it was hilarious, from her point of view.

Overhearing this little episode made me curious about this couple so I kept my attention on them as I made my way back to Connolly's Bar.  I took note of the way they were.  She was clearly a bit tipsy -- a happy, but not drunk, attractive female.  She spoke to the guy ebulliently, full of agreement, listening carefully to his every word, and sitting so close to the guy that a cab driver could only assume that they were more than friends -- or were about to be so.

The guy, though, was much more subdued, laid-back, cool and calm, but not in an off-putting way.  I could see that he liked the girl, liked the affinity and attention he was receiving from her, and was perhaps playing his cards a bit carefully, not wanting to blow what surely must have looked like a winning hand.  He wasn't doing a lot of talking, though.  The girl was the gabby one.

We circled around and in a couple of minutes we arrived at Connolly's on 54th Street.  The guy opened his door and stepped out onto the street, leaving his guitar in the cab.

"Be right back."

"Okay," she beamed back.

He gave her a half-smile and walked into the bar.

The moment the guy disappeared from sight she turned her attention to me.  With wide-eyed  enthusiasm she exclaimed:

"Do you know who he IS???!!!"

I, of course, had no idea who he was, so I said, "The guy who left his guitar in the cab?"

My quip went unnoticed by my passenger and continued on its journey into outer space.

"He's The Weeknd!" she squealed.

"What do you mean?  It's Tuesday."

"No, no, he calls himself 'The Weeknd'."  She became a bit serious for a moment.  "It's his stage name.  But it's not spelled the same.  You leave off the 'e' after 'week'.  So it's not like you say 'The Week End'.  It's more like you say 'The Weakened'.  It's like a double-meaning."

"Oh."

She lowered her voice a notch.  "His real name is 'L.J.', she said, "but he doesn't want anyone to know."  Suddenly she seemed worried.  "Don't tell him I told you who he is when he comes back, okay?"

"Oh, sure, don't worry.  It'll be our little secret."

Her smile returned.

"Okay, so who is The Weeknd?" I inquired (of course).

Her unbridled enthusiasm returned.   "Oh, he's a singer.  He's the hottest thing around right now!  He's HUGE!   I mean HUGE!!!  He's on all the radio stations!  He's all over the place on YouTube!  He's HUGE!"

"Really, wow!  So who are you, his girlfriend?"

"Well, ha-ha, not exactly... we just met in the bar."  She then giggled in the way that people often do  when they're about to engage in a guilty pleasure.  A "My Bad" grin appeared on her face and remained there.

"Ohh, I got it," I replied.  I smiled back, as if to say, "I'll be your secret coachman."

So now I did get it, indeed.  She was his Thank-You-For-Choosing-Me-Sir pick-up of the evening.  And the place they were on their way to is also known as the Shagalicious Hotel, by Marriott.

"So how did you and The Weeknd wind up in a bar at three in the morning?" I wanted to know.

"Ohhh, well, he just played at a big fund-raiser at MOMA," she said.  "$50,000 a plate!  Can you imagine that -- $50,000 a plate!  He was the entertainment."

It did make sense.  Although the main entrance to MOMA (the Museum of Modern Art) is on East 53rd Street, there's an open-air terrace that extends to 54th Street, right across the street from Connolly's Bar.  So I assumed The Weeknd and his people must have headed there after the show.

We continued to chat it up for a couple of minutes which meant that she went on bubbling all over the top about how big a star The Weeknd is while I pleasantly acknowledged whatever she said.  But then, suddenly, there was a hitch in the plan: the guy who calls himself "The Weeknd" returned to the cab, sat himself down, and announced to my passenger that he was having a problem with his card, so there would be a bit of a delay.  He suggested that instead of waiting for him in the cab that she come back into the bar until he could clear up the trouble.  The girl said, "Oh, okay," and took out her own credit card to pay the fare, which was up to $9.80 at that point.  She swiped her card, the transaction (including a $1.96 tip) went through, and they left the premises, he with his guitar in hand.

"Sorry," he called out to me, which I appreciated.  I like that in a celebrity, no attitude.  He seemed like a nice enough guy.

Well, there I sat in front of Connolly's Bar.  There were still quite a few people inside, so I thought I might as well hang out and see if I can get another fare, or better yet, maybe I could get the girl and this guy The Weeknd again.  It would no doubt be a fascinating eavesdropping situation, based on what she'd already told me.

But no.  Ten minutes ticked by and then finally a middle-aged couple, whose destination was the Roosevelt Hotel on Madison Avenue, came out of the bar and got in my cab.  As I pulled out from the curb I looked in my rearview mirror and saw the girl and The Weeknd re-emerge from the bar and get into another taxi.  I cursed my luck, missing them by just seconds, and drove my new passengers to their destination.  It turned out to be my last fare of the evening.

I was curious about The Weeknd, so the next day I decided to check him out online. I found that he is, indeed, quite the rising star.  He's got dozens of videos on YouTube, with many millions of views, and has performed at lots of major events.  His latest venture was doing the soundtrack for the movie Fifty Shades Of Grey -- very impressive!  I watched one of his videos and found (unusual for me) that I liked the sound of a new recording artist.  This guy was good.  So I clicked on another one, this time paying more attention to the images than I had before.  And then...

...hey, wait a minute...

I looked more closely.  Whoa, whoa, whoa, just a minute, there!

I watched the video again.  Could it be?

Oh my God, yes, it was true.

THE GUY I WAS LOOKING AT IN THE VIDEO WHO CALLS HIMSELF "THE WEEKND" WAS NOT THE GUY WHO'D BEEN IN MY CAB!

On further investigation, I found that there's a fellow called "L.J." in his band who plays the bass!  Aha!

At first my feeling about the attractive young lady in the tight-fitting party dress was one of sympathy.  Poor thing, she'd been duped by what may be the oldest band-member's trick in the book.  But then I became more critical.  I mean, what a disgrace to the good reputation of groupies everywhere.

Come on, honey.

If a guy tells you he's Mick Jagger, you've got to do a little vetting.  Does he know the words to "I Can't Get No Satisfaction"?  Can he at least hum the tune?

Come ON!






Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Taxi TV And Me

My God, how I hate these things.

For those who may not know, let me first tell you what the Taxi TV is. It's a television monitor situated in the rear compartment of all yellow and green (outer borough) taxicabs in New York City. It's not, however, a regular TV like you'd have at home. Rather, it consists of pre-programmed information, the majority of it being clips from television talk shows, along with commercials and the occasional public service announcement. The entertainment, the pitches, and the hear-ye-hear-ye's are packaged in continuous loops which the passenger may see and hear twice or even three times during the course of a ride. The driver hears it whenever the meter is turned on, which on the average is 60% of his twelve-hour shift.

The speakers of the Taxi TV are situated about 24 inches behind the driver's head. Not only does the cabbie have no control over its coming on automatically when the meter is engaged, he has no control over the thing's volume. The passenger can, with a tap-tap-tap of his finger, raise the volume to make it suddenly blasting into the driver's ears. He may also turn it off, and many do just that if they can figure out how to accomplish the task. Most, however, simply ignore it while conversing with their riding companions or the driver, texting, or chatting on their phones. Thus the Taxi TV is, more often than not, just "noise".

And if all this weren't enough to make you scream, let me add that it was the city itself (Mayor Bloomberg, in particular) which mandated its presence in all cabs in 2008. It is there primarily to raise advertising revenue for medallion owners and the companies which won the contracts for its installation and maintenance. The drivers don't see a dime - of course!

It is very unpopular with the majority of the taxi-riding public.  And needless to say, the drivers universally hate the thing.

Well, my dislike for the Taxi TV has been welling up in me for all these years.  The only positive thing I can say about it is that it has given me a worthy replacement for my Giuliani rant.  (I had my Giuliani rant perfected to such a point that passengers in my cab, who may have made the mistake of saying something positive about former Mayor Giuliani to me, would have been happy by the end of the ride to sign a petition to have the man tarred, feathered, and run out of town on a pole.  It was a thing of elocutionary beauty.)

A few weeks ago an acorn dropped on my head and the idea occurred to me to make an offer to passengers in my cab to raise awareness of the outrageousness of the presence of a television monitor in a taxicab, or at least of its continuous noise.  I decided to give them a one dollar rebate on the ride if they would just turn off the damned sound.  

It made the New York Post.  

Click here for the link.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

On The Radio In The U.K. Monday Morning

I will be sitting in with Ed and Rachel on their Heart Radio Breakfast Show (www.heart.co.uk/westmids/on-air/breakfast/) this coming Monday morning, June 8th, at 6:00 a.m., U.K. time (1:00 a.m. in NYC).

The show airs from Birmingham, England's second-largest city, but they'll be broadcasting from right here in New York on Monday. Don't know exactly what we'll be talking about (I'm hoping they'll let me do a traffic report!) but whatever it is, it should be fun. So tune in if you can. I'm told that I'll be on in their first hour, between 6 and 7 a.m., U.K.

The show can be accessed worldwide on the Internet, but the station doesn't provide archives, so the only way to catch it will be live on Monday.