Thursday, August 11, 2011

pieces of taxi

Pieces of Taxi

1. Briefcase
Woman gets in back. Oriental. Chinese probably. Slender. Pretty. Nice biz suit.
She tosses the briefcase on the seat ahead of herself as she slides in.
Where to?
The Richmond, she sighs.
Have a nice day?
It was OK.
So, what did you learn today?
[I’m always asking questions of the day. Political usually, sometimes philosophical, you might say. Anything to stir the pot. I can’t drive all night to various nowheres without some connection to somethin’. I already feel we are the most alienated society of all time. I think what we need now is a giant national Woodstock the size of Iowa.]
I learned, she said, that there is no such thing as constructive criticism.
Free ride.

2. Three suits.
Three business types hop in at the Regency–two men, one woman. All in wool business suits. Headed for a restaurant in North Beach for dinner.
They ride in Silence. I’m thinkin’ like this was gonna be a hard one.
I sort through my repertoire of conversation starters. Brain-files marked politics, economics, religion, or sports. I disqualify sex since the woman is out-numbered. I only bring up sex when I’m out-numbered. Or it’s even, of course. That doesn’t mean the roles are the same: I get to risk and they to decide. Equal but different. Funny, how life emulates computer science. Antogeny recapitulating philogeny, I guess. Man is like a river of electrons. Woman the switch.
Since they’re business people, I go ahead and ask, How’s biz?
Not bad, answers the man from the right rear.
So, I go, what do you guys think about the bailout?
Messy. They’re lost. The two men go. It’s gonna be a long time coming…he trails off.
Trying to figure out what that meant I toss out a feeler: Might it be the end of capitalism? I go. A bit cocky, but at the same time, tentative.

Well…uhh, goes one. Uhmmm, uhh…, goes the other.

You know, I continue. Communism–our other economic religion–is blown away.
Right? Since they tore down that wall in ’89. Now us. (I say us). Won’t happen tomorrow, I suppose. But the unbridled laissez faire-style robber baron stuff is probably over. Don’t cha think?
I’m driving thru Chinatown as I say this.
Right rear goes, you might be right.
It’s a huge waste, says the Middle guy.

But then, the Middle guy goes, I think it’s the only way to go.
Not referrin’ to nothin’.
We need to keep free enterprise, I answer. I mean people need to start something they like. Something something they can depend on…with maybe a life expectancy less than the immortality of corporations. Maybe they should all have one function only, and not be able to buy other companies…? End of the Big C’s, I go. Chattering a bit. No commies, no robber barons, no…I dunno….
Then the lady speaks, as if from a self-imposed dormancy–ok, she sounds tired.
The next economic system, she says, will be Chocolate.

3. The artiste:
She slipped in the back-right in no hurry. Somehow we both managed to recognize and say we were writers. So I asked her the stupid question I always get. But she said she didn’t want to get published.
What’s up wit dat? I asked.
She loved the process…of writing, she said. The choices, the constant cuts, with the bright surprises, but that, she said, wasn’t it as much as:
A. I don’t wanna be the court jester, she said. The joker who makes ‘em laugh and forget Truth.
B. I don’t wanna be the messenger who’ll tell ‘em the Truth either. Cuz they’d kill me. Things only go smoothly when you’re not getting anything done. When you truly create, all hell breaks loose.
Sister, you’re an artist. You just earned a free ride
At her destination, as she slides out of the taxi, with one foot on the street, she turns to smile at me.
An artist, she says, never gives ‘em what they want.
I drive away thinking. I wanna express the truth as I see it. My vision.
If I only try to please, what am i? A decorator? So leave it alone. The world’s already pretty enough. The demand is simply too great.
So we have to make ourselves smaller.

And one more, measuring 900 wds+ just for fun:

The Greatest Couple (in the universe)
[Pieces of taxi # 76]

In the foggy cool of what otherwise would have been a hot summer’s night any place else (south of Nome) a snapping and pouting couple got in the taxi on a street of fine Italian restaurants.
Man first, he slides in from the right rear across the back seat to sit upright firmly pouting arms crossed over his heart like a wall behind me.
His mate, his mistress, maybe his wife, a partner on this mite’s team in this two-person team sport they’re playing, did the most graceful knee-swing entry and stretched for the door. I half wished I’d run around to close for her. But I prefer to watch women move so I did not help. In stead, I appreciated.
We are dancing on the open covers of our gaping tombs. Nevertheless, moments of beauty….
“You are stupid and should not have the right to any opinion,” her hubbie said.
An ominous void of silence followed, leaving me no other recourse but to say, “Could you sit on the other side, sir?”
“Beg yer pardon!”
“Men to the right rear, man.”
“What?!” he yelps.
“Well, are you a robber? You could kill me easily from there!”
He’s not that kind of a robber,” she uttered calmly.
“Good then. Having cleared that up, where to, folks?”
After a few more dullish moments filled with the ostentatiousness of their self-indulgent expressionism of pouting, she smiled into the rear view, and asked, “why don’t you ask Mr. Know-it-all?”
OK. Yes.
I mumbled as I punched the meter.
They gave me their addresses—leaving me to decide the matter.
So we cruised off to make the choice as we rolled along in silence.
A silence which she soon broke by saying, “You are too stupid and should not have the right to any opinion.”
“Ha!” he went, unswqyed by her retort, identical to his starter phrase.
“YOU are too stupid and should not have the right to an opinion!’ he blurted out warmly.
“You should not…!”
“You should not….”
Suddenly, I had heard enough!
Forced to interject simply for my peace of mind—I felt some risk of becoming collateral damage—I recommended, “Why not say, WE are stupid…et cetera…?”
There ensued a long silence.
During which I went, “Huh?!”
“We used to,” she said. “We used to say, ‘We are too stupid to have an opinion. But he changed it one day…one fine male chauvinist day!”
She spat the letters, c-h-o-w v-i-n-ist day.
Huhm, he pursed his lips in a way I found decidedly unattractive and pompous. Then began stroking his chin professorily. “I remember it differently. I remember having my degrees disparaged as, and I quote, ‘unrealistic, over-priced ivory-tower opinionationisms…’”
“…yes, and brainwashing. I believe yo said that also.”
Why! You! You know you were talking about the limitations of the female brain! Math and science…in my face. How?! I aced physics!”
“Yes, you who strike the first blow, Madame Curie! Can dish it out, but…”
“Dish it? Sexist! You degraded my mind! My choices. That’s what started it.”
“You attacked.”
“I defended…!”
“WAIT!” I screamed. “Stop it!”
They crossed their arms over their hearts and got their pouty little kid thing going again.
“Let’s go get some ice cream,” I suggested.
Vanilla. He said.
Chocolate. Stupid.
OK. Wait! I shouted. I know where that comes from: gimme something hot and cold and black and white, demanded the petulant princess to her cook. Or it’s gonna be off with your lousy head!
The next day, he brings for desert, a first, a great big hot chocolate sundae. And so proved vanilla and chocolate were made for each other. Dig?
And it don’t matter who started it.
Whenever a cabbie gets up a dead end, he stops, turns around, and goes back to where he came from. To where he began to get lost.
We reset. Restore.
Start over.
Or we escape a place.
Drive down hill, to the river. Follow the river to the sea. Across the sea is either France or China. So you’re never really lost. The big sky up above, land under your feet. Or tires.
So remain seated and listen up!
You guys taught me something: we’re all too stupid to have the right to an opinion! We should seek out facts.
“He said ‘first’ first!” she butted in.
“You started it off.”
“well, you said the stupid part.”
“I remember saying, ‘opinion.’”
“I’m just as sure you said…”
“That’s your opinion!”
OK! I shouted at the windshield.
Guys! Dudes!
We’re almost there.
It’s a team game. Let me believe yo can do it again. Create something else together…besides, say, rancor.
You’re not really stupid, y’know.

So. Tell him.
Tell her!
They then mumbled something inaudible to their own selves.
10 bucks folks! …and skip the tip.
Here’s 20. You keep it.
20?! Why did you…
…I was already around the back about to open the door to the side walk. “Hey,” I went. “Did you slide across to save her the inconvenience? I mean, to wipe off the seat of any untoward taxi juices for her lovely dress.”
“I do like to kinda swipe off the seat with my pants,” he said. “Y’know, just in case.”
“He always does that,” she smiled.
Save that opinion, I thought, smiling at them, jimmy-jamming my 100% tip into my filthy cabbie pants.