Bucks County Writers Workshop
by Don Swaim
Hey, man, I say we don't try to cross over to Tenth Avenue. I just come from there. It's a goddamned zoo, man. We oughta go up Park Avenue South and around Grand Central. Watch it! Goddamned mother-fucker almost creamed us. This city's gettin' worse and worse. No room on the sidewalks, no room to drive. Too many people, too many cars. It's a bitch makin' a living in this town, man. I mean, a bitch. Shit! There it goes again, fading away. WGBO. My favorite station. Fuckin' FM station in Newark. But it's jazz, man, jazz. I mean, how many stations in this town program for African Americans, man. WGBO's the only one. You turn the dial and all you hear is rock and roll, roll and rock. And this rap crap... Forget about fuckin' AM radio, man. On AM it's all these right-wing talk shows like on WABC and WOR spoutin' their right-wing, racist garbage. I mean, us African Americans, like we been squeezed out. Who talks to us? I know, there's this station owned by Percy Sutton. What is it, WLIB? But, shit, Percy Sutton don't program to me. And half the stations on the AM are speaking Spanish anymore. Remember WRVR? That was a station owned by the Riverside Church. Mostly it played jazz, man. Cool jazz. John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Miles Davis, Cecil Taylor, Don Shirley, Mingus, Monk, Rollins. That's music, man. Music. Then they bought WRVR out and they went rock and roll or country and western or something. Shit. It's a goddamned conspiracy. Keeping African Americans from owning radio stations. Hell no, I don't think it's just a matter of economics. I think we're being squeezed out. Look out! Shit, almost hit that old lady crossing against the light. Them pedestrians is worse than the drivers. They don't follow the rules. Crossing against the red. What assholes. Famous people? In my cab? Hell, I have famous people in the seat your sittin' in all the time. How do I know they're famous? I read the newspapers. I see their pictures, man. I know who they are. Let's see, I had Michael Manley. You know, the prime minister of Jamaica. Sure I recognized him. Picked him up at JFK. Alistair Cooke got into my cab at the Waldorf one night. Then there was Scatman Crothers, Fran Tarkenton, and once I even had Meryl Streep. Terry-Thomas gave me an extra five. Hell, you know who Terry-Thomas is, with that gap between his front teeth. He's in those late movies on TV. Talks like some damned butler. But he's dead now. It was in the papers. And you thought drivin' a cab wasn't glamorous. Damn, look at where that bus is. Get your ass outta there, man! Shit, sticking out in the middle lane letting passengers off. They ain't supposed to be doin' that. Shit. See, I don't have no bullet-proof glass between me and the passengers like the fleet cabs got to have. I like to get close to my customers. Naw, I never had no trouble. I'm prepared. Can't tell you what is it, but it's pepper spray. Could get me into deep shit some hack inspector finds out. But some bad ass, mother fucker in back wants a fuss they gonna get it. Shit, man, drivin' a hack's a lot more dangerous than being a cop, I tell you that. Junkies murdered nineteen cabbies in this town last year. Only two cops were killed in the line of duty. That makes bein' a cabbie a hell of a lot more dangerous than bein' a cop. And the cops, they're allowed to pack weapons and we're not. Now, what the hell's going' on up there? We're like in a parking lot. Can't go forward, can't go back. I'm tellin' you it's shit to drive in this town. And I been doin' it for twenty years. Move it, move it! But I own this baby. So it's like being in business for yourself. I mean, I inherited the medallion. From my old man. He drove a hack all his life before he died. 'Course when he bought his medallion they cost practically nothing, like three or four thou. Now what are they? Seventy-five, eighty-five grand? I mean, we got the same number of cabs in this town they had in the forties when my old man got his medallion. You know, my Uncle Willie was a hack too. He had his medal and when he died, it died. He must have thrown the medallion away. We searched all over hell for it and couldn't find it. Lot of people in my family would like to have that badge today. Who the hell can afford to buy one? Shit, now we're moving. Look at that! Goddamned garbage truck. Must have blocked the street in front of the Commodore or whatever they call that glass inferno today. Shit, no, I never drove no Checker. What you mean you miss those Checker cabs? They was too big, too boxy. Bounced all over hell. Guzzled gas like I guzzle beer. I know, they had lots of room and the passengers liked them. But you just drive one of those suckers for one day and you'd never want to get into it again, the hemorrhoids. Yeah, us African Americans get a raw deal. And nobody remembers what we contribute. I mean, there's Dr. George Washington Carver, man. Why, the things he developed from the peanut alone. And who today ever heard of Dr. George Washington Carver? I mean, little kids in school aren't even taught about what Dr. George Washington Carver contributed to us. Or James Baldwin or Richard Wright. All they hear about are some seven-foot tall basketball players and brain-dead dummies like Mike Tyson. Watchit, mother-fucker! Mother-fucker's got goddamned Jersey plates. Why don't they stay in fuckin' Newark where they belong? I'm a product of the sixties, man. Went to CCNY for a year. I played around with radicalism. Did a little dope. Worked in fast foods and in the Garment District. I started fleet driving in the taxi industry. Then my old man's partner dropped dead. So I began driving for my old man and took the medallion when he died. Sure it's hard. Twelve hours a day, man. But it's my cab and it's my twelve hours. We're here, mister. Can I help you get that package out of the backseat?