Monday, July 20, 2009

birthday present in advance to myself

I'm going to Barcelona, Spain in September. I found a great deal through the same travel company I used to go to Athens, Greece and Rio de Janiero, Brazil and just finished making the reservations with awesome customer service at Gate 1 Travel. ( I don't want to sound like a gushing testimonial, but when something works well, why not say something about it?)

I've been saving all year to go somewhere. I wanted to go with Brooke SOMEWHERE. We had talked about Barcelona, but she said that it didn't really interest her. She got ecstatic about a Morrocco trip, but we'd have to do alot more saving. We talked about Montreal in October for the Lantern Festival, but she wasn't really in trip-mode and then broke up with me. We never even got around to doing an overnight to NYC like we'd always talked about.

So... I'm doing this solo. Just like to Brazil. Except this time it's Spain. And an odd part of Spain that prefers to speak Catalan, not exactly Spanish. Barcelona has all kinds of cool architecture. It's situated on the Mediterranean. It's a stylish city. The hotel looks awesome. My passport is ready and now I'm going to work work work to have amassed not only spending money, but pay my bills way up in advance.

more later...

Friday, July 17, 2009

Charter Cable problems

Does this happen to anyone else?

Hot weather in particular causes my Charter Digital Cable service to totally crap out. I'll turn on the tv, the channels will come in for a little while, then randomly / eventually flicker and then go blank, occasionally deciding to intermitantly come back in flickers and then go blank again. I can go unplug the cable box, wait, then let itself reset and then it'll work for a little while, but then go back to crapping out.

This morning I checked the cable service and everything worked fine in the cool weather of quarter to five a.m., but sure enough tonight it was all sporadically working again.

Charter's service sucks. I haven't got time in the day to exchange the cable box for another (with little if any guarantee that the replacement will even solve the problem). I can't sit around at home waiting for some charter freelancer to drop by to tell me I need to replace the cable box. And calling Charter is like talking to a wall.

I've bitched to Charter quite a bit about a month ago and the cable box seemed to "fix itself" and some kiss-ass from Charter said they've GIVE me a year of free movie channels (which is all fine & nice IF the cable box actually works) and they did. But now that hot weather is upon us, now I have to do another round of complaining to them.

So... anyone else in this same frustrated tv watching boat?

I should probably just ditch tv and end the whole problem like that, but why should Charter get away with such crappy service?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Day After

I'm so sad. I nearly broke into
tears with a customer in the cab
first thing this morning.

It's a little past 6am. I'm outside
the methadone clinic waiting and
watching for my 2nd customer of
the day to get done with his dosage.

What I need can't be quantified,
liquified, injected, purchased...

When things get rough, I
fall back on what I know...
Cab driving, customer service, my art,
music... But I don't understand
why asking for someone to love me
is asking too much.

Tears were literally streaming
down my face as I flew solo
down Belmont Street, heading for
Windsor & Catharine.

Keep it together.

Don't fall to pieces.

Play to your strengths.

Try to remember that I'm not a jerk.
That I really do have a heart
and common sense and a youthful
spirit tempered by some sort of

I hope she changes her mind.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

job description

but still available hidden away on my website for those interested.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

More Technology bullshit

Today started off fine, but is going straight down the crapper. Here's why:

1) I was driving my car back from delivering a cab customer back to Rochdale and the temperature gauge is way up in the red and occasionally the beeping alarm thing goes off. I just had the water pump replaced as well as my timing belt. Now my car is sitting at Gerardi's garage in Tatnuck awaiting some sort of repair that I can't afford.

2) WordPress. See my previous blog.

3) The cable tv isn't working all of a sudden. Worked fine last night. I turn on the tv. I turn on the cable box. I can flip through channels and the guide bar at the bottom tells me what I SHOULD be seeing, but instead I get an empty black screen where there should be the show.

I called Charter Communications. They ask me on the automated service for my 10 digit phone number so they can access my account. I give them my cell phone. Then I get transferred to a "live" human who asks me for the same phone number again. It's my ONLY phone number. And he asks if I might have another phone number and I tell him, NO, but I can give him the phone number attributed to me on the bill which was SHUT OFF over a year ago.

Then Mr. Cheerful asks me how he can assist me. "The cable's not working. It worked yesterday. Why is it not working now." I explained the whole situation. He tries to send a signal remotely from wherever the hell Charter-land is. Nothing.

We try unplugging the cable box and waiting 15 seconds and then re-plugging it in. It re-boots. It sits on a blue screen saying Scientific Atlanta or some other technical bullshit. Then eventually it goes to some other screen saying it's loading COD Service, please wait a moment. For alot more than a moment, I wait and I exasperating tell this Mr. Cheerful Asshole Whoever that these problems just keep on happening with Charter. We pay enough every month as it is without needing all this aggrivation. In fact, I JUST PAID THE BILL yesterday, IN CASH!

Now I don't even get the Guide bar telling me what's on each channel. It just says "No Data Available". Mr. Cheerful tells me that maybe it's just a bad box and that maybe I should try bringing it to Charter and swapping it for a different box.

So let me see if I get this straight... I PAY Charter. Their equipment isn't reliable so I have to inconvenience myself by taking time out from MY bill-paying, life-sustaining work to go TRY getting a functioning cable box so that MAYBE that fixes the problem. Oh, by the way, I'm still paying for today's NON-receiving of cable.

Read #1 again. My f-ing car is at the garage!!!!!!! I guess I could take a freakin' taxi to Charter. Oh wait... after 6pm... Charter is conveniently closed. THANK YOU, CHARTER!

At least my cable modem / internet access is still working (fingers crossed)...

***** UPDATE!!!!! *****

One day later, television viewing has magically returned / has been restored / something. Hooray for Charter. Best ever. Ugh... jerks. If there WERE other options...

WordPress blows - OR - things don't have to be so complicated

deleted because the feelings of the designer who set up InCity Times with WordPress were hurt.

but SAVED! just in case... so...

Thursday, April 16, 2009

AG at the T.E.A. Party Rally in Worcester

(click for larger images)

After work on Wednesday, I left the cab lot, drove to the other end of Prescott Street, parked the car in WPI's Gateway Park area and walked on over to Lincoln Square to be a part of the Worcester, MA T.E.A. (Taxed Enough Already) Party Rally thing.

I'm not usually one for joining groups, following things blindly or taking marching orders from anyone. If anything, I'm independent to a fault. But I am definitely someone who believes in a smaller, less-intrusive government. I'd like to see tax money spent better than it is right now. I'd like our elected officials to REALLY work for US, their constituents. Hey, I have to live within a budget. There's no reason why our government can get away with NOT living within its means, just like I have to. And seeing what's happened in America since our recent President was elected, I would like to at least be a body in the crowd of people willing to gather together to take a stand, make a statement that they are not happy with the way things are going.

So... I walked to the rally armed with my sketchpad, pens and digital camera.

I stood in and around the gathering point in front of the now-defunct (and as we're told "condemned" as we weren't allowed to go on the steps of the massive structure) Worcester AUD(itorium) and I drew. I reported in picture / cartoon / illustration form what I saw, what I thought, what I felt. I wasn't a reporter in any strict sense of the word, but I was there not only to be present, but to record the event in my own unique way.

One guy came over to me and jokingly (?) said that he was pretty sure that I wasn't Homeland Security. A photographer of some sort, took lots of photos of me standing and drawing what I saw. HBML / Worcester creative person Jacob Berendes came over to me, said "hi" and commented on liking to see oldschool reporting going on at the gathering, meaning he liked seeing me drawing and writing in an actual sketchpad instead of texting on a Blackberry or video conferencing simulcasting bla-bla-bla-ing in some new fangled hi-tech way... For the most part, people let me be and I completed two full sketchpad pages of observations.


1) LOTS of signs. Some (most) made right there on the spot, hand-markered, staple-gunned onto wooden sticks. LOTS of great messages that weren't offensive, but direct and confrontational.

2) Cheesy patriotic music played from the speakers. Hokey stuff that may have meant something to the vox populi, but was just over the top sappy and heavy-handed in my book. Lots of neo-crap country music sounding stuff. And some dude sang that "Proud to Be An American" song and it was really nauseating these ears. I just don't go for all these songs that the hardcore followers / believers are nuts about and I'm not afraid to criticize them. The songs' messages may be what I'm thinking, but the songs just basically suck.

3) People walking around wearing goofy patriotic Colonial America hats, not to mention going the whole nine yards by dressing as Thomas Jefferson... please. Two kids in kilts and other Scottish gear, playing traditional Scottish music on drum & bagpipe. Please. Ugh. Good music, I guess, but seemed tacky. But then again, I'm just not into all the decoration, I'd rather they just get down to business with the speeches and such. Leave all the tackiness out.

4) Jordan Levy was doing a live broadcast at the rally. Reporters from the Worcester Telegram and from Charter TV Channel 3 were there. Maybe there was someone from Worcester Magazine, but who knows? Maybe I was there representing InCity Times, but I was really there just representing myself and doing some drawing for a possible upcoming InCity cartoon.

5) There was a wide range of people. All ages. Adults, kids, elderly, teen, etc.

6) No chaos. Very civil. No craziness. THIS should add legitimacy to this gathering and to the points that the people at this event are trying to convey.

I left before the event ended. It was nearly 5pm and I wanted to get home. I'd been working since quarter to six in the morning, was tired and was going out for a trivia night thing out in West Boylston. In other words, I have a life, but I didn't want the day to go by without being a part of what I think is an important event.

I've always used my cartoon art to express my opinions and to take stands on what I think are important issues. And this rally just reinforced in me that I have to continue to use my cartoon in print as my rallying pulpit.

(On a bitter note, it's too bad that Worcester Magazine's replacement for Action Geek is such a weak, meaningless little waste of time of a read. I've gotten comments from cab customers that they miss AG in WoMag and they all wonder why AG was replaced by whatever the new cartoon is called. Several have expressed that they just don't "get" what this new cartoon is even about or if it's supposed to be funny or even make sense. I reply that I really don't know, as I barely give WoMag a glance week after week. Maybe I'll look at it online, but that's usually a very quick visit, much like the paper is a very quick read.

If WoMag's intentions were to be "edgier" by adding this cartoon and shit-canning Action Geek, which actually stood for things, expressed strong opinions and wouldn't take any crap from people, then I'd have to say that WoMag has failed. If anything, WoMag is just as tame as ever, doesn't really challenge Worcester in the slightest and continues to just blend into the background. Oh well.

Action Geek cartoons can still be read in the pages of the InCity Times. Maybe eventually the publisher will learn how to post the cartoons herself on the ICT website, but until then, you can read them on MY website...)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Day Shift At Last...

It's been a while since I last blogged about taxi cab driving & life in general...

I've shifted to day shift from night shift. My day begins at 5:00 AM when my alarm goes off. 5:30 or so, I'm heading to the cab lot. 5:45 I'm off and running in Red Cab #89.

I've had to re-learn patterns. Take copious amounts of notes on jobs that go out, when, where, who, how much and ascertain whether they are regular customers I should be concerned about remembering. I've gotten somewhat accustomed to the fast & furious pace at which jobs come & go and how to strategically position myself to hopefully get more work and make more money... Night shift driving and having a survivalist's brain in my skull have trained me well for the savagery of day shift. I'm not even exagerating about how much tougher it is on day shift and I WAS WARNED and it's true, but I think I'm doing okay, duking it out with veteran cab drivers, as I'm rapidly becoming an experienced cab driver in my own right.

I switched to day for two big reasons:

I want to spend more time with my girlfriend Brooke who I love very much. Working days means that I can live more of a normal life and do things with Brooke or even on my own solo when everyone else is out & about doing things instead of the strange twisted schedule of night shift. She & I both thought that the two of us having opposite schedules would allow us to have our own personal space & time, but we quickly discovered that we wanted to spend MORE time together rather than just as ships passing eachother in the night, only really getting together on Saturday nights & Sunday. Since switching to day shift, things have only gotten better for us...

Second reason... Money. As summer approaches, the cab business starts to suffer. The college kids leave town. People start walking or bicycling or whatever else instead of taking cabs and there's less money to be made driving a cab. But during the day, there are still elder home care jobs, still doctor's office visits, still grocery store runs, etc. and I figured that I'd been on nights long enough and proven myself to be a reliable, conscientious, good-earner cab driver and that the company wouldn't mind me switching to days.

Okay... third reason... Day shift means I can actually go out at night again. I can go for scooter rides, go to bars instead of just dropping off customers at the bars, go for walks at night and watch the stars...

The only down side to day shift, aside from the lying, cheating & stealing that routinely goes on, is that I tend to physically crash (get super tired) around 9:30pm. Oh well... I'm pretty sure I can live with that...

There have been quite a few adventures of late, but I'll attempt to tackle them later on...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Worcester: Welcome Back to the Patheticness!

The first night back from my mini-vacation getaway was horrendously ridiculous... This account is recalled mostly by looking at my waybill and wondering how the hell I made it through this night of cab driving...

Goldwaithe Road to Gulf Gas and back
I was instructed to pick up the customer in the back of the apartment complex on Goldwaithe Road. She gets in the cab, tells me we're just doing a round trip to the gas station, can we do a $5 flat rate? No. We're going to see what the meter runs. I stopped the meter at $6, but god only knows what this frantic cheapskate trip to the gas station was all about.

UMASS up my ass
I'm first up at the taxi stand on Lake Ave. for UMASS Hospital. I've been sitting there for quite some time. Oh, before being here, I sat at 100 Research waiting for Denise to come out for her 4:00 pick up, but she ended up walking briskly to another person's car and away she went. Wasted time. I them went to the first up stand...

"Who's first up at UMASS?" I am. "Cab 89, go to the Main Door to pick up (some guy) and bring him to 68 Jacques Ave. (Community Healthlink / Detox Center) on a 362, run the meter." It's utter chaos as usual at the main door of UMASS. No customer. I wait. No customer. Call goes out for UMASS again. I'm first up at UMMASS with a void for which I'm given a $3 void service.

I'm told to go back to the main door to get (some lady) and bring her to wherever, one way, on a 401 for $11 flat. Okay. Back to the main door. I wait. I wait. Chaos. More wait. Then a woman is frantically waving at me and she gets in the cab. Rather obsese woman who's weezing and puffing and the first thing she asks me / tells me is if she can smoke in the cab, she's been dying for a smoke all day. Before I can even say "no", she's already assumed I'd say "yes" just because that's what she wanted to hear and I argued with her about it. "You asked a yes/no question and in fact, NO, I'd prefer it if you did NOT smoke in the cab. She acquiesced, but begrudgingly. She was all discombobulated, scurrying around, scrounging around in her bag of belongings looking for her phone. She asks me to call her phone to see if its even in the cab. I call. No phone. Back to UMASS. Dispatcher says she can either go straight home, no phone OR back to UMASS and stay there. Lady gets up out of the cab only to discover that she was SITTING on the phone. And no, I can't drive her to Henry Terrace now.

Sent to UMASS E-R for a cash customer. I find standing at the entryway for the E-R, the guy I was supposed to pick up to bring to 68 Jacques. He wasn't at the Main Door, but at the E-R. Whoever called FROM THE HOSPITAL, didn't even communicate the right door for him to be picked up. Ridiculous. I drive him to 68 Jacques for $14 on a charge.

City Hospital debacle
Just as I'd left 68 Jacques, a call goes out for City Hospital. Just as I pick a guy up, I'm told that my job had cancelled. But I had a guy in the cab. And part of the way toward his destination, he tells me that THEY are paying for the cab. I stop the cab. "Who is paying for the cab? Who authorized the ride?" It was like I was speaking an alien language. He at least knew a charge account number that made sense and the dispatcher had him on his list, so I'd lucked out and found another incompetent person and was now transporting them to Providence Street.

Memorial Hospital loser
I was first up for Memorial Hospital. Sent to Main Door for a customer who could only go to drop off prescriptions at the CVS on Front Street and then be dropped off herself about a block from City Hall. All this on a meter charge. Simple enough. Customer comes out of Memorial, slowly gets in the cab, I've started the meter already... She's sick. She's throwing up little bits of whatever into a napkin / kleenex she's holding. It's sick. She should've stayed at the hospital. She's not well at all. But I bring her to CVS. She leaves her three clear plastic bags of belongings in the cab. She assures me she'll be in & out. I wait. And wait. And wait. Dispatcher asks me how much the charge came to. I'm still doing it. He tells me to stop the meter and leave. "What about her bags?" I dump her bags in a CVS shopping cart, wheel them on in to the store where she is still at the prescription desk and I inform her that her cab ride is over. I leave.

I then proceed to get another utter cheapskate going from Front Street to the new Price Rite on Southbridge Street. She immediately only wants to pay me $5 for the ride, in traffic... She's totally pissed me off. She gives me $6 in the end, but she's just a cheap ass loser.

Memorial, O Memorial
Fairly uneventful ride with two rather lost people going back to the S.M.O.C. house in Millbury, just off Rt. 146. The weird thing about this place is that it's not really on Rhodes St., but off of Waters Ct. sort of. Just a weird address for weird people.

First REAL Normal Customer of the Day
This is a gentleman I've given rides to before, going from Union Station to Westboro Street. He says he works for the Securities & Exchange Commission, prosecuting financial ne'er do wells. But this is a guy who has his shit together. He's not a disorganized, discombobulated, drug-addled loser who I have to babysit for money. This is a guy I can have a real coherent conversation with.

It's all fairly slow and normal from that point on, but my afternoon / evening has been nothing but dealing with incompetent people who seem to be multiplying and increasing in Worcester like crazy. No, not LIKE "crazy"... ACTUAL crazy...

Get Out of Town... Now! (pt. 2)

We woke up around 8:30-ish in the morning with sun streaming in through the parts of the windows not covered. Our Porches room was very comfy and self-sufficient... microwave, toaster oven, empty fridge and the dreaded mini-fridge/bar, plates, cups, silverware, two televisions, a working gas fireplace, two rooms, not including the bathroom... You could even have breakfast delivered FREE to your room!

We decided NOT to have breakfast delivered so we could get out and be semi-social amongst other patrons at the main "house" for breakfast. The place was packed. Not a seat in the little dining area or in the two sitting rooms, so we sat on a long comfy couch in the hallway between the two areas. It was like we were waiting for a bus or something, but it wasn't unpleasant in the slightest. We dined on chocolate croissants, yogurt, a hard boiled egg, muffins, juice, etc. All of it was really yummy!

We checked out of our cute little Porches room and slowly bid adieu to the inn that was actually filled to capacity this weekend (good score there, Brooke!). We double-checked the room, packed the car and drove about a block to Mass MoCA for our day of art.

Free tickets in hand this time, we strolled on in to the museum, got our admission stickers to wear prominently on our person and we began...

One of the first things we saw in the main entry way of Mass MoCA is this odd console thing... I'm not going to re-type up the whole description of this strange device, but I will post a readable photo I took of the description so you can read it yourself, but TRUST ME... it's weird...

(click to read the whole story)

more info on the Mystery of Building 5 and solar energy at Mass MoCA

"Badlands: New Horizons in Landscape"... I'm not even going to try to describe how breathtakingly beautiful these pieces are... I'm just going to tell you that seeing art up close, in its ACTUAL size, not scaled-down, crammed in with other art, in too small of a space, etc. is AWESOME. Mass MoCA takes great care in placing artwork in appropriate spaces that makes it easier to appreciate the art itself, in a space that's totally complementary / compatible... Very cool landscape type environments were featured in this exhibit ranging from long long long photos of Artic-like icy cold settings, ice flows, aerial photos of industrial areas, "Personal Home Biospheres" that you could stand underneath and actually stick your head up into and be a part of the terrarium... Ed Ruscha's photographs with spaces cut out where there should be words and the words are underneath and usually pretty harsh and threatening:

Alexis Rockman

Anthony Goicolea "Tree Dwellers" 2005

There's lots more... Trust me... LOTS more... Mass MoCA does not skimp on art, presentation, ANYTHING... It's all done HUGE and gives the art and the viewer alot of space and respect and... I could gush on and on and on...

There was an exhibition called "Eastern Standard / Western Artists In China" which was about modernization, Western influence over modern China, all kinds of amazing fantastical interpretations of cities and labor and societal development and... We sat in on a short ominous film called "Mantis City" by Tobias Bernstrup which was a slow moving Metropolis-like city inhabited by giant praying mantises inspired by old Godzilla & King Kong movies... We saw a film by Allora & Calzadilla about the changes going on in the Pearl River Delta, from the perspective of a group of native turtles floating down the river atop a log.

We saw a whole hallway devoted to crazy DIY kids called the "Miss Rockaway Armada" that was a kid's / geeky adult's total hideout secret fort treehouse fantasy come to life... haphazardly strewn nailed together doors, windows, planks, cubby holes, secret passages, notes stapled allover the place... and the public was encouraged to participate, to add messages, to write on things, to explore, to crawl around, to find out where that passage goes, etc. Total insanity... THIS room / hall in particular made me wish that there was a Mass MoCA creativity room where creative types could take a break from the breathtaking and inspiring art and create their own stuff while still surrounded by art in the museum; a place with art supplies, paints, computer access, a general free for all creative space to make stuff, write in your journal, contribute a small work to a special guest wall or something...

(click any of these for larger views)

There's more to Mass MoCA, but it's just overwhelming... Brooke and I left there stunned. Even the bathrooms in the basement are like an art exhibit unto themselves... there is, in fact, a Mass MoCA bathrooms postcard portfolio available for purchase! The place is just wild...

...and there's NO REASON why Worcester couldn't do something like this. We have the artists. We have the factory space. We just don't seem to be able to follow-through, think out side the proverbial box, etc. EVERY creative person in Worcester needs to visit Mass MoCA... hell, our tax dollars paid for it! Plus, it's just awe-inspiring...

This was just another incredible weekend together for me & Brooke. We headed home, stopped in Northampton for dinner and then returned to good ol' Tatnuck Square... home sweet home...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Get Out of Town... Now! (pt. 1)

Brooke and I finally took off for our long awaited Valentine's Day getaway to Porches Inn at Mass MoCA in North Adams, MA. It couldn't have come soom enough as I was really losing it in the mental stability department... I was working on my sixth shift of cab driving in a row, had just been pummelled by a hefty car repair, beat up by threatening excise tax bills and really really really needed to get out of Worcester for a little escape to Western Mass. More and more, I'm finding that Western Mass has a real civility, serenity, calmness and creativity-inspiring kind of thing going on that I'm not finding all that much anymore in Worcester. But anyway...

We left Worcester early-ish on Sunday morning. First stop was to the Animal Rescue League to pick up a trio of feral kitties that Brooke & I were delivering to some eager adoptees out in West Stockbridge, just off the last exit of the Mass Pike. We flew down the pike, listening to reggae, Leonard Cohen and some New Order. The trip seemed to take no time at all. Made it to West Stockbridge and then headed up through New York towards Rt. 2...

Along the way, I spotted a red fox darting across the road way ahead of us. We pulled over and watched it run through the hills, the snow, stopping and turning to look back towards the road every now and then. I'd never seen a fox in the wild up relatively close like that before. A little further up the road, Brooke spotted a red tail hawk circling nearby.

Rt. 2, at its very beginning, is a real curvy, narrow, scary road. There are speed limit signs that say you can drive 50 MPH, but I'm not sure how you could do that without icewater in your veins and a complete working knowledge of every twist and turn to Rt. 2 so as not to drive right off the mountain into oblivion... It was really fun and a bit scary at the same time...

We made it to North Adams and our first stop was to Mass MoCA itself (the Massachusetts Museum of contemporary Art). I love driving in to its walled parking lot with ornate industrial overhead lights and the looming Mass MoCA metal sign atop one of the factory buildings. We stopped in the restaurant and got a late lunch: I had fish tacos and Brooke had banana french toast which we washed down with a 10% alc. content chocolate stout, which the waitress was semi-wary to serve us without warning us of its potency for some reason. My dear, we are not afraid of stronger ales!

(There were two weird little overheard situations that came up as we waited an inordinate time for our meals - not that it was a big deal, the restaurant was busy and we were in no rush for anything so waiting was not a problem... But there was a mom and son sitting next to us who seemed to have been seated, ordered food and then decided, after the food had already been made but not yet served, that they no longer wanted the food. The server asked them if they'd like to have their food wrapped up so they could have it later at their hotel room (the same hotel we were staying at), but they said no. They paid and left. The mom seemed rather snooty, rich and the boy seemed bored to be at the museum restaurant at all and then they both shuffled on off to god knows where...)

(The other situation involved another snooty designer-framed glasses older white-haired woman sitting a few tables away who was upset about how long it was taking to get their food. The server tried to console her, explain that the restaurant was busy, etc. And then I guess the host came over and did the same, but this old bird just wanted what she ordered immediately and how dare anyone make her wait any longer than what she felt was an adequate amount of time... God... I hate people like this... Brooke and I both agreed, though, that museums and resort type areas tend to bring out the "stodgies" - those rich, carefree, no sense of humour people who seem to glut the North Adams area...)

We ducked in to the main entry way of Mass MoCA, but decided to save the museum for all day Monday and its a good thing we did because... We checked in at Porches Inn, which was directly behind Mass MoCA, across the river and as part of the package that Brooke had bought for me for Christmas, we got two FREE tickets to the museum, a complimentary voucher for dinner at one of three local restaurants (we already ate lunch at one of them) and an awesome contemporary country rustic hotel room in the "pink" house...

Awesome hotel. Rustic. Cozy. Walking distance to lots of fun North Adams things to do. We had 24 hour access to a sauna, outdoor jacuzzi and heated swimming pool... One of the first things we did once we realized we could go swimming was to race down to Wal-Mart (ugh) and purchase whatever el cheapo bathing attire we could find which we used right away and I had my first sauna experience! I had no idea how hot that wooden enclosed room would get! And then we sat in the jacuzzi with other hotel guests under the stars of a cold February Western Mass night... sigh... We met a mom and her two kids who were staying at Porches as part of a ski package. There was another couple who were up visiting from Manhattan, NY.

Dinner was at 8pm at Gramercy Bistro right down the street from the hotel and museum. We walked down Marshall Street past Mass MoCA, under a highway overpass and we heard this strange crackling sound... It turns out that there's this weird concrete-sort of encrusted box with odd noises coming out of it. It's some sort of art sound installation thing that plays some sort of sounds caused by traffic or something... very eerie... but cool...

(click for even more info on this odd "Harmonic Bridge" sound device thing...)

North Adams is like that in that there are little art projects allover the place... Artificial fall colored leaves on a limp of a tree near Porches... a giant boulder split in half suspended in the air by metal cables and poles... magpies / crows / ravens painted in tiles atop a garage at Porches...

At Gramercy, I ordered paella and Brooke had seared Tuna and we drank glasses of Hoegaarden with lemon. Lots of street-art giant art creations. The restaurant softly played Herbie Hancock's album with "Rockitt" on it. Very classy, artsy place... For dessert we had an apple / date streudal thing with vanilla ice cream. We were so stuffed full of food...

We walked back to Porches Inn. Brooke took a shower as I lounged in the front room watching a little tv. The two of us cuddled in a too-small chair and watched "Idiocracy"" on Comedy Central and halfway through, I went to bed as I was totally falling asleep... Oh... before this... we had to call the front desk for the second time, to light the pilot light on the gas stove we had in the front room, under the painting that concealed the tv. Brooke was obsessed with getting this fireplace up and going and it was worth it... made everything all the more cozy...

(more on the trip next blog)

Thursday, February 5, 2009


I'm sinking. I can feel it. As much as I resist by forging ahead and trying and working and moving forward, I can feel myself sinking in financial quicksand.

Brooke, Liz and I had an awesome time in Chinatown in Boston for Chinese New Year. It was a gorgeous Sunday. We ate, we watched the lion dragon parades, we wandered, took photos, had a really good time. Sunday night, Brooke and I hung out together, watched alot of CSI on tv and fell asleep in eachother's arms. A perfect day.

Monday, Brooke and I were late to go out to Ware, pick up her brother and go record shopping in used record stores in & around Amherst. We made it as far as one of the Brookfields when my car's temperature thing started dinging. This happened a week ago too. Coolant leak. No antifreeze. Water pump. Mechanic helps me out and we head back to Worcester. Aborted mission. Botched day off. I'd have to work after all. My mechanic in Tatnuck said I'd probably need a water pump and my car was due for a timing belt change. Both jobs were about $500 each. Despair. I went to work on Monday night despondant. No choice. Have to work now to pay off a car repair.

I dropped off my car way late Monday night / Tuesday morning and Brooke sleepily drove me the few blocks back to the house because she was afraid of me slipping and falling on the slippery streets.

Tuesday. Debated about going to work. Impending snow and ice and general crappiness. But it was the 3rd of the month. All the losers would be running around, doing errands, cashing their SSI checks, squandering, taking taxi rides and I'd be there to drive. I went to work early, covered alot of charges despite bad weather. I drove slow, was careful, didn't take any unneccessary risks. I was actually doing well... then more snow, more ice, more slipperiness. I couldn't do it. I brought the cab back to the lot after not being physically able to get one of Red Cab's regular's back to his house because the cab's tires were really terrible in snow and the plows & sanders hadn't even begun to show up to do THEIR jobs to clear the roads... Failure. Maybe not total failure, but I had to pack it in and go home.

Tuesday night I had another great night with my cutie. Dinner together - potatoes, green beans, fish, good beer...

Wednesday... Back to work. Gotta bring in the bucks. I get an urgent message from the cell phone company. Pay up. Now. I pay up. Further behind now. Mortgage is paid, but now I'm stalling on covering the car repair bill. The good news is that the two $500 jobs are now just one $670 job because the water pump and timing belt are interconnected and can be done together instead of not. Still. $600+ I don't have yet. Two out of town jobs, alot of regulars, alot of other jobs, a few college students and then a late night lull and I left the game with about $160 for myself, but I had to pay for a cab to get home and I owed for gas from the previous night when I didn't fill up before returning during the snow and ice... Slowly sinking...

Today I walked to the garage, hat in hand, $150 in cash with me too. I stopped at the ATM and took out some more. The garage owner understood my spot and agreed that I was good for the bill and that I could pay him in installments. I drove off feeling lower than low. I hate owing anyone anything. I hate feeling helpless. I hate feeling STUCK.

I drove to the bank to put money BACK in for fear that my pending mortgage payment might bounce. I bought jelly beans at CVS and margarine at the Big Y. I raced back home, gathered together all my returnable bottles & cans and spare change and headed to the liquor store and then the bank again to put more money in just in case. After the mortgage goes through this afternoon, I'll have about $13 in the bank.

Back home. Despair. Snow. Slipperiness. Bright sun, but bone chilling wind with a nasty bite to it.

I have to work again tonight. And tomorrow night. And Saturday morning. Maybe do a double on Saturday. Brooke might lend me some money to tide me over and help cover the car repair. But I'm stuck. Monday's work will be to repay Brooke. And then Tues, Wed, Thurs will be to pay impending bills. Friday & Saturday will be to start saving for the mortgage and save a little scratch for Sunday when Brooke and I escape to North Adams for a stay at Porches, a Christmas present from Brooke. I only hope I can relax. I hope I can free myself from panic and fear and anger that all the things I want to do, the things that make life worth living to me are UN-affordable, out of reach for more than the foreseeable future.

I sent a hastily written MySpace message for Patt saying that Brooke & I will be attending his upcoming lavish wedding, but I guess Brooke won't be eating because she's vegetarian and there's no vegetarian option. I'm disgusted abbout the extravagance of this wedding. I wish everyone, EVERY ONE would just stop. Just STOP blowing all their money all around me. My friends Cheryl & James are in similar financial freefall as James' hours got cut at his work. It just keeps getting worse, yet I work so hard and I don't spend like crazy and I don't go out drinking all the time if at all... I do all the right things and yet everything is still spiralling down...

I hope Brooke can bear with me. I am a good person, but all this is really really weighing on me and I'm really afraid. And stressed out of my skull. And if I don't stop typing now, I might be late for work.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Paying for Other People's Mistakes

As much as I really wanted to work yesterday because I need the money, I'm glad that weather pretty much kept me at home all day. It was a well-deserved day of bumbling around the house (again) where I watched alot of Law & Order on tv, played quite a bit of Scrabble on Facebook and downed several bowls of Cheerios. Big day, huh? Oh... I also added a new item on my ETSY store, that being a special deal on any three old full color Action Geek 'zines. AND... the last of four Stereolab CDs arrived in the mail, used, courtesy of

But as for the title of this blog installment... I went to the cab lot a little early yesterday and was surprised to see my cab already there waiting for me. I loaded my gear in #89, parked my car and then went in to pay my waybill. There was a long list of names on the whiteboard, mine included, and a message that anyone on this list couldn't do any work until they saw Maggie or Stella in the office. Well, both were present and I asked what I'd done this time, semi-jokingly.

A little explanation... There are things in the taxi business known as CHARGES. These are taxi fares that are paid for by a charge account attributed to an insurance company or a hospital or a business or an individual. When someone sets up a charge account with the cab company, they are given an account number and they set up terms with the cab company regarding how much their fares will be. So, if I'm told to pick up Joe Shmoe at UMass Hospital on Lake Ave. at the Emergency Room on a 429 / run the meter, then I pick up Joe Shmoe, turn on the taxi meter, deliver Mr. Shmoe to where he has to go, shut off the meter and (when asked) tell the dispatcher how much the charge came to. There are some charges that are flat rates, meaning that I don't run the meter, but just take down the dollar amount that the dispatcher tells me to. These charges are subtracted off of my lease for that night. And just to make sure the point is clear... I WRITE DOWN EXACTLY WHAT THE DISPATCHER TELLS ME THE CHARGE AMOUNT IS.

So... I had to see Maggie about "corrections" on past waybills... amounts on charges that were inaccurate... amounts that invariably were lower than what I had gotten from the dispatcher and had written down clearly. Now, I OWE THE CAB COMPANY FOR THESE INACCURACIES. That's insane. They had about ten or so waybills with yellow highlighted changes, some of which I could dispute, but I ended up owing $24, $20 of which I actually had in my pocket, but that was about it! Maggie tells me something like "well, sorry Doug, but if we (the cab company) aren't getting paid the full amounts of these charges then how can we pay you the full amount of these charges". I rebutted that I had done my job and accurately wrote down what the dispatcher had told me and did my part of the job, but in the end, I end up having money taken away from me just the same because SOMEONE SCREWED UP.

Either I was given the wrong info in the first place OR... the dispatcher was given the wrong information OR... the account holders renegged on their deals and basically said, NO, this is what we're going to pay. Regardless, I did my job and now I end up paying for someone else's mistake and I think that sucks...

This happens all the time. One of the major reasons why WE as a world are in such a financial dilemma is because we are paying for other people's mistakes.

People were given loans for homes that they couldn't afford (multiply that times millions) and now banks and lending institutions are being "bailed-out" with collectively OUR MONEY.

People can't afford their own health insurance in Massachusetts so the governor sets up a state-mandated health insurance program that we ALL PAY FOR whether we like it or not. My insurance was cancelled a few months ago because the insurance program is fucked up, I can't even reach them by phone without spending an inordinate amount of time on the phone on-hold waiting waiting waiting. I tried e-mailing them and they just told me to call them, not e-mail them. And now I will be penalized financially for NOT having insurance because I can't get through to the insurance program that I pay for in the first place. Meanwhile, I give cab rides to people ALL THE TIME whose rides are paid for my this very same state-mandated health insurance program. AND, the state of Massachusetts can't afford this state-mandated health insurance program anyway, BUT like everything else, we keep it going just the same, keep paying for a broken machine that digs us all deeper in debt.

The BIG DIG project in Boston... huge amounts of money wasted on a system of tunnels and roads that, in the end, are faulty, in need of further improvements & repairs and that I rarely ever use and now... Mass Pike tolls are going up and / or gas taxes are going to be hiked to help pay for OTHER PEOPLE'S MISTAKES.

I have no problem paying my real estate taxes through my mortgage to help collectively keep the City of Worcester afloat. I'm all in favor of my tax money going towards services that we all collectively utilize, like emergency services, law enforcement, public works, trash pickup, etc., but somewhere along the way it's got to end. We are paying too much to bail out other people for their own stupidity. Where's that island I can move to?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Snowed-In, Bumbling Around the House...

One of the ONLY good things about snowstorm, snowy, snowed-in kind of days where you just can't get anywhere, it's too damned cold and it's just easier to stay at home inside in the warmth IS that I can spend lots of time bumbling around with all of my pop culture ephemera that my house is stuffed to the gills with.

I'm nuts about Micronaut toys from the 1970's to today... The one pictured above is one I bought just recently from the now defunct revival line of Micronauts created by Pallisades Toys. Pallisades came out with 3 waves of Micronauts toys / action figures that were reproductions of the original 70's figures that I was introduced to as a child in the late 70s. This one is rare in that it's design was based on an old Time Traveller figure, but tweaked a bit to become a "medic" to fix other Micronauts. Design was done by a big Micronauts fan Bryan "MicroBry" Wilkinson who I "know" through a Micronauts / Microman message board.

I listened to alot of cool, different music on Other Music's website. Other Music is a music store in NYC that specializes in everything that the big stores tend to only barely dabble in: world music, jazz, funk, electronic, old obscure weirdness... I actually downloaded 3 releases:

Various Artists - "Gozalo - Bugalu Tropical Volume 2" (full review, info etc.)
Vampisoul delivers a follow-up to the first installment of "Gozalo!" compilation that's every bit as good! Once again, the 28-track collection dives into late '60s Peruvian boogaloo, focusing on the output of producer Manuel A. Silvestre's MAG label. There's no lack of rolling pianos, blistering horns, Afro-Cuban rhythms, and plenty of spirited vocalists. If these tracks don't get your toes tapping, you don't have a pulse.

PIERO UMILIANI - "Tra Scienza e Fantascienza" (full review, info etc.)
"Tra Scienza e Fantascienza" is a bit of a departure from the cocktail funk of Piero Umiliani's famous song, "Mah Na Mah Na." Originally released under the name "Moggi," this is a killer album of Moog-heavy, science fiction grooves. Similar to the psychedelic, outsider electronics of Bruce Haack, "Tra Scienza" is chock full of dark, funky soundscapes that swing.

Various Artists - "Nicola Conte Presents Viagem" (full review, info etc.)
Subtitled "A Collection Of 60's Brasilian Bossa Nova & Jazz Samba," this comp indeed features much of the easy, breezy, jazzy sound that defined a good part of 60's Brazilian music. Expertly compiled by Italian connoisseur Nicola Conte, this one is not to be missed by any fan of South American bossa nova, samba or any music from the time in Brazil.

One of the best tv shows I've seen in a long time was on Sunday morning and rerun again Sunday evening on PBS: Rick Steve's Iran. I've been watching Rick Steve's travel shows for a long time and can watch them over and over, especial the Italian Amalfi Coast episode and the ones where he goes to Germany around Oktoberfest, but THIS episode was phenomenal. He'd never been to Iran before and it felt like both he and the viewers were learning about something / some PLACE completely alien to us. And it was a very uplifting, human feeling travel journey of understanding and meeting people and ALOT of what I had been told about Iran was washed away and replaced with even more of an interest in exploring not only there but EVERYWHERE in the world! I love travelling! Very addictive and eye-opening and brain-expanding!

and lest we forget... BEER... But not just any beer: GOOD beer.
And "good beer" at the Action Geek Compound tends to mean anything created by Southern Tier Brewery. There isn't a beer in their roster of creations that hasn't been totally awesome. My favorites though would have to include:

and of course,

On Sunday when Brooke's Dad and brother came over to fix the lock on the back door, I treated them to some Southern Tier Chokolat and then we tried this other Coffee Porter called "Meantime". Meantime Brewing is from out of England and the bottle was really different and cute, but the beer itself was not quite what I was hoping for. This is the problem with having had Southern Tier's "Chokolat" or "Creme Brulee" because those two are so incredible that no other coffee or chocolate stout really comes anywhere close to being as good. Even Meantime's website was a bit subpar. Oh well. That's the risk you take when you enjoy exploring different kinds of beers from allover the world.

Even though I hate snow and hate being stuck inside the house, at least there are still ways to make the best of it and have fun with toys, comics, cool tv shows, yummy beers, new (old) different music...

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Sickly Cab Driving Wednesday Night

I wasn't feeling well. Under the weather, literally and figuratively. It was like my allergies and an actual cold collided and colluded to create a massive sinus invasion of cosmic proportion. Think I'm exaggerating? Well, maybe a little, but I was sneezing and coughing and generally miserable on Tuesday and even though Brooke and I wanted to attend a Scrabble club meeting night thing, we opted to stay home and recuperate instead.

Wednesday, whether I wanted to or not, I was back in the saddle, ready to work.

Red Cab #89 shows up a little past 3pm. I immediately discover that now the horn doesn't work and that a driver of this cab between Monday night and now had decoded to scribble "89" on the steering wheel in ball point pen AND scribble some random note on the center armrest console thing. Other cab drivers I encounter just tend to be disrespectful slobs. Not all, but the ones who drive my regular cab especially.

I immediately got a job around the corner going to the Great Brook Valley Health Clinic on Tacoma. En route, I got a job AT GBV Health Clinic going clear across town on a charge.

As the clock approached 4, I headed to Abbott Research to see if I could get Denise going to Union Station on a charge. I sat in front of Abbott for about 10-15 minutes and when the job went out, I guess I wasn't heard. Cab #10 said he was AT "Plantation & Research" which he wasn't because I waited for him to arrive. I tried calling the dispatcher to let him know I was sitting at 100 Research, but he's not the type who likes to go back on what he's already assigned. Sets a bad precedent even if I really was sitting at the address, which I was. I say "hi" to Cab #10 when he shows up. I try to bid (unsuccessfully) on another nearby job and then I tell #10 as I leave that I'm "writing him up". He replies with a lovely comment about me being a "m-f" in his cab driver opinion. Liars abound... everywhere...

The rest of the afternoon is fairly typical & predictable. Jail guys going to & from the jail. I got several groups of students at both the Bus & Train at Union Station. The college students are returning from their holiday break.

Then I was sent to the OLD T-Station, around the corner from Unon Station, behind Pat's Towing to pick some guy up. Well, I went, looked around, circled twice, asked at Pat's... nothing. Headed back to the line of cabs outside the Train. Then, I figured I'd go check at the old T one more time... Success! I found him, but he was really drunk, still carrying a can of beer and loud as all hell. But he was a customer and he was going clear across town to the Knights of Columbus off Columbus Park, Minthorne St., etc. Very loud, very drunk, proceeding to get more drunk with his KofC buddies, but he did ask me at least a couple times if I thought he was doing the right thing by calling for a cab instead of driving his own car to the party. Of course I applauded him for his choice of calling a taxi instead of drunk driving. And then I realized that I'd had this guy as a customer before, leaving FROM the KofC (the first time I'd ever found this hidden away meeting spot off of Coes Pond) going TO Wildwood. Drunk then, drunk now, but a paying customer and NOT drinking & driving.

Got two guys at Rite Aid on Chandler near June going to Club Universe. Two dialysis patients returning home on charges. My regular going to Kelly Square. My regular going from home to the old Norton Company. Then things got weird...

I'm second in line at the Train at Union Station. These three guys bound on IN to the station and minutes later come back out, realizing that they can't get to the bus station because it's locked up. I guess they could have gone around to the other side and waited for the bus they wanted and bought tickets on the bus, but they weren't thinking clearly. They had to get somewhere and fast. One of them came over to my cab, asked how much going to Hartford, CT would be. Dispatcher tells me $200. I said I'd do the job for $150. They get in the cab and we head to pick up prescriptions at Walgreens and then head to Hartford, CT.

Three dudes who left Community Health Link's lovely detox center at 68 Jacques Ave. heading to Hartford, CT to score more dope and lay low in a hotel for the night and then get a bus back to Worcester the next morning. The ride down was fairly uneventful. We talked. I learned quite a bit about the life of an addict. I learned that Worcester isn't good for buying dope, but great for scoring crack. Things I really never wanted / needed to know, but... The guy in the front seat is about 5 years younger than me, is the guy with the good paying bricklayers union job with cash in hand, financing this little "adventure". He doesn't know these other guys at all, but once he realized that his stuff was slowly being "stolen" at 68 Jacques (he says he brought a Blackberry phone with him to 68 Jacques and when he tried to retrieve it, the staff said he never had one in the first place - cigarettes were being stolen from him and he was concerned about the $1,100 paycheck in cash that his friend had brought him) he had to get out of there.

Guy sitting behind me was the one who had connections in Hartford to buy dope and he knew the lay of the city, sort of. Guy sitting in back of front seat passenger was just along for the ride. All three were in the early stages of being "dope sick" and were very eager to hole up with a bag of dope and blissfully fuck themselves up until the next morning to return back to Worcester.

I felt sad for these guys, that their lives had whittled down to hanging on a substance and living at the very extreme margins of society. But I was wary of them as well. Anything COULD happen, but I kept my cool, talked with them, got them where they had to go... Unfortunately, once in Hartford, our first stop was to get the dope. Drug deals are almost always a disorganized, laidback waste of time unprofessional act of desperation. This one was no exception. We sat on Madison Street, off of Broad Street, waiting for some "friend" of guy sitting behind me to show up with the stuff. It's pathetic, it's cold and I was getting sick of hanging out with these bozos. Deal goes down, I reposition the cab to get a better view of the driveway that guy sitting behind me ran down to meet up with his associates. I turn the cab around, guy returns and we head to a hotel. Holiday Inn turns them down and reccomends the Crowne Plaza. We find the Plaza, I leave them there and high tail it on back to Worcester.

Snow was falling as I flew up I-84. I stop at the Traveller's Aid gas station at Ruby Road. It's actually really beautiful and quiet out at a little past midnight in the middle of nowhere in CT.

As much as these guys were sad & pathetic, they made my night financially. Cab driving is not supposed to be about profiting on other's misfortune. It's supposed to be about helping people and providing a service. I don't dick people around taking them the long way just to make extra money. I cut these guys a deal, did the job, was straight with them and then got the hell out of there. They're big boys and can either get into more problems on their own, perhaps overdose in the hotel or maybe come back to Worcester and clean up their acts and live better lives. But I'm just the guy driving them around for a price.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Blow Some Money On Advertising? Sure! (not)

So I receive this MySpace message today:

From: Ultimate Comics Group, LLC. (TM)
Date: Jan 8, 2009 7:36 AM

We wanted to know if you would be interested in advertising with us.
Our comics will be featured in the Enemi Entertainment catalog that is distributed to over 2300+ retailers and the comic is currently scheduled for publication in the July-Sept 2009 timeframe.
Our rates are as follows:
Full page Ad: $400 (7X10.5")
1/2 Page Ad: $225 (7X5.25")
1/4 Page Ad: $125 (3.5X5.25")
1/8 Page Ad: $75 (1.75X5.25")
Back Cover: $550 (Will have our Barcode on it) (7X10.5")
Inside Front Cover: $475 (7X10.5")
Inside Back Cover: $500 (7X10.5")
Thank you in advance!

To which I respond, probaby WAY too harshly...

From: ActionGeek
Date: Jan 8, 2009 9:40 AM

Um, no. Sorry. As much as I appreciate the offer, I'm having trouble just trying to figure out how to pay for a tow truck to help get my girlfriend's car out of the ice-covered driveway across from my driveway. Oh, and then I've got bills & the mortgage to pay. So, um, no, I guess I can't be throwing away money advertising my cartoons stuff right now. Thanks anyway.


And then Ultimate replies back surprisingly...

From: Ultimate Comics Group, LLC. (TM)
Date: Jan 8, 2009 9:48 AM

Understood. When things turn around for you, if you are interested in advertising in the future, let me know...just because you reached out to me, and we've established a dialog...I'll see if I can discount your prices...
Good luck my friend! Us small press need to stick together!

To which I reply back again, even more down in the dumps...

From: ActionGeek
Date: Jan 8, 2009 9:52 AM

Frankly, I can't even afford $35 to have 100 of my latest issue of Action Geek Black & White printed up. That's 3 sets of 100 2-sided black & white copied pages, 1 set on color stock. So I can only be online at the moment. And I can't wait until I have to decide whether to keep paying for internet or to buy groceries. I see that coming very soon. Did I mention that it just keeps on snowing & sleeting & icing and being crappy out so it's difficult for me to do my chosen profession, that being a cab driver in Central Massachusetts?

Yeah, us small press people need to stick together, but I am really starting to see pretty much everything falling apart.

Sorry for all the venting. You caught me on a rather verbose kind of day. Cheers!



Probably not the best way for me to have dealt with some comic book guy trying to keep his own proverbial shit afloat, but what I want to know is... WHO is actually MAKING MONEY these days? I'm not, that's for sure. Even when the cab business was doing well, I was still pretty much barely covering my mortgage and bills. Now that Brooke is living with me and helping out, things should be a little easier, but then NATURE decides to play games with all of us by hurling ice storms and snow storms and more than usual making it even more difficult for me to work and make ANY money at all.

Hell, I can't even get Brooke's car unstuck from the frozen driveway across the street from my driveway. I can't even shovel the plow crap at the end of my driveway because it's frozen solid. I can drive over it like a crazy bastard and perhaps cause more damage to my car that someday, somehow MIGHT get paid for out of some sort of "mystery money" that will magically appear probably thanks to the almighty, magical Obama regime soon to take office.

How do I pay for a tow truck to come over and help me get Brooke's car out of the driveway when I really should be paying my car insurance which is just about to be cancelled? Of course I'm going to help Brooke first and then try to work my ass off tonight to make more to pay the car insurance and then maybe start saving to pay the mortgage. It's just SO GADDAMNED DIFFICULT!

Some of you may be thinking, well, why doesn't Doug go get a better paying job? Doing what? Designing car ads again and being ultra-miserable? Oh, I get it... I could work for an AD AGENCY and have a "creative" job where I'm pretty much told that MY kind of creativity just isn't going to work, why don't I do the project THEIR way? Oh, and then I can be called NOT a team player because... it goes on & on... And it's not just my fault. The whole world is completely mixed up and I can only fight my little part of it, trying to keep my life free of excess drama, nonsense, crap, etc., but the hits just keep on coming...

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Profitable Night Before Impending Ice Storm

Okay, so I KNEW that weather was going to be bad way later on Tuesday night into Wednesday and that there was a good chance that I wouldn't be working on Wednesday (today). I was, in a sense, planning ahead, all day by hustling my butt off trying to make enough money to justify me even moreso in NOT working during ice, snow, sleet, cold, just bad driving conditions.

My first job on Tuesday was a $30 fare going from Worcester to Oxford. I raced over towards UMASS for someone who I knew would be needing a cab to Union Station and then at Union Station I got someone needing to go back to UMASS' Emergency Room.

This made me a little late in picking up my jail guys in Holden heading back to the jail, but... And traffic on 290 connecting onto 190 and then on to Shore Drive and even on Main Street in Holden itself was INSANE. Everyone was freaking out about impending bad weather and getting home early or just being out on the road doing whatever it is they felt they had to do all at the same time.

Dropping off at the jail, I knew there'd be another gentleman needing a ride to his work release job. The dispatcher hadn't announced this job yet, I assume because as usual, the work release job had neglected to fax over the guy's work schedule. I radio'd the dispatcher, told him I had Jim going to his work release job, same standard account number, same price, same desination, etc. Dispatcher says he doesn't have this job listed and that Jim would have to have his manager contact Red Cab before he could authorize me to get paid for delivering Jim to his job. Total ridiculousness. Total lack of communication between this place of business and the cab company. And all this guy wants to do is to go to work. And all I want to do is bring him to work and make $10 doing so. And all the dispatcher wants to do is make sure SOMEONE picks this guy up and brings him to work. But sonewhere along the way, the work release job just isn't adequately communicating with the cab company and you'd THINK it'd be easy enough to have a week's worth of cab rides scheduled and planned for. But no.

And before anyone tries to tell me how easy this would be to do if we did this or that or whatever... All the work release job has to do is fax the guy's schedule over ahead of time. It's as simple as that. Oh, and then the dispatchers have to make sure to put the job out when they're supposed to, which 9 times out of 10 is never the problem. Bad communication can kill a business and get a guy fired for not being on time for work.

Anyway... all that drama... Then the dispatcher calls me and says I'm up for the "mini" which is a short long distance trip. I drive from Worcester to Southbridge to pick up a guy needing to return back to Queen Street in Worcester for $50. I call the customer, inform him that it'll be at least half an hour before I can even get to Southbridge and he's fine with that. And I'm just happy that he calls me back a couple more times as I'm en route just to make sure I'm still on my way to get him. I find the customer and thus embark on a long voyage filled with expletive-filled stories of being done wrong, about how he broke up with his crack-addicted girlfriend, how he's probably on his way to jail for his umpteenth Operating Under the Influence charge (and all the legal entanglements involved in that) and how he got screwed over by the sprinkler-fitting company he worked for for a million years... and on and on. This is one of those cases where I was sympathetic for a little while, but once realizing that the drama was NEVER GOING TO END, I just had to go along with it until I got paid for the job and got him out of the cab.

The deal was that I was to deliver him to Queen Street, he'd go up to his apartment (now locked up by his landlord), get his ATM card and I'd bring him to the closest bank and then return him and his belongings to Queen Street. When I found out about the plan, I was skeptical about whether I'd get paid or not, but in the end he gave me $60 and I moved on with the rest of the night of cab driving. But man... how do you live with so much ridiculous complication? Alot of people do and as things get more and more complicated, it gets harder to straighten things out. Or maybe it's just easier going with the flow with this safety net of immense complication and b.s. surrounding you. You can just let all the drama carry you on to wherever it takes you, completely relinquish control and... oh my god that sounds pathetic. Oh well...

I spent quite a bit of time waiting at Union Station for train passengers needing rides home. I took care of my regular customers. I got a random fare going from downtown Worcester out to the back of Quinsigamond Community College on Burncoat Street for $12 and we had a great conversation about all kinds of stuff.

When I dropped off one of my regulars at the old Norton Company, I got a job out in West Boylston going all the way to Quuinsigamond Village for a whopping $27. I was very psyched about this! Especially when you've been waiting outside of this darkened business waiting to see if your customer is even going to be there after you've spent considerable time hauling ass to get there to pick them up... When she got in the cab and told me where she was going, I had to use great self-control so as not to start doing cartwheels or jumping up and down like I'd just been called on down to Contestant's Row on The Price is Right.

The night went really well and I ended up banking enough to justify not working on Wednesday, but...

The phone call that woke me up this morning was from a woman at Channel 4 wanting to know if I was cab driving today and if so, could they drive around with me to see what the road conditions were. Sorry. Not working. And if I was working, the roads probably wouldn't be all that bad at all and Channel 4 wouldn't want to pal around with me in the cab. Oh well.

And I just got texted by a customer needing a cab around 1 this afternoon, but I won't be out there today.

Where are these customers during nicer weather? And then people in general get all upset that they can't get a cab during inclement weather... Well, I have to weigh my options... Do I really want to run the risk of crashing a taxi cab and owing the cab company megabucks for repairs and possibly lose my job just because customers during bad weather need taxi rides? Sorry. Making $100 versus owing THOUSANDS doesn't add up in my book. And yeah, you can say "well that's what taxis are for", but I'm personally not going to drive in ridiculously bad weather.


Saturday, January 3, 2009

First Night of Cab Driving 2009

So I go in for work at about 2:45-3:00 pm as usual. I used to go in an hour earlier, but now I know that since I don't have a regular day driver, that I won't get my regular cab (#89) until 3pm at the earliest. I go in, pay my nightly lease in full, no excuses and wait for 89 to show up, which it does within about 10 minutes. Great!

I get in #89 after not having driven it for 2 nights and the cab is really dirty inside. And smelly. What is that stink? Rotten food? Cab driver body odor? Stale cigarette smoke trapped in every fiber of the cab, lingering? Did someone vomit in the cab? Could be any or all of the above.

The outside of the cab is dirty, and I don't see the bucket and hose outside the garage door, so I splurge / invest $10 in a car wash. Great! Now at least I have a clean LOOKING cab on the outside. The inside front of the cab has stains from spills of various drinks. There's a dried up, used up paper towel scrunched up in the cup holder. Assorted mail or something over in the passenger front door. Someone's been writing on the center armrest / container area and the cover to this area is very loose and broken.

I picked up one fare, at Target in Lincoln Plaza: a family consisting of a mom,her mom and the two little kids all going back to 30 Wellington with all their bags of stuff purchased at Target. Not a bad fare. Too bad the cab smells so bad that we have to ride all the way downtown with windows cracked or rolled down a few inches. Oh, and did I mention how cold it was outside? By the time we get to Murray Ave., the kids are joking about how one of them may have farted in the cab, but I know that it's just this lingering stench of death that #89 now is in possession of.

I could try sticking around the City Hospital area and do another nearby job, but I can't take the stink. There's also a puddle of accumulated standing water at my feet which may be a new burgeoning civilization of microbials and single cell stinky life forms. I don't care. I head to another car wash with a heavy duty industrial vacuum and I suck up and clean up the front & back of the cab as good as I possibly can for $1.50 for 4 minutes.

Done. Great. I head to Holden for my regular customers returning back to the jail from their work release job at the Industrial Park. I park in the lot and... ugh. The electrical system of the cab just went dead. I can't even hear the dispatch radio. I can't start the car. No juice whatsoever. I've had a dimming / nonexistant dashboard lights situation that I made the mechanics aware of last week, but I guess they hadn't had the time to rip apart the dash to figure out why things were going intermittantly awry in #89.

I call the dispatcher who connects me with the garage. The garage tells me I need to have the dispatcher send me a tow truck. I call the dispatcher back and ask for a tow truck. I wait around for a bit. I call Brooke and tell her I'm probably not cab driving tonight and that I've done ONE job and wasted money on cleaning a now malfunctioning cab. Then I call the cab OFFICE back and ask if there are any other cabs to drive. The frazzled person on the other end of the phone tells me that she'll switch me over into something, don't worry. Don't worry. Right. I only have a mortgage to pay, bills piling up and a total lack of faith in even my regular cab which other drivers keep making worse and worse.

One tow truck ride later, I'm back at the cab company. I'm given a smaller cab, #45 and away I go. I head straight to the train station. I've already missed out on two of my regular charges that would add up to $27, roughly a third of my nightly lease. When I left the cab office, the owner of the company tells me tto smile, cheer up, Happy New Year. I tell her I've already missed out on a third of my lease due to a cab that let me down due to no fault of my own and now I'll have to work twice as hard on what looks like a slow Friday night on a cold January evening. She doesn't care. Maybe she does. Who really knows? The thing is that she'll be getting her lease regardless. Whether I make any money or not is of no concern. So long as they get their $90. The minute I stop paying my lease in full is the minute I could be told that I can't drive anymore.

The train station is good to me. $6 fare to Hurricane Betty's. Pickup at the bus going all the way to Andover St. in Greendale for $11. Pickup at the train going to George Street for $5. Heading back to the train, I bid on 507 Main Street going to play BINGO at Sacred Heart Church on Cambridge St. for $5. Then nothing at the 6:30pm train, but I snagged a pickup around the back at the bus going to Birch St. for $10. Back to the train for the 7:15 train, nothing. The 7:35 yields a fare going to Adams & Belmont for $7. I wait around on Main Street to pickup my regular going to Kelly Square, then back to the train where I get a $6 fare to Merrick Street. Nothing else to do, so go back to the train AGAIN and get a $9 fare going to Clark University. All of these are okay fares, but nothing's falling into place. All I do is keep gravitating back to the train station. No jobs connecting together like links in a chain.

I'm up around Belmont & Edward Street by Memorial Hospital and see that #60 is already in the first up stand. I turn around and leave the same way I came. As I'm turning left back on to Belmont a job goes out for "Oak & Kendall" right around the corner. #60 says he's at Belmont / Edward. I bid "Belmont & Oak", Oak Ave. which I'm looking right at and just about to turn on to. I'm given the job, I show uup at the address and wait. #60 follows me and wants to talk with me. He says he has the utmost respect for me but why did I do that to him? "Do what? I legitimately bid and got the job." I wasn't lying. I was kinda slitting #60's throat, but he wouldn't hesitate to do the same to me. But I'm in no mood for an argument. "Take the job! Do whatever you want! I've only made $65 so far!" I head down Oak, then turn around and #60 has decided to let me pick up the job I legitimately bid on and won. How gracious of him. It turns out that these customers need 2 cabs anyway and #60 got his fare just the same, but not without all kinds of drama.

I get a call from a semi-regular who will be needing cab rides all this coming week. Good news for a change. And she's more than happy to call me to drive her AND this job lines right up with another regular customer I have during the week.

I bid from Belmont / Edward later for Belmont / Eastern up the street. I get a kid who needs to go back to Shannon off Dorchester. He says he walks all the way from Shannon to Belmont to see this girl he likes. It only takes him about half an hour or so (in the cold, mind you). I tell him that I hope this girl appreciates the effort he's putting in just to spend time with her. He tells me that he's had trouble in the past with being short on money for cab fare and having to run upstairs into his house to get the rest of the money and the cab driver thinks he's skipping out on the fare even though the kid has left his full backpack of stuff in the cab as collateral. I tell him that that's a good way to sure up that you'll be back with the rest of the money, establish a little trust with the kid and things go smoothly for a $8 fare.

Last train yields a $7 fare going to Austin & Russell Street. The guy tells me as we're listening to an AM radio talk show that people down south are gearing up for a potential Civil War in America when Barrack Obama takes the office of President. My customer tells me that he's amazed that more people haven't heard about this.

I'm heading back towards downtown and bid Federal Plaza for Harrington Corner. #57 says he's already at Harrington Corner and he's given Tammany Hall, just up the street on Pleasant. I AM a little further away than him, but I head toward the job anyway. Maybe there'll be others needing a cab. I'm not even driving fast. Normal speed. I head past Tammany, then turn around and go by again and these 2 guys get in my cab. Only as we head back down to Harrington Corner did I see #57. If he was REALLY there when he bid, he should have already had these guys in his cab or at least he should have been outside Tammany waiting.#57 basically lied and didn't back up his lie by, oh I don't know, DOING HIS JOB. I brought these guys clear across town to beyond Webster Plaza for $11 and a $4 tip.

Then things started lining up... briefly. I was at Main & Maywood and gor Maywood / Florence going to Woodland / Kingsbury for $5. Then I got another fare on Woodland going to Freeland for $5. Then I foolishly / bravely picked up some guy on Main South near King St. going to Shrewsbury Street and I cut him a deal and did it for $5. Then a call from a regular at Funky Murphy's going somewhere, then changing their minds and just went to the Boulevard Diner down the street for $6.

Snow was falling rather heavily. I waited around outside McFaddens for a while. I tried to get a job on Portland Street that another driver was assigned. I was supposed to be out til beyond 3am tonight. I had a regular needing a ride from Hurricane Betty's going back to Proctor for about $10 and then my jail guy at 3am. But it was really getting slippery and hard to see, near white-out conditions as the dispatcher said. I gassed up and went home. The dispatcher tried to lay a guilt trip on me, telling me to try to have some confidence in my driving skills, but I hate snow. I can't drive in a blinding snow storm. I just can't. And what the dispatcher was also saying was "hey, dude, cabs are putting up like crazy and I'll have no one to cover all of these jobs", but that's not my problem. I don't want to end up crashing a cab and owing the owner of the company money I don't have. It made more sense to skip two jobs adding up to $20 and just go home with about $60 in my pocket.

I slowly drove my car back to Tatnuck via some really slippery streets, but I made it safely. I checked my e-mail, got a little more disgruntled over one e-mail in particular and then defeatedly headed to bed and curled up under the covers next to Brooke. I had a really hard time sleeping. I felt like I was letting people down. I felt like I was failing as a provider. I just felt like a failure. But it would have been worse if I'd stayed out and tried doing $20 worth of work in those snowy slippery conditions.

Now it's Saturday morning. I've just called to see if there's a cab I can drive today. Not sure if it's worth it. But we'll see...