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.