Friday, April 11, 2008

day two

We're counting down on the big board.

Got through yesterday, thanks to Barb and Amy and Sanjay and Sxip and Lizzie, Ivy the tiny nurse, lots of hydro-morphone and our own native wits.

Day Five is what we're all about here at the Museum, even though some doctor-types began the "Monday... or Tuesday." mumble yesterday.

How about just "Monday"? No "...or Tuesday".

Monday or Madness.

Monday or we start killing hostages, dumping their bodies at the Emergency Walk-In.

Give me Monday or give me a lot more hydro-morphone.

I did the Karmic Dance with cabbie Avtar Singh yesterday morning.

My mornings have been fairly regimented these last few weeks. Up, smoke, make the coffee, look at the televised news, drink the coffee, check the Times homepage, check the email, type something on the screen, smoke some more, go to the gym, come home, shower, put on my pants and go out and hail a cab on Houston, fly up the FDR to the hospital, tend to the Teapot.

It's been a blur since it's been the same for the last twenty-three days. Doesn't matter what day of the week it says on the calendar, I'm up and flying up the FDR.

So yesterday I'm standing on Houston and Ridge with my hand in the air eyeing the flow. Hailing a cab is a lot like fly-fishing, except your boots don't get wet and peace and tranquility don't really enter into it. But you've got to keep the arm moving, otherwise you're just standing there like a Nazi.

On Houston, way over on the East Side where we live, you're more likely to catch a cab heading West, so what I do is I cross Houston in the morning, wave down a yellow cab, he pulls a semi-legal U-turn on Suffolk and we bang over to the Drive and race up along the East River to the hospital and Bob's your uncle.

Nothing to it. Twenty-three days in a row.

Yesterday, I hail the Troubled Taxi of Avtar Singh.

Mr. Singh was straight out of one of those bad movies about Rat City made by people who live in L.A. You know the ones, the movies where the city is only populated by Wall Street whiteguys with power ties and mistresses and expense accounts and Brooklyn guys selling pizza in their undershirts saying "Yo, Vinny!" and sweet, wise street-jiving black hustlers and all that corny bullshit.

There's always an Indian cabdriver in these movies, complete with headgear and full white beard. It's usually more of a sight gag than anything else and the bit is that he barely speaks his own language, let alone God's English.

Yesterday morning, the role of the Indian Cabdriver was played by Mr. Avtar Singh.

I climb in the back and say "66th and 1st, please" since that's where I get Nan her iced coffee and we head west, blowing right by Suffolk and the usual U-turn.

I ask,

"You're not going to take the Drive?"

Mr. Singh says something.

I shrug and lean back since I'll try anything once and most things twice.

He turns up First.

Now, about a year ago they put little TV screens in the back of all of the cabs. One of these incredibly annoying modern conveniences that make you worry about the future of the species. You can punch it off or you can catch the weather and then punch it off or you can stare at it like a hypnotized drone-slave instead of staring out the window at the Real Show going on. Your choice.

They've put these same screens in the elevators of some of the big hotels.

In the elevators.

Even if you're going to the 38th Floor, how much time is that? Two minutes?

You can't go two minutes without watching Soledad O'Brien enthuse over the wonders of some new I-Gadget?

And you know the next place these little screens will show up will be hearses. You know they've got them ready to roll out as soon as the market research says we're ready for them. So while you're being driven to Uncle Bob's funeral you can catch the five-day forecast or hear how George Clooney's new movie is doing. They'll do it right, you know, somber-voiced anchor-people, everything very "tasteful".

Tasteful. If someone says something is tasteful and they're not talking about a sandwich, you can bet they're lying. If you have to say it, then it ain't.

So we're crawling up First Avenue and I go to punch off the TV in the back of the cab. Before I can reach it, the screen goes blank and then pops back on with a long, encoded error message, encouraging me to re-start the thing or go to night school and study computer sciences so I can understand the significance of error code 553422698.

I shout up to Singh.

"Screen's dead."

He says something.

"Your screen is dead."

He says something else, or maybe the same thing, eyes on the road.

"I'm paying with credit." I elaborate, thinking that maybe putting the conversation into a monetary zone may catch his interest.

No response. He drives on, weaving slowly up the Avenue.

So I lean back. Fuck it. It's his fare. In the fullness of time, when we get up to 66th, all will be revealed.

I look out the window as we head up 1st. New view, usually it's just the East River and Queens on the far shore. We stall out around 13th Street, sputter forward a little bit, lots of honking, same old Rat City Concerto.

Then I realize what we're doing.

Houston is Zero Street if you're on the Grid. One street south of 1st Street. We're going to 66th. That's 66 blocks straight up First Avenue and First Avenue goes right into the teeth of the Beast that is midtown Manhattan.

People tearing down buildings, other buildings just falling down on their own, thirty thousand jay-walkers, trucks parked in the middle of the road or abandoned there from sometime back in the Carter administration, cops and ambulances and EMTs with their sirens blaring, full-on fucking everyday chaos.

As opposed to the Drive, where you just glide on up and get off at 62nd.

We're stuck around 23rd Street now, the meter is up to eight bucks already and the screen is still dead.

"We should have taken the Drive." I bitch helpfully.

He says something.

"Your screen's still dead." I observe, hating him.

Twenty minutes later he pulls over at 66th and First. We sit in the silence of the cab for a moment.

"I was going to use a credit card." I tell him.

He looks through the window screen, at one with the universe and then speaks.

"Touch the screen."

"I've been touching it, look." I tap, press, poke and play the flat screen like a keyboard, like I've been doing since 34th Street. Nothing.

He shrugs.

I take out twenty bucks, money I'm going to need later, and hand it up to him. My uncle was a cabdriver, so I always over-tip, that's a hard way to make your money.

I stiff Mr. Singh, bringing the tip down to what is probably normal.

"You should have taken the Drive." I instruct him as I climb out.

"Thank you, sir." he says and drives off.

I get the iced coffee, smoke nine cigarettes and go see Nancy.

The coda is that at 9:00 last night the day was balanced by the skilled and impressive reflexes of Mr. Phillip Bolnemonus, Master of the Drive.

That kid knew how to drive a cab.


Erez said...

Two Uncle Bobs one Blog.

John said...

Yeah, it's called chiasmus, only I'm not doing it right yet.

It's something I'm trying to steal from WBY, who stole it from the honest Irish workmen of his youth.

I'm rounding you up to seventeen bucks even for noticing.

Ann said...

Gob, who *is* this guy Erez? I was going to mention the Uncle Bob thing, and I was going to get the Bach date. But Erez? Keeps fucking me!

Hey, guess what? It's after 2 in the morning and I'm drunk again. I gotta stop taking this Friday thing so seriously!

Love to you & Nan. I called about the wifi, by the way. ouldn't get it worked out, but on the plsu side... I think they're naming a wing after Nan. Or maybe it was me.. Hard to say for sure.

John said...

Kelly the 14 year old Night Nurse hooked us up with the wifi a couple of days ago.

They're making smart kids these days.

Erez is a strange, strange man, Ann.

You'd love him.