Category Archives: san francisco

Waiting for the Orpheum to break…

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Last week I get a text from Colin: “Wholly shit; I’m doing homework for the first time in a decade, putting Open World, Dreamforce, Castro Street Fair in schedule.”

Holy shit, times sure have changed. Back when I always made sure to know what convention was at Moscone, what shows were at the theaters and who was playing at the concert venues, Colin would snicker and call me “cute” for “being such a good rookie.”

Now that he’s embraced the new way of taxi driving, Colin isn’t just queuing outside hotels, Davies Hall and the War Memorial, he’s preparing for what to expect.

Of course, there are times when it pays to do your homework. Like last Thursday, when a bunch of clueless cab drivers were staging outside the Masonic and complaining about not getting any fares – they might not have wasted their time at the Nob Hill concert hall if they knew about the night’s headliner, Harry Styles. People who pay to see a former boy band singer are not as likely to take a taxi after the show as those who go to the opera, where about thirty people waited desperately for a ride home.

I heard the whistles on Franklin before even turning onto Grove.

After taking my fare from the War Memorial to the St. Francis, I head to the Orpheum, where “An American in Paris” is about to break, and line up on Hyde Street.

A few minutes later, the side doors open and the audience pours out into the night. I wave a man and a woman forward. He opens the door and she gets in first. Tells me their destination:

“The Ritz.”

I hit the meter and maneuver through the surge of vehicles quickly descending on the area.

As I turn right onto Larkin, the man comments on City Hall, awash in multicolored lights.

“What are the colors for? The flag?”

“I think it’s to commemorate the Folsom Street Fair this weekend,” I suggest, even though the colors aren’t exactly the same as the rainbow colors usually associated with the LGBT community.

“What street fair?” he asks.

“Folsom. It’s a celebration of…” I hesitate, unsure how to explain the festival to mixed company.

The woman beats me to it. “Folsom Street Fair is a leather and bondage event,” she explains.

“Oh,” the man replies.

“Yeah. They’re expecting over 200,000 attendees. I haven’t looked forward to seeing a bunch of hot, sweaty half-naked dudes this much since I used to watch WWF wrestling religiously.”

After trying to take a selfie with City Hall is the background, the couple asks how my night has been going. There’s not much to report.

“So, is driving a cab your only job in The City?” the woman asks.

“I also, uh… write.”

“Oh, what do you write?” the man wants to know.

“Besides other things, I write a weekly column for the Examiner about driving a taxi.”

“You want a story?” the man asks with a chuckle. “I could tell you my name.”

“Let’s not do that!” the woman chides him.

I glance in the rearview but it’s too dark to make out his face clearly. “What’s your name?”

He laughs again.

“Come on,” she insists. “We’re almost to the hotel.”

Read the rest here.

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“The View from a Taxi” Anthologized

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I contributed a story called “The View from a Taxi” to this anthology on San Francisco writing, Your Golden Sun Still Shines, edited by Denise Sullivan and published by Manic D Press.

You can order it on Amazon. Or through your local independent bookstore.

An Accidental Tub-thumper

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In this week’s column for the S.F. Examiner, I pick up a family who’s exposed to San Francisco’s ugly side on 6th Street, AKA, the Dirty Six. Instead of letting them think the worst, I try to help them understand the consequences of the city’s epic income disparity.

As I wait for the light to change at Mission, a bedraggled woman on the corner is flailing her arms and bitching out the sky.

“Oh my god.” The lady behind me gasps. “What’s wrong with her?”

As I continue down, she points out the motley cast of characters hanging out on the sidewalks and expresses shock at the various displays of mental illness.

“How close are we to your neighborhood?” she asks her son. “I’m really not comfortable with you living around all this squalor.”

“It’s not my neighborhood,” he replies with obvious annoyance.

“It doesn’t look safe here at all,” she intones.

“Mom, I never even come down here!”

As they go back and forth on how much danger she thinks he’s being exposed to, despite his protestations, I feel the need to interrupt. Not that I’m feeling like much of a booster for San Francisco these days, but … someone has to do it.

Read the entire column here.

[photo by Douglas O’Connor]

On becoming a day driver… and a pissed off cabbie!

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This week’s column for the Examiner is about switching to the day shift and immediately becoming the quintessential angry cabbie. 

The nausea comes in waves, along with dizzy spells and a throbbing in my forehead that pulsates to a beat that matches the jackhammers I wake up to most mornings. It’s the sound of progress. These ugly, prison-like buildings are the future. Who am I to criticize some jerkwad who’s willing and able to pay three grand for a cookie-cutter apartment in an “up-and-coming” neighborhood that still hasn’t figured out what to do with the down and out?

If I ever thought having a kid was going to cramp my style, it’s only because I hadn’t considered how nettlesome living with the Bay Area can be. Compared to the toll this place takes on you, dealing with a screaming, sleep-resistant baby is a walk in the park.

When I switched to driving days, I figured there would be some hiccups in the transition. But I wasn’t expecting to become the quintessential angry cab driver overnight.

Read the rest here.

[photo by Douglas O’Connor]

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Bookstores that carry Behind the Wheel 3: From Uber/Lyft to Taxi

 

Behind the Wheel 3 is available at these bookstores:

In the Mission:

Dog Eared Books
900 Valencia St.
​San Francisco, CA 94110

Adobe Books
3130 24th St.
San Francisco, CA 94110

Alley Cat Books
3036 24th St.
San Francisco, CA 94110

Needles and Pens
1173 Valencia St.
​San Francisco, CA 94110

Thrillhouse Records

In North Beach:

City Lights Bookstore
261 Columbus Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94133

Soon to be stocked:

Bound Together in the Haight
Dog Eared Books on Castro

Insanity is a full-time job

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In this week’s column for the S.F. Examiner, the return of Mr. Judy, the misanthropic drug dealer…

“I really hate sober people,” Mr. Judy says. “Not because they’re lousy customers — I mean, there’s that, obviously — but mostly because I don’t trust them. Non-smokers, too.”

“Uh huh.” I fill the empty spaces in his monologue with grunts and polite chuckles while slowly cruising down Clipper Street toward the Mission.

“Which reminds me. Where’s my mace?”

“Don’t worry,” I tell him. “You’ll get it back.”

I’ve taken Mr. Judy, and his can of mace, hostage. After nearly spraying a guy in the face at a liquor store, I decided he wasn’t ready to be released back into the wild just yet. So I’m driving him around and listening to David Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold the World,” hoping he’ll soon relax.

“That guy in the liquor store had it coming. I’m telling ya. Asking the price for every bottle of booze. If you can’t afford alcohol at a liquor store, plan ahead and go to Costco, you stupid fucking moron!”

I agree that while certain people probably deserve to be maced, “You can’t get 86’d from another place. Soon, there won’t be anywhere left for you to go.”

Read the rest here.

[photo by Douglas O’Connor]

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Everything is for sale in San Francisco

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Pulled up to Caltrain the other day and there’s a new bike rack blasting a corporate logo. It seems the Bay Area Bike Share program has been expanded with money from Ford Motor Company, thus the rebrand to Ford GoBike. 

Unlike what happened to the taxi industry when Uber rolled out, the city is actually doing its job [ex1 . ex2 . ex3] and trying to protect existing industries from being disrupted by certain features in the new bike share program, namely a day pass that would appeal to tourists over the various bike services that cater to tourists.

Good news for Blazing Saddles, et al.

For now anyway.