Tag Archives: soma

From the Wrong Sex Club to the Right Sex Club

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In San Francisco, you need the right cab driver to get you to the right sex club…

In this week’s column for the S.F. Examiner, I write about getting misguided passengers where they want to go:

I’m cruising down Folsom Street on a quiet Thursday night at about midnight. An arm goes up in front of Powerhouse. I pull over. A man with a strong accent gets in the back of my taxi. 

“Can you take me here?” He shows me his phone with the Google details for the Power Exchange on the screen. 

As I head up 7th Street, I ask nonchalantly, “Not the crowd you’re looking for back there, huh?” 

“Too many problems!” he exclaims. “I’m looking for women.”

“Well, you’re going to the right place now.”

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photo of the entrance to the Power Exchange courtesy of S.F. Weekly

Racing through the littered streets of the Tenderloin, I can’t help but wonder how this guy ended up at a gay cruising bar instead of the hetero sex club he was looking for. Poor communication with a cab driver? A mix up in a Google search? 

Whatever. These things happen. A few months back, I had a similar situation, albeit in reverse, while driving past the Power Exchange …

A guy flags me down and immediately tells me he’s a tourist and has ended up at the wrong place. 

“The doorman told me I should check out Blow Buddies,” he says. “Do you know where that is?”

Of course. I’m quite familiar with the place, I tell him. But instead of assuming that, as a night cabbie, I know where all the sex clubs are in San Francisco — gay and straight — he thinks I’m a regular and grills me on the details. 

“It’s all gay, right? Is it OK to just watch? Do I have to take off all my clothes? Are there condoms available? Showers?” 

“All I know is that, once you’re inside, they’ll explain everything.”

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Read the rest of the column here

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Branded Hoodies and Leather Jock Straps

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Last week is a blur. In retrospect, I’m not sure why I thought I could do five taxi shifts in a row. I’m no longer a young man. I have grown weary and paunchy around the waist.

At the time, though, it seemed like a good idea. With the Oracle convention winding down and the Folsom Street Fair gearing up, The City was hopping, and I didn’t want to miss out on any of the action.

The last thing I remember with any clarity is finishing my column on Wednesday morning and then calling Jacob at the National office to secure 182, my regular cab.

From there, things get a little muddy …

Read the rest of this column here.

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2015 Folsom Street Fair proves to be profitable for taxi drivers

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Originally published on October 2, 2015 in the S.F. Examiner

It was a good week to be a taxi driver.

With an estimated 400,000 people attending the Folsom Street Fair on Sunday, business was booming from the start of my shift on Thursday afternoon all the way to Monday morning, when I crawled home from the MacArthur BART station, my mind fried, my bones aching and my pockets bulging with cash.

Thursday started out with epic gridlock in SoMa. My first fare, from Caltrain to Bush and Gough, took 45 minutes and cost $36.

Things just kept going from there.

Friday was even busier. Each time I dropped off a passenger, another fare was waiting to get into my backseat.

“Is some event going on?” a woman asks me at one point. “Why is it surging?”

I want to remind her she was in a cab, thus I have no clue what’s going on with Uber, and while I know we’re all in an open relationship now, some of us aren’t exactly happy about the arrangement. But instead I politely tell her about the Folsom Street Fair, the AC/DC concert that night at the ballpark and TwitchCon at Moscone Center.

“I’m lucky you came along then,” she says.

“You are,” I agree, as we blow past dozens of people flagging me down.

Saturday… I don’t even remember much about what happened on Saturday after I left my apartment, stumbling down Telegraph, unsure if I would even make it to BART without face planting into the pavement.

Everything becomes a blur from the strain of multiple 12-hour shifts behind the wheel, the hassle of getting from Oakland to the National yard in Bayview and, somehow, managing to squeeze in a little shuteye.

Forget about a personal life.

After a while, I’m just a driving machine.

A muscle and a brain.

On Sunday, I start my shift and go straight to SoMa to work the Folsom Street Fair. The annual BDSM and leather subculture fair is the third largest street fair in California, after Pride and the Rose Parade.

I head in on Potrero and then up Division, which is congested. I cut across two lanes of traffic and head down Bryant. Everyone’s turning left at Seventh so I take Sixth and go west on Howard.

There are supposed to be cabstands on Eighth, but once again, I use the same techniques I did with the Dreamforce Gala and Outside Lands. I stick to the periphery—Eighth and Harrison Streets—where I have access to the best avenues of escape.

Folsom Street Fair proves to be pay dirt. And also my gayest—err, I mean, greatest—night of cab driving in San Francisco.

It felt like the old days, when the rest of The City was “Castro adjacent.”

Without a single lull, the rides kept coming and I just kept shoving the money into my chest pockets.

I transport an endless stream of festivalgoers to and from after parties, many zonked out on GHB, some fully clothed, others half-naked, most clad in leather and everything and anything else in between.

Very few passengers talk, comatose from the drugs, cavorting at the Fair and untold hours of dancing.

One guy, who flags me down on Market, spends the entire ride groaning and drooling on his wrestler’s uniform. When I pull up to Park Central, he removes two $5 bills from a striped tube sock. The fare is $12 but I don’t argue. Even though it’s in my best interest to get the hell out of Dodge, I wait to make sure he’s safe. He meanders into Third Street and then onto the sidewalk towards Market.

“You’re going the wrong way!” I yell out my window.

Eventually, he careens in the direction of his hotel.

People continue to pour out of 1015 Folsom long after the 4 AM closing time. I could keep going, too, but I have a 4:45 cab. With five minutes to spare, I hit the gas station on Army and turn in.

Three days of sleep later, I’m still wiped out.

Next weekend is the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival, which should be another profitable, albeit exhausting, week of cab driving.

As things begin to look up, though, I think about what Late Night Larry told me as he dropped me off at the Civic Center BART on Monday morning:

“Don’t forget… winter is coming.”

I was priced out before I was ever priced in…


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Originally printed in the S.F. Examiner

 

San Francisco is like a drug. When it gets inside you, each moment is a revelation. Until things get ugly.

On Friday and Saturday nights, after the bars have dumped their cockeyed patrons onto the sidewalks and the feeding frenzy for rides is over, I look for a good cabstand. I used to work the Gold Club, but then I discovered the DJ venues.

Unlike the guys who frequent high-end strip joints and reek of alcohol and desperation, the passengers I pick up from places like the Cat Club and Mighty climb into my backseat with bottled water and cat-that-ate-the-canary grins.

Occasionally, they’re chatty. But it’s not easy having a conversation with somebody in the grips of a chemical high. One Saturday night, after listening to half the “Reign in Blood” CD while double-parked outside Public Works, my back door opens. A couple in their late 30s gets in.

“Seventh and Mission.”

It’s been a busy weekend for tourists, and I instinctively ask if they’re going to one of the motels there.

“No, my condo,” the guy says.

The woman laughs. “‘My condo.’ … You sound like a douchebag.”

“Hey, I’m too high for semantics.” He asks if I’m cool making two stops. They’re going to her apartment after picking something up at his place, which is actually on Natoma Street. He tries to give me directions. “Don’t worry. I got you.” I take a right on Eighth Street and a left into the one-way alley.

“See, he’s a real taxi driver,” the woman says. While the man runs inside, she asks me how long I’ve been driving a cab. “Almost a year.” I don’t mention that I did Uber and Lyft for most of that time. I’m not in the mood for another one of those discussions. “Where do you live?” she asks.

“Oakland.”

“Oh. That’s too bad. It seems like everyone is getting priced out of San Francisco these days.” She tells me about a friend who had to move to Oakland recently. “Now I never see her anymore!”

She continues to rant about displacement and gentrification until the guy returns. Then it’s on to the next stop.

“The Fox Plaza.”

I ask for the cross streets. They direct me up Seventh to Market and then onto Hayes.

When I see the high-rise apartment building on the left, I say, “Oh, I know that place.” I had picked up and dropped off there multiple times during my Uber-Lyft days. That’s why I don’t know the name of the building, just the pinned location in the app.

“You lie,” the woman seems to whisper. “No, really.” I laugh, thinking she’s messing with me.

“You’re lying.”

I realize she’s not whispering. She’s seething.

Confused, I pull up to the front door. The fare is $9.55. She hands me a 20.

“Give me back 10,” she says, snidely. “You know, I would have given you a fat tip, but I don’t reward dishonesty.”

“What are you talking about?” I ask, dumbfounded.

“You’re a liar,” she snaps at me while getting out of the cab. “You said you were from here. That’s not cool, man.”

As I cruise down 10th Street, I try to process what just happened. I never said I was from San Francisco. In her drug-addled mind, she assumed I had been priced out because I live in Oakland.

Sure, before the wife and I moved to Temescal a year and a half ago from Los Angeles, we looked for an apartment in The City first. But, of course, we couldn’t afford anything. So while we may not have been priced out, we definitely are priced out. Is there a difference?

Yes, there is.

I can hardly blame the woman for getting angry. Even before the latest housing crisis, assuming the role of a native San Franciscan was tantamount to criminal activity. Now that the stakes are higher, it’s an outright sin.

At Howard Street, I wonder how many cabs are in the EndUp stand, but it’s late. And the woman’s scorn still burns. My head is dizzy and full of regret.

I hit the 101 and drive back to the yard. I’ve had enough San Francisco for one night.