Tag Archives: thanksgiving

The Night of Early Morning Stragglers

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This week’s column for the S.F. Examiner is about misadventures while working the early morning crowd on Thanksgiving Day…

Lately, I’ve been playing with days, trying to carve out a schedule that’s not just lucrative but also conducive to the mind, the body, the kid, the wife and BART.

As part of my experimentation, I take a chance and work the day before Thanksgiving. Business is respectable during the first part of my shift, but after midnight, the streets are deserted. No cars. No pedestrians. No panhandlers. Just the occasional straggler. And Mr. Judy and me, rolling from one bar to the next, pulling up and looking through the doors for any signs of life …

“It’s really dead,” I say.

“I love it like this,” Mr. Judy responds cheerfully. “This is the San Francisco I miss.”

Despite the lack of paying customers, San Francisco is magical during the holidays — and Burning Man — when most of the transplants have gone home, leaving The City to those of us who have no other home. For a change, the majority of people you see out and about look like they could be your friends.

Once Mr. Judy gives up and I take him home, a regular calls me. She needs to drop off the keys her boyfriend accidentally left at her place in the Mission.

When I pull up, she climbs in the front seat, which is her wont, and plugs my aux cable into her phone.

“I’m so annoyed right now,” she says, manipulating the settings in the cab’s stereo.

“Where are we heading?” I ask.

“Outer Richmond. Take the long way.”

As I meander through the night, she doesn’t say much. The music plays, and we watch The City stream past.

On my way to drop her back home, I pass a flag on Valencia. Once free, I quickly swing around the block. The guy is still there. He gets in on the left and sits right behind me.

“I’m so glad you picked me [up],” he says, “Otherwise, I might have done something stupid.”

“Oh yeah? Like what?”

“Well, I’m just drunk and stoned right now. Oh, and I’ve been doing blow all night. But if you hadn’t got me out of there, I would’ve ended up smoking crack and doing crystal … and that … that would be bad.”

“How so?”

“When I smoke crack and snort meth, I always seem to let some dude give me head.”

I’m not sure how to respond, failing to see the problem.

“I’m not gay!”

“Oh.”

Read the rest of the column here.

[photo by Trevor Johnson]

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Desperate Times Call for Big Dumb Great Ideas

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This week’s column for the S.F. Examiner is about driving a taxi during Thanksgiving weekend… The good, the bad and the turkey. (Spoiler alert: I’m the turkey.)

There wasn’t much to be thankful for over Thanksgiving weekend, as far as driving a taxi… That is, until Colin came up with one of his big dumb great ideas…

On Wednesday night, I’m waiting outside The Box, a literal hole in the wall on Natoma Street next to Tempest that serves up some of the best late night food options in The City. Potato skins with quail eggs, anyone?

As I smoke a cigarette, two guys approach me. The bedraggled one on my right hits me up for change so he can get a slice of pizza. On my left, equally disheveled, some kid from the bar who just wants a light.

“Sorry to bother you…”

“No worries.” I put a flame to the end of his cigarette. “It’s a little weird asking people for things in an alley.”

Next thing you know, we’re talking politics.

“But Hillary’s a bitch!” he declares at one point.

“What’s she ever done to you?” I ask with a condescending chuckle. He’s 27 years old and didn’t even vote.

“Well…”

“Look, the presidential election isn’t a popularity contest. You’re voting for an agenda.”

Like a bell signaling the end of a round, Dre calls out my name from behind the counter. I’m as ready for my food as I am to end this conversation…

I skipped work on Thursday. I was dubious about Friday too, but I did better than I assumed…

Saturday night, out of the sloshed fields of the Mission, I manage to get a decent ride to the Green Tortoise. Three English dudes from Brighton. One of whom forgot his ID.

“Look at him though,” the guy in the middle says. “He’s practically a gaffer. And his jokes are shit. Listen.”

“What did zero say to eight?” the guy asks. “Nice belt.”

Apparently, his bad jokes weren’t persuasive enough to get him into many bars.

They want me to tell my best one liners as we drive to North Beach, but instead I tell them about a ride I had on Friday night…

Around 9 p.m., I’m in the black. First up at the Hilton taxi stand. I’m smoking and talking to some other cab drivers when a guy with luggage walks up.

“SFO?”

“Let’s go!” I throw his bags into the trunk.

Before I even make the corner he tells me in a thick accent, “My plane’s leaving in an hour. Do you think we can still make it?”

“We’ll make it,” I say.

The entire way to the airport, he’s freaking out that he’s going to miss his flight.

“Relax,” I keep saying. “It’ll be okay. By the way, are you carrying marijuana?”

“None at all. Why?”

“You reek of weed.”

“Oh, I’ve been trimming all week. It must be on my clothes.”

I continue to assure him that he won’t miss his plane, neglecting to mention that he’s probably going to get flagged in security. The smell of pot is so strong I’m practically getting a contact buzz.

At SFO, the United terminal is jam-packed. I make some questionable maneuvers to get close enough to drop him off. He hands me three $20 bills. “Keep it.”

“Run like the wind!” I yell after him…

“You think he made it?” one of the Brighton kids ask me.

“No, he probably end up getting anally probed.”

We all laugh.

“That’s so like a trimmer,” one of the guys says.

“Oh, yeah?”

“Do we seem like trimmers?”

“I don’t really judge.”

“Well, we are.”

“That’s cool.”

“We just changed our clothes before we went out.”

“Good job, cause you guys just reek of booze.”

“That was our plan all along.”

“Now that’s funny.”

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Read the actual column here.

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