A Quick Update for 2014

First, a big thank you to everyone who checked in via facebook or email about my ceiling! I am deeply grateful to have such thoughtful people in my corner. The holidays, working extra hours, the apartment repair, and a deadline to write a foreword for the re-release of a friend’s book (more on that when it’s out) added up to no quiet time to blog. I have other stuff on my mind to write about, but thought I should update this first:

My building manager was so shocked when she saw the photos of the hole that she made my repairs a priority and is now more amenable to listening when I complain or warn that something dire is approaching. It helps that she is female and was there when I told the contractor the ceiling was going to cave while he quietly blew me off as the usual hysterical female. I sure showed him! Too bad my last laugh had to include weeks of cleaning, severe emotional stress, the risk of my cat’s life, breathing in a quantity of black dirt and damage to an irreplaceable antique photographer’s chair that my mother refinished by hand. 

I did go to a friend-recommended lawyer who told me that my rent is so low that by the time we went through the trouble of legalities and the court system I would owe him more than I would make back in a one or two month rent abatement. When I asked if my landlord would ever offer anything out of sheer decency, he laughed. Apparently no landlord offers anything except a low ballpark buy-out these days. I told him I’d come back when I’m ready to leave so they can pay me for the favor 

But my kitchen and living room ceilings are now repaired. It was a big chore and mess, and meant 75% of my apartment was off-limits for days at a time while they worked. I had to herd my four animals into the bedroom and was nervous about leaving them alone for major stretches of time. Which, truth be told was not the worst thing as it was nice to have an excuse to lounge in bed for hours, reading and surrounded by animals.

The ceiling looks pretty good; they drilled drywall into the existing beams and plastered and painted over the whole thing, which, according to friends in the know, is how it’s done nowadays when an apartment is still occupied. Our little family is no longer living under a rain of plaster or in fear for our lives. I also got a promise of a new paint job, new cupboards and possibly a new sink unit if I harass them enough. 

I went upstairs and looked at the mini-palace being built in a space the same size as mine, which is a one bedroom with the bedroom being extremely small. The renovated apartment is quite fancy, with nice looking tile and floorwork and even including a tiny washer/dryer in the bathroom, which will probably steal all my hot water. I am guessing they’ll call it a two-bedroom as a section of the kitchen has been maneuvered into acting as a tiny living room while the actual living room is walled off into what could pass for as the bigger bedroom. I’m guessing this apartment will go for $2500-$3000. Wrap your brain around that: it’s a six flight walk-up in a no-doorman tenement building on Avenue B.

My poor little apartment is still in desperate need of renovation, which can only happen properly if I exit with all my stuff, never to be seen again, leaving the landlord free to gut it and start afresh. This is not going to happen right away. I have no desire to live out my dotage in a crumbling five flight walk-up; I have a life here, with friends I love and really don’t want to leave.

Still the nudges that it’s coming get more frequent with each passing month. Every Saturday night there are always two or three incredibly bad and spoiled eggs present during my bartending shift that remind me that this city, at least in its current state, will not be my final destination. Last week I waited on a guy who claimed to once have been a bartender, then announced that all bartenders are shady, then didn’t tip because he thought $10 was too expensive for his premium bourbon, the implication being that I was already scamming him out of money. So he essentially called me a thief and didn’t pay me for my work, the energetic equivalent of spitting poison at someone and then walking away. The tip stiff is less hurtful than being insulted and demeaned for just doing my job. That kind of thing gets under your skin after a time, and is the reason there are so many surly bartenders and waiters in the world.

Then there was a this guy, who will remain legend among my co-workers for years to come:

1. Upon entrance dropped his coat down on a banquette and walked away for the night’s festivities, never looking back.
2. Had a few Jamos and Bud Lights (it’s their favorite) and eventually got so drunk that he felt the need to show me how limber he was while bro-dancing to Daft Punk ripping off Earth, Wind & Fire by throwing his foot up on the bar as if it were a barre.
3. Discovered at 3:00 am that he couldn’t find his favorite $2700 pea coat. Not finding his favorite $2700 pea coat where he was sure he left it made him feel cranky and convinced that someone had stolen it. Because he left it RIGHT THERE.
4. When security found his favorite fucking $2700 pea coat on a different banquette, probably the first one he passed on his way in to show us how awesome and bendy he is, instead of being grateful and relieved and perhaps embarrassed that he made such a stink, he only got more angry and belligerent and accused security of trying to steal it.
5. Got so aggressive regarding the imagined grand theft of his bullshit $2700 pea coat that he got in people’s faces until he had to be forcibly shoved out the door.
6. Once shoved out the door he announced to very visibly tattooed and non-golfy members of the staff that they were going to be really sorry because they were now banned from the fabulous golf courses that his dad, and he by default, own. 

You can’t make this stuff up, people. Well, you can, but there’s no need when it’s happening nightly right outside your door. And I do mean right outside: I have to step over vomit nearly every weekend on my way into my building.

So how long can you live next door to it, or above it, or underneath it, unless your name has a III after it and you enjoy golfing and drinking until you vomit in the street? My guess is not forever. But I grateful that I am living in a building that while undergoing the standard painful upgrades and ensuing market-value price gouges, remains relatively safe for its rent-stabilized tenants for the time-being.

I am also really gratified that the people in our little community of aging freaks are still willing to reach out to one another in time of crisis. That connection is invaluable and I hope that I am able to pay it forward when the opportunity arises. I am sick of talking about how New York sucks these days and want to focus on what we do have, and that is primarily each other. There is still a bit of time left and it would be nice to enjoy what we can while we can.

And lastly, on the topic of the shortness of life– the very talented Philip Seymour Hoffman. I didn’t know him, but by all reports from people who did, he was a very nice guy. Many in our scene are no stranger to drugs or drug addicts, and I’ve read some strong opinions on his weakness, on the weakness of junkies, etc. I have witnessed that weakness firsthand and yes, it’s frustrating and many times you just have to walk away or lose your mind. But I loved what Puma Perl had to say about it, and thought it was worthy of sharing as a final thought:

“Addiction is sneaky and insidious. It’s not a rational being where you can explain that you have kids, fame, talent, a wife, and it agrees to go away. I’ve read a few ‘how could he’ statements. Because he suffered from this disease, the same one as the guy on the corner, that’s how. Please don’t judge. RIP PSH.”

Brooklyn and Social Distortion

Sometimes I’ll have a really fun night and I’ll think, “I gotta blog this for everyone!” Then the next day I wake up and second-guess it. Is it going to sound braggy? So many people are dealing with serious issues right now, and others simply don’t get to lead the life that I have been afforded, which, while definitely not affluent, makes up for the lesser funds with excess fun. I worry: are people going to find me irritating, or desperate for attention, or okay, more irritating and desperate for attention than usual??

It’s a quandary. 

I have two minds about it. One is that I have earned my tiny place on the outskirts of the sun. I get pissy when people tell other people they are “lucky” to have what they have. Example: my friend and ex-bandmate Vas Kallas tours constantly with her band Hanzel und Gretyl. She books shows, she drives, she packs merch, makes sure the band gets paid, budgets with those payments, etc. She’s a rock and roll warhorse and it is a long and lonely struggle on a highway in the middle of the night. Yet every time she posts a photo of herself next to someone famous or in an exotic locale, some goofball will write, “You’re so lucky!” as if she just emerged from a vacuum and wandered clueless into that space, thereby negating the extensive history and hard work that went into creating that one moment of reward, which will last only that short time before the machine starts up again. In my case, I haven’t been working that way for quite some time, but I was there in the beginning, goddamnit, and I lugged enough gear, shook it on enough stages (and bars), and kissed enough frogs to allow for some ego about my position.

On the other hand, I am also aware that I AM lucky. My looks played a big part in the opportunities afforded me when I first arrived in New York. I have good and generous friends, a loving family. I am happy and healthy, and though it took time and suffering to get there, I have always felt that my life has been guided by a destiny that others haven’t been so easily afforded. So often I downplay the good times, which are less backstagey and good timey these days anyway, since we’re all too old to get into any real trouble.

Side note: I heard that someone fell and broke a hip at a Del Lords show recently. So yeah, probably more old-timey than good-timey for a lot of us…

Anyway, thankfully, I did NOT break a hip at the recent Social Distortion show at the Warsaw in Brooklyn. My “wifey” and partner in crime Zoe Hansen was determined that we would go to this show, and since her husband is rock legend, DJ and bar-owner Richard Manitoba, and friends with Mike Ness, it was easily arranged.

I am unaccustomed to Brooklyn, although I have finally admitted that in 2013 it is better than Manhattan. I was so in love with the East Village when I moved to New York that I arranged my life around it with no intention of leaving. I live, work, eat, and socialize in the EV. I hate the train and will do anything to avoid it, primarily because I’m bad with directions and get lost very easily. But with the advent of smartphones and the HopStop app, I’ve gotten less tremulous about traveling the boroughs, especially now that my own is populated with guys in docker shorts and flip flops carrying six packs of Bud Light and girls in beige pumps and quirky SATC dresses squealing at each other at the top of their lungs. A simple head poke out the window on a Saturday evening will often send me into a cursing tantrum followed by a weepy and lengthy “back in my day” facebook status update, so I am less loathe to travel if it means a brief respite from the asshole invasion for a few hours.

But of course Zoe and I, being party girls in heels, pregamed at Manitoba’s and after three rounds of “More voddy, Darling?” in a posh British accent, opted for a cab and were fortunate to get a driver with GPS. 

This is another night, but this is how wit always starts out. Dignified, ladylike. 

In the aforementioned cab, Zoe held open a tin and asked, “Mint, Darling?” I rarely take gum or mints when offered. I don’t know why, I guess I feel like I’d rather conserve the calories or chewing effort for more important consumables like spaghetti and voddy, er…vodka. 

Photo of actual tin in question: 

This time I said yes. I stuck my hand in the tin, pulled out a mint, stuck it in my mouth, started chewing, and found my taste buds assaulted by a bitter medicinal taste that was anything but minty fresh.

I gagged and said, “Euw! What the hell kind of mint is that? It’s horrendous, it tastes like a pill!”

Zoe shrieked, “Oh my God. Spit it out, spit it out!”

I panicked and shrieked back, “I can’t! I chewed it! I swallowed it! What was it? What did I just eat??”

She said (still shrieking), “Oh my God, that was a vicodin that someone handed me a long time ago. I forgot about it and it has been rolling around in there forever!” 

My first thought was relief. Like okay, at least I won’t be tripping balls or face down and drooling on the bar for the next five hours. At least vicodin is dealable. Then my second thought was, great, I’ve just had three drinks already and I’ve got hours of socializing to do, backstages to wheedle myself into, and who knows how buzzy this is going to make me? Is this to be yet another night where I make an ass of myself? Please, say it isn’t so, sweet baby Jesus!

All of this sunk in and I shrieked, “Who leaves an old pill in their mint tin and then OFFERS it to someone?”

Zoe said, “Oh, I’m so sorry Darling, but you’re a trouper and really, it will probably be fun and honestly, you should be fine and…” 

But she couldn’t get out the rest before we collapsed in laughter in the back of the cab. We laughed so hard we couldn’t breathe, and then agreed that it was going to be a typical evening for the two of us. No matter how much Zoe and I would like to comport ourselves with dignity:

We usually end up falling slightly short of the mark:

We got to the venue, and I was immediately overjoyed. The staff at the door was friendly and the place packed to the rafters with genuinely cool people. How often does that happen anymore? Most attendees were well into middle age, but they looked great. Everyone had great tattoos and the guys were working the rockabilly gas station attendant thing while the girls either did the low-key rock chick or victory roll rockabilly girl thing. People were sexy, even the fat dudes were sexy. Everyone was in a good mood. The woman serving pierogis (Warsaw is an old Polish theater) had to be close to 70, had blonde hair piled on her head and wore blue eyeshadow and false eyelashes. She was fucking sexy! Not a docker in sight. I wanted to hug everyone in the room.

Zoe was not pleased yet, though. We didn’t receive VIP stickers at the door. We hustled to the bathroom and she called Richard, who was working at his radio DJ gig, and demanded that he handle this problem immediately. I danced around her nervously as she grumbled into the phone, “Zoe, he’s busy, don’t bug him, we’ll be okay without them.” She shook her finger. “Oh no. We are GETTING.OUR.PASSES.” Richard having been duly informed that no good deed goes unpunished, rushed Zoe off the phone to work on it and we marched back out to the door, where she then explained that we were the Most Important Females in the History of all Rock and Roll and magically, miraculously, and perhaps out of fear, VIP passes appeared.

Pit stop at the bar. Me: “Oh, I’d better not drink since I just got dosed. Oh, you know, little old me, I’ll just have a club soda…Well, okay, maybe just put the teensiest little bit of vodka in that soda…” 

Straight upstairs to the VIP balcony, whereupon the booze and pill kicked in and the show did not disappoint. Social Distortion never does. The sold out audience was fully into it and I couldn’t feel my legs. We jumped up and down and shouted, but carefully so as not to spill our drinks. 

After the show, which seemed short because it was so good, we plopped ourselves down to wait.

And remarkably, no one came by to shoo us out. Because, I discovered, in Brooklyn, or at least at the Warsaw, you are allowed to drink and socialize and eat pierogis after shows like civilized gentle-people, instead of being rudely shoved out the door as soon as the last note rings, as you blink confusedly under newly flicked on and extremely unflattering fluorescent light, as is tradition at Irving Plaza or Roseland in Manhattan. What a treat!

After some waiting, we were allowed to visit with Sir Ness, who was very gracious. Years ago, when I managed Coney Island High and he was single, he had expressed some interest in me, and even went so far as to make sure I got the entire SD back catalog on CD. He was friendly, smart, and interesting. I liked talking to him and it was tempting. But I knew his reputation with the ladies and was newly dating his friend Jesse Malin and busy being pissed at Jesse for not telling Mike what was up to get me out of the weird position of hanging out with two guys with one not knowing the full story. Anyway, I didn’t know if Mike would remember me, but he did, and we got a photo. My arm is cut off because we were photo-bombed at the last second by a friend of a friend and Zoe and I insisted that the photo be cropped to feature only the two of us with Mike. We are constantly getting photo-bombed and then cropping to make it look like we’re the only females in the vicinity. Rewriting history on facebook since 2009!

I am always concerned about being too much of a pest in these situations, so I quickly stepped out of the fray and to the side, whereas Zoe stayed and took another photo. Afterward she said, “People are surprised at how shy you are! You never talk about being in a band and you never get pushy at these things. You’re such an ANGEL.” Zoe is the only person in the history of the world to think I’m an angel, but it’s true that I can be overly laid back when the night calls for some backbone. I have become accustomed to the luxury of a friend like her, who can finagle us anywhere with her British accent and ballsy attitude, so I tend to let her handle the details while I stress out about how old I’m going to look in the photos. 

But this time I said, “Oh GURL. Mr. Ness is SOBER, and I’m HIGH AS A KITE RIGHT NOW. Remember?”

And she said, “Oh…THAT! Oh well…You LOOK fabulous, and that’s all that matters! Darling, should we get one more teensy voddy before we go home?”

And I replied, “Of course, Darling!” And we wobbled off arm in arm, into the Brooklyn night.

The end.

Me n’ Popeye on the Bowery

I had one of those New York moments this morning that could be construed as depressing or funny, depending on where one’s head is at, I suppose. It sort of warmed my heart a bit to the city that sometimes seems like a shell of its former glory to me.

On Saturday night I had to explain to yet another overprivileged trio of children fresh out of Westchester that in public areas in the city, space is tight, so slamming into the person sitting next to you at the bar (me) repeatedly is unwanted, and in some circles, considered a bit rude. 

I asked the girl doing the slamming to stop (nicely) and of course she continued. Because they always continue. 
I’m guessing in this case it’s probably because she’s a spoiled asshole whose parents have been telling her she’s awesome and everything she does or thinks or says is awesome and she’s never been told no throughout the length of her pointless, useless existence. But again, I’m guessing.

Anyhoo, this is the new me in which there is a concerted effort to resolve issues peacefully, so 
I sat through about ten more minutes of the irritation as patiently as I could, then turned and attempted to explain it all to her again, in a calm voice with a smile on my face. 

The boyfriend cut me off with my least favorite one word sentence on the planet: “Relax!” The sidekick said, in the most resentful and petulant tone imaginable, “It was an accident!” And the culprit in question merely pressed her face into the boyfriend’s chest to signify, “I honestly believe that I am too cute to deal with the problems I have created around me so I’m just going to behave like a five year old until the moment passes.” New York, New York on a Saturday night. 

I will always look back somewhat wistfully upon the days when the occasional bar brawl was par for the course and not a big enough reason to call the police. A trio like this would have lasted five minutes in our old world, and that’s maybe how some people have to learn how to behave. And 
I am somewhat sad, and occasionally resentful and petulant myself about the evil population tide that has washed over the bars and clubs of my neighborhood. So I welcome any encounter that resembles the East Village of my past, no matter what form it takes.

I walk to work every day and as I was nearing Bowery (the street on which I work) I saw a man ahead of me slumped over in a wheelchair. As I got closer I could see he was missing half a leg, and he was so far over that his hands were touching the sidewalk. His clothes looked clean. He didn’t appear to be breathing. 

Numerous people passed and I was a little shocked that no one even looked at him. There was a moving truck parked in front of where he sat and the guys doing the moving (giant flat screens into overpriced new condos, she says in a bitter tone) merely walked around him and into the building, without pause.

Now, it’s Bowery, which features a very expensive new hotel, the afore-mentioned overpriced bullshit condos, a homeless shelter and the White Hotel, which is the last oldschool flophouse left in that area. So anything is possible. It’s a melange, if you will, of the high and the low, the tourist and the bum, which can be very entertaining if you’re in the right mood. 

I passed the man, thinking, agh, he’s just in the middle of a goodly sized dope moment. But I wavered and thought, what if he’s not? It would be so typical of the new regime in this city to let a man die on the street without notice. He wasn’t moving after all, so things were questionable. Usually with heroin, or whatever opiates people can get their hands on now, you’ll get a little amount of snapping to and then going back down again. What if he overdosed? Or what if it’s a heart attack and everyone is assuming he’s fucked up? 

I turned around and went back. 
I put my hand on his shoulder and asked, “Sir? Are you okay?”

He sat up slowly and blinked a pair of very blue eyes. He looked like Popeye, which immediately endeared him to me.

He said, 
“Oh, yeah. I’m just very sleepy. Very sleepy.”

I said, “So you’re just high, right? You don’t need any help?”

He said, “I took a couple of aspirin, but I’m fine. I’m so tired. Thank you, sweetheart. Do you know what time it is?”

I looked at my phone and said, “10: 58.”

He replied, “Oh thank you dear! I’m late!” And he started up the wheels of his chair like there was going to be some hustling.

I turned, took a few steps to the corner and looked over my shoulder to wave back at him. He was already in full frontal slump, face between his knees (or one knee and stump) fingers on the ground. He’d probably moved three feet from the original resting spot.

I wanted to run back and give him a quick hug, but I didn’t want to ruin the nod. 

The Old Gray Mare

My lovely friend Gina Vetro, actress, comedian, pianist, genius, who I lived with on St. Mark’s place “back in the day”, sent me this paragraph on the state of NYC this morning.
Last night i walked the westside highway w/ Billy (erb), aka Billy Beyond aka Bilbo Baggins…the rain was pouring down, it was fun, almost decadent. Remember NYC used to be fun? Then we saw a police van w/ about 4 cops & they stopped this 1 very polite young black girl w/ about 8 of her friends, she was the only one drinkin a bud outta paper bag. 

when she politely answered them the cop said, “I can give u another ticket for insubordination, where’s your ID”…WHO THE HELL EVER CARRIED ID IN THE SUMMER IN NYC!”  These are the same piers that you did blow on, smoked a joint, got fist-fucked up the ass, took a hit a poppers, stabbed someone or got stabbed & MAYBE (if you were lucky) saw a body floating in the Hudson River!!! An OPENED BUD  IN A PLAIN BROWN PAPER BAG???!!!! REALLY!!!!???? 

As Frodo & Bilbo continued their walk squeezing past the packs & herds of higher income white people (or higher income moms & dads paying for their higher income housing) who used to be to afraid to come into the West Village /Meat Packing after dark (pre-carrie-bradshaw days) Bilbo looked @ me and said, ‘‘The west village used to be so awful & dangerous, now look at it, it’s just awful…………”

Even my sister (whom i equate to Mary Tyler Moore) says ‘everything you can get in NY, you can get in Wayne, PA…so what’s the diff???’

I told her that her sister is right, and Drew and I are seriously considering retiring to my childhood home on Lake Michigan in ten years, which is something I never thought I would do in a million years. 

But so this isn’t a completely depressing post, I’ve left you with a couple videos of Gina, the first, she is clucking like a chicken for Calvin Klein, the second, she’s just taking care of her man’s car like a good wife.

Kitty Cab

As much as I hate what New York has become, there are still New York-ish moments to be had, which I cherish all the more now that they are so rare.

Last night one of my new kitties, Albert, who is ordinarily a perfect angel in cat form, (see visual below for confirmation of angelic status) freaked  out and began trying to pee everywhere. Which of course caused me to freak out, because A) Cats peeing anywhere other than the litter box is a bad, bad, baaaaad thing, and because B) Although he was trying, nothing was coming out and he was very obviously uncomfortable, which led me to believe there may be a blockage, which is quickly fatal to cats.
 Angel in rare moment of repose:

At 1 am, after watching him suffer for a few hours I decided it couldn’t wait for the vet in the morning, and that an emergency trip to the Animal Medical Center was necessary. Oh joy. But this is a positive thing about New York City, at any hour of the night you can hustle your pet into a cab and over to East 62nd Street, where there is a full medical facility and when you enter with your ailing pet they hustle you into an examination room while simultaneously calling for triage over the loudspeaker with a tone of urgency. However, everyone that I personally know who has used this wonderful service has also walked out with a bill in the thousands. Definite, terrifying downside. But there didn’t seem to be any way around it.

So there I am outside my apartment on a full swing East Village Friday night, attempting to hail a cab. The sidewalks are packed with what I deem are assholes. There’s a twinkie gay dude pissing on the street in between cars while his friends alternatively squeal at him or make phone calls to locate other squealing friends. Groups of college girls scream and shout things like, “EPIC FAIL!” while stumbling out of the traffic they’re blocking. I grumble under my breath, feeling unarmed and vulnerable in bare face and sweatpants, carrying my sick kitty.

When I got there the staff was lovely and quickly determined that the problem was not blockage. They then sent me to the waiting room while they worked on more urgent cases, and I sat. And sat. And sat, for an hour and a half, next to a moneyed looking white couple and their cheerful, non-ill appearing Bichon Frise and a guy with a giant standard poodle who hacked with what appeared to be a case of kennel cough. A half hour into my wait a dubious looking couple came in with an injured chihuahua which they claimed they found on the street. My assumption is that they didn’t want to pay their own vet bill and would rather drop the dog off “anonymously”, and I crabbily refused to make eye contact as they loudly clucked over the stray status for our benefit. An hour into my wait a Hispanic family ran in en masse, the father holding a tiny, dying kitten, their two little girls crying.

The kitten did not make it. I know this because I could see the mother crying, then the vet went into a room to speak with the little girls. They didn’t come out for a half an hour. I was sympathetic for quite a while, toward the end I was on the verge of becoming that person. The crazy bitch who cops an attitude while everyone else is calm and nice. But it was 3:30 am fer Chrissake. Jenny McCarthy (who I love) was being annoyingly flirty with Larry King on the flat screen TV. I had seen her on Oprah two days before and she was hilarious, here she was acting like the bimbo that some people believe her to be. It was past my bedtime; my butt hurt from the plastic chair. I was not in the mood for Jenny’s televised insecurities.

So by the time the vet saw me I was clearly hostile but thankfully was able to shake it off after snarking for a moment that I was glad it wasn’t a true emergency. This is probably more of a relief to me than for the doctor on the receiving end, as I always end up feeling shitty any time my lack of patience and innate bitchy temperament become too visible to the world.

I got my diagnosis and medicine and paid my $189 bill (thank you Jesus, thank you Lord), got in the elevator, and prayed it would be possible to get a cab at 3:45 am on 62nd and York while lugging a cat in a bag. I stated an intention, as my good mother has taught me, and said, “I choose to have a quick and easy trip home.”

Et voila, a cab sat on the empty street in front of the center with what looked to be an exiting friend. I caught the cabbie’s eye with a question mark on my face and he smiled and nodded. The friend said goodbye and I got in.

The cab driver, of Indian descent, asked me with an accent if I was coming from work. I told him about my cat and he stated he had a cat once and he liked them. Then he said it was very late, and I mentioned that I always feel sorry for cab drivers on the weekends, because many passengers are drunk and obnoxious.

He said, “I have had a very hard night this evening.”

And I said, “Problem drunks?”

He said, “No. I was working, working, working for many hours. So busy. I had to make bathroom very badly, and I put my off duty sign on and locked my doors. This girl pounded on my window and begged me to take her. I said, I cannot, I must take a break, I am sorry. She said, ‘Please, are you going to the East Side, can’t you just take me there?’ So I said yes and I took her and her friend to 1st Avenue. But when I got there her friend got out but she would not.”

I said, “Why?”

He continued, “She wanted me to take her to a second stop, to Delancey near the bridge.”

I nodded, “There’s a club that gets very crowded over there…”

“I said to her, ‘Please. My stomach is hurting. I am in pain, I have taken you to where you asked. Please get out and let me go or give me five minutes to use a bathroom.’ She said no, and she would not get out of the cab, and she began yelling at me and told me that she was a lawyer and was going to make a complaint about me. Now I am scared and sad, and my stomach is hurting. I do not want to lose my job.”

“So you took her to Delancey?”

“I did, I had no choice, but she was yelling at me and telling me about being a lawyer and how she would get me fired. After this I take my break and then I was so upset that I sat in my cab for an hour. I was so sad. I do not want to lose my job. I have a big family.”

“You’re not going to lose your job. You didn’t do anything wrong.”

“But she is a lawyer.”

I said, “Let me tell you something. Assholes that want to win a fight with a stranger always say they’re lawyers because they think it makes them look important and special. If she complains you just explain your side of the story.”

He said, “I hope you are right.”

By this time I had paid him and was sitting with the cab door open in front of my apartment, the douchery of the night still apparent around us in the form of more screaming drunk girls in front of the bar 20 feet down the street. I said once more, “You’re not going to lose your job. Just tell yourself, ‘I am not going to lose my job.'”

I smiled at him, he smiled back and I got out, relieved to be home. He waited until I was safely in the building before driving away. This is something most cab drivers used to do (the good ones), and which forged a quiet bond between the working cabbie and the female customer in the scary Wild West days of the East Village in the ’80’s and early ’90’s, when to exit a cab and fumble with keys could prove to be a dangerous situation. Now the cabs just roar away as soon as the car door clicks shut, which is okay in one way because there are so many people on my street at night that safety is not generally in question. But I miss the chivalry and camaraderie of the old days.
I was touched and I felt a little guilty. He was such a sweet man and I know he would have liked to talk about it for a minute more. But I rushed it at the end because I was tired and my suffering little cat was meowing and I really wanted to take off my boots and go to bed. I hope he was able to go home to someone who could talk to him and reassure him that everything was going to be okay. And I’m grateful for the random connections that New York can bring us at times. I’ll never see the man again but I won’t forget him either. And that makes me love the city…for today at least.

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