Sunday, June 20, 2010

Nigeria, the World Cup, and Why Brewfest Sucked

Yesterday afternoon, we got lost on our way to Brewfest on Governors Island. Or rather, we thought we knew where we were going, and wouldn't you know it, we didn't have a clue.

Go figure.

So once we realized we were 4 hours late and on the wrong side of Manhattan, we ditched our walking shoes and hailed a cab.

Our cabbie, Andrew, who was from Nigeria, clearly owned his cab, as it was decorated in all manners with the Nigerian flag. He had the Nigerian flag on the the head rests, and one hanging from the partition.

Awesomely, he was listening to Alan Jackson, which is the first time I've ever had a cab driver listening to American country music. (For those who don't take cabs or live in NYC, most cabbies listen to talk radio, dance music, or music from the motherland.)

But that's beside the point. The point, these days, is the World Cup. So I asked him if Nigeria would be able to advance. He said sure, but only if they scored 4 goals against South Korea. Then he laughed. And I laughed. Because really -- who scores four goals in one game in the World Cup? (Sure, Germany did last week in it's trouncing of New Zealand, but hey, who's counting).

We laughed a bit more, I wished him luck, and then we hopped on the ferry to Governor's Island, only to realize that we totally missed Brewfest, so we headed to the other side of the island, where a crowd of people were gathering for a free concert headlined by Morning Benders instead.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Cabbies, Poets, Puppets and Video -- but Cool

So, taxi driver and poet extraordinaire Davidson Garrett was recently interviewed by Greenpoint video artist Matt Sky. Check out Matt's website, and search under Davidson's name, to see the author of King Lear of the Taxi be interviewed by a puppet. Don't ask, just watch.

Yes, here's the obligatory plug: Did I mention that my book has an amazing story that took place in the 1970s, involving Davidson, two hookers, and a crowbar-wielding john? Oh yeah.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

NYC Cabbies Took Passengers for Millions

Can you believe it?? It seems New York's Cabbies -- those drivers of the golden NYC icon that I love and adore -- have been bilking passengers out of millions of dollars, according to the Taxi and Limousine Commission.

Here are the scheme involved a switch that cabbies flipped on their meters, charging riders pricier out-of-city rates for in-city rides. Here are the stats:
  • It involved at least 1.8 million rides (albeit a teeny portion of the total 360 million rides given)
  • Passengers were ripped off to the tune of $8.3 million
  • Each ride was overcharged by $4 or $5
  • These rides took place over 26 months
But here's what really catches my eye:
  • 36,000 cabbies flipped this switch at least once

What's amazing is that, last time I checked, there were about 48,000 total licensed cab drivers in the city. That means that A FULL 75% OF CABBIES HAVE CHEATED THEIR PASSENGER. And while the empathetic person in me thinks, well I hope that passenger was a real dick and that they deserved it, another part of my thinks, cabbies, you suck.

Granted, only 3,000 did this regularly, but still.

Want to know how this scheme was investigated and solved? Read the article.

Too lazy to read? I'll give you a quick summary. A passenger complained; the TLC checked back records of the infamous GPS system.

The taxi industry denies the claims, on the point that 75% of drivers wouldn't have done this, and that the meter must somehow be at fault.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Seeking Taxi Driver Opera Singer

Dear Astute Readers,
Once again, I'm calling on you to help me locate a cab driver. He's a cabbie opera singer, and a friend of mine was in his cab last November, told me about him, and gave me his number -- I think it had a Jersey area code?

Anyway, I clearly lost his number.

So if you know a cabbie opera singer, let me know ASAP (

And if you are a cabbie opera singer, send me a line! Trust me -- it'll be worth it. Especially if you met my friend Sarah while driving last November, and she complimented you on the music you were playing in the cab (opera), and you said that it was you singing it.

If you need me to further jog your memory, Sarah's a hot redhead. And she called me while in the cab with you.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Cab Sharing

That's right -- New Yorkers who can't seem to share anything -- except angst and a bit of grit -- are officially sharing cabs as of a week ago.

So far, no fatalities have been reported.

The impetus? Cash, of course! (Thank you economic meltdown.) Shared cab rides cost $3 or $4 a head, at least half as much as the full fare from uptown to midtown.

Astute readers of Taxi Confidential will note that one of the stories involves a shared cab ride from the 1960s, early 70s or so. If you haven't read it, get on it -- the piece involves a drunk, my dad (in town from Ohio) and an angry cabbie and some Christmas lights. What could go wrong?

And, just to be clear, it's not that New Yorkers can't share. I just had a guy working at Starbucks give me a cup of coffee on the house, and it made my day. It's just that there's so little personal space in this town, people can get a little tense when you yank some away.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Taxi Driver Remake with Scorsese and von Trier?

So you may have noticed that I've been AWOL for a few weeks -- thanks to an amazing vacation in Panama. And do I have a couple good Panamanian cab stories for you. That and water taxis, which are almost cooler than cabs because, well, they're boats. And you're on the Caribbean. And it's hot, humid and sunny. Need I say more?

But in the meantime, feast on this tasty nugget:

A rumored remake (Variety reported the scoop) of Scorsese's Taxi Driver as challenged by Danish-director-of dogma-fame Lars von Trier? Oh, von Trier, can't you leave amazingness alone? Because I hear they did a good job on that flick the first time around.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Cell Phone Ban in Effect

Did you notice that your cabbie was grumpy this weekend? That's because taxi drivers are no longer allowed to use cell phones, iPods, or any other wireless devices, even if they're hands-free.

I'm going to decline listing all said wireless devices and let you use your imagination. So go wild.

The ruling came down from the Taxi and Limousine Commission to a pissed-off force of drivers.

I've documented in this blog my feelings about driving with cell phones. But I still empathize here. So my suggestion to you, when it comes to dealing with drivers going through wireless withdrawl, is to act in empathy. Take the cell phone off the side of your head, take those ear buds out, and have a chat with the cabbie. You might learn something.

Or not. There are no guarantees, people.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Taxi Gourmet

Most people living outside of New York don't associate taxis with food, unless it's smelly food stains on the backseat. And for these people I say Listen Up! Because you're going to learn something here.

I'll start with this: Taxi Gourmet. And then I'll go here: Pakistan Tea House.

Taxi drivers know all the best restaurants, the secret sweet spots in neighborhoods you're too snobby to go to. Hands down, the Nepalese driver knows where to find food that his mom used to make.

Also, when they're driving, they have to buy their lunch somewhere. And guess what? It's not from McDonalds. For those of you outside of NYC, this might blow your mind, so proceed carefully, but Manhattan McDonalds don't have drive-throughs. That's right. You actually have to walk in, because who in their right mind drives in Manhattan?

Taxi drivers, that's who. And they eat. And many from Pakistan and India eat at the Pakistan Tea House, a superb, and superbly cheap, taxi joint in Tribeca. Another warning -- the ambiance here is a bit like a cafeteria. Not for a first date. But great for a second date, if the person is cool.

Now, for Taxi Gourmet. If you want to know where cabbies like to nosh in the big apple -- or Buenos Aires, Argentina -- hit this site. Your taste buds and travel wisdom will thank you. And read my review of the Pakistan Tea house, their curries, their ambiance, their cheap-as-dirt prices.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Taxicab Reciept Necklace

A must-have accessory for the cab lover in your life -- the Taxicab Reciept Necklace by designer Kristin Victoria Barron. Is it a real receipt, doused with some hardeneing glue and strung on a chord? Or did the artist create something entirely new, based on the receipt? No idea.

What I do know is that it's made in Napal, for those of you who care about that type of thing.

I saw it the other day on MoMa's gift shop website, but it's since been taken down, but I still say your best bet is to inquire there.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

$21,000 Returned to Forgetful Passenger

This just sent in by alert reader Rita Devlin:

A cab driver spent his Christmas Eve tracking down an Italian grandmother visiting family and friends and New York. Can we mention the purse contained $21,000, jewelry and a passport? Kudos to Mohammad "Mukal" Asaduzzaman for being a seriously up-standing guy.

Also, someone needs to introduce this Italian grandmother to Travelers Cheques. Seriously.


Sunday, January 10, 2010

Hot Sausage

I was hitting some after-holiday sales in Soho when a cabbie stopped in the middle of Broadway and stuck his fully graying head out the window.

"How much for a hot sausage," he yelled in a gravel and whiskey voice, while gesticulating with a cigarette. He seemed to be trying to address a street vendor at a nearby hot dog stand, who had his back to him and was waiting on other customers.

"How much for a hot suasage," he shouted angrily in his New York accent, "how much for a hot sausage. How much for a hot sausage." He kept repeating the sentence, as if getting angrier and pushier would make the service better. (And alas, sometimes it does work that way in NYC).

Finally the vendor turned around, "Why are you yelling at me," he asked.

The driver sped away.

Above a picture of a totally different hot dog guy on a totally different day.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Search for the Happy Cabbie

Loyal readers,
I need to find the "Happy Cabbie." Anyway have any ideas where he's hiding? I've heard he's Indian (unconfirmed), that he decorates his cab with lights, loves music, and gives people warm advice on living and happiness.

If you have any idea where I can find him, post a comment or email me at: Thanks!

Vegas taxi drivers = pimps

I learned some interesting facts about Las Vegas taxi drivers when I did a fun radio interview with Nevada's NPR. (Click here to listen.)

The cabbie who shared air space with me revealed the following facts:

1) If cabbies take a guy to a Vegas brothel (legal there), there get a serious kick-back -- as a percent of what the guy spends.

2) Same with strip clubs.

3) They will get you just about anything you ask for -- anything -- if the price is right.

This was all confirmed by loyal reader, Jae. Thanks Jae!

My only disappointment in the interview -- I really wanted the cabbie to talk about the Sin City mobsters - Bugsy Siegel, etc.