Thursday, May 27, 2004

I'd like to announce that I'm off hiatus for the duration of this post. Then, after the post is done, I will be back on hiatus. I'll be off doing other things. Maybe I'll be having a sandwich.

I just don't want you getting comfortable. Got to keep it edgy, jack.


Cabbies I Have Known

I have been flying around this questionably great land of ours with alarming frequency lately. This allows me to spend quality time with my favorite people: cabbies.

A couple of weeks ago I had the singular experience of being driven around by a clearly insane Thai woman who tried to force me to charge my phone in her cab.

"YOU HAVE PHONE?!" she cried as I stepped into the minivan.

"Yes. Yes I do." I smiled. I thought she was being motherly, trying to make sure that I had brought all the necessary items for a trip.

"WHAT KIND OF PHONE?!" she demanded. Incidentally, I should add that she really spoke all in caps.

"Siemens?" I replied meekly.

"YOU CHARGE YOUR PHONE!" she yelped and began to fumble in the glove box. "I HAVE CHARGER!" She found the charger and thrust it at me menacingly.

"No. No. I've just charged it, you see." I brandished my nine dollar phone.

"CHARGE?" she assayed once again.

"No, really. It's fine."

She stared back at me quizzically, almost woundedly. And gave me a "hmmmm." It could have been a "hmmmmph." I'm not sure. I just hoped it was not a "Hmmm, I think I will drive you into a cement pillar at high velocity, Siemens-phone-charger-rejector!"

I slid the door of the minivan shut and we were on our way to the airport. The airport is about ten minutes from my house, and I go the same way every time. I told her "Go down Williams, left on Sutter." [the names of the streets have been changed in this post to protect the innocent].

She replied "No."

"No?" I repeated, but added a question mark.

"No. We go on Meadow. Faster." I was frankly a little puzzled. Not only was she refusing to take me the way I wanted to go, but she seemed to be saying she wanted to take a road which didn't go through to the airport. It ends about a block away from my house, in an open corridor filled with giant weeds that look like they want to eat small dogs. There are plans to put Meadow through, but unless it was going to take us the better part of two years to drive the block and a half to Meadow, it wasn't going to work.

I started to object but she was on the case. She made it to Meadow and turned right, into the mouth of the open corridor. She was thrown momentarily, evidently trying to decide if she could drive through the open corridor (and a square mile of military base the lay between us and the airport).

I screeched "NO ROAD!"

"Oh!" she said, and swung the van around, apologizing profusely. In fact, she swung the van right back through the intersection, against a red light and through oncoming cars. I emitted a series of small "ah! ah!" sounds as we narrowly missed Focuses and Hondas.

But then, we were on Meadow. Headed in completely the wrong direction.

She recovered her composure. "We take freeway." she said.

"No. Go back and take Williams."

"I don't think soooo," she drummed her fingers on the dash. "Traffic."

I said "Listen, there is no traffic right now. We'll be there in ten minutes."

"You want to bet?" She turned back to me and grinned maniacally. "You miss your flight. What time your flight?!"

"I've got an hour and a half. We'll be there in ten minutes. I promise you."

She made tutting sounds, but gave in and duly drove me to the airport, on Williams, without killing me. And we made it in ten minutes. But I did get to hear lots and lots about the cabbie. I think people become cabbies for the express reason of complaining to strangers about how miserable they are. It must be fun for your passengers to know that you are one missed check away from putting your head in the oven, as you propel them down busy streets at high speeds.

She had been a translator, she said. And a stewardess. She had made lots of money at those occupations, but she said they were boring. Now she was struggling to make ends meet. She told me how much her rent was. How much her cab rental was. Exactly how much money she made. By the end of it I could have filled out a loan application for this woman.

She also told me she was from Thailand. She said something about "in her country", and I asked what country she was from. "THAILAND!" she screamed as if she were at a Thailand High School football game.

"Must be nice there," I said, hoping to distract her from any more suicidal thoughts.

"Thailand is number one," she replied [and I hasten to point out that I am merely describing actual events here, and not trying to stereotype anyone. If you have a problem with the depiction of the Thai cabbie, you can email me and I will seek her out and let you know you are on her side. Maybe there will be a class action suit.] Then she grew serious, looking at me in the rear-view and pulling her Risky Business style Ray Bans down her nose. "Sir, Thailand is number one," as if I had been arguing that no, in fact, Kazakhstan was clearly number one, with Thailand a distant sixth. And then she began to hum.

A little later, she did impressions. She was talking about tips, and which nationalities give the best tips. This led to a long impression of Indian cab-riders giving her thanks and blessings for the safe ride. More likely they were thanking her for not killing them. I made the mistake of giggling confusedly at her Indian passenger impression, so she continued for a good two minutes. It was a stellar impression, of course, and in no way offensive to the Indian people.

Somehow we made it to the airport, and I tipped her, for the impressions more than anything else. I strode into the terminal with the "Man, did I just almost get killed there?" feeling that only a truly insane cabbie can give you.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Hiatus Intermission

Not to disturb the hiatus here, which I think is going really well, but I have to tell you that I saw Lenny Kravitz playing the piano with his ass today.

It wasn't something I was prepared for.

I happened to be flipping the channels, which I do on my lunch hour. I come home from work, make a sandwich, and flip the channels on the teevee. The problem was that there was no soccer to watch, you see. The English season is over, and now my beloved soccer channel shows Australian Rules Football highlights at noon. That's just fine. There was even a period of my life where I considered myself somewhat knoweldgeable on Australian Rules Football.

People would say to me, as so often happens, "Kaf, that Australian Rules Football, I mean what the hell is up with that?"

I don't know why people would question me about Australian Rules Football in this way. It could have been the small pin that I wore on my lapel that said "Ask me about Australian Rules Football, mate."

And I would listen as they complained about how all it is is a bunch of guys jumping around, catching the rubgyish ball and knocking their tender parts against each other with furious anger. I would think to myself "They just don't understand the excitement of Australian Rules Football. They'll never know why you have to bounce the balls every ten steps, or why the little refs by the goalposts wear fish-and-chip-shop outfits." And I would feel sorry for them, a little.

I want to make it clear that my watching of Australian Rules Football was in no way inspired by Paul Hogan or any of the Crocodile Dundee canon. There were no "Put a shrimp on the barbie" tee shirts. And I have even actually been to Australia, but all I really remember about it is that is was insanely hot and there were parrots. I was eight, I think.

But to continue, I don't watch the Australian Rules Football anymore is what I'm saying.

So I was flipping the channels and found myself on MTV just as a video was coming on. "How odd!" I thought. After all, MTV doesn't show videos anymore, do they? That's what all the deathly cool disenfranchised types say now, I believe. "MTV doesn't even show videos anymore!" they seethe, and know that they have spoken a crushing truth, and indicted the kids of today with their cruel incisiveness.

The little video thing in the corner said it was Lenny Kravitz, and I thought "Wow. Lenny Kravitz. Do people listen to Lenny Kravitz?" I mean, I remember him doing that "Are You Gonna Go My Way?" song, which was a big hit, and the kids, they danced, but has there been a transmission from Lennyland since then?

Incidentally, I really like the name Lenny Kravitz, because it reminds me of the big guy from Of Mice And Men, and Spinal Tap, and the neighbor from Bewitched, who may or may not have been called Mrs. Kravitz.

But there was Lenny. The video started out with him getting out of bed with two women. Two women! Lenny Kravitz is obviously getting it on with some regularity, or at least he really wants you to think that he is. And it continued with Lenny and his band living the rockstar life. I think even the keyboard guy was allowed to live the rockstar life in this video. But he wasn't like that weird Prince and the Revolution guy in the medical scrubs, so he fit in OK.

The video went on, and if the words weren't actually "Are You Gonna Go My Way?" they were pretty damn similar, so I am confident in telling you that Mr. Kravitz may be fresh out of ideas. Eventually, Lenny and the band were playing live to an impressive amount of people, so I assume that either they were compensated for their attendance at the video shoot or that people actually do listen to Lenny Kravitz. And Lenny was getting into it. He was yowling and humping the ground and kicking his legs into the air like a demented, greasy Rockette, and just as the music reached its fever pitch, its climactic creschendo, he did it.

He played the piano with his ass.

I appreciate that there are precedents for this rear end revue, this rear end sonata, like Jerry Lee Lewis and maybe Liberace if he had had too much Cold Duck. But it just kind of brought me up short, like maybe everyone in the band and everyone in the crowd, compensated or not, would just fall suddenly silent and say as one "Dude! You're playing the pianno with your ass!"

Because there are only a couple of meanings possible when you break into some cheeky ivory-tickling during a performance:

1. That you've been raised to such a Bacchanalian state of ecstasy by your own performance that clearly the only option is to play the piano with your butt.


b. That the music is so bad that it doesn't matter what part of your body you're using. Hell, the drummer could hit the high hat with his nipples for all the difference it would make.

And then the video pretty much ended, with Lenny having a quiet moment that the director probably thought was very Graduate and complex, but which really should have been Mr. Kravitz thinking "I just played the piano with my butt, and they didn't even care. I'm going to sleep with three women tonight, and maybe a koala bear."

At least in Australian Rules Football, they don't play the piano with their butts. No more MTV for me.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

What The Hell Kind of Hiatus Is This Anyway?

I'd just like to say to the person who called my cellphone 5 times recently, that I am not Carlos. I don't know much, but I know that.

I should make it clear that from our limited conversations, I wasn't sure whether the caller was Carlos or wanted me to be Carlos. But it was clear that there was some sort of Carlos negotiation taking place.

And I should mention that it was in Spanish too, the talking from the phone. And before the call would come through, there would be a voice in Spanish, which was an operator, I guess, saying something that I'm pretty sure was about alpacas, then this gruff voice would say "Carlos!"

Sometimes he would say "CARLOS!" in a anguished sort of way, that suggested maybe he was in some dire peril, and needed Carlos to extricate him. Maybe someone was after him. Maybe he was in jail. Maybe someone was after him AND he was in jail. But I don't want to think about that. Some poor guy, maybe being chased around a cell by his crazed bunkmate, who had fashioned some crude shiv from bedsprings and skin, and all he can do is stop at the payphone when maybe the cellmate drops his spring-and-skin shiv, and reach out in the darkness to Carlos, hoping against hope that somehow Carlos has got the bail money, perhaps from pawning his CD collection or rare 19th century daguerrotypes.

And here I am on the other end of the phone, distracted from some excruciatingly boring work task, and yelling into the phone "I AM NOT CARLOS!"

So I'm sorry, man. Or Carlos. Either way.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004


I know, I have been hiatusing regularly of late, but you'll just have to find your japery elsewhere for a while.


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