Tag Archives: drug dealers

Burning Down The House

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This week’s column about driving a taxi is about a week spent not driving a taxi…

One advantage of writing this column each week is that I have notes on almost every shift I’ve driven in the past four years. With this plethora (or waste, some might say) of information, I can generally figure out what to expect on holidays based on previous observations. Such as Labor Day.

Of course, the week leading up to Labor Day is also Burning Man, when a noticeable percentage of the population in the Bay Area migrates to the Nevada desert.

Abandoned in the void are the alleged beneficiaries of the holiday — the workers. Especially those who toil in service, including numerous drivers, who, desperate or just overly habitual, spend the weekend struggling to make a couple bucks on the otherwise empty streets of The City.

Over the past four years, I have been one of those hungry and habitual motorists for hire, albeit mostly un-hired and oh so bored… until the only thing left to do was practice your road rage … Wheelin’ & dealin’

With past column headlines like “Burnt out without the Burners,” “The top light is on but I’m not” and “Hell is other cab drivers,” I don’t need to browse old Word files on my computer, search the Notes app on my phone or exhume discarded Moleskins from the Filing System of Hell to get a sense of the impact that Burning Man and Labor Day will have on cab driving.

Read the rest here.

[photo by Douglas O’Connor]

Waiting for the Man

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I recently discovered that if you park your cab on Van Ness and Oak at 2 a.m., with no headlights and the top light off, while the passenger in the backseat is looking to score drugs, almost everyone who walks past will try to solicit a ride.

First, it was two guys with suitcases, who seemed to emerge from thin air. Standing next to their luggage on the curb, smoking and laughing, they continuously glance inside my taxi. Much to the chagrin of my fare, a guy I picked up in the TL who told me his name was Cricket.

“What are these assholes doing?” Cricket wonders aloud. “They’re going to spook my guy! Get rid of them!”

“Me?” I ask. “How?”

“Tell them to fuck off!”

So far, I’ve just been avoiding eye contact, figuring they’ll get the message eventually. A few seconds later, one of the guys steps into the street and flags a passing cab.

“See, they just needed a taxi,” I say. Then add, wistfully, “Perhaps to the airport …”

A few minutes later, an old man approaches my taxi.

“Cabbie!” he yells across the street. “Cabbie! I need a ride!”

“Now what?” Cricket moans. “Goddamn it!”

I roll down my window and tell the old man, “I’m not available. Sorry.”

“C’mon! I got money!” He pulls out a wad of cash.

“But I already have a fare,” I explain. “Another cab will come by shortly.”

“Ah, these motherfuckers won’t ever pick me up!”

I try to offer some reassurance but he brushes my comment away with a wave of his hand and wanders down the street.

Who knew this seemingly desolate spot in The City would be such a hot spot for rides?

Read the rest here.

[photo by Christian Lewis]

Insanity is a full-time job

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In this week’s column for the S.F. Examiner, the return of Mr. Judy, the misanthropic drug dealer…

“I really hate sober people,” Mr. Judy says. “Not because they’re lousy customers — I mean, there’s that, obviously — but mostly because I don’t trust them. Non-smokers, too.”

“Uh huh.” I fill the empty spaces in his monologue with grunts and polite chuckles while slowly cruising down Clipper Street toward the Mission.

“Which reminds me. Where’s my mace?”

“Don’t worry,” I tell him. “You’ll get it back.”

I’ve taken Mr. Judy, and his can of mace, hostage. After nearly spraying a guy in the face at a liquor store, I decided he wasn’t ready to be released back into the wild just yet. So I’m driving him around and listening to David Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold the World,” hoping he’ll soon relax.

“That guy in the liquor store had it coming. I’m telling ya. Asking the price for every bottle of booze. If you can’t afford alcohol at a liquor store, plan ahead and go to Costco, you stupid fucking moron!”

I agree that while certain people probably deserve to be maced, “You can’t get 86’d from another place. Soon, there won’t be anywhere left for you to go.”

Read the rest here.

[photo by Douglas O’Connor]

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The Misanthropic Drug Dealer

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“There’s no hope, I’m telling ya. All that’s left is total destruction.”

Mr. Judy has been ranting since I picked him up at a dive bar in the Mission, where he peddles his wares, and tried to drop him off at another. But as I idle in front, he just sits there, eyeballing the crowd of smokers on the sidewalk.

Randomly, he singles out a girl in ballerina flats and three chuckleheads with matching spectacles and beards fawning over her. “I hate those shoes. They’re awful. Her pants are too tight. And look at that hair … Well, at least she’s the queen of the sausage party tonight.”

“Dude, I think you’re way too judge-y to go in there right now.” I offer to drive him somewhere else, but he just wants to hang out in my cab for a while. Since I’m not feeling very servile myself, I don’t mind driving around aimlessly. At least the meter’s running.

Sensing Mr. Judy’s high level of agitation, I put on some Grateful Dead. In between tirades, he sings along to Jerry, then critiques the bars we pass on our way downtown, describing the owners, the bouncers, the bartenders, the type of clientele and what kind of music they play. His knowledge of watering holes in the Mission is impressive, though it makes sense for a bar-to-bar salesman to know his territory.

One thing I’ve learned from driving Mr. Judy is that selling drugs isn’t as easy as one might think. You have fierce competition for both customers and suppliers, you have to control your personal intake while dealing with people you’d rather see skewered in a cannibalistic ritual, 12 hours a day, just to make a buck. Which is a lot like taxi driving. Except the money’s not as good.

“I don’t know how you do it,” I say during a brief moment of silence.

“It gets really fucking boring,” he admits. “But just when you’ve had enough, someone gives you money and you feel good. So you wait around, until you can’t take it anymore. Then, right before you bail, someone gives you money. And you feel good. So you keep waiting …”

Again, sounds like cab driving.

After snorting something, Mr. Judy returns to his bitter soliloquy.

“Sometimes I hate this city as much as I hate myself. I feel like Colonel Kurtz, you know? Just send in the air raid already! Exterminate the brutes! These kids today … I can’t stand them. If they’re the future, we’re fucked! Doomed! There’s no hope. I’m telling ya … None at all. Might as well give in to total destruction. It’s the only solution.”

After a while, I lose track of his jeremiad, so just drive and grunt on cue.

“Do you have a five-year plan? No? Do you even know what you’re doing next week? I don’t … Life has no meaning. None of our lives matter. Today is all we have. There is no future. We’re living our future right now … Look at all the madness. It’s everywhere … I’m losing it. It. It. I don’t even know what ‘it’ is. But I want to know, don’t you? I want to find a way to harness the madness. I need to become a cash cow … Look around you. Madness disguised as cheap consumerism. All our needs monetized. Ad machines fueled by our complacency … That’s why we need total destruction …”

As if realizing the world outside the bars might be worse, he decides to go back to the first place I picked him up.

“Orwell was wrong,” he continues. “We don’t have to fear Big Brother. Our only fear is that Big Brother isn’t watching us … We surrender our privacy for the allusion of choice. We feed the marketers until they know everything we want, how much we want and when we want it … But they won’t sell us what we really need: total destruction.”

I pull up to the bar, and Mr. Judy looks out the window for a few minutes, making up his mind.

“I’ll call you in a bit,” he says finally, hands me a wad of bills and slowly exits the cab. Before closing the door, he leans back in. “Remember, the future is now.”

I drive away, back to my own grind, waiting for someone to give me money before I embrace total destruction myself.


Originally published in the S.F. Examiner on March 17, 2017 here

[photo via]

Where and Where Not to Buy Weed on the Street in San Francisco

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The only time I’ve ever been mugged was in the Civic Center BART station 20 years ago when I tried to buy weed from a crack dealer. After the guy stopped pummeling me and I gave him the $20 he knew I had, a man who looked like my “Shakespeare in Rome” professor asked me, “Did that guy just rob you?”

I’m heading inbound on Market, trying to prevent a Yellow cab in the right lane from getting the jump on me, when a guy flags me at the Seventh Street Muni island stop. He opens my front door, and I quickly grab my bag and stow it under my seat. He asks how much to Ocean Beach. I tell him around $20.

“Let’s do it,” he says.

I turn right on Sixth and start driving west.

His name is Hugh. He’s from Sydney, in San Francisco working on some project for a tech firm. Spent the past two weeks sequestered in an incubator in the Mission. This is the first time he’s been free to venture out and explore The City.

“So what have you been up to?” I ask.

“Well, I just lost $300 trying to buy weed.”

“Why’d you think you could buy pot around here?” I ask, more nonplussed than he seems to be. They only sell crack and heroin in mid-Market. Some pot dealers hang out by Jones Street, but they usually close up shop early.

Hugh shrugs. “I just wanted to celebrate turning in the first part of my project this morning.”

This week’s column is about buying drugs on the street in San Francisco… It’s not always easy…

Read it here.