Wednesday, April 14, 2010

How I Ended Up Driving A Taxi

I decided that since this is my blog, I can talk about anything that I want, even if it doesn’t directly deal with taxi cab driving. Like most taxi cab drivers, this isn’t my first job, but the latest on the list of occupations that includes the auto industry, the army, the ministry, cooking, sales, teaching, photography, writing and the post office. The post office was the longest job of my life and I actually retired from it, in 2004.

My job experience with the post office began in 1967, when I was in the army. My primary MOS (Military Occupation Specialty) was that of a “carpenter” and I was initially in the 593rd Engineering Company, at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma. However, I was also trained as an “armorer” (small arms weapons specialist), and worked as one, as well. Then after I was transferred to the 9th Field Artillery Missile Group, I was trained as a mail clerk for the unit. It was one of three jobs that I performed, but it became my most permanent occupation.

In 1969, right after Woodstock, I was attending college, on the GI Bill, and was looking for a job, that would hire long haired hippies, like me. My girlfriend told me that her mail man had a beard and hair down to his waist, so I filled out an application to take the civil service test for the post office. They gave me 5 extra points for my military service and I got hired by the Birmingham, Michigan post office, as a letter carrier, in March 1970.

In June 1971, I transferred with the post office to Los Angeles, California, got married and started a family, while I worked as both a mail carrier and mail handler. I studied photography at PCC, and attended Bible college until I graduated and was ordained. In 1976 I become a full time minister, at an inner city church in Los Angeles, where I served for 4 years, while I attended graduate school and studied ancient history at Cal State L.A. . When I first moved to Oregon, I worked as a cook, went back to the post office for a couple of months and finally moved back to L.A., to become an industrial solvent salesman, in South Central.

By 1984 after moving from Oregon, to Texas, to California, to Oregon, to California and finally back to Michigan, where I returned to the post office, where I stayed until I retired in 2004. I kept trying to get out, but all my other jobs attempts in photography, teaching and writing, never brought in enough money to do that, especially with 7 children to raise. I transferred back to Oregon in 1986, and worked at the main post office on 25th and Mission, in Salem, Oregon as a mail handler, until I got an early retirement, with 26 years at the PO, 2 years military and 2 free years, to total my 30.

During all that time I was searching for God’s will in my life. I felt that it was connected to photography, in some way, so I kept taking photographs of everything that I saw or did. By the 1990’s I decided to quit looking back and wondering why the ministry didn’t work out and start looking forward by believing that God was leading me in a new direction, on a daily hour by hour, minute by minute process. I concentrated on raising my 7 children, while at the same time I began to write daily, and met a guy at the post office who had access to the Grateful Dead. I decided to attend the concert and photograph and observe it as part of my investigation and search for God’s will for my life.

What I observed at that Grateful Dead concert, in Eugene, Oregon, in 1994 completely changed my life. I saw the same people that were part of the counter culture in the 1960’s, as well as an entire new generation, who acted as if the hippie ideals that I believed in during the 1960’s still mattered. Over the following years I became immersed in investigating the counter culture 25 years after Woodstock. I found that it was involved in spiritual work by helping the poor in 3rd world countries through an organization called SEVA. At the same time as I began to publish my photographs and articles in magazines and newspapers, I became more interested in the religious aspects of the music, so I continued to attend and photograph Christian concerts as well. By 1999, I merged the hippie counter culture with my religious interests, when the Wittenburg Door published my interview with Wavy Gravy, a key figure of the 1960’s and Woodstock.

One thing led to another, as I would photograph and review everyone from The Rolling Stones to Rage Against The Machine, in the early evening, and go to work at the post office on the graveyard shift afterwards. I was getting press credentials for nearly every concert that I applied for, but it cost me more to do all the work, and pay for gas, parking, film, processing and postage, that I would make. It was fun and it made you feel important to get to stand in front of the front row and sometimes get backstage passes, to meet the artists.

In 2004 I retired from the post office, and had gallery shows all over town, published my work in multiple periodicals and newspapers, but like most starving artists, I was breaking even at best. Sure I had 1,000’s of photographs of some of the biggest music artists in the world, but what good are they, unless somebody is willing to pay you money for them. This may sound mercenary, but then, if an artist must work at non related jobs to make ends meet, sometimes it makes them bitter. Bitter with jealousy for those who have been able to succeed where they have failed. That is in getting people to pay them money, on a regular basis for their art.

So I began to drive a taxi cab, because it was the first job that I was hired for, after I began putting in applications, in June 2004. I tried to get postal related jobs, but didn’t get hired for any of them. So now I’m ending my 6th year as a taxi cab driver in June 2010. In some ways I love driving a taxi, in other ways I hate it. It is the most interesting job I’ve ever had in my life. It is not boring, and sometimes it’s actually exciting. Some nights are emotional roller coasters, as you run through passengers who do everything from threaten you to tip you, while at the same time your fares may range from $3.00 to $300.00. So here we are, at my 53rd blog entry, which about the me that drives my taxi. I’m including a photograph that I took in March 2010 about 3:00 AM, on 14th street, in downtown Salem, where a multi alarm fire was raging at a residence on the corner of Ferry, when I happened upon it, while I had my camera with me.

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