Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Drunks of Salem - Part One

The weather has definitely shifted into the rainy season as the assiduous foliage begins to undergo color changes with glucose building up and replacing chlorophyll production as photosynthesis comes to a halt, with colder weather and diminished sunlight.  The rain and wind drove the transformed leaves from the tree branches and into the streets, where the traffic blew the leaves against the curbs, onto the sidewalks and into the air where they lodged themselves on the windshields of thousands of automobiles, trucks and other motorized internal combustion engine vehicles.  I was driving a van for the weekend and got a few grocery runs, families with kids, passengers with Bicycles, wheelchairs and walkers, until the bar crowd took over after 2200 hrs..

“Number 25 get El Patron for Bernard,” Dotty the dispatcher called on the radio.
            “Got it,” I said, as started heading towards Center. 
El Patron was a Mexican Night Club for hip young Latinos.  When I arrived, 6 Native American young men got in my taxi who were checking out the Latino scene.  Five of them sat in the back seats and Bernard sat up front with me.  They all had long hair, that either hung like black flax past their shoulders, was in a ponytail or braided.  At first I thought that some of them may have been female, until they began to talk about getting some pussy, unless they were lesbians, which was always possible.  Bernard appeared to be the group’s spokesman, as I asked him where they wanted to go.
“Anywhere with pussy,” one of the guys in the back said.
“We want to go to the best hip hop dance club in Salem, even if it the Riverfront,” another passenger interjected.
At this point in time, it would either be Copper John’s or the Riverfront, since the crowd seemed to alternate its allegiance on a weekly basis.  We decided to head to the Riverfront and on the way there, Bernard wanted to know if I could turn the radio up.  I turned the dial up and One Of Us by Joan Osborne was playing and he began to sing along.  When the song ended I told him that he could play any station that he wanted, so he changed the station to the hip hop rap station and turned the volume up so loud that it took all my concentration to drive.  Pretty soon everyone started to join in repeating what the rapper was saying on the radio, and Bernard turned the volume down on the radio as all 6 Native Americans began to sing in unison -
“Why did she leave me?
Why did she go?
I needed her badly,
I needed her fo sho.
Hiya, heya, hiya, heya, hiya, heya,
Whoop, whoop, hiya, heya, ho.”
Unintelligible sounds,
Whooping and yelping imitating dogs barking.
“Hiya, heya, hiya, heya.
Why did she leave me?
Why did she go?”

            Bernard turned towards me and asked if I had ever heard Indians sing before.  I told him that I had been to a couple of Pow Wow’s, saw “Red Thunder” perform twice and even saw John Trudell and Bad Dog once.  Bernard acknowledged my mention of John Trudell, since he was a Native American activist, who even participated in the Alcatraz occupation.  My passengers continued to alternate between chanting, whooping and rapping until I began to cry, and tried to concentrate on my driving.  It was as if my taxi cab had become a temple, and the “holy” was present, even though it was in a completely different theological system than I was used to.   I was experiencing that moment when the sacred and the profane share the same space for a mili-second. When we finally arrived at the Riverfront, there were only about 8 cars in the parking lot, and there were no interior lights visible, but they seemed undeterred and after paying me they each thanked me and went inside.

            As wrong as it may seem for a former minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ, who now drives a taxi cab for his ministry to admit, I make the most money when I drive ungodly drunk people than godly sober ones.  Drunks are both generous and consistent, because as alcohol replaces brain fluid milliliter by milliliter they become inebriated and act illogically.  This results in larger fares, because of incorrect directions and bigger tips because of a good mood resulting in depressed brain activity.  Any thinking person must consider why the government allows a substance which reduces brain function to be legal, but then people have to have some release from the pressures of the insanity of everyday life. 

            Sometime after Midnight I got a call for an address in South Salem off of Battle Creek.  The man that I picked up was half drunk wanted to go to Windjammers, where he was going to pick up a friend.
            “My friend is drunk, so please be patient with him,” my passenger said and added, “I’ll tip you well.”  On the drive to the bar my fare kept answering his cell phone, talking for 30 seconds, hanging up and repeating the cycle, until we finally arrived at Windjammers.  Then he asked me if I could come back for him in 45 minutes, after he gave me a $20.00 bill for the $7.90 fare and told me to keep the change.

            “Sure, I’ll be back for you,” I told him.

            We hit a dead period, and I only had one call during the interim and when I pulled into Windjammers, my passenger came out, and handed me a wad of bills, as he asked me to come back for him in 20 minutes.  I counted 10 singles and a 5 dollar bill in the wad, and told him that I’d be back.  I parked a block away a read a Becky Garrison’s book “Jesus Died For This?” While I was waiting.  The part that talked about renting crosses to carry through the Via Dolorosa and up to Golgotha, with wheels attached to the bottom to make it easier had me in stitches.

            When I returned to Windjammers, my passenger was ready and he had his friend with him, that he warned me would be drunk.  On the ride back to his house my passenger’s friend would ask him if he knew who was singing the song on the radio, and each of 3 times he didn’t know the Eagles from Wings or Led Zeppelin.  When we pulled into his driveway the fare was $8.00 even and he gave me a $20.00 bill and said to keep the change.  As they walked up to the house the record expert fell over backwards on the driveway and hit his head on the back bumper of a car parked in the driveway.  I immediately opened my door, but my fare waved me off and said that it would be okay, as the fallen man got up rubbing the back of his head.


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