Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Rainy Monday

There are some nights that driving a taxi cab is actually fun, and tonight was one of them. It was a night with the usual winter torrential downpour at 49 degrees, where I was cruising the streets in a toasty warm car and listening to the radio, as I watched the colored lights of the city and traffic streak by. My passengers were all either pleasant or interesting and even the potential problems, like Marvin, the Native American retired Air Force pilot, with occasional temporary leg paralysis, was able to walk today, even without his cane which he lost.

Around 7:00 Pm, I picked up a guy at the “Rack & Cue,” who looked to be in his late fifties. When he saw my copy of Steinbeck’s “Grapes Of Wrath,” began talking about how he was an avid reader, and the 25 point system that he used to rate books. He said that he always read, even when he was drinking at the bar, and he would bring a pair of 2X reading glasses with him.

“Some people call me a genius,” he told me, “because I can read and assimilate ten thousand words a minute.”

The book that was at the top of his list was “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand, but then he said that it was also rated by the Library of Congress as the most important book written in the 20th century, to understand America. He also recommended “The Fountainhead” by Rand, and then I threw a few books out, including Steinbeck’s “Grapes Of Wrath” and “East Of Eden” as well as “From Here To Eternity” by: James Jones, who he also considered important. He said that he read all genre’s including horror and science fiction. He considered Stephen King’s “The Stand” to be the best horror novel ever written. He mentioned Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation Trilogy” and said that Larry Niven’s “The Mote In God’s Eye” was the greatest science fiction book ever written. I dropped him off at the Liberty Spirit, and it was the best fare of the night, so far, along with a $3.00 tip.

My next fare was a music teacher on Nina Street in South Salem, who wanted to go to Walmart. On the way there Nowhere Man by the Beatles was playing on the radio, and he commented on how much of a Beatles fan he was. I told him that Nowhere Man was the first Beatles song that I actually liked, because I didn’t know that it was a Beatles song. By the time that the Beatles came out with “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” when I was smoking pot in the Army, I was a hard core fan.

“It was like that with U2 as well,” I told him. “The first time that I heard With Or Without You, off the “Joshua Tree” album, I didn’t realize who was performing the song, and I loved it. After that, I was a U2 fan, just like This led into a discussion about Dylan, who I didn’t fully appreciate, until I found out that most of the song’s that I had in my record collection, like Mr. Tambourine Man, All I Really Want To Do and It Ain’t Me Babe, were originally written and performed by him.

“When Dylan became a ‘born again Christian’ I was working as an associate pastor, of an inner city church, in the North East Los Angeles Barrio, of Highland Park,” I told him. “He was entering my world, and I already knew how he operated along with his creative pattern, so I predicted what he would do, to the consternation of one of the church elders, who balked at my prescient prophecy. It was 1979, and I told him that since Dylan was being criticized for not being explicit enough in his expression of faith with “Slow Train Coming,” that he would next come out with an album that would leave no doubt about his devotion to Jesus. Then he would release an album that would merge Christianity with the world, and then he would return to secular music.

When “Saved” was released, in 1980, I was living in rural Oregon, but I smiled with satisfaction when I played it. The following year, I was living back in Los Angeles when “Shot Of Love” came out, containing both Property Of Jesus and Lenny Bruce. By the time that Infidels was released, I was living in Oregon again, but my prediction came true. I told my passenger that back in 1971, when I first moved to Los Angeles, from Detroit, Michigan, I destroyed my extensive record collection, of some of the best music put out in the 1960’s, after I became a “born again” Jesus freak. He told me that he was also a “born again” Christian, and had destroyed or given away his record collection twice.

Around 10:00 PM, I picked up a young female at the Red Lion, who was returning to Salem on the HUT shuttle from PDX. She had been in San Diego, California over the weekend for a wedding. She was originally from Washington state, near Seattle, and was attending Willamette University, here in Salem. She was majoring in Rhetoric. I told her that it seemed that half of the students that I drove, who attended Willamette, told me that they were majoring in Rhetoric.

“Exactly what is rhetoric, and what kind of a job can you get with a degree in it?” I asked.

“You can get a job in the media, it’s a part of communications,” she told me. “You can work in television, film, politics or anything that requires public speaking or idea persuasion. Sometimes it’s called propaganda.”

“Back in the old days, during the ‘Cold War,’” I told her, “the word propaganda, always referred to what the Communist’s were saying.”

Around Midnight I picked up another returning Willamette student, who arrive on the HUT shuttle. This was unusual, since it meant that they both missed a day of school. This young woman, was returning from her home in Hawaii. She was of Japanese decent and was attending Tokyo International University of America, at Willamette, where she studied Japanese culture and business. I told her how my kids were impacted by Japanese culture by everything from Pokemon to Anime. She laughed and gave me a $2.00 tip when she paid by credit card.

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