Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Bicycle, The Box and the Switchblade

It’s been difficult doing blog entries lately, because I have previous projects that I’m committed to completing. One is my book about the history of Contemporary Christian music, which just got expanded from 1 to 2 volumes, and I now have another year from this past March 1st to complete nearly a quarter of a million words. The other is a book about guitarist John Fahey, who I was friends with. I was his personal photographer for a couple of years, and we did a series of interview that I wanted to publish with the title, “Conversations with Blind Joe Death,” his alter ego. Now a film maker is working on a documentary about Fahey, and he is interested in my research, after seeing what I had. However, I want to complete this entry about another sordid episode that occurred one weekend about 4 years ago.

One Saturday night in the middle of break from the torrential Winter rain that saturates the Willamette Valley, I got a call for Kat’s Korner, a bar in South Keizer. When I arrived there were 3 people standing outside waiting.

“Did you call for a cab?” I asked, as a large black man with a 2 foot square box opened my front passenger door, and sat in the passenger seat next to me.

“Yes,” my passenger told me, and added, “these guys need a ride too.” The other two men, were white rednecks dressed in camouflage hunting gear, and had a bicycle.

“Are you all together?” I asked the black man.

“No,” he told me, but we can ride together, as I popped the trunk, in order to put the bicycle in, and strap the lid down with a bungee cord.

Anytime that you have 2 different parties, that aren’t together, you could end up with an argument deciding who pays how much of the fare. So to avoid that problem, either a second cab should be called, or it should be pre-determined how much each party is going to pay prior to driving to the first destination. When I voiced my concern the black man assured me that there would not be any problem and urged me to take off. He was going to the apartments on Hyacinth, behind Jack In The Box, while the two guys were going to Hollands bar, on Silverton road. The two guys in the back seat seemed to be docile, so I called in Hollands as my final destination and began driving.

As I drove down River Road to Salem Parkway, and then Hyacinth the radio was playing Led Zeppelin’s Dazed and Confused. My passengers in the backseat were really getting into the music, but then one of them started to complain about how they would have to pay more because of the way that we were going, to take the black guy home first. What he was saying was ridiculous, because they were going to split the fare, so it would be less individually than if they had travelled separately.

When we arrived at the apartments on Hyacinth, and the man with the box, up front with me, handed me a $5.00 bill to cover his part of the $5.60 fare. Then he opened the door and got out of the cab with his large cardboard box. At the same time I heard the back door open, and feet scurrying. The next sound I heard was that of a fist connecting with a face, as the younger redneck sucker punched the black guy, who was twice his size. Immediately there followed the sound of metal contacting metal and a blood curdling scream.

I jumped out the door of my taxi that was in park, and I ran over to the three men behind the cab. The black guy was on top of the skinny redneck that punched him, with a switchblade knife at his exposed neck.

“Back off mother fucker, before I cut your throat! The black guy said.

The redneck went limp, and the black guy got up, retracted his blade, put it in his pocket and asked me. “Are we square now?”

“Yeah, we’re square.” I told him, as he picked up his box and walked into the apartment complex. I stood there dazed, as I tried to accept what just happened. Then I realized that the two white guys were gone, and I still had the bike in the trunk. About the time that I was going to release the bungee cord on the trunk holding the lid down, the two rednecks returned. They were brothers and the older caught up with the younger and brought him back. A rag was wrapped around the sliced hand that the idiot had grabbed the open blade with. The rag was nearly soaked through with blood and I expected them to tell me the emergency room, but the destination stayed the same. So I drove to Hollands, but they had me turn on Beach street, and stop before Silverton. Then after removing the bike, the older brother paid me the additional $5.60 fare with 2 -$20.00 bills, and said, “is that enough?”

“What?” I asked him.

Then he handed me another $20.00 bill, and asked me again, “is that enough?”

“Enough of what?” I asked.

“Enough to forget that this ever happened,” he said.

Ah, here is a situation that a born again Christian, who is an ordained minister of the Foursquare gospel, is confronted with, outside of the context of the Sunday morning sermon. I drive a cab to make money to support my family. At the same time I am a witness for Jesus out on the streets. Should I keep the $54.40 tip, or give it back to him and witness to him and his brother? Then again maybe I should contact the police and report what happened? Exactly what would Jesus do in this situation? This was the dilemma that I contemplated, and finally answered with.

“What are you talking about?” I told him as I added the 3 twenties to my nights intake, got back in the cab and told the dispatcher that I was clear for another call.


  1. In the sentence before your proposed question of morality you mentioned you drive taxi to make money to support your family, so why wouldn't you just look at the situation like this: God offered up this event as an offering to you and your family for doing His work. After-all, He does work in mysterious ways, right? It was a fifty dollar sign of gratitude from the man upstairs, nothing more!

    I know I probably seemed facetious with that comment, but I was actually being quite honest in my feelings. Again, I love reading your stories, always fun to come back to.