Sunday, April 11, 2010

BUS STORY # 179 (Yellow Cab)

My wife gave me a book for my birthday.

The title is Yellow Cab. It was written by Robert Leonard who, according to a blurb on the back of the book, is an “anthropology professor [who] began moonlighting as a cabdriver; Yellow Cab is a portrait of the city he found as he drove the streets of nighttime Albuquerque, picking up everyone from business people and drunken college kids to hookers and drug dealers.”

I decided to dip into the first few pages and didn’t come up for air until I was a quarter of the way through the book. I finished it before bedtime.

It didn’t take more than a dozen pages to understand why my wife thought this would be a good birthday present for Busboy. If this had been a blog, it could have been called Cab Stories.

The entries are short (61 stories in 179 pages). Some of them are straightforward prose. Others are reads-like-straightforward-prose poems. All of them are stories or observations gathered while Leonard was behind the wheel of the yellow “Crown Vic.”

The writing is lean and hard-boiled and reminds me of Dashiell Hammet. Here is the opening to the story “Crossroads Hotel” which happens to be a place any regular on the 66 or the Red and Green lines will know well:

I picked her up at the Crossroads Hotel, across Central from Presbyterian Hospital. The Crossroads is a dump in the footprint of northbound I-25. The hotel is so precariously perched next to the Interstate that in an accident a car going over the rail might well catapult into an unsuspecting lodger’s lap. She opened the door of the cab and the roar of traffic accompanied her and her nurse’s flowered-print scrubs into my backseat. She stank of hospital, cheap whiskey, and more.

“Sorry, I just need to go to the Presbyterian parking lot and pick up my car,” she said.

Don’t let “poem” scare you off, either. Here’s the opening verse to a poem-story titled “William:”

Every morning, about 3:15 or so
William rides eastbound past the bus station,
on his big, red, balloon-tired Schwinn
that was new in 1964.
See? You can handle that.

Yellow Cab was published by the University of New Mexico Press in 2006 – the same year I began writing and posting Bus Stories.

The book is available from The University of New Mexico Press – although you cannot order it on line. The ordering process is somewhat convoluted, and the site recommends you “patronize your local bookstore.”

Locals should be able to order it at Page One.

You can also go to Amazon and order a copy:

Don't wait for your birthday.


The photo at the top of this story comes from the Amazon website listed at the end of this story.


Blogger Busboy said...

A friend of mine emailed me this morning and reminded me this book had been adapted for the stage by local theatre veteran Phil Bock. Yellow Cab played at The Adobe Theatre in June of 2008. Paul emailed me this link to a review of the play in The Weekly Alibi:

12:52 PM  
Blogger rdwleonard said...

Thanks for your kind and generous review. I look forward to reading your blog.

Robert Leonard

4:21 PM  
Blogger Busboy said...

Thank you for writing these wonderful stories.

9:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Bob. I'm "Busboy's" friend who told him about the theatre version, which I was happy to see a couple years back. Hope you are doing well...enjoying the "Human Experience."

Paul Ingles

9:18 PM  
Anonymous Bob Bacon said...

This is a book for me to read. Do you remember that I too drove Yellow Cab, I was studying to sell mutual funds while sitting in line at the taxi stand. The year was 1969. Mustache

That was the handle that the 400 pound dispatcher gave to me.

5:16 PM  
Blogger Busboy said...

Bob, I do remember you drove a cab, and in the tough town of Brockton, if I remember correctly.

Also, if I remember correctly, you had a pretty good cab story yourself featuring a blind customer.

Maybe you have a book's worth of stories yourself.

11:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

5:38 PM  
Blogger Busboy said...

Interesting link. This takes you to a page that says being a taxi driver is the third most stressful job in American in 2010. Pretty amazing – especially considering it comes in ahead of being a surgeon, police officer, or a highway patrol officer.

The list is compiled by site called Career Cast, and the compilers go into some detail about how they arrived at their conclusions.

Besides the 10 most stressful jobs, there are lists for the 10 least stressful, best, and worst jobs. (Taxi driver comes in at # 7 on the worst list.)

Bus drivers didn’t make any of the lists.

8:32 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home