The Architect

Gearymashup     As the architect gets in my cab, he tells me he needs to go back home to Philly. I tell him I’ll take him as far at the San Francisco Airport. Cab driver joke. As we’re driving over the Golden Gate Bridge, he opens up about the meeting he just had with a Japanese developer who wants to build a city in the middle of the Saudi Arabian desert. He’s doubtful that it will fly but he’s talking to anyone about any commission, given the state of the economy. He says his buildings are mostly academic with ‘green’ components. “I was LEED-certified way before it was popular,” he says. I have to think there can’t be a lot of green in the desert.


The traffic on 19th Avenue southbound is ‘stop and go’, so we have time to talk about architecture, which I love to do. After some discussion of the buildings we like in San Francisco and Toronto, I ask the architect if he knows how Frank Gehry does it…how he designs with those intuitive, freeform shapes of his, like with Bilbao. “Gehry is an very creative architect with a lot of heart who’s timing was perfect. He managed to be there when the new money was available for new design,” he says. “His structures work on a human scale, too. I keep telling my students that if they just use a pencil on paper, they’re likely to put more humanity into their buildings. It’s a more direct connection to your heart,” he says. I get it since I use a pencil in my other career. “Spoiled by CAD,“ I suggest and he agrees.

By this time, we’re arrived at SFO and he needs to get to his flight. “Good luck with your building in the desert,” I shout. “Thanks, I’m gonna need it,” he answers.

Thank$ Larry

Lombardgirl2 The biggest event of the year for San Francisco is not Halloween or even the Gay Pride Parade. It’s JavaOne, the Oracle Developers Conference. The city rolls out the red carpet for 60,000 nerds. They take over several blocks around Yerba Buena and the Moscone Center. All downtown hotel rooms are booked. They spend a lot of money and the city needs it.

So when I drove a young woman who works for Oracle South Africa and her client from their lunch in Sausalito to their hotels in the city, I got to hear just how much cash was involved. She’d taken the gentleman over on the ferry for a meal at the chic Poggio restaurant. “Tonight, I take 17 people to The Slanted Door (in the Ferry Building)”, she tells me. I figure that’ll be a sizable but effective chunk of change from Oracle’s promotion budget. “Tomorrow night, I host another group at Kitsho.”

She’s pulling out all the stops. “Can you take us down the curvy street,” she asks. I tell her,  “There’s probably a line all the way up Lombard Street being Sunday and all”. “It’ll be okay", she answers. “Will it?”, I have to wonder. I do my tricky left onto Filbert then another left onto Hyde, which puts us right at the top of Lombard, with no waiting. The she does her photo op thing, standing out the window, as we slowly descend the hill.

After that I cruise down to Market, I drop her client at the Marriott Hotel on 4th St. then I take her to the Omni Hotel on California. “Are we liking Larry (Ellison, her CEO) these days,” I ask. Her response (almost defensively), “You’ve got to respect him for what he’s done, despite what people say. You know his yearly salary is $1. But he does have a $28 million credit limit…more than Bill Gates.” “Really”, I say.

I let my client out at the Omni and she spends $82. on me. Thanks Larry. 

Moments of Glowing

She’s the most beautiful girl that ever got in my cab. I figure she’s 32 years of age. With long blond hair and the slightest New York accent. The black business suit she wears hangs slipshod and sexy. She holds a papercup of white wine at a tipsy angle. “They kept pouring it for me on the ferry,” she says. This makes her even more sweetly amusing to me. She needs a lift to her houseboat up the Bridgeway in Sausalito.

As I drive, she tells me about her workday, about moving from Park Slope, Brooklyn and how lucky she and her boyfriend are to live here. It’s a one-way conversation, brief and memorable. I pull up to the dock where she lives and ask her for a sip of her wine. As I turn to return the cup, I notice how the sun now peaks through my taxi windshield and bathes her in a warm, gold light. A spotlight she seems to bask in. Her smile reveals a glorious set of teeth. Just then a car behind the cab honks and snaps me out of the momentary euphoria I feel. “I gotta move,” I say. It stops and saddens her, too, I think. This was our moment of communion. It glowed. My radiant girl pays her fare. “Toot, toot,” she goes. ‘Bye, darlin’,” I answer and I’m off to find more experiences like this and maybe take more sips of wine from a papercup.

No Patience for the Garage Sale Gent

‘Geez,” I uttered under my breath, after the gent says, “drop me here, drop me here, I’ll walk.”
Disconcerted was the feeling I felt, after the numerous other commands, directions and opinions he barked at me as we drove up into the hills behind Dominican University in San Rafael.
“Sure you don’t want a ride the rest of the way,” I said.
“Nope,” he says stroking the ornate handle of his cane, jiggling his turquoise necklace and oozing some odd cologne. “For this garage sale, I don’t want them to see me arriving in a taxi….get better prices that way.’
“Whatever,” I muttered.
“Here you go,” he says as he hands me $9. (no tip) for the drive and my attempts at patience.
“Great, fine, thanks. Hope you fine some treasure.” I say, as he exits with my foot poised on the gas pedal. I try to be nice.
Half way down the block I say, “Geez” out loud this time. I notice the garage sale gentleman has left the odor of his cheap perfume in my cab. “Geez,” I announce, one more time, to no one but me.

Beat Up

Ben2    Ben sticks his bruised and battered head in the window of my cab and says he wants to know if I take cards and
“How much (is it) to Sleepy Hollow?”

“Yes and about $15,” I answer.
“OK,” Ben responds as he carefully and painfully eases into the back seat.

“How’d you get so banged up?” I ask.
“I crashed my bike on Pine (Street) in the city. It was my own damn fault,” he says. “But last night, I was just hanging in Hayes Valley, no wait, maybe it was Union Square, and this guy socked me, knocked me out cold. I was just asking him a question. Next thing I knew this Canadian sailor was feeding me coffee.
Through the mirror, Ben’s fresh cuts and scabs seems to make his story ring true.

“What do you do for a living, Ben?”, I ask.
”A student,” he says. “got one more semester at College of Marin. Then I don’t know what’s next.”
Ben seems not only hurting but lost.
“Some bros are gonna chill in Thailand for a while. My buddy Dwayne is gonna open a microbrewery. He started it in the kitchen of his frat house.”

We reach his destination, unscathed. I take $20.40 from his Visa card.

“Take it easy, Ben”, I say as I hand him the receipt.
“Yeah, bye”, he answers.

Keep it Up, Hooligans

Hooligans Outside the Mayflower Pub on 4th Street, the crowd of colored and face-painted in red, blue and white soccer hooligans gather to celebrate the tie the US team managed to pull off in the first game in their World Cup series against England. Not bad for us underdogs.  “USA, USA, USA,” they all chant. The game was televised on the big screen inside and the extra Porta-Potty is set up outside. It’s 1:00 in the afternoon and the copious beer they drink gets them peeing a lot.  Maybe one of these drunks needs to be driven home in a cab to sleep it off? I dig that cool white jersey with the coat-of-arms the England team wears that one of them wears. I also notice the San Rafael police are looming.The fans are behaving themselves now. The World Cup runs a month long.

Who knows how long we’ll be in it and how long the fans can keep this up. Sometimes I wonder how long I can keep this up?

Sausalito Elephants

Plaza Vina Del Mar is a convenient meeting place
for visitors or for locals. As you walk from the Bay, it sits at a
corner along Bridgeway Avenue.

People bide their time here,
taking a break from shopping or just to enjoy an ice cream cone while
planning out their visit.

This fountain originally made its
appearance at the 1915 Pan-Pacific International Exposition. It was
designed by William B. Faville of Bliss & Faville. It sits on land
given to the city by North Shore Railroad in 1904.

In 1977, the
fountain received new life when it was completely recast and restored
through private resident donations. It was rededicated in 1978 and is
part of the historic district of Sausalito. The plaza welcomes one and
all to this great Bayside town.