How this student stopped a masked gunman, for good

college-samuraiI picked up James from just outside of Candlestick Park in the Bayview neighborhood of San Francisco. It was one of those chilly, cloudy San Francisco days where Carl the Fog was prominent.(yes, San Franciscans have named the fog, Carl)

Bayview has been described to me by passengers as, “where the poor people live,” “a rough area,” “an underserved neighborhood.” (Those are the least offensive descriptions, I’ll spare you the rest.) I was driving James to SFU, where he is a student studying nursing. James lives in Bayview because it is just about the only area of town that has near affordable housing. Apartments go for around $700 a month rather than up to $3600 to share. These are real numbers!

Bad parking decisions? Guns may be drawn!

We drove over train tracks and through what felt like a forgotten industrial city. The conversation about breaking traffic laws quickly evolved into talk about how crime is handled by police. One instance that James recounted was of how a cop handled a situation where an SUV was parked randomly in the middle of an intersection, blocking traffic. He witnessed an officer get out of her patrol car with her gun pulled behind her back, while approaching the vehicle. When she arrived at the driver’s side window she found that there was no one in the car.

Masked gunman meets Dr. Ninja

James lit up when I told him I lived eleven months in Baltimore City. James’ cousin was involved with a frightening situation.

James’ cousin John was a student and research scientist at Johns Hopkins University. He is also a katana enthusiast who owned a sizable collection of samurai swords. John was home studying one evening when he heard unusual noises coming from the downstairs. John and his housemates cautiously went to investigate. When they arrived, they found a masked gunman in their home. The gunman lunged and attacked John and his roommates.

For the gunman, this did not end well. In the scuffle, John severed off his hand and delivered several cuts to his upper body. The intruder was taken to the hospital where he was announced dead on arrival. James had mentioned another intruder that John had decapitated. Whether that’s true is debatable.

Unfortunately, the gunman was near 50-years-old and had just gotten released from prison two days prior. It’s easy to see John as the hero, which in many ways he was, but at what cost?

It’s sad that cases like this can ruin the lives of many people. John had to leave Johns Hopkins University. It was unclear if the university asked him to leave or if it was his decision. I believe the later.  James was surprised that he left. He had said, “I thought he would get mad girls!”

I don’t know about you, but I would be a little freaked out to date the guy that sliced up and killed a home invader. Or would I?

What do you think? Would you?

Ride share passenger quote of the day, September 13, 2014

The Comedy Awards 2012 - ArrivalsFrom a passenger regarding Robin Williams (RIP)

“Comedians see the world in a different way. They latch on to the absurdities and quirks of life because that is how they adjusted.”

When you have to witness a man getting killed by a bus 100 times

Muni_crash01_thumb_480x265Christina worked as a video editor for a local East Bay law firm. Sounds like a pretty easy job, right? Not exactly.

Unimaginable accidents, difficult job

Among other things, Christina was tasked with reviewing and editing footage of bicyclists, pedestrians and others getting maimed and killed in awful, unimaginable accidents.  As part of this job, Christina edited footage, taken via various witnesses’ mobile phones, to create a concise picture for the court. This way, the jury is not stuck with having to review a dozen or two dozen videos. Rather, they just view one.

In one particular case, a 50-year-old man was crushed to death by a MUNI bus in downtown San Francisco. The driver, a 30-year old woman, took her eyes off the road for about three or four seconds to open up a candy bar. In that short time, a man stepped in front of the bus. The driver, at the last split second, saw the man and reacted quickly! But, instead of slamming her foot down on the brake, she pushed down on the accelerator. This resulted in the man getting pinned up against another bus. Authorities said that he died instantly.

In her own defense, the driver said that she was never told to not eat while behind the wheel. She said (or was advised to say) that this instruction was not part of the training.

The victim and his family

In a case like this, per my passenger, there are many tangibles and intangibles to think about. The passenger had a two-year-old daughter. The firm needed to make the case on how much could this man have saved to pay for his daughter’s college education; what is the extra cost of child care now that this girl is to grow up with only one biological parent, etc.

Regardless of how much money the family gets, nothing will bring this man back. A tragic accident.

Reviewing this kind of footage, in and of itself, can have some pretty damaging affects on someone’s psyche. If any of you viewed the footage of the ISIS terrorist decapitating journalist James Foley, you know what I mean. If you did not view the video – do not. I promise, you can’t un-view it.

Christina no longer works this job. Even though one begins to get desensitized, it does wear on you. This is one role that likely has a good deal of turnover.

Prince’s unknown contributions to local porn

princeVladimir is a young man who wears many hats. He works in the Tenderloin at a high-end cocktail bar, is a semi-professional artist making sculpture and ceramics, DJs and does freelance sound engineering around the country.

I picked Vladimir up from the Oakland airport as he was arriving home from a gig in Vegas. We had a few minutes to have a good conversation.

Porn? Pump up the jam!

Vladimir told me about one of his most memorable gigs working on the sound for a gay sitcom here in San Francisco. His boss would yell from across the room, “Hey Vlad, turn up the sound on the porn dude!”

Between well-engineered porn soundscapes, Vlad would play short interludes of b-side Prince jams and 70’s rock. I wonder if he is available for weddings?

Art for art’s sake

Vladimir told me of his artistic endeavors ranging from sculpture to performance art. At one moment, his work was getting attention. At that point, he decided to pull back because he did not like the attention.

As art, music and even restaurants and bars begin to gain popularity they become diluted. This was the case in NYC and likely the case in the Bay Area as well. I wonder if the popularity of Vladimir’s art’s made him pull back for this very reason. There’s something very authentic about that if so.

Bro-down with the gay dude, bro

stefonAs defined by the Urban Dictionary, “bros” are: “Obnoxious partying males who are often seen at college parties. When they aren’t making an ass of themselves they usually just stand around holding a red plastic cup waiting for something exciting to happen so they can scream something that demonstrates how much they enjoy partying. Nearly everyone in a fraternity is a bro but there are also many bros who are not in a fraternity. They often wear a rugby shirt and a baseball cap. It is not uncommon for them to have spiked hair with frosted tips. Bros actually chose this name for themselves as they often refer to each other as “bro” even though they are not related.”

After living in Baltimore and attending high school on Long Island, I am naturally accustom to the ritualistic behaviors of “bros” and admittedly am fairly defensive in their presence. During the Outside Lands weekend, I got a ride request from two bros. This ride ended with laughs but was a bit of a journey to get there.

The ride started by my picking up two tipsy young gentlemen. They entered the car and immediately started calling me by the wrong names. Yes, plural, names. My response was naturally to return the courtesy (all in the realm of the appropriate of course.)

On our way to the Marina, the said bros began to talk about Stefon, the gay character on SNL. Imitating the gay minstrel character, they continued on speaking with a lisp and, judging from a few quick glances in the rear view mirror, they were mimicking his mannerisms in the back seat. Naturally, I did not like the direction this was going. So, when asked, “Hey Bob…James…Carlos, ever hear of Stefon???” I swiftly replied, “sure thing bro, the character was modeled after one of my good friends back in NYC. He’s a famous club promoter. Of course, I was totally making this up. They were intrigued and a bit dumbfounded. I continued, “yeah, the lesbian on the show, Seth Meyer and the real Stefon hang out in a piano bar in the Upper East ALL the time!” Their reply? “uhhh, whoa, wow and wait, there’s a lesbian on the show?”

I sure saved that one from going down hill fast.

Beyoncé and the miracle of “bromance”

As defined by the Urban Dictionary, “bromance”: describes the complicated love and affection shared by two straight males.” After I set a more homo-friendly environment in the vehicle, the bromance unfurled. Our favorite bros spoke philosophically about the recent Beyoncé concert. Apparently, they were convinced that the Periodic Table was actually a list of Beyonce songs. My two passengers, in brotherly embrace, began to sway back and forth while loudly singing “All the Single Ladies” and replacing “ladies” with various elements from the periodic table. “All the single cobalt.” “All the single argon” “All the single selenium”

Surely, this was all good practice for the Karaoke bar. My 5 star passenger rating did not assess their singing.


Ride share passenger quote of the day: September 2, 2014

800px-Seacliff_District_SF“I do my best to see the sea everyday I live in San Francisco. If not, I must be doing something wrong.”

Taxi cab driver throwdown – Ecuador vs Russia

redI picked up a young lady originally from Banos, Ecuador. She’s been living in San Francisco, with her boyfriend, for the last ten years. She recounted an experience, early on in her residency, that she had with one particularly psycho cab driver. Being from NYC, I thought I heard it all but was clearly wrong.

Her driver, a close to 300-pound Russian woman, picked the couple up from a night out on the town. As she was describing the situation, I’m imagining that the driver resemble Red from Orange is the New Black, complete with a coif of fire red hair and biceps bigger than me.

Before continuing their evening on the other side of town, they asked to make a quick stop at home. The driver dropped off the woman’s boyfriend at their front door.

As he ran into the house, the cabbie told her remaining passenger that she could not stay in their current parking spot or she would potentially face a citation. So, she did what any upstanding citizen would do and proceeded to pull away from the streetlight and into a dark and secluded section of the street. Once situated, the cabbie got out of the vehicle, walked to the back door of the car and pulled the door open. Using her size, about three times that of her victim, she tried to intimidate the unsuspecting passenger and demanded her wallet and jewelry. The passenger blindly screamed, kicked, punched and did what ever she could to ward off her unfairly matched opponent.

All the while her boyfriend was still in the apartment, she managed to defend herself and get away fairly unscathed. Her boyfriend finally came out to meet his distressed partner. She explained the situation at which point they called the police. I didn’t get to hear what happened to “Red,” the robber cab driver, but one can assume she had charges pressed against her. I had to wonder, what was she thinking?


Medical Marijuana Trumps Bay Area Earthquake

chocolate-marijuana-chemicals-07-28I drove on the Sunday after the earthquake and my passengers had a full range of reactions to the event. Some people were scared while others found humor in the situation. One particularly funny story was told to me by one of my passengers in Berkeley. I felt like this was so definitively California.

Abha is an international student studying computer science and business at UC Berkeley. She spent Saturday evening, at her apartment, with her boyfriend and his sister. Rather than going out they decided to have a Netflix night.

Just as every Bay Area Netflix night should be, they decided to get some sweet decriminalized, medical marijuana to help them through the anxieties of studentship. What made this that much more notable – and arguably that much more “California” – they decided to make pot chocolate using chocolate from the Mission’s amazing Dandelion chocolate store. Dandelion describes their process as “from bean to bar” and their buyers actually fly to the farms to meet the farmers who grow their cacao beans. Very California (and why not?!)

The only person who did not eat the gourmet, fair trade, organic medical marijuana chocolate was Abha’s boyfriend’s sister. So, as a result, she was awake, and scared, through the entire earthquake. She repeatedly tried to wake up her brother and Abha but to no avail. Apparently, not even a force of nature can compete with some serious medical-grade pot chocolate. Right on.


Confessions of a ride share driver

GG Bridge SFThe mission of this blog is to recount some of the compelling, heart wrenching and flat out wild stories that I’ve heard while driving for a popular ride share service in the beautiful city of San Francisco, California. Of course, this blog is not about me, your driver, it is about my passengers, the citizens of this amazing city, the tourists who are drawn here and, heck, anyone that gets in any ride share car and wants to share their experiences. With that said, I would like to introduce myself and tell you my story.

My story and San Francisco

I first visited San Francisco in 1995 as a wide-eyed 18 year old. I knew no one from this city but was drawn here. The bands I listened to and loved, for me, reflected what is the soul of the Bay Area and that essence was as appealing to me then as it is now. That was the original allure. I got on a plane with a few dollars cash, slept my first night in Golden Gate Park with a bunch of squatter punks, and spent two of the most amazing and memorable weeks of my life.

When life hands you lemons…

Fast forward to 2013, my father, who I had met in my adulthood, had passed away due to complications from years of drug use, I left my partner of 4 years and moved to Baltimore to work for an extremely conservative company which I was clearly not a fit for. Needless to say, things were not going my way. This was when I decided to get up and move to San Francisco. As I determine what the next steps of my career will be, I decided to drive for one of the more prominent rideshare services. This has been a great experience.

The quirky and amazing people of San Francisco, my passengers

Regardless if you’re a techie, an artist, a sex worker, transgender, heterosexual – whatever – there is a certain type of person that is drawn to the Bay Area. People seek acceptance, care about each other and the world and often want to follow some sort of creative endeavor. As a driver, these are the people that I meet every day and these are their stories.

More to come soon.