Here’s a piece of nostalgia from over a decade ago detailing a long-gone carefree time in my life when cabs, fishing boats and lap dance venues were my reality. I leave this entry more or less intact and as such, feel obliged to repeat…I am no longer chained to my computer nor selling ads for – or hanging out in – Korean establishments.
More or less chained to my computer like it’s some kind of dialysis machine or something, I harken back to my former life…one which did not revolve around escorts. Back then, I not only worked with immigrants – but I worked like an immigrant as well. It’s like this:
The easiest, most care-free and least-involved way to drive a cab was simply to show up at the garage unannounced at 4 PM on any given day. The boss put the freelancers at the back of the line and the few of us who worked that way didn’t always get a taxi. But over time, Victor, Isaac, Maury, Moise, Abie and whichever Israeli owner I worked for at which moment became my friends. I was working for the taxi paper….writing for The Daily News and The Times and most of all…didn’t beat them for their lease fee or crack up the cars. So within a reasonable period of time, I almost always got a cab whenever I wanted one.
Once I got that cab…it was on! When I leased a taxi for 12 hours, I drove for like 13 of them. I almost never got out of the cab or stopped searching for fares once I’d paid for the shift. And I had that hustle filleted like a mother fucker. I knew every light series…every late night haunt….just everything! The publisher of the taxi paper used to call me The Tai Chi Cabby!
But sometimes 12 straight hours of bouncing around dodging potholes, traffic and danger wasn’t enough stimulation. At 5 AM after 12 hours of driving, I’d go home to pick up my bucket and fishing pole…drop the cab off at the garage…and take the subway out to Sheepshead Bay to go fishing on The Sea Wolf, one of the many commercial boats docked in Brooklyn.
The Sea Wolf was the crappiest boat in the entire fleet. But the Captain and his First Mate were a show unto themselves. They’d constantly fight about “wind versus tide” and where to anchor…and just anything. When we’d finally set on the wreck and begin fishing, Captain Ed would open the pages of Screw Magazine and from his position at the helm flash me his favorite pictures. “Hey, Billy! Catch me one of these!” he’d plead showing me a photo of a big-breasted babe in a very compromising position! And then when the fisherman started pulling them up, he’d do a play by play like he was Marv Albert! “Whoa! I’m seein’ double” he’d cry as two fish flew over the rails.
After an entire night of fighting the city what could be better than a day on the water? And then there was the boat’s social set. The demographic on The Sea Wolf was basically (with the exception of me) one of Afro-American retirees. I only went fishing on weekdays to avoid the crowds. So who goes fishing during the week? Hello! Retirees – and a cab driver. Those guys were the best. No pretense nor designer threads on these dudes. Everybody was so mellow. If lines got tangled, nobody caught a fucking attitude. We’d just unsnarl the lines and go back to fishing again.
Allow me a quick anecdote illustrative of the kind of guy who fished on the Sea Wolf: One morning it began to rain out on the water causing all the fishermen to huddle in a cramped space to stay dry. The guy right next to me commences to lamenting “When Arthur get in the bed next to you, you can’t do nuthin’ with your wife!” To which I respond “Who the fuck is Arthur?” Whereupon he hits me with the punch line: “Arthur. You know…Arthur Itis!”
Now to the title of this opus: THE POOL FISH. For those unfamiliar….at the beginning of the trip, all participants would throw 3 bucks into the kitty…and the guy who caught the biggest fish got the money. At the outset, I didn’t go in the pool because I’m cheap…and knew a lot of these guys would outfish me. But over time, I became a pretty good angler (I know…what a gay word) and came to realize that betting on myself would be a wise choice.
So I won a couple of pools and then one day there was a different mate on the boat. Artie and Ed had fought so badly that the former quit and there was a new guy. Anyway…I go in the pool and at the end of the day, figured I’d won when out of nowhere, somebody’s got a bigger fish than mine! Hmmm! But there was something hinky in the deal.
First, guys usually made a a lot of noise when a big fish came over the rail. That hadn’t happened. Second, big fish usually live for a while after they’re caught – especially if you put them in a water-filled bucket. This biggy was as dead as a doornail. And third, the guy who won the pool paid me 3 bucks to clean his fish – which I presumed was his way of saying “I’m sorry. You won the pool but I had a dirty deal going with the mate. We split the pool money and he gives me a ringer while nobody’s looking.” Ya see! There’s graft and corruption at every level of society. So much for my mellow fishing buddies.
The next time I went on the boat, Artie, the old mate, was back. I told him the story whereupon he made the same arrangement with me that I assumed the previous mate had made with the other guy. And sho’ nuff…I won the pool and Artie and I split the money. Nuthin’ like passing on the love, right? The funny thing was…I actually did catch the biggest fish. Artie didn’t have to surreptitiously dig up a ringer and risk getting caught!
Eventually, Captain Ed asked me if I wanted to work for him as Artie’s substitute. The captain wanted me to be his mate! That was a supreme compliment. I could fish free, make 25 bucks, and sell my fish right from the deck of the boat when we came back to the dock! But I didn’t take the job. That was right about the time I got hired full time at Action Magazine and effectively left the taxi and fishing worlds.
I think about Ed and Artie and wonder are they still fishing on that flea bag boat? And does Ed have a lap top with wifi now that SCREW is gone? Most people considered me a loser back then. After all, what self-respecting American would drive a fucking cab? But in retrospect, I’m not so sure. I had so much freedom – and so many choices. I’d wake up in the morning and ponder “What am I gonna do today? Ya feel like fishing, driving, lap dancing or writing an op-ed that some ‘real’ paper might publish?”
I guess society’s yardstick for who’s a winner and who’s a loser is subjective. And I’m not so sure I wasn’t doing better then than I am now. But then again…sitting in the private room at Asian Paradise yesterday…surrounded by Asian cuties in bikinis streaming Korean TV on their laptops and primping for the next visitor could be viewed as a pretty good deal also. Regardless, I find that my favorite television show currently is “Wicked Tuna” and not “Cathouse!” And that oughtta tell ya something right there!
P.S. After Captain Ed fell and broke his hip, he was no longer able to pilot the tub and had to sell his boat in 2010. En route to Florida (which would be the Sea Wolf’s new home), the ship went down off the coast of New Jersey killing the new cap’n in the process. The photo you see next to this story is in fact, the actual Sea Wolf referenced – and not a reasonable facsimile of the same name.