Monday, November 26, 2012

Crazy Eugene's Taxi Driver's History of New York City (Part I)

You might not know that New York taxi drivers have had to graduate a two week class and pass a fairly rigorous test for a couple of decades now. 

Back in Ed Koch's day the test was a simple multiple-choice-open-book-take-it-as-many-times- over-as-you-have-to sort of test. This meant that Koch was just selling licenses to drive yellow taxis to anyone who had a driver's license from anywhere and could hold a pen and open a book. Needless to say the repute of taxi drivers plummeted and has never returned to the old respect cabby's used to get. These days it's a pretty tough exam a candidate must pass.

Before Ed Koch became mayor he was a congressman hailing from Greenwich Village. So, he came and went between New York and Washington all the time, usually on the Eastern Shuttle that flies in and out of LaGuardia. One late flight that had been delayed by snow (so the story goes, and I can't swear to it but it's lore) a particularly surly cabbie who probably needed to get his ears cleaned out put Koch's luggage into the trunk at La Guardia  and headed out to Greenwich Street. The only problem with that was that Koch was going home and home was on Greenwich Place, not Greenwich Street which was around a mile away. In those times Greenwich Street was deserted at nights save the men who dressed as women and did fellatio for money, their clients, their pimps, and voyeurs. Koch rolled down a window and saw where he was and so the story says he bellowed like a stuck Llama.

Greenwich Place was around a mile and a world away from this place. Tranquil, near Washington Square Park. Stores, restaurants. Even back then there was an all night we deliver low cost Chinese restaurant right there. So Koch was not in the center of the world, which is where he still lives. He was knee deep in snow and probably scared shitless. And it was snowing cats and dogs, the story goes.

One thing led to another so the story goes and Koch ended up standing in the snow with his belongings on the street. When he became mayor Koch did everything in his power to make life unpleasant for taxi drivers for all his twelve years in office.The story goes that later he decided to befriend them, and so we have the Edward I Koch Academy. (JUST KIDDING).

The area where Koch was dropped was also (and still is) the meatpacking district which these days is a trendy district of bars and restaurants. Back then it was where trucks came loaded with dead animals that would get cut up in the abattoirs around, packaged and sent out to be sold as meat. There were other activities in the area. The famous triangular shaped building that stands where Fourteenth Street meets Hudson Street and Ninth Avenue housed Mickey Cezar's "Church of The Realized Fantasy."

Mickey was a utopian communist homosexual Sephardic Jewish purveyor of marijuana. It was tradition for over a decade that he would dress up as the pope and give out free joints to all who reached out at the annual Greenwich Village Halloween Parade. David Peel sang it and John and Yoko produced it, the song inspired by Mickey Cezar. The Church's funds came from the sale and bicycle delivery of marijuana all over the lower third of the island of Manhattan, which includes Wall Street, the Theater District, really most of the places people think of when they think of New York City.There was no World Trade Center in those days and no land west of the West Side Highway.

Anyhow every day but Halloween and days of the most inclement weather his bicycle boys would peddle around peddling marijuana which was unofficially decriminalized in those days in New York County. The young men made decent incomes and Cezar even got them dental insurance.

The NYPD and the District Attorney's staff were overwhelmingly loyal Catholics, (if some were not quite devout ones) and most of them were enraged by Cezar's Pope ridiculing queer commie pinko Jew antics. Finally they got him. When he was arrested Cezar supposedly told the cops he would be very happy on Riker's Island because there were so many boys there. Cezar died on Rikers of cancer, so they say.

So anyhow Mickey was part of a long tradition, maybe two long traditions, that will reverberate through this blog.