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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Nite Cap

Posted By on 03.31.10 at 10:00 AM

It was nearing three o'clock on a Sunday morning, the hour at which bars disgorge their more dedicated patrons. Eastbound on Irving in Portage Park, when a round-faced woman ran out from the Nite Cap calling, "I've got one more inside, will you wait please?" I turned on the meter and waited. The marquee above the door advertised a week's worth of heavy metal cover bands. She came back out with a blond version of herself in tow. "I can't believe I got a cab this quick out here, thought for sure we'd be stranded for hours," she said. "You're our hero!"

They were probably in their early 40s, dolled up for a night out, with makeup showing the strain of many hours' service. The brunette gave a Roscoe Village address and we shoved off. I hopped on the Kennedy to skip a few traffic lights and when we exited on Addison, they asked if we could stop at the White Castle on the corner of Kedzie.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Fruitless Loops

Posted By on 03.24.10 at 11:00 AM


Two types fill a cabdriver with dread: those looking to score and those looking for a free ride.

A man flagged me down from a bus stop on Fullerton in Lincoln Park. He was headed some three miles west, apparently sick of waiting for the #74. The trip passed in silence until we pulled off onto one of the K streets and he said to stop. "My wife's been cheating on me and I'm gonna go in there and kill her. I got no money. What you think about that?"

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Ohio House

Posted By on 03.16.10 at 12:33 PM


I don't remember where I picked him up but he was going to the Westin off Michigan Avenue. He talked about living here years ago in that nostalgic way that hints at wild times and freedom long since traded for comfort. As we waited for the green at Ohio and LaSalle, he looked out the window at the northwest corner and said, "My uncle used to own that place in the 70s before selling it to the archdiocese of Chicago." He was pointing at the triple stack of diamonds comprising the sign of the Ohio House Motel.

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Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Posted By on 03.09.10 at 12:13 PM

Fog came in and hid the skyscrapers just as the last of the graying milky daylight faded. The light from street lamps reached no more than a few feet in any direction before being subsumed by the murky cotton wadding that bound all forms to one another. Once familiar streets were transformed now into stage sets for gothic tales or slasher flicks. The change wasn't entirely unwelcome. It's not every day that the back of the hand changes into an inscrutable riddle.

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

"Hack": Dmitry Samarov Is Chicago's Taxicab Salinger (Though He Preferred a Comparison to Tolstoy)

Posted By on 02.25.10 at 02:39 PM

Medill student Lauren E. Bohn turns in a piece a week on interesting Chicagoans for her broadcast journalism course, and she recently made a video about artist and Reader blogger Dmitry Samarov (a tie winner for Reader's choice as best blogger in 2008).

Chicago's taxi-cab Salinger from Lauren E. Bohn on Vimeo.

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Posted By on 02.25.10 at 11:00 AM

Coming up to Damen Avenue Friday night after 1AM, driving west on Webster past the expressway underpass on the northern edge of Bucktown; two squat forms wave, then shuffle up to the taxi. Both men look to be in their late 40s: stout, compact, and bespectacled. The one without the thick black mustache asks for a Clark Street address in the Loop, so we hit the highway ramp and are off. The litany begins even before we merge into the downtown-bound traffic: "They don't like you, Bob, in fact they hate your guts."

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Friday, February 19, 2010

Still the Only White Cabdriver in Chicago

Posted By on 02.19.10 at 10:33 AM

It's been the recurring leitmotif of my cab driving career. The thing that gets brought up over and over again. I wrote about it here three years ago in fact. They just can't get over it. "Dude, you're the first white cabdriver I've ever had!" they say. I usually congratulate them on their good fortune. The irony is often lost on them.

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Friday, February 12, 2010


Posted By on 02.12.10 at 02:26 PM

Not everyone who sets foot in the cab is disturbed, distraught, or drunk. Nine out of ten are completely unremarkable, neither beautiful nor ugly, unreasonable or overly accommodating. They say where they want to go, are taken there, pay up, and are instantly forgotten. Most that make it into these stories have to leave an impression and, fairly or not, making an ass of oneself is more memorable than witty repartee. I occasionally hear grumbling about the negative tenor of my stories about cab driving. Perhaps it's my nihilist eastern European temperament, or maybe my deadpan humor is lost on some. In any case, occasionally there are good rides and it'd be unfair not to mention them, as rare and precious as they may be.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Posted By on 02.10.10 at 09:00 AM


A little after 5 AM Sunday and the line for the cashier at the garage stretches all the way back to the pool table. This is a disaster. Fourteen hours driving and this is the reward? She's the one that double- and triple-counts every nickel too, so I decide to go back out and try to squeeze one last dollar out of the night. What I got was more than there was any need for at that wretched hour . . .

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Monday, February 8, 2010

Vampire Hours

Posted By on 02.08.10 at 09:00 AM

I first drove a taxi in the early 90s in Boston. In 2001 I made a zine called Hack about my early days in the business. There was a second issue about a year later and that would've been that, but in 2003 I returned to the taxi trade here in Chicago. In 2007, I revived Hack as a blog and now I'll be posting about my adventures behind the wheel here at the Reader's blog. When I'm not driving, painting is my primary diversion, examples of which can be found here. Thank you very much for your attention.

Hauling up and down empty avenues on winter weeknights can be its own kind of hell. But in those instants that one feels like the last being drawing breath, others make their presence felt. The truly dedicated drinkers, the lonely lunatics, the speed-addled tow truckers, the cops looking for an excuse, and the other cabbies foolish enough to be out fighting for the few sorry scraps left to be had . . .

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