The best gig of my life has been writing Hollywood Elsewhere for the last 15 and 1/2 years. The second best was tapping out two columns per week for Mr. Showbiz, Reel.com and Kevin Smith‘s Movie Poop Shoot (’98 to ’04). General entertainment journalism for major publications (Entertainment Weekly, People, Los Angeles Times, N.Y. Times), which I did from ’78 to ’98 with a five year-break between ’85 and ’90, ranks third. But my fourth all-time favorite job was driving for Checker Cab in Boston. Seriously. The only non-writing gig I ever really liked.
Posted just under three years ago: The gig only lasted eight or nine months. I was canned for driving a regular customer off the meter up in Revere. But God, I felt so connected and throbbing and all the other cliches. Buzzing around one of the greatest cities in the world each night, learning something new every day, meals on the fly, incidents and accidents, hints and allegations.
At the end of every shift I was so revved that it always took a good hour to crash when I got home, which was usually around 1:30 or 2 am. And every night I had a new story to tell my girlfriend, Sherry McCoy, with whom I was sharing a nice little pad at 81 Park Drive.
Back then the Checker garage was on Lansdowne Street, or right next to Fenway Park. I remember to this day my Motorola two-way radio with the cord-attached mike. One of the dispatchers was called Tiny (a tall, white-haired fat guy); there was another older gent with a kindly face and gentle voice. After I had gained a little seniority I was given a slick new Checker cab (#50), which I always kept whistle-clean. At the end of every shift I had a new story to tell.
Story #1: A youngish woman who got into the back seat near Boston Garden found a full wallet with no ID or anything — $400 and change, which was a fortune back then. We split the dough 50-50 — luckiest score of my young life.
Story #2: An attractive, slender, frosty-haired woman in her mid to late 40s started chatting about this and that, and before you knew it were were flirting and talking about erotic chemistry and whatnot. As I was dropping her off she opened the cash slot and we gently kissed goodbye. We never got out of the cab, never shook hands — all in the eyes. I saw her on Newbury Street three or four months later…”Yo!”
Story #3: Two dangerous-looking animals hailed me near Copley Square but I shook my head. One of them kicked the passenger door as I passed them so I stupidly flipped the bird. Ten seconds later I was at a red light with my driver’s side window stuck (broken) in an open position. The psychos ran up and punched the shit out of me. I was slugged a good four or five times; they were also spitting loogies. My left-side jaw and forehead were swollen soon after. For the rest of the night I ignored all requests to pick anyone up for anything — it could have been the assholes laying a trap.
You belong in the city, concrete under your feet, etc.