Cabland is my own personal urinetown.  Coming directly from a laid back, semi-hippie period (I say 'semi' because I was a reader of books--books give you cynicism--i.e. all you need is love is actually all you need is money) into the world of cabdriving is like having all the colors of the rainbow painted gray.


Cabdriving made real to me the shocking fact that the person most likely to screw over the underdog is his fellow underdog!  For you lucky people who have never driven a cab, cabdrivers are not all the same.  Some own their own cabs (the license is called a medallion.)  The ones who own a medallion consider themselves a higher caste than the mere riff-raff who are the drivers.  Of course, being healthily cynical made me think, "Hey guys, it's a medallion you own--not a Renoir."  The owners would provide inferior equipment, overcharge on rentals, cheat, rip off, be petty, and generally perform any and all underhanded tricks to ruin your day.


And thus we have the photos and commentary of Cabland.






1.  Cab boss.  A dirty little room where he sits, no luxury, bare walls, cab exhaust leaking in.  Well, we know what happens next--in revenge he cooks the books, steals, and is caught and is unceremoniously dumped.  Sheakespeare would make great drama of this but not Harry Rosenbluth.  It's a comedy--very dark comedy.

2.  Cabdrivers spend a lot of time waiting for their cabs at shift change.  The man in the foreground is a classical music buff.  It's a crowded room and oblivious to all around him, he sits directly in front of the lone video game.


3.  It's a ten hour shift.  Styrofoam coffee cups are in everybody's hand.

4.  She works in the dispatch room.  She hands out the medallions.  Cabdrivers tip to get a better cab or an airport run.  Heading home, she looks happy at the end of the day.


5.  Young cabdriver waits on pool table for cab.  Notice the jacket--an unheated room with an open front can get chilly, even in sunny San Francisco.  (meant ironically)

6. A cab owner.  Actually, a nice one.  The other owners hated him, talked behind his back.  Of course, they did, he read books and had some intelligence.


7.  I never knew that I was a conceptual artist until I arranged my two 'cab egg' photos together.  (see 8)  I don't recall whether it was the same egg or not, though it was the same day.


8.  The question arises, what came first--the cabdriver or the egg?


9.  The cab gas man.  Cabs fill up at the garage.  It adds to the owner's profit.  The gas man is a nice guy.  Hey, you have to earn a living.

10. Mike was a driver who tried to move up in the world by working in the dispatch office.  He was much too decent and intelligent not to feel the contradiction between ambition and common humanity.


11.  A moment of triumph.  The cabbie has picked up his registration and medallion.  Now, he can try to earn a living.  First, he covers his gas and gates ('gates' is his fee to rent a cab), then he tries to put all above that in his pocket.  Minus the $4 a day he spends on bad coffee from the place next door.


12.  Cabs need to be washed.  This man is happy washing the cabs.  Hey, happiness is a tough commodity to find.


13.  Next door to the cab place was a diner.  Bad coffee, bad food, and a steady cab driver clientele.  Here, The Cab Boss (not yet dethroned) attempts a human smile and almost pulls it off.

14. This is what greeted you when you went to work--deep industrial gray ugliness.  The owners probably figured it dulled your imagination and unimaginative people are easier to exploit.

 15.  For the night shift, balls were drawn out of a wheel to determine what order everyone got their cab.  Money was also bet on the balls.  (More on that later.)  The gentleman on the far right ran the ball drawing.  His nickname was "Shifty."


 16.  Shifty was always happy running a game.  He was always paying off loans to loan sharks.  Hey, you win some, you lose some, and then in the end, you lose permanently.

 17.  Money changing hands.  Cabdrivers make cash everyday.  Blow it on gambling and you'll get it back your next shift.

 18.  This photo looks positively prayerful.  Men gathered around the sacred holiness of cash.  His holiness Shifty is in the middle.


19.  This gentleman was a friend of mine for a long while.  As an anecdote, walking back to our cars one night at 2:30 a.m. after a shift a guy approached us threateningly.  As it happens, we were both carrying guns.  Later, we talked long and hard about why we didn't pull them out on this psycho.

 20.  Richard Hack: a funny name for a cabdriver.  He was a literary type.  We never really got that close.  You think a guy has your interests and is going to be your friend but it doesn't quite pan out.


21.  I won the pool three times in a row and five out of seven in one week.  The suspicious thought I had rigged the game with "Shifty."  No way.  Just an amazing streak of luck.  Sam is one of the guys who accused me.  He'd been my roommate at one time.  I never forgave him.