Riding Uptown. Saving the Best For Last.

taxi-cab-new-york-city

The memory was triggered by a tune played on the car radio on a balmy December day last week. A tune I’ve played hundred’s of times since it was released in 1991. A tune that sits on top of the same playlist that has been transferred from iPod to iPod to iPod to various iPhone upgrades for almost 25 years. It’s Marc Cohn’s hit “Saving the Best for Last.

Got into a cab in New York City 
Was an Oriental man behind the wheel 

It wasn’t an Oriental man behind the wheel. It was a cab in New York City.  He was in his 60’s.  He didn’t do much talking, and certainly not about mansions in heaven.

Started talking about heaven 
Like it was real 
Said “They got mansions in heaven” 
Yeah the angels are building one for me right now…

It was July. The midday heat exploded, and like a desert mirage, the waves were radiating off the Manhattan asphalt.  All four windows in the cab were down, hot air was gushing in. I took my jacket off, and loosened my tie.

I couldn’t get the words out: “Can you please turn on the A/C?”  It was as if my tongue was jacked with Novocain.  A/C Broken or conserving petrol?

We’d lock eyes in his rear view mirror. A Suit staring into the deep dark eye of an elephant, with its leg chained to steel spike.

And I know…
They’re saving the best for last 
Look around this town 
And tell me that it ain’t so 
They’re saving the best for last 
Don’t ask me how I know 
‘Cause it must be 
Saving the best for last for me

There was a 34 oz plastic bottle resting in the console, the Polish Spring label worn from the refilling, the hundreds of grips and re-grips, and the punishing heat magnified through the front window.

Classified ads sit on the passenger seat, folded neatly. A black Bic is clipped to the top left, the plastic cap marked with deep chew marks.

Other cabs were buzzing, changing lanes and zipping by. He kept his slow, steady pace and kept to the inside lane.

We pulled up to a stop light.  I shifted in my seat, the heat was suffocating, the sweat was past formation stage and now dripping under the button down shirt, down the chest and back, with a separate stream down the suit pants.

You can go a hundred miles a second 
Don’t have to drive no lousy cab 
Got everything you want and more man 
And the King picks up the tab 
You walk around on streets of gold all day 
And you never have to listen 
To what these customers say and I know… 

The two men sat.  One world. Two universes. One heading to a lunch meeting. The other to his next fare.  The roulette wheel spins with its allocation of wealth hanging in the air.

They’re saving the best for last
Look around this town
And tell me that it ain’t so
They’re saving the best for last
Don’t ask me how I know
‘Cause it must be
Saving the best for last for me

The two men sat. One carries his dreams, the other an extra-full sack of Heavy.

I remember when I was a child
Lost in the streets of Chinatown
My mother had a vision and I was found
(Saving the best for last for me)
Oh-oh — saving the best for last

We arrive at my stop. I slide my jacket on, and cinch up my tie.

I settle up. His eyes shift to his hand which holds the fare and the tip.

“Thanks for the ride.”

He smiles, a tired smile with heavy eyes, and offers no response.

And when I finally take this journey
I’m gonna wave goodbye to Earth
Gonna throw this meter in the ocean
And prove what I was worth
And I don’t care who tries to flag me down
They’re gonna have to find another ride uptown
And I know
They’re saving the best for last…”


Notes:

Comments

  1. Beautiful. Wish we all had the capacity to see one another’s humanity like this.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. A great piece of reality. Thanks for the ride, DK.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “…an extra-full sack of Heavy.”
    I’ve drawn and watercoloured that image in my mind in…so many ways…so many times.
    Brilliant piece of imagery.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. “The roulette wheel spins with its allocation of wealth hanging in the air.” So. Very. True. Another magical missive, pal, and BTW, I’m a big Marc Cohn fan, too–I’m a sucker for a good a storyteller. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I was particularly captured by the realism and the imagery. The retelling of the water bottle was distinct and unique and utterly ‘seeable’ from how you described it. You felt the heat of the ride and the lukewarm despair because it was too hot to get good and mad. Nicely done.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Transportive – you and Marc Cohn…a perfect combination

    Liked by 1 person

  7. as always, beautifully rendered…………

    Liked by 1 person

  8. and i wonder what his eyes saw when he looked at you. i’d love to know his poem, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I wanted the Air con on reading this! Everyone has a story, some heavy, some light. Great writing and good music.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Suck a stark imagery. I was there. And then realized I’ve been there, in D.C. Sometimes I opened my mouth, and then listened to the most amazing stories. Little do we know. Beautiful writing, David.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. “The two men sat. One carries his dreams, the other an extra-full sack of Heavy.” – David, you are such a storyteller, so many details, so much observation, so much life. Love every bit of it. Is the book ready yet???

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I brought up the song on YouTube while I read. Full immersion.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I could list the sentences I particularly love in this piece but I’d pretty much be rewriting the entire piece. “The roulette wheel spins with its allocation of wealth hanging in the air,” though, is especially compelling. (As is two universes, one world) Saw Marc Cohn in concert this year, he sang this with every bit of poignancy as this post. Hope he gets to see this. The Marc Cohn I saw would love it. He’s a gem in person. If you get the chance, go for an evening of peace and love…. even in NYC.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. You did it again DK, so well written; such a great story-teller. It’s like we are there…

    Liked by 1 person

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