Years ago, I had a landlord, Lou, who worked as a night time taxi driver. During the day, he wore golf shirts and slacks. When he went to do his shift, he would put on a leather vest, jeans, leather fingerless gloves, and a wide-brimmed hat. “It’s important to look like someone who you shouldn’t mess with,” he told me. He was a big guy with a big black mustache, and he looked imposing (except when he was walking his wife’s tiny toy poodles Tinky Winky and Teeny Weeny. He was convinced that she had chosen the dogs and the names to embarrass him, but although he grumbled, he loved them).
Lou knew the fastest way to get around the city which, he would point out, wasn’t always the way you wanted to take. You didn’t want to scare tourists by going into some areas, so when a fare got in, you had to figure out who they were and the best route to take them.
I still have a stack of some of them in my desk drawer: Robert Frost “Fire and Ice”; Gwendolyn Brooks, “The Bean Eaters,” Gary Snyder, “I Went into the Maverick Bar,” Robert Penn Warren, “Treasure Hunt,” Robert Hayden, “Those Winter Sundays.” And, although I no longer know them all by heart, I still carry many of the lines with me.