Tuesday, February 9, 2010

FROM KENTUCKY (First fare of February)

Shift # 13

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 3 -- 10:55 a.m -- 20th Av & Geary to Haight & Fillmore -- $12.10

A SLIM YOUNG WHITE GUY in a gray sweatshirt flags me down. His hood is up, but his face is clearly visible, and I can see his tame but alert eyes. A longer-than-fashionable beard, red and whispy, dangles from his chin. He reminds me of my own unformed self at about age twenty-five.

“From Kentucky... I’ve been out here two years… Iron work, but that’s not really what I’m into... I’ve got a line of clothes in stores, mostly back in Kentucky, but I’m trying to get established out here. I figure five years ought to be enough to get established, wouldn’t you think…?

Me: "You’re probably wise to think that way."

“A lot of my friends had been out here and said San Francisco would be a better place for my clothes. Better than Kentucky. I’ve been taking them around to stores. Good reception. Better than in Kentucky. They’re made mostly out of recycled material. Most of them are made with 69 percent recycled cotton -- the rest is new cotton. All the recycled cotton is manufactured in the US. It really helps to be able to put Made-In-USA on the tag -- everyone loves seeing that. I also use some P-E-T -- the stuff that comes from recycling plastic bottles… It’s easier out here. In Kentucky people say, ‘What’s recycling?’ Here you don’t have to sit every single person down and explain it to them… Back in Louisville they do have some recycling places now, where you can drop stuff off. I think it’s just to appease us. I actually think they take it and dump it all in the regular trash. But there’s nothing you can do. Well, you can have committees and keep pushing stuff, and maybe eventually it’ll change...”

I ask, “Is Louisville near Owensboro, Kentucky?”

“Not too far. Same part of the state.”

“I played basketball with a guy from Owensboro…”

My fare: “They do like basketball in Kentucky.”

“Actually, he took my spot on the team. I was a senior in college, a starter, and I was looking forward to a glorious last year. He was a freshman -- Lanny Falls -- an all-state high school player from Owensboro, Kentucky. He could run, he could shoot, and he just showed up and took my spot. And it was the correct move for the team -- dammit. With him in the lineup instead of me, the team ripped off to a twelve-and-oh start…”

My fare: “Twelve-and-oh!”

I glance in the rearview. His hood is back off his head now. He’s smiling. He seems to be liking my story.

“I didn’t like sitting on the bench, but what could I say?”

My fare chuckles. “Twelve-and-oh. I guess you just had to get over that…”

“Another thirty years and I think I’ll be fine...”

He laughs. “Thirty years?”

“1971. Almost forty now. The worst part…” I tell him, “Lanny Falls was a great guy.”

“You got along?”

“Everyone got along with him. Everyone loved him.”

My fare: “Twelve-and-oh makes a lot of happy people.”

Two or three times already this morning, I’ve thought about popping the free ride. But I checked with my body each time, and each time the feeling just wasn’t there. Over the years, I’ve learned to trust Body’s feedback. I’m not sure how to best describe the feeling -- settled? satisfied? complete? or maybe silent? None of those exactly really capture it, but however it’s described, at the end of this ride with the hood-up guy from from 20th and Geary, the feeling just simply is there, and the four of us -- me, Body, my fare, and his body -- we all know it.


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