Last night I had one of those rides home that beyond getting me where I was going, restored, somewhat, my faith in mankind and affirmed, once again, my love for New York.
I got into the front seat of a grey 2013 Toyota Sienna minivan around 7:15. I had my earbuds in after yet another shitty day and was hoping some Bobby Troup or Beverly Kenney would remove the stinger from my soul.
Immediately, the driver started talking to me. He had a heavy accent I couldn't place, and though I wanted nothing more than to Garbo my way home, I removed my headphones and started talking back.
"A long day," he said.
"Long enough," I answered, "I'm an old man."
We were streaming up a lightly-trafficked tenth avenue.
"No, my friend, you are a young man. You are 50, yes?"
I looked at him like I had the DTs and he was a pink elephant.
"Naw. 60. I feel like I am the oldest in my office by about 180 years."
"I too am 60," he answered. "But we are not old. If you say you are old at 60, where are you at 70?"
I had to admit he had a point.
"Well, I feel good," I said, "And I think I might produce twice the work as anyone else." I wasn't exaggerating.
"When it is time to retire," he said, "you should retire down in Puerto Rico. In Ponce, or Mayaguez where the great Roberto Clemente was born."
"I've been to Ponce. On my way to Guanaca."
He corrected my pronunciation and continued. "A house you can get for one-third the price. A $300,000 house here, $75,000 in Puerto Rico. And the food is good, the air is soft and the girls are pretty."
We were crossing over to the east side now on west 68th street. He slowed between Columbus and Central Park West to pick up another passenger. A woman stood at the appointed place and resolutely kept talking on her cellphone.
"The queen is not ready to enter the car," he laughed. She was pretending we didn't exist.
Just then from the other side of the street, a man got in. And the driver realized he had identified the wrong person as his fare. "Robert," the new fare said.
Somehow the conversation shifted to Donald Trump and corruption.
"He has stolen $400 billion from the Saudis, in return for the promise to give them the military means they need to defeat the Iranis." He mentioned the names of various sheiks and emirs and the amount of money Trump allegedly extorted.
Not unusual in a taxi of three 60 year-old New Yorkers, we were all ardent democrats. We spent the next 20 blocks decrying the evil of Trump and the complicity of his Republican enablers.
"I was on a plane home from Miami Beach yesterday," Robert said. "A guy got on wearing a jacket that said 'NRA Lifetime Member.' What kind of guy wears that these days?"
We tsked our way to Robert's stop.
"Maybe we should all get out here and have a beer," the driver said. Robert agreed and, idling at second and 79th we continued our conversation for a good ten minutes.
Finally, we got on our way again, and the van pulled up to my apartment house.
I stuck out my hand.
"I'm George," I said shaking his. "Abdel," he said.
"You have a nice night," I said.
"And you too, my son."
And off he drove into the dark.