Reading “No Name in the Street,” James Baldwin’s mid-70s memoir, and watching Ken Burns’ six-part documentary “The West,” I understand more clearly the brutality of America’s conquest of the West (which we justified in the name of American Exceptionalism), the lasting impact of the incredible Gold Rush madness (which spread a passion to “strike it rich quick” that persists), and how deeply embedded is America’s unique affirmation of rugged individualism (which declares we are on our own, as individuals or as a nuclear family).
The recent #myeconomy Marketplace survey found that 79 percent of Americans believe that hard work plays a bigger role than luck in getting ahead. That result, which takes personal responsibility to the extreme, boggles my mind.
While in France when that country was losing its empire, including Vietnam, Baldwin wrote that the attitude of the French police toward immigrants, “which had always been menacing, began to be yet more snide and vindictive. This puzzled me at first, but it shouldn’t have. This is the way people react to the loss of empire — for the loss of empire also implies a radical revision of the individual identity — and I was to see this over and over again, not only in France.”
Does that ring a bell? As the American Empire declines, America continues to define “leadership in the world” as the ability to impose its will, as with one “regime change” or another, whether with soft power or the military. And its police are far too often brutal and vindictive, as Americans lose their sense of being members of a White, Christian nation.
Baldwin also reflects on a visit with an old, formerly close childhood friend:
He seemed as little touched by the cataclysm in his house and all around him as he was by the mail he handled every day. I found this unbelievable, and, given my temperament and our old connection, maddening. We got into a battle about the war in Vietnam. I probably should not have allowed this to happen, but it was partly the stepdaughter’s prodding. And I was astounded that my friend would defend this particular racist folly. What for? For his job at the post office? And the answer came back at once, alas — yes. For his job at the post office.
That too rings a bell. Selfishness and self-centeredness reign supreme, as life becomes, as a passenger of mine said, “Work, buy, and die.”
The response to the first issue of TaxiTalk.info has been encouraging.
The task now is to consider: how can this newsletter benefit drivers, passengers, and/or others? What kind of information would help drivers? What would be of interest to passengers, or others? I welcome your thoughts about those questions. (My notes about possibilities are at https://goo.gl/0KiFfS.)
The answers may influence the format of the newsletter. Options include: 1) Just doing a one-page handout with links to online articles and lists of resources; 2) Two different editions, one for drivers and the other for passengers.
In addition to considerable informal feedback, the following comments have been submitted on the website:
This newsletter is a light in a very dark world, putting forth more than just information; rather, we find understanding with regard to the taxi industry. I do think this newsletter well crosses boundaries and needs to be read in other cities of the United States, but let us start with San Francisco. Taxi Talk may just bring the taxi industry more customers.
–Herman Haluza, Editor, Transportation Perception http://transportationperception.com/
Thank you, Wade, great piece.
A spelling error you make here is of Kate Toran, not Kate Tolan
An excellent summarization of our current state of affairs with San Francisco’s taxi industry. Your keen insight and sound advice should be a must read for any professional taxi driver. Looking forward to your next posting.
–Hansu Kim, Desoto/Flywheel President
Very articulate writing. Thanks, Wade.
–Carl Macmurdo, President, Medallion Holders Association
Saw your newsletter and was quite impressed.
–Mark Gruberg, SF Taxi Workers Alliance
Congrats! Very good but too long.
–Mike Larsen, Literary Agent
Drivers at Yellow Cab are taking copies of the newsletter left at the dispatch window, where a sign reads: “Please consider: 1) Give TaxiTalk.info to passengers. 2) Give $1 or more to [the dispatcher] for Wade to make more copies.” Yesterday, the first day that sign was posted, it elicited $13 in donations, which is good. Previously, $210, including two $100 donations, had been contributed. Expenses to date equal $155. Small invoices for the website and listserv are outstanding. A frequently updated financial report is viewable by the public at https://goo.gl/RDqczT.
My primary goal is to raise money to cover operating costs. I plan to continue to work on this project pro bono about 15 hours a week.
As of 10/28, the website had received 301 views. Many of those views were prompted by posts on Twitter spontaneously tweeted by a number of individuals, including Kelly Dessaint, SF Examiner columnist, with whom I am communicating. Sixteen individuals have subscribed to the TaxiTalk,info Announce email list. Recently, several more people have signed the Limit “Ride-Sharing” Cars petition, bringing the total to 103. The passengers to whom I’ve given the newsletter have been very interested and supportive.
Those responses motivate me to persist with TaxiTalk.info. I hope to develop a presence on Twitter and Facebook soon and build connections with people in other cities.
Early next year, I’d like to help convene a series of public events, such as Passenger Appreciation Days and forums with guest speakers, including public officials. The overall theme of the forums could be “The Future of Taxis,” with a more specific topic each time. Do you have ideas for topics?
I’m working on a statement that presents my underlying philosophy and hope to circulate it for review and comment soon, before including it in the next newsletter. That piece is intended to provide food for thought. Space for contrary opinions will be provided in future issues.
Currently titled “Reforming the Industry,” it presents a comprehensive plan for inter-related structural changes and specific projects. Many of the ideas presented are rooted in the principles that John Carver presented in his landmark book, Boards That Make a Difference.
I’m very open to working in a collaborative manner. Ideally, I’d like to eventually develop a team of co-editors, perhaps taking turns with responsibility for the final edit if and when we face a deadline.
In the meantime, I welcome your assistance. Help with graphic design would be appreciated, for example. Do you have photos or graphics to contribute? Other ideas?
To subscribe to a digital copy of the newsletter and receive it via email, visit http://TaxiTalk.info.
Likely no more than a few times a week, I’ll post to the TaxiTalk Announce email list: 1) reports on my efforts; 2) requests for feedback, advice, and help, and; 3) general taxi-related information. To subscribe to that list, visit http://lists.taxitalk.info/lists/info/taxitalkannounce or ask me to subscribe you.
Steven Hill, author of RAW DEAL: How the “Uber Economy” and Runaway Capitalism Are Screwing American Workers, will be reading from his book:
Wade Hudson, TaxiTalk.info
Publisher and Editor
To read the first issue of TaxiTalk.info and initial readers’ comments, comment yourself, and/or subscribe to receive future issues via email, go to http://taxitalk.info/2015/10/21/newsletter/
Wade Hudson, Publisher and Editor
Saw “Truth” last night. Blanchett turned in another bravura performance. Well done, important movie. Not sure why audiences didn’t give it a higher rating. I was glad Blanchett finally summed up her case for why the controversy about the authenticity of certain documents was a diversion from the key question: did Bush basically go AWOL while in the National Guard? I may google that question and also Mapes, the 60 Minutes producer who was fired during the turmoil. I wonder what she’s been doing.
Otherwise, I woke up today well-rested, with a positive attitude, still inspired after having recently re-read “The Fire Next Time” for the first time in 52 years and having started Baldwin’s mid-1970s memoir, “No Name in the Street,” which I have not read. This morning, prompted by Amazon’s “Readers Also Bought” feature, I just bought “Notes of a Native Son,” which I also read in 1963. I’m hoping that Baldwin will inspire and guide me when I boil down my full autobiography, “The Search for Deep Community,” into a slice-of-life memoir, which I just started. The working title is “Faith, Love, and Action.” The first paragraph, which I just wrote, reads: “I escaped Dallas by the skin of my teeth in 1962. Mother wanted me to stay in Texas to go to college, but I was dead set on the University of California at Berkeley. To get her support, I had to give her an offer she could not refuse. The maneuver worked. Enormously excited, on a Greyhound bus, I left Texas for the first time in my life. Little did I know I was headed into a hurricane later known as “the Sixties” that would profoundly shape the rest of my life.”
Also, please consider giving me feedback by Monday night, Oct. 19, on the latest draft of the first issue of the TaxiTalk.info newsletter (see below), which I will make available to drivers to distribute to passengers, businesses, and the general public….
[To read more, click here.]
Now that I’ve received some good news from the taxi industry and my financial future is clearer and more promising, I plan to cut back on driving taxi so I can engage in taxi-reform organizing and write more. With Wade’s Weekly, once a week I plan take at least one hour to compose a stream-of-consciousness report like this. I’ll set the timer at 45 minutes and write the first draft, after which I will re-set the timer at 15 minutes and rewrite. And some weeks, I’ll probably post essays on specific topics.
Keeping in touch with you, my subscribers, is important to me. My interactions with passengers reduces my isolation and they are often very rewarding, in one way or another. And I have some good friends, and often talk on the phone with Mary, my sister. But otherwise, my life is rather solitary, which is fine, for I enjoy solitude. But over the years my exchanges with you have been very meaningful and I want to revive them.
Writers need readers. So it helps to know if you read what I write. Even a short one or two word comment is appreciated. In the past, I’ve tried to copy, paste, and post readers’ comments. But I may no longer do that. So if you want your comment to be viewable to the general public, please post it to the Web version at http://wadeleehudson.blogspot.com/. Regardless, I’ll try to reply to all comments individually (and catch up on old ones that are still in my Inbox.)
One instance of being gratified by having readers was last week when,at the Yellow Cab lounge, I circulated my Taxi Reform Survey Report to drivers who were waiting to get a taxi to drive. That one-sheet, two-column piece reported on responses to a two-question survey (about Uber and the need for transparency in the sale of taxi medallions) that I had circulated previously. It was very rewarding to see almost everyone immediately read the Report intently. I also received positive feedback to the digital version that I circulated.
That response encourages me to produce a newsletter, titled Taxi Talk, that drivers could distribute to their passengers. As I see it, that newsletter could contribute to the development of an alliance of passengers, drivers, owners, community organizations, businesses, and others to promote and improve the taxi industry.
Possible methods include a Passenger Appreciation Day at which drivers who are musicians could perform and writers could read their work. Prominent performers like Michael Franti and Will Durst might participate as well. Another project might be promoting a public debate on current issues, such as whether the government should limit the number of cars-for-hire. (I’ve asked the Taxi Workers Alliance to organize that debate.)
On the personal front, I plan to invite some old friends to small dinner parties to catch up and socialize. In the past, I’ve tended toward larger affairs, but this time I envision parties of four. That way everyone can sit at the table in my small apartment.
So welcome back to Wade’s Weekly and thanks for reading. I hope we stay in touch during this fascinating moment in human history. Though postmodern nihilism is alive and well, as reflected in films like Black Mass and Sicario, many other phenomena, like Pope Francis and the Sanders campaign, are encouraging. Like Bob says, “We’ll just have to see how it goes.
At Harbin Hot Springs on my 71st birthday looking forward to my future, I feel relaxed, confident, and clear: for the first time in my life, my priority is to make money.
Thanks to Uber, which has hurt the San Francisco taxi industry enormously, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to sell my taxi medallion, or how much I’ll get if I do. And because I lived on “movement wages” my whole life, Social Security is far from adequate.
So, facing a reality I can neither change nor escape, I resolve to drive taxi as much as possible, write less, cut back on organizing, limit my spending, and save as much as I can for my old age.
What to do about vacations remains open. An old friend and I are going to New Orleans April 7-10 for the 2016 French Quarter Festival (if you want to go, get a room immediately, for hotels in the Quarter are already almost sold out for that fantastic, free event that presents all kinds of music on 23 outdoor stages.) After that vacation, I don’t know.
In about five years, I should move to the top of the waiting list for a Section 8 subsidy, which will lower my rent substantially. If I’m able to sell my medallion for a net of $160,000 (the current price) by then, I’ll probably be able to live comfortably and travel extensively. If not, I’ll keep driving taxi as long as I can and if necessary rely on the Food Bank and cheap meals at Senior Centers.
With regard to my commitment to social transformation, I may have found what I’ve been looking for: a community of political activists dedicated to transforming our social system into a truly compassionate society, while supporting one another in their personal growth by setting aside special time for that purpose. The Purpose-Driven Community project is headed in that direction.
The responses to my volunteer-interest form and subsequent emails have been encouraging. The organizers and I are on the same wavelength. Their success with Generation Waking Up reflects their competence. And I’m particularly encouraged by their commitment to maintain diversity by growing deliberately. I look forward to their first exploratory event. This development makes it easier for me to shift to full-time cab driving. Rather than being a lead organizer, I can play a support role.
Pulling back from the Western Park Residents’ Council also eases my transition. Though challenging and time-consuming, serving as President was rewarding. I helped to revive the moribund Council and establish policies and procedures that will hopefully enable it to continue with new leadership. The Council has been much more active than it was for at least ten years and we eventually established a cooperative relationship with management.
Unfortunately, several residents are prone to impulsively attack the nearest authority figure, whether it’s the Building Manager or the Council President. At times I let those attacks get under my skin. More seriously, that negativity steadily discouraged participation in meetings. Hopefully after the August election, the Council’s new leadership can establish a more positive tone at meetings.
Regardless, I anticipate engaging in rewarding activities with residents with whom I have established a good rapport through my work with the Council. In order to avoid wasting time with “poisonous playmates,” to organize those activities we may form self-perpetuating teams by invitation only, rather than formal “committees” open to all residents (though others may continue to organize such committees). In this way, perhaps we can help the Council with its primary mission: to nurture compassionate community among our 200 residents.
Looking back on my 71 years, Mother comes to mind first. I wish she’d lived longer so we could’ve overcome the gap she created by smothering me with her love, which undermined my autonomy. She even tried to stop me from reading the “wrong” books. More deeply, her judgmental moralism led me to see humans, myself included, as essentially bad. To find myself and my essential goodness, I had to fight her overbearing protectiveness.
But from her, I learned to pursue Truth, Justice, and Beauty and for that, I’ll be forever grateful.
Though it seems longer, it was only a year ago that I distributed My Search for Deep Community: An Autobiography. One reason I did so was to enable friends and acquaintances who want to do so to know me more fully. Another reason was to liberate myself from shame by being open about matters about which I had been secretive. On those counts, the project was successful.
I also wanted feedback that might help me re-work the book to make it more marketable to the general public. And I did receive lots of valuable feedback, which I very much appreciate. But I’ll probably be unable to re-write it so long as I drive taxi full-time.
The major event of the last year, however, was the death of Leonard Roy Frank, my dear friend for more than 40 years. After the manager of his building let me into his apartment and I found him dead, draped over the bathtub, I sat down on the stairs and cried. For the next month thereafter, while dealing with his affairs, I cried every day, often convulsively. After I gave the manager his keys, I cried more than I had for the whole month. I haven’t cried since.
Fortunately, the memorial service at the Church for the Fellowship of All Peopleswas very healing. Every word spoken by the ministers, Dr. Dorsey Blake and Dr. Kathryn Benton, was perfect. The speakers and the music were beautiful. Wanting to do Leonard justice, I worked hard on the eulogy, which was well received. But I still think about Leonard often, especially when I have something to tell someone (he was almost always home and available). I doubt that any soul mate will ever replace him.
Two other highlights from last year stand out. The first was an early August sermon on “intimate direct action” at Fellowship Church by Rev. Yielbonzie Charles Johnson, who called for “uncircumscribed engagement in the world” without fear. This appeal rang a bell for me. It amazes me how rarely people ask one another, “How do you feel about that?” or “Would you like to say more about that?” I understand some of the reasons people are reluctant to be more open or more inquisitive. We often have good reason to be afraid. But if we shut down too much, it becomes a habit and we become frozen. It seems we need to find safe places where we can be intimate with at least a few trusted friends.
Even more inspiring were the exhortations offered by the Lawson brothers at a day-long intergenerational teach-in honoring Vincent Harding. First Rev. James Lawson urged activists to promote personal nonviolent struggle in order to become more fully nonviolent as individuals and more effective as activists. He called on the audience to work on “how we treat each other and ourselves and how we work together” so that we better “learn how to respect each other.”
Later, Rev. Phil Lawson echoed that theme when he asked, “Who is the enemy?” and answered that it is “a spiritual power that has captured everyone” and fosters a wide variety of destructive “addictions.” To counter that force, he said we need a new spiritual power of our own: a profound commitment to nonviolence as a way of life, not as a tactic. “Everyone is an addict and we need to be in some program of recovery from the addictions of our society. We need a long-term, disciplined project.”
Those words were music to my ears.
The most liberating event of the year, however, was reading the transcript to “The Power of Vulnerability,” the fourth most popular TED Talk ever. After struggling at length with my mother’s “you will be a great man” programming, this talk prompted me to affirm, “I am good enough (to be better).” .
The benefits of that insight persist. I feel much less need to prove myself, to others or myself. I look back on my efforts with modest pride. I planted some seeds and achieved some success, along with numerous failures. But I would rather have tried and failed than not have tried at all.
Now I need to save some money. So, if you don’t hear from me for a while, wish me luck.
Dan, a Sociology instructor at San Jose State University, has also created the following websites:
While struggling with my mother’s “you will be a great man” programming (see “On Being ‘Great,’”) my therapist, Rebecca Crabb, Ph.D., suggested I check out a TED Talk on vulnerability. Weeks later, a Google search led me to “The Power of Vulnerability” by Brene Brown. When I noted that it had received 21 million views since it was posted in June 2010 (the fourth most popular TED Talk of all time), my hopes increased. While reading the transcript, I sensed my timing was fortuitous.
I had one or two disagreements with some of her statements, including “Connection is why we’re here. It’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives.” Connection is not our only purpose. It’s also a means to other, deeper ends.
But overall the talk rang true. While reading it, I copied the following excerpts:
• Shame is really easily understood as the fear of disconnection: Is there something about me that, if other people know it or see it, that I won’t be worthy of connection?
• What underpinned this shame, this “I’m not good enough…”?
• In order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen, really seen.
• The people who have a strong sense of love and belonging believe they’re worthy of love and belonging.
• Whole-hearted people, living from this deep sense of worthiness.
• What they had in common was a sense of courage.
• The courage to be imperfect. They had the compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others.
• And the last was they had connection, and — this was the hard part — as a result of authenticity, they were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they were.
• The other thing that they had in common was this: They fully embraced vulnerability. They believed that what made them vulnerable made them beautiful.
• They’re willing to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out.
• Stop controlling and predicting.
• We numb vulnerability.
• You cannot selectively numb emotion.
• The other thing we do is we make everything that’s uncertain certain.
• To let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, vulnerably seen; to love with our whole hearts, even though there’s no guarantee.
• And the last, which I think is probably the most important, is to believe that we’re enough.
The next day I posted to Facebook:
I went to sleep saying to myself, “I am good enough,” and woke up after a good eight-hour sleep with the same thought on my mind. If I can maintain that attitude, I will be like a new person, transformed, evolved to a higher level. As I argued in “On Being ‘Great,” I’ve concluded that we cannot rank people in terms of how good they are, because we can’t totally put ourselves in others’ shoes, read their minds, or see their souls. I can only say, “I am a good person, and I can be a better person.” (None of us are perfect.) Also, I cannot rank people because I grew up in a dysfunctional family and tend to circulate with others who did as well. Undoing, partially, the damage that my family and our society inflicted on me has required great effort. How much more progress I can achieve remains to be seen.
In my taxi, I’ve encountered many families and couples who appear to be remarkably healthy. My impression is that people who’ve been raised in healthy families associate with others who’ve had the same experience. This segregation makes it even harder to compare and rank people in terms of how evolved they are.
But the bottom line is that any such differences, even if we could measure them, would be relatively insignificant, for what we have in common, our humanity, is much more important.
That post received 17 “likes” (many times more than my posts normally receive), one share (which is unusual), and comments from Steven Pak, “Wow! What’ a great thought with great impression and admiration…,” and Justice St Rain, “I’m a big fan of affirmations. Paraphrasing the sacred text is a good way to super-charge an affirmation. For example ‘I was created Noble.’”
Later, I posted:
If I am “good enough,” I need not worry about what others think about me. I can trust that I will act compassionately, doing the best I can, for good reasons…. I may want others to do something and ask them to do it, in which case I will be careful about what I say and try to be effective. But I need not NEED them to do what I want for the sake of my own self-validation. So if they say no, I need not take it personally and feel hurt. I can trust they are doing what they need to do…. And if they have something to say to me, I will try to listen and respond compassionately and learn from their feedback how to be more effective. But if they are silent, I need not pull their comments out of them in order to reassure myself. I can relax and trust myself…. And if I end up without a soulful face-to-face connection, then I will be alone but not lonely.
Several days later, I reported on these reflections to a friend who resonated with them and told me that when she was growing up, her mother often told her, “What others think of you is none of your business.”
When I posted that comment, one friend commented, “True, unless one is being a total jerk. Then it SHOULD be your business. Saw this first-hand on a Muni bus the other night.”
I replied, “If another is violating the rights of another, an intervention to stop it is justified. Whether that requires trying to analyze why they are doing it or what they think about me is another matter. I tend to think not.”
Another friend responded, “Sounds like words of great wisdom to me. Do you think she was talking about psychiatrists?” Thinking that therapy tends to involve trying to read others’ minds (it’s hard enough to know my own), I replied, “It may well undermine the typical therapy dynamic.”
It’s only been a week, but the “I am good enough” insight prompted by that TED Talk seems to be holding. My mood has been more consistently positive, and I do seek constancy. Feeling less pressure to prove myself (to myself and others) and worrying less what others think about me has been liberating.
I still believe in personal growth, however, and see no contradiction between the two perspectives. So, believing it’s possible to hold both at the same time, I’ve modified the maxim to read, “I’m good enough to be better.”