Thursday, April 15, 2010

Three More Fairbanks Taxi Sketches

Andy is another who stands out clearly more than 15 years after I saw him last. He was this hulking, sweet-natured Viking with shoulder length yellow-blonde hair, soft facial features, a gentle voice, and a very even temper that I'm pretty sure he has never lost. Andy lived with his Native wife from Fort Yukon in a trailer off the highway outside North Pole, her eyes and hair were jet black and she had that same gentle, smiling nature. Andy wasn't damaged or crazy, at least not so I could see, and he was both very funny and very smart. He didn't really figure as a cab driver, and he certainly had the brains to make a life for himself anywhere he felt like. They say only two kinds of people choose to live in Fairbanks: those who wouldn't live anywhere else and those who couldn't live anywhere else - Andy was one of the former.
The Bad: Right Hand Man, Jughead and Klan
When America's Most Wanted first came on the air, word has it there was some radical shifting in Fairbanks demographics. Right Hand Man was a one-armed cab driver who was about as slippery an individual as I ever met. His preferred clientelle were cut from the same stained cloth, and his girlfriend, Marla, was known far and wide as capital-T trouble. Jughead was an idiot who carried a big gun wherever he went and still seemed to always find himself in some kind of confrontation. Klan is the name I assigned this guy who rarley spoke and just radiated hatred and violence like some prison gang Nazi . In the cab, he was always armed with more than one weapon and frequently found himself having to "protect himself" from someone non-white, drunk and near helpless.Fairbanks is the city at the northern terminus of the highway, and it's got more than it's share of people who go only by a nickname for good reason.
The Ugly: Catfish

Catfish, I named him, because I never asked him his name and never wanted to know. He smelled bad, his clothes were food-stained, and if he happened to eat in front of you, you'd never want to eat again. Catfish, like one of those horrifying, giant catfish brought up from the muddy depths of the Mississippi or the Mekong, big enough to swallow a full size human. He was a bottom feeder, a scavenger, a predator - he took advantage - that was his niche in the food chain. Once, at close to 40 below zero, he charged me $35 for a jump when he was driving right by me anyway, and I was capable of defending myself. Catfish, because he never gave his name, most likely because it -along with his face - was on certain registries of the dangerous and unwholesome in the Lower 48.

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