Monday, November 29, 2010

The Cabbie Prince RIP

Cabby Prince


It was a long time ago in a place called Long Island City N.Y. Long Island City was a small community on the East River in Queens New York that holds two gateways to Manhattan. The Queensborough Bridge and The Midtown Tunnle, and at that time was mostly warehouses and old three story one family houses many of which had been turned into three apartments.

I came to Long Island City to find a job as a taxi driver, and after eight months of commuting from sixty miles away I found an apartment on and old cobbled street, 43rd Ave. in the shadow of the Queensboro Bridge.

It was a era of discovery. In those "Good Old Days" I fancied myself a poet, and spent a good deal of time with a pen in my hand serving my angst with rhyming couplets and an occasional exercise in iambic pentameter. They were glorious times of uncertinty and exploration for a Brooklyn born white-boy running away from the suburbs and coming home to New York City.

In my quest for action, and too be seen, I arranged for a small theater at 500 Greenwich Street where I would read my poetry. Another taxi driver was convinced to join me and Hack Poetry was born........

Our first reading was furiously promoted by ME...Flyers, lots of flyers, and calling all the local "cool" news outlets and some of the upper end ones. The night before the grand event my phone rang. It was Marc Singer from the New Yorker and he was planing to come to the reading..WOW....I had nudged the receptionist at the New Yorker and she apparently had obliged and sent the flyer up the food chain.....So we would have at least one person in attendance.

We were two rookies but none the less adreniline pumped and after about an hour of taking turns reading our poems we served some juice and cookies to our now swollen audience of seven people and then adjourned to Joes Bar on 6th Street in the East Village for the night.....A SUCCESS

On August 19 the New Yorker hit the stands and we were celebrities at the Taxi Garage. dozens of drivers came to tell me that they had read the article....One, a tall thin man name Pete asked if he could read a poem at the next event....What next event..."Sure" I said.

A day or two later he approached me at the Taxi garage and began describing the poem he was going to read and reading me excerpts....He further explained that he was going to wear a Zorro Mask and call himself the Cabbie Prince....WHATEVER!?

When the night arrived, there he was. Six feet twoo inches of denim wearing the Mask Of Zorro. When his turn to read came he stuttered through a beautiful poem laced with racisim and hate for his passengers. I cringed at his crowning line as he uttered the words "French men and N$%#^ don't tip. And those fat F%$%$ Arabs, but here comes the ship"

The dozen people in the audience could not stop their jaws from dropping....We sat agape, my girlfriend, who is a very dark skinned lady looked at me in a hurt way as if I had said it.....It was raw poetry in a raw place spoken by a raw man in a raw way...indigenous art...before rap had conquered....

He slogged on and closed his poem with lines of beauty...."New York City, I'm part of its energy, power and pain, tomorrow I'll do this all over again, and again and again till I shot in the head, die in a crash or just plain drop dead. Randals Island not known for its beauty, on my stone let it say, Prince of Cabbies off Duty"

A smattering of applause and he walked off....

Hack poetry played in various off off off broadway venues for three years developing into a reading and poetry contest, but after a year or so The Cabbie prince didn't come around. I learned he had died in a fire in his apartment in Long Island City, apparently from smoking in bed....He was a heavy drinker so I was not surprised, but I was troubled as he was the first of my contemporaries to die, and in such an awful way.

I, and one other hack poet held a memorial reading at the RED ROOM in Hells Kitchen in his honor. It was scantly attended. I had an audio tape of his first reading which we played for those present to hear...." ON my stone let it say, Prince Of Cabbies, OFF DUTY".

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Freedom Lurks

Freedom Lurks

tuning the instrument, sharpen the blade
statements avoided intend to degrade
the life and the times of the one who now goes
back to the streets with the little she knows
about finding the freedom now forced upon all
who call the hawks tune then run to forestall
what will and must be, graded in turn
by the life that we live with a lack of concern
for all that once mattered and what matters yet
to be scattered in places, order upset
for now and tomorrow, future uncertin
the play unfolds, regardless the curtin
floating about, above and before
memories off track live to restore
the moment of change, long ago hidden
grasping for freedom, long since forbidden
to alert, challenged voices, a choir extended
not a soul in the mix ever defended
by those who aquire what's left on the table
as bartering fails leaving me able
to scoop up the chips, counted at length
feeding my soul and restroing my strentgh
of what is and what was, and what one day might be
the path less enjoyed by those searching for me

T. Butler Gelber
A.K.A. The Hack Poet
(c) All rights reserved
November 16, 2010

Friday, May 7, 2010

On The Seat

Lady killers walkin, struttin their stuff
I'm lookin on from my retreat
I've heard those lady killers can play kinda rough
wish there was one I could meet
Lately in the evening I cruise on by
But I've surrendered any thoughts of ever giving them a try
and I doubt they could ever take the heat
Of this grueling life on the seat

Lonely tourist cameras hangin from the necks
of full fledged world travelers from Rome
Got all the balances, passed all the checks
How else could they be so far from home
But life always happens, no matter the cost
You'll pay any price to avoid being lost
So you hop into a yellow car with a man knows the street
Its a God Damned lousy life on the seat

Halloween is wild night, costumes for the Queens
make-up and paper bags for those of lesser means
Park Avenue and Amsterdam go their separate ways
the lonely kid who drank too much is the only one who pays
with unreported income, the Policemen's Gala treat
Just check your soul and uniform and come cruising on the seat

Miles of city streets go rolling by each day
Towers view the suburbs from aloft
second story windows blow those sights away
showing me soft
I hold my position, I gamble not to lose
I keep my car in drive always set to cruise
like a keystone cop I'm on the beat
I love it, on the seat

(c) Terence Gelber 1991
All rights reserved

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


The deluge continues, I am numb from the rains,
that scour my essance enroute to the drains
now full from the storms relentless attacks
taking credit again as my resolve again cracks

I have done nothing wrong, I yearn to be true
yet I stand here alone as rivers wash through
making easy my life, to be seen through the storm
cut loose from its moorings, hard to get warm

The storm rages within me, fear ebbs and flows
I know what I feel, don't care if it shows
confusion, delusion, shown clarities mark
On destinies roadmap, ever so dark

I have already climbed to the great mountains peak
And back to the valley where solace I seek
evades me and haunts me, puts me to task
granting no pardon for questions I ask

So back to the mountain, upward and onward
looking over my shoulder to know the way forward
bankrupt, befuddled, alone and dejected
praying for guidance, and to be protected

from actions of martyrs caught in that river
delusions last victims wanting me to deliver
salvation, atonement, redemption, on tap!
a spiritual cleansing, regardless the gap

between rightly and wrongly here stalled in mid-air
a hundred years hence not one sould will care
as their river rises and their lifes flood stage calls
amidst lifes convenience as their sanity stalls

and madness proclaims to those burdened by choice
to choose one or the other the invisible voice
screeching, and screaming with ultimate candor
to that place in your heart where the devil will pander

to the weekness of man and the strength of resolve
both guided by fortunes yet to evolve
in the guise of adornment and statues bedecked
from the past to the present agenda unchecked

(C) Terence Gelber
All rights reserved

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Bombed in Times Square

Why do they call it Times Square, do you care
And of the recent caper, bombed, almost says The New York Times Paper
And the Herald Tribune, at Herald Square, don't sit and stare
They are looking for you everywhere
the New York Times with world wide reporting
to big lay offs resorting
Always pandering, courting
the crowd that is sporting
the best of the best and the best of the worst
longing to be free of what is deemed cursed
by the crowd of the moment, the crowd of the hype
talking points convert, we all know the type
On the left or the right, bellowing fairness or freedom
how do ya beat 'em
how to stay calm
what does it take to feed the beast of the Times Square "Almost A Bomb"
43rd and 7th Ave...the building of the Bomber
BEavis and Butthead, the simpsons, a charmer
for all to see and all to watch in terror
was the van with the almost bomb an error

(c) Terence B. Gelber
All rights reserved 5/5/2010

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Gulf Oil

across the platform sea, we are slick
petroleum nation, aghast, we gasp
we can not see the basin floors
across the heart and hope to die we smile not
upon the untouched stage, the watery grave
unimpressed by what we gave
to call this place of rolling peace
a sanctuary of long-term-lease
and pump, and drill, and work and die
where fish and fowl shant swim, nor fly

Sacred alms scattered here
float to where our deepest fear
flails about in thickest sorrow
hope alone describes tomorrow
blessed by trouble's longest hour
cursed in fact atop the tower
echoing the voice of fate
perfection in this tattered state

do not leave me, hardy friend
sit a while, while I defend
the sea, the land, the air, the fire
sludge the glaze for new attire
glistens now as urchins wallow
Gods own hand is forced to swallow
all that is which howls our name
dignified despite the blame
ravaged for the common cause
none of which suffers pause

(c) Terence B. Gelber All rights reserved
May 1, 2010

Thursday, April 29, 2010


Gimme a reason, hold back the crime
Hallow the season, precious the time
I spend in your absence, dedicate in your name
pondering glory, to eradicate fame

Merry the worker outside the shop
Happy the farmer away from the crop
taunted the teacher, school books in hand
denies passing failure when he roamed the raw land
as the actor of record in the minds game of chance
clinging to snapshots of his dignified stance

Of this you will teach me??? Or remind your cold heart?!
In the days once so splendid when you were a part
Of your world and time, the critical juncture
Fighting times dagger aiming to puncture
the myth we create in a sphere well controlled
Salutations and virtues expertly extolled

I live for the moment until it is gone
carrying torches, I'm forced to go on
by the fires of venture, the pilot of faith
which carries me closer as some lie in wait
for the chapter unwritten, the verse still unturned
the bank note still crumbled, respect still unearned
Yet, in rapture life wanders, remorse is decried
Screw down the lid and mumble "I tried".

(c) Terence Gelber All rights reserved

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Yellow Cab

Yellow Cab

Checker car, of yellow tone
befriended and driven by on man alone
For municipal need you traveled quickly
With butcher, baker, strong and sickly

Beneath your duties shining light
endowed with your seats now timeless sight
you hold your memories of situations
well delivered generations
who hold for you infatuations
in awe of your life of destinations

Checker car, where have you been
what escapades were logged, then seen
share tales from the heart that within you beat
as you rolled the length of each cobbled street

And of new born babes beneath your roof
debutantes, reserved, aloof
Physicians, counselors, cops and robbers
the sly, the slick the high hob-knobbers
What clergy-man have blessed the ride
as down the great white way you'd glide
with actors, teachers, students all
of your city's life
through rise and fall

Speak to us this final day
of how you polished the Apple along the way
tell us of friend and foe alike
from down each lane
along each pike
of battles and injuries suffered therein
confide in us of your grace, and sin

In your yellow world of yellow thought
how many rides have you thrown and caught?
Checker taxi on the stand
Checker taxi ever grand
Here at last where all meters cease
Checker taxi rest in peace

(c) Terence Gelber all rights reserved

Thursday, February 25, 2010

2010 A TAxi Oddesy

It has been a while but we are back at it. There are no cheerleaders just scared bystanders and the others who are complaing, either left or right about what to do and what not to do....

SELF Reliance: Is a very noble attribute...And when one is not self reliant they are what??? Reliant. A taxi driver is as self relaint an individual as any other in our City today. In fact probaly more so than many..if not most. Why so?

We go through the process of being licensed by the City agencies and then embark on the journey dealing with the taxi industry aparatus, making our way to the finish line of our tasks each and every day.

We grind out our food and rent money and hopefully enough for the few things in life we all enjoy. An occasional three day weekend, or a nice night someplace with the family or that special someone. Many of us are here in this great country alone, but have familiy obligations in our native country and send much of what we earn to support wives, children or mothers and fathers. But, having left distant shores for the allure of America's freedom, not Americas support. We came to be free and we choose to cruise and fight not to lose.

Working in a New York City Yellow Taxi is much like owning a small neighborhood business. We spend a dozen hours per day and more ferrying people from east to west and borough to borough. We see the best in people and the worst. We are also witness to peolple having good luck and terrible luck as the view of the "street" is
unique,abrupt, constant and at times all consuming, and beautiful, precious.

All though we work for ourselves and spend much time alone we do find time to share taxi stories among ourselves. Many of the stories will start with "I picked up a fare at 14th and 1st going to the Waldorf" Stories and more stories as only a taxi driver can tell one. BUt like any other job it is simply shop talk.

And for those who would ask the question? We are all here legally. We are all licensed by New York City and our state of residence. Arizona needs you...And us.