Friday, October 12, 2007

Story Jar - Movin' with Joe

Movin’ with Joe
His name was Joe Mover. “Mr. Joe Mover,” Melvin said in introduction and I wondered about the truth of it. Joe Mover, taxi driver in New Orleans. What were the chances?
Joe’s cab was a Lincoln Town Car, not new but don’t let on about that. It was white with gold lettering: Taxi - New Orleans - Reliable driver.
Melvin, doorman at the Monteleone, promised to find a taxi for us at two, in spite of the crane and trucks that had turned Royal Street into a construction zone. Sure enough, just before two, Joe was at the corner, beyond the crane and its human and mechanical trappings.
“That’s Joe Mover. He’s a good man, Joe Mover. He’ll take care of you.” Melvin seemed proud to know him, proud to have a part in the transaction.
At the corner, Joe opened the trunk and smiled. Polished shoes, pressed pants, satin jacket, smartly brimmed hat – he was the perfect image of a taxi driver. Better because he was real.
His trunk was lined in custom-cut carpeting with a small whiskbroom in a corner. Across the back, in a customized pouch, there were bottles of cleaners, polishes, rags - an army of small soldiers for Joe’s battle with disorder. Inside the cab, it was clear that victory was complete. The royal blue leather seats were as smooth and shiny as polished marble. There was no lint on the carpet, no dust on the dash, no smudge on the glass.
Joe started our trip with a short cut, turning down an alley, cutting through the parking garage of a smaller hotel, popping out the other side to greet another cabbie. This young upstart in his new minivan goosed the throttle, nudging Joe aside, never a glance at the town car or driver.
Joe scolded, “See that? See that? Wouldn’t even give another cabbie his due. If was the other way, he’d be cussin’. What goes around comes around. Comes around. You got that right. Comes around.”
Joe’s voice was a little raspy but strong. Seventy-five years of saying what he saw and knew colored his tones. He used words not for telling but for showing. He repeated words, enjoying the cadence. His conversations were soothing songs in frantic city traffic.
“You know what Naw’Leans is famous for? Do you know? Good food and a good time. You got to have good food to have a good time and Naw’Leans has plenty of good food. You got that right.”
Driving past the Louisiana Superdome, Joe sang out facts and fantasy. He watched it being built as he inched through traffic jams for four years of construction. It was fascinating, he said, to see the sections of the roof, “lowered by helicopters and fit right in place just like acoustic tiles in a ceiling. Folks rubber necking to see it sometimes stopping and putting their whole necks into it. Fascinating.”
Joe focuses on people, though, so his real fascination was with the audiences there. “You know the biggest crowd it had? Go ahead and guess. I ain’t gonna hold you to it. It was the Pope. The Pope had ‘em standing in the field on top of each other. You know the biggest crowd for a concert? Come on and guess. I’ll give you a hint. It was 1981. It was a rock group. It was the biggest crowd ever for a concert. You guess this one. Can’t you guess?”
“The Rolling Stones?”
“Is that your final answer? The Stones? Final answer? Well, that’s right. You got that right. Now Elvis, he would’ve beat that, if he didn’t die. Beatles would’ve beat that too but they broke up. It was the Rolling Stones and they had 87,000 people there. The Rolling Stones.”
Joe could draw a pretty good crowd himself if they gave him a chance but he seems pleased with movin’ through the city, driving folks and singing about Naw’Leans.
Go to to see The Story Jar with photos.

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