No Fixed Abode: The Uber/Taxi Diaries, Predatorial Fish Edition

Jack Baruth
by Jack Baruth
no fixed abode the uber taxi diaries predatorial fish edition

For a guy who never goes on press trips, I’ve sure been in a lot of airports lately.

Last weekend, I was in Southern California, following up on a few weekdays spent in the Miami area. This weekend, I was in Las Vegas to hang out with my brother, do some electric karting, and one other thing that slips my mind right now but I’m sure I’ll remember later.

From Friday night to Sunday evening, I traveled by a diverse variety of conveyances, including but not restricted to: an Indian Chieftain, a Prius, a Prius V, two Altimas, a Jetta, and a white Lincoln Town Car. I met a former political prisoner who has witnessed three suicides, accidentally taunted the police, hit a wooden box on the freeway, and learned about predatorial fish.

Part One: A Brief Discussion Of The Indian Chieftain

Some readers may recall that I am a thorough and unabashed fan of the Indian Roadmaster touring motorcycle — enough so that I joined Club Eaglerider so I could ride one at least thirteen days a year. Therefore, once I made plans to be in Vegas for the weekend, I promptly pulled up the Eaglerider website so I could get my Roadmaster for the weekend. After some thought about my itinerary, however, I decided on the Chieftain.

The Roadmaster and Chieftain are fundamentally the same bike, each possessing a retro-appeal 111-cubic inch, 95-horsepower engine and throwback styling applied to a thoroughly modern aluminum frame. The difference is that the Roadmaster is a “dresser” and the Chieftain is a “bagger.” The Roadmaster has a luggage case that also serves as a backrest for the full-size, heated, leather passenger seat. The Chieftain, by contrast, has no top case and much more modest accommodations for your lady friend.

This doesn’t sound like it should make much difference, does it? Thanks to those minor changes, the Chieftain is 821 pounds compared to the Roadmaster’s 930. Just for purposes of context, my CB1100 is 541 pounds, my CB550 is 421 pounds, Danger Girl’s R3 is 381, and my son’s TTR90 weighs 138. Yet after just a few minutes on the Chieftain, even with my distaff companion riding behind me, I could see just how much more nimble and frisky the bagger is compared to the dresser, most likely because all the weight savings comes from places that are relatively high on the bike. The Chieftain likes to turn and it likes to accelerate and it doesn’t feel terribly bulky, even in the stop-and-go traffic of the Las Vegas Strip at 10 p.m. on a Saturday night.

I’d never thought much of the “bagger” idea before this weekend, considering it a prime example of a motorcycle that is good at doing exactly nothing in particular, but the truth is that this would be a very nonthreatening bike for a novice rider who doesn’t see himself ever doing 140 mph on the freeway or a wheelie down some urban thoroughfare. It goes a long way to explain why America’s best-selling motorcycle is a $24,000 bagger from Harley-Davidson and not, say, the Suzuki Hayabusa. Missing from that explanation, however, is a subsidiary explanation of why the most popular motorcycle in the country is one that appeals to fortysomethings and up, as opposed to one that targets young men. Oh, I remember why. It’s because the average 25-year-old “man” in this country would rather be pegged by his polyamorous girlfriend than be exposed to the soul-numbing danger of riding a Honda Ruckus on a sidewalk.

Part Two: Predatorial Fish

Danger Girl and I had an appointment in downtown Las Vegas early Saturday morning that absolutely required we be on time. I suggested taking an Uber; she demanded a taxi. This is a conversation we have fairly often when we travel. She’s a big believer in planning things out and having schedules. I’m a big believer in doing whatever I want to do and then dodging as many of the consequences as possible. But this wasn’t the hill on which I wanted to die, so we got a cab.

“I don’t work the Strip,” Frederick, the cab driver, declared when we got in. “I’m a professional transportation consultant.” He was bald and bullet-headed and sort of resembled the creature who tries to buy BB-8 from Rey in “The Force Awakens.”

“You dealin’ with a professional in this here cab. I don’t stand for no bullshit. Let’s hear some music.” He cranked up the radio. A song started. “Whatchoo know about this here?” he said, staring me down in the mirror.

“Is that, uh, Creep by TLC?” was my querulous reply.

“Fuckin’ right it is. Now you need to go to the Jazz Festival. It’s got Boney James.”

As we pulled onto the freeway, Frederick began planning our weekend for us, stopping his monologue every thirty-six seconds or so to express his anger with our fellow motorists. “This ugly bitch behind us. Ridin’ my ass. Whatchoo do that for? If I stop suddenly, you gonna hit my tail! And then I gotta have this cab fixed! Man, this ugly bitch.” He brake-checked the bitch in question, who appeared to be about sixty years old and generally frightened by everything outside her TrailBlazer, with casual menace.

The Prius V whined in protest as Frederick accelerated again. “Now over there, that spiral building, that brick building?” He leaned across the car and pointed out the passenger window. “That building right there, that’s where Boney James gonna… FUCKIN’ JESUS!” There was an appropriately almighty thump and a cloud of flying wood splinters around us. For about three seconds, Frederick frantically tugged randomly on the wheel in a battle of wits with the Toyota wagon’s stability control until conceding defeat. “What was that?” I looked behind us.

“That was a large wooden box.” I replied.

“It was DEBRIS!” Frederick clarified. “Motherfuckers leaving debris boxes out here!” For about three minutes we rode in silence. Then he started up again. “Now, you need to get over to that bar there. They got SHARKS! In a pool! With a waterfall. And they got predatorial fish! You need to check them out!”

“Truly,” I offered, “I’ve had enough excitement for the day. You might want to call it a day yourself.”

“I work midnight to noon,” he responded, “and I normally stop at 10:30.” Having been over-tipped by Danger Girl, he drove away while I stood on the curb and tried to figure that last comment out.

Part Three: From Morocco With Love

It was late on Saturday night when Danger Girl expressed her desire to go to the Bellagio and visit the gardens. I had to drop off the Chieftain, as we’d be leaving for the airport immediately after finishing our plans on Sunday, so I put her on the back of the bike and took her down the strip to the famous fountains. They started just as she got off the bike. I twisted the throttle to the stop, jammed through the next green light, and headed down West Harmon at redline in third gear. Six LVPD motorcycle cops were standing next to their bikes next to the Cosmopolitan as I blasted by, and they gave me the are you freaking kidding! look in unison. I waved with the left hand and hit the clutchless upshift to fourth, blatting out of the concrete-lined underpass like a Saturn V rocket leaving the pad.

After tossing my keys in the night drop at Eaglerider, I called up another UberX. This fellow was driving a very nice late-model Civic. He told me the story of how he was born in Morocco to a family that had social dignity but not much money or property. Once a year starting at the age of 15, he faithfully followed the complex process for requesting a green card in the United States. At 20, he got his shot. “It has been ten years now,” he noted, “and Morocco is nothing but a child’s dream to me. What do you remember from 10 years ago? Not the stories you tell, but your true memory?”

He seemed like a decent-looking guy with a lot to recommend him, so I asked him how his Vegas dating life was. “I have always been alone,” he responded. “Who would want me? I work in the casino at day, drive in the night. Sometimes I think about going back. The economy is good there now. There is a lot of work. But,” he offered by way of warning as I stepped out of his Civic and into the floodlit entrance of the Vdara, “I have never had a plan, and what has happened, has happened.”

Part Four: The Uber-Tour

“Before we go the airport,” Danger Girl stated, “I want some In-and-Out.”

“That’s what I’m talking about,” was my response.

“Very funny. We can take a taxi to In-And-Out and then to Eaglerider to get the stuff you forgot when you dropped off the bike, then to the airport.”

“That will cost us a hundred bucks,” I moaned. “If ever this was a situation that called for Uber … ”


Our driver pulled up in a worn MkV Jetta. I explained that we were about to undertake a complex itinerary. He was very friendly and decent about it. As he drove down Polaris, I figured out how to replace destinations in the Uber app so he would get paid for everything, and I laid some extra cash on his passenger seat. We arrived at In-And-Out and Danger Girl jumped out to order the food.

“I was in the Philippines,” he said, “I was demonstrating for Marcos. You know who Marcos was?” I nodded. “Things got bad. They put me in prison. They beat me. There is so much corruption. I got out and my wife was gone. I followed her to Hawaii. But … ” There was a long silence, interrupted only by the bleating of horns in the overstuffed drive-through line. “I was still beaten inside, though my body had recovered. We divorced. I came here to work in security.”

There’s no wait West of the Mississippi like the wait for In-And-Out. We swapped tales of various jails and workhouses, talked about the trouble we’d escaped and the trouble that had found us. “Now,” he continued, “I work security at the casino. We can’t touch the people who cause the problem. I fight them with my mind, you know? I talk to them, I work it out. I don’t hurt them.” Although he was six inches shorter than I was, he had the same dead eyes I remembered from certain explosively violent acquaintances from my twenties. “But there is the biggest problem … that they jump.”

“They jump?” I repeated, like an idiot.

“Yes. They get on the roof, and the alarm goes, and I get there, and they jump. I watch three people die since I start this job. Why, I don’t know. Something in their heads. Me, I would never jump. There is always a chance. Always something to live for. Five years ago, they murder my brother back home. He was police. His deputies, they kill him over jealousy. Money that would mean nothing here. For a while I did not want to continue. But I would not jump.

“After all,” he said as Danger Girl tumbled back into the Jetta with the bag full of burgers and I put the airport terminal into Uber, causing his phone to bong in recognition, “this is such a wonderful place here, how could you be sad in Las Vegas?”

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2 of 140 comments
  • Frank Mansfield Frank Mansfield on Apr 20, 2016

    Best wishes to the new Mrs.

  • -Nate -Nate on Apr 20, 2016

    What a great post ! . I too enjoy meeting the locals wherever I go . Then the comments are fun to read here , so many different ways of living life . SWMBO loves Vegas so I have to schlepp her and sometimes a carload of Teenaged Foster boys out and back , as mentioned Vegas is so much more than the strip and miserable people , you have to want to see that though . FWIW , I looked at the Indian Motocycles website a bit and they don't seem to have the stripped model I'd want and I no longer like heavy Motos although the skirted fenders and two tone paint jobs look mighty sharp to me (hey,I'm old) . -Nate

  • FreedMike Needs a few more HP to really spice things up...
  • Oberkanone Absolute insanity on our public roads! A danger to society. Bravo Dodge!
  • Lou_BC Cool car but 35k USD?
  • Lou_BC I've owned and ridden many litre class sport bikes. Those bikes render anything on 4 wheels boring. This is cool but even if I had the cash, it would be a hard pass.
  • Jeff S Some of us don't care either way we are not into this type of car. Most of these will be stored in garages waiting for their value to go up. As someone above noted this is an old body style which is retro 70s Challenger which after researching it came out in the 2008 MY which means a long run for a model that is in its 16th year. I have always liked these but if I bought one I would not spend this kind of money on one probably get the V-6 version and use it as a family car but then I am not into drag racing or muscle cars. For the type of car it is it has a decent rear seat and not too bad of a trunk. Most of us are not going to spend 100k for any vehicle at least currently so its not something most of us will buy and stick in a garage waiting for its value to increase. I am glad that these editions came out for those who can afford them and it keeps a little more color into what has become a very dull vehicle market but then with age I pick the dull appliance like reliable vehicle because that's what I need. Impressive car but not for me.