Friday, February 15, 2013

Tales from a Los Angeles Cab

I made a new friend today. His name is Manohar Lal. He is from Punjab, India and he has lived in the United States for 10 years.

He drives a cab.

Mainly, the cab that took me from the my hotel in Anaheim to Los Angeles International Airport.

I met Mano (his shortened name) a few nights ago when one of my associates drove us to a seafood house a few miles from our hotel. We enjoyed a good time pairing raw crustaceans, fresh fish and California craft beers. We all did. This includes the guy who drove us there.

Being the responsible adults we have become, rather than drive back, we hired a cab. I hopped in the front seat alongside the cab driver. The driver was Mano.

We exchanged quick hellos and Mano, being an adept businessman as well as a good cab driver, quickly asked, "While you guys are in town, do you need a ride anywhere else?" Two of us chimed up and said we need rides to the local airports. My associate needed a lift to Orange County's John Wayne airport, and me, a ride to LAX a couple of days later.

Mano and I exchanged phone numbers. A day prior to pick-up, he gave me a call to let me know I was still on his schedule and this morning, 15 minutes early, he called me and let me know he was at the Registration area and ready.

Mano loaded my bags in the cab and told me to jump in the front seat. Very un-Los Angeles like we flew up Highway 5 with little traffic. The total ride to LAX was only 30 minutes and the whole time we chatted about his life in India and his new life in America. Anytime you get to hear these types of stories, they're always fascinating and Mano's was no different.

But one part of his story in America really touched me.

Mano provides rides for the homeless and those residing in homeless shelters. He doesn't do it for free -- the shelters give him a voucher for payment, but as you can imagine, the homeless aren't exactly big tippers, so there is definitely altruistic virtue in Mano's efforts.

One day he picked up a woman from the shelter. She said neither her or her husband were employed and their children were suffering and crying from hunger. They were penniless. Mano explained to her that God had given them strong bodies and good health and no matter how difficult, they must find a way to provide for their children. "No child can be permitted to suffer," he told her and as she exited the cab, Mano gave her some money to help get her children a meal.

Considering Mano earlier told me that he came to the US with no money in his pocket and that he had lost anything he gained in a failed restaurant venture, that he was able to donate his money was very moving.

I can't tell the story with written words as well as Mano told it to me, but after his story, I was left verklempt. Mano is such a decent, caring person that I feel a little guilty. Not that I'm not caring -- I am. I just don't have many examples to share that are like Mano's.

I've got Mano's mobile number. If you find yourself headed to Los Angeles and need a ride, contact me. I'll get you in touch with the best cabbie I've ever met.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Milwaukee Superheroes?

In the past week or so, we have seen some extreme weather in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. One day we enjoyed an unseasonably warm 60 degrees and three days later it was -4.  And in between, a wide variety of precipitation and wind.

It was a meteorologist's dream week. Unless, of course, the meteorologist doesn't like driving in dangerous "wintry mix" conditions that they so often describe.

In the midst of all  this crazy weather, I've repeatedly spied a couple who appear completely undeterred in letting Old Man Winter hold them down. They amaze me. They ride their bikes (I'm assuming to work) in all kinds of weather.

Let me repeat: All. Kinds. Of. Weather.

This dynamic duo shares the same route that I take to work daily -- from somewhere in Wauwatosa or Western  Milwaukee down 44th St. to Selig Drive and then along the Hank Aaron Trail that parallels Canal Street.

To the right are a couple of shots I snapped of the pair as I saw them last week.The top picture was snapped while they rode east along the Hank Aaron Trail. The temperature? Minus 2 degrees Fahrenheit.

The bottom picture captures them riding on 44th St. in slippery slush and snow. It was also very windy at the time.

I have been able to take these pictures from my car safely, with no other traffic nearby and in broad daylight. but I've seen these two riding in nighttime snowstorms or rain where taking a camera phone picture would not only have been not safe, but generally not even possible.

A few years ago, Milwaukee's shirtless, make-believe hero "The Milverine" got a lot of press and social media attention, however, since then, I've noticed a good number of other Milwaukeeans could receive the same honor. They're not heroes necessarily, but they're folks steadfastly living life according to a firm set of closely held principles and beliefs. These two bikers certainly fit into that category. I admire their stick-to-itiveness and heartiness. In fact, so much so that if I ever learn who they are, I'll buy them a nice, cold beer.

Or at the very least, a rich cup of hot chocolate. I bet hot chocolate is more their style. ;)