In Taxi-Drivers-Who-Did-Not-Get-Stabbed-This-Week News: The Customer-Art Collector Cabbie Keeps Collecting

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As we learn again and again, cab drivers don't have it easy. Especially when people are stabbing them for being, well, them. That said, while some find less constructive ways to cope with the challenges and monotony of the gig, others get slightly more creative. With their passengers.

New York Magazine sports writer and founding Deadspin blogger Will Leitch recently noted on his blog that after being picked up by a cabbie at LaGuardia Airport, his cab driver...

...handed me a clipboard and a pen and said, "Will you draw me a painting?" I am quite obviously not a skilled artist, but I obliged.

Leitch noted that the New York Post profiled the cabbie, Fabio Peralta, last year. Peralta told them then of how he handles his passengers:

"I tell them to create art, any kind of art," he said."I don't care what it is. Whatever comes to their brain, I say." Passengers often hesitate at first. But, incredibly, most put down the BlackBerry, pick up the paper and get to work as Peralta zips through streets.

Peralta -- who immigrated from the Dominican Republic to Queens when he was 18 -- is a hack with over 40 years of driving experience, but only recently started the art project. Leitch noted:

He said he was inspired by then-Presidential candidate Barack Obama, who made him feel like "I could be and do whatever I wanted." He has collected 35,000 "paintings" -- he refers to them exclusively as "paintings" -- and he sells a book of his favorites to riders for "whatever you think it's worth." I gave him 10 bucks, though it was clearly worth a lot more. I hope you are lucky enough to hail him down someday.

There's the old "When life gives you lemons"-lemonade idiom we're all familiar with, but really, where else but this city would someone transpose it to "When life gives you customers, make artists"? It goes without saying, but cab drivers are an integral part of the city's important characters who -- quite literally -- keep it moving. Maybe it's naive, but there's always the chance that if we make life better for them, they'll return the favor. A good start, of course, would be to stop stabbing them.

[fkamer@villagevoice.com]



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