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Cab #6052

Date Taken: 5/19/07
From: Wicker Park
To: Roscoe Village

Reviewer's Note: Many years back - when Glam-To-Go was still the scary Romanian butcher, a cut and blow-dry at Big Hair cost $5, and your reviewer was just another bright-eyed Rust Belt refugee looking to make her name in the city - Ray St. Ray, the Singing Cab Driver, was a fixture in Roscoe Village. You'd peek out the window of Mulligan's and there he'd be at the Speedway, cleaning the back dash of his spiffed-up rockabilly cab. Hailing him during non-peak hours was almost automatic. After a year or so in the neighborhood, this reviewer had heard his entire musical catalog and knew his polished introductory shtick almost word-for-word. Then, like Cardenas Grocery and Irv's Adjuvant General Dry Cleaners, he was gone. No more buffed vinyl, no more snappy ties, no more songs about love or sex or chocolate or other. Ahead lay a long succession of non-musical drivers and taxi cab emptiness. Right up until the night of May 19.

So here's the thing; you already know this is a five-arm review. In fact, you can multiply that by a factor of Vishnu. There is no objectivity when it comes to Ray St. Ray. He is, in so many ways, the unwitting father of the Taxi Cab Journal, my first truly memorable Chicago cab experience. As you read what follows, picture not just an ordinary customer service interaction, but rather the chance meeting of two world-weary former lovers after a lifetime apart. Only, you know, without the awkward sexual tension and emotional baggage. Welcome back, Ray. This girl missed you.

The Cab: It doesn't have the sass that it used to, but it's clean as a whistle and it smells like home. OK, fine, not home, but somewhere outside home where you spend a lot of time and don't really care if anyone catches you scratching yourself or whatever. It's Cheers on wheels.

The Driver: He's more laid back now, and more worn around the edges. The trappings of musician are gone now and it takes a block or so to place that silky voice. There's the sense that Singing Cabbie is less of an act and more of an identity. This is Ray; deal with it. The stories are more personal and the banter more interactive. He's playing off his audience, not afraid to be heckled. A fellow passenger carefully steered the song choice to an old favorite - Sugar Slut. Do you remember Ray? This is when we rode to Navy Pier with my blushing 19-year-old future sister-in-law. Good times. He's reworked the material to suit the age; less jangly, more raw. He even threw in a glory note on the bridge before that famous closing line; "chocolate gets her hot!" Careful, Ray. That's my mother you're singing to.

The Driving: Were we driving somewhere? Were the wheels touching the ground, or were we just floating along? Oh, Ray. Sing me one about social significance. We could circle the block all night.

Ahem. Yes. Good driving. Obeyed all traffic laws. Obliged front-seat passenger to buckle up. Knew exactly where he was going.

Overall rating: 5 extended arms. Damn it, Ray, it's been too long.

- Natasha Julius

*

There are more than 6,000 cabs in the city of Chicago. We intend to review every one of them.



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Posted on May 24, 2007


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PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - The Sears Motor Buggy.


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