The odds were stacked against me. The car in front of me was a S.U.V. It had New Jersey plates. The driver was a woman. She was talking on her cell phone. She was Asian. And we were in Chinatown.
I could tell you the accident was entirely her fault, and I could probably get away with it. But I admit I wasn’t driving defensively. Still, legally I think it was her fault.
I was on my way to the Manhattan Bridge with a fare to Park Slope, and this woman in front of me clearly had no clue where she was going. She’d already made me miss a light by driving excruciatingly slowly down Ludlow Street where there is no room to pass. So when she slowed to a near stop underneath a green light in the intersection of Division Street and Pike, I saw room on her right side and made a move like a stock car driver who’d been drafting for 10 laps.
Even though I’d been behind her for blocks, she apparently had not the slightest clue as to my existence. At the moment I was swinging out from behind her, she decided to accelerate and turn hard to the right. I slammed on my breaks and turned with her as sharply as I could, but the collision was inevitable. Thankfully, since the speeds were just breaking the double digit barrier thanks to her ineptitude, no one was hurt and the damage was minimal (inperceptable on her behemoth).
As she leapt down to the street, cell phone in hand, she actually screamed, “Where did you come from” proving me right that she never even knew I existed. I was ready to reconcile and move on with my life, but my fare, a saucy native Brooklynite, was angrier than I was and beat me to the scene. By the time I emerged from the cab (I was held up because I had to button the top button on my pants and zip up; SHUT UP, I’D BEEN DRIVING FOR 8 HOURS) my fare and the Asian woman were in a face to face screaming match. There was nothing I could do. She was on the phone with the police before I had the chance to say a word.
The NYPD, however, did not find the matter as pressing as she did. We pulled our cars to the side of the road and waited well more than half an hour for a cruiser to arrive. My saucy fare could have easily taken the opportunity to hail another cab and head home. But he’d had words with this woman, and he was emotionally invested now, so he chose to linger.
As money hemoraged from my pockets while I stood there, the wait actually turned out to be the only good thing to come out of the whole sordid debacle. Standing next to my wounded yellow cab, now on the corner of Canal where Pike becomes Allen, I caught sight of a young Chinese boy holding a large sheet of beef jerky in a piece of wax paper.
Beef jerky holds a place of honor along with pickles, crabs, cannoli, fried chicken, sushi, and soft serve in my pantheon of foods that make my life worth living. I am now, and have always been, a card-carrying member of the Jerky Of The Month Club. On my cross-country roadtrip last year, I had to completely restructure my budget, because I hadn’t considered how incredible the jerky would be out west. I found myself stopping as many as 5 times in a day at roadside jerky stands, each of which seemed to top the last.
(The edge of the Grand Canyon)
But here in New York, I’d not found so much as a sliver of jerky that could stand up to anything I ate out west. I heard there is a man in College Point, Queens who converted his home into a jerky factor, but there is no trace of him on the internet or the Bobst card catalog, and I’ve begun to think I am chasing a ghost. He might be the Keyser Soze of cased and cured meats.
Convenience stores across most of the nation sport mammoth jerky sections. But most New York deli’s have jerky sections that look something like this:
(Meatless jerky, like tits on a bull)
So happening upon this Chinese boy with a sheet of delicious-looking beef jerky was like a stumbling upon Atlantis for me. Just a hundred feet from where I stood waiting for the NYPD, a short walk from where I’d spent years as a pickle man at Guss, on a block I’d traversed a million times before, was Ling Kee Beef Jerky.
It is not the dried out jerky of American west, but it makes my mouth water just the same. The jerky is made fresh behind the counter and barbequed before it goes into the case to be sold for about $1 a sheet. All sorts of options like pork, chicken, and spicy make Ling Kee a storefront I’ll be visiting often when I’m cruising that section of Chinatown.
As for the NYPD, they had a curious reaction once they ambled onto the scene. As I munched on a sheet of warm pork jerky, I asked if they would file a police report saying it was her fault (I had a saucy witness) so that I wouldn’t have to pay for my cracked bumper and busted headlight. The problem was that, even though the woman had called them in the first place, once she calmed down and realized that there was no real damage to her S.U.V. (not to mention that she might be the one at fault), she figured she’d be better off not filing a police report at all.
So now she was demanding that the police leave, and I was demanding that they stay to write a report in my favor. One cop pulled me aside and asked me, rhetorically, “How long you been driving a cab? You should know by now, if we file a report, it’s gonna say it was your fault. Even if it wasn’t. Get it.” I wish he’d just said, “Forget it Dave, it’s Chinatown.”
Interestingly, class had trumped race, and the NYPD felt compelled to protect the property of a rich suburbanite over the rights of a lowly yellow cabbie. She was the recent immigrant, and I am the white male. But the NYPD, not known for being particularly friendly to recent immigrants, was firmly on her side, because she had the nice Mercedes S.U.V., and I had the dirty yellow Crown Vic. Thankfully, I also had a new jerky joint.
Ling Kee Beef Jerky, Canal Street and Ludlow Street, Chinatown, Manhattan
Visit www.famousfatdave.com for a chuckle or to book an eating tour
(Jerky Country U.S.A.)