Hello Freedom Rockers,

I am slightly concerned about what's going to happen to our fair city since our leaders, just like them tea drinkers we gained independence from, are proving to be crackpots. So let's celebrate the remaining freedom that we have by drinking cheaply with unbridled passion.

Now NYC seems an unlikely place to have a store like Think Big! - I don't know about you, but I can't find a place to keep my roller skates or gorilla costume, let alone a gargantuan pencil or humongous single hi-top sneaker. Think Big! started as a Soho store in 1979 and only sold six different colors of giant Crayola Crayons. It expanded and became a big hit. The business changed hands in 1990, but not before many celebrities got their paws on some of the goods. Danny Devito happens to have a collection of Think Big! products. Hmmmm. I think one of the owners was the mother of a LaGuardia classmate (Jesse Prinz, 1988 - one of the editors of the school newspaper). If anyone can track him down, tell him he can drink for free and get table dances from all Staten Islanders.

Speaking of table dancers, on June 30, 1942, the last "legal" burlesque house on 42nd Street, the Orpheum Dance Palace, was closed by Mayor LaGaurdia. And it turns out that the women who worked there, doing all sorts of table dance-y business, were called "taxi dancers." (source: NY1)

Ok, we are being threatened with a 23% taxi fare increase. That would mean the initial fare would go up to $2.50, and surcharges would be added on weekends and holidays. And the fare from Kennedy Airport to Manhattan would be raised to $49 from $35. That¹s whack. This means you shouldn¹t fly - you should just spend all of your vacations right here, in sunny NYC. Or take that crazy bus to Boston from Chinatown for $10.

So you wanna know about taxi cab history? Ok. Ok.

The first taxis were Hansom horse-driven cabs - not "Handsome" (though I do find horses to be quite attractive) and also not "Hanson" (pre-pubescent and home-schooled). The Hansom cab was designed by Joseph Hansom in 1834. It differed from other horse-drawn cabs because the driver sat behind, instead of in front of, the passenger. Motorized taxis began appearing in 1896. They were electric and looked a lot like horse-drawn Hansoms. Gasoline-powered taxis came to NYC in 1907 - 65 were imported from France.

In 1922, the Checker Cab Company began manufacturing taxicabs. By 1923, there were a total of 15,000 taxis in operation. With the tremendous increase, there was an oversupply after the Depression. The 1937 Haas Act capped the industry at the number of active licenses - about 13,600. After World War II, the cap on licenses became an impediment to the taxi industry's ability to meet the city's growing transportation needs. To fill the gap, neighborhood car services, or liveries, began to operate in lower-income neighborhoods. As taxicabs increasingly focused their operations on Manhattan, car services grew rapidly in the other boroughs.

From 1956-1982, Checker cabs were manufactured specifically to meet the 1929 New York ordinance stating that all taxis must be able to carry five passengers behind the partition. (Do you remember when you used to pay the fare using that little moveable slot for the money? And remember when the partition used to be completely closed, and the driver would have to slide it open in order to talk to you? And remember the days before Elmo and Eartha Kitt when we had peace of mind during your drunken cab ride home? And remember when drivers knew where they were going?) Several thousand Checker cabs drove the streets of New York City in the 1960's, but by 1982, when production ceased, the number of Checker cabs had dwindled to less than 500.

The number livery cars increased from 2,500 in 1964 to 13,700 in 1973 to 21,300 in 1983 to over 40,000 today. In 1996 and 1997, 50 years after the Haas Act, the first new taxi licenses were issued, by auction to the highest bidders. There are currently about 12,000 licensed taxis and 40,000 licensed taxi drivers in NYC. In 1999, Sotheby¹s auctioned off New York¹s last in-service Checker Cab for $134,500. The mileage on that baby was 994,050.

All this transportation talk is getting me woozy. Put on your American flags, or your Anti-British paraphernalia and head on down to Angel, where the drinks are cheap and the talk is cheaper. NYC's own Rheingold bottles at $3 a pop; Ghetto Blaster, Staten Island Fairy and Roosevelt Island Tramp - $3 shots, $4 drinks. And of course, DJ S.L.Y. with the finest tuneage in town.

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