Tag Archives: UAB

Mama Calling

It was about 11:00 pm. The call was to the ER at the main hospital. I could see a young couple standing out by the street, not even in the pick up area of the ER. The young man, who looked to be about 20, was flagging vigorously. He jumped in and said “just go!” Before I could ask him where to, the young lady started waving her arms and screaming loudly, “STOP! don’t take him nowhere!” She identified herself as his wife when I lowered the window. “This man is mentally ill! don’t take him nowhere!” The guy was in the backseat yelling “just go!” Alabama court 008

I was in a quandary. I didn’t know what to do, I had never faced this situation. The handbook didn’t talk about it and I had never heard  any other drivers discussing what they had done in similar situations. The wife persisted. She kept saying “he is mentally ill, don’t take him nowhere!” She then started telling me that he didn’t have any money, thinking that would convince me to put him out of the car. “He ain’t got no money. I’m telling you he AIN’T got no money!” Then with a shrill, high pitched voice and embarrassingly stereotypical side to side head motion, she emphasized, “HE. AIN’T. GOT. NO. MONEY!!” The young man reached in his pocket and pulled out $30 and said “I got money.” By this time the wife had the young man’s mother on the phone. She put the little, outdated flip cellphone on speaker mode  and said “listen to his mama!” I could hear the older woman’s voice saying, “don’t let him get in no cab! Please LAWD, don’t let him get in no cab!”

I finally told the wife that if she didn’t want him going anywhere that she needed to get him out of the car. “HELL NAW” she snapped. YOU gonna have to put him out!” When she said this I had the best idea that I had had throughout the situation. I said I’ll just drive up to the door of the ER and ask the security guard, who is a  policeman, what to do. The wife didn’t like this idea but I drove on up there. The cop came out raising hell because I had driven in the wrong way. He was pointing his finger and shouting in an authoritarian way, “YOU CAIN’T COME IN THIS WAY, YOU GONNA HAVE TO BACK OUT!” I finally convinced him that I understood the error of my ways and that I would go out the correct way. The wife had shown up at the car by the time I started telling him of my dilemma.

When he saw who was involved he said “they ain’t coming back in here.” He spoke directly to the wife and said ” if either one of y’all come back through that door you’re going to jail for trespassing.” Apparently the couple had made a huge scene inside the ER and ended up getting kicked out. With this news I put the car in reverse and backed out the way I had gone in. The wife was hollering, screaming, cussing and shaking her fists in the air. When I started going forward I could see her raising all kinds of hell in my rearview mirror. I asked my passenger where he wanted to go. He immediately said, “Salvation Army”. I dropped him off at the main door and he paid the fare. How much did I get for all this you ask? $5.75.

copyright 2013, R.W. Walker

*All views and opinions are strictly those of R.W. Walker. These views do not reflect the views of any cab company.

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Birming-Images

For those of you who aren’t very familiar with our city, I thought that you may enjoy a bit of a photographic tour. These images are the landmarks that make us who we are; they’re the things that make us unique.

The Vulcan Statue is generally considered to be the symbol of Birmingham. It was sculpted, begining in 1903 by Italian sculptor Giuseppe Moretti. He was Birmingham’s entry for the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. Vulcan was the god of the fire and the forge in Roman mythology. Since 1936 Vulcan has stood watch over the city from his perch atop Red Mountain. Symbolizing the city’s founding on the iron and steel industry, he is made from iron ore mined from the very mountain on which he stands. At 56 feet, he is the tallest cast iron statue on Earth and is the 7th tallest free standing statue in the United States.

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But Vulcan isn’t the only cool statue in Birmingham. “Miss Electra” has adorned the top of the Birming-images 005Alabama Power building since 1926. Unlike Vulcan who is partially clothed, Miss Electra is totally nude and has lighting bolts for hair and bolts in her hands.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A replica of Leonardo Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man greets visitors to the Medical Forum in downtown Birmingham.

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Once known as the “Football Capital of the South” Birmingham’s Legion Field has been home to some legendary games involving the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Auburn Tigers. For many years it was the largest stadium in the state and the Tide and the Tigers usually chose to play their biggest, most important home games here. Up until the last few years of the 20th century, the Tide and Tigers always played each other here. That’s why the label “Iron Bowl” became associated with the huge rivalry. When the two teams began updating the stadiums on their own campuses, Legion Field became less important. Now those two stadiums, especially Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, dwarf the “Gray Lady” , a name often used to refer to Legion Field. The stadium is still in use but not for the big glory games of the state’s largest two universities. It’s now the home field of the UAB Blazers and is the home of the “Magic City Classic” another big rivalry game between Alabama’s two largest historically black universities, Alabama State and Alabama A&M. The BBVA Compass Bowl is also played here every January.          Birming-images 023                                                                                 Birming-images 019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This year, 2013 is the fiftieth anniversary of a dark chapter in the history of Birmingham. A dark chapter in terms of the shameful way that city officials and many white citizens reacted to the struggles for civil rights by African Americans. On the other hand it could be viewed as a bright chapter in the city’s history because it was the catalyst of change. It was the begining of the dismantling of the segregation and discrimination that unfortunately; this city and state had become infamous for in the eyes of the world. The area along 16th street north between 4th and 6th avenue north is sacred ground. The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute now stands across 16th street from Kelly Ingram Park, an area where Bull Connor once used water cannons and vicious police dogs to subdue civil rights demonstrators. It stands across 6th avenue north from 16th Street Baptist Church, the scene of a Ku Klux Klan bombing that took the lives of 4 little girls in 1963. Birming-images 048

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As I’ve mentioned before, healthcare is the economic crown jewel of modern Birmingham. Banking is a close second. Regions Bank and BBVA Compass Bank are both headquarted here. Wells Fargo has a large presence. Birming-images 008

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One of the most interesting buildings in Birmingham IMO is Southside’s Quinlan Castle. Built in 1927 to resemble a medieval English castle, the building has served mainly as residential apartments throughout it’s history. It’s now owned by the Southern Research Institute and is not being used for apartments. According to the Bhamwiki article on the castle, in 1940 Quinlan Castle was rumored to have been the Birmingham headquarters of the Communist Party. It was in fact the home of party secretary Robert Hall. Hall’s apartment was raided by the Birmingham police but they didn’t find much of interest. Just a letter from someone at the Tennessee Valley Authority suggesting communist activities in that agency. Birming-images 043

 

 

 

 

 

 

Familiar to many visitors to the city is sculptor Frank Flemming’s “Storyteller” fountain at 5 points south. It sits in front of Highlands United Methodist Church and is at the center of the 5 points entertainment district. Birming-images 032

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tommy Lovoy, a 5 Points South icon gladly poses in front of the fountain.

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The newest building on Birmingham’s skyline is the gleaming new Benjamin Russell wing of Children’s Hospital. marcsteel 008

 

 

 

 

 

 

U.S. Steel’s Fairfield Works is still operating just west of downtown. uss 007

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Ensley Works of USS ceased operations in the early 1970’s CIMG6868

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the location of the famous Tuxedo Junction “The place where the people go to dance the night away”. The song was co-written by Birmingham composer Erskine Hawkins. It was originally written as an instrumental. The nightclub that was the subject of the song was located in this building on 20th street Ensley. The building briefly served as a punk rock venue in the 1980’s. 3312010 002

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sloss Furnaces operated from the late 19th century until 1971 near downtown Birmingham.  The old mill has been preserved and is now a National Historic Landmark. It serves as a museum as well as a music venue, a venue for weddings, beer festivals and even a haunted house in the weeks leading up to Halloween. It’s said that the ghosts of many men who died on the job here over the decades still haunt the old mill.

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Built in 1929 this building was the home of the Thomas Jefferson Hotel. At that time it was one of the finest hotels in the south. In the 1970’s it became known as the Cabana Hotel and finally Leer Tower before it was closed in 1983. The object on the right side of the roof of the building is a zeppelin mooring mast, the last of it’s kind in the world. In 2012 a non-profit corporation was formed to raise money to buy the property and restore it back to it’s former glory. Jeff hotel 002

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A mural with a message painted on the wall of an abandoned grocery store in west Birmingham.

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Sources: Wikipedia and Bhamwiki.

All photographs and text copyright 2013 R.W. Walker

Mazel Tov

It hadn’t been a good day cabbing. I was having trouble with my car. A mechanic at the shop; who was fired a few days later, had refused to even look at the transmission problems that I described to him on this Saturday. It was UAB’s graduation day and I had seen many scolars walking around campus in their UAB green robes and mortar boards.

I had picked up a few customers but the bulk of the students had already skipped town for the beach. My best customer had been a guy who lived in Chattanooga that had graduated from UAB by taking online courses.I had taken him and his girlfriend to a graduation party on a side street off Overton Road in Mountain Brook. My transmission problem continued to get worse. Every time I started off after stopping for a traffic light the car would feel like it was falling apart the first time the automatic transmission shifted gears. With some difficulty I was able to drive it back to the shop. Everyone was gone home by now. There’s a lock box with a key to a spare cab to use in times such as this.

The spare cab wasn’t a great one but it wasn’t the worst one I had ever driven either. Business was still very slow after I switched cars. After sitting and waiting for probably over an hour without a dispatch, I got a call from the folks I had dropped off at the party for a ride back to their hotel. Thank goodness! I was glad to get anything at this point and this would be about a $20 trip, nothing to sneeze at when business is this slow.

It had been raining off and on all day, it was now long after sundown and the rain was pouring. It was raining harder than it had rained all day. Overton Road must be the curviest road in the entire metro area. Some curves seem like you’re about to drive in a circle, then it will turn the other way and curve around severly. There are few if any street lights along this stretch of the road, on this night it was black dark. While driving around one of the sharp curves, I heard a sound that no one ever wants to hear, especially on a night like this. The sound of a flat tire is unmistakable. At first I was trying to run other possibilities through my mind, but I soon had to accept the reality that I would soon be out on the side of the road on this God-awful night changing a tire.

It took a while to reach a stopping point. There were no side streets for what seemed like a mile. I was creeping at about 5 miles per hour while feeling the pressure of a line of cars bearing down behind me. Finally I came to a side street. The stress I was feeling eased considerably when the cars behind me were able to get around. I sat there for a few minutes relieved that I had stopped but dreading the soaking I was about to recieve. I finally got out, took the minimalist jack out of the trunk and began to get it secured behind the front passenger tire. I wasn’t wrong about getting soaked, after about two minutes I was soaked to the bone in the pouring rain. Just then a pair of headlights pulled up and stopped behind me.

The two men that jumped out of the car were dressed a little like Mormons. They were wearing clean, neatly pressed white shirts, black dress pants and black leather shoes. I didn’t think for one second that they were Mormons. They were both sporting ZZ Top like beards down to their chests, one black, one red. The first one asked “do you need help?” He didn’t wait for me to answer, he squat down and took over the job. The other one joined in and they were both fully involved with the job of changing my tire within a minute. When I looked down, I could see that the crowns of both their heads were covered with blue yarmulkes. The Birmingham metro area has a fairly large Jewish templepopulation for a city in the deep south. There are two large synagogues in Southside on Highland Avenue, a large Jewish Community Center on Montclair Road and two synagogues right here on Overton Road.

It was still raining hard and the job they were doing was filthy. They didn’t seem to mind at all. In the meantime a Mountain Brook policeman had stopped to see what was going on. He stood in his raincoat and held the flashlight as these two bearded young men continued to do the job. I took this opportunity to call my customer to tell them what had happened and to make sure that they hadn’t caught another ride. They were still at the party and still needing a ride. Great! I thought. ‘I’ll be able to finish what I came here to do”.

When the job was over the two young men introduced themselves. One was the son of the rabbi at a nearby Chabad Temple. The other was a rabbi himself, visiting from another city. I later learned that Chabad is a branch of Hasidic Judaism and they are usually considered orthodox Jews. I shook their grimy hands with my grimy hand and offered them a contribution to their temple. They refused and said “this is just what we do”. I drove my customers back to their hotel and then decided to call it a day. It had been rough and rocky but ended with a good feeling about humanity.

copyright 2013 R.W. Walker

*All views and opinions are strictly those of R.W. Walker. These views do not reflect the views of any cab company.