5000 Rides

I hit 4000 rides in less than two years, and the climb to 5000 has taken almost that long. My goal was to hit 5000 rides before I turned 70, last night I reached it with six weeks to spare. LYFT has promised me a gift when I hit it and as I can be easily motivated, I pressed on. At 1000 rides I got my favorite jacket of all times. It fits perfectly, is sleek black, mid weight, with lots of zipper pockets and a 1K LYFT logo. At 2500 I got a black, pink trimmed polo shirt, not quite as cool as my jacket but thanks anyway. So yesterday I had 12 rides to get to 5000 and the countdown began.

It was about 6pm when Luis “pinged” me. It was fitting that the ride was in the Baker neighborhood just west of my old congregation South Broadway. This is where I began this Lyft career 3 1/2 years ago. Luis was standing on the corner in shorts, ball cap and flip flops, the warm weather uniform for Millennials. He was looking at his phone intently which is code for “ride share pick up”. He hopped in the front seat. I smiled and said “Congratulations – you are my 5000 ride”. He smiled and said “Do I get a free ride”? I laughed and said “How about a La Croix and a snack bar”? He said “No thanks, I am headed to the movies and a giant

popcorn”. 🍿 He told me that he was going to see the latest version of the ‘Avengers’. He suggested, when I told him it had pricked my interest, that

I would be wise to see the other shows in the series first or I might be lost. I replied “Sort of like watching the last two weeks of ‘Game of Thrones’ after missing the last seven years. “Pretty much” with a smile. He began to ask me about my Lyft career and life before Lyft. I then asked him what he did, (I was not expecting the answer I got) “Believe it or not I am a rocket scientist”. I laughed and said “Working undercover… where is your slide rule and pocket protector”.

He shared in detail the current project he is working on. It was more than fascinating. He said “I am the luckiest man alive, I get paid for doing what I love”. “That makes two of us, Luis – tomorrow I go with my Greeley church to help build a Habitat for Humanity home and tonight I head towards 6000 rides. I will always remember ‘5000 Luis’. I hope you do help colonize the moon. By the way, the moon is full tonight”. He smiled and hopped out of the car.

I give thanks for: servers, baristas, students, pilots, construction workers, software whatevers, tourists, concert goers, hospital workers, retired folk, musicians, exotic dancers, immigrants, nannys, ride of shamers, ball players, engineers, chefs, therapists, actors, work at homers, administrative assistants, mechanics, day laborers, and the many others

who have shared their lives in my red car 🚗 ! Onward and Upward,

Mark

4-20

Today is April 20th.  Downtown Denver is preparing for 20,000 happy weed smokers to gather in Civic Center Park. Native Foods, my favorite vegan eatery, sent out a 4-20 Munchie Special— I am in, even though the last Pot I smoked was before Bill Clinton “did not inhale”.  I am also remembering 20 years ago when I had been at South Broadway Christian Church for two years as pastor, and my “dial-up” internet sent out a news bulletin that there had been a “mass-shooting” at Columbine HS in Littleton.  We opened the church doors to 100’s of folk who just needed some place to go.  Twenty years later the “norm” has shifted. The skunky smell of marijuana is a daily occurrence and I am grieved that just in the US, we have had 11 mass shootings in 20 years. The paradox (too small a word) is not lost on me.

So today, (the Saturday between ‘Good Friday’ and Easter 🐣) this pastor-Lyft driver will live and drive in the crucible of stoned passengers and memorial flowers.  I am learning not to try to resolve this cacophony of memory and experiences into something that I can understand. Rather, my Lyft driving keeps me in the moment. Between rides I will be thinking of my sermon tomorrow, “Why Do You Seek the Living Among the Dead”?  I am going to opposing directions with that question.  1.  I am thinking of all the ways I (we) try to find life where there is not life.  2. And all of the times when life (grace) has shown up in the voice of those who just say “Thanks for the ride”. 

For the next two weeks I am headed to Italy, Greece, Croatia, and Montenegro. I hope to write a bit while I am there. The Cystine Chapel awaits, but I am just as excited to grab a local taxi and say “Show me the places in your home that bring life to your heart” .

Onward and Upward and ARRIVEDERCI❤️,

Mark

BABY in the CUE

Last Friday night I ended up about as far south as my house is north, from downtown. One of the realities of Lyft driving is that you get to go on these adventures and have no idea really, where you’ll end up. I pulled up in front of a house in Highlands Ranch and a woman came out and hopped in the front seat. She was very chatty and told me that we were first going to pick up her friend and they were going out to celebrate her 46th birthday. I said, “My oldest daughter Stephanie, turns 46 in June. Now get this, on Thanksgiving day she called to tell us that she’s pregnant with her first baby. Nobody, and I mean nobody in our family had a clue that this was on the radar screen”. My passenger immediately began to giggle, squeal, sigh, and say things like, “Oh my God I can’t imagine having a baby right now, you’re kidding me? You’re not pulling my leg – she really is pregnant and she’s only two months younger than me, wow that’s amazing!”

We pulled up in front of her friend’s house, and she hopped in the backseat. Within four seconds Front Seat began to say “This man’s daughter is our age and she’s going to have her first baby in six weeks! Oh my god can you get pregnant when you’re in menopause?” About this time I was trying not to laugh hysterically as these two women were going back-and-forth sharing more information about gynecology, their husbands, and raising children, than any Lyft driver should have to endure in five minutes. Truthfully though, I was enjoying every minute of it. I dropped them off at a bistro down by Park Meadows mall and they couldn’t stop talking even as they got out of the car, about pregnancy and being 46. They wished me good luck on my newest granddaughter and then headed off to celebrate her birthday.

Ironically, the ride that I had taken earlier to get down in that part of the world, was for a young woman who is a nanny, who had moved here from Sweden 10 years ago. We had a lovely conversation and in the course of that conversation I told her that my wife Mary Kay, was out of town, getting ready to share in a baby shower with our soon to be 46-year-old daughter, who is having her first baby. She said, “Guess how old my mom was when she had me, I’m the youngest of four.” I said, “Let me guess – she was 46.” “No, she was 45, and she’s the best mom ever! The only thing I would change about her is that she hates flying over the ocean to come see me.”

I will keep you all posted on baby D, who is supposed to arrive sometime around May 13.

Onward and upward, Mark

Commitment

Last week I picked up two young girls at the Denver School of Preforming Arts (near old Stapleton airport in east Denver). The destination— north of Boulder (39 miles). It turns out that they are both students there, and they commute there everyday, each way. They leave at 6:15 in the morning with rides from both parents or Lyft. They told me they average 25 Lyft rides a month. One of the girls is into theater and the other is a singer/ dancer. They were highly engaging in both their questions and experiences.

I said “This is quite an effort you make to go to high school”. They both said, almost together, (I think it wasn’t the first time) “If arts are your passion, this is just what you have to do”. I said “My son Mateo calls it ‘The Artist Curse’. In my experience—writers write, poets spin, painters paint, dancers dance, actors act and preachers drive LYFT”. They laughed and then said in unison “You’re a preacher? You don’t act like one”. I said, “Good, and you don’t act like future stars either, like I would know”.

It was an hour ride to the one girl’s home. It was a small farm north of town right at the mountains. The other girl’s mom was waiting for the drop off. I let them out and drove around the grounds to head out. The mom in the car flashed her lights at me to say something. I waited for her to pull up, assuming they had forgotten something in the back seat. “I just wanted you to know that my daughter said that this was the best Lyft ride she has ever had”. I said “You made my night, thanks for taking the time to let me know”.

You know when people take time to Lyft you up, it matters. Onward and Upward,

Mark

STAR ⭐️

I gave this ride a week ago and I have spent the whole week trying to grasp how I might write about her in three or four paragraphs.  I had just dropped off a delightful woman with the thickest Boston accent I have ever heard. Living 30 years in Colorado had not influenced her diction or her undying love of Tom Brady.  I dropped her off at the huge Amazon warehouse up north.   

The next ride took me to the industrial section north of I-70.  I drove to the back an apartment complex with very confusing directions ( I suspect Siri sometimes makes things up). I parked on one end of a big parking lot.  I saw a young woman in pajamas, carrying a pillow and gym bag coming towards my car.  My first thought was “Looks like she had a rough night”.  She got in my back seat and I thought I noticed a plastic tube at her collar.

The small talk began.  I admit I was confused- the pj’s and all.  “Where are you headed”?  I inquired.  “To dialysis… I wonder why I even keep going”.  The judgmental devil that sits on one of my shoulders was banished for that moment.  She could not have been 30 years old.  I knew whatever came out my mouth next better be from a place of compassion.  “Are you a candidate for a transplant”?  “I had one about 14 years ago.  It gave out recently. I have no kidney”.  She then asked me about my Lyft driving.  “What did you do before this”?  “I am also a pastor”.  There was a noticeable silence.  “Can I ask you a question and you not get mad at me”?  The question itself shook my soul.  I measured my words.  “You can ask me anything, I would be honored to try to answer”. I sensed what was coming. “Why does God let things like this happen to people”? 

“Star, and I don’t speak for God, but I know this, I absolutely believe in free will. If there’s going to be free will, which is necessary for anything like real love, there’s going to be both brokenness and healing, otherwise we are just living out our parts in some cosmic pre-programmed video game to a very cruel audience—‘sh## happens… so does grace’ ”. “I was born with 1/4 of one good kidney. All I do now is go to dialysis every other day, go home and sleep. I am not even sure why I am alive”.  “Were you ever able to go to college”?  “I went for 27 days… it was too hard on my body”.  We talked some more.  She was a gift.  “They are evaluating my situation right now, I guess I will keep going”. “Star, today you are my hero.  This I know – you are loved and adored by God”.  She gathered her things and got out and thanked me. 

A few minutes later the app showed “CONGRATULATIONS You got a $5 Tip”.  It might be the most generous tip I have ever received.

Onward and Upward

Mark

Three Guys

I gave my first shared ride about three years ago, when Lyft came out with a “new program”.  The idea is: A total stranger (me) picks up another total stranger who agrees (for a cheaper ride) to allow another total stranger headed in the same direction, to share the ride.  Initially there were lots of glitches but eventually the algorithm smoothed it out. Now it is not unusual to have three strangers all sharing space in my red car 🚗

Today ride 1 started with a guy headed down on Colorado Blvd to pick up new glasses.  In minutes he tells me he is from the Bessemer neighborhood in Pueblo.  “You went to Central High”?  He did.  “Did you have Dave Marquez as your Chicano Studies teacher”?  “Yes I did, he was the best teacher I ever had. He taught me to walk with my head held high and claim my brown heritage.  Here is the funny part, we always thought we were Spanish/Mexican.  We all took the DNA test and we are Portuguese/Pueblo Indian”. We had a great time talking about our home town. And I have no doubt that my brother-in-law Dave was his best teacher ever. 

The next rider in our car walked into our conversation.  It turned out his family was from Kremling (east of Steamboat) and they have been in Colorado since the 1890’s.  We then all began to talk about the Colorado that is long gone with the huge influx of folk from everywhere.  The current rate of immigration to our area is 350 folk a day. We agreed that even our relatives came from somewhere else… and we also agreed that these folk are welcome if they check their attitude at the border. 

We had a great time laughing at the folks who will pay over $200 a day to ski at Vail and think they have been to Colorado.  We all three agreed that we would not want to live anywhere else, and that the best green chili in the world comes from Pueblo, the best peaches from Palisade, and the most arrogant sports fans are from Boston. 

Onward and Upward,

Mark

“ ‘Green Book’, Road Trips, and NBA Fans”

In case you were in Antarctica last week, “Green Book” won the Oscar for best picture of 2019.  It’s time for some family pride.  Our son-in-law Patrick, is the Editor of this delightful story. Last Sunday night our family and many friends celebrated as we watched our beautiful daughter Stephanie, and Patrick take the final stage. This movie basically tells the unlikeliest story of a ‘record promotion’ road trip taken with an erudite Jazz/Classical pianist, who is African American and his ‘low-grade bouncer/thug’ Italian driver. One of the stars of the show is a 1961 lime green Cadillac, in which much of the dialogue of the movie takes place. The trip takes them through the Jim Crow south.  The Green Book was used by blacks to know where they would be welcomed in that brutally racist world.  About a year ago Patrick shared with us about his working on this project. “It is is a great story, with great actors and director.  I am truly proud to be editing this movie”.  His almost 30 years of persistence in the film industry has been rewarded!!! We are so proud of of you, Patrick.

Something very special can happen in a car conversation.  I have been writing these two years about the magic of sharing time in a car.  I love road trips.  My favorite ever was our 8,300 mile camping road trip to Alaska and back with our kids and my sister and nephew.  I have lived long enough to have all of my kids say, “That was one of the highlights of growing up”.  Next year I plan to take my own road trip through the south after Easter, with my golf clubs in tow. My ideal time would involve a van load of friends going with us.  We will see.

About a month the ago I picked up four young men at a hotel in central Denver. They were headed to the Pepsi Center to see the Nuggets play the Houston  Rockets🚀.  It turned out they were from China and they were going to every NBA city in the US and Canada to see a basketball 🏀 game. They were about half way there.  Thinking of it made me tired and envious.  They confirmed that NBA basketball is very popular in China 🇨🇳.  They were headed to Salt Lake, then Phoenix, Los Angeles, Oakland, and Portland… oh yes with a side trip to Vegas.  ROAD TRIP!!!

Onward and Upward,

Mark

Unexpected Gifts 🎁

So in the middle of Friday LYFT driving I hit a Starbucks drive-thru.  It was the usual eight car line which means ‘Mark – Breathe.’  I had been listening to ‘the news’ and again found myself repeating something I reread recently “People shouldn’t be afraid of their government. Governments should be afraid of their people.” “Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’”.  At the current 7,000+ lies in a little over two years, I get a bit weary. 

I pulled up to the window to pick up my order and the woman met me with, “The car in front of you paid for your order”.  In an instance I was no longer mired in the cynicism that was swamping my day.  That single act of random generosity changed my whole mood.

These past few months I have been swept up in one of the most unexpected of gifts.  On Thanksgiving Day we got a phone call from our oldest daughter. “You are going to be grandparents again in May”. There will be 27 years between our oldest grandson and our youngest grand daughter (thank you sonograms).  The best gifts don’t always come on the designated gift days. 

A whole day’s mood was changed by a grande almond milk latte given to me by a driver in a silver car.  The world no longer seemed heading to irretrievable chaos.  I am not sure how to keep from defaulting to hopelessly happy bumper sticker, refrigerator magnet, Hallmark card cliches, so I guess the world just has to live with my eternal optimism.

Random acts of kindness are appreciated. Go be random.

Onward and Upward,

Mark

SNOW Day!!!❄️ ⛄️

This past Monday (my day for Me) I had a massage scheduled 23 miles from my perch in Arvada.  I knew it was snowing so I gave myself 1.5 hours to drive there.  I pulled out on Indiana St. and in 25 minutes I went four blocks.  It was “amateur hour” in the snow lane.  I canceled the massage and thought “I will turn on my Lyft app – Mark to the rescue”. In seven seconds I had a ride.  I called him and told him that Google said it would take me 22 minutes to go the 2.7 miles.  He assured me he had been trying to get a ride for 45 minutes and he was very happy to wait. This ride began a constant string of 12 rides with not one second of time between them.  I was in my element.  My red car 🚗 is the best snow car I have ever driven. In previous storms I have seen 3/4 ton  4wd BA trucks stuck as I waved at them while passing.

On about my fourth ride I took a young gal to Boulder.  It was a 30 minute ride which opened up beautiful story.  She was a recent CU grad.  “My Dad lives in Boulder and my Mom in Taos, NM”.  “Oh, my son lives in Espanola”. “Ha, actually my Mom lives in Espanola too, but nobody here has a clue where that is.   I love it, you are the first person who actually knows about Espanola”. She began to tell me ‘her story’. “I was adopted when I was nine months old, from an orphanage in Calcutta.  So was my brother.   My parents have been amazing, this is all I know”. I asked her “Have you ever wondered what your life would have been like had you not come here”?  “Oh yes, about four years ago my parents sent me on a trip to India.  I loved it but I thought many times, ‘I could have been one of those kids’. All I know is this, and I know nothing about my birth family.  My life is a treasure”.  She radiated a warmth and Zest for life.  I dropped her off at a coffee shop where she worked through her graduation last month.  I said “Here is the deal, I need to make a pit stop and get coffee, will you watch my car”?  When I came out of the WC her boss handed me a glorious coffee. I headed out into the blizzard knowing that there is good everywhere.

Onward and Upward,

Mark

15,000 Rides

No not me, but Tommy, who picked us up last Saturday at DIA. We were coming back from a great time in the Bahamas, flying through a big snowstorm and my first ever “medical—emergency” in the seat right behind me. Now I’ll put in a shameless plug for Lyft and flying out of airports. Why would anyone drive their car, leave it parked, and then pay more than it costs take a Lyft? You get picked up and dropped off at your home and 80% of what you spend goes to a local. So we stepped out on Level 6 and Tommy was right there. I knew he was good when he had our bags loaded faster than I could get to his car. The usual small talk began. “Where were you? Did you have fun”. It came up that I too, drive for Lyft and I proudly said, “I have almost 5,000 rides”. “Well, last week I hit 15,000”. “Wow, a Lyft Super Star”!

We began to compare notes. “It’s not as good as it was when I began three years ago. Too many drivers”. Then I heard a story that makes me proud of my country. Tommy was from the Middle East. “I went to work as a translator for the US Army. It eventually became too dangerous for me to stay there. They brought me to Denver and my wife and I are raising our three kids here. I have a pension from the Army and I do this full time. What I love about it is that I am there for my family when they need me and I set my own hours”. We talked about how 98% of rides are normal and 2% get weird. He asked, “Do you find that apparently ‘rich’ people are the worst tippers? They think you are supposed to do this for them”? “Yep, that is my experience and the best tippers are folk who work in the food service business”. “Exactly”!!!

I was able to say “Thanks for everything you did for our Army. I am glad you are able to make a life for you and your family here”. He replied “This is the best thing that ever happened to me. Driving for Lyft has made me appreciate even more what a great place this is”. We pulled up in front of my home and again, four bags were already to go, on the curb. I joyfully hit the tip button.

Onward and Upward, Mark