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Cabbie 'reads' classics behind the wheel


Ted Rubinstein, who drives for Valley Cab, thinks he's heard about 1,000 stories, and almost all of them pretty good. In fact, some of them were classics. He's listened to Dickens, Faulk-ner and the Bronte sisters while driving. You name the story, and Rubinstien has probably heard it.

"I listen to books on tape because I am not a good reader, never been," he says. "It would probably have taken five of my lifetimes to read what I've heard on tape. I started in 1988 with all the books I'd heard of but never read, what you'd call the classics."

Since then he's listened to whatever looked appealing on the shelves of the many public libraries he's visited on taxi runs through Baltimore and each of the surrounding counties. He's read biographies and histories, books on psychology, novels and collections of short stories. Presumably, his passengers have heard excerpts, too. (Last cab I took had Indian sitar master Ravi Shankar on tape, and that wasn't bad. But I find Teddy Taxi's offering - literature in transit - more appealing. Next time I need a ride and a hit of great prose, I'm calling this guy.)

Rubinstien's favorite books on tape? "The O'Henry stories, they're so good no matter who's reading them," he says. "I really liked [William Kennedy's] 'Ironweed,' the way Jason Robards read it; William Faulkner's 'Light in August' was great, but I forget who read it. All the Edgar Allan Poe stories are good. I recommend 'The Andersonville Diaries' to anyone interested in history; 'Wuthering Heights' and 'Jane Eyre' I like, and there's a really terrific book [by Ernest J. Gaines] called 'A Lesson Before Dying.' "

Who are the best readers on tape?

"A woman named Flo Gibson," says Rubinstein. "And a really good reader is Fred, I think it's M-u-e-l-l-e-r, or M-e-u-l-l-e-r. I can't remember. Listening to books on tape doesn't make you a better speller, you know."

Fergie, frogs, 'Homicide'

I heard a local artisan boasting about how, after 20 years here, she was getting out of Baltimore, which she described as a cultural backwater that [SeeRodricks, 2b] just can't measure up to cities like New York and Chicago. Yeah, well. Fine, I say. Go. You'll be back. . . . I hear Sarah Ferguson, the fetching and divorced duchess of York, will be visiting Baltimore this week. (No, it's nothing personal, just business.) . . . Sign on Westminster veterinary clinic: "Lucky frogs, they get to eat what bugs them." . . . Overheard in Towson: "My boyfriend and I have been on the outskirts lately." . . . I'm very pleased that the juke box at the Bel Loc Diner still features Getz & Gilberto. During Saturday's snow, I had an excellent chicken salad on rye and a delightful Brazilian interlude. . . . Baltimore Colts Marching Band celebrates a major anniversary this year, and F. W. Haxel & Co., makers of flags and banners, last week presented one of its longtime customers with a gift: A commemorative banner noting the band's 50 years. . . . Just curious: What did loyal fans of NBC's "Homicide" think of Friday night's episode? I mean, did it hurt? And did Joan Chen wear out the batteries in your remote control, or what? Leave your comments at 332-6166.

I meant to say ...

Just for the record, I neither condone nor excuse the behavior of people who get jobs at Maryland's emissions-testing stations then ask for bribes from motorists anxious for a passing grade. I think it's great that MARTA Technologies, which has the five-year, $96 million state contract to run the program, acted quickly and fired the three testers I mentioned in Friday's column. But just one thing: Testers working 40-hour weeks make about $13,000 a year. It follows, then, that some - and only three have been reported so far - would be tempted to abuse their positions by shaking down impatient motorists eager to avoid the costly emissions-repair bills that sometimes follow a failing grade. That's all I'm saying. I didn't say it very well last week. (P.S. Wasn't this why we increased the Maryland governor's pay?)

Ride in restaurant

Couple of the city's bicycle cops had lunch Friday at Councill's Restaurant on Patapsco Avenue. The guys brought their bikes inside with them. "We can't leave 'em out there," one of them said. "They'd steal 'em."

Shoe salesman's footnote

Richard Crystal, the shoe salesman who provoked the fight that's been going on in TJI in recent weeks, writes: "My gripe was not with those women who unselfishly take it upon themselves to shop for their husbands but, rather, those who drag their spouses shopping, then proceed to emasculate them while they dictate and criticize their choice in footwear. I guess what bugs me the most is the way these husbands simply roll over and surrender while their wishes are pushed wayside. And now, Dan, may I step aside while your female readers duke it out amongst themselves?"

You and me both, shoe man.

Contact Dan Rodricks by voice mail at 332-6166, by post at The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278, by electronic mail at, or through the World Wide Web at http: //

Pub Date: 2/10/97

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