Pete G., Manhattan pedicab driver, accepts the following as sacraments: Nichiren Daishonin Buddhism, marijuana, West African music, cheap Chinese food, long bike rides, not having any money, and inviting total strangers over for dinner.
A few weeks ago, Pete gave me a free ride to Whole Foods in a pedicab that said “Ask me about free rides to Whole Foods.” I had just left the Chase bank on 2nd Ave and 10th Street and Pete was leaning against his pedicab, slurping up a take-out container of borscht from Veselka. It was about 100 degrees outside, too hot to walk to Whole Foods, not to mention bike there, not to mention eat borscht before biking there. I collapsed, hot and discombobulated, into the back of the pedicab, and Pete wheeled us down 2nd Ave, keeping up an enthusiastic chatter of conversation the whole time. If his grin were any less mellow I might’ve suspected amphetamines. He credited calories for his energy. “That borscht is great.”
When he called me a few weeks later to set up a date for dinner, he was on the Williamsburg Bridge, fixing someone’s busted bike. “So, I was thinking….[crunching noises]….sorry, I’m trying to fix this guy’s chain—what’s your name? Abdul—sorry Abdul, I’m not a very good mechanic.”
And when I met him below his Hell’s Kitchen apartment a few days later, he spirited me up the few flights to his place and had me sit by the bathtub in the kitchen, apologizing. “I just have to finish my afternoon meditation,” he said. “You don’t mind, do you? It’ll only be a minute.”