It’s Saturday night in downtown Petaluma, shortly after 11 p.m., and cabdriver Steve Jackson is slowly driving up Kentucky St. Aiming his cab toward the main hub of bars between Western and Washington, he’s cheerfully explaining his time-tested theory about inebriated pedestrians and taxicabs.
“I’ve noticed that drunk people like things that are moving,” he says. “I see it all the time. There could be a cab parked right in front of the Hideaway with its lights on, and someone could come out of the bar looking for a cab. If I happen to drive by right then, they’ll flag me down from half a block away, without even noticing the on-duty cab sitting right in front of them. Drunk people like objects in motion. I’m not sure why, but it’s true.”
Jackson is the co-owner of J’s Taxi, a ten-car fleet of cabs based in Petaluma. Born-and-raised here, Jackson started the company about six years ago. He likes the work, he says, since he generally appreciates people, and enjoys helping them out.
And he clearly gets a kick from being out on the streets of Petaluma at night.
Though it’s still early right now, the evening is already shaping up to become a pretty good testing ground for Jackson’s aforementioned ‘moving objects’ theory. It’s warm out, for a change, and dozens of people carom their way from bar to bar, slowly ricocheting up and down Kentucky past the Hideaway, Jamison’s Roaring Donkey, and Maguire’s Pub, traipsing down the steps leading to Putnam Plaza and The Big Easy, across the Boulevard to Gale’s Central Club, down the street to Andresen’s, McNear’s, and Red Brick, and back onto Kentucky.
Little else but bars are open at the moment, and even so, the streets are at least as busy — and several times as loud and lively — as they might be on the average morning or afternoon. From every venue comes a different tune - jazz, classic rock, whatever.
A guy in Putnam Park strums a banjo. Nearby, a couple sit together on a bench, their arms around each other, each checking emails as they bob their heads, in unison, to the sound of the Eagles’ “Hotel California” spilling out of Gale’s Central Club. Everywhere you turn, the only thing louder than the music filling the streets is the collective murmur of the crowd.
“The town definitely changes at night,” Jackson says. “The downtown area turns into a whole different scene than during the day. It’s kind of crazy.”
Adding to the auditory mayhem are four intensely focused young men, perched on the Putnam Steps, jamming on beat-up guitars and drums made of plastic buckets. “Sometimes I need a bur-ger, sometimes I want to get high,” sings one horse-voiced member of the ensemble. “All I’m saying bro-ther is I’m just try-ing to get by. And I don’t give a flying f—k about you!”
“It’s actually kind of mellow right now,” notes Jackson, who predicts that things will pick up in an hour or two. Till then, he’s going to just keep rolling, looking for fares. “We kind of go along Kentucky Street, and try and feel it out, see if we can get anybody,” he explains. “The dispatcher will give me a shout if there’s anybody who calls in for a ride, either down here or somewhere else in town.”
PETALUMA AROUND THE CLOCK
This story is part eight of a ten-part Argus-Courier series. We started out at 6 a.m., and every week since, we’ve skipped ahead a few hours, moving from place to place and person to person, as we move around the clock, capturing the colorful details, conversations, and activities that make up an average 24-hour day in Petaluma. Next week, in part nine, we head out at 3 p.m., in search of Petaluma’s most elusive late-night/early morning treasure – a decent place to grab a bite to eat.