The best way for a curious stranger to find out about a city is to travel its streets and boulevards, in daylight, on public transportation. Public buses are cheap but noisy and full of distractions. But a wise and knowing cab driver can do more to tutor a newcomer than any other resource.

Thaddeus Logan, author of Hey Cabbie II!, is the sort of resource that the Baltimore Chamber of Commerce ought to enshrine. A retired detective who spent years on the city’s vice squads, Logan has a finely honed sense of right, wrong, history and urban style.

His latest book, a sequel to Hey Cabbie!, is another odyssey through Baltimore’s streets in which he nails the sights, sounds and even the smells (a segment about the sewage treatment plant is priceless!) of this city in a way that newspapers could only hope to convey.

In 116 pages of vignettes covering 72 cab rides, Hey Cabbie II! tracks the heart of the town, touching on events such as the Preakness and Halloween night and institutions such as Morgan State University in northeast Baltimore and Highland Beach in Annapolis. It even has a very useful map.

But it is clear that Logan knows not only where places are and how to get from here to there, but also how the city ticks.

He has plenty to say about street vice, local political corruption and organized religion, especially the Black church. It is wisdom gathered from his fares and filtered through the prism of a man who has chased miscreants, stared down the barrel of a gun and tracked down criminals.

He knows about the city and its inhabitants because he listens. It doesn’t take much for a Black cabbie to get a 50ish Black woman to share her views of local Black politicians in the ride from Northwest Market to his old neighborhood on West Lafayette Street. The woman had unflattering remarks about both former Mayor Sheila Dixon, who she regretted voting for, and her church, which had charged her over $2,000 for her daughter’s wedding.

There are also several encounters with foreign visitors. In one instance, there was a chat with a woman in her mid-30s who has just emerged from a concert at the Meyerhoff Symphony Concert Hall. The woman, a visitor from Madrid, delivers a monologue in which she compares urban life in Europe and the U.S., wishing aloud that the two cultures would do more to learn from each other about to keep cities livable.

Through another fare, just picked up from Port Covington Terminal where they had returned after an ocean cruise, he learned of the shortcomings of the U.S. health care system. Through his fare, a middle-aged married couple on their way home to Columbia, Md., he learned it might be wise to sign up for health insurance on a cruise. They told him that a couple on the cruise, whose husband suffered a heart attack, had not signed up for the cruise line’s health insurance and were suddenly confronted with huge medical bills.

He also shares his conclusions about the decline of civilization, as seen through the crowd at Pimlico Race Track for the annual Preakness Stakes. He talks about how degenerate the scene is in the track’s infield. “You name it, it was happening,” Logan writes.

Readers should be cautioned that the language and scenes are graphic, salty and sometimes x-rated. For someone who grew up, as I did, the son of D.C. cab driver, it was pretty tame but provided fresh insight about the city.

But when future anthropologists comb through the rubble of this civilization, let’s hope a copy of Hey Cabbie II! is still readable.

Thaddeus Logan is a former Baltimore City vice detective turned taxicab owner/operator who has chronicled his 35 years behind the wheel in {Hey Cabbie!} and {Hey Cabbie II!}. He will be the subject of a book signing at the Pratt Library main branch Jan. 27. The books are available at his web site, Hey Cabbie! is $11.99. Hey Cabbie II! is $9.99.

Ronald A. Taylor

AFRO Editor