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November 10, 2020

Dege Legg's Playlist for His Memoir "Cablog"

Cablog by Dege Legg

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Jesmyn Ward, Lauren Groff, Bret Easton Ellis, Celeste Ng, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Roxane Gay, and many others.

Dege Legg's captivating memoir Cablog vividly recounts Legg's years as a cabriver in Lafayette.

The Advocate wrote of the book:

"In addition to being an award-winning writer, Legg composes cinematic acoustic-country-blues music in the guise of Brother Dege. In this unusual year, however, "Cablog" is his major creative endeavor. The memoir recounts his cab passengers in entries running a few paragraphs to a few pages."

In his words, here is Dege Legg's Book Notes music playlist for his memoir Cablog:

Every job is its own adventure. Driving a cab on the night shift in Lafayette, Louisiana, from 2003 to 2008, was no different. There were inspiring highs, crushing lows, moments of terror, hilarity, and nonsensical absurdity, and endless nights of banal routine punctuated with moving episodes that would quietly restore one’s faith in humanity. It was a wild run.

The entries in this book are true stories culled from those years in chronological order, beginning with my rookie year to my final year of employment at the cab company—roughly five years total. The first year was an exhilarating run through the dark underbelly of the city—the drunks, the druggies, the nightlife, the prostitutes, and the regular folks. The middle years were a period wherein much of the chaos of the job became somewhat routine. My fifth and final year could be described as an exhausting stage of burnout. The dramatic highs and lows of the job began exacting an emotional and experiential toll that caused me to often loathe the job, the clientele, myself, and ultimately my deeper motivations for remaining in this line of work.

Being a musician and writer, there is always music in my head. Sometimes it is my music. But mostly it is the music of great songwriters, rattling around in my subconscious. They inform every moment. Dress them up. Make them more dramatic. More exciting. Or more depressing than they should be. I don’t control the jukebox of my subconscious. It’s on its own trip. As am I.

Here is the unofficial soundtrack to my book Cablog: Diary of a Cabdriver.

The Cablog book begins with me living in a low-rent motel. I’m broke, unemployed, and lost. Staring through the burglar bars. In addition, my band of ten years had just recently broken up. Do the sad sack math and you get a vague idea of what my life was like at that point in time. I was on the fast track to nowhere, surrounded by ex-carnies, prostitutes, and tenured alcoholics. Interesting crew, but they were kind of depressing and I wasn’t feeling too good about my station in life, and the lyrical musings of the poet Lemmy Kilmister seemed to play on an endless loop in my head as a reminder that things would probably not change for the better any time soon.

You better leave your number
And we'll call you
You know your problems
Ain't exactly new
You're out there on your own
Your face turned to stone
What ever happened to your life?
Stone dead forever

Self-explanatory. I was broke, living in a motel and needed a damn job. As I explain in the book, I didn’t have any marketable skills other than a B.A. in philosophy. In the working class jungle of the Deep South, that’s like having a degree in balloon animals or frisbee golf. Nobody cares. Having such a degree, here, in Louisiana, is actually kind of embarrassing. When applying for a job at the slaughterhouse, it’d be wise to not even mention it as it will only elicit a few raised eyebrows and the suspicion that you are a troublemaker. Paul Westerberg of The Replacements explains the dire need in “Goddamn Job.”

Well, I eventually found a damn job, driving a cab. Working the nightshift. 12 hours a night. It was a blessing from the gods in some ways, because I really was broke. And desperate. This is where the book launches off into the underworld of the Louisiana night. And no book set in the swamplands of Louisiana can exist without the ghost of Dr. John looming in its shadows. His music could be the backdrop of the whole Cablog book. It’s got the mystery. It’s got the strangeness. It’s got the funky accent. It’s all there. This album should be in the top 10 of every rock critic’s list of the greatest albums of all time, but sadly, like much incredible Louisiana music, it’s been relegated to a strange obscure corner of the music universe, where some cite its influence, but most never know its true power.

After a short orientation and training day at the cab company office, I was let loose in the darkness to do the job of driving a taxi. It didn’t take long to realize it was a madhouse out there. Above all else, southern Louisiana loves a party. And they throw down every night of the week. Doesn’t matter what it is or who it is for. Mardi Gras is just an excuse to let the tourists in for a couple weeks. Give them a taste. Spend some money. Then they can go back to Scranton or wherever and tell their friends they did the “real deal.” OK. Fact: the real deal happens almost every night of the week in forgotten little towns along the Atchafalaya, Bayou Teche, Acadiana prairielands, and elsewhere. And it’s not always pretty. But it is fun at times. The legendary Keith Frank, one of South Louisiana’s great Zydeco musicians, embodies that vibe. YouTube dat, bruh.

Tom Waits is a monster of songwriting. His late night odes served as endless inspiration for many of the stories in the Cablog book. In particular, this song locks in with many of the sentiments expressed in an entry titled “The Scorned Woman.” I can’t overstate his importance as an inspiration.

Somewhere near the halfway point in my book, any remnants of innocence I may have had are slowly vaporized in the flaming haze of dealing with crazy people and their drunken debauchery on a nightly basis. Once again, if this playlist can serve as an unofficial soundtrack for the book, The Birthday Party’s “Several Sins” easily conveys the slow moving, sleazy grind of the night shift and its many inhabitants. If the reader ends up actually reading the Cablog book, please reference all entries that include “The One-Armed Man.”

So much of Louisiana is about tradition - Cajun, Creole, and Zydeco music. But on the other side of the postcard there are the streets. And the streets are ruled by hip-hop. Even in Louisiana. It’s contagious. Somehow rap music stole the sacred chalice of thunder - formerly held by rock & roll - and never gave it back. Payback is indeed a bitch. Nobody gives you nothing; you can only earn the right to take it.

Amidst the tales of debauchery and madness experienced during my five years shuttling passengers from one dark corner of the city to the other were the occasional sweet-natured human beings who would suddenly appear in the night to magically restore one’s faith in humanity. Whether it be through the decency of their demeanor or through tiny, almost imperceptible acts of kindness, I was lucky enough to see them out there. I was their witness in the cathedral of the night. They are the true souls. And without them, I do not think this book would have been worth writing.

So much of the night shift revolves around bars. Specifically, closing time. Whether it be shuttling drunk customers home or kicking them out of your cab for whatever insane reason, it’s an experience that will test your boundaries. When 4 a.m. and the end of the shift rolls around, it’s usually a relief to be rid of them. There’s a peaceful quiet in the streets as dawn crawls over the horizon and the foggy chords of morning twang in the distance. Elliot Smith knew this feeling as well as anyone in the enigmatically titled “No Name No. 5.”

God is love. Whether you believe in him/her/it or not. You need some of that to survive. Some of the experiences I had in the cab (getting robbed, getting physically assaulted, etc.), definitely chipped away at my vague notions of a faith in humanity. I love people. I really do. But occasionally, they really piss you off - so much so that destroying them seems like a good idea. But that too passes. God hides in people’s eyes. As previously stated, the sweet-souled people of this earth are the only ones who can save us from ourselves.

Just as quickly as one’s faith in humanity is renewed, it can just quickly be destroyed once again. One of my preconceived notions about this job was that I would learn so much about people. And I did do that. But what I wasn’t expecting was to learn so much about myself. And what I did learn, I often did not like. These are tests, I suppose. Tests that highlighted my own physical, spiritual, and metaphysical shortcomings and the stunted evolution of my own soul. Through some of the more extreme and violent interactions with passengers, I learned that I am just as petty, immature, and damaged as many of them. As the book progresses, I begin to enter the later stages of job-related burnout. I begin to dislike myself and my reactions to them. I suck too. Their failures are mine. Mine are theirs. We’re all in this together. We’re all just a bunch of fuck-ups, rattling around like pinballs in a shit show machine. Namaste, motherfuckers.

At the end of the book, it is time to say good night. This is the last song of the imaginary soundtrack. It was a wild, five-year journey. Ups. Downs. All-arounds. Heart-breaking moments of clarity. Sacred moments of inspiration. And stultifying episodes of idiocy from which I may never recover. In the last entry of Cablog, I stumbled into what I can only describe as a fast food, slave labor camp / trailer park. After attempting to help one of the laborers escape, I got the hell out of there and rolled down the road and into the next phase of my life with the faces, places, and passengers of the previous five years in the cab, flashing like a slideshow across the windshield. This is the song that played in my head.

Dege Legg is a Grammy-nominated musician (Django Unchained, original soundtrack) and award-winning writer born and raised in southern Louisiana. In addition to driving a cab, he has a BA in philosophy and has worked as a dishwasher, journalist, manual laborer, warehouseman, mechanic, driver, line cook, and a caseworker in a homeless shelter in order to support his artistic compulsions. He writes music, records, and tours the USA and Europe with his band Brother Dege & The Brethren. As an author, he has also written the books The Battle Hymn of the Hillbilly Zatan Boys and Into the Great Unknown (Santeria Tour Journals), and co-written and edited a book with architect Geoff Gjertson on sustainable architecture entitled Generating Hope: Stories of the Beausoleil Louisiana Solar Home. As a journalist, he has won two Louisiana Press Awards and contributed to such publications as The Independent, where his cover stories included a deep dive into this history of Lafayette’s skateboard culture and a week of days and nights living on the streets with Lafayette’s homeless. You can visit him at

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