Unique and sparkling memoir of a Russian Jewish immigrant to New York. Lobas, a writer in the Soviet Union, not even considered a Russian (``Under the heading NATIONALITY in our passports was written the word JEW''), eagerly leaves for the US at the first opportunity. After a few years of hiding out in the Russian ghetto of Brighton Beach, he plunges into the city he is growing to love. Answering an ad--``If you don't have a hack license we help you get it in three days. Don't pass up a chance to earn $600 per week!''--he signs up and sails through the system and into a cab: The Russian sophistication in greasing the palm puts New Yorkers in grade school. Only problem is, Lobas doesn't know how to drive a car. On the road, angling to get ``a LaGuardia,'' he thinks of his old friend Ghely, jailed by the KGB for anti- Soviet writings, almost perishing on a hunger strike, released after seven years and dying within a month. He rages: ``Why did they put a bullet in the back of the head of the most virtuoso stylist of Russian prose?....Long live communism, the radiant future of all mankind! Amen.'' And Lobas's lowdown, grime-under- the-fingernails, boulevard drama continues. His first day on the street, he decides to be a gentleman and refuse tips, a courtesy singularly unappreciated by New Yorkers. Taking a fare to Harlem, he gets wise in a hurry. A gang of 12-year-olds mobs the cab, snatching the sunglasses off his face, his receipt book, his cigarettes. He floors it, they shoot the right front tire, and he gets away on three wheels and a rim. Finely and directly written with a uniquely Russian sensibility holding the tragic and the absurd. Somewhere, Gogol is smiling.