Taxi Driver: Michael Goldfarb

Lineup of yellow cabs (led by a Dodge Polara) seeking fares on Lexington avenue and 61st Street in 1973 by Dan McCoy
Lineup of yellow cabs (led by a Dodge Polara) seeking fares on Lexington avenue and 61st Street in 1973 by Dan McCoy

After listening to ‘Philip Glass: Taxi Driver’ the other night I came across another tale of another man driving a cab in New York during the same 1970s period (in fact Glass gets a brief cameo). Broadcaster and author Michael Goldfarb recalls his days trying to make it as an actor while working shifts and shifting gears across five brilliant episode of Trip Sheets. At the time of writing you can hear the first in the series here. This is from the Guardian’s review:

We began with the thrill of his moving to New York to become an actor, the grubby glamour of him driving a cab in a New York that was just about to create Taxi Driver and Taxi (the last written by a cab driver who drove for the same firm as Goldfarb). In the first two episodes of Trip Sheets we met Philip Roth, Philip Glass, Peter Brook, Harvey Keitel… But as Goldfarb’s youthful innocence and self-belief changed, so did the essays, moving from “I had that Warhol in the back of my cab once, I did” anecdotes into more difficult areas. Goldfarb drove a young woman and her newborn child to a burnt-out Bronx and wondered how and, more importantly, why it got like that.

The final episode was on how New York, and New York cabbing, has changed. “If all else fails, I can always move back to New York and drive a cab,” he thinks, but instead goes over and sits in the back as a passenger. “The city is just too different,” he concludes.

As an added bonus, below is the trailer for Taxi Driver, which never gets old even though the world it depicts is long gone.

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Taxi Driver: Michael Goldfarb

Philip Glass: Taxi Driver

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I’m enjoying a new podcast called Seriously…, which features curated documentaries from Radio 4 that I would otherwise most likely miss. One of the latest to be featured is Philip Glass: Taxi Driver:

Philip Glass revisits his parallel lives in 1970s New York – driving a taxicab through threatening twilight streets while emerging as a composer in Manhattan’s downtown arts scene.

The Philip Glass Ensemble formed in 1968 and performed in lofts, museums, art galleries and, eventually, concert halls. Two of Glass’s early pieces – the long form Music In Twelve Parts and the opera Einstein on the Beach – secured his reputation as a leading voice in new music.

But America’s soon-to-be most successful contemporary composer continued to earn a living by driving a taxi until he was 42.

“I would show up around 3pm to get a car and hopefully be out driving by 4. I wanted to get back to the garage by 1 or 2am before the bars closed, as that wasn’t a good time to be driving. I’d come home and write music until 6 in the morning.”

Glass’s new musical language – consisting of driving rhythms, gradually evolving repetitive patterns and amplified voice, organs and saxophones – reflected the urgency of the city surrounding him. New York, on the brink of financial collapse, was crime-ridden and perilous. Driving a cab offered more than a window on this gritty, late night world. Almost every other month, according to Glass, a driver colleague was murdered. Glass escaped altercations with gangs and robbers in his cab.

One of the most successful films at the time was Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver starring Robert DeNiro. Glass couldn’t bring himself to watch it until years later. He says, “I was a taxi driver. On my night off, I was not going to go watch a movie called Taxi Driver.”

Philip Glass: Taxi Driver