Zach was a cab driver when we first met. He told me this almost defiantly as if he expected me to recoil in horror.
My uncle and his brother were cab drivers. I loved going to The Paradise cafeteria on Park Avenue South which was a cab driver and punk hangout. They gave you a ticket when you first entered and each item you selected was punched on the card. I liked cab drivers they were part of my world and my history and I took one almost every night from some place or another.
In the New York of the late 1970’s, college graduates couldn’t get jobs commensurate with their abilities and skills. I was a supervisor at Summit then but no coders were working there out of a love for coding large scale litigation documents.
Almost everybody was really something else: an actor, a writer, artist, or waiting for a professional job to come through. I had no ambitions past doing well in my job. It was stupid because I was bright and should have had a master plan, but I couldn’t see past the day. If I had been capable of long range planning my life would have been completely different. But none of the very expensive psychiatrists I saw were able to diagnosis or totally understand my problems aside from acute anxiety that manifested as hyperness, an inability to organize my surroundings or my person, and a myriad of other problems that should have stopped me but spurred me on.
The flip side of my problems was an ability to see other peoples strengths and weaknesses and to organize them so that they worked both willingly and beyond expectations. The irony didn’t escape me. I was always waiting for another me to come and tell me what I was great at.
While Zachary believed that his life was over because the two records he made before he was 25 hadn’t been big sellers; I thought that my life was just beginning. Only I wasn’t sure what was beginning aside from Zachary and me.
He told me that when he drove, he didn’t stop for all passengers. I found that unbelievable; his songs were all about oppression. How could he write one thing and be an oppresor himself? Yes I knew that there were unbelievably bad neighborhoods, but didn’t all people deserve to ride in cabs? When I would see Black people, especially old ones, or women of all ages and anybody with kids, I would insist that they stand on the street, while I got the cab for them. Cab drivers raced to pick me up.
I made $16,640 a year plus overtime. Since my rent was only $325 a month and my father insisted on putting money in my bank account each month I lived very well. It was difficult for me to accept my dad’s help. It felt like he was trying to buy me though the only decision he directly influenced was my acceptance of the apartment on 63rd Street off Fifth.
My father didn’t believe in introducing me to potential employers, backers or rock stars. He had this strange belief that as long as my sister and I were working we were entitled to be parentally subsidized. It made me uncomfortable. I wasn’t so uncomfortable that I refused to spend the money or saved most of it.
Though I knew he loved me much and was proud of me because he talked about me a lot, and did introduce me to clients, including some incredibly famous ones, he never helped me get a job. That he thought was my responsibility. I thought he must have been ashamed of me on some levels. After the fact, I learned he had refused a production job a friend had offerered on a long playing Broadway rock musical. That angered me. But did I seek jobs like that out myself? No of course not. My father was forever dropping hints about reading manuscripts for films in slush piles at film studio’s. I felt too old to do it.
Though I yelled at Zachary for feeling life was almost over; I couldn’t conceive of starting over again at such a low rung. No way could I picture it. That’s probably horrible as I have an ear or brain or sense for what’s going to be trendy. My sister still tells me that I should get a job with Faith Popcorn. And I always knew if a book could make a good film and picture a film manuscript as a finished product.
But I resented my father from coming between me and so many opportunties. It wasn’t as if I were working for a Fortune 100 company. My company’s client was very powerful. My father urged me to apply to work for them. But I was the fraud from outer space so I didn’t think that they would hire me; even after two of their top employees told me, seperately, that my application would be a formality. I had a hard enough time believing that I had actually graduated college, let alone a good university.
I had accepted the apartment on East 63rd Street because I wanted a good relationship with my father. And we had a great one. But I resented being the daughter of a man who cared too much and was still trying to determine what was good for me. I can’t say how much I resented him not telling me about the job for the musical; I would have given anything for him to introduce me to somebody he knew and say:
‘This is my daughter Pia. She’s exceptionally bright, quick to learn, and has a great head for business.”
I know he knew all that for he was forever telling me about his business problems. I could size up a situation quickly and had much common sense. He loved my answers. Then why did my dad who knew so many famous people not let me interview with them? Did he think I would screw it up? I would at times become angry at moving to a neighborhood that really belonged to the world not the residents. Most people had at least one other home. I needed a vibrant neighborhood; and I never considered the business district to be one, just crowded beyond comfort.
An apartment in the Upper West Side or The Village would have been so much more me. I couldn’t conceive of living in a loft in Soho; they all needed much work, and I’m about as handy as my father who spent 40 years waiting for the super to magically appear in his suburban manse. Tribeca was just beginning its ascent and while I loved the area more than Soho, there was the raw space problem, or worse, having to convert it from a factory space. While I had spent all of high school waiting to graduate so that I could move to the West Village I have never desired living there in my adult life. It was a father approved part of town.
He had gone to NYU and took us to The Village often when we were kids. I had been encouraged to go to the city and hang in The Village unlike most of the girls in my class who went to The Miracle Mile, in Manhasset, on Satudays. Since there was no bus and we were too young to drive, they had to be driven. At thirteen I found that childlike and boring.
If I hadn’t been a rebel rock chick would I have been at the club that beautiful Sunday afternoon?
I wasn’t particularly idealistic; politics had stopped feeling meaningful to me, but I worked in a neighborhood that wasn’t particularly great. I wondered if growing up in New Orleans had made Zachary prejudiced in a subconcious level. We didn’t have our first fight over his refusal to pick certain people up. I was too in love with the way he made me feel.
Long before I met him I would get cabs for Black people and others who had trouble getting one. Cabs would almost get into accidents with each other in their haste to pick me up. I was the universal uptown/downtown girl. Though I was shorter and more curvy than most models, I was forever being mistaken for a model or soap star. While I didn’t really notice everybody else seemed to. Some told me about it then; others much later. I never really understood it, though I had to believe it.
Zachary would call me between fifteen and twenty times a day to tell me about his latest plan to get rich; or to complain about how life was out to get him. He had talked Lucinda into sending a demo tape to a music publisher/producer and now she was almost hot, and he was cold as the ice in my defrost it with buckets of boiling water, refrigrator.
My company was hiring coders; I got him a job. I thought that it might help center him; he would have interesting people to talk to. And he wouldn’t have to drive a cab anymore.