taxi driver: fare game

The antithesis between Edward Adler and his art could not have been more extreme. He lived on 11th Street near Avenue D on New York’s East Side, in a brick building well over a hundred years old; not a historical site, simply a slum. He was poor and drove a cab to support his family, and yet keep at the dedicated craft he chose for himself. For in 1961 Adler was the author of an astounding novel, Notes From a Dark Street. As a novelist, he was regarded at the garage where he worked as a man apart, but no more so than the bookie who drifted in at night to take the hackies’ horse bets. Its hard to explain the literary style: a socially conscious urban realism as if written by a run down talmudist who appears to exaggerate to heights of absurdity but is actually mining a hyper reality that seems surreal.

George C. Scott. East Side/West Side---Adler moved on to East Side / West Side. His first script, “Not Bad For Openers,” concerned a cab driver addicted to gambling and drew heavily on the writer’s own experiences: Adler had driven a taxi to support himself while struggling to get his work published. In spite of his other professional credentials, the press focused on Adler’s proletarian background, to the extent that TV Guide twice noted East Side was being penned by a “cab driver turned writer.” “The whole thing was idiotic,” Adler recalled. “Life sends a crew down to do a story on me. The took me down and posed me on top of a fucking Checker Cab, with a portable typewriter on my lap. What can I tell you, it was my fifteen minutes.” Adler became one of the series’ most important writers, contributing three originals and some uncredited rewrites of scripts by others. Read More:

( see link)…When I was young, most of them had adopted a common strategy against loneliness: a fleeting intimacy with their passengers. This was the era of the cabby as philosopher or comedian, quick to make observations about life itself, or its subdivisions in politics and sports, or to crack wise about women and other mysteries. This form of performance art had two goals: human contact and better tips. Some of the cabbies (most of them Irish, Jewish or Italian) were very smart. Some were very funny. Some were bores. And one morning around 1972, I realized that all of them were gone.

In the 1990s, I asked Edward Adler about this great turnover. Adler had been a taxi driver, had written a fine book called “Notes From a Dark Street” (1962) and had gone on to a successful career as a television writer. He answered: “They drove cabs so their kids wouldn’t have to drive cabs. When their kids finished at the university, they packed it in.” Read More:

---Photo from the television program N.Y.P.D.". From left: Frank Converse, Jack Warden and Robert Hooks. Date There is a January 1969 date stamp. source: Wiki

Adler was born in the Gravesend section of Brooklyn above his father’s store, the kind of grocery shop New York Jews used to call an “appetizing” and he was to a large extent self educated.In the Army he began to read, then, years before beginning to write, he dimly perceived the possibilities of an artistic creed of pessimism , which however appeared to negate the undeniably fruitful manner in which he conducted his life.

…nightmarish sketches of life among the extremely poor on New York’s East Side. For about a page the prose seems overblown,- then- frighteningly- it seems appropriate to the weird, real, furious, lucid scenes it unfolds. This is life among the tenements and gutters in a bubbling, Breughel hell, inhabited by crippled but human beings that think or that talk brilliantly about themselves- people of all tongues and nationalities damned by extreme poverty. A knife grinder’s spastic son, riding on a homemade, baby carriage, is hit by a truck; the carriage disintegrates; the father sets the child, freed now by death, on to his grinder and “”teaches”" him the craft he could not learn in life. The one-legged storyteller is ridden in an aerial cab through a foundry, and is trapped into listening to a fantastic monologue on life by the shop’s owner. A dollmaker hideously mimics normal life for the sake of his idiot sister. Several of the men, in the wake of an orgy given at a showing of slides of flowers, wind up in a steam bath and witness the death of an old waiter. A child is bitten by a rat and dies, and the neighbors pile all their belongings on the street in mourning. Everything seethes, dissolves; everyone tries to break invisible walls. Yet the book is not ugly and the people are not evil. They all have a volcanic quality, loving, fantastic, gentle, humorous, talkative, and their tremendous energy keeps the book from being merely grotesque. It is violently alive. …Read More:

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