Sharing A Cab, And My Toes | With Greta Gerwig

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(Brian Rea for The New York Times)
(Brian Rea for The New York Times)

Greta Gerwig is the director of "Lady Bird," which has just been nominated for four Golden Globes, including Best Screenplay for Gerwig. She reads Julia Anne Miller's essay, "Sharing a Cab, and My Toes."

Where Are They Now?

Julia Anne Miller doesn't know where the man she calls a "foot enthusiast" is now. After the incident in the cab, she saw him in passing several times, but they never talked about it. Eventually, he disappeared into the anonymity of the city. But she did confess the whole story to her colleague who had the same experience. She says they laughed about it.

"We were wondering how he had been so successful in getting such different women as the two of us to consent — and we did consent — to this request — and it was a request," she says. "And we decided it was the element of surprise, his utter focus on what he desired, and the fact that we had both had long days and had very tired feet."

When Julia looks back on that cab ride today, nearly 20 years after it happened, she's amused by the whole thing.

She says, "There definitely was an innocence and naivete in me to think that having my toes sucked in the back of a cab was the experience of a 'real' New Yorker. Like that would somehow qualify me as someone who had the props to be here. But when I think back upon the experience now, it's with deep affection for both that girl and that boy in the cab. This was a joyful experience that I really was celebrating when I wrote about it."

"I still see the magic of this city, and it has to do with its diversity, and the fact that people come here to express their desires and their dreams. Not everybody gets there. But the collective energy of people trying is still intoxicating to me."

Julia Anne Miller

After her piece came out, Julia heard from some people who didn't think it belonged in Modern Love. But she says the love at the center of this piece doesn't have anything to do with toes.

"It very much belongs in Modern Love in my opinion because it's about the love of a place, and the love of a place that feels like home," she says. "And I'm going to sound like Pollyanna, but I still see the magic of this city, and it has to do with its diversity, and it has to do with its expression, and it has to do with the fact that people do come here to express their desires and their dreams. And not everybody gets there. But the collective energy of people trying, and feeling the possibility that it could happen, is still intoxicating to me."

And Julia is one of those people, still working on pursuing her own artistic dreams.

"I've continued to express myself and then I get bogged down by my jobs, and I think it's over for me as an artist," she says. "And sometimes I think, well, that's it, you've had your day, Julia. And then something like this happens, and I get invited to talk about my work and someone as amazing as Greta Gerwig is going to read it. And I remember that life is still full of possibilities and that New York still has possibilities to offer me, and that I am going to persevere in pursuit of my dreams. Even though I have to pay my rent, just like every other New Yorker. I'm not closing up shop — I'm not done yet."

"I've never had my toes sucked in a cab going home, but I have had similar experiences where I thought, 'Well, what else are you doing in New York if it's not to say yes to the crazy stuff?'"

Greta Gerwig

More from Greta Gerwig

Greta Gerwig says that for her, like Julia, New York is a place of possibility and adventure.

"I very much understand wanting to move to New York to pursue your dreams and having part of that be saying yes to things that seem kind of crazy," she says. "And I felt like, I've never had my toes sucked in a cab going home, but I felt as if I have had similar experiences where I thought, 'Well what else are you doing in New York if it's not to say yes to the crazy stuff?'"

Voices In This Episode

Greta Gerwig has rapidly emerged as one of Hollywood’s most engaging actresses.

Gerwig was last seen in "20th Century Women" alongside Annette Bening and Elle Fanning from director Mike Mills. Gerwig received a Critics’ Choice Award nomination in the category of Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Abbie, a photographer who is being treated for cervical cancer. Last year, Gerwig also starred in Pablo Larrain’s "Jackie" alongside Natalie Portman and Peter Sarsgaard; Todd Solondz’s "Wiener-Dog" opposite Danny DeVito, Ellen Burstyn, and Kieran Culkan; and Rebecca Miller’s romantic dramedy "Maggie's Plan" opposite Ethan Hawke and Julianne Moore.

In 2015, Gerwig starred in "Mistress America," a comedy that she co-wrote with director Noah Baumbach, which premiered to rave reviews at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. Gerwig’s previous collaboration with Baumbach, "Frances Ha," earned her Golden Globe and Broadcast Film Critics Association Award nominations in the category of “Outstanding Lead Actress in a Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy.” The film, which also earned an Independent Spirit Award nomination for “Best Feature,” premiered at the 2012 Telluride Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival, and New York Film Festival.

Gerwig first received critical acclaim for her breakout role as “Florence” in "Greenberg," which marked her first collaboration with writer/director Noah Baumbach. In the film, she starred opposite Ben Stiller and her performance earned her several nominations including a Gotham Award nomination for “Breakthrough Performance” and an Independent Spirit Award nomination for “Best Female Lead.”

Other film credits include Barry Levinson’s "The Humbling" opposite Al Pacino and Dianne Wiest, Woody Allen’s "To Rome With Love" opposite Alec Baldwin, Jesse Eisenberg and Ellen Page; "Arthur" opposite Russell Brand and Helen Mirren; the romantic comedy "No Strings Attached" with Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher; Whit Stillman’s comedy "Damsels in Distress;" and Fox Searchlight’s "Lola Versus." A darling of the independent film scene, Gerwig’s prior credits include Ti West’s “art-house horror film” "House of the Devil;" the Duplass brothers’ genre-bender "Baghead;" Joe Swanberg’s "Hannah Takes the Stairs" as a writer and actress, and "Nights and Weekends" which she co-wrote and co-directed.

Gerwig graduated Magna Cum Laude from Barnard College and currently resides in New York City.

Julia Anne Miller is a writer whose essays have appeared in the New York Times, Salon, Smithsonian, Epiphany, and the New York Press. She is currently working on a collection of essays entitled “Don’t Tell My Mother I Told You This.” She lives in New York City.

Headshot of Caitlin O'Keefe

Caitlin O'Keefe Producer, Podcasts & New Programs
Caitlin O'Keefe was a producer of podcasts and new programming at WBUR.



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