It Took a Village

A taxi driver eavesdrops on a conversation between two of Chelsea Clinton’s wedding guests

Counterpoints Modern Life

The late, great American scribe William S. Burroughs chose to lead his essay “Words of Advice for Young People” with this item: “Never interfere in a boy-girl fight.” 

I recall this maxim often as a taxi-driver in Rhinebeck, New York, the upstate village chosen to be Chelsea Clinton’s wedding site in July because of its quaintness and picturesque real estate mise en scène, which pays homage to the old-school American robber barons such as the Astors.

So when Democratic lobbyist Liz Robbins was arguing with her husband Doug Johnson, a former ABC newsreader, about whether to make a detour stop to purchase a copy of the Sunday New York Times containing the tame post-mortem on Chelsea’s Saturday night wedding, which they had attended, I did what most seasoned taxi-drivers do. I turned left. In silence.

They were trying to catch a private plane flying out of a tiny airstrip along the Hudson River known as the Kingston Ulster Airport. Their excessive luggage was looming ominously within the trunk of my Buick Century cab, but we made a few green lights, were not late and had some spare time. I conjured a strategy of stopping at the Mobil station off the route 209 exit to Saugerties, a ground zero for local redneck culture. We could make a quick stop there and Liz could seek her newsprint fix. (It had always seemed odd that these Mobil stations throughout the area carried so many newspapers, including the Financial Times, despite being ensconced in the hollows and grottos of a painfully illiterate populus with a prediliction for watching auto racing on TV.)

Stop we did and in went Liz. “She’s not wearing any shoes,” said Doug as his wife scampered into the hayseed petrol den’s convenience store. “She’s crazy.” And I thought it was a nice touch that she might want to blend in with the locals when it came to footwear.

Liz had been in the back seat with her daughter, who was worried about her formal dress, which was “very expensive, and not mine.” The dress was blue. It had a stain. I thought this highly inappropriate for a Clinton wedding. Mom emerged victorious from the Mobil station as locals filled their jet-skis with petrol. She got her newspaper, and we were only a mile from the airstrip.

Upon arrival, the Robbins were concerned that the private plane taking them to their East Hampton, NY, home was too small. Such are the Sunday worries of those chosen to attend the highly secretive yet hugely anti-climactic nuptials of an ex-President’s allergy-laden daughter. On a $33 fare and after the pilot and I hustled the Robbins’ 101 tote bags into the plane, Doug Johnson handed me $40, looked me in the eye and said: “You were very helpful.” 

The transaction, and Rhinebeck’s “royal wedding”, were over.