How Few Strings Can You Play With?

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May 22, 2008
By Posted in Grand Central Shuttle | 2 Comments »

Today was a dreary & rainy cold day. When I got to the Shuttle train on its Times Square side I saw the three singers who sing on trains – Romero, Chill and Bo, standing on the platform. They were on their way to singing in the #6 train line. We got on the Shuttle train and talked about what a tired, sleepy, blah day it is, with the air feeling heavy. Then they started their work: they had a short introductory speech they prepared in advance (deciding who will say what line) especially for today, in which they mentioned what a dreary Monday it is. Then they burst into an energetic, cheerful song.
We got off the Shuttle (it only makes one stop) and waved goodbye as they continued towards the #6 trains and I set up at the Music Under New York spot by the Shuttle. “You woke me up!” I said to them.

Singers on train

Steven Clark, the Michael Jackson dancer, called to me as he was getting onto the Shuttle.
Saw Lady: “I haven’t seen you in a long time. Have you been around?”
Steven: “Yeah. Have a great day”
Shuttle doors close.

Michael Jackson act of Steven Clark

At 1:30 Chill, Bo and Romero finished singing on the trains and were on their way back home. Except for Romero who was probably on his way to singing with the other group he works with.

Scout, the singer with the velvet voice, passed by with his performing gear in a suitcase on wheels.


At 2pm a delicious smell of muffins filled the air.
At 2:40 guitarist Don Witter waved ‘hi’ on his way to the shuttle with his performing gear all wrapped in plastic bags against the rain.

Don Witter

I saw many young people with purple gowns and square hats – graduation season must have started.
At 3pm Luan, the refugee from the former Yugoslavia, stopped to chat. A string just broke off my bow and I showed Luan how, despite the fact that I have a new bow with me, I am still playing my old bow which has very few strings left on it. I want to see with how few strings I could still play.
Luan told me that according to a book he had in his old country, violinist Paganini played a violin which had one string left… It was during a concert – the strings of the violin broke one by one, until there was only one left. Paganini didn’t stop playing and finished the concert with one string on the violin. Of course, this story is possibly an exaggeration (maybe not that many strings broke off…).
Luan also told me that Paganini was a bit crazy – he used to burn his sheet music as soon as he had learned to play it, so that nobody could steal his music.
He used to count the number of people in the audience while he was playing, to make sure nobody got into the concert without paying.

The guy who makes bird sounds walked by and made the sound of a crow at me. He never talks, only makes bird sounds. I was happy to see him, after not having seen him in a long time. As I said “how are you?” to him, and he nodded ‘hello’ to me, I made an effort to see whether he had a whistle hidden in his mouth, like guitarist Geo said the “bird guy” does. I think Geo is wrong – this guy really has a talent for imitating bird sounds. He was crowing with his mouth wide open.

Photographer: © Aaron Porter

At 4pm I noticed that the trains switched lanes from using the middle track to using the track on my left. When the overhead announcements started (meaning it was the beginning of rush hour) it was time for me to go home.
An MTA employee, who works at directing the people to the correct track for the next to leave Shuttle train, told me that he has been working this job for 14 years this December.
He explained to me that now that rush hour is starting they are using all three train tracks.
“This is overtime for me” he said. He finishes work at 2pm but stays until 5:30.
“See you next time” he said to me as I boarded the Shuttle.


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2 Responses to How Few Strings Can You Play With?

  1. Shawn Grimes on May 22, 2008 at 2:21 pm

    I am completely addicted to your blog! I love the way you write, it keeps things simple but interesting.

  2. Aaron on June 20, 2008 at 6:43 pm

    My wife showed me this article that she had to read for a writing class she was taking. She was so excited by it. It was about Itzhak Perlman playing a concert in which he broke a string. The story said that he played the rest of the concert with only three strings since he walks on crutches and it takes him so long to get settled on stage. It was a wonderfully inspiring story about him working very hard to make his music. So on my wife’s birthday I took her to see him in concert. She was disappointed because she was looking to relive the story in her mind as he walked in, but he had a motorized wheel chair that he zipped about on. It was a wonderful concert that we both enjoyed a lot and he played with all four string on his violin and a bow full of hair. I Googled the story and I cannot confirmed if it is true or not but it did appear in the Houston Chronicle in 1995.

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