Whiling Away the Ride

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The ferry boats to Staten Island have names. The one I took this time, on my way to the Music Under New York busking spot in the ferry terminal, was named ‘American Spirit’.


The Staten Island ferry landing place is modern, while the one right next to it, which launches the ferry to Governor’s Island, is very quaint.

ferry landings

While on the ferry, we passed a Circle Line (tourist sight seeing) boat.
Two cops with a police dog were walking around the boat for the dog to sniff people’s bags. Just as the cops motioned the dog to approach me, the dog squatted and… peed in the middle of the floor! One of the cops went to bring a wad of paper and cleaned it off. The dog never got to sniff my busking gear.


One can choose what side of the ferry to sit on. I always choose the side with the view of the Statue of Liberty (as opposed to the side with the view of Governor’s Island).

Statue of Liberty

I heard the sound of a faint violin on the boat, so I followed the sound. It was a guy playing Irish music on a violinless violin… It was just the neck of a violin, with the strings, with no ‘body’. The guy keeps it in a hallow tube to carry it around. He said it’s easy for travel. He has 5 kids and the only time he gets to play music is while commuting on the boat. He has been playing for 13 years.

When I got to the terminal a guy and a girl were cleaning one of the aquariums.


An annoying oriental guy wearing a blue fedora around his head intruded on my busking spot by dancing to my music. His dancing was not appropriate for the mellow style of my music, so it didn’t feel like he was being inspired by the music, but rather like he wanted to draw attention to himself. After he intruded on 3 songs of mine, I decided to play ‘Ave Maria’ in order to discourage him from dancing. It worked and he finally left.
A guy said to me: “Your music is very appropriate for this space”. This cheered me up after the unpleasantness of the dancer.

At 3pm a guy came to clean the window behind me. I asked him if he wanted me to take my Music Under New York banner down (permitted buskers hang the banner on the glass wall) and he said ‘yes’. “It’s only going to take 3 to 5 minutes” he said, referring to his cleaning job. While he was cleaning the wall in the busking spot, a little girl wearing pink cloths came to me and asked me to play “You Are My Sunshine”. While I played her requested song, she ran back to her father. When I was done she came running back with a dollar bill. She was so cute – she must have been only 5 or 6 years old.

Saw Lady at St. George
Photographer: © Michael McWeeney

A guy asked: “Can I make a request?”
Saw Lady: “You can make a request, but only if it’s something I know”.
Guy: “Can I have your bucket?”

A guard asked to see my permit. I asked him who else plays here in the terminal. He said: “a girl who sings with a guitar – she is really loud, and a lady playing violin who stands by the aquarium”. I’m guessing these might be Nicola and Luellen Abdoo, respectively.

Luellen Abdoo

The terminal’s sanitation guy told me that he is happy he is going home in 2 hours and that he doesn’t work on weekends. He said there used to be 260 fish in the terminal’s aquariums. Now there are only 60 left. The expensive fish that cost $1000 each died. Sometimes they have a person who climbs into the aquariums to clean the corrals. but algae forms really fast in these fish tanks.


A lady told me she saw a musical saw player playing with a jug band in DC a long time ago.

The singer from Mason’s acapella group who sing in the subway passed by. He told me they used to sing on the ferry boat. They stopped doing that after a guy crashed the ferry into the shore and killed some people.
Now he is singing Doo wop on the ‘6’ train’s platforms at 68th and at 77th streets.

On the boat back to Manhattan there was a guy playing a harmonica. Just like the violinist on the ride to Staten Island earlier today, he wasn’t a busker – he was just whiling away the ride.


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2 Responses to Whiling Away the Ride

  1. mister anchovy on May 24, 2009 at 1:44 pm

    The ferry is really beautiful

  2. Cathy Grier on March 18, 2010 at 9:31 pm

    Hi, I just came back from performing at St George today, as I was setting up, 2 guys were talking to each other. 1st guy: “have you seen that saw lady?” 2nd guy, “Yeah, she’s amazing and always smiling!”

    She is, thought I’d let you know, take care, love your blog posts.

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