A Good Spot is Hard to Come By

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September 29, 2007
By Posted in Times Square Subway Station | 3 Comments »

At 11:40AM Juan Castillo was playing mandolin at the Music Under New York spot at the Times Square subway station.
At that time the ‘Beulah Outreach Ministries’ were setting up a table and lots of advertisements on portable stands by the wall further down from our spot.
Juan wished me a happy belated birthday and told me that today is Shinya’s birthday (the Japanese drummer who plays with a couple of the Andean groups in the subway and sometimes with Yaz, too).


I took this opportunity to find out whether the lady who told me she was related to the royal family if Chile had any truth in her story…Since Juan is from Chile, I asked him, and he said there is no royal family in Chile…
Juan left his gear for me to watch over while he went to do things above ground.


John, the photographer I met at this spot a while back and thought he might be a terorist :) came to photograph me today. He did the coolest thing – two policemen were standing by the pillar over to my right. John asked them if they would mind having their picture taken with me – and to my amazement, they agreed! They stood on the two sides of me and were really nice!

Policemen by the MUNY pillar at Times Square

A guy told me that he and his father both used to play the musical saw. He also told me that he used to climb a tree on Halloween and play the musical saw up there to scare people. I told him that I remember him telling me that a while back. I also told him that every Halloween I play in the subway dressed as a witch. He gave me the thumbs up for that.


Frankie, the guitar player/singer/whistler was away on vacation for a while. He told me he also got his teeth fixed. He will be 75 years old in January.
He was playing on the ‘N’ train platform, but couldn’t stand the smell coming from a homeless guy who was sitting near by, so he decided to move to the ‘1’ train platform.


A lady told me that she bought my CD a while back. She sees me also at the Union Square subway station (she lives near there). She told me that she loves to watch people’s faces as they watch me play. She loves the surprised looks people get as they realize that I’m playing a saw. She observed that “the more sophisticated people are the more surprised they get”.

Steven Clark, the ‘Michael Jackson’ dancer, was walking about pushing his gear, looking for a spot.

Steven Clark

A guy told me two doctors play the musical saw at his church in Brooklyn, but he said they are amateurs. I asked him to tell them about the Musical Saw Festival I organize every year – it would be great to have them participate.

At 1:40 Frankie, the guitarist/singer walked by me again…He said it wasn’t going well for him on the ‘1’ train platform and that he is going to try his luck playing at the Lexington and 59th street subway station.

At 2:15 Steven Clark walked by me again – he was still looking for a spot to set up…

An African-American lady talked with me about my music. She then said “I didn’t intend to approach you for this, but since we are talking…” and she handed me a two page print-out about sorrel – a Jamaican nutritious drink. Apparently she is selling those.

As Steven Clark walked by me yet again at 2:30 I told him that if he wants to wait, I’ll be done playingin 30 minutes and he could have my spot. He decided to wait. He told me that he got a $25 ticket today when performing at Grand Central Station. He never paid any of the tickets he ever got – every time he goes before the judge, the judge dismisses the ticket. I hear this from a lot of buskers. The judges think ticketing buskers is ridiculous. Somebody ought to tell the police that…

Steven Clark

As I was packing up my gear and Steven was setting up, we talked about how far back we go. I remember when Steven first arrived in NYC from Chicago. I remember his audition for Music Under New York, too – I advised him not to do a certain move from his choreography at the audition. He followed my advice and got in!
Steven gave me a DVD he made of his performances in the subway. He said he is giving a copy to everybody who ever helped him. I was really touched by this gesture and I gave Steven a hug.
We talked about birthdays (since mine was this week and it was mentioned in the MUNY newsletter. Steven was 35 years old last month, but he says he still feels like 12. I too, feel like my age got stuck, like Peter Pan. I wonder if that is something all performers have in common?

On the platform downstairs I saw Edwardo (Professor Edwardo Alvarez – the gentleman who plays keyboards with a troupe of battery operated dolls dancing around him). He was waiting for the train. But my train arrived so I didn’t get a chance to ask him if he went on tour to Europe this summer, like he wanted to.



3 Responses to A Good Spot is Hard to Come By

  1. Spring Day on September 29, 2007 at 7:27 am

    Hello dear Saw Lady! Thanks for visiting my blog and for your comment on the Fukkeduk album. Well, Kristof Roseeuw is now playing with FES (the Flat Earth Society, another great band from Belgium). He’s credited with double-bass, accordion, and violin there, but he might be inclined to unpack his saw, if you invite him to this NY saw festival.
    so many thanks for letting me know about your blog. I’ve read two or three of your recent posts, and to get direct insight into the street musicians’ scene of New York is really interesting. Greetings from Europe!

  2. Spring Day on September 29, 2007 at 7:33 am

    Hi, it’s me again. I just discovered that you played with PDQ Bach… Wow! I haven’t heard of them for years now. What’s Mr. Schickele up to nowadays?

  3. mister anchovy on September 30, 2007 at 3:17 am

    I’ve never heard of a busker getting a ticket up here. I have a license from the city, but nobody has asked to see it to date. I don’t play in the subway – there is a whole separate audition process for that, and I haven’t explored it at all. I think Harbourfront here falls outside my license too. I was kicked out of St. Lawrence Market a while back, but that wasn’t a license issue. The vendors there pay rent and the buskers don’t, and if the vendors don’t want you there, you pretty much have to leave.

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