Today I was back in the New York City subway, after a whole month of being away.
Boy, did I miss it!
I just got back from a tour with the show Confess/Confuse. It’s an opera constructed of four micro-music theater works. Each section tells a different story. There is an extensive musical saw part in the 3rd segment, the ‘Winchester Widow’ (a true story of the rich widow of the inventor of the ‘gun that won the west’). The musical saw plays the part of ghosts, which is great fun.
We played at the Philadelphia Fringe Festival and at Penn State.
Rob Nairn (bass), Bruce Trinkley (composer, pianist), Raymond Sage (tenor), Margaret Benczak (soprano), Richard Edelman (director), Jerry James (stage Manager).
Center: Jason Charnesky (writer).
Front row: Natalia Paruz (musical saw), Elisa Matthews (soprano) and Lea Asbell-Swanger (lighting and sound)
The wild thing is that even though I was away from the NYC subway for so long, I wasn’t forgotten… The Metro NY newspaper wrote about me while I was away!
In the left hand column, “Sounds of the Subway” mentions me, as well as the right hand column, ‘Which subway station is the best for live music’
Well, as I came to the Times Square subway station today, there was no body at the Music Under New York spot. It felt a little strange at first – very quiet. During the first half hour the only outstanding happening was a lady who waved her arms in flying motions as she walked by me, smiling at me.
Geovanni Suquillo, the mandolin and guitar player from Ecuador was the first friend I saw. He just returned to the subway himself, after a month of visiting his family in Ecuador. Though he had already played in the subway twice since. He said his fingers hurt because he hadn’t played in so long. I felt really stiff, too. We were both amazed that we still remembered all the songs we play in the subway, even though we hadn’t thought of them in a whole month
Geovanni told me his family home is right by a volcano, which is active! Fortunately the lava doesn’t reach his town, but every time the volcano erupts his village gets covered in ashes. Last time they had 3 feet of ashes everywhere!
Geovanni is thinking of building a recording studio at his house in Ecuador and spending 3 months of the year there (and the rest of the year in NYC). He loves NYC, but he misses the inspiration the view of the gorgeous mountain gives his music.
Geovanni asked me to watch over his stuff while he went to eat lunch. When he returned he brought me a cold bottle of water. That was so nice of him. It was really a welcomed gift, as it was about 90 degrees today and very humid.
Geovanni went to look for a spot to set up and play as a freelancer.
The singer who walks with a cane and his partner walked by and said hello. They greeted me by my name and I was pleasantly surprised that they remembered my name after so long.
Grey Wolf’s father in law (who is homeless) came to talk. He was wearing a shiny belt and a necklace. He asked me if I don’t play outside. He told me Grey Wolf is now working in Brooklyn, selling the CDs of the various subway Andean groups on the streets of a religious Jewish community. Apparently the religious Jews love Andean music. The CDs are selling like hot-cakes. He thinks they like this music because it is meditational.
He showed me a “computer-phone” he found in the garbage. I think it might be a Blackberry – one can go on the Internet with it, use it as a camera and as a phone. He took it to a store that sells them and they told him that since it is locked, they will give him a cell phone with 40 minutes on it in exchange for the “computer-phone”. He didn’t think it was a good enough deal, so he is now looking for a hacker who would unlock the “computer-phone” for him. He is going to hang out by a school where he knows there are kids who know how to hack…
Steven Clark, the Michael Jackson impersonator, asked if I would mind if he parked his gear next to me and waited around for me to be done. Of course I said I didn’t mind, but after a while he left to go find another spot to perform at. He told me he has a permit for the Times Square spot tomorrow.
There was a young lady sitting on the floor with her back to one of the columns. After a long while she approached me and asked if I could change a dollar bill for her into quarters. She explained that her friend is 45 minutes late to meeting her, and she forgot her cell phone. She said to me: “Thank you, you make my time waiting a lot more enjoyable”.
Her friend arrived a while later. I saw her telling her friend about receiving banking services from me
At 3:05 Geovanni returned. He has been scouting for a vacant spot to set up and play for about 2 hours now, and couldn’t find a spot! I told him he can have my spot, as I was done, but at that moment the Japanese tap-dance group arrived with a permit for the spot… They have a drummer and 2 guys and a girl (named Shoko) who dance.
As the Japanese tap dancers were setting up their board, a hip-hop dancers group arrived. They were mostly little kids, with 2 adults. The kids asked if they could try on tap dance shoes, and Shoko let them try on her shoes. As it was taking the tappers a while to set up their board, they allowed the hip-hoppers to do “one show” as they call it. The hip-hoppers set up, but their amplifier mal-functioned. They asked me if they could borrow my amp, or just a chord, to do their show, but I told them that I have to go. By this time the Japanese tappers were ready to start their performance. When I left the spot the young hip-hoppers were still trying to convince the Japanese tappers to let them do one show.
On the platform underneath I ran into Delphin Tardio, the guitarist/singer.
It’s so nice to find everything as usual in the NYC subway, even though I was away for so long.
What did change is the rout of the ‘R’ train… I got on the ‘R’ and expected to switch to the ‘N’ train at 59th street, as usual. Well, when I got off the train it was at 63rd street… I did notice the conductor talking a lot over the loud speaker system, but it was all mumbled and I certainly didn’t expect the rout of the train to have been altered… Apparently the ‘R’ doesn’t go to 59th street on weekends these days… I had to get out of the subway, walk a few blocks and pay another fee to get in again…