While waiting for the train on my way to my busking spot of the day, a lady told me she saw me at Times Square. “I heard this strange sound and I said to myself – this sounds like a musical saw”, she said. I told her Times Square is where I am heading to right now.
Kossan, the Japanese singer and Sanshin player, was setting up on the mezzanine. Eduardo & his son were packing up their busking gear (which includes a keyboard and a gang of mechanically dancing dolls) by the mosaics. Eduardo’s son just arrived back in NYC after spending 11 months with his wife and children in Ecuador. He is appalled by the big change at the Times Square subway station: the record store which now overshadows everything. He told me that when he and his father were performing by the store, he asked the store owner 3 times to lower the volume of the music coming out of the store. The store complied but after 5 minutes they put the volume back up again. It was very annoying.
An oriental gentleman offered me some chocolate-chip cookies.
An older lady in a trench coat was handing out pamphlets by the escalator. She was gradually inching her way towards my space…
A guy walked by and said “spooky”. Then he walked over to a group of ladies who were taking pictures by the mosaics and he posed for the photo with them, in jest.
A guy sang along when I played Bach’s ‘Air on a G String’.
An Andean musician waved to me on his way to finding a busking spot.
Graywolf, the homeless guy who plays with some Andean bands, walked by with a shopping cart full of stuff, and came to say ‘hi’. He told me he doesn’t play in Brooklyn any more. Drunks started to gather where he played and that scared away his audience. He asked me what happened to Eduardo – he saw him playing here earlier today. I told him Eduardo wasn’t doing too good at this spot, so he left.
We talked about Arthuro Flores, the flute maker and player who used to busk in the subway until he was hit by a car and killed. Graywolf said he still hasn’t cried over Arthuro. They were very close. Graywolf said that it’s just like after his mother died – it took him time until he could cry and let all the grief out.
Graywolf parked his cart by the elevator, took out a folding chair and set down to listen to my playing for a while.
Photographer: © Visakh Menon
A guy told me that Stephen King’s ‘The Dark Tower’ book series mentions a musical saw player. In this book the sound of the musical saw can hypnotize victims…
Three Nortenos carrying guitars and wearing mismatched hats were on their way to the N/R trains. A while later two Nortenos, playing guitar and accordion and wearing no hats (that’s unusual) were on their way to the 1/2/3 trains.
My folding chair started to wobble. I’ll have to get it fixed before it collapses altogether.
The little old Chinese lady whose back is bent over walked by, as she always does, carrying plastic bags in each hand.
A guy told me that he saw a jazz drummer in England playing a musical saw.
A guy named Bobby, wearing a suit, stood in front of me and did a rap to my playing. Then a girl asked him for directions and he went with her to “show her the way”.
A guy leaned on one of the columns in front of me and read a red book. He then went and sat down on the floor by the wall opposite me and continued to read his book. Another guy sat on the floor by the wall near the escalators and stayed there for a long time. The guy reading the book moved to stand by the wall at my left, still reading his book.
As I was packing up to go, a freelance (non-permitted) guitar player with a ponytail was on his way to busking. I offered him my spot but he said he actually likes playing by the record store… He doesn’t mind having to compete with its loud music. We talked about busking attire and I told him that on Halloween I play dressed as a witch. He told me that on Halloween he plays classical guitar dressed as Prince Charming in a pseudo 16th century costume.
He told me there’s a new bucket drummer in the subway – a guy from Montreal named Mike who plays from morning to night, the whole day non-stop.
When I left the spot the guy reading a book was still standing by the wall, but he wasn’t reading any more.
As I walked by the record store the busker with the ponytail was playing his guitar there. There was a crowd of people watching a wrestling video in the store window and they were all standing in the busker’s space, with their backs to him. How annoying. They were ignoring the musician, standing right by him but looking at something else.
On the platform a homeless guy asked me: “Done playing for today?” He told me he needs a paper cup.