Life in the New York City subway is very transient


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This morning I walked to the subway station, lugged my gear up two stair cases, and took the train to Times Square. Fortunately the elevator was working at the Times Square subway station. It was very hot (89 degrees outside).
As I came out of the elevator at 11:30AM I heard no music. The ‘Music Under New York‘ spot was surprisingly vacant.
The guitar player who takes his shoes off whenever he plays in the subway was standing on the mezzanine with his cart, pondering.
When I reached the MUNY spot I understood why there wasn’t anybody playing there – there was construction going on near by with jack-hammers making a loud noise. I decided to play anyway.
There was a Police recruitment table by the opposite wall. Usually they have their table on the same side as the musicians, but today the area was roped off on account of the construction.
At our spot I was surprised to discover blueberries scattered all over the floor. A lot of blueberries…
I hung up my Music Under New York‘ banner, set up all my gear and when I was just about ready to start playing I took my saw out of its case and… I was horrified to discover my saw’s tip-handle missing! This has never happened to me before. I must have forgotten it at home (I was practising a new piece I am supposed to record for an art installation, and I must have left my tip handle by the sheet music). Without the tip-handle I can’t play!

So, I packed up my gear, took off my Music Under New York‘ banner and started my way back home. I took the elevator to the train platform. The shoe-less guitar player was at his usual spot, strumming his guitar, barefoot.

Got on the train, got off at my station, lugged my gear down 2 flights of stairs, walked home, got the missing tip-handle, turned around and made the entire trip back to Times Square.
It felt like going to work twice on the same day. In 89 degrees.

I got to the MUNY spot at 1pm. Steven Clark, the ‘Michael Jackson’ dancer, was just about to set up at the spot. I told him I had a permit and he was cool about it, as usual. He said he has to wait for his friends anyway (Dwayne’s hip-hop dance group).

I looked around – the shoeless guitar player was not there anymore. The construction people were gone and the taped off area was not taped off any more. The Police recruitment table was gone. And there were no blueberries on the floor…
Life in the New York City subway is very transient.

As I was setting up (again) Spivie, hip hop dancer from Dwayne’s group, arrived. He told Steve and me that Dwayne had to go to court today. He (and Spivie, too) got a ticket from the Police when they were dancing on 5th Avenue by a bank.

It must have been Police Academy graduation day today – there were a lot of police officers walking by dressed in pressed uniforms, with no ranks, walking with their families.

An older guy with a green foam ‘Statue of Liberty’ crown on his head walked my way. He was dressed in a long orange gown that had words printed on it saying something about Rock & Roll. As he walked passed me he said “the subway ain’t the same without the ‘Saw Lady’. Good to see you, Miss Paruz”.
I had a strange feeling I saw this guy before…

Dwayne showed up. He had been to court and the judge, naturally, dismissed the ticket. He told me what happened – his group performs on 5th Avenue regularly. They actually got permission from the bank to use the sidewalk in front of the bank when the bank is closed. They got to the area at 4pm and the bank person told them to go ahead and start their show. the Policemen who arrived shortly after didn’t care that the bank approved of the dancers performance there, and gave them a ticket. Dwayne said it’s the same policeman who keeps harassing his group. Dwayne is collecting all these tickets, and once he has accumulated 15 of them he will file a harassment suit against the cop.
The judge waved all the tickets off. Dwayne said that practically all the tickets that went before the court that morning were dismissed – they were mostly cases of vendors who had permits to work in the street but got tickets anyway. He said it was clear it was just cops wanting to get their quota of ticket giving and therefore just ticketing innocent easy targets who happened their way.

The Dianetics people walked by, as usual, carrying their table, chairs and books.

Two guys that work in Side Shows came over to say ‘hi’. One of them is a sword swallower, the other a snake charmer. It turned out they know a guy who eats light-bulbs with whom I had worked many years ago. When they heard the sound of the saw from afar they knew it must be me – they knew of me from the ‘American Carny’ documentary, I guess.

The girl who used to be a pick-pocket and now sings on the trains came to say ‘hi’. Steve (”Michael Jackson”), who was waiting with the hip-hop group at the side for my spot, came to say ‘hi’ to her, too.
We’ve all known each other for years. I couldn’t remember the girls name, so later on I asked Steve what her name is. He said he never knew what her name was. That is actually quite common – I, too, know lots of people in the subway, whom I see and talk with every day, but I don’t know their names. I know a lot about their lives, but not their name… they don’t know my name either – they all know me as ‘Saw Lady’… Names, or the lack of them, don’t interfere with our camaraderie.

Still, when this guy whom I always see both at Times Square and at Union Square came to say ‘hi’ to me – I said to him that I’ve known him for so long, may be it’s time I knew his name. He has been saying ‘hello’ to me for at least a couple of years, I think.
His name is Luan, which means ‘lion’. He is from the former Yugoslavia. He was in a refugee camp after the war, went through a divorce and came to the USA to start a new life in 1997. In his country, which is now 7 new countries…, he used to play trombone in an orchestra. But here it is too difficult to be a musician, so he is going to college to study management. I told him he left all the troubles in his old life and now here he can have a new life, a fresh start.
What a wonderful person he is. Despite all the terrible things he had to endure he maintains such a friendly, cheerful disposition!

At 3PM I handed over the spot to Dwayne’s group. While ‘changing the guard’ Dwayne told me he has an 18 year old daughter and also a son. Dwayne looks so young – I really didn’t think he would have grown kids!
Right as Steve, the Michael Jackson dancer, and the hip-hop dancers were about to start their show Delphin Tardio, the guitar player/singer showed up with a permit. He was really nice and let the dancers perform for 40 minutes. To while away the time Delphin told me of his time in Paris, France. He had a great career going there, performing in clubs. But he let it all go in order to be with his son. Now that his son is 14 years old Delphin thinks it’s time he could go back to Europe and resume his career.

A friendly homeless guy took the elevator with me down to the platform.

I was happy I didn’t lazy out and made the trip to the subway a second time today.

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One Response to Life in the New York City subway is very transient

  1. annulla on July 29, 2007 at 7:00 am

    So interesting to read about music in the subways from a busker’s point of view. I found your blog while googling for information about Delphin Tardio (didn’t find anything, either; the guy needs to get his own site/ blog/ myspace/ something).

    And now, of course, I have to google “American Carny” …

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