Visit From a Boston Statue

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November 11, 2007
By Posted in Times Square Subway Station | 4 Comments »

To my amazement, nobody was at the Music Under New York spot at the Times Square subway station when I arrived there. I noticed that there was light inside the about-to-be-opened record store next to the spot, and I could see they already brought merchandise into it. All the buskers are scared of what will happen when the store opens. Last week the store owner already gave musicians busking at the spot a hard time. He even called the police on some of them, even though they had a permit to perform there. Isn’t it ironic that an owner of a music store would hate musicians?
As I was setting up Lydia and another lady who works with her at Arts for Transit (the MTA division which is in charge of Music Under NY) stoped to say ‘hi’. They were on their way into the new store, to hear how loud the music from our spot sounded like inside the store, and to tell the store owner that the MTA wants buskers in this spot. Arts for Transit is really a blessing for musicians – they are wonderfully supportive of the buskers’ cause.

before the turnstyles

A woman carrying a heavy cart stopped to tell me that she is… Serafina Payne, the statue busker from Boston! We “met” on line through our blogs. It was so cool to meet her in person.


She was on her way to Side Show School. That’s the school run by Todd Robbins, the glass eater with whom I performed on Oddville MTV many years ago. He is also the protagonist of the film ‘American Carny’ on which soundtrack I play the musical saw.

American Carny

Serafina told me that by now she has learned to swallow a balloon through her mouth and spit it back out through her nose. How amazing is that! She doesn’t plan on stopping her statueing career, she just wants to ad another form of entertainment to her busking options. Very smart, not to mention talented girl. We talked about the problem of lack of heat when busking in winter and about back problems – 2 problems we share… Serafina suffers from a much greater problem though – blood circulation problems made worse by cold temperatures, which apparently she inherited from her grand mother, who had to use a glove just to reach into the freezer.

subway entrance

The guy who walks with a cane and sings on the train and his younger singing partner stopped to listen to my playing of the Bach/Gounod ‘Ave Maria’. I learned that his partner’s name is Herman.

I received the first ‘Happy Thanksgiving’ greeting this year :)

The tall sanitation worker of the station was wearing his pretty red coat. He started work at 6am today – it was still dark outside when he got to work… He is done working at 3pm.

Times Square escalators

A 20 year old looking girl who works for MTV TRL show asked me if I would perform on their show on Monday. I asked her how much they would pay and she said there is no pay but lots of exposure… I told her that I’m sorry but I need to get paid for my work. She kept on trying to convince me that I should work for them for free because they are looking for street performers and the exposure is great. I happen to know that they keep trying to get Robert, AKA the ‘Naked Cowboy’, to perform on their show and he refuses to. Why should any of us work for them for free? MTV is rich enough to be able to pay the people it employs. As a matter of fact I was employed by MTV a number of times in the past and got well compensated. The biggest mistake for a person trying to get a street performer to perform for free is to say ‘you’ll get lots of exposure’. As buskers we get tons of exposure all the time and we don’t have to go out of our way for it (show up at a given date/time/place). We give our performance for free as long as it is on OUR terms (location and time). If anybody wants us to show up and perform at their convenience – that’s a job. It’s disrespectful to demand someone to work for free, especially if the employer is a rich corporation. It’s so ridiculous and naive that this girl thought she would be doing buskers a big favor by having us work for her for free… I bet you she doesn’t do her work for free!

Naked Cowboy

Geovanni Suquillo, the guitar player, was looking for a spot. He played at Grand Central Station yesterday so he didn’t want to play there today – he doesn’t like playing at the same spot two days in a row.


The guy with curly hair who always carries a big knapsack and stops to talk with me at Times Square passed by. I remembered him saying that he is going to travel but didn’t know where to, so I asked him if he knows yet. He said he will go to Florida for two weeks in January, then spend a month at Mardi Gras, then back to NYC to open a business and buy property in PA… I’m not sure if this guy is really planning all this or just dreaming about it. I’m not sure if he is homeless or what…

An older lady wearing glasses and short hair asked me to play “Hedwig’s theme from Harry Potter”. She said she heard me play it at Bloomingdales. I never played at Bloomingdales…but I did play at Barney’s, so maybe she confused the two large department stores.

At 3pm Dagmar, the singing duo with guitar, showed up for their permitted time. Meghan McGeary , who performs wearing a long blond wig with a WWII pilot’s hat on it, told me of the trouble they had at 34th street with a large group of hip-hop dancers who hovered over them for three hours. As we were talking the same group of dancers showed up! Meghan asked me to continue playing until she and her partner are set up, so that the dancers won’t try to take over the spot. Luckily, the dancers left shortly after.
Dagmar puts a bowl full of colorful bug rings by their donations case. It’s for people to take upon giving a donation. Meghan gave me one such ring – a sparkly green and yellow spider. She told me they put the glitter on the rings themselves.
I told Meghan about the MTV girl looking for buskers to perform for free. She agreed with me that MTV can afford to pay if they want us to perform for them.


GreyWolf the American Indian pan flute/guitar player showed up after months of absence. He told me that he had been performing on the street in Brooklyn at an Orthodox Jewish neighbourhood. He said people are really good to him there. He showed me a credit card with a star of David that they gave him and a black yarmulke. He said they buy his Andean music CDs like hot cakes. Since they don’t use money on the Sabbath he takes Friday afternoon to Saturday nights off and relaxes. GreyWolf said that now that winter is coming he will have to go down in the subway again.
We talked of the record store about to open near the MUNY spot. GreyWold said he expected there to be trouble for the buskers from the store from the moment it was announced that it will be a record store – he thinks the store owner doesn’t like the idea of CDs being sold by the musicians right next to his store…
Lets hope Arts for Transit manages to smooth out the riff with the store owner soon.


4 Responses to Visit From a Boston Statue

  1. Howlin' Hobbit on November 12, 2007 at 4:16 pm

    Tell the next one that people *die* from exposure.

    Howlin’ Hobbit
    Got Uke?

  2. Ramon on November 13, 2007 at 12:50 am

    This is a beatiful post in a beatiful blog, so many interesting people doing street art over there. It is so diffeent from both cities over here. El Paso doesn’t have but preachers and restaurant flyer distributers in the downtown streets and Juarez, well Juarez is just another story all by itself. You can see some of the poople asking for money in Juarez’s streets in my last post, the pictures linked are actual people from the main downtown strip I have to walk everyday I go and play. I hope I can start something that will change that…

  3. mister anchovy on November 13, 2007 at 12:37 pm

    Howlin is right. They have a lot of nerve asking you to perform for free.

    It’s kind of sad the the music store would not want buskers around, but then again, I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. How many music stores care about music? I think it’s mostly about selling units.

  4. Sera on November 14, 2007 at 12:25 pm

    Yay! I’m so glad I ran into you!

    Oh, and the MTV jerks came up to me once as the cops were kicking me out of Times Square to try and “cheer me up” by “offering” me some unpaid gig.

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