6th Grade Project
When I arrived at the 14th street subway station the older Chinese lady was on the platform, beating her two-tone instrument. As I walked towards the elevator to the mezzanine the Chinese lady packed up her chair and left.
As I was setting up at the Music Under New York spot the homeless guy with the hook hand came to say ‘hi’. He told me he just bought a pair of black boots and jeans at Kay Mart, for $30. He was wearing them and looked very nice.
The lady selling Churros – the sticky looking sticks of dough, passed by.
At noon a group of 6th graders from The School at Columbia University came to interview me for a school project. Their teacher explained to me that each year the students spend a week without regularly scheduled classes and they work on a creative project. Her group is creating a documentary about NYC subway performers.
The kids, lead by Amin and Chris who asked me questions, watched me play, videotaped and took photos. (The homeless guy with a hook hand told me later that one of the girls took a photo of him sitting on the bench. He said it was probably because she was intrigued by his hook hand). Their first question to me was “how many questions may we ask you?” They were surprised when I said “as many as you like”. The kids asked me what inspired me to perform and what my favorite spots to play in the subway are. When I asked them who else they interviewed for their project they said the Kora playing guy. The kids were really nice, polite, and well prepared. It was a real pleasure meeting them.
At 12:40 I could hear the sound of the two-tone instrument the Chinese lady plays. I guess she just took a break before.
The guy who used to pass by me at Times Square and yell ‘Saw Lady, Saw Lady, Saw Lady’ every time he saw me walked by. I haven’t seen him since I stopped playing at Times Square. Without fail, he yelled out his usual greeting to me
Arnold, the messenger guy, came to say ‘hi’. He told me that he will be 47 years old in two weeks. He has been ill with fever and dehydration and lost a lot of weight. He told me when he had the fever he “was so hot he thought he saw the devil” and the room was spinning around him. His mother’s birthday is coming up and he and his two brothers will go home to South Carolina for a week (it’s a 12 hour drive from NYC, he said). His mother is a bit ill and his father is severely ill. His father was released from the hospital too early but he doesn’t want to go back.
A guy said to me “you must have moonshine in your blood”. He said he is looking for a place to stay – all he needs is space that is big enough for him to lie down. He will pay rent plus clean the place. He hates the place where he is staying now.
Albert, the messenger, showed up as I was packing up to go – this is the first time in 4 years that he missed my playing. He was disappointed.
He told me he is 51 years old.
Sleepy Lester had the permit to play at the spot after me. He showed me how he now uses an i-pod to play his backup music on. That inspired me – my CD walkman broke and I need to buy something new to play my backup music on. Lester inspired me to venture into the 21st century and get an i-pod.
Lester plays a lower octave gold harmonica. It sounds like a saxophone! He told me this harmonica was popular until 1926 in Vaudeville. He said great harmonica players needed to dress as clowns to get work.
On the platform below there was an acoustic guitar player. Oddly, I couldn’t hear any sound coming out of his guitar as he was playing…
As I changed trains at Times Square I noticed the barefoot guitar player was there – he shaved his long beard and had his long hair cut short! He looked so different – much younger – that I wasn’t sure if it was really him…but who else would stand barefoot on a piece of paper while playing the guitar on the platform at the Times Square subway station but him?