A Different Bag Every Day

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December 11, 2008
By Posted in Union Square Subway Station | 3 Comments »

On my way up the subway station’s stairs two guys offered to help me bring my busking gear up. It turned out that they were the two guys I saw at the 14th street subway station last Friday – Guillermo and Martin, who were the ones sitting on a bench and fixing a string on a guitar. Martin was carrying the guitar. He plays at churches, he said. They were on their way to work now.

The train slid into the station very slowly because there were workers on the tracks.
On the train a guy with one arm was walking the trains blowing into a harmonica. With the same hand (his only hand) he was holding the harmonica and also holding an empty coffee cup for donations.

Train sliding into station

The elevator wasn’t working at the Union Square subway station.
As I got to the Music Under New York spot on the mezzanine it felt as if it was an exact repeat of the last time I was here: on the bench the same guy was sleeping with a guitar next to him. On the platform below two Chinese guys were playing what looked like a Chinese “banjo” and flute, playing Chinese music. The sound of this type of flute is as piercing as that of a bagpipe…
The same little girl with black curly hair walked by me with her mother. She came to tell me that she remembers me from last time. I told her I remember her, too :)

At 12:19 two construction guys in red and yellow vests were fixing the elevator.

The same Irish sound-man who told me that I should get a Sandvik musical saw last Friday came by again today. He said he came by especially to buy my CD. I asked him how he knows about the Sandvik musical saw and he said that there is a band called the ‘Tiger Lillies’ in which there is a musical saw player.
Saw Lady: “that would be Adrian Stout – we MySpaced :)
Irish guy: “I met Adrian and he told me that he plays a Sandvik Stradivarius. I thought he was putting me on. Adrian said he wasn’t, that it was for real. I was sure it was a joke, so Adrian said that I should phone the Sandvik company and ask for their musical saw department. So I phoned the Sandvik company”.
Saw Lady: “You called Sweden? Wasn’t that expensive?”
Irish Guy: “I called on my office phone in London… so the company paid for the long distance call… anyway, I asked for the musical saw department and the person on the other end of the line said “hold on, I’ll transfer you”. Then a voice said “musical saw department”!
So I knew it wasn’t a joke. The Sandvik person said they sell a few musical saws a week. I asked what is the difference between a regular and a musical saw. The Sandvik person said “it’s exactly the same except that the musical saw is tuned and we don’t bother sharpening the teeth on it”. He said these saws were expensive – a few hundred dollars.

Sandvik musical saw

Workers were changing the ads on the station’s walls. The new ads were for “Classics – proud sponsor of the NYC Marathon”.

Pat Christiano, the painter, returned from his 2nd art show in Germany. He doesn’t exhibit upstairs at the Union Square park anymore – he is by the Metropolitan Museum these days, exhibiting his art work but also selling political buttons. He showed me photos he took in Germany and gave me one of an old house.

Pat christiano

A homeless guy with a shopping cart full of stuff sat on the bench. After I played a Mozart piece he came over to ask me what it was I played.
Homeless guy: “Was this one of Mozart’s early works?”
Saw Lady: “I don’t know… but since he died at age 35, anything he wrote is early…”

The blind, blond lady who walks with a blind-cane said ‘hi’. I noticed her right arm was in a sling. She told me it’s hard for her to hold her bag and her cane now. She starts physical therapy tomorrow and will see her Doctor in two weeks. Until then she said “you’ll be seeing me passing by with a different bag every day, trying different bags in hope that I find one that is easier to carry while my arm is in a sling”.

An older gentleman stopped to tell me that he is from Trinidad and has been playing the musical saw since he was 16 years old. He used to play it with a mallet, not knowing that one could play it with a bow, too. It was only in 1969 that he learned of the bow. He plays religious music and will come to play at the next annual NYC Musical Saw Festival.

Hawaiian quarter

Somebody put the Hawaiian quarter in my donations bucket, thus completing my collection of the ‘States quarters’. Thank you! My entire collection came from the donations people gave me. Can you think of a better fitting hobby than coin collecting for a busker? :)


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3 Responses to A Different Bag Every Day

  1. Monique on December 18, 2008 at 3:53 am

    Hello! Happy holidays… I never realized that the saw is in the idiophone family! Explains why they can be played with mallets. I brought a xylophone home today to practice my mallet solo for school. I’m playing Evening in the Country by Bartok.

  2. claire on December 18, 2008 at 5:24 pm

    Hi Natalia, when are you playing next?
    I have a few questions to ask you and come into union sq often. I have just started playing saw..


  3. Yaelle on December 19, 2008 at 3:30 am

    Hi Natalia,

    I wanted to tell you that my journalism professor was at 59th Street the other day and saw you perform. He knew who you were from my article, and he wrote to me saying that you positively radiated joy, that your happiness was infectious.


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