A Mysterious Guy Holding a Magical Box

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October 27, 2007
By Posted in Union Square Subway Station | 1 Comment »

When I arrived at the Union Square subway station there was a trumpet player on the platform. As I neared the mezzanine I could hear the sound of the pan-flute playing a song from ‘Cats’. It was Alberto playing at the Music Under New York spot.
I set on the bench to wait for Alberto to be done playing. Eight policemen and their captain were gathered near the elevator for a conference. A young guy in glasses was sleeping on the bench opposite me. To my right a gentleman was reading the Daily News. When he finished reading he asked me if I want the newspaper. When I said I didn’t he put it in the garbage can next to him.
Alberto had been playing since 10:30am and now he was going home.


At 12:05 the guitar playing/singing lady who performs on the train with a little teddy bear attached to her came up the stairs. I haven’t seen her in a very long time. It turned out she has trouble with her throat. She now performs mostly on the ‘7’ train. She told me that she was arrested a while back for playing on the train. She had to stay overnight in jail. The following day the judge dismissed her case. She told me that she was the oldest person in the jail – everybody else were in their early 20’s or younger. There were 17 girls in the jail. They all thought it was ridiculous that she got arrested for playing music on the train. The youngest girl there, 18 years old, was arrested for selling pocket books. Another lady was arrested because she had a New Jersey license plate on her car and she parked in New York – apparently the spot she parked at was for New Yorkers only…
She said that many times police officers apologize to her as they give her a ticket, saying that they really don’t want to give her a ticket but their superiors make them do it – they have to fill a quota of tickets and give tickets for causes they themselves don’t think are justified (such as putting one’s bag on the seat in the train next to the seat one is sitting on).


At 12:10 Miguel, a photographer ‘El Mundo’ newspaper sent to photograph me, came. He took photos from an interesting angle – he could see both me playing and the passers by. He shot the photo in slow motion so I came out sharp and the passers by came out blurry, with their forward motion showing.
It turned out Miguel was from Argentina and he spent 4 years in Israel before coming to New York. He was dressed in a nice suit because after photographing me he went to photograph an award ceremony on Fifth Avenue.

to my left

The guy sleeping on the bench woke up and was reading the newspaper.
Another guy, dressed in a worn out brown suit and a black bowler hat sat on the bench next to him. His clothes were in the fashion of the early 1900’s. He had a long braid down his back and he was holding a pretty, old, long box – the kind of box one would expect a treasure to be held in… I have seen this guy sitting on the bench here before and I always wondered what could be in his magical looking box.


At 12:40 Ming Jun, the Chinese cellist, was looking for a spot to play. He told me he has problems with his amplifier – he charged the battery for two days, and yet the power only holds for one hour of playing. He said he opened the amplifier’s case and looked inside – everything is connected well and looks fit… and it’s a relatively new amp, too. I told him I think it’s the bumping as we wheel our equipment up and down staircases that damages the amps.


At 1:07 I saw the older guy who always says “breath” as he walks by me (as a reminder to himself to breath as deeply as I do, so he told me) coming up the stairs from the platform. He goes to Yoga class in the area and I usually see him at a later time, as he returns from the class. He looked tired. Usually he looks full of energy.

The “mystery” guy dressed in a 1900’s suit holding a magical looking box was gone.

Kennedy, who runs the website Ask a New Yorker videotaped me for a feature on his website. While he was interviewing me Blackwolf, the Central Park Wizard, showed up. I introduced them, and Kennedy said he might do a profile on Blackwolf, too. He said he has a feeling he would meet lots of interesting characters through me :)


The guy who always claps his hands after each song I do sat on the bench, and as usual, gave me an ovation after each number.
The blind blond lady walked by as usual, greeting me cheerfully. She walks with a blind people’s cane but she must be able to see a little bit because she always looks at me when she says ‘hello’.
My friend Heidi, the singer, walked by with her one year old daughter. She said they will come to see me perform as a saw-playing-witch at the Central Park Halloween event this Saturday.
At 2:40 the guy who always says ‘breath’ walked by. I asked him if he had been to Yoga class and he said he was teaching it. He looked a little less tired than before but I noticed his hands were shaking.

The “mystery guy” dressed in a 1900’s suit, holding a magical looking box sat on the bench next to the guy who always claps his hands after each song I play. I was done playing for today. I decided to go talk with the guy who claps, and see if I could get a better look at the “mystery guy” sitting next to him… The guy who claps, who’s name turned out to be Albert, told me he had finished doing all the deliveries he had to do today. He said he has been seeing me in the subway for four years now.
The “mystery guy” put his head on his knees (hugging the magic box – so I couldn’t see it…) – I guess to take a nap.
Albert told me he is from Puerto Rico originally and that besides his delivery job he also does massage on weekends. He used to work for a textile company run by Jewish guys, so he picked up a bit of Yiddish.
All of a sudden the “mystery guy” straightened up. He opened his magic box and…in it there was a silver clarinet. Clarinets are usually black and much bigger/bulkier than this delicate silver clarinet. The “mystery guy” went to the spot where I was playing before, took his jacket off, placed the open, empty “magic box” in front of him and started to play kleyzmer music.
The “mystery guy” turned out to be…a busker!


One Response to A Mysterious Guy Holding a Magical Box

  1. Debo Hobo on October 29, 2007 at 1:23 pm

    Great spotlight on subway performances. Your saw music is great as well.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving your comment.

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