Luck of the Irish

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For St. Patrick’s Day I put on a green ribbon on my sweatshirt and I wore sparkly green socks to play in the subway.
As I got to the subway station near my house a lady offered to help me carry my stuff up the first two flights of stairs. Then a gentleman offered to help me up the third and fourth flights of stairs. How lucky!

stairs in subway

On the train a nice Irish guy sitting across from me recognized me. I overheard him explaining to his girl friend about the musical saw. I smiled and nodded at them. He told me he had seen me playing both at Times Square and at Union Square.
Another guy sitting across from me to the left also recognized me, from 59th street, he said. He asked if he could buy my CD right now on the train.
And all this before I even got to my spot – it must be the luck of the Irish rubbing off on me :)

People wearing green for St. Patrick's Day

Nobody was at the Music Under New York spot at 14th street. What there was there was a lone Music Under New York banner hanging on the wall… What was even more peculiar was that this was an old orange-black banner, from before Arts for Transit made the new yello-red-black banners. And to top it off, there was no name on the banner, which means it’s a banner given to newbies in the Music Under New York program.

Old banner behind me
Old banner behind me
New banner
New banner

As I was taking the mysteriously abandoned banner off the wall the homeless guy with a hook hand walked by. He told me that this banner has been hanging there since Friday. I thought it was mighty peculiar that nobody took it throughout the entire weekend. What this means is that there was no MUNY (permitted) musician playing at the spot neither on Saturday nor on Sunday, because surely any MUNY musician would have taken the banner and returned it to the MUNY office, and it also means that no freelance musician played at the spot the entire weekend, because surely any freelance musician would have been happy to “adopt” the lost banner (so that they can pretend to the police that they have a permit to play in the subway).
The hook-hand homeless guy went on saying that the banner belongs to a guy in a wheel-chair playing guitar. He saw the guy and his friend who played drums, leave on Friday, leaving their banner behind.
Without thinking I said “this must be Delta Dave’s banner! I’ll give it back to him”. Delta Dave sits in a wheel chair and plays guitar. He is a member of MUNY and he was playing at Union Square last Friday. He had a permit right after me.

Delta Dave

The hook-hand homeless guy told me how last night all the homeless shelters were full and he was left to wander the streets in the cold. He’s riding the train to Penn Station now, to get warm and to kill time until maybe a shelter uptown might open later this afternoon.
He asked me to play ‘Over the Rainbow’, a song he heard me play a few times before. He said he used to play a tape of it for his niece over and over. He wants to go back home to Montana for his 52nd birthday which is coming up in May. Rent is cheap there – about $250 a month.

The old Chinese lady playing the two-toned drum on the platform was done for the day and on the bench the lady playing the flute-piano was arranging her stuff.

Lady playing flute-piano

A guy I see often told me that he is a messenger. He lives in Brooklyn but does deliveries to Staten Island. He watched me trying to operate my i-pod. I explained to him that today was my first time using an i-pod for my backup music in the subway. I finally joined the 21st century :)

The homeless guy with the hook hand came up to tell me the guy in a wheel chair playing guitar who’s banner the abandoned banner is, is playing downstairs on the ‘L’ train platform, with the other guy on drums. He told them I have their banner and they gave him $3 so that he will bring them the banner. That’s when I started thinking… Delta Dave, who’s banner I thought it was, doesn’t play on the ‘L’ train platform. He also doesn’t play with a drummer. And he doesn’t just play guitar – he plays the harmonica and sings while playing guitar. Moreover – why would Delta Dave have an OLD banner? He hasn’t been with Music Under New York that long. And even if he did have an old banner for some reason – it wouldn’t be a blank one, because Delta Dave is not a newbie. In addition, last Friday as I was packing up to go and Delta Dave was setting up to play he asked me to help him hang up his banner. I didn’t really look at his banner as I was hanging it, but I would have noticed if it was an old blank banner!
So, for all these reasons I said to the homeless guy with the hook hand “tell them that if they want the banner they can come up here to get it from me”. I explained to him that I want to see who the guitar player in the wheel chair is before I hand over the banner. I explained to him that I think it might not be Delta Dave (the only guitar player in a wheel chair that is a permitted subway musician) down there. There actually is another guy playing guitar in a wheel chair in the subway whom I have seen at this spot before. He doesn’t have a permit and he actually tried to chase me out of my spot once. I suspected it might be him downstairs now. If the musician downstairs is not Delta Dave, then this musician stole this banner.
The hook-hand homeless man said he doesn’t want to go back downstairs empty handed because they will ask him to give them the $3 back and he wants to keep the money. I totally understood and agreed with him. So he just left.

Delta Dave

Some guys wearing red & yellow vests congregated on the bench. They had large boxes with them. It turned out they were plastering the new advertisements on the walls in the station. The new ads say “Are they born to rock?” and there are pictures of babies playing musical instruments. By 1:05 the hanging of the ads was completed.

A guy told me his friend just started playing the musical saw. I asked him to tell her about the musical saw festival I am organizing.

An old lady was handing out flyers. She put one in my donations bucket. It’s a pamphlet of the Fellowship Tract League titled ‘God Loves You’.

At 2:34 the lady selling Churros went down to the platform.
A high school girl by the name of Natalia came to say ‘hi’ as she always does when she sees me, because we have the same name.

At 3:15 Faustino’s Group showed up for their permitted time slot. Gabriel, their drummer, hasn’t played in the subway for a while. He was working on songs at home. Today was his first day back on the street.

Faustino's Group

And if you are curious about the mysterious banner – the guys playing on the ‘L’ train platform never came up to get their banner from me. I gave the banner to Music Under New York. It turned out it wasn’t Delta Dave’s banner. It was indeed a stolen banner. The MUNY office actually knew this banner was out there and they were glad to get it back.


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3 Responses to Luck of the Irish

  1. Howlin' Hobbit on March 31, 2008 at 8:54 pm

    The “flute piano” is called a melodica. I have just recently gotten one, though it’s the old school kind with a button keyboard. There’s a picture of it here.

    I want one with the regular piano keyboard as well. Someday.

  2. lisa on April 2, 2008 at 5:28 pm

    Hi there. Thanks for the comment on my blog about the movie Once. Your sound is so unique. That’s really incredible what you can do with that saw! amazing! good luck to you!


  3. Saw Lady on April 3, 2008 at 3:23 am

    Thank you, Howlin Hobit! I knew this instrument has a name and I couldn’t remember what it was.

    Congrats on your new instrument!

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