Missing in Action
As I was playing at the Music Under New York spot at the Union Square subway station, Zina, the painter, brought me a large replica of the caricature she made of me.
Painter: © Zina Saunders
Arnold, the messenger guy, told me that Albert, the other guy who works as a messenger and who is always at Union Square, is “missing in action”. Arnold got Albert a new job as a messenger, but Albert has not shown up for work all week, and he has not answered his phone, either. This is really not like him – he is a very responsible guy.
Arnold asked me if I have seen Albert. I haven’t. He has been a regular in this spot for at least 4 years. This is very worrisome. Arnold thought maybe something bad has happened to Albert.
Photographer: © Aaron Porter
A guy asked me about my amp. He told me that he playskeyboards and he needs an amp tht is both baterrie and wall powered.
Another guy toldme that he had seen me at the Krantz Gallery in Soho, but that he is not Russian… This gallery, where I had a gig a long time ago, is Russian owned and indeed most of the people at that gallery opening I played at, were Russian. This guy told me he is Greek, but he has Russian friends. He is a painter and he is going away until October, he said.
A lady who is a friend of Luke Ryan, who plays guitar and sings in the subway, asked me if I am going to the Parade in Coney Island. Luke’s birthday happens to coincide with the parade every year, so he always celebrates there.
A lady who came to some of my gigs told me that she first saw me at 59th street & Lex, on the ‘R’ train platform. Since I haven’t played there in years I know she has known me for a long time. She told me that she had just returned from Italy. Now she was on her way to the market, quickly, because she has an appointment at 1:30. I think she works for a real-estate company.
A guy told me he saw me on TV.
An older lady with a little dog said to me: “where have you been? I missed you. I was thinking of you. I thought maybe you gave up playing in the subway. I haven’t seen you in a month”.
I explained about my gig at the Spoleto Festival which took me away from NYC.
At 1:15 I could hear music from the platform downstairs – loud steel drums.
A guy told me that he saw me at 59th street & Lex and asked where he can see me again. He is from Guatemala, Central America, and he wants to have his friend see/hear me play.
Photo: © Chad Batka
A guy wearing a burgundy hat walked over to me and put $ in my donations box. He then walked to the bench on my left and set down. He bent over forwards. He then fell to the floor. Then he got up on his knees, with his head on the floor. He was obviously wasted. Drugs?
Two sanitation ladies walked by, noticed him on the floor but didn’t do anything.
A guy asked him: “are you OK? Do you need help?” The guy on the floor moved. I couldn’t hear but maybe he said “no”. The guy offering help left.
A guy with a burgundy hat remained on the floor, his hat lying on the floor next to him.
Most people walking by didn’t notice him. Others who did, ignored him.
I didn’t know what the right thing to do would be. It felt as if the man wanted to be left alone. Calling the police might be bad for him – he might be kicked out or taken to a shelter or to jail (all options many homeless people don’t want).
The two sanitation ladies walked by again. One of them kicked the guy’s leg and asked: “are you OK?’ “You got to get up” she said. He didn’t. The ladies left.
Eventually a guy who knew what to do walked by. Just by talking to the man on the floor he got him to get up, gather his hat, book & newspaper, and leave.
A guy told me his name is Phillip and he is from Chicago. He has been playing the musical saw for a year and a half. He is a guitar teacher and he doesn’t know any other sawists in Chicago. I told him of one.
At 3pm Jeremiah Lockwood came for his permitted timeslot at the spot.
On the train back home a teenage girl was holding a poster that she made of her family tree. A guy on the train asked her about it. She said it was a school project. “How did you do?” he asked. “I got ‘distinction’ – highest mark,” she said. She was standing with her back to me. I asked her if I could see her poster. She did 4 generations – from her grand parents to her sister’s children. Her family is from South Carolina. I told her I was just there.