No Matter How Much Money You Make, That’s How Many Bills You Have to Pay


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On my way to my busking spot of the day, through the train’s windows, I could see a guy playing guitar near two ladies selling churros at the 59th street & Lexington subway station.
At the Music Under New York busking spot at Union Square Salieu Suso was playing the kora. He’s been here since 8am but said it was pretty dead until 9am. Last week he played with a group at the Langston Hughes Library.

Salieu Souso

A guy with a baby asked me if I recorded a tango CD. Turns out he knows David Hodges, the guy who’s CD it is, which is such a blessing, as I was trying to get in touch with this guy, to get a copy of our recording.

The older messenger guy wondered how come he hasn’t seen me in a while.
The blind, blond lady waved to me. Her arm has healed.
A lady with a high soprano voice sang along with my playing.
A guy didn’t believe the sound was coming from the musical saw and wanted to take my bow, saying “I make the sound”.

At 3pm Sleepy Lester, the harmonica player, came for his permitted time at the spot. He got a new wheel for his busking cart.

Sleepy Lester

On the platform below a guy was singing ‘Green Sleeves’, playing guitar, with a lady in a wheel chair playing recorder.
On the train a guy sitting across from me told me that he first saw me playing at City Hall Park last summer. Than he saw me at the Times Square subway station. He came to New York 37 years ago and played in a band. They had two to six gigs a month, which is not enough to make a living. He even did a commercial for Levi’s with Natalie Cole and Aretha Franklin. That video went all over the world but he got tired of constantly having to struggle and push his career, so now he works at a restaurant. He said that when he was making $128 a week he had $128 a week bills to pay. He used to think that if he could only make $300 a week, he would be fine. But now he makes $300 a week and he has $300 a week bills to pay… “No matter how much money you make – that’s how many bills you have to pay”, he said. He used to have 3 jobs and run from one to the other. Now he got tired of the struggle, so he just finished his job at the restaurant and he’s going home to relax.

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2 Responses to No Matter How Much Money You Make, That’s How Many Bills You Have to Pay

  1. Dhamma Ace on April 1, 2009 at 10:00 pm

    Hello Natalia,

    I met you at subway at Jun 2004 and took your pic and sent you from Japan. You wanted have that pic’s for some contest.
    I was organizing my data files and found your photos. So I thought why don’t I say hello to you.
    I am happy that you have been continue playing and many people are moved by your music.

    The next year of I met you, I went back to New York for my performance at Memorial concert for Billy Bauer who was the historical Jazz improviser in Guitar and one of my teachers. I haven’t gone back since. So I didn’t have enough chance to see you.

    I hope to hear you again one day… and let me know when you come to Japan.

    my best regards,

    Dhamma Ace

  2. David on April 2, 2009 at 6:32 pm

    Hi Natalia,
    I found your great blog while reading about NYC subway musicians… Thanks, so much, David

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