What is This Food Called?

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October 21, 2007
By Posted in Union Square Subway Station | 1 Comment »

The train I took from my house to the Union Square subway station was stuck on the elevated train tracks before Queens Plaza for a long time. At least the passengers had the nice view of Manhattan to look at, but it was a bit scary to be suspended in mid air like this…

Elevated train

It was noon by the time I made it to the Music Under New York spot designated to me today. The elevator from the platform to the mezzanine wasn’t working.
When I reached up the stairs (lugging my heavy equipment) I found Alberto, the pan-flute player from Ecuador playing at the spot. He had been playing there since 10am. He is going back to his homeland on November 21st, as he has to resume his studies of law. He surrended the spot over to me, saying he is now going home to have lunch.

At 12:20 Nick Basile, the director of the movie ‘American Carny’ came to tell me that the movie will be out on DVD in January. I play the musical saw on the soundtrack of this film. You can hear an excerpt from the soundtrack here

American Carny

I truly recommend this movie, and not just because I’m playing on its soundtrack. This is a one-of-a-kind documentary featuring some amazing side show performers whom I had the pleasure of working with years ago, when I was playing the musical saw at the Coney Island Museum, and doing gigs where all the other performers were jugglers, stilt walkers, fire swallowers, glass eaters, magicians, etc. I have since split away from the side show scene but I remember the wonderful people I had the honor of working with very fondly.
My favorite scene in this movie is towards the end – it’s a wedding ceremony like you’ve never seen. The groom is Todd, the glass eater I performed with on the MTV show ‘Oddville MTV’.

Oddville MTV

At 12:22 the blond blind lady waved ‘hello’.
At 12:30 a lady selling what looks like long, sticky (from honey?) bread sticks stood to my left with her cart. I often see ladies selling this food at the Lexington Avenue station. Curiously, I never see guys selling this food, only ladies… They always have a shopping cart on top of which they place a board and on top of the board they have these long, edible sticks of dough, covered with a transparent plastic bag. Does anybody know what this food is called? I am guessing it’s a south or central American food, because the ladies selling it always speak Spanish.
Anyway, I asked the lady if she would mind not standing so close to me (because she was blocking people’s access to me). She was nice and told me she will not stay there. She didn’t move right away – first she hung out there for a while longer. Then another lady came to talk with her, and when that lady left the food vending lady went downstairs to the platform. I think the other lady might be her boss.

I could hear the sound of kleyzmer music coming from afar. Somewhere in the station somebody was playing a clarinet.

At 12:50 Frankie, the guitar player/singer, finished playing at the 96th street subway station and passed through the Union Square station. He told me that he got a summons of $50 for passing through a red light with his car. He showed me the paper with the photo of his car before and after the light. He said the car after the light wasn’t his and that he is going to contest the summons.
Frankie used to work with pressing machines for 40 years in his youth. He has been living in the same rent-controlled apartement for all this time, and so his rent is an amazing $200 a month…in Manhattan!


A young women asked me if she could have my CD in exchange for stuff. She told me that she is an artist and doesn’t have any cash. She wanted to trade me a pencil drawing she made, a highlighter pen, a post it pen and a one dollar bill for my CD…

A guy named Kennedy videotaped me then told me he runs a website called ‘Ask a New Yorker‘.

At 1:40 Ben, a keyboard player, came to say ‘hi’ on his way to the elevator to the platform. He told me that I am the one who inspired him to try playing in the subway. He said he saw me play at the Times Square subway station years ago and that made him think he should try doing the same.

At 2:40 Frankie was back – he didn’t succeed in contesting his summons and he had to pay the fine. Now he was going to play on the ‘L’ train platform.

A policeman came to stand by me – but he just wanted to see how I’m playing.

I didn’t stay past my permit’s expiration time today – at 3pm I packed-up and headed home.


One Response to What is This Food Called?

  1. Sam Elias on October 23, 2007 at 5:06 pm

    I can’t say enough about your blog. When I am reading it, I feel as if I am there watching you playing the saw. You tell your stuff so well and so real. I love the photos especially. Here in my country Malaysia, we have buskers at open eateries and there’s these duo, that performs mostly Beatles and Bob Dylan. The problem is, they would go around with a hat from table to table for donations, which usually irks patrons. I don’t know, is there some kinda of rules buskers follow?
    On the other hand, way down south of the country in Malacca, buskers are given permits to perform and also to receive any donations (I call it appreciations) from the public. Our mos celebrated busker is Rafique, who has travelled the world around. He came back to Malaysia and was seen performing in a pub somewhere in the city.
    Keep up with your fine art and good luck


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