Without Them I Can’t Smile

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September 23, 2008
By Posted in Union Square Subway Station | 1 Comment »

It was 99 degrees. I was sweating buckets just walking to the subway. A nice guy helped me carry my busking gear all the way up the four flights of stairs to the train platform. He told me that he is a musician, too – he plays guitar, and he knows how hard it is, from his own experience, to carry music equipment up the subway’s stairs.
He asked what instrument I play.
“Musical saw”.
He said he has never seen the musical saw but he heard it on recordings of classical music. “Some people like to use just a little bit of it for timbre” he said.


At the Music Under New York spot at Union Square a MUNY guy with a pony tail was playing the electric guitar and singing. It was Gabe Cummings. I have heard about him and he has heard of me, but we never actually met, until now, probably because he usually plays mornings, and I usually play afternoons.

Gabe Cummings

As I was setting up a guy said to me: “I don’t hear you!” Then he said “Have a nice day”.

A guy named Dylan told me Hildur, the musical saw player from the band Amina gave him my CD.

A guy asked me (pointing to the musical saw): “Is that a knife?”

A guy asked me: “Do you get any recognition from ‘What’s My Line’?
Well, I guess HE recognized me from that show… :)

What’s My Line - questions

A guy who has seen me a long time ago marveled that I remembered him. He told me he is on his way to pick up his teeth. He hasn’t had them for a while. “Without them I can’t smile” he said.

Three policemen were looking at me and talking amongst themselves. That is usually not a good thing…
Then one of them made a hand gesture like he was explaining to the other two how I was manipulating the blade. They were just enjoying my music!

A guy in a Parks Department shirt did an interpretive dance to my music and came to sit on the floor in front of me.

Saw Lady at Union Square
Photographer: © Shawn Grimes

At 3:30 Jeremiah Lockwood (blues guitar/singer) showed up for his permitted time at the spot. His 2nd baby boy is due this Monday. He and his wife are waiting to meet the baby before they name him.
Jeremiah started busking 16 years ago, when he was still living with his parents. He studied the blues and busking with Carolina Slim. Jeremiah told me that when Carolina turned 80 years old they had a celebration for him in the subway. I haven’t seen Carolina in a long time. I think the last time I saw him was at Penn Station – he had a permit right after me, and he had a girl dancer performing with him. He is the one who taught me always to insist on getting my pay BEFORE I set up to play at a party, because afterwards it often times is difficult to locate the host (or he/she might be drunk and not be in a position to hand me my fee).

Jeremiah & Carolina


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One Response to Without Them I Can’t Smile

  1. Howlin' Hobbit on September 23, 2008 at 5:28 pm

    Hmmm… interesting point about getting paid at a private party.

    My band is getting more of them lately (yay!) and we’ve been pretty laissez-faire about that so far. I’ll keep the advice in mind.


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