You can’t stay sad for long in New York City

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Today I found out that my 14 year old cousin had a nervous break-down. She is hospitalized in the children’s psychiatric ward. She was a totally normal kid – I didn’t know stuff like this could happen to a kid. She is crying and yelling non-stop, saying she wants to die. Her body is shaking, her eyes are closed, she doesn’t communicate and doesn’t let any body touch her.
Her parents and siblings are with her 24/7.
I was so shoked by this that I couldn’t stop thinking of my cousin the whole day. I played at the Music Under New York spot at Union Square today, but I was thinking of my cousin the whole time and I was sad.

Union Square subway station

A lady by the name of Marion sang along with my playing of the Bach/Gounod ‘Ave Maria’. She told me she was 80 years old. She looked much younger than that so I asked her how she managed to stay so young looking. She said she never ate junk food, she excersises and she has a sense of humor.
She told me that she is a painter and she showed me her artist’s book – photos of her beautiful paintings.
She used to sing a lot and had a 3 and 1/2 octave range – like the saw :)
She told me that in the 70s whenever she would run into the Chinese opera singer (his name is Tai Qi) who sings in the subway and accompanies himself on keyboard, she would join him in singing. I told her he doesn’t accompany himself on keyboard any more, but rather he uses a back-up tape. She was sorry to hear that, but he told me he is really a singer and not a pianist, so he feels much more comfortable using back-up music.

Chinese opera singer

Marion told me her 55 year old daughter used to do drugs for 19 years but now she is 20 years drug free. Marion used to volunteer at an organization of musicians against drugs. When she was 70 years old she went to paint on stage at CBGB’s while rock bands were playing.
This past year she was only able to paint 5 paintings, because she doesn’t have a place where she can concentrate on painting (her son moved in with her and he disturbs her concentration). She said she had all sorts of bad things happen to her in life, but she is happy and healthy.

A guy stopped to listen to my playing. He then told me he bent his finger the wrong way and he is now on his way to a Chinese doctor who will bend his finger back to its correct position. He didn’t want to go to the emergency room because there one has to wait many hours. He had his finger bent before and the Chinese doctor fixed it then, too. I was amazed that dispite his accident and the pain he must have endured he stopped to listen to my music. He was a wonderfully optimistic person.

Isn’t it amazing how people open up and tell a subway musician, a complete stranger, so much about themselves in a short conversation?

Photo by Michael Baumgartner
Photographer: Michael Baumgartner, May 29th, 2007

A German tourist by the name of Michael was photographing me. While that was going on, a lady carrying bouquets of flowers came over to me and handed me a gorgeous bouquet of sweet pea flowers in many colors. This gesture flooded my heart with a wave of happinness, and I was so grateful to this kind lady, because for the first time I was able to let go of my sadness about my cousin in the hospital for a few minutes. All I could think of was: “people are so nice!”
This feeling was enhanced by the guy who passes through the 14th street subway station every day and says “breath” to me (I used to think he was telling me to breath, but it turned out he is reminding himself to breath as he sees me, because I look to him as if I am breathing healthily when I play…). As he passed me by today he said “we missed you!”. It is so nice that people notice when I’m not there.
To further my happinness, another guy who passes by every day and always clapps his hands after every song I play, passes by. He was also happy to see me and of course, clapped his hands for me.
And another guy who always passes by there and blows me kisses – he went by and, of course, blew me a kiss.
And the blind lady who always passes by there – she passed me by twice today, both times smiling towards me, saying ‘hi’ and ‘how are you’.
All these people filled my heart with joy.
You can’t stay sad for long in New York City!

Union Square subway station


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by Scott R Munson