Weren’t you here two hours ago?

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Busking at the Staten Island ferry terminals is always an anticipated opportunity, because it doesn’t happen very often.

A guy told me that the last time he heard a musical saw being played was 50 years ago, in Panama, when he was 12 years old: his godfather played the musical saw in a band.


The sanitation guy told me that he doesn’t work on the other side (the St. George ferry terminal) any more. He used to work four hours a day on the Manhattan side and four hours a day on the Staten Island side of the ferry. Now he is constantly on the Manhattan side. “That’s wonderful, that’s what you wanted!” I said. He doesn’t like working the Staten Island side – “It’s like a village”, he said. He likes the city. He told me that at the Staten Island side there are a lot of homeless people in the terminal, especially in winter. He has to clean the pee and alcohol they leave on the benches. “One side (of the terminal benches) is their living room, the other side is their bedroom”, he said.
The sanitation worker is an immigrant from the former Yugoslavia. I think his English is fine, but he is very shy about his English, and therefore doesn’t like to talk with people much. I feel lucky that he likes to talk with me, though.

Whitehall ferry terminal

An older gentleman, a lady and a little girl stood by to watch me play. The way the gentleman related to the little girl reminded me of how my Dad was with me when I was little. The girl danced to my music.

A station manager came to check my permit. He apologized for having to do it, but I thanked him for doing so. I told him that I heard about what happened here last week, with the break-dancers (who didn’t have a permit) setting up on the permitted Dagmar Duo. The station manager told me that he was on vacation last week, but now he is telling his workers to watch for the non-permitted performers. He told me that he also caught somebody who had a permit for the St. George side playing on the Manhattan side. Musicians generally prefer playing at the Manhattan side. I don’t really have a preference.

Whitehall terminal

A guy told me that in 1952 in Quebec, his great-grandfather used to put him to sleep playing the musical saw.

At 5:20 the older gentleman, lady and little girl returned. “Weren’t you here two hours ago?”, I asked. The gentleman wanted to tell me that when he was a high-school teacher, in CA, there was another teacher there who played the musical saw. They played a duet together at the high-school talent show – he sang and his fellow teacher played the musical saw. He now lives in Texas, but his daughter has been living here for seven years. The little girl wanted to tell me that her name is Meghan.


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by Scott R Munson