Wednesday, June 10, 2009

'She must've had the highway blues, you can tell by the way she smiles'

She told me her name was MonaLisa, and she has a smile that could light up a whole subway tunnel.

Even better, she has the voice of an angel. She sings gospel with her belongings alongside her in a shopping cart, and holds out a McDonalds fries cup for donations.

I didn’t ask if she is homeless – we were talking about music – but I gave her a dollar. Exactly one dollar more than I had made that morning.

She asked me if I’d been playing on the Subway and how I was doing. “Not so good,” I said.

“Don’t worry,” she smiled. “You’re probably just in the wrong spot.”

It was the nicest thing anyone could have said to me at that moment.

On a day when if I’d looked just at how much money was in my case, I could have been pretty low – a Three Time Loser, as Bonnie Raitt might say – MonaLisa reminded me that no matter who we are, or where we are, or how much we have, we, hopefully, never lose sight of our basic sense of kindness.

She's an artist - she had a canvas tucked in the cart - but her voice is just terrific. She was doing pretty well with the passing riders, but she took time to talk to me, and that meant a lot. I suggested that we sing a song together. “What do you want to sing?” she said. How about “People Get Ready,” I offered, since I’d just played it a couple of times upstairs.

“Ah, the Black national anthem,” she laughed.

We eventually settled that maybe “Tracks of My Tears” might be a better choice and agreed we’d meet up again to sing together, then she said: “Well, I gotta do my Jesus stuff..”

I suggested that I could maybe record her singing, and she just said: “I don’t really like publicity. But we can be friends?”

So we hugged and parted, but I’m going to go back and sing with her like she promised. And, trust me, you’re going to want to hear that.

I was in a kind of mellow mood this morning and I decided to come and play at West 4th Street, the main Subway stop in the heart of beautiful Greenwich Village. Given the all-pervasive Bob Dylan associations, I thought the least I could do was start and finish with one of his songs.

There’s something that just connects you historically when you can come out of a station and walk a block and see the venue where Dylan is supposed to have played in New York City for the first time.

Then you can walk a few blocks to Hudson Street and have a relaxed pint in the White Horse Tavern, the famous watering hole frequented by Dylan Thomas and Brendan Behan among others. Bob was apparently a regular when he first arrived in New York, and used to hang out with the Clancy Brothers here.

So I ended up playing at West 4th for about a total of an hour and a half – just over an hour upstairs on the A/C/E platforms, and the rest of the time downstairs on the F/V tracks. I even played right next to the Subway map in the center of the platform, since, in theory, more people would hear.

While I was playing, a couple of people would come over to sit on the seats near where I was and listen. The acoustics are good and there’s plenty of time between trains. They’d tap their feet, and – I swear – one or two let their trains go by to see what I was going to play next.

Did they throw any change? Maybe tomorrow.

But I’m sure I brightened at least one person’s day today, and isn’t that better than staying in bed?

Set List 1: A/C/E tracks:

The Times They Are A-Changin’ – Bob Dylan
Brown Eyed Girl – Van Morrison (although I mix in parts of the excellent Everclear version)
Drift Away – Dobie Gray
Galway Girl – Steve Earle
The Ties That Bind – Bruce Springsteen
Keep It Loose, Keep It Tight – Amos Lee
Not Dark Yet – Bob Dylan
People Get Ready – Curtis Mayfield
Crazy Love – Van Morrison
I Shall Be Released – Bob Dylan
Bad Moon Rising – John Fogerty

Set List 2: F/V tracks:

Look At Miss Ohio – Gillian Welch
Waiting For My Real Life To Begin – Colin Hay
Tracks Of My Tears – Smokey Robinson
People Get Ready – Curtis Mayfield
Hungry Heart – Bruce Springsteen
Queen Jane Approximately – Bob Dylan


I got an email this afternoon when I got back from busking. It says:

Dear Steve

We have received your application for the position of xxxxxxx Editor, Americas. After careful consideration, we regret to inform you that you have not been selected for this position.

We will retain your candidate file in our database and may inform you of job openings that match your profile if you selected this option. We also invite you to visit our Career Center at xxxxxxx regularly.

Thank you for your interest in xxxxxxx and we wish you all the best in your career.

xxxxxxxx Recruiting Team

Oh well. Onwards and upwards.


Now this is just hilarious.

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