Memories of a saw-player


Halloween at Central Park (a witch's favorit mode of transportation is a broom and favorit musical instrument is a saw...!)

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While playing on the street A blind man joined a group of passersby gathered around me. I wasn't looking at the audience as I was concentrating on playing. Later someone told me what has happened. The blind man's face lit up to the sound of my music. It was clear he loved it. A lady from the crowd, unrelated to the blind man, saw his joy. She approached my pile of cassettes for sale, bought one and gave it to the blind man! What a beautiful act of kindness!
While playing at 34th street Long Island Railroad a man gave me a dollar saying he just got fired, he doesn't know how he is going to make a living from now on, but he wanted to give me this dollar for 'good luck'! In days of yore shaking the hand of a chimney sweep was 'good luck'. I guess in our times it's giving a donation to a busker...
While playing at Lexington Avenue during November 1999 a woman told me she thinks she saw the playing of the musical saw in a television cartoon called Felix the Cat. This cat character played the saw in one episode.
A guy said he thinks the last tune in the latest Andrea Botchelli's CD has saw on it "or something which sounds like a saw".


Photo by: Masako Tsukamoto, 2003


November 8th, 1999
When playing at the MUNY spot at Times Square an older gentleman approached me and told me that he has been playing saw for 15 years. He said that like myself, he is also a virtuoso... Well, I somehow don't believe that if he was really good he would declare himself as a virtuoso. Really good performers are more modest since they don't need to boost their own ego up to convince that they are good at what they are doing...


Photo by: Masako Tsukamoto, 2003

November 15th, 1999
Today I played at a MUNY event, "Roots of the Americas" which took place at the subway station at Herald Square. Afterwards I played at Times Square on the Up-Town platform. A red headed lady told me she also plays the saw! Her name is Bliss and she plays Jazz with a group. We exchanged phone numbers.What are the odds of two people playing the saw, both femails with red hair!
A Canadian photographer gave me his card saying that he would like to photograph me with various back-grounds.


Photo by: Masako Tsukamoto, 2003

November 16th, 1999
Today I played at the 14th street subway station for the first time, as it is a new MUNY location on the mezzanine. It was also the first time I used my new banner which says: Natalia Paruz, musical-saw, and my e-mail (I used it in the "Roots of the Americas" festival MUNY organized yesterday, but as it was a 1/2 hour performance in a special event I don't count it as a real initiation of my new banner.
Towards the end of my 3 hours slot (I had to start and finish playing promptly since the police Control Center is located right across from the MUNY site...) a subway construction worker approached, carrying a huge wrench. He set a stool down by me, sat down and pretended to strum the wrench as if playing it! It was so funny!
A nice lady told me she also works in the subway (she sings and since she has a strong booming voice she doesn't need a microphone). She said from afar she thought I was holding the tip of the saw with a pair of pliers. What a neat idea! She also said that from afar she could only see my hat since my head was bowed down over the saw, and she thought I was a boy. Then she read my banner and immediately realized with a name like Natalia it couldn't possibly be a boy...
A nice Japanese gentleman who has seen me play yesterday at Times Square and who has asked me where I would be playing next actually showed up today at the location I told him! He stayed to listen to me for a very long time. He then approached me, gave me his card, took mine and said he would e-mail me as he would like to have me come to Japan to play. He also asked me if I was married... funny how many men ask me that in the subway. A man from Armenia has asked me that earlier today.
A guy told me he has seen someone else play the saw. I said "Oh, Moses", but the guy said that no, it was a lady. To my question he said that it wasn't in the subway but in a club that he has seen her. I then asked if she had long red hair and he said she did. I remembered the lady I met yesterday, so I asked him if her name was Bliss and he said "yeah, Bliss Blood". Funny - I just met her yesterday and already I met someone else who knows her.
Another guy, a trombone player, told me of a south American guy who plays saw and who is participating with a theater group (not as a saw player). It is so interesting to hear about these different saw players. The trombone player did not remember the name of the sawyer but took my card and said he will let me know if he runs into the saw player again.


Photo by: Irene, 2004, Union Square

November 22nd, 1999
Today I played at Time Square. So many people who know other saw players talked to me today!
First there was a really nice, beautifully dressed gentleman, John Rainbow, who said his father played the saw in Virginia. Then a lady said she heard the saw as a child growing up in Finland. Another man said his father showed him how to play the saw when he was a kid in Main.
A man who came to Manhattan to see his niece's cello recital at the Manness School of Music said his mother, who was born in 1906,played the saw as a young girl at about 1918 in Philadelphia. When he was a kid she gave him her saw which was in a case and taught him how to play a little.
An actress who played in a production of 'Grapes of Wrath' in Chicago said the show starts with a solo saw (no accompaniment) played by a man sitting by a fence.
A man gave me a dollar bill today and said this is the first time he ever gave a whole dollar to a street performer. He usually gives only 50 cents.
An african-american man who has seen me at previous times, stopped me in the middle of playing and asked that I play "The Swan" for him. He really loves this piece. It was clear that the piece really touches his heart. This is not the first time that this man has asked me to play 'The Swan' for him.
A German guy gave me his card, saying in German that he produces concerts in Germany, funded by his antique show, and that he would like to have me play there. He said he will pay for my flight and hotel and that he will send me a fax in German. We'll see if he really does - that could be really cool to give a concert in Germany like my mother used to!
Some guy put 8 game-money $20 bills in my box. A man seeing this yelled at this guy who put the fake money, telling him he should put real money, not game money in my box. The situation was funny.


Photo by: Irene, 2004, Union Square

November 29th, 1999
Today I played at 42nd street, Times Square. An aspiring young Hip-Hop singer, named Armareda, gave me her card saying that if she gets a recording contract she wants to have me on her album.
An opera singer from Boston, Wesley Ray Thomas, who was recently accepted into the MUNY program, stoped by to sing a verse of 'Ave Maria' with me.
Then something which has never happened to me in all my 5 years of playing in the subway, and previous years of playing in the street and tap-dancing in the street has happened: a young guy stood very close to me for a while, obstructing the possibility of donations to be put in my box. He introduced himself and shook my hand, explaining that it was a scout's hand-shake. He asked me about the saw. He said he played violin and made hand motions as if he is playing, but I don't think he really plays violin because he previously asked me what was the stuff I was putting on my bow (rosin)... He kicked my money box with his foot a little, on purpose. I was in the middle of a tune, so I couldn't protest. There were no people standing about. He asked about getting to sing in the subway, saying that he wants to sing in the subway. He then asked if he could take some of my money...! I said that it wasn't a good day for me and I didn't make that much money, meaning that I can't give him any, but he suddenly, very fast, stooped down and took a dollar bill. He then asked if he could take more! I said no, and to my relief he left, saying he needed the money to buy batteries for his walkman... I was scared. I didn't want to get hurt so I didn't protest, but I was very shaken by the occurrence and annoyed that he stole my hard earned money! Well, they say that if somebody asks for money one should give them some because if they ask that means they really needs it... but for buying batteries for a walkman?
All this time construction workers were hammering near by and the constant noise was very unpleasant. So, I played a couple more tunes then left in dismay. It wasn't a good day.

December 2nd, 1999
Today I played at 14th street by the N & R trains. As I was setting up, even before I started playing, a lady approached to say her father in law played the saw in New York about 50 years ago. As I started to play a guy walked by saying his friend plays saw, too. Mr. Rainbow, who saw me at Times Square, walked by and asked if I remember him, he who's father used to play the saw. "Of course I remember you" I said, "Rainbow!"
The Swedish girl who saw me at Times Square also walked by and said hello - strange to see people I met else where in the subway again at different locations. It's so nice to see how happy they are to see me, greeting me like an old friend. This guy I did a recording for also walked by and shook my hand. He, too, has first met me in the subway.
A girl from the Ukrain said over there people play the sickle by placing the handle downwards, the blade near their neck like a violin.
A lady came to me and said: "You are a superstar!"
Another lady asked me if I knew Moses who also plays saw in the subway. She said she lost his card when her purse was stolen. I gave her my card and she said she will call me to ask for Moses's phone number. She is from White Plains, Queens and said she would like to have me perform at a Christmas party next year. She thought it was really cool that I am a woman playing the saw.
A different lady recommended that I play "Apres Un Reve"/Faure and also the vocalise by Rachmaninov, which I already play. While she was watching me a group of teen-agers walked by and stopped to listen. "The fact that you can make teen-agers stop to listen is phenomenal!" said the lady.
A little kid was listening and watching me for a long time. Then he started writing in a notebook. When I asked him what he was writing he said he is going to do a report about me. I asked him to mail it to me and he said he would e-mail it to me. I hope he does - I am curious to see what he observed.
A guy asked if I could play Frank Sinatra. I replied that I don't know any. He asked if I could play some other singer who's name I can't remember right now, and again I had to reply that I don't know his music. He then asked "no Christmas music either?" to which I answered by playing "Silent Night". He was really impressed and said "you are amazing!"
A guy photographed me with a 40 year old Polaroid camera that looked cool. He showed me the photo after it came out - there wasn't enough light, but the man was still happy to have this photo. His lady friend said she knows Gonzales, the actor who also plays saw. Somebody else has mentioned him to me before. This lady said Gonzales only plays his own compositions on the saw.
The most interesting part of the day was when a gentleman approached me. At first I was unhappy that he started to talk to me while I was in the middle of a tune, but what he had to say was interesting! His grand father bought a gold plated saw in 1918, paying $28 for it. He died at age 92, leaving his gold plated saw to his grandson who is a police detective who used to be a carpenter. He still has the receipt his grandfather got when paying for the saw, a record that came with the saw, an instructional booklet, bow, rosin cake, case for the saw and the saw itself. Unfortunately he wanted to clean the blade and sanding it he sanded off the words embossed on it... Also one diamond is missing on the diamond studded handle and he said he put polyurethane on the handle to make it look nicer... He was wandering how much the saw is worth in today's collectors' market. He said unless it is worth a few thousand dollars he will just keep it. He was looking for someone to whom such a saw would mean something. (I understand such saws sold for about $75 on e-bay).
After I was done playing I went downstairs to catch the train home. On the platform was the Chinese cello player who always plays the "Swan" by Saen-sans. I don't understand why he keeps repeating the same tune over and over and how he doesn't get bored of it him self...


photo by Ace, June 2004 at the Shuttle

December 7th, 1999
Today I played at Herald Square (34th street and 6th Avenue, by Macy's). A woman approached me from behind the railing I was sitting by and told me that the last time she heard a saw was in 1988 in Paris, France. It was an older man who played 'La Vie En Rose'. She asked me if I could play it for her. Luckily I know that song, since I love Edit Piaff, so I could play it for her even though I haven't rehearsed this tune before.
A couple of jolly musicians from Moscow, USSR, approached me. They too play in the subway, but inside the trains. They said: "shh...don't tell the police..." They play trumpet and clarinet, and their card says: "Two Alex Street Band, subway entertainment". Both of them are called 'Alex'. They told me a friend of theirs in Moscow plays the saw. He plays with more vibrato then I do and he doesn't use a handle on his saw.
After I played 'Last Dance' by Susan McLaughlin a young man said he recognized this tune from a CD of the band 'They Might Be Giants' which came out between a year and two years ago. The name of their CD which has, according to this man, this song with the saw on it as the last track, is 'Factory Show Room'. I'll have to check it out.
A guy said that in Indiana and in the mid-west painting on saws, both hand saws and circular saws, is very popular. It is kitsch but nice - they paint deer and sceneries (just like me...). He also said that in Main saw playing is popular since there still are a lot of wood-cutters there today.
A lady accordion player gave me her card saying if I ever want to play with an accordion she'll be interested, and a guy guitar player who has a small recording studio in NJ gave me his card and asked me to call him to let him know my phone number - in case any of his clients ever requests "something different".


photo by Demi from Taiwan, May 2005 at Union Square

December 10th, 1999
Today I played at 14th street. First I played for about an hour in the MUNY site I was given for today. It was by the 4, 5 & 6 trains. It was very noisy there so I didn't enjoy playing there. I could barely hear my own playing! So, I decided to relocate. I transferred my gear to the platform of the N&R trains where it was much quieter and very pleasant.
Two teen-agers stood by to listen. One of them said to the other: "I wish I could do that!"
A gentleman who was standing on the opposite platform with his wife crossed over especially to show his deep appreciation for my playing.
A gentleman who said he is a composer told me that he bought a Mussehl & Westphal musical saw about 5 years ago. He knows saw player David Weiss from CA. They used to play together, this guy playing piano. He also knows Brooklyn sawyer Moses Jossia.
A guy named Seraphim told me he really liked my playing of 'Ave Maria' even though the piece doesn't mean anything to him since he is Jewish. He then took the train uptown. Later he returned to listen some more! He told me that he plays piano, guitar and that he sings. He performed in Israel for a year in Eilat. Now he and his group are going to India to play a New Year's Day gig. He's also played for the royal family in Morocco.
A lady gave me a fragrant ever-green branch out of a bouquet she was holding. She also gave me an apple, which I later gave to a homeless man.
Somebody 'made my day' when they put a little cute Teddy Bear in my box. The little bear was wearing yellow pants, a white and yellow sweater and a yellow scarf. I didn't see when it was put in my box. It was such a pleasant surprise when I looked into my box and saw him there! I was happier about that little bear then about all the money that he was sitting on!
I also received a coin from Canada, a coin from Turkey and a coin from France. I keep all the foreign coins I get in a 'piggy bank' (actually its shaped like a piano. A 'piano bank'?...) 'till I visit these countries some day. I already have three French coins which I will take with me on my visit to France this April.
I would have to visit Canada one of these days - I have a 'ton' of Canadian coins!
Harriet Wohlgemuth gave me her card which says she plays the flute. She told me that she is the president of an artist group in Brooklyn Heights and that she would like to invite me to play for them.

February 2nd, 2000
Today was the first time I played since I left for Israel. I basically haven't played for about two months. My given site today was 14th street Union Square. It was a very cold day (about 26 degrees) so I wore three pairs of socks... I wasn't cold while playing - only on my way back home my feet got cold.
When I first started playing I felt very "rusted". I had a nice 'welcom back to the subway' when as I was starting to play a teen-ager pointed me out to his friends saying "This is some real music, right here!"
Then a man came over to tell me that he saw me in Paris last April, playing at Centre Pompidu! He and his wife have a photograph of me from there. What a small world!
A young girl from Taiwan named Sen-I Yu, who is a film student at NYU filmed me with a video camera. She said she will call me about doing a documentary about me.
One lady stayed a whole hour listening to me. She wished I had a CD to sell. She said the sound of the saw is romantic.
A man told me he was just about to send a tape of his music to MUNY tommorrow. He playes Blues harmonica accompanied by a friend on guitar. He said he was from the Pasific shore and in his town an old man played the saw.
A Jewish lady told me her family is in music for three generations in Canada. Her grand father wrote a symphony but she doesn't know if anything ever came out of it, and her other relative won the Canadian music competition when he was five years old.
A lady named Wendi was listening to my playing with her eyes shut. She later told me that she was a portrate painter. She loves classical music. She plays CDs of it for her 4 year old son, and the neighbours in her Brooklyn area come to her appartement curious about the sounds. She lets people in to listen and she also has people who come and play or sit in the corner and draw. Her mother doesn't approve of her beying an artist, she doesn't understand her. Her mother is afraid that like Van Goch her daughter might cut her ear off... She said she sits outside in order to paint people's portraits for a living. Five years ago a man told her that he liked her art work and invited her to his gallery. He then trapped her there for 6 hours, beat her up and raped her... That's how she got her son. And that's why she has no teeth in the front of her mouth. Despite this terrible past, she has an incredibly positive out look on life - what an amazingly strong lady! Full of love and joy! She asked me to let her know when I make a recording as she would like to buy it.
It was so nice to be back playing in the subway. I have the greatest time playing for those wonderful people out there in this relaxed atmosphere with the beautiful accoustics.
A leader of a dance troop put a card in my donations box saying to call her if I could work with dancers.


14th Street, June, 2005
Photographer: Sydney Hedderich, Toronto, Canada

February 8th, 2000
Today I played at 14th Street, Union Square on the up-town N&R platform. It wasn't too cold (I only wore two pairs of socks...)
Soon after I started playing an African-American gentleman named Brian crossed over from the opposite platform, following the sounds of the saw. He arrived as I was playing the Bach/Gounod 'Ave Maria'. When the piece was over he asked that I play it again. He later asked that I play the Schubert 'Ave Maria' and then again the Bach/Gounod one twice more! He kept trying to leave, saying he has to get to work, but he kept returning to listen for some more... He said he might get fired for being late for work, still he kept listening. He then said his uncle is in charge of him at work so he wasn't that scared of being fired... He said he taught himself to play harmonica by ear. Finally after about an hour he left without returning.
Every time a train arrived at the platform a strong gust of wind blew in with it. The wind got into my donations box and I was afraid it would blow the money out of it. One time a dollar bill flew out but I got it. Another time some paper money flew out of the box and down to the tracks! Oh, well, may-be some homeless person would get it... After that I started taking out any paper money out of the box after each song I played, for fear of it disappearing. I really must get a taller donations-box. This has never been a problem before. A slightly similar problem I had before was that wind blew the entire box away from me (without the money spilling out). That's when I started to keep an old large battery in the box so that it's weight would anchor the box in place.
A man dressed as a clown took my card and gave me his. He is a party organizer and has musical performers he hires for parties and corporate events.
A gentleman asked me if I was the one who plays cowbells and tap-dances. I was surprised - how did he know? He said he has heard me play 'Ave Maria' before and took my card. He is a pianist and composer of musicals. He gave my number to a producer and hopes something would come out of it for me.
A lady took my card and gave me hers saying she is working on a project of "cool subway musicians, and you are definitely cool!"
A teen-ager exclaimed to his friends : "She is playing a fucking saw!"
A lady took my card and gave me hers saying she is working on a no-pay film about a rock group in the 60's/70's. She has a composer writing the soundtrack and she would like me to play on it. She said she would e-mail me the information.
There was also an African-American gentleman who said he plays guitar and a drum with his foot, in the subway. He then proceeded to tell me his entire career, where he played and how he got there. Now he plays in the subway and he has gotten 18 tickets for using amplification in the subway.


59th Street, February 9th, 2005
Photographer: Christian Czako. For photography work contact Christian: (646) 725-3589, christian@mitoutsound.co.uk

February 10th, 2000
Today I played at 14th street, on the mezzanine with a MUNY permit followed by playing on the N&R uptown platform without a permit. Before I started to play a young lady approached me saying that on account of seeing and hearing me play she looked up musical saw websites on the internet in order to buy a saw for herself. She plays theremin, keyboard and guitars and she also builds her own instruments. Her theremin is a cheap one that doesn't function well. She is about to purchase the Moog theremin kit similar to the one I have.
The photographer from the Westchester Street Festival I played in happened by. He specializes in old fashioned cameras which photograph on very long film creating a few feet long panoramic pictures. He was recovering from the flue and on his way to the dentist.
A crazy man started to dance to the sounds of the saw. He danced in front of me, then drifted to dance in front of a couple of men sitting on a near by bench.
A young kid, probably his son, looked annoyed and tried to get his father to stop making a fool of himself and come along.
After about an hour of playing some loud music from a source at the other end of the station started. I continues to play for another hour, battling against the loud music. At two o'clock I decided it was too annoying to go on and even though my permit wouldn't expire for another hour, I packed up and moved downstairs to the platform. Luckily no-one else was playing on the platform, so I could have the spot next to the wall.
A gentleman told me that he is a carpenter. He has a few saws but only one, a 20 year old 'Thilson' saw plays nicely. He plays it without a bow, by banging on it.
A theremin player wanted to buy a cassette recording of mine - alas, I don't have one to sell...
A nice gentleman asked me if I knew Moses Josiah. Moses is the "other" saw player in the subway. It turned out that this gentleman is going out with one of Moses' daughters! He therefore has heard lots of saw playing! He said he would give Moses my regards and tell him that I play very well...
Often times passersby try to imitate the sound of the saw. It is unpleasant when they do so since what comes out of their mouths is an annoying yell that interferes with my playing. Usually it is teenage guys who indulge in this but today there was an older Hispanic guy who did. I wonder what it is about the saw which makes people want to imitate its sound. I never hear people imitate a guitar's sound, or a trumpet's sound in the face of a musician while he/she are playing!
I was playing 'Danny Boy' while a train pulled into the station. When I finished playing people inside the train gave me an ovation before the doors closed.
Somebody put some cinnamon flavored chewing gum in my donations box.
As I was packing up to go home a trumpet player from Forest Hills told me the band "Juno 44" has saw playing on several of their albums. Their album "Engine Takes to the Waters' has saw on quite a few of its tracks.
A few people put their card in my donations box: somebody wants me to play in their band, another is the Manhattan director of 'Talent America' and another is an invitation to perform at the 'Panty Party' - an irreverent, raucous event with serious talent sponsored by ASCAP.

February 14th, 2000
Today I played with a MUNY permit at 42nd street Times Square.
I got to the site half an hour early so I watched the performer scheduled there before me. He is the Hispanic guy that dances with a doll. He is very good and he always draws a big crowd. He is also a very nice man - we've met many times before not only in the subway but also at south Street Seaport - another venue of permit-sites for street performers.
After he was done with his shift I set up and started to play. To my amazement I could see that people are crowding a few feet away from me, and I couldn't see what they were looking at. So when I finished the song I got up to see what was going on. There was a tall lady on a pedestal, dressed in yellow with yellow paint on her face. She was doing a mime act where she was standing still like a statue. When somebody put a coin in her box she changed position and blew a kiss to the person who put the money in the box.
She didn't have a permit to be there and she was taking away my audience! The dancer was still packing up his equipment behind me. He told me that I should get a policeman to tell the yellow lady that she is not aloud to be there. Time Square is usually swarming with policemen but just when you need one - there isn't one in sight... I looked around for a policeman and when minutes went by and no policeman showed up, the dancer pointed a TA lady in the distance. He told me he would watch over my staff while I go to ask her to get a policeman to the scene. The lady was very nice. She told me I should go to the down-town number 1 train platform, walk all the way to the other end of it, go up the stairs and make a left. There the dispatcher office is and they can get a policeman for me. She asked the dancer if he would watch over my stuff while I was gone and he graciously agreed. I ran all the way to the dispatcher's office, looking for policemen on the way but finding none. I asked the dispatcher to get a hold of a policeman, explaining the situation. She was very nice and made an announcement over the loudspeaker system calling for all police to report to her office. Minutes went by and no police showed up. She made a second announcement, a third and a fourth and still no police in sight. I was worried about my equipment, as I didn't want to keep the dancer waiting so long watching it for me, so I explained the situation to the dispatcher and asked her if a policeman does show up if she could send him to the site.
I ran back to the site where the dancer and the TA lady were guarding my stuff. To my surprise the yellow lady was gone! For some reason the dancer and the TA lady didn't know she decided to leave. I was happy she was gone and I recommenced to play. The dancer asked me if I would watch over his stuff now, and of course I was happy to oblige. He went away, perhaps to get something to eat and then he came back to continue to dance at a different site.
An hour later two policemen arrived... If this was a life and death situation somebody would have been long dead by the time they arrived! I thanked them for showing up and explained that the trouble causing lady has left. The two policemen were very angry with me saying it is not a job for the police. They were mad that they had to spend ten minutes getting to the site. I was very surprised to hear that since MUNY performers are instructed to seek the aid of a policeman in such situations. I later called the MUNY office to report the goings on and they assured me that indeed the police, being the highest authority in the subway do deal with all such situations.
A gentleman who listened to my tune which I played before I went to look for a policeman was still there when I returned. He said he is from the International House and wandered if he could have a few street performers give a talk at the International House. He thought it would interest the foreign students there to learn about the lives of the street musicians they see every day. I told him he should contact MUNY and go about this through them.
The following incident touched my heart: a lady asked if I would play for a friend of hers who is dieing. She told me he was in the Beth-Israel Hospital undergoing Chemo therapy. He helped her when she arrived from Chechoslovakia in the U.S. when she was young, with her baby and nothing but a suitcase in hand. He gave her a place to stay and helped her, asking nothing in return ("not wanting any sex in return" as she put it). Now she is very sad that he is dieing and she thought it would make him happy to hear my playing as it sounds angelic, as if from the other world. I was playing the Bach/Gounod 'Ave Maria' when she listened. I told her she should ask at the hospital if it is permitted to play there and I gave her my card. I hope she calls - I would be honored to play for this cause.
A gentleman told me he is a carpenter and that he didn't know such music can be gotten out of a saw. Interesting how many people want to tell me that they are carpenters.
Mr. Rainbow walked by. He was very happy when I remembered his name. Once again he told me that his father didn't play the saw as well as I do. He gave me a flyer advertising his performances at 'Danny's Cabaret'. He is a jazz singer and 1998 Iridium Singer of the year.

February 21st, 2000
Today was Presidents Day. Since it is a holiday, I feared the 'N' train might not be functioning in Queens, as it does on week-ends, in which case I wouldn't have been able to get into Manhattan to play at my designated MUNY spot. However, the train functioned normally, and I was able to get to my spot at 42nd street Times Square. When I got to the site there was construction work going on with very loud banging. Mr. Spoons was performing his 10am to 12pm time slot playing spoons to a back-up tape and the guy who dances with a doll was waiting to see if he could get the spot at noon. When I showed up with the 12pm to 3pm permit the dancer was getting ready to go else where to find a different spot, planning to return to Times Square when I am done, at 4pm (he already knows I like to play an hour longer than the permit...). I asked Mr. Spoons how he deals with the loud noise factor at the site. He said he just ignores it, but that he thinks that for me it would be difficult since I have to play pitches.
Since on my way there I noticed that nobody was playing at Lexington and 59th street, I decided to take a risk. I gave my Times Square spot to the dancer and hurried back to Lexington. Luckily nobody had gotten the spot as yet! Since it was a holiday, there were less people travelling than usual.
A lady that works at NPR radio station took my card. She said she thought it might be nice to do a program of subway musicians. She had seen/heard quite a few very good musicians in the subway.
A gentleman told me that he has a 1908 violin. I don't know why he felt like telling me that but I'm glad he did because he had an interesting story. He is a construction worker. He built a top additional floor on a building for a lady who is one of the 'big wigs' at the Museum of Natural History. She had a lot of things she was throwing away, amongst which was this old violin. He took the violin and had it appraised in 1964. It was worth $2500 then. The violin is in need of repair but he is reluctant to give it to a repair person for fear they would switch the violin on him thus steeling his valuable violin.
A lady said I bring back memories for her of her father who used to play the saw in Manhattan many years ago.
After playing peacefully for about an hour a saxophone player set up somewhere behind me on the platform. He played pretty loud, which was annoying for me. How-ever, that is part of being a busker, so you either keep on playing doing your best to ignore and out-loud the intruding sounds, or you pack up and go. I was battling the saxophone sounds for about two hours at which point he miraculously left. I wonder if he could hear me as much as I heard him. I was very happy when quite was restored, but not for long. An electric guitar player set up on the other side of the platform and played with an amplifier. As time went by he got louder and louder. I battled with his sounds for an hour. I then decided it wasn't fun any more to play with this much background noise, and I packed up. Before leaving the station I wanted to see who the guitar player was. I looked all along the platform, but all was quiet - he disappeared! I could have unpacked and continued to play but I had to go to the bathroom... so I decided to call it a day.
I received some Canadian coins and a Spanish coin. A gentleman who is a sports entertainment specialist gave me his card.
14th street Union Square. I was supposed to play with MUNY today, but as I arrived at the site I saw construction workers working right around the site, making a lot of noise, so I immediately headed down stairs to the platform. I set up in front of the double doors where I usually sit. I discovered that the motor inside the doors is now working full time, instead of just every now and then for a few moments, which means now the site is annoyingly noisy. Still, this noise is better then the loud banging of the construction work up stairs.
An African American lady came to tell me she is Carmelita, the agent who put her card in my box a while ago. We spoke on the phone after that. It was nice to be able to put a face to her voice now.
A young man asked me if it is possible to play 'running notes' on the saw. He is probably a musician himself. He explained that he meant fast passages, so the answer was 'no'.
A lady asked me if I chose the colors on my donation box in order to bring me power. I didn't quite follow what she meant, as I painted my box gold with colored "diamonds" to look like a nice stage prop. She explained that the colors I chose: (gold and red) bring power, green brings money. She advised me to put red inside the box.
A blond gentleman said he is a carpenter and that he plays the saw with which he works. He has a Sandvik saw. He chose his tool on account of its sound! He prefers playing the low notes.
A nice, friendly gentleman said he heard a saw player on John Shafer's program on NPR at the end of December. The sawyer played contemporary music and talked about the saw. The gentleman said I play better than the sawyer on radio since he didn't hit his notes so precisely. He also told me that a good place for busking is in Munich. He saw an orthodox Jewish man play marimba in the street there. He played J.S.Bach and was amazing. There was also a great accordion player with an accordion that sounded like an organ. He was blond and tall. I wonder if it's the same one that plays in Central Park and who auditioned for MUNY last year and wasn't accepted into the program. The nice gentleman went on to tell me he has three cats. One of them is 19 years old. The other two are only 8 months old. He used to have a cat who died at age 25 (which is really old for a cat). He feeds them very good food and gives them a lot of attention. He is about to go on a bicycle trip in the south of France.
A man running to catch the train told me his grandfather played the saw and also the spoons. He lived in the Rocky Mountains.
A young lady asked me if I could give her change for a dollar. Then a young man asked for the same. I was providing banking services on the platform today...
As I was about to resume playing, I pressed the 'play' button of my tape recorder but immediately stopped it as a young lady asked for my card. Immediately after, again I pressed the 'play' button and had to stop as a young man asked for my card. Jokingly I said I had just been through these same motions with the young lady who was still standing by me. The lady said "it's for a friend of mine who is looking for a saw player". The gentleman also said "it's for a friend of mine who is looking for a saw player". So I said "maybe its the same friend?" But it wasn't. The Guy said his friend is looking for a sawyer for a recording. He knows another sawyer, Gloria Deluxe. He gave me information about her performance in two days at a poetry event at Desmond's Tavern on Park Avenue South between 28th and 29th street.
An Israeli lady, who said she was a musician and had a saw but couldn't figure out how to play it gave me her card and took mine. She later called me to ask advise about how to play the saw.


Tribeca Film Festival 2003

March first, 2000
My MUNY permit for today was a short two hour one. That is really too short a time for me to play in the subway, but today I was actually glad it was over so soon as I felt pretty tired. The site was at 34th street Herald Square. Since the time was rush hour people are not as relaxed and they are tired and just want to get home already, so they are not a very good audience at this time.
A nice African American gentleman asked me how come all sawyers don't get together to form a band. Now that's a novel question I haven't heard before! He said I am the third sawyer he has seen, the second one being Moses Jossia who also plays in the subway.
The site at 34th street puts the musicians with their back to a railing fence. On the other side of the fence are people who are outside of the subway turnstiles. I like the fact that people gather behind me, behind the fence and listen. They usually hand me their donations but some of them try to shoot change or a dollar bill rolled up into a ball into my donations box. They usually miss.
Two people took my card today: a young lady who is a writer for an on-line women's magazine and for WFMU Radio (where I've played many years ago) who was wondering if "I give interviews", and a young guy who said he might need a sawyer two years from now... He said he thinks he might have gotten my card in the past. After having looked at the card I gave him today he exclaimed that indeed it was me who's card he has gotten before.
William, a guy from my handbell choir, passed by on his way to and then again on his way from buying a present for a friend who had a baby. When he first walked by he was in a hurry and didn't stop to listen but said in passing that before I was visible to him he thought the saw sound must be mine. It always surprises me when a friend passes by.
After my shift was done I ran into Bruce, an excellent guitar player who plays in the subway sometimes. He had just finished a MUNY shift with a trumpet player at 14th street. He hasn't been playing in the subway much in the past year - only seven times, with a band in 1999. He was busy playing in Atlantic City Hotels and doing weddings and other well paying gigs. It was nice to talk to a "fellow busker".


Tribeca Film Festival 2004. Photographer: Jamie Propp

March 6th, 2000 Times Square MUNY location.
On my way to the site I was wondering whether it would be full of construction noise as it was last week, which would have meant that I would have to find a different spot to play at. As the guitar player/singer from Vienna said to me a couple of days ago when I saw him playing at a small station up-town, sites are scarce these days. There are a lot of new buskers out there, so good sites are hard to come by, as they are always taken.
Climbing up the stairs from the track to the mezzanine area at Times Square I was greeted by a construction worker who said "you're gonna play the saw, right?" It's nice to see my face is recognized.
A few friends happened to walk by as I played: composer Jim Bassi told me how he recently composed for glass harp, director Mark Lonergan told me how his show traveled to Poland recently and about his new show which will open in NYC in June and singer/song writer Michael Maxwell said 'hi'. The nice lady who always shows up when I play at Times Square between noon and three p.m. walked by and as always gave me a donation with a smile.
A young man walked by carrying a heavy load, including a computer tower. Even though it was clear that his load was cumbersome, I could see that he really wanted to stop and listen. Finally he put down his load on the ground, sat down on the computer and listened to "Lara's Theme' from the movie "Dr. Jivago". When I finished playing he told me that his name, Sasha, was given to him after the character from the movie. He therefore has seen the movie a million times, also on the big screen and he knows it inside out. He doesn't particularly like his name, though.
A man with a British accent took my card and asked if I do recordings.
A lady walking by said her friend plays saw, but she didn't stop to chat so I couldn't ask her for more details.
A young man said I was only the second woman he has seen playing the saw. The first was Marlene Dietrich whom he has only seen playing the saw in photos.
One of the military recruiters who usually set up table in Times Square not far from the MUNY spot came by to tell me he had never seen saw playing before. I wanted to talk to him more but other members of the audience at that point cut in.
Today I played the part of a portable bank: a man asked me to change two dollar bills to four quarters and 10 nickels. Then a young lady bought my tape (she went out of the subway and came back in especially to get money to buy my tape) and required $10 change. She is an art student in Hunter College. She is working on a short video with an other worldly, outer space theme and thought the saw sound would be a good sound track. She recorded me on a small tape recorder but decided to buy my tape as well, just in case.
A young Japanese couple took my picture. I noticed how quiet their camera was. I am looking for a camera that doesn't make a sound when taking a picture for pictures taken during my performances. I had already asked an Italian sounding young lady today, after she took my picture, if she knows of a silent camera (her's wasn't silent but it looked professional so I thought may be she was a professional photographer and would know) but she didn't know. The Japanese couple's camera which sounded pretty silent to me is a Samsung Impact 210i camera which cost them about $100.
Two young men and a young lady from Brazil filmed and recorded me for a documentary about different jobs. They interviewed me and the guy in charge of the sound, who used a portable DAT recorder, came back after they all have departed to meet some one up stairs, because he said the high pitches didn't get recorded well previously. He tried recording me from a different angle and this time it worked, while I was playing the Bach choral.
They gave me their web address (which didn't work) and their e-mail (which worked) and promised they will let me know when something happens with their documentary.
A young woman was trying to contact her boy friend on her cell phone as I was playing "Spanish Romance" because she herself had played this piece on the guitar that morning.
At about 3pm a Christian missionary man planted himself near by and started yelling at the top of his voice. After half an hour I grew tired of competing with his shouts, so I packed up and returned home.


Times Square, 2004. Photo by Felix Voigt

March 8th, 2000
Today I played at the MUNY site at 14th street. I was a little concerned about the site since last week-end there was a water pipe break there and the station was shut. Also lately they have been installing new elevators there, which caused a lot of noise. But apparently all is back to quiet at this Union Square station and I was able to play in peace. When I arrived at the site a saxophone player was there but he knew to vacate the spot by 4pm - the MUNY scheduled time.
At first, for a long time nothing of much interest happened. So much that I thought that perhaps this would be the first time in which nobody is going to talk to me as I play in the subway. But I was wrong.
The first was a nice lady who asked me if I was from Russia or from the Ukrain. I didn't understand why she thought I might be from there - do I look Slavic? It was only with the last person who spoke to me today that I understood her question.
Next a producer for PBS told me it is some time now that he has been thinking of doing a program about subway musicians. I was the first one he has seen with a MUNY banner. He put my information into his hand held computer and showed me how he inputs information into it by writing it on a small part of the screen with his finger, in script!
A Japanese girl took my picture and said something very interesting: the handle at the tip of my saw reminded her of Christmas reindeer antlers! I never thought of it before but she is right!
Many people photographed and video taped me today. Most of them ask permission or give a donation, but some don't and that is very annoying to a busker. Some buskers even put signs in front of them saying "no pictures or videos are to be taken". When someone takes a picture or a video of a busker without asking for permission or giving a donation it is as if that person is steeling something from the busker. It's an infringement of the busker's copyrights over his performance.
When I finished playing the Siciliana by J.S. Bach a lady said that she has heard many sawyers in Pennsylvania but none that play Baroque music!
My relative, Lawyer Herb Alpert, passed by, said a brief hello and sent his regards to my father.
A nice lady photographed me with a digital camera and then came over to show me how the picture came out on a screen on the back side of the camera. She said, in answer to my enquiry about the quietness of cameras, that digital cameras are silent.
It always amazes me when a religious Jew gives me a donation when I play 'Ave Maria'. Either they rise above the religious significance of the piece and delight in the pureness of the sound or they simply don't know what the piece is.
It is so nice to recognize and be recognized by passersby who have passed by me before. Today the nice Jewish lady from Canada who has seen me at this site before, passed by and wished me a happy Purim.
Lastly for today, a gentleman approached and talked to me in Russian. It turned out that he is an Israeli residing in Brooklyn. On account of my name being printed on the MUNY banner which I hang behind me, he thought I was Russian. Natalia is indeed a Russian name but also a Spanish, Italian and in my case, an Israeli name (Nat-tal-ia: Nat is an ancient Egyptian goddess of the sky, tal in Hebrew is dew and ia/ya is the name of God in Hebrew. The Gods who bestow dew on earth also bestowed me to my parents).
When this man, who's name is Joseph, turned to go I could see that his ball cap has the word Tzahal (Israeli army) printed on it's back.


53rd Street & Lexington, March 2005, photo by Trevor Stephens

March 15th, 2000
Today was the first time I was assigned the 10am to 12 noon slot at Times Square. As I am not a morning person, it was not very pleasant for me to get to work at this hour. Added to the burden of the early hour was getting on the subway in rush hour with my bulky cart.
When I got to Times Square I saw my neighbor and co-busker, Theo from Vienna, who plays acoustic guitar and sings, working on the platform. It was the first time he was selling his new CD in the subway and as he said "they are selling like hot cakes". He said that once he sells his last two CDs he will be done playing in that spot. He will then go purchase more of his CDs (I guess from the press). I told him that if he happens to walk through the mezzanine where I will be playing, to wave to me so I'll know the platform was available. I then set up at the MUNY spot.
My husband's cousin, Michael, who works for an electronic store, happened by on his way to doing an installation of a stereo system. He came over and gave me a kiss. I was thinking that passersby must think it odd to see people come up to a subway musician and give them a kiss.
Then Theo came by to tell me he was done playing on the platform. I quickly assembled my stuff and rushed to the platform, trying to get there before someone else gets that coveted spot. The reason why I wanted to transfer to the platform was that two hours is not enough playing time for me. I knew that at noon some other MUNY performer would have a permit to the MUNY spot and I would have to look for another spot and might not find any good ones available. Besides, the N&R platform at Times Square is the best spot in town and it is so rare for me to be able to get it.
Theo asked me if I would play until 5pm, which is when he intends to be back. I agreed to this trade off of the spot. So it happened that I played for 7 hours straight for the first time in my life. I think the most I ever played before was six hours, and I think that only happened once, may be twice before. After playing for four hours I got tired, but after about 5 and a half hours I wasn't tired any more for some strange reason. May be since I am so used to playing four hours I subconsciously feel like it's time to be done after four hours.
A lady remembered me from my performance at Circus Sundays on the Barge Museum in Brooklyn. Funny to have her pass by on the same day on which the Barge called to invite me to perform there again this summer.
A man put his bag by my cart, took out a video camera and asked if he could video tape me for a casting agency. I had just played 'Last Dance' and he said that would get me hired so he recommended that I play that again. I don't particularly think that piece shows my skills very well, and I didn't feel like rewinding my back up tape, so I played the Bach choral which is one of my favorite pieces. He only video taped a segment of it and than rushed away saying that it always happens to him to find something interesting when he is late.
A young lady said her friend Darcy who is a cartoonist plays saw as a hobby. About 5 years ago she played in a gallery accompanied by banjo.
A young photographer expressed a wish to photograph me for his portfolio.
A friend of Jaimy Propp, producer of the Subplay CD, recognized me. My part on that CD is very small - a short clip of Schubert's 'Ave Maria' and a background sound on somebody else's tune.
The girl who is studying film at NYU and spoke with me at 14th street a while ago passed by. We have since exchanged e-mails. She asked how my husband was doing and told me she has been editing her current short film assignment till eight AM! She has one more year till she graduates but then it may take another five years to do the thesis. She also told me her cat is lonesome most of the time as my friend is mostly home only to sleep. Her cat leaves a lot of hair every where.
Somebody put a card in my box, which says: "Are you fulfilling your creative potential? If not, we can help. A.R.T.S. Anonymous. Artists Recovering through the Twelve Steps". First I thought this was an Alcoholics Anonymous but when I checked out their web site it turned out that it isn't. This is to help artists who are experiencing a creative block.
A musician put a note in my box saying "Great! I have a project coming up with a dance company. I'd like to talk to you - call me if you are interested!"
Somebody put a card in my box which says: "MetroActive, Inc. New York/Los Angeles, Owner/Director". I'll have to call him to see what that is all about.
Today I found some British coins and some Dutch coins in my donations box.
At exactly five PM Theo was back and I was very glad to see him. I felt like I could stay longer but it was good that I didn't as my left hand was beginning to ache.


Union Square, December 2004. Photographer: Nicholas Maffel

March 20th, 2000
Today I played at the MUNY Times Square spot. As I was setting up construction people greeted me with a 'hi, how are you? Is it the saw today?' It's interesting how people remember my face.
Some friends passed by: Luke Rayan, guitar player and singer who is with the MUNY program and resides not far from me was probably on his way to his spot in the subway. The film student from NYU waved hello and so did my friend and neighbor Mari who was on her way to teach Tap class in NJ. Journalist Sandra Mardenfeld was happy to run into me and said she is still hoping to publish the interview she did with me a few years ago...
A Chinese gentleman said he played saw for three years but because his wife doesn't like the sound of it, he stopped playing ten years ago. He said my playing brought back past memories for him.
An African-American older lady said she has seen a similar musical instrument to the saw in Ghana and that in Africa this kind of instrument was played thousand of years ago.
About an hour after I started to play a mime artist showed up dressed in silver with his face and hair painted silver, too. He wanted to set up right by my side! I told him that since I have a permit for that area no other artist is aloud to set up there. He said that he has been performing for 20 years and has never heard of MUNY...! He agreed to move away a little bit but still was pretty close to me. Mime acts, though silent, always attract a huge crowed and if they set up close to a musician they usually steal the audience away from the musician. I kept on playing and managed to have some crowds of my own despite the competition, but it wasn't pleasant. I don't like competing over the audience when performing.

March 21st, 2000
Today I played at the MUNY spot at 14th street Union Square. I usually stay longer than my allotted time but today I stopped right when my permit expired since I had to pack my suitcase. I am flying to Israel tomorrow. So, it was a short session today.
A man asked me whether many people think the saw is a theremin. Boy, was he right! So many people either think that the saw is a theremin or they exclaim about how similar they sound.
A Russian man named Gregory told me he is 52 years old and he has a daughter named Natalia who is 28. He plays saxophone and clarinet. He had a camera and wanted to have his picture taken with me. He asked a passenger but when he refused, Gregory approached a police woman who was talking with some other policemen near by. The police woman, though a little surprised at the request, agreed. She took a picture, and wanted to leave but Gregory made her take one more and yet one more picture since the flash didn't work the first two times. Gregory said he wants to play with me and that all the money we earn will be mine.
Why do so many people want to touch the saw? I never see people wanting to touch the guitar, saxophone or cello of a busker. What is it about the saw that makes them want to touch it? I keep having to nudge the saw away from their reaching hands and explain that touching the saw puts moisture on the blade thus ruining its sound.
A man from Columbia, Gonzalo Munoz, said he has studied in Paris in 'Le Cock'. He played a saw from Germany, which wasn't very good for playing. He had a metal handle on it clasped at the sides of the tip. He played the saw bending it to the right hand side in stead of to the left! While in Paris he met a violinist who ordered a French saw for him from a guy in the outskirts of Paris and the saw looks exactly like mine! It sounds to me like it was Monsieur Grau who made it for him! Gonzalo didn't know the name of the saw maker as the violinist was the middle man for him. The violinist wanted Gonzalo to learn to play the saw the right way, bending it to the left. Today he is an actor. He gave me a post card advertising the performances of his troop. He doesn't play the saw with them. He plays it with a band he has. He first saw the musical saw in a clown circus act.
A young woman named Jill told me she was in Israel a few times and has lived in Paris, too. She is trying to learn to play the saw. She first bought a Stanly but thought it was too short, only 26". She read about the saw on the internet and learned about the technique of playing it.
She bought a Mussehl & Westphal but is still not satisfied with the sound. She needs to learn to play it in two months for a performance she is participating in. She also plays accordion. An African American gentleman told me that Roy Brooks plays saw in Max Roaches Jazz band 'MBoom'. He doesn't play it "as a violin" but as a percussion instrument by waving it in the air!
I got some British money today.


Union Square, November 2004, photo by Niels Oesingmann

October 23rd, 2003
I never knew this could happen, until it happened to me:
I was doing my busking act at 53rd Street in the NYC subway, as usual. My saw was making crackling noises every now and then, but I thought perhaps one of the screws that hold the handle got loose (this happened in the past).
I also noticed there was a stiffness in the saw, but I thought perhaps the 44 degree weather was to blame for that.
About an hour and a half of playing later, I was playing 'I'm Always Chasing Rainbows'. I noticed that when I was sliding down, the sound was not so good. I still thought the weather was to blame at this point...
Then, I reached a point in the song where I was supposed to slide up and... my saw went mute!!! Now, this, I knew, was definitely not normal. I was looking at the center of the saw at that point, where I was supposed to bow next. I turned my head up to look at the tip of the saw and to my horror I saw that the tip-handle was protruding at a strange angle... At this point I gave up all hope of finishing the song. I turned the saw over, to look at the other side. I couldn't believe my eyes: the blade was cracked, just like the Liberty Bell... almost all across the width of the tip, the steel was actually broken. Who would have thought that I could break steel...
I was very lucky that the saw broke gradually and not all at once, because the impact of a sudden break might have been very damaging. I was also lucky that the break occurred at the tip and not in the center of the saw. Again - that could have been harmful to me, but also, this way, I can have the tip cut off and continue to use this saw as a shorter instrument.
I was told that the reason why the steel broke, is fatigue. I was told that the 44 degrees weather is not cold enough to break steel (I know that - I have played in much colder weather). What surprises me is that the saw broke at the tip and not in the middle, where the curve is most visual.
Did anybody ever experience a saw breaking? My friend's grandfather had a saw break while he was cutting a piece of wood with it (and the broken blade went into his leg...). But that's not quite the same as a saw breaking from playing music...
Luckily I have a few saws, so I will be back playing tomorrow with one of my other saws.


Times Square, November 2004, photo by John Masterson

November 15th, 2004
At the 59th & Lex station today a nice lady enjoyed my music. She came over to talk to me and said "I think you will appreciate this. I don't usually do this, but I really think you will be able to appreciate this". She proceeded to take off her coat and peeled her sleeves to show me some incredible tatoos. On her legs she has a sceene from 'Allice in Wonderland' and an angel and devil. On her back she has Chinese writings and it's all done so well, with bright colors and precision. I have seen lots of tatoos, but this lady has the most beautiful ones I've ever seen. I thought it was so nice of her to share her tatoos with me.


Union Square, December 2004, photo by Niels Oesingmann
The lady is holding my CD which she had just bought

December 16th, 2004
Niels, a German photographer who has seen/heard me play at Union Square a few times during the past couple of months has been witmess to a conversation that took place between two members of my audience. Such a conversation usually takes place at least once every hour that I play... Here is the conversation that Niels has recorded:

Mother: She is singing!
Son: No, She's playing the saw.
M: There is an orchestra playing!
S: It is a tape.
M: And she is singing?
S. No. She is sawing.
M; What did you say?
S: Go, have a look.
M: .......
S: And?
M: It's like singing.
S: That's it, the saw. Maybe ... her singing.
M: What a nice voice she has!

January 14th, 2005, under-pass at the corner of Alenbi Street and Yaffo Way in Tel-Aviv, Israel.
In the more than 10 years that I have been busking, I have never had an encounter with a fellow busker who was this violent:
After I arrived at the spot, set-up and started to play, a Russian guitar player showed up. Yelling and screeming he told me that this was "his spot". I told him that the place is big, he can play at one end and I can play at the other end and we can both share the space. He wouldn't even consider it. He said "I am always here. This is MY spot". I told him that I will only be here today and he can have "his" spot back tomorow. But he obviously has never heard of sharing a spot, nor of courtasy to fellow buskers. He started cursing me in Rissian. I told him that 1) he doesn't own the spot and I got there first today and 2) this is a free country - anybody can play anywhere and that he is welcome to play at the other end of the square, which is where he wanted to be in the first place. He said "It's a free country? In that case, I am free to break your boombox!" He threatened to break my boombox if I don't stop playing. I knew I had the right to be there, as I got to the spot first, and that is the way it works with buskers all over the world. So, I had no intention of caving to his cursing, yelling and threats. This busker had to learn that he doesn't own the streets, and that he should respect fellow buskers. The world cannot cave in to violence! We cannot let violent people have their way through force. So, I kept on playing. He wanted to throw my boombox on the floor to break it, but my boombox is tied to my cart. So, he lifted his fist and banged forcefully on the boombox. I stood up and shouted "police! police!" The Rissian guitar player immediately ran away. No police showed up, of course, but the Russian guitar player dissapeared and never came back. I stayed at the spot and played for 4 & 1/2 hours, having a great time and meeting some very nice people.
It is very surprising to me that the only violent fellow busker I ever met in the more than 10 years I've been busking all over the world, was in Israel of all places. Buskers are usually very friendly and respectful towards other buskers. One might expect NYC to have violent people, but in all these years I never met a violent busker in NYC. Yet in Israel, I met a Russian busker who shames the proffession.


Union Square, April, 2005, photographer: Johanna Eun
Read what the advertisement on the wall next to me says. I didn't put it there...
April 29th, 2005, Union Square
Today is the first time I used my new MUNY banner. I can't wait for somebody to send me a photo of me playing in the subway under this new banner...


Union Square, May 17th, 2005, photographer: Lexie

May 2nd, 2005, Times Square
An artist who sells his art on the street asked me for 25 cents to make a phone call. He said he will give me his art work for it. So, I agreed. His art work turned out to be very clever: he cuts the NYC sky line out of a match box.

A nice lady placed a long stemmed white rose in my donnations box. Not only did it look very classy there, but the thorns of the rose acted as a berier for potential thieves wanting to steal my money!
My two friends who are brothers who sing in subway cars walked by. They are celebrating their birthday next week. They were born a day and a year appart. One of them is now moving from living downtown Manhattan to a place in Harlem.
Right before me the spot was occupied by my friend the Equadorian flute player. He told me about a month ago that he is expecting his friend to join him from Equador. His friend indeed arrived and was playing with him. My friend doesn't have a visa, and his friend has a 5 year tourist visa, which means every 3 months he has to leave and re-enter the US. They didn't make it into the MUNY audition. I advised them to reapply next year.
So many friends walked by me today: the actor who did 'Tenament Vaudeville' with me, Luke the singer/guitar player who just finished his morning busking at the shuttle, the nice lady with the white hair who always stops to say 'hi' to me at Times Square, the construction guy who sits at his office on the lower mezanine and leaves his door open so that he could hear my playing, and the subway train conductor who told me he had seen me on the 'N'/'R' platform years ago when my saw still had its teeth and he purchased my cassette, which inspired him to try to play the saw himself. And a doesn other nice people who always greet me whenever they see me play and ask me how I'm doing and what's up. If I wasn't a busker, I wouldn't have had so many friends.


Union Square, May 2005. Photographer: Philipp F. Kölmel from Germany

June 6th, 2005, Times Square
Today I wore the new T-shirt I got yesterday - black with my website's address in white on both the front and back. I hope somebody out of the many people who photograph me every day will be kind enough to e-mail me a photo in which I am wearing this t-shirt. The guy at the store who made me the t-shirt recognized me from seeing me play in the subway. That was nice. Made me feel a little bit like a celebrity...
When I just started playing today, a homless lady was watching me for a long time. She had a shopping cart laden with plastic bags and she was wearing a heavy winter coat and hat even though it was 86 degrees. After a while she left her cart and approached me. She told me that she loves my music, that I am so talented and that she wishes she had some money to give me. I told her that it's OK, she doesn't have to give me anything. She was concerned that no body had given me any money and I told her not to worry, that my box will get filled up with time. She listened to some more music, then walked back to her cart. She took a long stemmed red rose out of her cart, brought it over and placed it in my donations box, where it stayed the whole day. Now something like this is worth more than all the money in the world to me. I hope somebody out of the many people who photographed me today will e-mail me a photo with that rose in it.
Later, a gentleman who looked homeless to me hung around me and obviously enjoyed the music. I was sure he was homeless, so I was totally surprised when he took out 10 single dollar bills and purchased my CD... Never assume anything about anybody, I guess...
The saxophone guy went by and told me he had seen my advertisement in the subway cars. I'm glad somebody noticed them!
The 2 singing brothers stopped to say 'hi', as usual, greeting me with a kiss and a hug. One of them lives in Far Rockaway, the other just moved to Haarlem. I was surprised to learn he is 62 years old! He said his voice isn't what it used to be anymore. On a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is where his voice used to be, his voice now is on 4, he said. He still sounds great to me, though.
Later, Edwardo the piano player from south America set up on the upper mezanine and blasted out his amplifiers. That wasn't nice, as he drowned my sound out. He is a very nice guy, though, and so is his son. I just have to get my act upgraded from using a boombox for my backups to using an amp, so I won't be drowned out by others. Just last week I was talking about this with the Cagle Family, who followed my act at 14th Street. I will follow their advice regarding which amp to get.


Union Square, July 2005. Photographer: Pierre Cauderay from Switzerland
First time with my subway "uniform" (t-shirt & ball-cap with website embroydered on it)

June 9th, 2005 - Union Square
Today a lady stopped to give a donation and told me that the reason why she is interested in what I do is because her daughter has a tatoo of a saw. (that's cool!). When she asked her daughter why she has a tatoo of a saw, her daughter replied that it's because 'people make music with this thing'... (that's really cool!!)


photo by Dale Harris, July 7th, 2005 at 59th St. & Lex.
First day with my new gear

July 7th, 2005 - 59th street & Lex.
Today was the first time I used my upgraded get-up: an amp and a CD player with a remote, to replace the old boombox. Wow - what a difference in sound! I have been talking about doing this upgrade for a long time now, so today was a memorable day when it finally got done.(see new get-up in photo above).
Today was the terrorist attack in the London underground. Lots of people in NYC were scared to take the subway here, and many musicians did not go to play today in the subway (my friend Luke who is a singer/songwriter/guitar player was sent away from the Shuttle by the police on account of the allert earlier this morning). I did go to play, in order to contribute to the sence of 'all is in order' for commuters, to calm their nerves, and also as a demonstration that NYC does not get scared. Life must go on. I played 'Ave Maria' and different sad music in honor of the victims of this terrible terrorist attack.


Union Square, July, 2005, photographer: Janet Griffith

July 11th, 2005 - Times Square
Today I met 'Gray Wolf' - flute player of 19 years in the NYC subway. He is an American Indian who lived on a reservation. He is now mourning the death of his father, and as the oldest son he must complete a series of retuals, which includes giving up all his possesions. Traditionally he would have to go live in the wild for a period of meditation. Since he is in NYC, he will accomplish this by living on the streets as a homeless for one month. He is also supposed to do sweat lodge, but since there are none in NYC, he will simply sit in the sun. He is not supposed to eat or drink anything for one month (which will be the month of September - the month in which his father was born and died). He told me about the different Indian retuals he is doing in order to complete the medicine wheel. He told me about Indian customs, read me Indian poetry and told me about the foods Indians eat. After a while he went away and I started playing. After about 2 & 1/2 hours he returned with a dish of Indian food for me. This was one of the foods he was telling me about: a cactus in South America grows a fruit overnight. One has to pick up the fruit early in the morning, or else the fruit will turn hard. Stripped down and fryed on fire, this cactus fruit (called 'Neple', sic.) actually feels a bit like meat... In South America, where summer temperatures reach 125 degrees Farenheit, Indians survive on this fruit which cools down the body.
He also gave me a glass paper weight with fish images in it. He said someone gave it to him when he was playing on the street.
As I was talking with 'Gray Wolf' I thought to myself - wow! where else and how else would I have the chance to talk with a real American Indian, if I didn't play in the subway! In what other situation an Indian would be interested in talking with me?! I meet the most incredible, beautiful people in the subway, thanks to my playing there.
When I got back home this little Greek kid asked me, for the 2nd time, if I like singing. I said 'singing is OK' - why do you ask?' She said a lady said that I sing in the trains. I told her I don't sing, I play a musical instrument which sounds like a woman singing (and I don't do it 'in the trains' but in stations). I asked her who is the lady that said that. She said she doesn't know. I thought that was strange that this little kid was talking to somebody she didn't know about me... well, it turned out this kid overheard a conversation between two ladies as I was passing by. One lady was telling the other that I am the one who performs in the subway. It was so funny how it all got to this kid. It's also funny that people I don't know talk about me when I pass by. People I don't know know me... Like that nice gentleman sitting in a medical clinic, waiting for his turn with the doctor. He saw me through the window, and waved to me. I looked at him puzzled, because I don't know him. He then proceeded to mime that he saw me play the saw, and he applauded. That was so nice!


Times Square, July, 2005, photographer: Oscar Durand

July 13, 2005 - 59th street & Lex
Today I was relieved to see my friend who is in charge of the garbage at the station. He went to London and I was worried about him on account of the terrorists attack in London. But he is OK.
After playing for about 50 minutes an alarm went off on the other platform. A loud noise plus flashing lights. It went on "forever" and there were no announcements made about it, nor were any commuters told to leave the place... (of course people were thinking "terrorist attack?") Finally some firemen arrived (took them a long time), and they laid down a hose. Still no announcements. Then an announcement came about the suspention of the N/W trains and a rerouting of the R train. I could smell some smoke, but not much. Still, no announcement about what is happening. All this time the alarm sound and flashing lights are still on, full volume. I kept on playing through the alarm noise (it wasn't easy) because I wanted to calm people's nerves with the music and give them something positive to focus on. It worked. People appreciated it.
Finally, I asked one of the guys I always see splitting money on the bench near me (I think they might be singing on trains) if he knew what was going on. He said he didn't know as he just walked off the train. A few minutes later he walked by me and told me it was a track fire.
After an hour and a half there was an announcement that the N/W service is resumed. Still, the loud alarm sound and flashing lights kept going. I stayed on, trying to play through it, expecting them to turn the alarm off any minute now that there was nothing going on any more. But it kept on going. The alarm was on for 3 hours streight, even though they fixed the problem in 2 hours. At that point I decided to leave. It was no fun playing with all that noise. When I was waiting for the train on another track, the alarm was still on and I and other commuters had to put our hands on our ears it was so loud. It was still not turned off when my train arrived.


Times Square, July, 2005, photographer: Oscar Durand

July 17th - Times Square
Today a lady walked by to tell me that her father, Jim McLaghclin, (long decesed) used to play the musical saw and spoons in Brookly. Interesting how 99% of people who tell me someone they knew who is now dead used to play the saw - that saw player was in Brooklyn...
A couple from Hawaii was celebrating their 15th anniversary. They asked if I could play something romantic for them to dance to. So, I played 'By the Sea' and they danced the entire song. It was so sweet.

July 25th, Times Square
When I arrived at the spot today, there were 2 Andean players there with a 3rd one not playing but just selling CDs. They were displaying the OLD MUNY banner, hanging on our hooks, but FOLDED, so that the name of the performer on the banner would not show... The fact that they were displaying the OLD banner told me they were not members of MUNY. The fact that they were hiding the name of the performer printed on the banner told me it wasn't their name... Now the really strange thing was, that when I went to make a phone call (there was no answer), they quickly took the banner down and hid it, so, when I turned around to go back to stand by them to wait for my turn to play, the banner was gone but they continued playing. Meaning, they were afraid they would get into trouble for using this banner. Another strange thing was that after I went to try to make another phone call, when I came back they were packing up their act. They didn't even ask me if I had a permit for the spot and what time it starts. They actually could have stayed another 20 minutes. I couldn't help but wonder if they were using MY old banner which was stolen from me at that very spot a few years ago...
The army recruit table was there (earlier then they usually get there) and the Dianetics people were there. One of them said 'hi' to me from afar, miming saw playing and that he was happy I will be playing next. That was nice.
Grey Wolf (the American Indian who plays flute with a bunch of people in the subway) walked by and said he is going to get some breakfast. Johny Nice, the recording engenear of my CD walked by just as a lady was purchasing that CD he worked on with me.
Really hot today - 91 degrees, but not as hot as last week!

July 27th, 59th street & Lex
Today was 97 degrees! I played for 4 hours and I didn't mind the sweat dripping down my face so much, but the sweat on my hands made it a bit difficult to have a good grip on the saw and bow.
There was the oriental homeless guy whom I always see at 14th street. He parked himself on the bench and stayed there the whole time I was there. He was drinking alcohol, and got drunker as time went by. He is very nice and drinking made him happy. It was funny to see how there we were, the two of us. And then there were a lot of people. And then they all left and the two of us were still there. And then a lot of people came. And then they left and there were only the two of us. And so it went on and on for about 3 hours. We kept looking at each other after the crowed disappeared, nodding and smiling at each other. The people who are in the subway a lot start to recognize one another after a while. This leads to nice friendships. It's just nice to see a familiar face.
As he got drunk, and finished his first bottle he threw it on the floor and it broke - made a bit of a commotion. This guy who works in the subway kicked the glass shards away and tried to get the oriental homeless guy to go away, but gave up on it. Later he told him to keep his stuff closer and put away the 2nd bottle he produced, or else he would have to call the police. Again, the homeless guy "won" and got to stay. A police man happened to walk by later. He tried to get the homeless guy to go away, but again the homeless guy "won" and got to stay...
Jefferson, my friend who is in charge of the garbage collection at this station, wasn't in. In his place was a nice lady who told me this was her first time working this station.
This nice guy got on the train and I saw something drop from what I thought was his pocket. Somebody on the train pointed that out to him and he got off the train before the doors closed. It turned out it was his cell phone which fell from his belt onto the train tracks. I went over to him to tell him not to jump down to get it, but rather to ask the MTA worker I pointed out to him for help. The guy told me it's an expensive cell phone - $400... He asked me to keep watch over it for him, so I marked down where it was from the platform. He talked to the MTA worker, who told him to go get a different MTA worker. Finally the first MTA worker got into the tracks and retrieved the cell phone. The amazing thing was about 4 trains went by, over the cell phone, but nothing happened to the phone - it still worked. The guy was very grateful. The MTA workers were really nice. At the end of my shift they wished me a good day.

July 29th, 2005 - 14th street
Today I was tired because I didn't get enough sleep last night. At one point an African American lady set down on the bench not far from me. I got such a positive feel from her, as if she was channeling good energy my way. She then approached me and said: "I haven't a dime in my pocket but my life is so rich thanks to you". she then set down to knit, and every time I finished playing a piece she aplauded loudly. I think she was an angel...

August 1st, 2005 - Times Square
Today a girl (in her early 20's?) with short curly hair stole money from me in a clever way... She put a few coins (maybe 50 cents) in my buket, then bent down, grabbed the only dollar bill I had in it (which I placed under an old D size battery so it won't fly away with the wind) and walked away. It took me a while to grasp what she did. I am used to people putting a dollar bill in my buket and taking 50 cents back, because they only want to give 50 cents but only have a bill on them. I'm also used to people asking me to change a dollar bill for quarters, because they want to make a phone call. But these people always ask permission to do so. This woman didn't ask permission! So, after a few minutes it finally dawned on me what she was doing. I also saw her handle many single dollar bills, which means she was systematically going from one busker to the next, stealing money this way. So, I ran after her and asked her how come she gave me 50 cents and took a dollar bill. She said she gave me 100 cents and exchanged them for the dollar bill. I don't think that is true (and also - what am I, a bank?! and the fact that she didn't ask permission to do so), but as I had no way of proving it, I let her go. If she needs money that bad that she stoops to stealing from buskers, well, I guess she needs money more than I do... Anyway, this episode upset me for a while. Thank goodness some nice people soon gave me nicer things to think about. It's a good thing that for every bad person there are at least 1000 good ones.
When I was done playing 2 new MUNY members (a guy named Yin and a lady) who play Chinese music and classical music on electric keyboard and a chinese fret instrument had their very first permit with MUNY and it happend to be at this spot. It was fun helping to "innitiate" them into the MUNY family. A police lady (who was very nice) told them people can't hear the PA announcements on account of their music. The musicians didn't understand (I guess their English is limitted), so I explained to them about volume levels. They lowered their volume and asked me if it was now OK. They were really nice. While I was playing, they took photos of me. They were obviously excited about their first day in the subway.

August 3rd, 2005 - Union Square
As I was playing today I was thinking of how every now and then the commercial advertisements on the wall behind me change. I was thinking it would be nice to have a photo of me playing by each ad, to doccument the changing "decore" of my spot. Well, to my delight, a gentleman came over to me and handed me a print of a photo he took of me at that spot a while ago, when the previous set of ads were on the wall! I am so impressed - this nice man must have been carrying this photo with him for quite a while, waiting to run into me again...! It's nice people like this who make the busking experience such a pleasent thing for me.
Some people are so strange... This nice lady asked me "Why don't you play a violin?" I said "Because I think playing the saw is more fun". So she said: "But why would you want to play the saw when you can't teach it?"... I was like 'huh?' for one thing, what makes her think saw playing can't be taught? but even if it were impossible to teach this art form, is this a reason for not engaging in it? My friend Don who plays classical guitar had the spot after me. I told him of what this lady said, and he said we should make a book of all the strange things people say to us in the subway...


Times Square, June, 2005, photographer: Alexander Mishagin from Russia

August 5th, 2005 - 59th street
I played for 4 hours in 96 degrees (which means in the subway it's even hotter) and I got heat exhaustion. I came back home and basically stayed in bed for a day and a half after that, recovering.
The fun moment of the day was when this gentleman approached me. I thought to myself "wow - he looks just like Santa Claus!" He put a card in my bucket. When I finished playing I looked at the card. It said:
"Santa Claus
The Genuine Santa!
Santa Claus is my legal name"
It made me happy, like a kid on Christmas Eve. I wanted to ask the MTA worker nearby if she saw him too, but she looked kind of stern...

August 15th, 2005 - Times Square
A nice guy carrying a bouquet of yellow roses took out one rose and gave it to me saying "this will bring you good luck". Yellow roses are my favorite! I put the rose in my bucket and I really enjoyed its presence there.

August 19th, 2005 - 59th street
Today I was interviewed for the radio, filmed for TV and had 2 photographers come to see me. I think I was covered by all media possible today...

October 10th, 2005 - Times Square
There has been a terror allert for the NYC subway this weekend. The TV news announced they expect a terrorist attack around Sunday, with 19 terorists placing bombs in packages and baby carriages in the subway. I didn't know what to do about playing in the subway, so I talked it over with Luke, who is also a subway musician. We were both concerned. I decided to go play anyway, mostly since despite the TV news mentioning there would be augmented police presence in the subway - in reality, there were no police to be seen in any of the subway stations I passed through!
So, I played as planned today, and had a great time. I met my friends the 2 brothers who sing in the trains. They had not sang in a while, but now are back. I was also happy to see Danny, the guy in charge of the construction at the Times Square station. There's a new cleaning attendent at the station, and he is very nice - he stood by me for a while, then stood on the other side of me for a while. He was fascinated by the saw.
By 3 o'clock I had a painful blister on my left hand pinkey, so I was happy to give the spot over to Wayn and his B-Boys (hip-hop/street dancers). Wayne is a very experienced busker. So far he was never wrong in his predictions. He said he thinks this will be a good winter. I am happy to believe him.
After I gave the spot over to the dancers I was interviewed by a graduate student at NYU who is doing research on subway buskers for Prof. Yale Strom's class 'Artist & the Ethnographer'. It would be interesting to read that work.
I am glad I didn't succumb to the fear the terrorists want us to feel. If we stop our lives on account of terror - then they won. Today - I and the people of NYC won.

October 12th, 2005 - 59th st & Lex
Today it rained the whole day, not only outside, but...inside the subway, too! At my spot there was a torrent of rain coming from the ceiling. I was literally looking at my audience through a curtain of rain. I moved a bit to the side, to avoid being completely submurged by the water, but still, I had to wipe the saw dry after each song, the donations box was accumulating water and my CD desplay got totally wet. Whoever wanted my card had to be satisfied with a drenched one...
But as I said to Mara, the radio reporter who interviewed me a couple of months ago, who stopped by to say hi - if the terror allert last weekend didn't scare me away, a little water is definitely not going to scare me, either.

October 17th, 2005 - Times Square
Today as I got to my spot a nice lady exclaimed "It's the Saw Lady!" She told me "we have your Christmas CD and we love it. Every time we play it to our friends they ask in wonderment - what is it? We call your CD the Steven King CD because of the sound".
Well, that was a really nice start for the day!
As I was playing a guy stopped in his tracks, put down his bag and started twirling in front of me, finishing by kneeling and bowing to me, placing a quarter on the floor. Then he opened his mouth and sang one note really loud...
I find it interesting that hearing the musical saw makes people want to sing. It happens quite often (people singing to me that is, not the twirling part...)
A reporter from the New York Times stayed with me for about an hour and a half. She was really nice - I enjoyed talking with her. She interviewed some of the people in the audience, including the nice guy who always asks me to play "Hymn to Love" (Edith Piaff song) when he sees me. She found out something I didn't know about him - he is deaf and cannot hear much - but he can hear the saw!
Then a photographer from the NY Times came. He was very nice, too, and told me he remembers having seen a saw player in New Port many years ago.
Something strange happened: the same girl (in her late teens/early twenties) approached and put a new, sealed box of chocolate-chip coockies in my donnations box. the strange thing was that this was the same girl who stole money from me about 2 months ago... Maybe she felt guilty?
I gave the coockies to Wayne and his dancers, who showed up to take over the spot once I was done.

October 31st, 2005 - Times Square
As every year, on Halloween and on a day before, I played in the subway dressed as a witch. What fun! I can be as dramatic as I want, and "hide" under the wide brimmed witch's hat. Lots of people took pictures. I hope somebody sends me a photo from this day.
Today a guy dropped a book into my donnations box: 'Certain Prey' by John Sandford.
The homeless lady who once gave me a flower, gave me an unopened bag of Cheetos snak. She is so elegant in her ways, very lady like and yet she is a bag lady.
My friend who sings in the trains with his brother told me how his brother went for ice cream today after they finished singing, and hasn't showed up yet - I guess he is really enjoying the ice cream... He operates a laundromat in the Rockaways in the evenings. My friend used to hang out there, sometimes, but now that he moved to the upper west side, it's too far away for him to go there.
People are still stopping to tell me they read about me in the New York Times. Amazing how many people read this newspaper.

November 2nd, 2005 - Union Square
Today I heard a very sad story - an elderly gentleman came towards me with a big smile on his face. He had difficulty walking and used a cane. He asked me what type of rosin I use. He told me that he has violin rosin and that he would give it to me. He was a violinist and 35 years ago he auditioned for and was accepted to the New York Philharmonic. He played with them for 6 months and then he got ill with a desease that attacked his hand and prevented him from playing. The desease then continued to spread in his body. He had to quit playing. That was 35 years ago. Even though he knew that he will never be able to play again, he still ketp his violin things all this time. Such a nice man, such a terrible fate. I am really sorry for him. It's the worse thing that could happen to a musician.
Today a woman asked for my card and said she would like me to teach her daughter to sing. I told her that I don't sing - it's the saw that is singing...
A gentleman stopped by with his daughter. He insisted to his teenage daughter that she should sing for me. The daughter was shy, but her father insisted. After they listened to 3 pieces of music, the daughter agreed to sing for me. She sang a few lines from the American national anthem, and indeed she has a beautiful voice. Her father was right to be proud of her.

November 9th, 2005 - Union Square
While playing, I noticed there was a flower on the floor a few feet away from me. While playing I kept my eye on the flower, hoping nobody would trample it. Luckily nobody did, and when I finished the piece I picked up the purple flower and put it on my bucket, for decoration.
As I was playing, a guy walked by carrying some stuff. He walked by me, stopped, turned back and put a plant inside my bucket. The plant was half dead, and had no flower pot (root-ball exposed). Then he walked away. When I finished the piece I was playing I took the plant out of my bucket and placed it to the right of my bucket. I started playing another piece. Then the guy returned, with a flower pot... He put the plant in the plastic flower pot, stuck 2 support sticks in the plant and went away. Then he came back again, this time with a little red child's plastic chair. He place the plant on the chair, and went away. He didn't come back again. What with the flower on my bucket and the plant on a chair by me it must have been quite a sight...It's so cool what some people do. That guy had an artisitc eye.

November 11th, 2005 - 59th street
Today was the first cold day of the year - temperatures were in the 40's. My hands were cold, but I didn't need to wear a sweater yet.
It was Veterans Day. There were many uniformed people. Every time I saw uniformed people I played 'America the Beautiful' in their honor.
This guy was standing on the other platform, across the subway rails from the platform I was on. He shouted bravo at the end of a piece, then threw a quarter across the rails - and it reached me!!! Not only did it reach the platform, but it actually landed right at my feet. It was amazing. The guy said he would have made a paper airplain out of a dollar bill, but he didn't think that would reach me...

November 21st, 2005 - Times Square
Today I saw that girl who stole money from me a while ago. I always see her hanging out at Times Square. So, I kept watching her while playing. I talked with the maintanance guy at the station and told him I think this girl is a thief. He said that he knows she is! He has noticed her always hanging out there, too. I told him she once stole money from me, so he said he will be keeping an eye over me for my safety. From time to time she comes by me, and tries to pretend she might put some coins in my bucket. She never does, and of course I know she is actually trying to take money out of my bucket, so I watch her closely, and by now she knows I know what she is up to. She came up to me and asked me how was business. I told her it was fine. Then I asked her how is HER BUSINESS. She said it was tough...
I felt like, wow - I talked with a thief! Boy, I get to meet and associate with some pretty unusual folk...

November 22nd, 2005 - 59th street
Today it was raining, so, of course it was raining INSIDE the station, too, right over my spot. Jeferson, the maintanance guy, told me this leak doesn't get fixed because it is the City's responsability and not the MTA's. The MTA notified the City a while ago about this leak, but the City is really taking its time to respond...
So, I set to the left of my usual spot, where there was less water. This day they were installing 10 additional garbadge cans at the station. It turned out that one of them was to be located at my spot. It further happened that I sat down right on the red paint marking where the additional garbadge can was to be... The guy in charge of installing the cans really liked my music. He told me not to get up - he will install the new can on my right. So, just because I happened to sit where I was sitting, the location of the new can got changed, on the spot, on account of me... I told that guy I can easily move for him to install the can in it's intended place, but he said that I should just keep on playing... so, I did.

November 24th, 2005 - 34th Street
Today I played for 4 & 1/2 hours by the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. The Michael Jackson dancer wanted the spot but the police told him they can't have performers who take up a lot of space today, on account of the large crowds.
I saw the girl who plays guitar and sings. She is an old timer in the subway, like me. I haven't seen her in a while and she said she was playing mostly in Brooklyn.
Then the DDT Dancers showed up. They are very nice. They asked me what time I will be done and they moved on.
Then these dancers I never saw before set up across the mezaneene from me. They were not supposed to set up there while I had a permit, but I didn't say anything. I kept on playing even though it was difficult to play over their music. The 2 policemen who were there didn't do anything, because it was the end of their shift and they didn't want to get involved right before it was time for them to go home... They left shortly after. Luckily 2 other policemen showed up, and told the dancers to move on.
Then this other group of dancers I don't know showed up. They were very nice and waited in the alcove to the right of me for me to finish. They took over from me when I was done. As I was leaving I saw the Andean group assembling. They told me they had a permit starting in 1/2 an hour for the spot.

December 6th, 2005 - 14th street
As I was playing I noticed 2 people dressed in jackets that identified them as belonging to the MTA/Connections homless outreach. One of them, Des, came over to me to tell me how whenever he sees me in the subway he enjoys my presentation. I pointed his attention to the oriental guy who I always see in the subway, who sometimes gets drunk. I asked Des if he knew this guy and he said he has never seen him before. I urged him to talk with the guy - I don't know if he is homeless, but he is always in the subway and I've seen him looking in the garbadge a lot. So, to the sounds of my playing of 'America the Beautiful' Des had a long conversation with the old oriental guy.

December 9th, 2005 - Long Island Rail Road (Penn Station)
Today was the first day I used the electronic sign advertising my website. I think it is really cool. I guess Vito, the camera man for the TV show "Deadline" thought so too, as I noticed he was filming it.

December 19th, 2005 - Times Square
Today was the last day before the subway strike. Everybody was talking about the impending strike and how terrible it is that it will take place the week before Christmas.
My friends, the 2 brothers who sing in the trains, now have a 3rd singer with them. They serenaded me with "Beautiful Girl", and I felt so previledged to have these 3 wonderful singers doing a song in my honor.

December 23rd, 2005 - Rockefellar Center
A very nice gentleman gave me so many gifts! He gave me a CD 'Angel Rhapsody', a fun pen with a scrunchy part in the middle, a space pen in a fancy box and a cassette tape 'Faith in our broken Lives'. It felt like Christmas!

December 31st, 2005 - Times Square
There were so many tourists in the subway today! It was so cool how this guy said he bought 2 of my Christmas CDs last year, one as a gift for his friends in North Carolina, and his friend just told him that they listened to it again this Christmas - repeat listening! Another guy told me he, too, bought the Christmas CD last year, and listened to it again this Christmas: he put it in a shuffle with other Christmas CDs and whenever a song randomly came out of my CD he said all his friends perked up and marvelled at how it sounds like a woman singing... So nice to have people run into me again after a long time.
As I was playing, at one point I lifted up my eyes to see a large cemi-circle of people around me. Each one of them looked like they came from a different country: all different nationalities, skin colors, facial features, and they were all smiling at me. I wished I had a camera to capture that amazing "United Nations" moment. We are all so different yet so similar in what makes us smile. Cool.
At another moment I lifted up my eyes to see a "wall" of people facing me, with each and every one of them holding up a camera. There wasn't a single person there who wasn't pointing a camera at me. Again, I wished I had a camera to doccument this moment. Such a visually cool sight.
People are still telling me they read about me in the New York Times. Amazing how many people read the NY Times, and remember what they read even a few months later!
The police were shutting down the area at 4pm for the New Years Eve celebration. So, at 3:10pm I gave the spot over to the guy who plays a hanging keyboard. He was so nice waiting patiently for me to be done, and if I hadn't given him the spot he would have ended up not being able to play there at all that day. It turned out he had an old MUNY banner. I wonder how he got it...
Edwardo, son of Prof. Edwardo who plays keyboard with dancing dolls, was playing at the spot before me. He told me he is going back to his country. He arrived in NYC January 17th 2005 and is leaving January 16th 2006, not having seen his wife and 3 kids for a whole year! His English has improved troumendously in this year. It will be very difficult for his father to play in the subway without the help of his son carrying his equipment for him. He will have to hire somebody to help him again. I will miss Edwardo - he is really a very nice person.
Edwardo told me how offended his father was about Newsday mentioning him in an article about how the subway workers strike affected the homeless. He was very hurt that he was mentioned in one breath with the homeless. I totally identify with his thoughts. Subway musicians are very, very far from being homeless!

To see the Saw Lady's busking blog of 2006 and on words, click here


Performing at Belmont Race Track, NY

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from the SawLady

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