Beauty in the Subway

June 15, 2009

A few nights ago, I was returning from a trip to see a friend perform in Greenwich, CT. (His name is Jeffrey Tucker. Fantastic bass if you’re looking for one:) Shameless plug for a dear friend).  My train arrived at Grand Central at 11:20.  I arrived at the apartment I’m staying in at 1:00. Yes, that long for about a 10 mile ride. Oh the joys of public transportation. Anyway, that is not the point.

I transfered to the A train at 42nd Street, and as I descended the stairs to the platform, I heard a man singing funk and old school R&B with a guitar. This is nothing odd because you hear such performances all the time in the subway.  But as I approached, I noticed something odd. That something odd was an asian man in his mid-50’s improvising with the guitarist on a flute! I didn’t think I would ever hear Mustang Sally played by guitar and flute in my lifetime, but hey there’s a first for everything.

I walked by nonchalantly, trying not to pay attention but stood within clear earshot of what was going on because that’s what every cool New Yorker does and since I’m a cool New Yorker, I also shall play the game.

Well, as I stood there being cool (and subsequently bored because the train wasn’t coming), I heard other voices jump in and sing. I turned around and a black man in a business suit and a hispanic man in kakhi’s and dirty-from-the-day polo on were singing along with the black man on guitar and asian dude on the flute. And they were singing! I mean, really getting into it.  And they were just guys waiting for the train.  This intrigued me some and I began to watch.  A crowd began to draw around the man performing. Even the most hardened New Yorkers began to take notice.  I finally just gave up and thought, “This is stupid and boring to be a hardened New Yorker. Why not just be me. And “me” feels like going over and watching and listening”. So I did just that…with a HUGE smile on my face, which I found to be very contagious.  The train wasn’t coming anytime soon, so everyone on the platform gathered. Suddenly, another voice entered the mix. A white guy had just come down the stairs and was singing – and he was good!

I stood there basking in the moment of seeing all types of people from all walks of life coming together on a subway platform in the middle of the night at 42nd Street, the heart of New York City, the hardest city in the world, to sing, watch and dance to what had started as just a man and his guitar.  The joy from this man radiated to pierce even the hardest heart in the place.  He even played “Shout” and had grown men dancing and raising their hands and singing “Shout”. I mean, the guy was gifted.

And for 25 minutes, while we waited for the ever slow A train, we all had a period of pure joy brought by the universal gift of music.

After that, it just didn’t seem to matter to me how long the commute was.  I experienced something very beautiful at midnight on the Subway platform.

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2 Responses to “Beauty in the Subway”

  1. Jen Says:

    I can relate. Someone was usually playing in the subway in Chicago. Now, every time I hear “Summer Breeze,” I’m reminded of those days of waiting for the train to come since there was a guy who sang that frequently.

  2. spectaprod Says:

    geee, I read this and get goose bumps, oh the power of music

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