1. While I was playing at Metropolitan Ave., a cop walked the length of the platform to my spot. No panic — cops there always seem well-trained on the rules. But then he turned just as he got to my spot — uh-oh — and heck, he gave me a thumbs-up. OK!
2. At the northern end of 81st St — where I’ve been escorted out once and arrested once — two cops came down the stairs and ordered me out. Now, although I may seem to enjoy getting arrested now and again, I too have my limit. And my limit is especially low when a court date (moving into late September) potentially conflicts with my Fulbright grant (starting in October). Harassment doesn’t always come at a good time, and I’m just not sure how many more arrests I can do this summer.
That said, I took a big gulp of air and asked why. “Because you can’t ask for money,” one answered. “Well, let me show you the rules,” I said. Then I read aloud:
“The following nontransit uses are permitted by the Authority […]: public speaking; campaigning; leafletting or distribution of written noncommercial materials; activities intended to encourage and facilitate voter registration; artistic performances, including the acceptance of donations.”
Then I handed over the rule pamphlet and pointed to the passage in yellow. The guy took a quick look. “Enjoy,” he said, handing it back. “‘Scuse me?” “Enjoy,” he said — and they were off back up the steps.
Today was a great day to catch performances by other artists. (Seems like Saturday really brings out the best underground!) Highlights included a djembé player on the 86th 4/5, steelpan at the 42nd St ACE, and a really outstanding dance show at Union Square. Now, I don’t think I perform badly — but acts like these are doing the heavy lifting in terms of exhibiting and generating new culture. More power to you guys!
I also met a violin teacher en route from Philadelphia to Ithaca for a violin workshop. She performs herself — in the Philly subway — and said that her experiences there motivated her to become a teacher. Funny: many people assume subway performances are the end of the line for musicians. But if you listen to our stories, it turns very often that the subway is a beginning.
I had planned to play at 81st St Natural History — a station that’s known as “dangerous” for performers — for my last hour. But when I got there at 5:00, the “safe” side of the station was taken by an erhu player. I’m supposed to be standing up for my rights — but at that moment I was tired, I wasn’t dressed warmly enough for jail, and I didn’t want to stand up a friend for dinner. So today, I went home without playing.
Shucks: I guess that’s what they call intimidation. But don’t fret, 81st. I’ll be back soon!