Zoom Balloons in the 14th Street Sixth Avenue Tunnel

On our way back from Harlem, Matthew and I stopped to pick up some cheese at the Westside Market on 14th St. and ran into balloon sculptor Zoom in the tunnel. We had met Zoom a few times before, and in fact still have a gift from him, one of his heart flower balloons, slowly shriveling on top of a dresser.

This time, we got this great balloon clown. Everyone was jealous of it. Or terrified. It was hard to tell.

Matthew and Zoom

Matthew and Zoom

Nothing seems to lower Matthew’s inhibitions quite like holding a silly prop does.  Enjoying the reactions of strangers to the balloon man, he asked our train neighbor what we should name it.

He responded, “Charlie Sheen.”

Matthew and Charlie Sheen

Charlie and Matthew reflected in the train window

Zoom’s web site at http://www.zoomballoons.com/ appears to be down, but I found an article about him on the blog Manalapan Patch. If you’re in the tunnel between the L and the 1 on the 14th St Sixth Avenue station, check out his work!

 

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Cheerios, and how I was depicted

I’ve gotten out of the habit of posting busking updates — there aren’t enough hours in the day sometimes! But today saw a couple things that I can’t avoid sharing.

1. At Hunter College, one man bent over to put a dollar in my case while carrying a baby. The baby was carrying a bag of cheerios, and, in the spirit of charity, decided to pour ALL OF THEM INTO MY CASE. In other news, I still had a great day out — apparently busking while surrounded by cheerios doesn’t hurt your earnings too badly.

2. On the Union Square L platform, I ran into Larry and Sonia Wright drumming. (You should click that link by the way — the video will move anyone who’s seen him play). Just down the platform from them was a guy drawing portraits of riders. And right around him were Larry Wright’s sons, waiting to get on the train and dance.

Needless to say, I got my portrait done, there on the platform, surrounded by Larry Wright’s kids and by the sound of bucket drumming. It felt like home.

busking picture

8/3: Parrots, buckets, and my burgeoning love for the NYPD

Today, Milo and I spent a few hours doing outreach. What I’m learning is that community organizing is a bit-by-bit process: every day brings a few new conversations, a few more names on the mailing list, and a few more t-shirts out in the world. That may sound romantic — but is it ever slow-going as well.

Still, we’re building something important. Today at 14th St, we saw a large green parrot on someone’s shoulder on the platform — and we also ran into Don the bucket drummer, playing a Kikkoman soy sauce bucket like the world was about to end:

Don

A couple hours later, we ran into a cellist who had already seen Don in his shirt. So, we know that word’s spreading!

I also busked for about an hour and a half, in two different stations, with Milo taking some pictures. I learned that I have an incredible ability to make weird faces while playing:

Peek!

Would you tip a guy who looks like that?

Anyway, one more story from today. When we arrived at the 59th St 6 station, we saw a police officer across the platform. Like I mentioned in the last post, I’m feeling a bit tired of going to jail for music — but ever hopeful for the best, I unpacked and asked Milo to take video if she came over.

Indeed, she came by within five minutes and asked if I had a permit. “What permit?,” I asked. “Have you ever seen one?” “No,” she said, a bit sheepishly, “although you do see those banners.” I then showed her my rules, and after taking a careful look, she had this to say:

“Thanks for showing me this. Now I know.”

Now there’s a hopeful sign indeed. (If only — if only — but if ONLY the NYPD offered training on this!)

Busking log 6/29: Y’all performers, and how I chickened out

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!