Monday, November 26, 2007


I had a little time after dropping my cousin off at the Battery Park waterfront to see the Statue of Liberty so I decided to do a little sightseeing myself, considering how little of New York I know. After touring inside Castle Clinton, I walked around to see some of the street performers in the park. There I met a wonderful violin player named Dave. As people walked by, Dave would ask where they came from and whip out a little tune on his violin depending on their country of origin. And he seemed to know it all - from India's Jana Gana Mana to China's March of the Volunteers. People happily sang to his tune and some were very generous in their offerings to Dave.

As the crowds thinned out a little after of one ferry docked I asked Dave if I could take a picture of him playing the violin. He enquired as to whether I was from the Philippines and when I told him I was an Indian, he quickly played the Indian national anthem as I took his photograph.

Later, he sat down and told me that he was from Trinidad and explained that he had several jobs in the United States until his love for playing the violin got him performing in New York. As he carefully removed coins from his violin case so they wouldn't get lodged inside the sounding board of the violin, he explained that performing in New York had become very difficult after 9/11. Now, he had to get a city permit and pay taxes and could get evicted if he didn't divvy up.

Asked whether people were always generous in their contributions as he played their country's music, Dave explained that people mostly liked it but a few were offended. He told me about an elderly Indian gentleman who had told him earlier that day that the national anthem was reserved for only certain special occasions and should not be played by the likes of him to make money!

When I asked him about the jobs he held before becoming a street performer he mentioned that he was a security guard in Texas. All was well until one day, after worsening crime rates, he was given a gun by the security company. "Guns kill people!", Dave said, and after refusing to handle a gun he quit his job and headed to New York.

As the winter sun started to set, Dave started packing his equipment, saying he would have stayed on longer if it were summer. There were more ferries till later in the day during summer and consequently more crowds. As we said our good byes I told him I'd certainly try to come and see him play again the next time I was around the area.

It was a different experience talking to Dave and I don't think I've ever sat down and talked so long with a street performer. They are usually small part of our lives and we don't remember them as much as the big ticket attractions. But it was fun to watch him play to people's hearts and to see the pride that comes out of people when they hear their national song being played.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

My friend

I have a friend.

A friend who relishes his dark and melancholic existence. He has all the things need in the world, yet he desires for something - not a material thing - which pushes him into this darker life.

How can I describe my friend? He is not the sharpest of the lot but not too dull either. Yet, he wants to be smart and intelligent like the people he reads about everyday. Those who accomplish so much in their lives, some younger than him, and achieve so much fame and fortune.

Music makes my friend sad. Not that he does not like music, no, he loves music. Music is a big part of his life. Yet listening to the melodious of tunes makes him somber. Oddly, he finds this gloominess quite uplifting. My friend is not a musician though. Not that he has any talent be one. He has seen and read about musicians achieving so much success in their career only to be destroyed by adulating fans who leave them for the next big act. Their lives spiraling down a moral decay into a vortex out of which they can never come back. Artists who, after falling from their glory days, seek solace in alcohol and drugs to overcome their depression to ultimately find their untimely end from the barrel end of a shotgun. No, my friend is characterized by more of a thoughtful sadness, one which he thinks will follow him to the last throes of his life.

My friend has friends. Not too many of them. He enjoys their company and they his. But at the same time he keeps his distance from them. Never can anything too personal come between them. His deepest thoughts are his own and they are too sacred to be shared with even the closest of his acquaintances.

This is the story of my friend. I just thought you'd like to know.

Are you my friend?