When he woke this morning with the sun in his eyes he knew that today would be a fruitful one for him, for his art. His guitar tuned, his song rehearsed, he was going to sing his poet’s heart out for the people on the downtown C local train. Their souls would lift and swell and fly like an eruption of butterflies from the end of a rainbow when they heard his uplifting words, delicate fingering of his instrument, and unique take on “Lean On Me.” He closed his eyes as the train approached the platform and imagined their admiring faces beaming with the pleasure he’d brought into their day. Singing was never for the money; it was always for the love. Always for the heart.
The subway door opened and he stepped in, guitar lowered. People tended to ignore him when he came onto the train with his guitar out and ready to play, though he never understood why. Did they wish to deny his gift of merriment? He brought them the fruits of the spirit and his duty was to lighten their days. New Yorkers often have such a high wall around themselves, but he knew that behind it they were grateful for his music in their day. Was it better to hear the grating of the subway brakes or to hear one of mankind’s finest pieces of music imbued with his own special inflection and soulfulness? He knew this question needed no answering.
With the closing of the doors, he unzipped his padded guitar case, hung the strap from his shoulders, and performed some final tuning. Inhaling and using his finest speak-with-his-lungs voice he announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, I am not here to ask for money. I am not selling newspapers. I don’t have a basketball team. I have a home. I am not going to dance. I only want to bring you this gift of song on a crowded rush hour train. May Euterpe’s hand guide me.” And then he sang with such fervor as he never had before. His highs were kissing the heavens, his lows shook the earth. Angels flew forth from the sound hole of his wooden guitar. Light shone on the riders faces from the wound steel strings beneath his fingers. When his performance finished, he stood utterly still, letting the dying tones reverberate through the train car, allowing the natural harmonics of his chosen venue to influence his sound, his art.
Dramatically he opened his eyes and made eye contact with the five people closest to him in seats and said to the whole train, “Thank you for listening, folks. Though I am not asking for money, any donations would be appreciated if you enjoyed the music.” He opened his case and leaned back against the double doors. His haul was light, but he knew that the dollars and change were not his true purpose.
The train pulled to a stop and the conductor announced that this was 59th street/Columbus Circle—the closest stop to 6th Avenue and 57th street where his mentor, the Viking Wizard who played such glorious street music that he could not describe its beauty to those who had never experienced it, performed. In the station he waited for the train to depart and the platform to clear before placing his guitar back into its case. He sighed deeply. At the other end of the platform he heard something that was either crying or laughing, he couldn’t tell which. He wasn’t sure he wanted to know which.
Editor’s note—the observant of you will be asking, “Where is number 19?!” Well, rest assured, my pedantic friends, it’s been written, but I feel like I need to finish it before I post it. It’s done, but not finished. Yeah? Be patient. I’ll post it when I’m ready.