Sometimes, reminders of what’s important come in surprising places…
It’s just off Herald Square, Manhattan, home to Macy’s, the famous department store – you probably know that. A gruff, tired street musician playing I Wanna Dance With Somebody on the steeldrum. The song was first sung by Whitney Houston – you probably know that, too.
He’s originally from the Caribbean…I don’t get a chance to ask from exactly where. Unlike famous stars and singers, he must work for a living every day of the week. 4-6 hours of playing on the street, in the sun and often, in the cold. Sometimes he has to dodge rude pedestrians, sometimes…crazy cyclists and often, arbitrary orders from the NYPD, New York’s Police Department. This is the life of a street musician in NYC – playing music for food, navigating the elements, navigating stuff.
He doesn’t always have the luxury of depending on the charity of strangers in NYC. The city has an overrated reputation for both kindness and meanness. And so, when I show up, he’s not in a mood to indulge my queries – I’m interrupting his work flow. If I’m interested in filming, he says, put some money in the box.
As he continues playing, I’m reminded that it’s the unknown, everyday people who make NYC real, whatever real means in a big, glamorous city filled with way too glass towers and even more giant egos.
He continues playing, and I, I listen.
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© 2021 Marlon de Souza.