When You Need It Most
After we rode the elevator down at day's end and discovered to our dismay that Madison Avenue was still in front of the building, full of buses and potholes, as opposed to say an idyllic view of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, we both exhaled and began the nightly slog to the subway.
Later on my train, with my consciousness deep into the Dining Out section of the The New York Times, its best weekly special section by far, I look up to see a short, fuzzy–haired guy in a cowboy hat who had a small guitar amp and speaker slung across his belly in a way that reminded me of an accordion. On top of the amp he had an iPod. In one hand he held a trumpet.
"Merry Christmas New York," he boomed before activating the iPod. Suddenly, he was playing the trumpet along with the instrumental track of "White Christmas." Then "Frosty the Snowman." His brass tone was pleasant. He was in tune. He wasn't unduly harsh or loud. Between toots he was grinning like a madman. It wasn't green chile stew but I have to say I was pretty amused.
About halfway through his act, he took off his cowboy hat and hung it by its string chinstrap over the bell of the trumpet. He then began to walk slowly through the subway car, still playing, while people threw dollar bills into the hat. Subway performers are nothing new. They come in all sizes, shapes and levels of musical talent. From the Chinese guys on platforms who play Beethoven's Fifth on those damned screechy string instruments to the Norteno bands who could have aboveground gigs in someplace like New Mexico or Texas, they're all a pretense for extracting cash. Most are pretty sad musically. But this guy was serious fun. Even hardened New Yorkers, the kind who while reading can instinctively lift their feet so the blood or vomit doesn't slosh on them, were rolling their eyes and smirking at his fairly novel performance. When I gave him a five dollar bill he began digging in his shirt pocket for change. I shook my head and pointed to him to say: it's yours. He broke out in a huge disbelieving grin.
And to think I was sick of New York.