Monday, January 8, 2018

Playing in the Subway -- 10 Things I Learned in New York

Part 9 -- Playing in the Subway

    One of my best memories from New York, is of the subway.  I played my fiddle on a subway car (video below).  But my favorite memory isn't of me playing--it's when someone else did.

#AnchoredToAPole #TheSubwayISBumpy
Posted by Elisa Beth Magagna on Sunday, December 24, 2017

     Matted gray hair framed his wind-beaten face, and honestly he smelled of urine.  I'm still not sure why, but just as the subway car's doors were about to close, he jumped into our car.
    His gnarled hands held a fiddle, which he made look much smaller than it actually was. I found it strange how his right hand didn't fully clasp the bow, and his left hand held the fiddle tenderly, like his only remaining lover.
    As the subway bumped along the track, the man stood right next to me and played.  It was a short, sweet song; I recognized it at once as the theme song from Doctor Zhivago.  It ended far too soon, and then he brought his case from person to person.  
    I watched as people raised their noses in disgust.  Others pretended not to see the man.  And finally...sadly, Mike and I were the only passengers who gave him a tip.  
   "Sir," I said, "that was beautiful!  YOU are unforgettable."  He bent down as I placed the money in his case.  Our eyes locked, and there was such a sparkle of mischief in his old, blue eyes.  For that moment, we understood one another, soul to soul.  That man with the weathered, tan skin, and the music which poured from his spirit...he saw my violin case on my back and we suddenly understood one another.  
    I didn't care what he smelled or looked like--and he didn't mind me so much either.  That man was so special; I still can't quite explain it, but he was.  
    And before I could talk to him more, he slipped out at the next stop, the doors closed behind him, and he was gone forever.
    "Wow," I said to Mike, "that man is amazing.  His intonation.  His presence."
    Another passenger looked at me like I was crazy.
    "What?" I said.  "He's phenomenal--not just his playing, but there's something about him."
    "He really was," Mike said.  And when I looked over at my husband, I knew he'd seen the same thing I did.
    Days, and miles away from New York, I'm still wondering what his story is.  How had someone so talented, gotten to a place in life where they smelled of urine and appeared to have nothing but a fiddle?
    I wish I could have heard about his journey, written a book about the man, given him something to help....  Instead all I gave him was what I had: two dollars and a smile.