When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson

01 May 2007

New York City, unplugged

A little problem with the subway last night kept me waiting on the platform longer than usual, and to pass the time I broke out the iPod Nano.

A friend and I had been talking about the late Jeff Buckley a few nights back, and so I dialed up Jeff's incredible album, Grace, and made a private bet with myself about how far through the recording I'd get before I made it to my doorstep.

I got pretty far. A little over two-thirds of the way through the album, actually, when I emerged at the Christopher Street station and started walking down West 4th St towards the house, Jeff wailing "Lover, You Should've Come Over" in my earbuds. The iPod changes the way you experience a city, and sometimes it really does make New York City more bearable.

While I was away in Raleigh last week, spring arrived in New York City, for real. Walking down the tree-lined street in my shirtsleeves on a warm spring night, with my tie loosened and the sidewalk cafe tables packed with tourists and neighbors, and good music playing in my ears, I was suffused with a sense of well-being.

Then I came across a fellow sitting on the sidewalk playing the cello, and I realized that I could listen to Jeff Buckley any time I wanted to, but that here was an unmediated artistic experience happening in the open air. (He wasn't a Joshua Bell-quality string player, but he was pretty damned good.) I dropped a buck in his case; he introduced himself and asked me if there was anything he could play for me. I suppressed a sadistic urge to ask for something brutally difficult (Shostokovich?) and just told him to keep doing what he was doing.

You can hear an unamplified cello for several blocks, even with New York City traffic noise behind it.

With the iPod earbuds out, you can also hear the birds singing in the trees.

Lovely night.

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