January 12, 2011
Shaggy Hair Boy plays Washington Square
The night we left from smalls (well, actually, it was more like morning by then), I said to Shaggy Hair Boy, “Maybe you should have taken a turn at the piano.” The jam session folks all seemed pretty friendly and nice: I’m sure they would have let him.
“This was our first time there,” he said. “But maybe if we come back in May, I will.”
The next day, we decided to walk to Washington Square. I figured it was probably too cold for the old men who play chess there, but it’s still a cool place to hang out and people watch. As we walked through the big arch, we noticed some guys playing hacky sack. They were incredible: one would kick the hacky sack ridiculously high, practically to the top of the arch, and another would kick it back.
The fountain was filled with ice instead of water, and two little kids were running and sliding on the ice. We sat on the edge of the fountain, the best place to absorb the afternoon sun. That’s when I noticed the piano.
It was on wheels, and the front panel was off so that you could see the hammers and strings. A young man in a dark coat was standing nearby, talking to a woman, his hands in his pockets to keep them warm, and I could see buckets of money on either side of the piano. He clearly owned the piano and was taking a break.
“You don’t often see street performers with pianos,” I said to Shaggy Hair Boy. He’d noticed the piano right away. He’s far more observant than I am.
A teenage girl walked up to the piano, tentatively, as if she couldn’t believe it was there. “Go ahead,” the man in the dark coat called out to her. “Play a song.”
She looked up, startled, and walked away quickly.
I nudged Shaggy Hair Boy. “Go ask if you can play a song.”
He grinned at me. I figured he’d be too shy, but to my surprise, walked over to guy who owned the piano. The next thing I knew, Shaggy Hair Boy was sitting at the piano, playing Satin Doll, a jazz standard. Since we’d begun our trip by taking the A train, a Duke Ellington number seemed completely appropriate.
What’s funny is that tourists walking through the arch came over and took photos of him, and dropped money into the buckets as he played. Yep, three days in the city, and my son had become a street performer.
Posted by jo(e)