Saturday, May 22, 2004

a guest writer

Tamara will be a guest writer on Points of Departure for a week or so. She's currently in New York, and works in the NYT, and that's about all i know of her, except that she writes damn well. Welcome Tamara and here's her first post:
there’s a soundtrack to my life in this city. it's a banging on empty buckets. a man who sits on a crate around the corner from where i live "plays" on five upside-down paint pails. His rhythm is crazy. it's wild and frantic. three beats, thumped out over and over and over, never slowing.

people straighten up and walk busily when they pass by him, as if they are reminded that this is new york, and in new york, you don't miss a beat. they also ignore him, because here, they cannot have time to watch some old guy make mediocre, if catchy, music.

when i leave for work, he is playing. when i come home at 3 a.m., he is still going. i can hear him when it rains, up on the 16th floor, through the t.v. on sundays too.

he has a grimy old collie, that dozes next to him, on a plastic sheet, or if it is cold, under the plastic sheet. the dog is surrounded by numerous explanatory signs that say "abused as a pup," "thrown to pit bulls when young," "rescued from cruel owners," and "do not put your hand near his head."

so while i know much about the dog, i know nothing about this man, whose music echoes in my head while i work. i guessed he was middle-aged and drunk, with a wife who'd left him with his sad dog, to beat on fake drums on a street off broadway.

"can you spare a dime, nickel or penny?" he yelled out as usual as i walked by last night, looking straight ahead, as we do when people approach us for money.

"pretty lady all alone trying very hard to ignore me," he yelled, somehow in time with his drumming.

the dog whined and i looked at him for the first time and he wasn't old or unshaven or alcoholic. he was young, maybe my age, with a kind smile and a thin face, and of course, a whimsical sense of rhythm.

"no, i wasn't," i lied, and i dropped a couple of coins into his box, embarrassed it had taken so long.