The life of New York City streets is unique, both above and below ground.
Not to say that life is always fun or pleasant. I think of those who stop atop subway stairs to check their phones, or walk three across on the sidewalk, or don't know enough to step to the right.
Always, always step to the right.
But the life of NYC streets is vibrant. And it is ours. For now. So let's cultivate that life. Like a garden. Get our heads out of our phones and pull those earbuds out. Notice what's going on around us. Take even a few seconds to be present and let it soak in.
I write this to remind myself. A while back - in my rush to get from here to there - I blew past the Afrikumba Utibé Drummers performing in Union Square Station. Then I had an internal fight about practicing what I preach. I returned. And for a few minutes, I focused on the cool music mixed with the hubbub of the subway and of humans racing to get from here to there. I attended to the life of street I was on. I relaxed. I remembered who I am.
I am part of the City. And the City is part of me. Not simply a backdrop, the City is both the material and the context out of which my life is made. I count myself blessed.
This is what I know: I will never reach the life I'm rushing toward if I can't acknowledge the life I'm presently in. Time to chill.
Enjoy below the Afrikumba Utibé Drummers and a bit of what I witnessed by taking a time-out. And the next time you're thanking the MTA for the train that never comes? Look up at the life around you.
A little video to help you ease back into work after the long weekend. Sean McCaul, vibraphonist, bringing peaceful vibes to the stress of the F train.
Lifting you out of a New York City funk
I’ve been in a bit of a funk. The state of the country. The state of New York City. Working for others at too many hours for too little money. Can you dig? I lost sight of what is meaningful to me, in life and work. So I’m making changes where I can. One of those changes is simple. I’m refocusing my energy on what I love: the City. I’m attending to the stuff I overlook when I’m running around from here to there. The stuff I don’t engage with when I’m inside at this computer working for others.
The stuff? The artful, ingenious, and often unpredictable ways we humans and the city interact, negotiate, make ourselves heard, create value, carve out a little space and comfort, and in so doing impact one another in public space. I call this an Aesthetics of the City.
So here’s an example. The Blue Funk Orchestra. I caught them at West 4th Street Station a while back. Watching and listening to them, my funk lifted a little bit. Enough to help me move forward into the rest of my day with renewed vigor. I think they’ll lift your spirits, too. The Smurf hat alone is worth the watch.
“This is more than just a fun fight for your rights party, it’s a call to action to other musicians, the general public and members of the media to stand up, come together and demand justice for all. These are our rights, and if we fail to use them then we’re going to lose them.”
The 8th NYC Busker Ball is looking to be a good one. Art and politics. Who knew?
The lineup of NYC street musicians includes singer Grace Kalambay, Theo Eastwind, Bandits on the Run, and the Blue Vipers of Brooklyn.
Event organizer Theo Eastwind promises serious chat on what’s been going down with the increasingly aggressive (and legally ambiguous) police crackdown on street performers in NYC. Expect to hear stories of the controversial “broken windows policing” as it plays out on the ground, with real living human beings.
Go. Spend an evening with art and advocacy. Listen to cool tunes. Find out your rights as artists and as residents. Fight for them.
8th NYC Busker Ball
Thursday October 16th, 7pm-Midnight
186 Bedford Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11249
$10 Suggested Donation
City Lore is a NYC based cultural institution that, since 1986, advocates for, documents, and celebrates the traditions and heritage of the diverse communities in NYC through education and public programs. Last night, I went to their packed-house opening reception for Moving Murals: Henry Chalfant & Martha Cooper’s All-City Graffiti Archive.
Chalfant (Style Wars) and Cooper (Subway Art) are among the earliest documenters of and campaigners for graffiti as artistry. The exhibit showcases subway graffiti of the 1970s through the early 1980s. reproductions of 850+ subway cars photographed by Chalfant and Cooper cover the walls, replicating a trainyard environment. Walk in and you are surrounded by history, beauty, and ingenuity.
This exhibit is a must see for those interested in NYC history, culture, and street art. The work is amazing--from the subway writers to Chalfant and Cooper to the construction of the exhibit itself. Moving Murals will be open for viewing through July 10th, and City Lore will host several totally cool programs associated with it.
Where: The City Lore Gallery, 56 E 1st St. New York, NY 10003
Gallery hours: Wednesday - Saturday, 12:00pm - 6:00pm
How to get there: Take the F train to 2nd Ave or 6 train to Bleecker St.
For more information: 212-529-1955 x13 or firstname.lastname@example.org
E. B. Gallardo