I was walking through Washington Square Park on Sunday when I saw a young man playing a piano.
It was freezing cold, there were piles of snow all over the place and here was this guy hitting the keys like he was making his debut at Carnegie Hall.
I was pretty tired, but I was reasonably certain that I was not hallucinating.
Musicians are hardly an unusual sight here when the weather is warm. On a summer weekend you have your pick of performers, along with the jugglers, magicians, sword swallowers, capoeiristas, comedians, and the guys who pose like famous sculptures.
But tickling the ivories outdoors in January? That takes nerve.
The guy had a decent crowd around him, too, considering the rotten weather. Maybe he was out there now because he didn’t want to compete with other musicians.
In fact the only thing resembling a rival for the small group of gawkers that I could see was a fellow sitting on a nearby park bench with several pigeons balanced on his head and arms. A few people were taking his picture, but I don’t know if the guy was doing an animal act or just happened to be partial to pigeons.
This is my least favorite time of year. Christmas and New Year’s Day have come and gone, the resolutions are already starting to crumble and I feel like curling up with my remote until April. I think bears might be onto something with that hibernation business.
My uncle in California told me that it was 80 degrees in L.A. on Sunday—80 degrees! He sounded almost apologetic, but I didn’t take it too badly. It gave me an excuse to make my annual vow that this will be the last--no kidding, I really mean it—last winter I will ever spend in New York.
This has been a yearly occurrence with me since the Carter Administration and I still haven’t done it yet. But one year I may surprise myself.
Meanwhile I had to get up early the other day to shovel away the latest snowfall. It was still dark out, so I thought I’d be alone, but my neighbor, this lovely elderly Chinese lady, was out there shoveling her walk.
This lady had been hospitalized last year for open heart surgery, so naturally I freaked when I saw her with a shovel in her hands.
“Get back in the house!” I cried, even though I know she speaks very little English. “Get back in the house!”
I pointed to her front door and gestured that I would shovel her walk. But she wouldn’t hear of it. She shoveled some more and then started spreading ice melting pellets in front of my house.
Now I keep a huge bag of that stuff in my porch all winter long, so I didn’t need any of hers. But that’s pretty hard to say in pantomime.
I got out my own de-icing stuff and got to work. I thought I had convinced my friend that I had the situation under control, but then I turned around and there she was—no coat on this time—spreading more of that crap around behind me.
I knew I had been beaten, so I gave her a loving pat on the head and went inside.
I’m very lucky to have this woman as a neighbor. I’ve heard plenty of horror stories from friends and family about creepy people next door, so I thank God I’ve got somebody so nice, considerate, and quiet. If I do go to California maybe I’ll take her with me.
I hung around Washington Square listening to the piano player for a little while, but I had places to go. I made a point of dropping a dollar into this large pail he had set up near his piano as I walked by.
He gave me some hope that someday all this crap will melt, and there will be warmth and green again and the jugglers and sword swallowers will return.
I think that’s worth a buck.