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Monday, August 30, 2010

Pockets of Joy

Unless you are a saint, someone who has achieved nirvana, satori, samadhi or perhaps one of those individuals who is blessed as an eternal optimist, emotional life is an up and down affair. Life is good, but not always that good.
For those of us mere mortals, it is more reasonable not to expect a life of constant euphoria and bliss, even in New York City, which has so much to offer, but rather, to look for pockets of joy in a less than perfect world.

One of the unique things about New York, which I have never experienced anywhere else, is that no matter what your interests, passions, ethnicity, color, creed or education, if you look, you can find others of a similar persuasion. Immerse yourself with these people, and you may find one of New York City's many pockets of joy.

For those who love music, this is an easy task. Head to Washington Square Park and often you will find numerous groups playing at the same time - make the rounds and sample the goods. The New York Times has recently done two articles on the activities here.

As of late, the park has been invaded by a large group of drummers. Although the experience is rather entrancing to the participant and has added musical variety, it has, however, made the rest of the central plaza difficult for other musicians to play and be heard, such as regulars like Joe Budnick or guitar virtuoso Scott Samuels. Regular street performers add to the din. Hence, splinter groups form on the lawns, on pathways or tucked away in the folds of foliage. The musical entertainment seeker is well advised to circulate a bit, as I did on Saturday.

A great number of musicians here are professional, some playing in the park for unstructured musical fun, others looking to play or rehearse outdoors on a beautiful day.
Some form spontaneous groupings, some play together regularly, and yet others have established bands and work together professionally outside the park. The latter was the case with a bluegrass group, the Bella Boys, whom I encountered on one of the lawns, away from the central plaza hubbub. These boys were quite bella, and their command of repertoire was astounding to me, as was the familiarity of several members with numerous instruments. At various junctures, the mandolin, banjo and guitar were passed around like musical chairs. I learned that one of the members was leaving for Europe for four months, so I had fortuitously run into them on their last get together for quite some time.

Later that night, I ran across another grouping (Sage, Peter, Jimmy and Joe - bottom photo) which included regulars I have known for some time. The singer, Sage, has a masterful trained and natural voice, and his occasional forays into the park are always a welcome addition to any group (Sage plays a dozen instruments and has a collection of 100). I had the good sense to record video of these events:

At one point I during the bluegrass jam, I noticed the hair on my arms standing up - a clear sign that life was indeed good and I had found one of the city's many pockets of joy :)


Noe* said...

Thanks for brightened my morning with your words. Greetings from Buenos Aires!

Brian Dubé said...

I hope you and everyone else got a chance to see the videos.