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Monday, April 16, 2012

Sirens of Culture

One of the peculiar dilemmas of living in New York City is the compelling feeling that there is a world outside the city and simultaneously no desire to leave it. Often, particularly on a beautiful day, I have a strong desire to take a day trip and explore some rural hinterland to enjoy nature. Then, stepping out my door with a sincere intent to only briefly sample the city, I found myself shipwrecked again on the shores of Manhattan, having been lured by the Sirens of Culture. Often, I make it no further than steps from my home in Washington Square Park, a brewery of local and international talent.

I sit in cognitive dissonance, torn by the desire to broaden my horizons yet trapped by a menagerie of entertainers, the like of which is to be found nowhere else. Part of me feels that there must be more to life than this plot of 10 acres that landscape architect George Vellonakis referred to as America's Piazza. Not an exaggeration at all, the park is a meeting place for every imaginable type of individual from sociopaths, lunatics, misfits, geniuses, budding and established artists, painters, chess players, writers, photographers, intellects, local residents, and visitors. It is a place where the conversationalist can meet and engage in conversations on any subject imaginable, both privately or in forums.

Here, one can find snake charmers, hucksters, drug dealers, professors, political activists, and vendors of products and ideas. Some come to sell their philosophies, but this can come at a price, as when Mennonites meet topless body painted women or when Missionaries Meet Their Match.

However, the biggest draw here is the music, and with some luck, on a good day, one can find a virtual festival of professional talent. So it was that on Saturday and Sunday, I was lured in by the music of Jessy Carolina and the Hot Mess. I found myself listening for hours along with a large steady crowd who found themselves so engaged that many resorted to Dancing in the Streets. From their website:

Jessy Carolina & The Hot Mess is a New York City-based ensemble specializing in early American roots and jazz music from the late 1800's to the 1930's. The group features Jessy Carolina on vocals and washboard, Jerron "Blind Boy" Paxton on piano, banjo, and vocals, Jordan Hyde on guitar, Jay Sanford on bass, Mario J. Maggio on clarinet and saxophone, and Satoru Ohashi on trumpet and trombone.

Jessy, who hails from Venezuela, grew up in North Dakota, and later moved to New York City, has a voice and singing style that ropes in passersby who find themselves entranced and engaged. The talent of all the members of the group is exceptional, and it comes as a huge treat to find such talent on the street - Jessy Carolina and the Hot Mess has performed in a variety of venues, both in and out of the city. Catch 'em when you can. I'll see you in the parks and streets of New York City, lured by the Sirens of Culture :)

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