Tuesday, February 23, 2010

I ♥ New York

City Stories: Danny and the Homeless



Image by Francis Joseph

Rainy day, umbrellas turn over, bump into each other, poke one another. The usual crowded subways, which on days like these seem even more unpleasant. The cramped up cars become cramped up with people’s somber moods very much influenced by the grey skies. On New York trains, people never look you in the face--at least not the locals. But some have a hard time looking away, trying not to meet anybody else’s eyes, like me. However, it seems like a part of New York’s culture, and maybe it is an American thing--one looks away, trying to be extra discrete.

New Yorkers spend a lot of time on the subway, and half its riders bring along a book or paper or magazine to read to make time pass. Luckily I had my book when I heard the following.

“ Hi my name is Danny, I used to get paid until I lost my job because I broke one shoulder. Since I am from Brazil I don’t see no food stamps, no welfare, nothing. Basically I have no money to pay for food or rent, so if you could help out with a dollar, a quarter, a dime, anything will help, thank you, god bless you.”

When people hear words like that, they usually try not to look. Sometimes it makes you shrug when someone yells out something like that while you are really into your book. Danny had a very loud, strong, almost intruding voice. I felt disturbed and was glad I had my book, since it becomes harder not to look up when someone is soliciting on the train. Danny looked like he was a young man in his mid twenties. I noticed his neatly shaped beard. I was wondering how he affords rent now, and why he would not find work that would not demand his shoulder. I didn’t know if that was a fair thought or not.

Danny passed me, collected some coins, which I heard pinging into his cup, and I went back to my book.

Minutes later another man enters the subway car. His appearance differs greatly from Danny’s. He is not very tall, his hood covers most of his face, he has a wildly grown full beard and his clothes are baggy and dirty. His voice is soft and way quieter.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, I am homeless looking for help. If you can assist me with some money or food, it would be greatly appreciated. Thank you, sorry to disturb.”

Out of the sudden another voice raises.

“You should learn how to juggle”, says a tall man in a black long coat and jeans.

“What?”

“You should learn how to juggle. People usually have to work in order to earn money for food, so if you learn how to do something, too, people are willing to pay you for your efforts.”

“Ok, I will try”, said the homeless man quietly and strove along through the subway car.

I could not help but be surprised at both men reactions. Although I feel like the guy had a point to what he was saying, he sounded kind of rude. Regardless, the homeless guy did respond politely and sounded like he would actually take learning to juggle into account.

I was thinking that Danny’s approach was wrong, too intrusive. Unfortunately, we are too used to homeless people asking for money on trains; therefore, different approaches could definitely be refreshing and enable someone to raise more money. At the same time, people are really in need, and I don’t know who would feel like entertaining a crowd on an empty stomach, after a possible cold, sleepless night outside…

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Brain Stimulation

Homage to... MUSIC




Sometimes I need music to get by, usually when I’m feeling blue. Other times I am trying to distract myself from my surroundings with music--usually happens on public transportation when involuntarily sharing public sphere with people I otherwise would try to avoid. Or I am feeling a certain mood that I want to be complemented by it's musical match. Music is an all round tool for different scenarios I once in a while face. It is a carrier through my inner journeys, good and bad, and without it, I know I wouldn’t find life as pleasurable. In fact, I do not think I would have been the person I am without music in my life, which I once felt like I needed daily.

When I was in my teens, I was able to fall asleep to trash metal. Not because I did not care about what I was listening to, but because I was listening so intensely, focusing on the different components of a song, such as the double bass, or the guitar riffs and strumming, the lyrics, or the way it’s been sung that at some point I would get tired and fall asleep.

Those were times, where everyday I would shuffle through songs from every genre my ipod provided me with. I would wake up to music by my radio alarm clock, then commute to college with music accompanying me, often fading out people’s early morning conversations which I was allergic to, and continued listening to my songs until I got to my lectures and finally settled down to reconnect to the world outside of me by removing the earbuds and opening up to the world outside again.

Until my early teens I would even listen to music while working on homework assignments. Throughout college I noticed it changed, probably because my assignments required a bit more attention. And gradually, I began listening to music less. Nowadays, at the end of my twenties, the way I consume music has drastically changed.

I do not listen to music everyday anymore. Sometimes there can be a whole week without listening to it. I mean, yes, there would be the radio playing in the background, but that has little to do with really listening to music. Today, I need a good sound system to enjoy music. I can lose myself listening over headphones for hours, or play it at home over my speakers. I hate flat sounding systems, and when I visit friends and family who do not own somewhat decent speakers, I almost want to pity them and tell them to turn the music off. After all the artist and producers created their music in a certain way, therefore if you are not listening to it in the proper way, which means a decent sound systems that allows you to hear the depths of the song, it is not the same anymore.

When I was younger I could have never imagined to not listen to music everyday.
Now, I need my quiet more. Now, I need to listen more intensely, and now, it has an even greater effect on me then it ever had. Music you are a great friend, and I would never want to be without you!

Right now, I am listening to Jimi Hendrix’ “Watchtower” on Youtube. That video was last commented with “Chewing Gum Stimulates the Brain”--which I first thought was hinting to Hendrix’ drug addiction, and was more of an appeal (I thought that would have been kind of funny)--turns out the comment means exactly what it says, no ambiguity, no hinting to long gone Hendrix and his addiction, just someone who wanted to add something random. On that note, let me just add the following: I find that music stimulates my brain, and the best thing about it is, I can choose when I want to be stimulated. Music to me, IS THE GREATEST DRUG I NEVER WANT TO CURE MY ADDICTION TO!
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