I'm just home from performing in the Staten Island ferry terminal 'Whitehall.' I sang for 3 solid hours and inspired by the circumstances-the people around me and the day that brought me to this point of giving, I really put out my best. To perform in a public space is a true experience of an artist letting go, of accepting and hoping it connects. Today it connected. In between the growing swell of people waiting for their ferry (about every 30 minutes) I took the time to build a set of songs, some my own, some known, to give the listening audience a chance to join in. I said honestly over the microphone "you are my captive audience, and whether you like it or not, you are here listening or disconnecting," today I spoke more than usual and spoke a truth.
My usual conversation goes like this, "hello everybody, my name is Cathy Grier also known as NYC SubwayGirl I am here as a member of the Music Under NY program to bring you music to public spaces. Today I'm happy not to be under New York....., I'm here happily for three reasons: You, the light through the windows, and the radiant heat!" "Remember this holiday season to be good to yourself, to not get pulled into the commerciality of it all. We get so overloaded with the stuff we have to get. Give the gift of yourself. There's nothing more important than the gift of your time, so be sensitive to that."
A group of children came by led by a teacher who thankfully saw an opportunity to bring the kids over to listen. They were from PS 335 in Brooklyn and had already been on the ferry. I asked the kids what they saw and engaged them in a conversation about the symbol of Liberty and the reason why I perform in public spaces-the importance of art and music in public spaces. I offered to go to their school and perform, I hope the teacher contacts me. They were a joy. Later someone getting on the ferry passed and said "I like how you talked to those kids."
Unusual, I witnessed an altercation between 2 men who did not appear to know each other but apparently got into each others space. As they fought I calmly said over the microphone, 'enough, chill, this is not the time not the place.....thank you" one guy left and later as I sang a requested 'You've Got A friend" found new meaning in the words "when people can be so cold, they'll hurt you, yes and desert you, they'll take your soul if you let them....don't you let them." When it was all over, the guy that walked away came back hovering near me, and I was paying close attention, he said,"thank you and I'm sorry," he even looked over at the other guy and said again "I'm sorry," more to me, but I could see he meant it directed to his adversary.
The pigeons flew around, little children think they can catch them, I comment to no one in particular that they'll never catch them, but at least tire themselves for the ride home. What a commute it must be traveling daily in the Harbor to Staten Island.