One day last October at five in the afternoon, I had a solo tuba gig at a bar on the campus of Stony Brook University. On the trainride from Penn Station, I was sitting across from five ghetto kidz looking to sell candy out on Long Island in order to raise money for their basketball team. During the whole ride they were throwing garbage at each other. After about 15 minutes of this an eraser bounced off one of the them and accidentally fell in my lap. I handed the eraser back and said, "Peace".
Then I walked to the other end of the train. Sitting across from me was a middle aged couple. Immediately the man said, "What kind of tuba is that?"
"Besson three-valve E-flat." "Isn't a four-valve better?" "No, I like this one just fine." "Do you play in an orchestra?"
"No. I did, during my one semester at Queens College. But, I didn't like it at all... I like to improvise and have fun with the music... I mainly play on the streets... But today I'm performing at the bar on the campus of Stony Brook. There's no cover charge. Can you make it?"
"No, I can't make it... But, you know what, I used to play the tuba, but then I got married and had kids, so I stopped. Good luck with the gig."
When I got to the bar, the only people there were the four bandmembers of the group playing after me, the promoter, the bartender, and three college professors. During the show the three professors loudly chattered away. At one point they said to each other, "I make the equivalent of 80K a year... Oh, is that good for Taiwan?... Yes, Yes... You know I make 90K a year... Well, I make 100K and that's just because I do special research... Oh, look at that big screen TV over there... ISN'T IT BEAUTIFUL... Yes. Yes!"
I had to join in on the professors conversation, so I used my tuba as a megaphone and shouted through the mouthpiece, "THAT'S GREAT... IT'S TERRIFIC... ISN'T THAT THE LIFE... THAT'S WONDERFUL... AMAZING... FOR SURE... YEAH, MAN."
Then the promoter walked to the professors' table and said very politely, "This is a concert. Could y'all please be more respectful?"
"THIS!!!!... IS A CONCERT?... THIS ISN'T EVEN REAL MUSIC... ANYWAY, WE WERE JUST HERE FOR DRINKS... WHAT IS THAT THING?... A FRENCH HORN... NO, IT'S DEFINITELY A TROMBONE... WELL, I SEE WE'RE NOT WELCOME HERE... WE'RE LEAVING!!!"
When the show was over, I went and got my 60 dollar guarantee from the bartender. Then the promoter came over to me and said, "That was a very nice gig, it made me feel good."
"Really? That was pretty grim... Glad you enjoyed it, though."
On the three hour (because of trackwork) train ride back to the city, I met this nice girl named Paloma who is creating a multimedia ice sculpture. She went to Stony Brook today because she wanted to use the computer arts lab. But, unfortunately the building was closed. After I got back to Penn Station, I walked over to Fifth avenue and played the tuba on the street for a couple more hours. I collected some cash and bought a falafel and an orange juice. Then I went to this squat/art party on East Houston Street, hung out and played the tuba for a little bit. When I finished playing, this old homeless man said to me, "Yeah, when you start to really believe in yourself, weird shit begins to happen. But whatever you do, just remember this: You will never save the world. The only thing you can do is save yourself... And if you can ACCOMPLISH that, you've done your part."