Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Jazz Musician

I was on the subway this afternoon when a man, dressed in black came in through the door. Opening his case, he presented a flute and his case.

He was a jazz musician. He apologized for his lack of cowboy hat and his lack of story. His eyes hardened as he said something along the lines of:

You can all look at me and say hell, I could play that. Everyone knows you don't need any talent to play an instrument. What's real talent is telling stories. Well I don't have any stories.

I froze and peered at him from beneath the cozy confines of my Blick hat, won after a professor had tossed me it during a product endorsement at school. As he began to play, I dug through my bag for my wallet. It was true, I thought.

A conversation that's run through my circle of artists...The importance over story, presentation of the artist as much as the work...To be viewed, admired, sensationalized and hated.

His playing was beautiful, melodic and sad. I wanted to talk to him, tell him of my own fears and frustrations. The feeling of being marginalized or used...Idealized or mocked.

I thought of a conversation earlier that month during an opening with myself, my boyfriend and another artist. Three artists discussing their own frustration. One who was thinking of leaving art entirely, one at a crossroads and one...Myself, still wanting what I had wanted and still believed in from six years ago.

The music was ending, he walked up and down the aisle of the car before finally exiting. A few dollars, some change. Mine was nestled in his case. The Decemberists came back on my iPod...A Cautionary Tale was playing.

The doors opened at Times Square.

His voice hardened again and as he weaved out he said something along the lines of:

"That's right, don't support the arts, support the stories".

I leaned my head against my hand, against the pole, within the car at a standstill.

It was a rude thing to say. It was something I knew we all thought at one point or another.

Looking down briefly, I saw my expression had peaked the interest of a seated passenger.

I looked the other way. I looked down at someone whose face urged me to draw them.

And then the train started to move again.