Tuesday, June 16, 2009


So today I played another cabaret with Rian Keating at Don't Tell Mama's on 46th St. One of the best parts about playing with Rian is all of the great romantic stories about 'Old New York' from his 30 years of living in the city. Coupled with our pianist Woody (who has been a New Yorker for 40 years) and the 25-year history of the club, playing for Rian is like shadowing days gone by. As he likes to explain, Rian graduated from high school one Thursday in 1979, moved to NYC the next day (a Friday) and had started a job by the following Monday. He lived in a 4-story walkup in Manhattan and paid $175 a month, but had to have a roommate as his weekly paycheck was only $95. ('Tis a far cry from the $1100 we pay for our one bedroom in South Brooklyn, which includes at least an hour one-way commute to get to anywhere in Manhattan). He tells tales of $0.50 subway fares, a "Pre-Guiliani Times Square," (which included hookers, nudie flicks and other fun activities) and gives many references to the dangers of NYC in the 70's and 80's.

T0day, the subway fare is $2.00 and there is serious talk of increasing it to $2.50, Times Square is a tribute to mega-corporations, tourism and Con-Edison, and, according to 'The Gothamist', NYC is the safest metropolis out of the 25 largest cities in America. Now don't get me wrong, I enjoy walking around at all hours in all places with a cello and feeling relatively safe. But I get the feeling that New York has lost some of it's electricity what with all this safety, gentrification and consumerism. It's a toned down version of the New York I grew up hearing about.

NYC used to be a place where artists would gather and things would happen. Big things. Think about the movements that were born and thrived here: The Harlem Renaissance in the 20's and 30's, Jazz in the 40's, the Beat Generation and Abstract Expressionism of the 50's, the Folk Movement of the 60's and the Hip-Hop, Punk and Hardcore scenes of the 70's and 80's. These movements weren't led by people that came from money and had easy lives. They were spearheaded by people who went through enormous hardships and struggles; financially, politically, socially and (one can assume) spiritually. These are the people we are losing here. As the city has become less dangerous and more homogenized, many of the artists have either been priced out or have simply lost interest in a city without as much spirit and grit. Take me for example. I happen to like a little 'edge' to my city.

Another great thing about playing with Rian is that he is deaf. He's deaf and he sings cabaret. He's not totally deaf, he wears an hearing aid and can hear a little bit. Now, there are good days and bad for Rian, pitch-wise and otherwise (I mean - he's deaf for crying out loud). But the thing about him is that he never gives up; he keeps doing cabaret shows and going to workshops and classes. Just as he's never loses his zeal for New York City. He's a true testament to the city.

After the show, my cello and I took the train to Chelsea. We walked around for a little bit and had dinner at this great little Vietnamese place. Then I met the hubs for a movie (Angels and Demons - eh) where we had to sit separately because the movie was moderately full and there weren't any seats left that would allow for two adults and a cello to fit. I saw a 400-pound woman who was balding, and had a particularly memorable experience in the bathroom where someone had projectile vomited all over the toilet seat and floor of the bathroom. When the movie was over, we walked two avenues over to our train, which turned out to be out of service, so we walked two avenues back to where we'd started, where a woman who I thought was homeless gave me a penny.

That was Tuesday.


  1. Informative historic synopsis, & your personal stories are priceless!

  2. Love your blog, Sascha. Having survived New York in the late 60s and through the 70s, I appreciate the safer city we live in now. Of course the low rents of the 1960s are a thing of the past. One does wonder how the city can survive as a center for the arts when most people are paying $1800 for a one-bedroom apartment. -- Woody