New Yorkers dress drab. The street this morning is a sea of grey, dark blues and browns. I catch my reflection in a shop window. In my bright orange sleeveless jacket they probably think I’m a construction worker on a break.
It’s a dry day and the wind’s blowing dust uptown. I cross 8th Avenue and spot a plastic bag doing its American Beauty waltz between two buildings. I’ve arrived at ASCAP. If you’ve ever wondered what the end result is of clicking on all those songs on Spotify, Deezer, Apple Music et al, this is it. This is where your clicks and playlist choices end up; a swirling cloud of ones and zeros that somehow get turned into royalty cheques; some of them even have my name on. Welcome to the music business 21st century style.
Business taken care of it’s time to get ready for tonight’s show at Pianos on the lower East side. I’m looking forward to playing some new songs, particularly one that tells a story that actually happened in this neighbourhood in 1904. I can think of no better place to give it its first airing.
As a seasoned people watcher I generally know how long I can look at people before it’s considered rude or offensive. But on the New York subway you’ve got 10 milliseconds max and you’d better not catch anyone’s eye. It’s fleeting glimpses only then eyes down, eyes on the floor. And that’s when I see. At first I think that maybe New Yorkers spend so long standing on public transport that all the colour has drained to their feet. But no… New Yorkers don’t dress drab; they put everything into their shoes as that’s all anyone’s going to look at anyway.
Back at 145th street I leave the subway car at the same time as a man who steps off backwards, walks backwards to the stairs and continues on up and out of the station in the same fashion. He never once looks behind him. Most people get out of his way, some with a startled expression as though for a brief moment they wonder if they haven’t made a mistake and it’s them who are facing the wrong way.
French version published daily on the ROCK MADE IN FRANCE website: