There was a violinist playing Vivaldi's "Spring" this morning at the Columbus Circle subway station.
Oh, wait, there I go, starting in the middle again. Let me go back to the beginning.
I have been riding the New York City subway every day for years and years. Most mornings, my husband drops me off at the A train at 175th Street. I take the A to Columbus Circle (59th Street), where I can switch to the B or the C local train. Either of those drops me within a block of my office building.
This morning, the first full day of spring in New York, dawned cold, wet, and rainy. In fact, the rain kept switching back and forth between real raindrops and very wet, heavy snowflakes. The calendar and the crocuses say it's spring, but the sky still needs to catch up. Last week, we had a seventy-degree day, and I almost put my snow boots and my heavy coat away for the season. This morning, I was glad that I had not.
The subway is often a less-than-pleasant experience, but it is a necessity of life in New York for commuters like me, who have to travel a long distance in a short period of time. There is no faster way to get around. When I commuted in high school, I often took the bus, because my parents worried about my traveling alone below ground at age 14. Now, however, I always opt for the subway. A bus from 59th Street to 175th Street could take over an hour. It's fifteen minutes on the A train.
The subway is filthy and in disrepair. On days like today, it's especially crowded, and water drips and puddles right where I need to stand. People almost always push and shove; today I got shoved around a fair bit, and with a broken shoulder that's more painful than annoying. It is rare to get a seat, even when you are nine months pregnant, sporting a cast on your foot, or juggling a briefcase and crutches. Crazy people rant, sometimes disturbingly enough to make me get off the train and wait for another train. One afternoon last week, a woman lifted up her skirt and urinated right next to me. I literally had to jump out of the way. Teenagers squeal. Preachers threaten. Break-dancers spin.
And musicians play.
I imagine that this morning's violinist woke up, saw the weather, and decided that the best place to make a few dollars would be underground. He probably ran his hand through his dreadlocks, packed up his instrument, and headed for the station. He positioned himself near the end of the train (most riders gravitate toward the front or the back of the train, to be nearest their most convenient exit at their destination). When the doors of my A train opened and I stepped out, he was tuning up, and then he launched into Vivaldi's most famous refrain. Spring.
There is a rule for living in the city. If a street performer makes you pause, you owe him a dollar. I opened my wallet and found that I had about $1.50 in small coins. Juggling my bag, my sling, and my umbrella, I poured the coins into his violin case. He smiled appreciatively and kept playing. He could not have been more than twenty-five years old. His fingers moved so fast on the strings that they were sometimes blurred. He did not miss a single note. This is a big city. I will probably never see him again.
What's in the crockpot: chicken thighs, cubed butternut squash, a can of vegetarian baked beans, a can of diced tomatoes, a coarsely chopped onion, a handful of basil and oregano, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper.
It is extremely difficult to peel and cube butternut squash with one hand. Who appreciates the small acts of heroism that go into every day? Whether they involve a vegetable peeler or a violin, they are there if you are looking for them.
My daughter Becky is 14 today. I have always appreciated the symbolism in the fact that she was born at the beginning of the season of renewal. Happy birthday, Rebecca Claire. May all your dreams come true.