Times Square

Copyright 2003, Adrian Robert

December 4th

Snowflakes swept down onto Mr. Wen's thin dark hair as he walked down the empty street on the way home. It was after 10pm, and nearly all of the tiny grocery shops and one-waiter restaurants were closed. A man came out of the dry-cleaner's a dozen yards ahead at the end of the block and turned to lock up.

Mr. Wen's hand went into his jacket pocket and fingered the roll of bills it found there. He wasn't nervous about possibly being accosted for the money, but it was an association triggered by old habit. "Why do you want to go to New York?" his uncle had asked him back in his hometown in Shandong Province, "It is so dangerous there. You cannot even walk down the street without somebody trying to take your money!" Many others had said similar things back home. Even after he had gotten here people had warned him to watch where he walked, and to keep an eye out for suspicious characters.

But he had never seen or experienced anything to warrant this attitude. Of course he had spent his first weeks in New York always on his guard, eyes darting this way and that, constantly feeling to check that his wallet was still there. On the subways he would make sure to transfer his money to his front pocket before boarding, and would always try to get a seat or a place out of the main throng. But if there were all these hoodlums after his wealth (meager though it was), he had never seen them. People were by and large reasonable here, and more likely to help one another than cause harm. He had occasionally been to areas of the city that seemed a little something other than either "homey", or "public", but even these he knew felt safe and familiar to the residents themselves -- it was more a matter of perspective. All the same, in these places he would tend to quicken his step ever so slightly and act as if he had a purpose. In most places he felt comfortable though.

He turned off onto the side street where his small apartment building stood sandwiched between two others. A car, probably a taxi, buzzed by on the avenue he had just left, reinforcing the sense of peacefulness by contrast that he usually felt on the narrow residential blocks. He couldn't understand why anyone would ever want to live on a busy street, except maybe if they were 10 stories in the air above it.

He pulled off his glove to retrieve his key, feeling how chilly the air was. Certainly colder than it was last year this time. He remembered one year he had gone to Beijing in December, and there was ice and snow everywhere on the streets. It was bitterly cold, but what everyone was remarking was not the temperature but the snow itself. Apparently winter was very dry there.

Not so here, and he hastened to open the front door and get in out of the snow. (Maybe he would buy that hat he had been thinking about soon.) Up three flights of padded wooden stairs, creaking satisfyingly even as they pampered his feet, and another key into a shiny green door.

"Hey, hey," his wife greeted him, and then embraced him. He squeezed her tightly, then bent to take his shoes off. The leather was stained dark from the wetness of the snow.

"How'd you do?" His wife always wanted to hear about the practical side of things first.

He threw his coat onto the chair in the living room, and sat down at the small table in the kitchen. He pulled out the roll of bills and set it down on the white formica surface. His wife looked crestfallen.

"No, it's more than it looks -- I changed some of it for larger bills when I stopped for cigarettes." He unruffled the bills to show her a five and two tens. Then, "Yes, it wasn't as much as I was hoping on a Monday," he admitted.

"You've got to go to Times Square!" his wife admonished. Then she caught herself. "No, you've got to get a real job! How can you make money playing music on the streets?!"

"My English isn't good enough yet."

"English? Why don't you just get a job at a restaurant? You don't need to speak English! Why don't you talk to Lu's cousin?"

"I don't want to work in a restaurant."

"You've got to work somewhere! We're barely paying rent and not saving any money."

"The tips will pick up during the summer. The warm weather opens up the hearts -- and wallets -- of New Yorkers! And don't forget, Sheng Lee says he might be able to get me a position with the orchestra in the fall..."

"Might!" Mrs. Wen snorted, and put a steaming mug of tea down in front of him before turning to dip a large wooden ladle into a pot on the stove behind her. "That doesn't sound too promising to me. Might means it might not happen, in fact it probably won't happen."

He knew she was right. But he also knew he'd rather go back to China than accept a lowly job at a restaurant. He hadn't come 12,000 miles just to bust his rear end wiping tables, even if it was in a nicer place.

"Don't worry," he said. "Something will come up even if that doesn't." He hoped that was so.

Mrs. Wen subsided, and continued ladling noodles from the pot into a big bowl. "Here you go husband," she said, and sat down opposite him at the table.

"What did you do today?" he asked.

"Nothing!" she said. "You always ask, and it is always the same." She pointed at the large wooden table in the living room. "I painted maybe two more strokes."

Mr. Wen got up from his noodles and walked over the look at the sheet laying on the table. "Oh, this is nice," he said. "Look at all these blossoms!"

"I should have done that in 20 minutes," she said.

"You didn't sell anything today?" he asked.

"Of course not. You know I would tell you, don't you?" There was more than a trace of annoyance in her voice, but he knew it wasn't directed at him.

"Your stuff is good, love, people will realize it sooner or later."

"Maybe..." she mused.

December 5th

It was a grey morning, but no snow was falling as Mr. Wen waited outside at the station, balancing his case upright against his body. Here in Brooklyn many of the stations were outdoors. He couldn't consider playing in one of them in this kind of weather even if there were enough people using them to make it worthwhile. Even though a lot of people lived out here, a lot more lived in Manhattan, and the stations were a lot busier there, like the streets themselves. Too busy for his tastes.

He remembered his father's reaction to his plans to live in Brooklyn, "What?! What do you mean you're not going to live in Chinatown?"

"What, is there a law that says a Chinaman has to live in Chinatown?" He laughed and carried on, "An ordinance on the books of New York City stating that all residents of Chinese origins must live between such and such streets, and such and such avenues? Come on, if I'm going to the United States of America, I want to live in the United States of America, not in China again!"

"But most people say it gives them a little feeling of home," his mother soothed. "They get enough of the 'America' feeling as it is."

"Maybe so, maybe so, but I don't want all that hustle and bustle. And anyway, it's cheaper in Brooklyn."

Finally, a train rolled into the station. It seemed like no matter how frequent the trains were, it was still possible to have too long of a wait. He hefted the wooden case by the handle and shuffled up to the closest entrance.

On the train he managed to get a seat on one end of the car where he could slide his case along his side without anyone complaining about the space. One of the advantages of living in Brooklyn was that the trains weren't filled up yet when you got on them. A Chinese woman, from Hebei province from the looks of her, shared the bench across from him with a black-clad Jew. So distinctive those fellows were! As if they were intent on marking themselves out from all other people. He wondered how they saw it, and why they didn't feel the urge to blend in as he himself did. No one would ever mistake him for a "regular" New Yorker, and he well knew any Chinese person could tell him for a Shandong'er in particular in half a minute.

The Chinese woman was looking at him. She pointed down at his box and said something to the child sitting on her lap. He never liked being talked about without participating in the conversation. "Yes, it's a Y'ang Ch'in," he said pointedly, but not unkindly, to her. She smiled, embarassed, and nodded, but made no reply. He caught himself thinking badly of her manners. He was used to the way these Americans behaved, he realized. None of them would ever ignore an invitation to conversation such as that. But in China it was not at all unusual to do so. "When in Italy, do as the Italians," he remembered someone saying to him back home. Or something like that. Why wasn't she becoming an Italian like he was?

The train pulled in to 14th Street: his stop. He was already standing by the door with his case by the time it came to a rest, and he stepped out first when the doors opened. He had hoped no one else was here already, but right away he heard the sound of an electric guitar twanging away. He didn't understand where these people got their electricity -- it was hard to imagine a battery lasting the entire day as it would presumably have to. Maybe they charged up a whole bunch during the night; not much fun to lug that stuff onto and off of the trains though.

He paused to listen momentarily, but this person's playing was not particularly inspiring. He had seen some musicians who would just set up the other end of the platform if they found someone already playing, and try to "outattract" the waiting passengers. But Mr. Wen wasn't such a competitive type, and he particularly didn't like the confused sound in the air when two unrelated tunes emanated from within earshot. So he shuffled up the stairs to find another tunnel.

He remembered another guitarist he had once seen, one who had also had an amplifier, but he had played a classical guitar, not an electric one. Amazingly, despite the amplifier, it had actually sounded like a classical guitar. He must have paid attention to every connection from vibrating string to speaker diaphragm, for the purity of the tones brought forth in the hall of that station in Brooklyn had been something beautiful to behold, so you did not even think to think there was anything artificial at all between your ear and that euphonious, liquid, mellow wooden guitar body.

And, yes, this was in Brooklyn not Manhattan. Mr. Wen had never played anywhere there himself, not being sure he would be able to collect enough tips from a day's work in the thinner crowds. This consideration had apparently not stopped this man though, and in a fairly remote Brooklyn station at that.

Such as it was, it seemed a perfect setting for the dreamy melody that he played, almost as if he had picked this station, calmer and quieter than the others, for its suitable atmosphere to his music. This was not the stodgy Bach or even Mozart or Williams, the latter sounding Baroque themselves in their spare, orderly precision when applying themselves to guitar composition, but something fresh. Some "jazz" chords were used, but it was not jazz -- too much of the rhythmic regularity of the classical remained. Nor could it be said to be Spanish, though it shared some of the lilting qualities and mercurial leaps of that influence. It was in fact a slow piece, wistful, but not quite melancholy, with something of the nature of early foggy evenings in early fall, or dear memories, gone through lovingly on rainy afternoons yet somehow sadly, disappointingly, faded.

The man (who played this) himself was dressed up and dapper -- wearing a white shirt and tie, with a green-brown homburg hat, almost as if he were giving a recital, the open case in front of him taking the place of the ticket booth; all were invited to attend.

Mr. Wen had gone up and dropped some money into that case (the least he could have done), saying to the man simply, "That was beautiful." It was his heart, nothing more. The man in return had flashed a bright smile, creases around his lips and his eyes -- come far too quickly to have been anything but genuinely delighted -- and said nothing. It was enough.

Mr. Wen had understood then, or been reminded of, the unique and valuable function that the street musician served, or, rather, could serve if he performed his job well. "World Transformer" would be one way to put it, if one was not interested in appearing modest, that was. He who had the power to change the dull and dreary walls of the subway station, surrounded by a dull and dreary world of clouds and damp, made more so by the prospect of trudging off to another day in the trenches performing meaningless tasks, such a world, into a completely different realm of real events, meanings, and possibilities. Princes engaged themselves as knights in finely-crafted armor, dangerous dragons were stalked slowly and with great care, and in the end slain through wit and determination; nascent queens were wooed from amidst unpredictable circumstances.

At the same time, "Clarifier of Perception" would have been another description -- because in seeing any of these things, you always had the chance of suddenly and gratifyingly realizing that you were looking at your own world after all. All of its sights and sounds, the places, even the people themselves, suddenly become known so much more deeply and -- this was the only way to say it -- clearly, than ordinarily realized. The deliciousness of everyday sensations, the beauty and truth of things...

Oh, what was the use of words to describe it?

By now Mr. Wen had set down his box and was unpacking it. He couldn't describe it, that was why he had to play music.

It was mid-spring, and thousands of white petals were blowing through the air from trees giving their hearts to the world. Other trees, slower to awaken from their winter slumbers, were ablaze with pink, scent pouring gratuitously into the air, bees buzzing busily within their vicinity. Over there, on the grass, splotches and splashes of color played in fine detail with fresh grass shoots. In later months butterflies would come and dance amidst taller brush, but for now the birds hopped about by themselves, scarcely bothering to contain their joy, for all life was on the upswing now.

Mrs. Wen put down her brush. Sometimes if she went on for too long, she lost the thread before she realized it. By the time she noticed it would be too late, and the whole painting would be ruined. Not obviously, of course. You couldn't tell there was something wrong. But it just wouldn't inspire the same force of impression, leading on to thoughts, and then on to more impressions, then at last, if luck was with you, to the realization of a moment in time and place. Instead of all this, you saw a painting, a picture, a representation, or even -- she shuddered here -- a reproduction.

What exactly it was that made this difference, she couldn't describe. If she could, she supposed, she might have been able to be a good teacher. For that matter, she would probably be able to paint more consistently, sell a few more works, maybe do an exhibition...

But she couldn't. All she knew was that when she was seeing, and feeling, she knew automatically where to put the next flower, which of its petals to make larger, exactly what sort of expression should be reflected in a bird's bearing, just how much shadow to put below a tree. None of this had to be thought about or considered. When she wasn't seeing every last detail and decision had to be worried over. And it just didn't work, no matter how she tried.

Nor could she particularly lull herself into a state of seeing either; she had tried drinking a certain tea, even preparing it in almost a ceremonial way, she had tried playing certain kinds of music, waking up at certain times of the morning, or going for walks to this or that particular place. Sometimes something would actually work for a while, but inevitably the results of such attempts usually ended up evolving into feelings of going through motions -- and tossed-out paintings later on.

"Why was that?" Mrs. Wen wondered.

Mr. Wen's hands slowed from a blur to a halt in the space of an instant, and in the silence just following he slowly became aware that a train was clattering into the station. The sound of a person clapping made him look up, and then a second joined, and the sound became what was almost a burst of applause.

He was gratified, for this was the second time today that it had happened, and even a single burst of applause was a rare event indeed. Or at least, had been before the past few weeks. The first time it happened he thought it had been fluke: someone just wound up to be wildy enthusiastic about anything, and then the odd, sheep-like behavior of a crowd. It had been around the "Thanksgiving" holiday, and people were in warm, happy moods. (Or sad ones, where the comfort of music is that much more welcome.)

But then it happened again a week later. And again a few days after that. Now it was almost every day, at some point or another. Was he getting better? At first he hadn't thought so. But the idea that someone could be enthusiastic about his playing made him more confident in it, a little bolder perhaps. Sureness is of great value in music -- he had always known that.

"Even if you do something wrong, go on as if that was what you intended to do," his grandfather had admonished him once, and it had been one of those cases where the guidance becomes unnecessary as soon as the teacher opens his mouth.

The train opened its doors, closed them, and moved off, the rails protesting its passing. Here and there, new passengers were drifting down the stairways and across the platform. A man in a long coat was leaning against a pole nearby, for some reason not having gotten onto the train. All he needed was a pair of sunglasses and he could have been one of those "federal agents" in the movies. Mr. Wen rested for a little while before taking up his sticks again.

February 3rd

"Yes, I know, I know," Mr. Wen was saying, "But I'm really enjoying what I'm doing, I actually feel like I'm making a difference."

"A difference to what?" questioned Mrs. Wen. But when she saw the pained expression on her husband's face she stopped.

"OK, OK," she said soothingly. "I know. I just think maybe you could get a part time job, just to have a more steady income."

"Why don't you get a job," Mr. Wen retorted. But he also softened. "I don't understand why you can't teach. Is the world that full of geniuses that a merely good painter doesn't have a use? I don't think so."

Mrs. Wen got up and closed one of the window shades in the living room. She always wondered about people looking in from the buildings across the gardens in back. In China people would actually put newspaper over their windows to cover them up, but she also liked to get the daylight during the day. She couldn't understand why some people wanted to live in caves.

"Was it cold in the station?" asked Mrs. Wen, hurrying to change the topic. "Your poor fingers must have frozen to your sticks!"

"Actually I didn't go to the station," answered Mr. Wen, with an air of building up to something. "I went to see a man named 'Mr. Marks', who runs a small recording studio in Manhattan."

"A recording studio? What on earth for? What, are you going to make a record?!"

Mrs. Wen snorted as she said this, and closed another shade.

"No, no, but he says he can get me work doing recordings for TV." Mr. Wen picked up his tea and had a sip. "Not TV shows though," he went on, "Advertisements." The Chinese word was a compound of "wide" and "tell", and evoked more of an image of a crier in a town square than an artistic work of visual and audio imagery. Perhaps because of this association, he felt this needed more explanation. "To play music," he added.

"Hmmmm.." said Mrs. Wen. She closed the last window shade, and came and sat down on the couch facing Mr. Wen's chair. "To sell things to people?"

"Well, yes, the advertisements are supposed to make people buy things, but that doesn't stop them from being pleasant to the eye, or to the ear. Mr. Marks said to think of it more as creating a work of art."

"Oh come on, stop laughing."

Mrs. Wen's eyes, face and sides alike were splitting with peals of laughter. "Art! Ar--" She lost it completely. Mr. Wen couldn't help himself and started laughing too.

"OK, OK, I'll admit it's pretty funny," he chuckled. "But that's how Mr. Marks said they see it here. 'Madison Avenue.' 'Creative personalities.' 'The best in the business.' That's what he kept saying. I think he was a bit taken aback by my crestfallen appearance when he first told me he wasn't a recording label agent."

"A recording label agent!" Now Mrs. Wen really lost it..

"OK, OK," Mr. Wen said wryly, "Now that's enough! Come on, we can always dream." He had another sip of tea. "Anyway, the thing is the money's very good. I wouldn't be doing it that often, but for just one session we could get by pretty well for a little while."

"How much?" asked Mrs. Wen. She always wanted to know the bottom line details.

Mr. Wen told her.

March 20th

Mr. Wen was riding the F train back to Brooklyn. It was late evening and he was tired after a long day. He sat leaning against the back of the seat, quietly absorbing the rhythms of the train. Chic-oon chicoon chicoon chicca chicca chicca choon choon chicoon, chicoon, chicoon... Each rumbling, each sway, bump, or jiggle sunk into him like a woman's fingers giving him a massage.

At longer intervals the entire train slowed to a halt and then started up again. The slowing always finished with a jerk (which tended to preserve some limited degree of wakefulness), and the starting up could also be quite sudden -- yet somehow, once you had settled in to ride, these ceased to feel like disruptions. Indeed, you in fact might not notice them at all, unless you paid attention to the train's rhythms, in which case they became punctuations to them, predictable and almost looked forward to, like a deep bass drum beat that came regularly, but not frequently, in a piece of music.

Rhythms: timescale superimposed upon timescale, steps enabling the mind to climb or descend through longer or shorter intervals more easily than its normal habit: a springboard to a more fluid perspective on life. Trains, or music, it was the same, Mr. Wen realized.

He looked up and saw a man with a guitar case slung over his back get on. A street performer, or simply someone coming back from a practice session? Some musicians would actually play on the subway trains, which seemed like hard work. Not only were you battling crowds (the more people the greater the chances for profit, of course), but you were doubtless hard pressed simply to stay erect and balanced in the swaying, jumping car, all the while concentrating on your music. On top of that, you were fighting the rhythm of the train, for -- unless maybe if you were playing harmonica -- you weren't playing with the train, you were playing against it. That was the real reason, not the noise, that these performers never sounded that good.

Mr. Wen remembered a few months ago a pair of guitarists he'd seen actually playing on the train. They had gotten onto the subway car together, each carrying an electric guitar, and one of them had a microphone strapped around his head, looking for all the world like one of those telephone operators on TV who are "standing by" to take your order for a set of knives, a music compilation, or a new tool set -- plus free gifts -- all for $19.95. But this man used his headset to sing, he carried some kind of amplifier in his backpack to broadcast his voice. Both his and his partner's guitar cords were strung into it as well, so that they were like a little amplified mini-band.

The man with the mike played rhythm while he sang; the other played solo melodies, during the highlights of which there was no singing. When they walked down the train to collect their receipts, the one had to follow very closely behind the other, for the cord between them only stretched just a few feet. Seeing them bound together thus, each taking care for the other not to move too quickly or stray too far behind, was a vision of true brotherhood, of two who had chosen to bind their fates together, present a common front to the world, each to make up for the other's shortcomings.

Mr. Wen's hand strayed to his pocket. He had had a session at the studio in the morning, and been paid on the spot. The money was good -- more than he'd earn in weeks of playing in the station. Still, rather than going home he had gone straight back to Canal Street station right after finishing up, and played there for four hours. Something about the studio sessions wasn't satisfying. For aside from the recording engineers and directors, who didn't really count, he never saw the people he played for. He had to admit that we wasn't sure what they really thought in any case, since these listeners would be seeing pictures of products, glowing far beyond their true importance, or of beautiful personages extolling services you didn't really need. He didn't much like the idea of his music being associated with these kinds of things. Either the people would learn to like the silly products, or they'd learn to hate the music.

His wife had said, "Everyone has to compromise themselves sooner or later. You have to eat after all!" But though he could see this was true, it didn't make him any happier about it.

April 29th

Mrs. Wen stepped out of her door and realized it was raining. But very lightly, so much so that she probably wouldn't need her umbrella. It was one of those times when everything was all misty, and the fog in the air seemed to absorb sounds as well as light, so that everything seemed subdued, and the world a delicate place. She liked these times, especially when she could walk in the park and see the half-shaped forms of trees emerging as she approached them, and feel the pressure of her footsteps absorbed by the still air around her. This was the kind of walk that could inspire her to do a real painting.

She would go for a meandering stroll, then return home before that magic had had a chance to fade and brew up a nice pot of tea. Maybe some music as well. What was that tape that Mr. Wen had brought home last week? She remembered hearing snatches of it while she drowsed in and out of sleep. Mr. Wen had come home late, after she had gone to bed, and must have been excited to listen to it since he had put it on right away. Not loudly of course, but still between that and the sounds of him puttering around as he fixed himself a late meal she had been roused enough to hear the music, and be caught up by it.

She wasn't sure if it would hold the same power over her awake as in that half-dazed state, but she would find out soon.

For now she headed up the street, towards the park. It was the middle of the afternoon, which was sometimes paradoxically the calmest time on the street, with most of the residents away at work. The drizzle must have served as a deterrent to even those who remained, for it was almost deserted.

"Work!" she thought. Neither her nor her husband seemed to have very much of it at the moment. And rent was so expensive here. It wasn't like they lived in the poshest part of the city, and still it was ridiculous. She wondered when it would be time to start talking about going back to China. Mr. Wen would never have it, he would hold out in his unreasonable optimism until it was almost too late, until they were thrown out of their apartment for not paying the rent and no longer had the money for airfare back home.

Ah, it was too pleasant out to be distracted for long by such worries. The park opened up to her, and she stepped on to its pathways glowing almost preternaturally in the light filtered by cloud and water. Trees' leaves formed by soft, rotating brush strokes stood out in exaggerated three dimensions from white, depth-granting mist.

May 15th

There was an extra bounce to Mr. Wen's step as he walked along the street towards his home. It was 7pm, dusk was just starting to fall, and gentle breezes carrying warmth rather than chill jostled the newly formed half-leaves of trees, blowing spring petals along the sidewalk. He could see the intimations of summer in the aspects of people he passed by. Here two women strolled at a careless pace, giggling softly every so often amidst their conversation; there a young man and his wife sat on the steps in front of their building drinking wine; a child ran by, chasing a dog dragging his leash behind him. It was all good.

Sheng Lee had called him late the night before. As he had promised, Mr. Ho, the venerable gentleman from Hong Kong who had played the Y'ang Ch'in in the Downtown People's Orchestra for 20 years now was stepping down next month. Next season, the position would be his -- providing he passed muster at the audition. Mr. Wen had no worries about this; after all, he had played three seasons with the Shandong Provincial Orchestra back in China, and he felt like his playing had actually improved working here in the subways. He'd had to have a lot more pieces ready at any given time, and had to know them a lot better so he could do everything "solo", than he'd ever had playing for the orchestra.

Mr. Wen opened the door to his building, noticing the slightly musty odor of the hallways as he entered. It wasn't so bad, he thought, but now when the air outside carried the sweet smell of fresh flowers and breathing earth it was a shame to be anywhere but outside. He would open all of the windows in the apartment, if his wife hadn't already.

"Hello wife," he called out simply on opening his apartment door. The Chinese word he used carried the idea of love as well as the familial relationship. It was warm, and odors of cooking wafted out of the back of the apartment. He couldn't tell whether the windows were open or not. His wife came to the door.

"Hello, husband." Mr. Wen thought he had a twinkle in his eye, but his wife acted nonchalant, as if nothing were unusual. He decided he couldn't wait to tell her the good news anyway. But first he went into the back of the apartment, noted that the windows were open, and plopped down on the couch.

"I have some good news --" Mr. Wen began.

"What?" said Mrs. Wen breathlessly, "You got a recording contract?"


"You're doing music for another commercial?"

"No, but anyway I just got done with one today you know."

"Someone gave you a huge tip?"


"You found a $20 bill in the subway?!"


"What? I give up!"

"Well..." Mr. Wen began, wanting to savor the moment.

"What?! Say it!"

"Well, I heard from Mr. Lee. It seems that there's a position opening up in the Downtown Orchestra, and, as promised, he's gotten me an audition. I think I've got a really good chance."

"A good chance?" Mrs. Wen sounded dubious.

"Well, come on," Mr. Wen protested, "Mr. Lee is pretty sure I'll get it. You agreed it's pretty likely.. I think I'll get it." Mr. Wen said this last confidently and conclusively, as if there were nothing more to be said about it.

"Well, we'll see, we'll see," said Mrs. Wen. Mr. Wen had to admit that nothing was ever certain until it actually happened. He got up and opened one window that was still closed, paused to notice the sweet sound of chirping birds wafting in from the gardens outside, and got himself a beer from the refrigerator.

He leaned back on the couch and relaxed. For now there seemed reasonable cause to do so. He would miss playing in the subway stations, he decided. Maybe he would still do it. Maybe he would even play in Times Square.