Text by Ancelmo James
On the night of January 12th, 2014 I walked down the stairs to the L train stop in Union Square with a friend having just finished work. As I came to the bottom of the steps I heard the warbly and somewhat eerie sound of someone playing the harmonica. I soon saw a young man wearing a army green jumpsuit and a pink ski mask, who was in fact the one playing the harp, along with an arsenal of strange paraphernalia including an old dirty doll, a various assortment of what I believed to be goat and/or sheep hoof/nails tied to strings – of a percussive nature/function, a small chalk board asking – “what is object oriented ontology”, some other small trinkets, and an old McDonald’s french fry box.
At first glance upon arriving with only 1 minute to wait for the next Brooklyn bound L – according to the digital clock above, I thought to myself, “this dude is nuts?!” and completely disregarded him. I continued my conversation with my friend. A minute later the train did, in fact, not arrive, and the following train would be a 25 minute wait. over the next several minutes my interest in the young man and his act grew, along with the rest of the people in the vicinity of his set up and ear shot of his harp. The man was on kneeling on the ground breathing through his harmonica, slowly making long, slow gestures with his arms, in an almost ceremonial, spell like fashion. At one point he grabbed the doll and waved it around for a moment. As he breathed harder into the harp, a crescendo of tension and sound rolled through the air and he ripped the doll’s head off. He then proceeded to take numerous mammal nails and teeth and shook them in his hands before tossing them out across the floor like some kind of pagan craps dealer.
The minutes just before the train came almost everybody had encircled the street artist with almost undivided attention. this shit was straight up weird. My most enjoyable part of the display came moments before the train arrived. He pulled the french fry box out of his satchel, held it high above his head as if he were making a sacrifice to the corporate gods and in an instant, ejected it’s contents into the crowd…. old, crusty, bottom of the pile style french fries flew over the heads of the people directly in front of the man. The people that got hit were a little displeased, but really they were just old fries. Within 15 minutes I went from total disregard for a very common occurrence in the city, to total fascination and enjoyment.