Wednesday, August 1, 2007


Serendipity is the effect by which one accidentally discovers something fortunate, especially while looking for something else entirely.

Maybe I'm stretching the definition of this word here but I want to tell you about a person I discovered in a serendipitous way. On my post about the busker at Granville Island, I received an anonymous comment from a busker in NYC who left her URL which of course, being the curious person that I am, I followed.

There I found the blog (and later her website) of Natalia Paruz, commonly known as Saw Lady, musician extraordinaire, who regularly busks in New York City. She performs on her musical saw as part of the MUNY (Music under New York) program run by the MTA Arts for Transit program.

James Higham commented on my busker post: "There's a lot of talent at rail stations behind the hat and the case."

Nothing could be truer than that statement as applied to Saw Lady. Not only has she busked all over the world in New York, Paris, Prague, Rome, Florence and Tel Aviv, she has performed with leading symphony orchestras, appeared on TV, been featured in movies and on radio and made recordings with major recording studios.

I have spent an enjoyable amount of time exploring Natalia's blog and her website. On her blog she tells stories of her life as a busker on the streets of New York and the people she meets there which have intrigued me so much that I have added her blog to my Bloglines feed. She also talks about busking in general. Here is part of what she says on the subject:

A lot of people feel sorry for buskers, thinking we perform on the street because we can't get gigs elsewhere, but they've got it all wrong. We love the street. I have played with orchestras in big concert halls such as Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall. But the subway is my preferred venue.
I am part of an explosion in street performers around the world. Competition for a piece of sidewalk is greater than it has ever been. And performers are becoming increasingly sophisticated. So many buskers have a cell phone, a digital organizer, a web site and a travel agent.

One of the things that delights Saw Lady is the vast array of non monetary offerings which are cast into her donations box, currently a gold painted plastic bucket with fake diamonds glued to it. She has a special list of these items which have included roses, a Teddy bear, a new Seiko watch and also a new Swiss army watch, packages of cat food, an origami swan. But one of her most treasured items was a poem written on gold and orange paper which is reproduced below.

Amazing How/Pat Christiano

Amazing how at noon
you're there
among a hundred
bikes and cars and buses,
tractors, trucks and taxis
and a lone arthritic horse,
among children, men and women,
the hundred million
who must live
in this immediate city.
Amazing how at noon,
in the midst of all this traffic,
human and inhuman,
suddenly there is nothing
and no one but you.

© 2000, Pat Christian

I have given you but a taste of this fascinating young woman and I urge you to explore her blog and website for yourselves. I found that I spent an inordinate amount of time there and have returned again and again with much enjoyment. In fact, thanks to Natalia, I have learned more about the talented group of buskers who add so much to life in the wonderful city of New York.

The photo of Natalia is from her blog and was taken by Cisco Gamez.


Lee said...

Very interesting post, jmb and I most definitely will visit Natalie's blog.

I envy those who have the courage, confidence and talent to perform...whether it be on a stage of some description or on a "busking" stage. Good on her...that to be is a real free spirit. :)

Cathy said...

Wow, Isn't that something? We never know who may turn up on our blog thus giving us a wonderful experience.

I am going to go visit at her blog. I have seen street performer's many time's while visiting Chicago. it is the best part of going to Chicago.

Elsie said...

jmb, i love this post! the tiny town that i went to college in is filled with artists like this and strangely has the culture to actually appreciate them. this makes me even more inspired to go to la with practically nothing. my mom is constantly worried about my too-trusting attitude and she's probably right because one of my favorite thing to do is meet people of all races and classes and backgrounds on the streets anywhere and listen to their stories. i can't imagine how many this woman must've heard by now! awesome!

Matt said...

Wow that is awesome.

I see her all the time when I ride the subway, but never figured this.

Thanks so much for the link!

Matt said...

Yes it did come up via Stumble.

If I see her I will definitely say hi!

Eurodog said...

Very interesting post, jmb.
I, too, must visit Natalie's site.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

What a find and what a glimpse into a world I've never thought much about, really. I will definitely visit Natalia's blog too. Thank you, jmb.

lady macleod said...

How fabulous. People are fascinating aren't they? I am always amazed. Thank you for sharing, after I catch up (sigh) I am going over to visit.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tip.

Janice Thomson said...

You were so right Jmb. I too spent much time on both Natalia's blog and website. I had never heard that instrument before. She plays beautifully and with much feeling. I love her attitude of bringing music to the streets where it can be enjoyed by all.

MedStudentWife said...

As I read blogs - the ever expanding reading of the blog world - its amazing of how little we know of what people do or what they are about.

I am going to check out her blog.. its one of those who would have thunk"

jmb said...

Hi Lee,
It seems very brave to me too, although I couldn't possible do anything to entertain anyone like that.

Hi Cathy,
I was delighted with where I went from her comment. I don't know how she found me but it was a lucky event for me.

Hi Elsie
I'm glad you enjoyed the post. Good luck with your move to LA, is it soon? I'm sure it will all work out.

Hi Matt,
Who came to this post via Stumble and actually sees Saw Lady all the time in NYC. Glad you know who she really is now.

Hi Eurodog,
I think you will enjoy her site and her blog. Is this a common practice in Belgium?

True serendipity! I guess because I see the buskers at Granville Island I wanted to find out more about Natalia and what a delight it was.

Hi Lady Mac,
Life is very hectic for you there but I think you would enjoy her site if you get time to drop by.

Hi Steve G,
Back from your boyhood again? I hope you will find her life interesting as I did.

Exploring the blogosphere certainly opens up the whole world to us and we see how different people live in the different parts.

Regards to you all and thanks for dropping by

jmb said...

I see I passed you by. I'm glad you are posting again to brighten our days.
I'm glad you thought the blog and website as interesting as I did. I'll be visiting her again and I did sub with bloglines so I won't miss anything.

Voyager said...

Thanks for this introduction to to a facsinating person.
BTW, Your grand daughter is gorgeous!

jmb said...

Hi Voyager,
I'll take credit for the introduction but not the gorgeousness of the granddaughter, although I do agree with you.

Lord Trafalgar Rock Pigeon said...

It's not for want of trying. this is my 15th attempt to leave a comment here since the post went up. don't know why it doesn't "take".

Anyway, it's a fasinating filed, buskers and that you had contact with one is more than interesting. A Sherlock Holmes story is about a professional busker.

I'd do it except that I have no musical talent. And you, JMB?

jmb said...

Sorry my Lord, I have no idea what the commenting problem is, you mentioned it before. I lost a long comment on the Political Umpire today so gave up too.
Do you think busking would include reading poetry or novels aloud? Otherwise no musical talent at all at this end.

Josie said...

JMB, I'm catching up on my blogs today. I saw the wonderful violinist at Granville Island the other day, and the munchkins put some toonies into his violin case. We listened to him for a long time. I'm going to check out Natalia's blog now. Isn't serendipity wonderful? In fact, isn't the Internet wonderful. We are all connected. It takes the 'six degrees of separation' theory to new heights.


Crushed by Ingsoc said...

Believe it, I was asked recently by someone what my favourite word was.
This happens to be it.

Comes from a novel by Horace Walpole about a Sinhalese Prince.

jmb said...

Hi Josie,
I'm glad you are supporting the buskers too. I sent the violinist the photo and he was very pleased. Said he could lose a few kg.
Natalia's story is great and her blog is interesting.
Have a great weekend with your company Josie.

jmb said...

Hi Crushed,
It is indeed a delightful word, it roll off the tongue so beautifully.

Thanks for the derivation info.

I like the charming film called Serendipity, with John Cusack, too.

Eurodog said...

you asked me if this is a common practice in Belgium.
Busking not so much. Busking is associated with begging. We have a lot of East Europeans who since becoming EU citizens come to Belgium in the hope to find work but things do not always work out the way they thought it would. But I must look into it a bit more in detail.
Playing the saw? I do not know. I will look into it.
I will report back.