I was walking through Tompkins Square Park today looking for a park bench in one of the two spots I enjoy sitting and reading at. It was a beautiful sunny day, low 70's and perfect for just breathing the air, feeling the breeze and perhaps... delving into a good book by a favorite author. Having just had lunch with some friends I decided that I would indeed spend an hour sitting, reading, breathing and enjoying.
I noticed some musicians in the park and I usually avoid them like the plague infested rats I imagine come out at night and skitter through the bushes. Daytime is for squirrels... the bushy tailed rat, nighttime is for their pale tail bretheren. I digress. These musicians were different... they weren't the usual 3 guys with bongos and drums that sit and drum a tattoo into your brain all day, rather a guy with a single snare and some brushes, another guy on an amplified acoustic guitar, and a portly lady. They messed around playing some jazz that was easy to tune out for a bit and I was one of the only people in their area.
After sitting for about 10 minutes I realize I know the song they are playing now... it's Bill Withers song "Lovely Day" and the woman's voice is sublime. Powerful, earthy, jazzy, yet still with enough Motown in it to make you smile. They then play some Stevie Wonder, some Marvin Gaye... and I look up and notice more people sitting near me now. The people just 15 feet away sunning themselves in the grass start tapping their feet and nodding their heads. The punk rockers pause walking by, the hipsters pull their iPod earphones out, the mothers pushing strollers stop so they and their small children can enjoy the music. One child about 8 and his mother park their bikes near me and the child leans back against his mom and they smile and listen to the music.
The woman singing is smiling, eyes closed, swaying as she sings the songs in almost quiet but forceful voice... not belting, not trying to draw attention, just hitting everything perfect in her own breezy style. The drummer sways a bit with a silly smile on his face, keeping his own beat but it's true enough to each song that you know exactly what beat is coming next. The guitarist taps his foot and bobs his head, smiling at a stranger who stops in front of them and sings harmony with the lady for a few songs.
People suddenly start applauding after each and every song and I feel it too... they realize that not only is it a perfect day and fantastic music from skilled musicians but it's more than that. It's a perfect moment and way to celebrate the end of winter, the spring weather, and the soon to come summer. We are outside again, we are breathing the air, we are feeling the sun warm our pale gray NYC skin, we are feeling the wind take away the suns burn, and we are living and happy and alive.