Last month, I had the privilege and pleasure of joining almost two-thousand of my closest writing friends in Manhattan for the Romance Writers of America annual conference. My personal goals were to learn more about the state of the publishing industry, strengthen my craft and productivity, and make real connections with other writers (because this lifestyle, after all, is quite a solitary one). But besides these professional goals I had a personal goal: I wanted to find my way through the New York subway system to a specific street performer, the Saw Lady.
Thanks to the magic of twitter, Natalia Paruz herself let me know where and when she performs (up to three hours a day, several days a week). The moment I stepped off the Q line into the 72nd Street station, I heard the eerie wailing of the instrument she has taught herself and mastered: the musical saw. Some women walking beside me noticed the music, too. “Is that someone singing?” “It’s weird—why aren’t there any words?”
I followed the sound to Natalia herself, who was very generous with her time. She told me a bit of her life story—how she’d come to New York to dance, but a car accident cut her first dreams short. While she was in Europe afterwards, she saw a street performer playing his saw, and it captivated her. She asked him to teach her, but he refused, telling her to pick up a saw and do what he was doing. With a newfound dream and determination, she did.
It’s not easy making a living as a musician on the streets of New York. While playing in Times Square, Natalia was ticketed because her saw was considered a weapon. So she had the teeth removed. She also customized the saw with a specific handgrip and knee grip because playing for hours straight requires endurance and can mess with your musculature and posture. Despite the occasional setback, the Saw Lady has performed with international orchestras, on most major television networks, in film, and has even received the Medal of Honor in Paris, France.
After several minutes of letting me pick her brain, the Saw Lady gifted me with a song—a beautiful tango from the 1940s that she has rediscovered. And she gave me permission to share it with you.
Enjoy her magic!