Rock Sirloin, December 17, 2011

The Town Hall

New York, NY


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Rock Sirloin

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GK: Christmas in New York, (LIGHT TRAFFIC, SANTA BELLRINGER HO HO HO), people walking around looking at other people, looking at a fashion model (HIGH HEEL WALKS) as she walks by, looking at a dogwalker with eight dogs on a leash (SFX), and a horse and carriage go by (SFX), past four or five guys drumming on the overturned paint buckets (SFX); and the saxophonist lurking in a doorway (SFX)... and there's the Peruvian panflute band (SFX). And down in the subway (TRAIN RUSHES PAST) there's a violinist (AS PLAYS VIOLIN, DARK VERSION OF JOY TO THE WORLD). He's standing next to a trash barrel, his back to a wall, his violin case is open, a few dollars in it, some change, and he's selling CDs. His name is Rock Sirloin. You look sort of like Itzhak Perlman.

IP: People tell me that. He's a lot better violinist than I am though. And he plays longer stuff. I just play in between trains. At three in the morning, it's a long time between trains and I play the Dvorak concerto but who's around to listen to it? Nobody. So he's got the big career and I play for dimes and quarters. But hey, who said life was supposed to be easy? Perlman's got the limousines and the recording contracts and I got a spot on the downtown 42nd Street platform of the B and D line ---- to each, his own.

GK: Is that "Joy To The World" you're playing, Mr. Sirloin?

IP: You don't know "Joy To The World"? Where you from? Brazil? Of course it's "Joy To The World". Give me a break. It's Christmas. Give the people what they want. "Havah Nagilah," "Danny Boy," "La Bamba," I just go with the flow. You know? If I were a Perlman, I could play whatever I want ---- give em Schoenberg, Alban Berg, Krzysztof Penderecki, and make em like it, but I'm a Sirloin, not a Perlman, so I play "Joy To The World"------

GK: It just sounds sort of forlorn for a song about joy.

IP: So maybe I have mixed feelings about Christmas. Is that a crime? (TRAIN STARTS TO COME IN) So maybe life isn't all one thing or another, maybe life is made up of a lot of contradictions. (TRAIN LOUD, LONG BRAKE SQUEAL. BING BONG DOORS OPEN. VIOLIN STOPS. FN INCOMPREHENSIBLE ANNOUNCEMENT)

GK: Sorry, I didn't hear what you said.

IP: Hey, welcome to the club. So----- what do you want to hear?

GK: How about Paganini?

IP: EHHHHH. Eeny meeny Paganini wears a little pink bikini. You want Paganini, talk to Perlman. How about "O Come All Ye Faithful"?

SS (OFF): HELP! HELP! SOMEONE STOLE MY SHOES!!!! HELP!!!

IP: Excuse me. (FOOTSTEPS)

GK: And he stripped off his jacket and pants and he was wearing blue tights and a red cape and on his shirt, the letters I.P. (RUNNING FOOTSTEPS) And he dashed down the platform and collared the guy who stole the lady's shoes (KA-POW, KA-POW, KA-POW) (FN: Okay, okay, okay. I give up.) and he handed the guy over to the police (TR IRISH: God bless you, Mr. Sirloin.) and gave the lady back her shoes (SS: Oh wow. Rock Sirloin. My hero.) and (FOOTSTEPS) came back and picked up the violin and started playing. (AS VIOLIN, "O COME ALL YE FAITHFUL"). Nice work, Mr. Sirloin.

IP: Now you can see why my playing is a little rough. I've got to run around and punch people and it's hard on the hands.

GK: So what does the I.P. stand for? On your shirt?

IP: It stands for "Impressive Person"-----

GK: Oh. Okay.

IP: It was a gift from a woman who I rescued on the subway ---- she had an ex-boyfriend she needed to get rid of and I got rid of him for her.

GK: So you do good deeds?

IP: Well, if your violin playing is not that impressive, you've got to do something. If you see something, do something. That's what I say. You can't go along passively accepting (TRAIN ARRIVES, BRAKES SQUEAL) the world as it is, you've got to try to change things. (P.A.: FN UNINTELLIGIBLE ANNOUNCER GARBLE AND FEEDBACK)

GK: Sorry, I didn't hear what you were saying.

IP: Doesn't matter. I'm just telling you what you already know. (BAGPIPES START) Hey! Who invited you?? This is my platform, ya big windbag! No one wants to hear it! Take it over to Brooklyn! (DEFLATING BAGPIPES)

GK: It's a rough world down here in the subway.

IP: You've got to stand your ground, otherwise people walk all over you. (STEEL DRUMS PLAY "SILENT NIGHT") Hey----- silence. Okay? Take it somewhere else.

GK: So what do you do for Christmas?

IP: You're looking at it. Play music and try to be helpful. That's about it-----

TR: HELP! HELP! SOMEBODY STOLE MY JOKE!!!!

IP: What's the joke????

TR: WHY ARE VIOLINS SMALLER THAN VIOLAS?

IP: THEY'RE NOT. THEY JUST LOOK SMALLER BECAUSE VIOLINISTS HAVE BIG HEADS.

GK: You ever think about playing in an orchestra or something, Mr. Sirloin?

IP: I tell you----- I am a fantastic violinist if nobody is around to hear me and in the middle of the night, here on the platform, I can do the Mendelssohn, the Brahms, the Wienawski ----- perfecto!!!! If somebody's listening, I make mistakes. That's just how it is. So----- I have to accept that. I'm a Sirloin, not a Perlman.

(IP SINGS):
If I were a Perlman,
dibby dibby dibby dibby dum.
All day long I'd biddy biddy bum.
I would play my violin.
I wouldn't have to work hard.
deedle deedle, deedle deedle dum.
If I were a biddy biddy Itzhak
Idle-diddle-daidle-daidle Perlman.

GK: And then a train pulled into the station that looked different from other trains. (TRAIN ARRIVES, BING BONG) It was packed with smiley people wearing colorful parkas.

TR (MIDWESTERN, ON PA): Express train, next stop, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Eau Claire, St. Paul, Fargo, and Bismarck.

IP: There's your train.

GK: How'd you know I live in the Midwest?

IP: It's pretty obvious. Great place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there.

GK: You could probably get a job in an orchestra there----- in Anoka----- the Anoka Philharmonic. You could be the concertmaster.

IP: Ehhhh. Anoka and a mocha makes a polka. I'm a New Yorker. We don't believe in moving. It's all here. Manhattan. Who needs anything more?

GK: Okay. Good luck to you, Mr. Sirloin. Merry Christmas to you.

(AS PLAYS "CHESTNUTS")

IP: It is what it is. Just remember---- life is a struggle. Nothing comes easy for long. Perlman's riding high now but just you wait------ next time you hear him, he'll be playing in a klezmer band!!! (BING BONG, DOORS CLOSE)

GK: And so I took the train back to St. Paul. (TRAIN WHISTLE) I was so fascinated by Rock Sirloin I forgot to put money in his violin case and I didn't buy a CD. If you see him in a subway station, put in a dollar for me.

(BAND PLAYOFF)

Old Sweet Songs: A Prairie Home Companion 1974-1976

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