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Interview with a Shoeless Wandering Gutter Punk

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Interview with a Shoeless Wandering Gutter Punk

In Athens, Georgia I ran into a bunch of wandering hitch hikers. Some people call them crusties, Gutter punks, train jumpers, but they're all different. They were all around 20 years old, lost, wandering, not caring for consequences, and living life completely in the moment. But what made them so extraordinary was that they were traveling the world without shoes like modern day Huckleberry Finns. 

I was really curious to hear their stories so I hung around for a few days and spent a lot of time with them. Here is a short interview I did with one of them. 

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The Subway Pianist in Buenos Aires (El Pianista Del Subte)

The Subte in Buenoes Aires is one of the coolest places to explore. You pay 50 cents and you get a ride around the city and the opportunity to see hundreds of musicians and performers.

One of my experiences in the subte stands out above the others. I came across a man who was sitting on the floor playing some of the most difficult classical pieces on a basic Casio keyboard. 

There was no sustain pedal, no fancy gear, just a Casio keyboard and his 2 hands. 

He was no Lang Lang but it was still impressive to watch.  

Watch this video to meet this extraordinary man and learn how he survives playing piano in the subway of Buenos Aires. 


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The Night I Got Robbed By An Oxycontin Addict

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The Night I Got Robbed By An Oxycontin Addict

I met this man by the name of Ehron in Albuquerque. He was very outgoing, intelligent, and great to talk to. Turns out he plays drums and a few other instruments. I immediately told him that we should jam. I set up the piano and the bucket drums from the night before. [...]

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The Craziest Day I've Ever Had Playing Piano in NYC

  Yesterday was one of the most amazing days I've ever had playing piano...

September 27, 2012

I started off the day meeting up with some Film academy students at 11:30 AM. The three students were from Japan, Korea, and New Zealand, a great group of guys. One of them, named Sam, decided to use my story for their final project and he wanted to interview me on camera. He asked me questions like: What do you want for the future?,  Where will you go next?, and What would you say to someone who is just getting out of high school?

These questions really made me think about my goals and was a great reminder that I need to really think out my thoughts. What is difficult for me right now is that I am so flexible with where i can go next. There are infinite paths I could take and there is no "Right" path. I'm sort of taking it as it comes, living in the moment, and seeing what sticks first. Afterwards, they filmed me removing the piano from my van, pushing the piano with Brando on top, and setting up in Union square.

street piano traveling piano nyc piano street remarkable you it owe it to yourselfI played for about an hour in front of Staples on the western side of Union Square and met a guy from Greece who was saying how I should do a Roadtrip with an electric car. It's something I've wanted to do for a while but don't have the resources or people to do it. I hope to meet someone who knows how to build a car that can run on a renewable energy source so I dont have to depend on gas companies to spread happiness and fun throughout the world.

The film crew left at around 1:30 PM and we continued playing piano.

street piano man dog on a piano pianodog street traveling man piano nycThis is when things started to get crazy.

I was playing a fast tune when this Asian beat boxing free-styling guy named River (below) comes over and starts beat boxing. We jammed on a hip hop song and then out of nowhere comes this other guy with long hair who says, "Hey man you guys should record that. You guys sounds great." He tells us his name is Dregon and says he wants to collaborate with us.

As we talked, these 2 Hungarian girls come up to us. One of them plays piano really well and she threw down some great melodies and singing. We were all singing and jamming together on some Alicia Keys tune.

About 5 minutes later out pops this guy who I met a few months back in Union Square and he starts playing a little piano blues and singing.

Within an Instant there was this amazing exchange of cards and numbers. "We all have to meet sometime and make some music again". I got a bunch of cards and put them in my pocket.

It was a amazing to see how quickly everything escalated and how we all just clicked because we spoke the language of music. We created a small community around the piano with people that never met each other. More people gathered around us and we had a nice crowd.

I sat down at the piano and started to play some Latin salsa groove. From the audience, this black girl starts dancing in front of everyone. (Pictured below)

remarkable dancing salsa in union square street piano street traveling pianoI kid you not, this was like something out of a movie: 2 Seconds later this Puerto Rican guy comes out with attitude, grabs her arm, and they start doing some seriously sexy salsa moves.

The musicians next to me were clapping and banging on my piano, River was beat boxing, Everything was happening in the moment and it was beautiful!

It's moments like these that remind me how beautiful this world is, how grateful I am to be doing what I do. Its moments like these that make me feel more alive.

After the dance everyone clapped and parted ways. One girl in the audience brought her video camera out and she asked me some questions for her NYU project. We spoke about my project and my inspirations behind it all.

I moved the piano to the Northern side of Union Square across from the McDonald's but I decide to play in the center of union square rather than on the side. (this is usually not allowed by the Park Police)

street piano traveling piano man travel union square piano nycAt one point we had a crowd of at least 45 people standing around us in a circle. It was so exhilarating. I sometimes get a little nervous when there's that many people surrounding me.

I finished playing a song and this girl gives me her personalized book of journal entries and stories as a gift. And then another guy brings over a huge Bone for Brando. The happiness inside of me built up so much through the course of the day that without thinking I got up in front of the 45 people surrounding me and said something like this:

"Thank you all so much for listening to my music. You are all amazing people. The world is such an amazing place. One thing I have learned from traveling alone is that there are more good people in the world than bad. Before I left on my trip I was really scared because of all the negative things people told me. People spoke of how dangerous the world is and how its too dangerous to travel alone. But after traveling across America to more than 53 cities I can say that the world is not like that at all. There are truly more good people in this world. Travel the world. Meet your fellow Americans. You guys all should be talking to each other. Do something remarkable!

I think I cried a tear in front of everyone. I was shaking with nervousness. I've never done that before. Usually I just play and say thank you, but never have I gotten up and said something like that. It just sort of burst out of me. I could barely play the next 2 songs because I was so deep in thought.

playing piano in nyc union square piano street traveling piano remarkable dotan negrinAfter the audience dissipated, I packed up my stuff and rolled 4 blocks to my car. It was a long day. I was tired. I played 6 1/2 hours and met hundreds of people in 1 day. I was having trouble loading up my piano because the ramp was positioned too steep. This old homeless Chinese woman with bags of cans walks by and tries to help me. She didnt push but she made sure the piano didnt tip over. With all my strength I finally got the piano into the van and tried to give her a dollar but she wouldnt accept it. I thanked her and she went on her way.

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Before Piano Across America, I Tried 17 Other Ideas...

(The Photo above was taken in 2010 on my first solo Road trip across America. I was working as an assistant and truck driver for a Photographer. This was the first inspiration for Piano Across America.) After college (May 2008), I had so many ideas and things that I wanted to do in my life. […]

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The Woman Who Never Left Home

This story happened in 2010, before Piano Across America, on my first Solo Roadtrip to Florida from New York. I saw the sign for South of the Border while driving south on I-95 one night and decided to check it out, as everyone does once in their lives. I pulled into the Mexican restaurant parking […]

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