Music in the Air

I am not a city kid. For all of my 50 years, save one month, I have lived in either the suburbs, the exurbs or the nothing resembling an urb. And that one month was merely spent crashing on college buddy Brian McManus’s couch in an apartment complex near the intersections of 65 and 465 on Indy’s south side, not exactly a gritty urban jungle.

And for the most part, I don’t regret having lived a life outside the urban centers. I like green grass and trees and places to roam, both when I was young lad myself and as a location to watch the kids grow.

But one of the things I’ve always envied about city life was the presence of street performers. When I visited New York growing up or my more frequent jaunts to Chicago now, I’ve always enjoyed and appreciated these pop-up public performances. Whether it was a ratty old guitar player, a well-dressed gent playing classical music on a violin or just some kids banging out staccato rhythms on makeshift drums, I love that major city streets often come with a soundtrack. Which is why I was so genuinely excited a few months back.

Cormac and I were making an early evening run to Town and Country for some groceries. When I stepped outside my car, I heard some sweet jazz music wafting through the misty air. I looked around until I found the source of that sound, a single man playing his saxophone, accompanied by a wireless speaker at his feet.

Huh? What the hell? When did we get a street musician?

I walked over to the man, listened for a while then threw a few bucks in his jar. A few weeks later, on a rush job trip to the same supermarket, I saw him again, standing on the small sidewalk equidistant between the pet and pool stores and the brightly lit Verizon building and neighboring Dunkin Donuts across the road. Sadly, I didn’t have time to stop.

Since then, I’ve been hoping to see him again. Finally, today, it happened. He was back in his now-familiar locale. I grabbed my phone to shoot some video. I also got his number, to find out a little more about this welcome addition to the Portage public sphere when I wasn’t on his time.

His professional name is Carmello Saxxx. He’s played his sax around the country for nearly 20 years, but who calls the Miller section of Gary home. He still plays gigs at nights at various local clubs, and sets up shop around Northwest Indiana on other days like he did here. I welcome all Portage residents to keep an ear out for him when they visit the Town and Country lot, if they haven’t already.

During the time I was watching and listening Tuesday, I saw two cars stop in front of him, the drivers reaching out to pass him a few bucks for his efforts. That’s been consistent with his treatment in our city, he says. “The support I’ve received and the response has been really encouraging,” he told me of his experiences playing here. I hope it continues, to keep him coming back.

Portage has grown tremendously since our family relocated here a dozen years ago. We’ve got the Region’s best movie theater, an outstanding park on the lake shore where a steel mill once stood, some great trails (that, I hope, will eventually connect us to the park). The new fire station is a gem, the police station has made good use of the mostly empty university building and Founders Square has shaped up nicely. Hell, we’re now creating our very own downtown out of thin air.

But for my money, few things say, “Hey this is a cool place to live,” better than being able to hear great music where car horns and associated clatter were all that previously snapped the silence. Bless you Carmello.

Video here.

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