NEW YORK CITY -- Colin Huggins was a little groggy but upbeat. The 34-year-old left his home in Atlanta to be an accompanist for ballet dancers. Like many here, he's learned to adapt. Every weekend, he somehow pushes his Yamaha grand piano on rollers to Washington Square Park. He brings along three buckets -- two for spare change and dollar bills. He flips over the third one, places a cushion on it and sits down on the makeshift piano bench and bangs out classic music and little jazz.
"Usually I'm surly and in a bad mood after pushing the piano here and I don't talk," he said during a break on a sun-kissed Sunday morning in lower Mahattan. "This morning, I paid a friend 50 bucks to use his truck. That's why I'm still just waking up, but cheery."
Selling homemade CDs for $10 (colinhuggins.com), Huggins makes enough on weekend gigs in the park to live in this wacky, eclectic city. "If I need money, I push the piano out on weekdays." No more ballet.
Other highlights on a free-plane-ticket, tagging-along-with-spouse-who's-in--a-meeting weekend:
*The pizza slices at Libretto's on 36th and 3rd (546 3rd Av.) have a thin, wickedly good crust. Three slices (pepperoni, spinach and vegie) and a couple beers cost a reasonable $23.
*To compare, two Diet Cokes and some Mentos at intermission at the Booth Theatre cost the same. But the play, "Other Desert Cities," was taut, tightly written and phenomally acted. Stockard Channing and Stacy Keach play a Reaganesque couple in Palm Springs with a Sara Jane Olson secret that unfolds with intensity and humor.
*Dinner at The Redhead NYC (349 E. 13th Street), a tip from never-fail colleague Mark Brunswick, featured about six tables in the East Village serving up New Orlean-style southern cooking with fried chicken that melted on the tongue, shrimp and sausage, asparagus soup and smooth tasting Hemingways to get things started (golden rum, pineapple juice and lime juice).
*With aforementioned spouse in meetings, I read the paper in the park with deft Huggins on piano. Someone pointed out a red-tailed hawk was nesting with a couple of chicks, prompting nature photographers with mega-lenses pointing up into the trees. Then it was down into the subway, onto the D train and out to the Bronx to watch the Yankees strand umpteen baserunners but easily knocked off Detroit anyway with CC Sabathia on the hill.