I notice my name written in the center of a clock on which he's replaced the broken hands with a plastic fork and spoon.
Out of the basket comes the cello, which he cradles as if it were his child, kneeling down and placing it gently against the wall.
"I'd go to war to defend it," he says.
Next comes the violin, which goes on top of the cello, followed by several layers of blankets and then a tarp.
"Gotta protect those guys," Nathaniel says.
Now he brings out the violin he bought several years ago in Cleveland at Motter's Music House.
"I use it for my pillow," he says, placing the encased violin on the ground against the wheels of his cart.
He pulls the "Beethoven" stick out of the Ford hubcap and sets it upright against the cart.
"When the rodents come," he explains, "this guy takes care of them."
I ask if he beats the rats.
"No, you tap it on the ground, like this. It scares them away."
How about when you're sleeping? I ask.
Instead of answering, he quotes Shakespeare.
"To be or not to be; that is the question.... "
I stand back, smiling.
Nathaniel gestures theatrically with a gloved hand, his shoulders riding the rhythm of the words. He forgets not a word, and his accent is pitch-perfect. It's Richard Burton's Hamlet in an exclusive skid row performance.
" ... For in that sleep of death what dreams may come when we have shuffled off this mortal coil...."
A piercing human howl rises from somewhere unknown. Next to us, a rail-thin man scratches maniacally, as if his skin were crawling with bugs. Salvagers come jangling through the streets, plucking away bottles and cans.