An Outdoor Sage

My guest post author this time is my very own husband, Steven Jon Kaplan, a pianist and fan of nostalgic melodies. While reminiscing about a mysterious guitarist in New Orleans, Steve shows us how music can be a salve in times of loss:


During an evening stroll by the northern end of Jackson Square in New Orleans, I was enchanted by an old man with a long scraggly blond beard playing the guitar. His appearance belied his ability, and on second thought enhanced it, as it created the sensation of a timeless miracle. The tunes were selected to create a mood of melancholy reflection that captured each one of the thirty or forty listeners so completely that each believed only oneself and the old man existed. Proceeding from a bittersweet ballad to a lament of love lost, many in the audience threw dollar bills and sat on the nearby benches to enjoy the concert. As the Mississippi River swallowed up the last rays of sun, the remaining seating spaces became filled, with the admirers forming ever-widening rings of devotion.

Finally, when the crowd had reached an astounding size, the venerable guitarist, who I later discovered was “Grandpa Elliott” (Elliott Small), played “Fire and Rain” by James Taylor. He paused just long enough to acknowledge the mounting bills and coins in his guitar case before continuing on with the next sad reminiscence. If you spent a long enough time with Grandpa, you would hear all of the songs about the endearing folly of the human condition written from the mid-sixties to mid-seventies including: “Yesterday”, “You’ve Got a Friend”, “Cat in the Cradle”, “The Long and Winding Road”, ”So Far Away”, “When I Die”, and “American Pie.”

If you should ever pass by Grandpa Elliott on Jackson Square, be transported into a world of sweet harmonies, where things don’t turn out as you planned but at least the rhymes are working and each sorrow ends with a clear ringing chord.

Raised in Baltimore, Maryland, Steven Jon Kaplan is a financial advisor with a site of his own, In the personal part of the site given in the link here, he regularly shares reminiscences like the one above.