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.

Not Your Typical New Orleans Photo

One of the elements that draws me to my kind of work (hospice) or to a story or in this case a photo, is its mixture of loss and resilience. Friend and photographer Jay Martin was in New Orleans during the Sugar Bowl and took this shot of a  person selling beads.   I invite my site visitors to let the photo speak for itself to you of obstacles versus moving along, of drabness versus color, of frivolity versus labor, of being in the center versus going unnoticed. Do you wonder along with me how he navigated with his arms extended, and whether  stretching them out like that was onerous?

Here is what Mr. Martin had to say: “I took the picture of the man selling beads from his wheelchair during Sugar Bowl festivities in the French Quarter, early afternoon, Friday, 29 Dec. ’17. A small parade of floats, marching bands, and anyone who wanted to be in the parade wound its way through the quarter. I could hear the bands playing as I spotted the man, shouting to prospective buyers– ‘Beads! Beads!’–on Bourbon.”


Jay Martin is a technical and science writer who lives with his wife and cat in San Francisco. He has interacted with photography for over 30 years, taking pictures of people and animals. He thinks he can understand the world a little better than he did the day before by daily observation through the lens.