This is not a photo of a jazz quartet.
I was sitting in Washington Square Park after work on Friday. We'd gotten out early before the Labor Day weekend. It was too lovely a day to head immediately into a hole in the ground, so I walked through the West Village to the park and sat on a bench, where a number of people were sitting listening to the four musicians above. I was thinking about how much my mom would love this, the way you can just go sit in the park in New York on a summer afternoon and hear musicians as good as anybody you might pay to see in a concert hall. I sat and listened and watched the people come and go.
A man walked through, waving his hands to the music as if he were conducting, but not looking at the musicians, just staring ahead, walking slowly, right in front of the improvised stage. I mean, it was the path; what else are you going to do? He called to mind a conversation I overheard my parents having once when we were on vacation. I have no idea why I remember this. My mom asked my dad, "Did you see that man in the yellow shirt?" Or something to that effect, I am mostly making these particulars up.
"Yes," my dad said.
"He reminded me of George So-and-so."
"Yeah - just kind of, in his own little world."
As I said, I made the particulars up, although not the phrase "his own little world." That was the one. As I said, I have no idea why I remember this. But on Friday there was a man walking through Washington Square Park, plainly, and happily enough, in his own little world, among us. I wondered if that'll be me someday.
That was the man sitting on the bench, on the left, the one in the hat.
After a moment - he may have turned around and headed back, the younger man, the one sitting on the right, came running up, a little awkwardly; he was wearing sandals. "Dad, Dad," he called. The man in the hat turned to him, and the younger man led him back toward the center of the park, and then to the bench. He pointed to the bench and said something, but his dad kind of started wandering off again, and the son had to chase after him again and, pointed to the bench and told him to sit there.
The son, of course, is the one on the right, with the sunglasses hanging from his collar. This is a picture of the two of them.
Finally his dad complied. He didn't seem totally happy about it, but he wasn't that perturbed either. There seemed to be some others that the son was trying to keep track of; at first I thought it was two women, one of whom you can see on the next bench, to the left of the father, but then that didn't seem to be the case.
Eventually the son sat down. They sat there and talked, and listened to the music, and enjoyed the perfect afternoon. It wasn't clear how coherent the conversation might be. It wasn't clear how much care the father might require. A lot, maybe. But every now and then you get to enjoy an afternoon in the park together.
We must love one another and die. That's pretty much all there is to it.