In my old neighborhood on the West Side, there was a sax player; they called him Old Ben. He played with the ease of Benny Carter and the zeal of Dizzy Gillespie. I would walk past him every night on the corner of Broadway and 116th, painting a chocolate skyline from the throat of his brass. Without a hat or handkerchief to ask for money, he would play till the last cabbie’s light went dark. Like a song bird quieting an angry lion, Old Ben eased the tense city streets with his daily hymnals.
Every night, under the same building he offered up his sacrifice to the restless city. Every night, under the same window, lit throughout his venue. Neighborhood legend had it that beyond this window lied Old Ben’s sick mother. It was only when he stopped his procession that the light was turned off, and the ominous hum of silence reemerged from within the city streets.
Months went by and Ben was still pouring his soul out from beneath the single lit window on the corner of Broadway and 116th… until that one day. Echoing from every corner of the neighborhood, you could hear the solemn dirge of a sax, sullen and purposeful, it resonated from store front to alleyway. Old Ben played with the companionship of new shadow; the shine from his bright cheeks, nor the gleam of his sax were visible. Light was refocused from the above to the city streets.
On that night the light went out from atop Old Ben and the city adjusted their eyes.