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This is Joseph


Joseph was sitting on a bench in Verdi Square Park, listening to a street musician playing an electric guitar.  I sat down next to him and asked if I could talk to him for a while.  I explained about my blog-Getting Old and Getting out in New York City and he responded yes. 

Joseph is 80 years old and has been retired for 10 years.  He had been a musician, playing bass in either a jazz trio or a 7-piece jazz band.  He never played in anything larger than a seven-piece jazz band.  He was born and raised in the Bronx as an only child.  He never liked living in the Bronx and when he was 17, he left his parent's home and moved to 125th Street in Harlem.  He trained at the Manhattan School of Music and for most of his professional life, he played in small clubs in and around Manhattan, including Birdland and the Blue Note Jazz Club.


Joseph loves music and as an adolescent, got a tattoo that says "Primo" which is a musical notation.  Earning a living as a musician was difficult.  When he got married, his wife was concerned about his ability to support a family.  Although he managed to support his wife and daughter, his income was not steady.  Working in clubs, of course, entailed working late nights and his wife never was able to accept this lifestyle.  They divorced about 20 years ago.  His daughter lives in Boston Mass. with her husband and two daughters.  His daughter is a professional photographer.  He does not see them often, only two or three times a year.

Joseph has been retired for 10 years and now lives on the Upper West Side by himself.  He loves playing his bass and does so for several hours a day.  When he is not playing his own music, he will get out and find a street musician that he likes and he listens for an hour or so.


There are times that Joseph becomes disoriented and can get lost before finding his way home.   He has no social life at all.  He did have many friends but has outlived them and now is very lonely. He goes to the movies, but only in winter as he loves getting out in the warm weather.  He would like to hear live music but most of the venues that he would like to attend are too expensive for him.

Joseph said that he would not want to live any place other than New York City.  He loves the liveliness of the city and nothing else would feel like home to him.  Although it is very expensive, he has been able to get by on a small pension and Social Security.  He said as long as he is able, he will continue to get out every day to absorb the sights and sounds of music that never gets old for him.

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