July 15th, 2006


the loneliest man in san francisco

On my way back from seeing Cars, at about ten-thirty at night, I saw a tired-looking Taiwanese man standing alone on a street corner by Union Square, playing a saxophone. There was no cup or hat by his feet--he was not a busker. He was playing a jazz rendition of 望春風 ("Forgetting the Evening Wind"), a Taiwanese folk song about being alone. This was the only song he played, and he played it over and over, with such passionate and intense ineptitude that I could not hum along, try as I might. Most passersby ignored him or covered their ears, but a young Taiwanese woman in a red jacket and a shopping bag in each hand came by and stood next to him quietly, head bowed, not making eye contact. When he had finished one round of the song, the woman leaned over and gave him a light peck on the cheek. The last note trailed off into silence and the man stood there, dumbfounded, as the woman walked away.

Seconds later, he had lifted the sax to his lips, and was playing the same song.