The musician


HIS NAME IS Juan or Pablo or Esteban. I didn’t really ask. He is a music man.

We were sprawled and salty in beach chairs at Playa La Ropa in Zihuatanejo at midday when he stopped before us and staked his bandstand, unsolicited, into the sand. His bandstand was an old crutch, but its crutch days were over. At the top of this bandstand, the musician had secured his harmonica with plastic ties like you buy at Home Depot.

The rhythm section was connected to the side. It was corrugated metal rolled into a circle, like an extra long tin can. He strummed his own backdrop with what appeared to be an Afro comb.

He played the harmonica. Perhaps not as well as Stevie Wonder or Bob Dylan, but he played well enough. And he sang. La Bamba.

And three other tunes.

The music man wore no hat under the searing sun. He wore no shorts or tank top either. His hair was very long and slicked back, and I think it was not so much a style as it was that he preferred spending income on other things.

On finishing his concert, he walked toward us, and I noticed he was lame. One leg was bad, but not really bad. He could walk pretty well, but I doubt he would be much of a jogger. And he couldn’t flee any scene.

I handed him 20 pesos, and said, You’re a good musician. He smiled, seemed to like that, said gracias. People want to feel their work has value, no matter what it is. Perhaps for someone in his position it’s even more important that it is for you and me.