Jim Dwyer writes lovely human-interest stories for the NY Times. On September 5, he wrote about a guy who plays music by the Hudson River for an audience of birds, fish, and whatever friends or strangers wander by.
“On Tuesday morning, Jose Modesto Castillo, retired from a job in a plastics factory, walked just about as far west in northern Manhattan as it is possible to go, to the end of a long pier fingering into the Hudson River at Dyckman Street. A harmonica rigged to his head was just a breath away from his lips. Lashed to his hands with hair ties were 17 miniature percussion instruments made from items like a Snapple cap, the lid of a prescription bottle, a Spider-Man figurine, the shells of plastic eggs that once held toys from supermarket vending machines.
“Strike up the one-man mambo band.
“Mr. Modesto’s mouth danced across the harmonica, and his fingers made rhythm out of junk. He played and he bobbed. At the end of the nameless number, he raised his arms as if waving to the Palisades on the far shore. Suddenly, he noticed that he was being watched, and called out, ‘Hello señor,’ and burst into a laugh.
“It was the Tuesday after Labor Day, the first day after the spiritual end of summer, though not yet the true beginning of autumn. At the pier and tiny cove on Dyckman Street, calendars were beside the point. Mr. Modesto, 66, comes every day to play, even if only the birds and fish are there to hear him.”
Some artists can get joy even if no one is around. As a musician, Modesto sees potential in bottle caps and plastic eggshells the way a painter might see it in clouds or the sun on the subway stairs.
Photograph: Marcus Yam for the NY Times