Sunday, February 8, 2009

Simon and Garfunkel

I don't know why MPR insists on playing Marketplace Money on Sunday night at 5 p.m., when I'm always making dinner and could go for a good show, like This American Life, or a Best of Fresh Air, or almost anything that is not delivered in a haughty and ironic tone and talking about money.

Instead I turned on my ipod, which I have hooked up to the stereo speakers, and chose Simon and Garfunkel's Bookends. I actually chose all of Simon and Garfunkel, since I have the boxed set that I copied from my father last Christmas. Bookends is first. The first song after the theme is "Save the Life of My Child," about a suicide jumper in New York City. Like all these songs, it takes me straight back to my childhood. These were among the earliest lyrics we learned as kids, puzzled over, delighted in, sang along with. My brother bought me a Collected Lyrics of Paul Simon for Christmas, a book I don't want to read but am not unhappy to have, because I honor the impulse (with my brother, it's all impulse).
Anyway, there is one significant difference between the DVD tracks in my ipod and the old record my father would play some nights while we kids did the dinner dishes. These tracks don't have a scratch. My dad's record always skipped very briefly, so I have engraved in my head (my ex-husband would say "imprinted in my DNA") this line: "Everyone agreed it-- if the boy survived." I actually caught myself closing my mouth and doing a little dip of the chin where the skip goes. Except in its place were the words clearly sung: "would be a miracle indeed." Even as a kid I knew that was how the lyric went, except for the "indeed," but now each time it's like a revelation. We adapted. Turned it almost into a dance move, a tic. By the time you could think about it you were on to the greatest lyric in the song, when Officer MacDougal arrives and says: "The force can't do a decent job, cause the kids' got no respect for the law today, and blah blah blah." Blah blah blah is a great lyric, especially in such grown up music, when you're a kid.
Of course, a song that begins with "Good God don't jump!" and ends with the boy flying away... hmmm... really? And the lovely and inscrutible refrain, "Oh my grace, I've got not hiding place" has great dramatic possibilities.
But for me it was the next song, "America," more even than "Mrs. Robinson" (although I sent my ACT and SAT scores to Berkeley solely based on having seen The Graduate and the beauty of Katherine Ross), that held me captive for my adolescence and well into adulthood. I took more than one Greyhound bus, and even kissed someone I didn't know on one of those buses after talking from 2 a.m. when I boarded in Iowa until just before dawn outside Chicago, out of pure longing for what was described in that song.

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