Paul Simon’s Homeward Bound/Final Tour came to Oakland Friday night, May 25th. I was there, fifty plus years after my first Simon and Garfunkel concert in North Carolina. My almost 28-year-old granddaughter Teresa was with me and a little surprised when I leaned over and whispered that the first time I saw Paul Simon her father was a little boy home with a baby-sitter. I just finished the newest biography of Paul and, can I just say, it’s been an exciting fifty plus years for both of us.

Paul Simon (and Art Garfunkel) and Bob Dylan truly provide the soundtrack of my life. Oh sure, lots of other folk/protest music is in there and a pop hit now and then, but for a tug on my heart strings or a powerful jolt of memory it’s first of all Paul, with Bob for the war years.

Sitting in Oakland’s Oracle Stadium last week with Bob and Teresa…sitting there in a reverie of memory.

A week later. It’s the rarest of occurrences. A rainy day in Albuquerque…feeding my soul…along with some songs of Simon softly…creeping into my brain. The intent is to blend Paul’s poetry with snapshots from my life, the life for which he set much of the playlist, but only including songs from the Oakland concert. It doesn’t work; he wrote too many songs that speak to me, that ignite big and small memories of moments in time. So instead of order, here’s the chaos of  random favorite Simon lines jumbled in with scenery offered up in my mind’s eye.

Sail on, silver girl/Sail on by/Your time has come to shine/All your dreams are on their way/See how they shine. East Carolina University. I had a raspberry colored dress and a right-wing professor and an-almost lover named Marshall.

I’m sitting in the railway station/Got a ticket for my destination/On a tour of one-night stands/my suitcase and guitar in hand/And every stop is neatly planned for a poet and a one-man band. Always restless. Back and forth to Minnesota with my little boys and dogs and a cat in a bird cage, air force husband overseas. Paul wrote “Homeward Bound” for me, tongue in cheek, because for awhile we lived in the Philippines and I loved it and did not want to be ‘homeward bound’ ever.

The Mississippi Delta was shining/Like a National guitar/I am following the river/Down the highway/Through the cradle of the civil war/I’m going to Graceland/In Graceland, in Graceland/I’m going to Graceland. I loved the sound and rhythm before I had even been to Africa. And a best friend was from the Delta and there’s the river and there’s history. All my favorite things in one small song.

Sitting on a sofa on a Sunday afternoon/Going to the candidates’ debate/Laugh about it, shout about it/When you’ve got to choose/ Every way you look at this you lose. I was happier than I should have been, husband overseas, Vietnam war, not much money…but my kids were fine, the car ran, I had a student life and looking back it seems like Paul Simon was in “Mrs. Robinson,” not Dustin Hoffman and we watched it and played it and sang it and hummed it. Were we just ever so slightly shocked by the film or am I imagining that?

Will I wake up from these violent dreams? With my hair as white as the morning moon? I can’t remember which song these lines are from but they’re too beautiful to delete.  And besides my hair is now as white as the morning moon.

If every human on the planet/And all the buildings on it/Should disappear/Would a zebra grazing in the African Savannah/Care enough to share one zebra tear? I only really listened to “Questions for the Angels” when I started reading and studying Paul Simon’s life and songs before this concert. I couldn’t imagine why…until remembering that I had stopped listening to music and was out of this country as much as possible booking artists for Global DanceFest. I’ve missed important songs…I’ll be on YouTube catching up as soon as I finish this post….

They give us those nice bright colors/They give us the greens of summers/Makes you think all the world’s a sunny day/I got a Nikon camera/I love to take a photograph/So mama don’t take my Kodachrome away. Sing along. What’s not to love? Especially if you’re an obsessive taker-of-pictures.

Joseph’s face was black as night/The pale yellow moon shone in his eyes/His path was marked/By the stars in the Southern Hemisphere/And he walked his days/Under African skies…This is the story of how we begin to remember/This is the powerful pulsing of love in the vein/After the dream of falling and calling your name out/These are the roots of rhythm/And the roots of rhythm remain. One of the best of the best. From his time in South Africa. It’s a poem and a dance, an African story. I was in love with Africa before my first visit.

I met my old lover/On the street last night/[He] seemed so glad to see me/I just smiled/And we talked about some old times/And we drank ourselves some beers/Still crazy after all these years/Oh Still crazy after all these years. Who doesn’t want to meet the best of the old lovers…on a street in Oregon or a town just south of London…but what can you do if he’s not on Facebook…or possibly even alive?

Just slip out the back, Jack, make a new plan, Stan/Don’t need to be coy, Roy, just listen to me/Hop on the bus, Gus, don’t need to discuss much/Just drop off the key, Lee, and get yourself free. About those old lovers…

I hear the drizzle of the rain/Like a memory it falls/Soft and warm continuing/Tapping on my roof and walls. “Kathy’s Song.” Written for/about his English girlfriend I think. And they still are friends ‘after all these years.’ I’m dedicating this to the one serious rainy day in Albuquerque so far this year.

One and one-half wandering Jews/Free to wander wherever they choose/Are traveling together/In the Sangre de Christo/The Blood of Christ Mountains/Of New Mexico/On the last leg of a journey/They started a long time ago/The arc of a love affair/Rainbows in the high desert air/Mountain passes/Slipping into stone/Hearts and bones. A lush story-poem about traveling with Carrie Fisher I believe. It was missing from my Paul Simon internal playlist…which makes me feel quite disloyal.

It’s a turn-around jump shot/It’s everybody jump start/It’s every generation throws a hero up the pop charts/Medicine is magical and magical is art/The boy in the bubble/And the baby with the baboon heart…And I believe/These are the days of lasers in the jungle/Lasers in the jungle somewhere/Staccato signals of constant information/A loose affiliation of millionaires/And billionaires and baby. Paul Simon’s songs are rarely overtly political…though full of social commentary. “Boy in a Bubble” is as full of the angst of living in a world out of control as most of his music ever gets.

Time it was/And what a time it was/It was . . ./A time of innocence/A time of confidences…Long ago . . . it must be . . ./I have a photograph/Preserve your memories/They’re all that’s left you. OMG, they sound such innocents. Those two young guys. I went to a Minneapolis S&G concert, “Old Friends” in 2003. By then, that partnership along with most of the world’s better assumptions was coming to an end.

It’s a still life watercolor/Of a now-late afternoon/As the sun shines through the curtained lace/And shadows wash the room…And you read your Emily Dickinson/And I my Robert Frost/And we note our place with book markers/That measure what we’ve lost…Like a poem poorly written/We are verses out of rhythm/Couplets out of rhyme/In syncopated time…And the dangled conversation/And the superficial sighs/Are the borders of our lives. As our glorious leader might put it…Paul Simon has the BEST words. And obviously written by an English major. Who says you have to study IT or medicine  to get by in the world.

I’ve gone to look for America…Laughing on the bus, playing games with the faces/She said the man in the gabardine suit was a spy/I said, be careful, his bowtie is really a camera/Toss me a cigarette, I think there’s one in my raincoat/We smoked the last one an hour ago/So I looked at the scenery/She read her magazine/And the moon rose over an open field. I was once on a bus to Bujumbura and met a Russian spy who gave me IT advice and said ‘stick to PCs, Apple is going to fail’ and I’m anxiously awaiting that day.

Hello darkness, my old friend/I’ve come to talk with you again/Because a vision softly creeping/Left its seeds while I was sleeping/And the vision that was planted in my brain/Still remains/Within the sound of silence. The Oakland concert ended appropriately with “Sounds of Silence”…because realistically people anywhere near ‘old’ will never experience the likes of Poet Simon again. A guy who let his personal loves and fears enter his music, as well as commentary on the whole damn world, but he rarely if ever sentimentalized, and his lyrics were never ever boring or dumb. I’m sad for the sound of silence, the void that Paul Simon will leave.

Finally however…I discovered a Simon song I had never heard, never knew existed. There were others unfamiliar as I’ve mentioned but “Rene and Georgette Magritte with Their Dog After the War” was the best surprise of the new biography Paul Simon: The Life which I just read and of the evening in Oakland. Go to YouTube right away if you don’t know this song. It’s another The Best.

René and Georgette Magritte
With their dog after the war
Returned to their hotel suite
And they unlocked the door

Easily losing their evening clothes
They dance by the light of the moon
To the Penguins
The Moonglows
The Orioles
And The Five Satins
The deep, forbidden music
They’d been longing for
René and Georgette Magritte
With their dog after the war

René and Georgette Magritte
With their dog after the war
Were strolling down Christopher Street
When they stopped in a men’s store
With all the mannequins
Dressed in style
That brought tears to their
Immigrant eyes

Just like The Penguins
The Moonglows
The Orioles
And The Five Satins
The easy stream of laughter
Flowing through the air
René and Georgette Magritte
With their dog après la guerre

Side by side
They fell asleep
Decades gliding by like Indians
Time is cheap
When they wake up they will find
All their personal belongings
Have intertwined

René and Georgette Magritte
With their dog after the war
Were dining with the power èlite
And they looked in their bedroom drawer
And what do you think
They have hidden away
In the cabinet cold of their hearts?

The Penguins
The Moonglows
The Orioles
and The Five Satins
For now and ever after
As it was before
René and Georgette Magritte
With their dog
After the war

 My paean to Paul…(So the photos aren’t Kodachrome-bright and they’re a little mixed up and I didn’t have a picture of me in the pink dress or Paul and Carrie in the New Mexico mountains but my intent is pure and loving.)


One Comment on “PAUL

  1. This post is just a delight. I found myself humming along with lyrics…don’t do that often…well, I do with big band songs. I also found myself thinking that I am perhaps one of the few people who do not instantly remember the music of my time…until I hear it and then I connect…in any event, this is such an interesting post I have to save it…thanks

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