Old Friends

10 September 2003

Kris took yesterday off to can tomatoes with Jenn. Both were inundated by ripe tomatoes, and with the onset of the rain there was danger that the fruit would swell and burst and become generally less useful. Mostly they canned Jenn’s salsa. Kris picked some of my Super Hot Thai peppers from our garden. Part of her day was spent cutting these (and, if I know Jenn, de-seeding them before use). By the evening, Kris’ hands burned from the accumulated pepper oils. She rubbed lotion on them. She soaked them in a bowl of ice. She put more lotion on them. She slept with an icepack in her hands. Poor Kris!

For dinner, Kris made chicken pot pie. As we were eating, Jenn asked me how my knee was doing.

“Ah, not so well today,” I said. “Physical therapy was painful. My knee hurts.”

General sympathy. Kris noted that for the first two months after my surgery I was diligent about my rehabilitation, doing every exercise that was required of me. Then, one day, I just gave up. Now my recovery is behind, and it’s because my mental fortitude just isn’t there.

“Tyler asked me how my home exercises were going,” I said. “I lied to him. I told him that they’re going okay. I told him that I don’t do them every day but that I do them.”

The conversation continued.

A bit later, Hank interrupted: “Why did you lie?” His mind was back several sentences, parsing the fact that for some reason I’d lied.

Jeremy smacked me upside the head. Hard. “J.D. lied because he is a bad person,” he said.

“He shouldn’t have lied,” Jenn said.

“It was wrong of me to lie,” I said.

Sometimes I forget that the kids are there, you know?


When I was a kid, it seemed that my parents listened to the same records again and again. (Actually, it was Dad that listened to them; I can’t remember whether Mom liked them, too. Maybe she’ll share.) Long before Abba, Neil Diamond and Simon and Garfunkel were popular in our house.

(We lived in Portland until I was two. Sometime before we moved back to the ancestral homestead, Dad checked out a bunch of books and records from the Portland Public Library: lots of books on boat-building, and a couple of Neil Diamond records, including the Jonathan Livingston Seagull soundtrack. We moved to Canby and the library materials moved with us. Dad never returned them.)

My earliest memory of Simon and Garfunkel is hazy, and probably only resembles the factual truth in a small way. It was a sunny spring Sunday afternoon and I was in Mom and Dad’s bedroom, lying on the bed. I was listening to Simon and Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits (the only album of theirs that Dad ever owned). Was somebody listening with me? I don’t remember.

I do remember that when “Cecilia” began to play I stood up and jumped around the bed, singing at the top of my lungs. For a long time after I would throw my four- or five-year-old enthusiasm into the lyrics of that song:

Cecilia

Cecilia, you’re breaking my heart
You’re shaking my confidence daily
Oh, Cecilia, I’m down on my knees
I’m begging you please to come home
Come on home

Making love in the afternoon with Cecilia
Up in my bedroom
I got up to wash my face
When I come back to bed
Someone’s taken my place

Cecilia, you’re breaking my heart
You’re shaking my confidence daily
Oh, Cecilia, I’m down on my knees
I’m begging you please to come home
Come on home

Jubilation, she loves me again,
I fall on the floor and I’m laughing,
Jubilation, she loves me again,
I fall on the floor and I’m laughing

I hadn’t the faintest idea what I was singing. (By way of contrast: last night Hank was teaching me Veggie Tales songs: “On the first day of firt grade etc. etc, on the second day of second grade etc. etc.” I wonder how long until he starts jumping around singing about making love with Cecilia in his bedroom.)

That greatest hits album was a fixture of my youth, of my adolescence, of my young adulthood. It has become a part of me.

It had never occurred to me that they had anything other than a greatest hits album. Midway through high school, during one of many Sunday afternoons spent with the Kauffman girls (one f or two, Kristin?), I stumbled upon their father’s collection of Simon and Garfunkel records. On my next trip to Tower Records, I bought copies for myself.

I can remember sitting in Mr. Sprague’s first-period chemistry class, listening to Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme (still my favorite Simon and Garfunkel album) on my Walkman while doing molar equations.

At the time, my favorite Simon and Garfunkel song was “The Dangling Conversation” (though it actually seems a bit pretentious now):

The Dangling Conversation

It’s a still life water color,
Of a now late afternoon,
As the sun shines through the curtain-lace
And shadows wash the room.

And we sit and drink our coffee,
Couched in our indifference,
Like shells upon the shore:
You can hear the ocean roar
In the dangling conversation
And the superficial sighs —
The borders of our lives.

And you read your Emily Dickinson,
And I my Robert Frost,
And we note our place with bookmarkers
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 dangling conversation
And the superficial sighs,
Are the borders of our lives.

Yes, we speak the things that matter,
With words that must be said,
“Can analysis be worthwhile?”
“Is the theater really dead?”

And how the room is softly faded
And I only kiss your shadow,
I cannot feel your hand,
You’re a stranger now unto me—
Lost in the dangling conversation
And the superficial sighs,
In the borders of our lives.

Once I was at a girlfriend’s house. Her parents were gone, and we were making out on the couch while watching public television. The Simon and Garfunkel Concert in Central Park came on and suddenly I lost interest in the girl. I was enthralled by the music. (I think the girl was actually somewhat relieved!)

My sense of nostalgia first became honed in college as I came to realize how much I missed my friends from the church youth group. When I was feeling especially wistful, I would listen to “Old Friends”:

Old Friends

Old friends.
Old friends
Sit on their park bench
Like bookends.

A newspaper blown through the grass
Falls on the round toes
On the high shoes
Of the old friends.

Old friends,
Winter companions,
The old men
Lost in their overcoats,
Waiting for the sunset.

The sounds of the city,
Sifting through the trees,
Settle like dust
On the shoulders
Of the old friends.

Can you imagine us
Years from today,
Sharing a park bench quietly?
How terribly strange
To be seventy.

Old friends,
Memory brushes the same years.
Silently sharing the same fear—

Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel went their separate ways more than thirty years ago. Though their relationship has not been nearly as fractious as the press would have us believe, their joint appearances have been infrequent and, occasionally, unhappy.

Now it seems as if the duo is ready to perform together again for an extended tour. Today they announced plans for a thirty-city tour which includes a stop in Portland.

I don’t care about the cost, I don’t care about the date: I will be at that show.


Ack.

Not to be outdone, Berkeley Breathed has announced plans to return to the world of comic strips with the debut of Opus on November 23rd.

The world has not been the same since Bloom County ended. Though I liked Outland some, it was a pale ghost of its predecessor. I’m even tempted to pay ten bucks to view the entire run of the original strip. (I can remember sitting in the library at Ackerman Junior High School during the fall of 1982, leafing through the first Bloom County collection with Dave Carlson and Andrew Parker and Mitch Sherrard and the rest of the geeks.)

Don’t snort the dandelions!

Comments


On 10 September 2003 (08:15 AM),
Tiffany said:

You deserved the smack in the head.
I want to see S&G too.



On 10 September 2003 (10:35 AM),
Kristin said:

Two f’s. At least you confessed and admitted you shouldn’t have lied. Harrison is learning the truth: sometimes adults do things they shouldn’t do. Children keep us accountable.



On 10 September 2003 (10:36 AM),
Kris said:

I most certainly should have accepted Jenn’s offer of gloves!

To be technically correct (true), however, I didn’t take the day off. I’m working my forty hours this week: Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Thursday. I just arranged to have Tuesday be my day off. For those who don’t know, I am currently able to work a 4 day, 10-hour shift schedule at the lab. I highly recommend it!



On 10 September 2003 (12:12 PM),
Mom said:

Your dad and I shared pretty much the same taste in music while you were growing up, J.D. He was the one who was most likely to buy the albums we listened to, though, because I was too busy with domestic concerns to really get involved in that process or to figure out if there were other kinds of music that I liked better. I have always loved Simon and Garfunkel, still do, although I have never liked the words to Cecelia (or Mrs. Robinson, for that matter). I differed with your dad on Crystal Gayle, too; he really liked her but I didn’t care for her all that much. I especially thought the song Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue was dumb. :-) Abba was okay and I liked Neil Diamond, although I find both of those quite irritating now in my old age. :-)



On 10 September 2003 (12:20 PM),
J.D. said:

I have never liked the words to Cecelia (or Mrs. Robinson, for that matter).

Ha!

That’s right. I’d forgotten that you didn’t like “Mrs. Robinson”. It used to be that when I played the record, you wouldn’t let me listen to that song. I heard it plenty anyway, of course (a mother can’t always be around), but I could never figure out what was so bad about it, even when I got older:

Mrs. Robinson

And here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson
Jesus loves you more than you will know,
Woe, woe, woe

God bless you, please, Mrs. Robinson
Heaven holds a place for those who pray
Hey, hey, hey
Hey, hey, hey

We’d like to know a little bit about you for our files
We’d like to help you learn to help yourself
Look around you all you see are sympathetic eyes
Stroll around the grounds until you feel at home

And here’s to you Mrs. Robinson
Jesus loves you more than you will know
Woe, woe, woe

God bless you, please, Mrs. Robinson
Heaven holds a place for those who pray
Hey hey hey
Hey hey hey

Hide it in a hiding place where no one ever goes
Put it in your pantry with your cupcakes
It’s a little secret just the Rovinson’s affair
Most of all you’ve got to hide it from the kids

Coo, coo, cachoo Mrs. Robinson,
Jesus loves you more than you will know
Woe, woe, woe

God bless you please, Mrs. Robinson
Heaven holds a place for those who pray
Hey hey hey
Hey hey hey

Sitting on a sofa on a Sunday afternoon
Going to the candidate’s deate
Laugh about it, shout about it,
When you’ve got to choose
Ev’ryway you look at it you lose

Where have you gone, Joe Dimagio?
A nation turns its lonely eyes to you
Woo woo woo

Whats that you say Mrs. Robinson?
Joltin’ Joe has left and gone away.
Hey hey hey
Hey hey hey

I still don’t know what the hell that song is about, but I remember that you didn’t want me to listen to it. In retrospect, that may have had more to do with the film from which it came than with the lyrics themselves. :)



On 10 September 2003 (01:26 PM),
Tammy said:

I was told once by a man I was dating that Mrs. Robinson was about a married woman who had an affair and was trying to hide it. Could that be why your mother didn’t like the song? I never could understand it either but I just accepted this guys interpretation of it. I don’t know. Maybe he was way out in left field.



On 10 September 2003 (01:55 PM),
Mom said:

I think my dislike for Mrs. Robinson was (and is) largely because of the movie. Yes, it was about an older woman having an affair with a much younger man, and being very blase about it. Also, the part about “Jesus loves you more than you will know” struck me as being very facetious and almost sacreligious because I was sure Simon and Garfunkel didn’t seriously believe in a strict Christian life (many of their other songs didn’t go along with the Mormon version of Christianity that I believed then). I’m not sure what I was trying to protect you from in not letting you listen to the song unless it was these aspects of it. I don’t remember doing that, but then I have some pretty significant memory lapses regarding those longer-ago days. A parent’s protective urges aren’t always logical. :-)



On 10 September 2003 (04:51 PM),
Nikchick said:

Funny you would write so much about Simon and Garfunkel today. Having recently returned from my original homeland of northern Minnesota, I spent a lot of time listening to the songs of my youth on the “Classics” radio station while riding up to the memorial with my dad. In particular, Kodachrome came on the radio, hit me upside the head with nostalgia, and has been stuck in my brain for days since.

No idea why, it’s really kind of a dumb little song, but it had its way with me anyway.



On 05 November 2003 (11:06 PM),
Cecilia said:

i think it’s soooo cute that u used to sing ‘Cecilia’ as a child. I’m 15 and my parents bought me their greatest hits so i could aprreciate why people said i was braking their hearts. ok so its not thier best song, but its still fantastic and having the same name is even better. I just wrote to say you were pretty darn cool. cya

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