Here is an insight

This is what I heard, when I was but a Wee Thing:

I am just a poor boy
Though my story’s seldom told
I have squandered my resistance
For a pocket full of mumbles such are promises
All lies and jests
Still a man hears what he wants to hear
And disregards the rest

When I left my home and my family
I was no more than a boy
In the company of strangers
In the quiet of the railway station running scared
Laying low, seeking out the poorer quarters
Where the ragged people go
Looking for the places only they would know

Asking only workman’s wages
I come looking for a job
But I get no offers,
Just a come-on from the whores on Seventh Avenue
I do declare, there were times when I was so lonesome
I took some comfort there

Then I’m laying out my winter clothes
And wishing I was gone
Going home
Where the New York City winters aren’t bleeding me
Bleeding me, going home

In the clearing stands a boxer
And a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders
Of ev’ry glove that layed him down
Or cut him till he cried out
In his anger and his shame
“I am leaving, I am leaving”
But the fighter still remains

There were folks who went moony-eyed over “The Sound of Silence”, which is a lovely song; don’t get me wrong. But this one…this one hits me in the solar plexus. When I left my home and my family, I was no more than a boy …in the quiet of the railway station, running scared. 

I love the percussion…the train, rolling through the rhythm and blowing its whistle…it’s not the first time this rhythm has been used like this, and it won’t be the last. But it’s good. It’s really good. I love how the instrumentation builds as the story unravels…first it’s just guitar, and when the narrator in the story ‘leaves his home and family’, you hear the hint of a train whistle. When he arrives at the train station, you hear the percussion start up…the train, rumbling rhythmically along, taking the narrator far from comfort.

This song gives me pictures in my head; sad and lonely pictures. The story it tells is one of a certain kind of hopelessness, even in the futile escape of the narrator…trying to get out before his spirit is broken and he has to admit that his dream is just that; before he is lost in the wash of unknown faces that seeks to swallow him up, just as it has done time and time again with the other dreamers. It’s bitter and cold and utterly lonely.

The vocals are gentle, melancholy, until he carries the reminders of every glove that laid him down or cut him til he cried out…this is where his voice becomes stronger.

Sometimes I see an older man, choosing to walk from a dark, smoke-filled pub rather than to be carried out on a stretcher. I see his broken face, his cauliflower ears. I see him draw his suspenders up over his shoulders and shrug off onlookers as he creaks from the clearing they have made around him and the bartender who won’t serve him anymore because he’s pissed himself again. I hear his voice, thick with drink, hollering “I am leaving! I am leaving!” He’d come to this country to find a better life, and what he found was more of the same shite he’d left home for.

Or perhaps the boxer is a young man, and the clearing is the living room or front porch of the girl he’s fallen in love with. He’s squaring off against her father, who doesn’t want him marrying his daughter, because he’s poor, and has no family, and he’s a troublemaker. He’s a boxer, after all; he bares his knuckles for back-room bets laid down in parking lots out behind the greasy spoon diners and in the basements of bakery kitchens in the ‘ethnic quarter’. 

I see him as a man of colour – any colour but pink. He’s a boxer because he has to be. His *parents* speak no English. He worked in their laundry, or diner, or newsstand, until he could no longer stand coming home to his father taking out feelings of inferiority by beating his wife and son with a belt until they could no longer stand. His mother used to tell him he would go far, that when they made some money, she would send him to school. She would send him to the big city where he could grow up to be somebody, not a nobody like his father. She would send him anywhere; just far away from here. 

Or maybe it’s a middle-class kid; a kid who wanted to be somebody. Some kid from upstate New York, come to the big city to make his mark. Maybe he was a hot-shot in high school. Maybe he thought he could play in the big-leagues. He lowers himself to ask for ‘only workmans’ wages’. Maybe he thought it would be easy. Maybe he thought his charm would get him all the way. Maybe he did what he could, and got tired of the booze and the pills and the fights that got him from hotel room to hotel room. Maybe he just wants to go home and settle in to that nine-to-five desk job at the used car dealership his father always promised him. Maybe he has to admit defeat, because discretion is the better part of valor. 

What do you hear?

  8 comments for “Here is an insight

  1. 23 June 2010 at 6:23 pm

    I have always been partial to Scarborough Fair but I think it is because I used to sit in the living room with my dad and sing with him to that song while he strummed on his guitar. I actually love most Simon and Garfunkle and even just Simon songs (I don’t know if Garfunkle had a solo career or not). I have never really listened to the lyrics to this one. The sound was so pretty though that I am quite fond of it. Thanks for sharing what you hear.

  2. 23 June 2010 at 8:20 pm

    Art Garfunkel did have a solo career; he never got as big as Paul Simon (because he was more reticent to steal music from other artists, according to some), but he has been successful.

  3. ynwp
    23 June 2010 at 11:12 pm

    I hear the soundtrack of my early childhood. This and The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life.” And The New Seekers’ “Well, Well, Well.”

  4. Cori May
    24 June 2010 at 9:09 am

    I love this song. I love all the songs. I think I love ‘America’ most, though, again for the imagery and story you can see the lyrics. And the Dangling Conversation.

    And I will be seeing them in just a couple of weeks! I warned Gayleen I might be crying a lot.

    • 24 June 2010 at 9:34 am

      You getta see them!??
      I heard they indefinitely postponed their north american tour dates.

  5. Mrgd2u
    24 June 2010 at 11:31 am

    My dad had the greatest hits record, and I later had the cd. I think I can sing along with the whole thing I listened to it so much. The boxer is a great song, and I agree the human connection in it is haunting. Art Garfunkel did have one song after the fact that I love, Bright Eyes (from Watership down) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MODq81_cDKI

  6. Der Kaptin
    24 June 2010 at 3:43 pm

    “Oh, oh, what a night
    Oh what a garden of delight
    Even now that sweet memory lingers
    I was playin’ my guitar
    lying underneath the stars
    Just thankin’ the Lord for my fingers
    For my fingers”

    — My favourite lyric by Paul Simon, from the song “Duncan.” I thought it was an S&G, but I guess not. So I’ll have to go back to my all-time fave of theirs, Punky’s Dilemma:

    I wish I was a Kellog’s cornflake
    Floatin in a bowl, takin movies
    Relaxin a while
    Livin in style
    Talkin to a raisin
    Who occasionally plays L.A.
    Casually glancing at his toupee…

    I wish I was an English muffin
    Bout to make the most out of a toaster
    I’d ease myself down
    Comin up brown
    I prefer the boisenberry
    more than any ordinary jam
    I’m a “citizens for boisenberry jam” fan..

    Aaahhh, south California…

    If I became a first lieutenant
    Would you put my photo on your piano
    To Mary Jane
    Best wishes Martin
    Old Roger, draft-dodger
    Leavin by the basement door
    Everybody knows what he’s
    tippy-toein down there for…

    Ooo, time warp. What position do I play on the freefall team? Flashback.

  7. Arnisador
    26 June 2010 at 9:39 am

    Melancholy is what I think of anytime I hear a S&G tune. Not that its a bad thing, I do like their sound. Even their more “upbeat” tunes like “Cecelia” have that shade of blue though.

    With the imagery you described though, hearing the boxer automatically led me to think of Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” which is one of my all time favorite tunes.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=se9rfWucgeY

    And on an aside, I still get a laugh watching Paul Simon and Chevy Chase doing “You Can Call me Al”. Just seems…happier :)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ULjCSK0oOlI

i make squee noises when you tell me stuff.

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