And He Carries the Reminders of Every Glove That Laid Him Down

I first saw Simon and Garfunkel in an interview on television – maybe 1965…. At that time they were portrayed as a pair of oddball singers as part of a documentary on the resurgence of American Folk Music. I didn’t fully understand what I was hearing (I would have been eight years old and knew nothing about music) but my instincts told me that it was something special. This was years before “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and a year before “The Graduate” – the duo had not entered the public consciousness yet. Of course, I don’t remember any details but the documentary seemed to feel that the future belonged to these two strange men.

Five years later I remember riding in the car with my father one dark evening in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas (I even remember the stretch of road) when the DJ announced a brand new release by Simon and Garfunkel – and “Bridge Over Troubled Water” came on the crackly AM mono radio for the first time. It was mesmerizing – I had simply never heard anything like that before. In this age of autotuned over-exposed pneumatic digital teeny-bopper corporate shovel-ready cash cow starlets we easily can forget how music was made to move your soul.

I bought the album and listened to it over and over until the vinyl was worn flat and I had to tape pennies to the tone arm to keep it from skipping.

I was especially obsessed with the non-hit music – all of it. “Frank Lloyd Wright,” “Cecilia,” “Keep the Customer Satisfied.” I was also fascinated by “The Boxer.” I studied the lyrics of that song – how the rhythm changes subtly – how the phrases speed up and slow down building to the heartbreaking climax. It was a small piece of amazing writing (but everybody already knows that).

Now, this was the third Thursday that I rode the train downtown after work for the Patio Sessions of free music in the Dallas Arts District. I was excited because this was going to be Holt and Stockslager in a duo tribute to Simon and Garfunkel.

Chris Holt and Chad Stockslager performing their tribute to Simon and Garfunkel

The music was fantastic – actually it was better than fantastic – it was perfect. It sounded like Simon and Garfunkel would if they could play a small, live, simple, intimate, outdoor set. The played all the favorites and a handful of obscure songs. I loved it, simple as that.

My one complaint, as it was last week, was the kids. It was worse this time around. Right from the beginning – a large horde of squealing children – from toddlers to pre-teens – ran boiling back and forth across the reflecting pool directly in front of the musicians.

This went on for the entire two hours of the performance. The parents did nothing to stop this. In fact, one idiot father in a Ranger’s cap ran out and actually dropped a small soccer ball into the roiling clot and then produced a portable plastic bubble machine to excite the rug rats even more.

I tried to ignore the kids and concentrate on enjoying the music but it was impossible. They were right there, kicking their feet noisily across the water, splashing through the shallow film, screaming at each other and running back and forth in front of the singers at top speed.

I would look (glare) at their parents – most of whom were sitting on blankets in groups well back from the water. They were sipping wine and chatting, ignoring the music completely. When they would turn their heads and look at their spawn running around their smiles would beam beatifically and you could read their minds leaking out of their mouths, “OH, look how cute my child is – I am surely the best parent with the best kid in the world! How lucky I am and how great for all these other people to be able to see and enjoy my wonderful creation… my offspring!”

And that’s it. This event isn’t about the music – it isn’t about Simon and Garfunkel. It’s about them.

My kids were as wild as they come – wilder than these hellions. I thought back – would I have let them run around during the concert?

Absolutely not. I would have let them careen around the reflecting pool before the music started and probably allowed them back between sets – but never while the band was playing.

It’s not about discipline or about how to raise your kids. It’s about respect for other people. Just because you’ve squeezed out a pup or two doesn’t make you the king of the world and a mellow concert is not the same thing as a children’s water park.

In a few weeks they are going to have a string quartet play down at a Patio Session. I would love to go to that – to hear them play. It would be the perfect relaxation after another tough week. But I can’t imagine listening to that subtle music with all those damn kids running around the whole time.

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

 

32 responses to “And He Carries the Reminders of Every Glove That Laid Him Down

    • I finally threw out all my vinyl a few years ago. I tried to keep one box in the garage (mostly signed or rare albums) but water damage did it in. I’m always tempted to buy some used albums and put them up as art – but I think that’s my inner hoarder talking.

  1. What a beauiful post Bill, I’ve enjoyed this very much. I too am from the same era, and have all S&G in my collection. Every so often there is singer, a group, or similar, that make an impact, Simon and Garfunkel are among these people. I still cry now when I hear, or watch repeats of Watership Down, and lets face, one can watch repeats forever, just to hear Bright Eyes.
    Pass me a tissue.
    Val

  2. Physics, spring, the album had just come out and a senior came in with it. It was last period and we were supposed to be doing something else but he was bubbling over–he’d skipped school the period before to run out and buy it the first day it was available. The teacher sighed, got out the record player and said he could put it on to play while we were working.

    Instead, we all ended up gathered around the worktable while the teacher did her work. LOL

    It was magic. I’ve seen S&G live twice. Their tour in 80 at the Cotton Bowl where we sat in the rain, and their tour a few years back at the AAC.

    Magic.

  3. The Boxer was always one of my favorite songs. It’s powerful, isn’t it? I just wrote a post and examined the lyrics to “I am a Rock.” I think you and I might have a lot in common. I really like your writing, topics, etc.!

  4. Several years ago, Simon and Garfunkel performed in Nashville, and I had the pleasure of seeing them. Before it started, my new boss sat behind me. Total coincidence, but I knew he would be good to work for after that.

  5. I loved Paul Simon’s album “Hearts and Bones.” It wasn’t a very good selling album, but I loved it.

  6. We’re about the same age, and after reading your article, leaving that brief, comment and going back to my site, I got thinking, I’ll bet he could identify with me on my post “How Many Times Do I need to Buy the Same Album?”

  7. Truly international then … late teens, adoring S&G, finding that album spoke to me more than any other.

    Oh and kids – it happens over here too and I really want to go and ask the parents whose job they THINK it is to stop their brats spoiling other people’s enjoyment. I’ve been given the answer – but he’s only 3 …. yes, Dad, but YOU aren’t. Ggrrr

  8. Fantastic post, Bill. I was at the launch of a local Art Exhibition in December and I was enraged as children were allowed to run around the room touching and climbing over the exhibits with nothing done to stop them. Now you know how dangerous is to even contemplate telling off someone else’s child… you are right, some people are just so self-involved! Grr!

    Youtubed these guys straight away, they are very cool! Thanks for sharing them, such a shame the gig wasn’t a more positive experience for you. Next time… 🙂 I was lucky enough to see Paul Simon in 2003 for the Sunshine Tour. One of my favourite albums ever is ‘Graceland’, I think it’s superb!

    Great covers you’ve shared. I love Flight of the Conchordes, so very funny! Favourite S+G tracks are probably ‘America’ and ‘My Little Town’, among MANY others! Great post! 🙂

    • Thanks for the comment – I wasn’t angry at the children and really wouldn’t want to say anything to them (except maybe a few of the older ones). The reflecting pool is obviously designed to be attractive to children (a quarter inch of water on a flat expanse of stone) and you can’t blame them for enjoying themselves.

      It’s the smug self-absorbed parents that got under my skin.

      • Hmm, that’s very tolerant of you. I’m pretty sure I would have been irritated by it all! 😉 🙂
        Still sounds like a great gig and that reflection pool also sounds really pretty – you know, on a nice, quiet, relaxing day! 😉

  9. That album (cd, ipod playlist, whatever 🙂 is one of the things “I never leave home without”!! Thanks Bill, they deserve the white space!
    Rhonda

  10. I felt so fortunate when I got to see Simon and Garfunkel in concert in 2004. I could listen to Bridge Over Troubled Water over and over again… “your time has come to shine…”. I could also listen to The Boxer, I Am An Island, Cecilia, you name it. Thank you for checking out my blog and liking my photos!

  11. Just bought the 25th Anniversary of the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame DVD set (2009 at Madison Square Garden, NYC) with Simon and Garfunkel singing The Boxer, amongst others. You could hear a pin drop (no screaming children). Thank goodness for technology like this that allows us to be at in intimate concert, to hear every word, every breath, every sigh. Well worth the $$.

    BTW, couldn’t agree with you more. Music like that is church. Some people just don’t get it.

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