Homeward Bound

I’m sittin’ in the railway station
Got a ticket to 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

—-Paul Simon, Homeward Bound

The view from the parking lot as I go home from work. Dallas, Texas

I was driving in to work – I often listen to podcasts in my car, but today I had KXT 91.7 (listen here) on the radio. I always love that station – no commercials, no stupid DJ yakking yet DJ curated, and a wide variety of tunes. As I pulled into my parking spot and began to put my mask on the Simon and Garfunkel chestnut Homeward Bound came on. A great song. I sat there and listened to it before trudging across the parking lot.

Afterward they said, “Homeward Bound, an early Simon and Garfunkel tune, from 1966.”

1966. I was nine years old. I remember 1966. I wasn’t listening to very much music then and don’t remember Homeward Bound when it came out. But I was starting. I do remember a television documentary on the burgeoning folk scene featuring interviews with Simon and Garfunkel. I didn’t know who they were and wondered if I’d ever hear anything from them. Four years later Bridge Over Troubled Water was released and I remember the exact spot where my father’s car was when I first heard it on the radio.

Sitting down and looking through the hit songs from each year – I started listening in 1967. My family was not musical and I had to pick it up on my own, mostly from friends. By 1968 I was listening to the radio a lot and by 1969 I eagerly awaited every Friday and that week’s top forty announcement on WHB (the wet hamburger station) out of Kansas City.

So I guess I can say I started listening to popular music in 1966 or so. That was fifty five years ago.

It doesn’t seem like that long. Things have changed (especially the digital revolution) but 1966 wasn’t that much different. One way to look at it was they were playing a song from 1966 on the radio on my way to work and nobody thought much about it.

I was born nine years earlier, in 1957. That does seem like a different age. The sixties were a real watershed – where things changed in a significant, permanent way. But still… there was rock and roll, at least the stirrings of rock and roll, in 1957 (Rock Around the Clock came out in 1954).

But go in the other direction – fifty five years before 1957 was 1902. That’s hard for me to comprehend. One year before the Wright brothers first flew. World War I was a decade away. The Roaring twenties two decades – the depression and dust bowl three decades away. WWII a nightmare far into the future. Now, I did look at the top songs of 1902 and was shocked that I was familiar with a few of them – and the #18 song won an Academy Award in 1974 and rose to #4 on the charts at that time….

But still, I can’t even imagine 1902. My grandfather wasn’t born yet. Yet it’s the same distance in time from my birth as Homeward Bound is from today. Years and years.

Every day’s an endless stream
Of cigarettes and magazines
And each town looks the same to me
The movies and the factories
And every stranger’s face I see
Reminds me that I long to be

Homeward bound

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