Musings of a Dinosaur

A Family Doctor in solo private practice; I may be going the way of the dinosaur, but I'm not dead yet.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Moved to Tears

I am not a night person, so I don't stay up until all hours watching late night TV. But I do enjoy watching the 8:00 and 8:30 rebroadcast of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, respectively. Last night's Colbert (Tuesday night's show) included an interview with Paul Simon, the silver-throated -- now silver-haired -- troubadour of my youth.

It wasn't a "typical" Colbert interview in that it wasn't particularly funny. The guest seemed a little shy and Stephen had to draw him out a bit. At one point, Simon grabbed his guitar to help answer a question, underlining the answer he had just given about whether words or music come first when he's writing a song. (Music.) But it was fine.

Simon wasn't wearing a baseball cap, as he usually does to hide his thinning gray hair. He looked like an older man; completely recognizable, just older. It was good to see him, though the only emotion watching him was of gentle nostalgia.

As is his custom when the guest is a performer, Stephen invited Simon to share a song to end the program.

He stood alone on a small oriental area rug; guitar in hand in front of a single stand microphone, and began to play. It was a familiar song. So familiar that I knew every note, every word, every squeak of his fingers on the strings. Still, I had to mentally fast-forward through the lyrics to come up with the title: An American Tune.

His voice was like the rest of him: older; a bit rougher, but still recognizable and familiar; comfortable. And as he sang each familiar word, each note and chord wafting across the room to me, my eyes welled up; then they spilled over, and I was crying; silently, so as not to miss one word; one note. It was the intensity of emotion that brought me to tears. But here's the funny thing: I had no idea which emotion it was.

Joy, that perhaps now as a people and a country we might finally be turning away from greed and selfishness? Fear, that this hoped-for and longed-for change might yet slip away? Longing for the past; a time when his voice was as buttery smooth as his skin? Pure nostalgia; viscerally recalling the emotions of times past spent listening to this and his other music?

I couldn't tell.

I just sat there and cried silent tears of...what? I have no idea.


At Thu Nov 20, 09:06:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happens to me all the time for things I have no notion I'm moved by until the tears blind me.

Hearing the National Anthem does it to me every time.

At Thu Nov 20, 03:05:00 PM, Blogger Bardiac said...

It always amazes me how beautifully some young poets/ lyricists can capture a sense of looking back from age, and bring it across in ways that seem so much older than their years. And the older I grow, the more I appreciate their work.

Shakespeare's sonnet 73, written when he was probably in his 20s, gets me every time:

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see'st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death's second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see'st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed, whereon it must expire,
Consum'd with that which it was nourish'd by.
This thou perceiv'st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well, which thou must leave ere long.

At Thu Nov 20, 04:30:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've done the same thing three times in the last 3 weeks, though it usually happens when I'm reading Lincoln. Like you, I don't know what emotions I'm feeling. Pride? Relief? Hope? I'm not sure.

Haven't done anything like it since the month after 9/11. There was no confusion then, though.

At Thu Nov 20, 10:25:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this. I too remember when Paul Simon was a young guy and sang with Art Garfunkle. Other days, other days.

At Fri Nov 21, 07:21:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I saw Paul Simon stand up to sing on the Colbert Report, I thought, He'll probably sing something new. But I wish he'd sing an old song, like the one with the Statue of Liberty sailing away to sea.

And when he started, I couldn't help softly singing along with him. My 18-year-old son (listening to his own music at his computer with headphones on) looked on with bemusement. I tried to explain to him what that song--or that moment--meant to me, but utterly failed.

Thanks for posting this. It's nice to know I'm not alone.

At Fri Nov 21, 11:19:00 AM, Blogger Lynn Price said...

Paul Simon is an icon who will always have a soft spot in my heart. Sorry I missed the show.

At Fri Nov 21, 02:52:00 PM, Blogger Pink said...

Paul Simon is the epitomy of a once youthful and hopeful America, IMHO. And I'm relatively young (39).

FWIW, check out Jason Mraz. This kid reminds me so much of Paul Simon.

P.S. You sound like such a great parent! I would love to receive a baking pastry proposal!

At Sat Nov 22, 04:14:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting the video clip. The first time I ever heard S&G was from an album from my oldest sister. It made me feel close to her!

At Sat Nov 29, 09:26:00 PM, Blogger Bianca Castafiore? said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At Sat Nov 29, 09:31:00 PM, Blogger Bianca Castafiore? said...

A nice thing, to know that you have shared a moment. Weird, though, to learn that someone else reacted exactly as you did. I cried as well -- and decided not to label it. Too many words (the comment that my Brother-the-English-Prof enjoys penning to student writings). Simon looked so tired, old, small -- with the disconcerting poofy look of prednisone about him. He surely picked the right song for the right moment -- for himself, for the country, for me, and it literally hurt inside my chest. And yes, the guitar seemed to be nothing if not an extension of his mind, voice, and body, a calming, explanatory talisman. If he never lets go, maybe everything will be all right. Because Lord knows, many is the time we've been forsaken...

Thank you for the post.


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