Many's the time I've been mistaken
And many times confused
Yes, and I've often felt forsaken
And certainly misused
Oh, but I'm all right, I'm all right
I'm just weary to my bones...
"American Tune," Paul Simon
Yeah. What he said.
I bought three new CD's today: "Satellite Rides" - Old 97's (2001), "Swordfishtrombones" - Tom Waits (1983), and "There Goes Rhymin' Simon" - Paul Simon (1973). (I'm not sure what that particular combination says about me, if anything. Let me know if you figure it out.)
Tonight on the way home, Geoff and I listened to the Paul Simon CD, and out of nowhere, "American Tune" started playing, and the words of the song hit home for me, you know, cause I've been feeling mistaken and confused and even a little bit forsaken. (I've been misused! But I'm all right! That is so me! Paul Simon is speaking to my soul!) It was almost magical, like an incantation, the way that as soon as I heard Paul say that he was all right, I knew that I was all right, too. Of course I am.
So I sang along tonight, and I tried to figure out where I'd heard that song recently. And then I remembered - I didn't hear it recently, I saw the lyrics when I was at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland last week.
I only got to spend about an hour and a half at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and to be honest, I expected that that would be more than enough time. I didn't expect much, really. Then when an hour and a half had passed and I hadn't even made it out of the main hall yet, even though I was trying to skim a lot of exhibits, I was sorry I didn't have all day to browse around. I would almost plan to go back to Cleveland just to get to spend more time at the Hall of Fame. Almost.
There were interactive exhibits (click on particular artists to see two lesser known artists who influenced them, or click on a decade to see the "most influential" songs of that decade) and exhibits geared toward tying rock and roll in with the city from which it arose (Detroit in one decade, L.A. in another, Seattle in...you guessed it...the 90's) and Fashion Exhibits (where old Madonna outfits cling to mannequins standing next to mannequins wearing old Prince outfits standing next to Elton John-esque mannequins). Everywhere you walked, a different song, often one you didn't know you knew until right then-right there-that line-I remember that line-that chorus-that phrase, was playing all around you.
My favorite exhibit by far was the wall of handwritten lyrics. Somewhere in the middle of that main exhibit room, there was a partial wall where pieces of paper had been placed behind a pane of glass. And on those pieces of paper were lyrics to songs, written by the writers of the songs. It was very cool, and as I stood there, I wished that I had a piece of paper to write down which songs were there, and whose handwriting I was looking at, and what each person's handwriting looked like. I didn't have anything to write with, though, so I just stared at them and tried to remember what was there. It turns out I don't remember very many of them - if you're ever in Cleveland, you'll have to go see it yourself.
There were the lyrics to Stay Up Late. I remember that David Byrne's handwriting looked more like a computer-generated font than someone's handwriting - all neat capital letters, perfectly shaped, perfectly spaced. I think he used a purple pen. (When Bert was in high school, he and a friend of his made a mock-umentary-ish video about the two of them as a rock band called Secret Identity. One of them was Secret; the other was Identity. During part of the video - which Bert used to sometimes play for various people after a lot of drinking - Bert, the lead singer for the band, sang Stay Up Late. Even now, apropros of nothing, I sometimes start singing "Cute cute. Little baby. Little pee pee. Little toes," to Bert just to embarrass him. I've no doubt that's why I remembered seeing the lyrics to this song in particular.)
There were lyrics to Closing Time. There were at least two verses that had been written and then scratched out. I think there was one verse written on a napkin.
There were so many I can't specifically remember, but I was in awe of seeing the handwriting of these people. I'm pretty sure that Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen and Tom Waits and James Taylor were there. I think.
I know that American Tune was there. Paul Simon's handwriting was rather small and neat, and whatever version of the lyrics that were posted there hadn't undergone many changes. When I first saw it, I didn't remember that I knew the song, and as I stared at the lyrics, I realized that I did. So I stood there in front of the exhibit and sang-murmured the song to myself, and I knew the whole thing.
I had been having such a hard time coping on that trip. On Monday, my flight was delayed leaving Chicago by over two hours, and by the time I got to my hotel there was no room service and no open restaurant, and I was starving and feeling sorry for myself. My room had no mini bar. The vending machines had only drinks. I finally figured out that there was some sort of Food Pantry thing (except it had a cutesier name) next to the Front Desk, so I bought a hot pocket and a bag of chips and ate them in my room. The only "economy" car they had for me to rent when I got to Cleveland was a Durango. (A Durango, people! I drive a Beetle every day. Take a guess how equipped I feel to drive a monster vehicle in a completely strange city. Less than that.) I was so nervous about the deposition I was scheduled to take that when I woke up the next morning, I was too nauseous to eat anything, which meant that by the time the deposition was over, I was getting a headache. I hadn't brought directions with me - to anywhere. I rented the Durango, thinking that I would somehow stumble upon the hotel, I guess, and knowing that if worse came to worst, I could call Geoff or the hotel for directions. I drove a few blocks and then called Geoff, who got on mapquest, then the hotel's website, and found directions for me. They were complicated. They went on and on, naming streets I didn't know, highways I'd never heard of, places I couldn't find on my car rental map. At the end of a long string of directions, I was supposed to end up on Grayton Road before turning into the hotel. I ended our phone conversation saying something all teary and hopeless like, "I'll never find it." I turned the Durango around and went back out to the end of the block I'd pulled over on. I stared at the street sign. I was at the intersection of: 1) the tiny street I was on, and 2) you guessed it, Grayton. (Ok, so that part was pretty cool.)
The deposition, when it finally happened, went pretty well, but I was too nervous, both about the deposition itself and about what crisis was happening back in the office, to enjoy it much. After the deposition, I went back to retrieve the Durango from the parking garage 6 or 7 blocks away (all of the closer ones had been full). I moved it closer, to the Galleria right across the street from the law firm where I'd been. I wandered around the Galleria, looking for something to eat, and ended up getting a McDonald's cheeseburger and a small chocolate shake. Then there was nowhere to sit, so I walked up and down the middle of the mall while eating, willing my headache to disappear. When it didn't, I went back and slept for an hour in the Durango, in the dark parking garage.
Then I got up and went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and sang an American tune to myself.
I'm all right.
Before the trip to Cleveland, two weeks ago tomorrow, Allen & Elizabeth and I drove to Cincinnati for the weekend. Since Bluebell is more lovely than spacious, we went in Allen's Jetta. For some reason, Elizabeth likes to sit in the back seat, so I sat up front with Allen. First Elizabeth and I devoured an entire bag of Pirate's Booty. (That stuff is really, really good. Really good. Did I mention it's good? It's especially good if you're trying to eat things with fewer points. Yes yes, or calories - use your fancy scientific calories-speak if you must. The best description I have heard of them so far is "cheesy poofs." You will love them. Elizabeth and I spent a good portion of our trip talking about how much we loved The Boot-ayyyy. Gimme more Boot-ay!)
Later, Elizabeth read a book in the back seat with some little reading light she'd brought. Allen and I sat up in the front seat and listened to crazy, crappy music. Think O Town. (Don't know who they are? I didn't, either. They're the band from "Making the Band." Ahhhh.) I bemoaned the fact that I hadn't brought any CD's of my own to listen to, but Allen was driving, so it was bearable. (I drove on the way back, and I was able to find just enough CD's in his trunk that I actually like to get by. (The best CD in his changer that night was a mix CD he'd made, including such greats as "Supersonic" - the S is for Super, and the U is for Unique - and "The Bad Touch" - you and me baby, ain't nothin' but mammals, so let's do it like they do on the Discovery Channel. At least I could sing along. Sort of.)
We got to Cincinnati in the middle of the night, basically. Tracy got up, let us in, hugged us, and went back to bed. The next morning Tim went to work, and Tracy and I went through the Krispy Kreme drive-thru for donuts and coffee. Later on, we visited Tracy's hotel and had lunch in the hotel restaurant, where a good portion of our conversation involved the fact that homeless people have been hanging out in the bathrooms near the restaurant we were in. (So as not to offend anyone listening by any offensive terminology - such as homeless person, bum, or hobo - we decided to call such folk "Dilly Bars." I don't know.) We spent most of the rest of the day looking for leather pants for Tim. (This year we weren't able to get together with Tracy and Tim any time near Christmas, and we still hadn't exchanged Christmas gifts with Tim. Apparently, though, Tim had recently been thinking that he might just need some leather pants. Who were we to deny him that need?) We finally found them in Lazarus. We made him wear the pants to Don Pablo's that night.
You know those friends who you always feel comfortable with? No matter how long it's been since you've seen them, you fall right back into closeness, and no matter how much has happened since you've seen them last, you still laugh at the same things. You have old jokes. You make new jokes. You love to see them smile. You can say anything you want to. You act silly. You wish you lived closer to each other. You search for leather pants for them or their husbands. (Perhaps that last one is not universal.)
I've said it before, I think. Tracy and Tim are two of those friends. I am glad to have them in my life.
And I don't know a soul who's not been battered.
I don't have a friend who feels at ease
I don't know a dream that's not been shattered
Or driven to its knees
Oh, but it's all right, it's all right
For we've lived so well so long
Still, when I think of the road we're traveling on
I wonder what's gone wrong
I can't help it, I wonder what's gone wrong...
Last Sunday Geoff and I went walking along the beach near our apartment. It was
a little bit chilly, but it was a beautiful sunny day, and we walked and talked
for awhile, until I got too cold to take it anymore.
As we were climbing down the rocks onto the beach, we saw a message etched in the concrete. Dave Turner Loves Barbara 4-Ever. It's dated August 4, 1973.
That was my third birthday.
Almost 28 years ago, Dave Turner loved Barbara, and he thought he'd keep loving her forever.
I did the math. My first thought was that of course they wouldn't still be together, because 4ever doesn't really mean forever when you scratch it in sand or dirt or even wet cement. Things happen. Things end.
After a few years, either Dave cheated on Barbara, or Barbara cheated on Dave, or Dave and Barbara grew apart, or Dave loved Barbara so much more than Barbara loved Dave that their relationship just couldn't take the strain. Or maybe Dave Turner didn't even love Barbara with 4ever in his heart at the time he scrawled his message in the concrete. Maybe Dave Turner was just a kid, and he didn't even know what love was, and he couldn't see what troubles might lie ahead for him and Barbara, but when those troubles came along and blindsided him, he figured out that the love between him and Barbara would not last through those troubles.
Or maybe they did everything right, but for some reason that neither of them can explain even to themselves, Dave Turner stopped being able to make Barbara laugh, and they decided that they were better off apart. Maybe they're friends now, and they send each other Christmas cards and emails, and even though they don't talk about it, every time they see each other's names they remember that warm night in August when they crept out to the beach on Lake Michigan to scratch a message in the wet concrete.
I don't like my first thought. Why couldn't Dave Turner and Barbara still be together? Maybe on August 4, 1973, Dave Turner loved Barbara with a love like no love this world has ever known. Maybe Dave Turner loves Barbara to this day. Maybe sometimes they come to this beach, and they walk along the sand, hand in hand, and they look for the message they wrote so many years ago. Maybe when they find it, Barbara reaches out and traces those letters with her fingertips, and then she thinks maybe that's silly, and she feels a little self-conscious, and she straightens up and turns to Dave Turner, and he is watching, and he smiles at her.
That's what I hope. I hope Dave Turner still loves Barbara. Forever.
It's all right.
Well, we come on
the ship they call the Mayflower
We come on the ship that sailed the moon
We come in the age's most uncertain hour
And sing an American Tune
Oh, and it's all right
It's all right, it's all right
We can't be forever blessed
Still, tomorrow's going to be another working day
And I'm trying to get some rest
That's all I'm trying, to get some rest.