Thursday, January 30, 2014

Valerie 4.0

This is a big year for me. In a few, short weeks, I will turn the milestone, dreaded forty, leaving three full decades behind me and ushering in a new era. Valerie 4.0. I’ve done a lot in a relatively short amount of time. I’ve done some things I shouldn’t have. I’ve done so many things I wanted to do. But in premature celebration of this banner year, my wonderful husband arranged for me to mark something seemingly unattainable off my bucket list:

Not exactly the way I imagined, but I’m seeing Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, albeit separately, perform live this year.  Paul Simon is kicking off a tour with Sting this year and we’re seeing them in a couple of weeks. I spent the evening with Mr. Garfunkel last night and it was sublime. It was poignant and beautiful and exceeded my expectations.

For two hours, he stood on the stage at the FranklinTheatre, accompanied by a guitarist. He split his time standing and half-sitting on a stool, all the while holding a microphone and delivering sweet melodies from familiar tunes and humorous, sometimes deep, prose from his scribblings on the backs of envelopes. One particularly intimate envelope contained a message entitled “Note to Self:”

Although just two men occupied the stage last night (save for the endearing moment when Art’s older son, James, joined him for a duet and homage to the recently-departed Phil Everly), it seemed crowded at times with various characters and personas. Although 71-year-old Art stood up there…

it wasn’t hard to hear and picture this Art:

And, although he wasn't there in body, Paul Simon's presence was tangible. In familiar lyrics and guitar runs, in Art's musings, and in Art himself as he waxed nostalgic on various songs' creation and the person who has been a lifelong friend, nemesis, collaborator, antagonist, protagonist, and muse.

When he spoke tenderly of his own father, “Pop,” and shared the void that lingers some twenty-eight years later, I felt twinges from my own voids.

Woody Allen streaked across the stage a few times in Art’s unequivocal heritage as a native New Yorker.

And I saw my own Daddy up there from time to time. Only months apart in age, an image of him flashed in my mind of him not retired, still working. Art, like many performers, gets mentally frozen in time, caught in a cryogenic time capsule. Although the body (and in Art’s case, voice) betray them, what stands before you and what your mind sees can be slightly different.

Art addressed his “recovery” a few times. One would presume he meant recovery from recent vocal cord paresis, though I suspect he has an ongoing recovery from being a lifelong smoker (tobacco and otherwise), at least one broken heart, writer’s block and any number of other demons.  

No, he didn’t hit all the notes. At times, he even seemed weak. Fragile. But the melody remained. And, as a true artist, he crafted something up there on that stage that was pure magic. A line from All I Know says it best:  “the ending always comes at last/Endings always come too fast/They come too fast but they pass too slow…When the singer’s gone let the song go on.”

Thank you, Artie, for 58 years and counting for singing my thoughts.