Time it was and what a time it was; it
was a time of innocence.
--Paul Simon, 1968
are different now than when they were kids. They are different in many
ways that all boil down to one: Art was the leader when they were
Perhaps it was that knee-jerk deference that's given to
those of greater height by those who have yet to learn to separate a
visceral response from a cerebral one. Perhaps it was the significance
that kids are wont to give even the marginal seniority of a few months
or weeks. Regardless, the dynamic was so obvious that their teachers
used to joke that Paul was the Leopold to Art's Loeb.
Although Art never saw any humor in the comparison.
it was where to go on their bikes, what radio station to tune, or what
to do after school, it used to be Art who had the final say. Paul never
protested as long as he could make his music--which he could anywhere
and doing anything--and as long as Art sang along.
Which he always did.
One of Art's therapists de jour
had said that once established and cemented, the leading dynamic of any
intrapersonal relationship never changes. Art decided the overpriced
castrati of a quack must have overlooked puberty, for it was when Paul
discovered girls that everything changed. From then on, plans had to be
made around whomever Paul was into --crude pun intended--and it was up
to Art to face being left behind or to tag along.
Which he always did.
wasn't all bad. Paul had big dreams. He was the one who got the record
scout to hear them play as Tom & Jerry at that dance junior
in!" Paul virtually knocks Art over with the force of his victory
embrace. "They want us to cut 'Hey, Schoolgirl' and something new for
the B-side. I told you that one would be big!"
"Can I come?"
Beverley asks. She's practically bouncing out of her cheer sweater, not
that that would be a bad thing. She'd thought it would be cool to date
a rock & roll star. When she realized that meant she'd be left
alone at all the dances that Paul played, the fantasy had started to
lose its glitter. But now things were looking up.
"Sorry. Talent only in the studio." Paul gives Art another backslap and
a humongous grin.
night Paul and Beverly broke up, and Art was in a better mood than he'd
been in weeks. Of course Paul assumed it was because of the record
Oddly enough, back then, Art did too.
was the easiest time for Jewish kids. Sundown on Saturday nights came
early and with it, several extra prime weekend hours of freedom. In
high school, it typically started with a double date in a basement room
of the JCC, Paul making out with his flavor of the month, and Art with
some overeager friend of hers who thought it would be cool to date a
fellow with a record deal.
They necked and pawed and groped on
makeshift furniture until the boys risked personal embarrassment or
until one of the girls finally said no and said it like she meant it.
Usually the night ended up with a consolation prize sing-along or Paul
jacking off in a boy's room stall while Art waited and stood guard.
Or, most often, both.
year--probably out of nostalgia for his lost youth--Art's dad let them
take the Nash, although like most teenage boys they had nowhere in
particular to go and no particular reason to be anywhere but where they
were. But like most teenage boys, none of that had occurred to them
yet. They'd dump the girls off at home at a respectable hour, and the
rest of the night was theirs.
Art had tried it once,
then--late at night with the remains of a six-pack of Schlitz Light on
the Rambler bench seat between them, nothing better to do, and nothing
else to distract him from the deluge of testosterone infused desires
that swamped his forebrain those many months with ever more persistent
His head reeling from the buzz, his left hand down his
own slacks, he let his right roam free. It moved on its own volition
until it lit over the taut denim of Paul's basket, making him drunk on
the heat--the feel--leaving his mouth half-crazed to take its place.
play for Paul's zipper proved to be too much. Like the girls who'll
tell you under the bra is ok, but any try to take it off violates some
kind of tacit rule.
Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.
it off," Paul says. He snatches himself to rights and looks away.
"We'll end up doing it for real if you keep that stuff up." He sounds a
bit annoyed, but mostly as confused and bored and horny as Art feels
himself. Or at least that's what Art decides to hear.
Art pulls himself together even though he aches, the physical not being
the least of it, but the only component he can comprehend. Voices and
visions swirl all hazy in his head. He wants to take Paul down, nail
him to the seat. He wants to cover every inch of his body with hands
and lips and his pecker. He wants something else that he can't quite
put his finger on, but more than anything else, he just plain wants to
He tells himself it's the beer and the boner talking,
and it will be all better when they're both gone. So he takes another
swig of lukewarm beer to clear his head. Hey, that made sense at the
time. It had gone flat and tasted like cat piss, but he didn't know any
better and he finished the can in two swallows.
Teenage boys simply aren't that bright.
cut two more singles before high school graduation. Big Records liked
Paul's stuff okay, but it was Art's voice that really caught their ear.
"Bee-bop singers are a dime a dozen," they said. "But you. When
you sing, you soar. You carry people up with you. You take them up in
the air with you and never let them down."
They offered Art a
standard studio musician contract for back-up vocals. Good money. Maybe
label credit depending on the who and how much.
Paul told him to take it, if nothing else for the contacts. There's no
such thing as a bad opportunity to break in, Paul said.
sing with you or not at all." Art's response is straightforward--almost
bored. Like it's not any kind of decision or impact of emotion, but
just a fact--the way things are. Like he might say two plus two is four.
Which, for him, it is. He doesn't need the money, and it's not like
singing has ever been some great love of his.
Paul says he'd give his left foot for an in like that.
Art shrugs it off. "So we're different. So what?"
Paul shakes his head, but lets it go. "You're crazy, but I sure am glad
you're crazy with me."
through high school they talked like they'd be together always. They'd
both applied to Queens. They'd both gotten in. Paul's folks insisted on
a backup degree if he wasn't going to drop the pie-in-the-sky music
nonsense that had almost led Paul's father to starve before his family
responsibilities knocked some sense into him. And Art, well, Art just
plain liked to be in school. School was easy. All you had to do was
answer most of the questions right, not get caught smoking, and
everything would come out okay.
Paul had a place a few blocks
away all picked out for them. They could afford it as long as they got
three or four paying performance gigs a month. It had two bedrooms,
both big enough for queen sized beds with space to get in and out on
both sides and still close the doors so they could have girls over
without the necktie on the door trick. It was styled like contemporary
tenement, but Paul's girl Shirley was in art school. She said she could
fix it up nice.
They were on the way up in the world, Paul said.
was Art who dropped the bomb three weeks before they were supposed to
sign the lease. He'd applied to Columbia U. and gotten in. His parents
were paying, and for a place in The Village too. Those were two moves
he knew Paul couldn't afford to make.
Art got high before he
told Paul. It was good stuff, Jamaican or maybe Hawaiian. He wasn't a
connoisseur back then. Floating, he mumbled something about their
world-class math program--which was true--but it didn't sound true by
the time the words came out.
"You can't do this," Paul says.
He paces the cracked concrete of his father's basement in ever more
agitated strides. "Pre-law, I'll be working my ass off as it is. With
you in Manhattan, we won't have time to jam. What about the recording
deal? We were in this together, man. How can you
shrugs. "Things change." He closes his eyes and lets Paul's anger waft
away. Some things you can't control, but some you can, and he's on a
mellow cloud. He sees no reason to blow a great high that way.
That was the day Tom & Jerry died.
couldn't stay apart any more than those black and white Scotty dog
magnets could (or are those the kind that repel when they get too
close?) Law school landed by the wayside, and Paul moved in with his
guitar, big talk of stardom, and not much else.
The songs were
different. Paul had changed. He wrote almost exclusively in minor
chords; he said it suited Art. That he sounded more genuine, more
honest that way.
Tom & Jerry might be dead, but from their ashes, the purified
Simon & Garfunkel was born to light.
was the high-school bubble-gum beat. What he wrote now was rife with
longing and some kind of deeper, transcendental meaning that had little
to do with the dictionary definitions of the words he sang.
wrote about Caanan although he'd never been overseas. He wrote about a
sparrow, although he was not a bird. He wrote about pain and injustice
and killing years before he knew anyone who'd died.
the songs, Paul said, that were real for real people in the real world.
Art wondered how he knew that when Paul had never been farther away
But then, most of what Art believed he knew about the real world came
from when he was high.
night Art scored some reds and it came together all at once inside his
brain in a synesthesia of color and smells and sounds that spoke to him
of the meaning of life. He woke up Paul, and naked and cross-legged on
Paul's bedroom floor they penciled it down. 'The Sound of Silence' was
perfection itself. The most profound thing any man ever wrote, thought
"Silence like a cancer grows." Like a mantra, Art
repeats the words. He's not the songwriter, but he wrote that.
"Everyone has to know, has to get that, or we're doomed."
going to tell the whole world," Paul says. He shakes a fistful of music
sheets in the air. "I'm going to tell the whole world, and I'm taking
you with me." From behind, Paul hugs him close, and bare body still
clammy and warm from the guitar to Art's bare back, and Art feels like
he's one with the universe at last.
At last, he's going to be heard.
the album flopped, Paul went to England. Something wasn't working, he
said. He didn't know what it was. A songwriter is what he lives, so he
wanted to flush everything old from his senses. Get an entirely fresh
Despite Paul's reassurances, the conversation left Art with the uneasy
feeling that the something that wasn't working was him.
"I don't know," Paul said every time Art asked the same question.
"However long it takes for me to get it right."
had never mustered enough energy to be the jealous type, but for the
first time realized he hated Paul's talent, his drive. It was the force
that was supposed to bond them, blend them together for all
eternity--not only on man-made vinyl but in waves of sound that wafted
through the air, the cosmos and beyond.
Now that very force was carrying Paul away.
that, Art did a lot of weed and concentrated on math. Those were the
only two things that made anything in his head make sense. His math
professors said he was a natural, but mostly he just found it soothing.
In diff. eq. there was an answer for everything if a person looked long
and hard enough. Math was clean and solid and predictable and made him
think that if he just looked long and hard enough to find the right
formula, the universe and his place in it might actually make sense as
Paul was with a lot of different people in
Europe. A lot of different bands. A lot of different producers. A lot
of different tours.
He recorded an album there and sent Art a
copy. It was pretty good. Art listened to it once then put it away.
Way, way back in a closet. Paul recording without him just seemed
wrong, and it made him mad, but there was no reason he could fathom for
that. It's not like fame and fortune were ever his thing.
he got drunk or high or just plain lonely, he'd pull Paul's record out,
but he tried not to do it when he was high. When he was high, he
couldn't lie to himself; when he was high, he knew he did it just to
hear Paul's voice.
His mother said her psychiatrist said that
was the main difference between men and women: men don't analyze their
feelings. Or can't. Art thought the psychiatrist must be an idiot if he
discounted the difference between men and women that lay between their
legs, but his mother stayed with that guy for years.
That might have explained more things about his mother than about men
and women, Art thought.
When The Sound of Silence
topped the radio charts in early '66, Art tracked Paul down in Denmark.
That wasn't an easy task. It took twenty minutes with an international
operator, and even then he never got around to asking about the cost.
got to be here," Art says. He puts the speaker close to the phone and
presses a button on his nearly new reel-to-reel tape deck. Imperfect
home audio of Dick Clark playing their song to cheers and applause
The sounds in from Paul's end were so odd, Art blamed the static of the
good. They like us," Paul says. It's unclear if that's a question or a
declaration for his voice wavers, distant and surreal over the
"It's like wildfire!" Art says. It was good. They were good. There had
never been anything wrong. Until...
"Packing now," Paul says. His voice sounds stronger now, but then the
line goes dead.
I took all the girls I knew when I was single, and brought them all
together for one night, I know they'd never match my sweet imagination.
Everything looks better in black and white.
--Paul Simon, 1973
you had a girl in England?" Art spent over two hours on trains to meet
him at Idlewild. Citing the luggage, they splurged for a taxi back.
"Girls," says Paul. "They're crazy for Americans over there."
"Anyone special?" Art asks for the same reason some people bite the
sore bumps on their tongue, not because he wanted to hear.
hardly," Paul laughs. "I just write better when I'm in love. Look."
From his satchel he pulls sheaf after sheaf of music out and spilled it
onto their laps.
Juggling arrangements and voices in his head,
Art leafs though the songs. He hears their voices harmonizing as he
skims over Paul's hand-scratched notes and words, and it is perfection
incarnate. He hears an entire album in his head before they reach the
His yogi says hearing voices doesn't
necessarily mean you’re crazy. Ideally, it happens when
you're in touch
with the Chi and therefore connected to every transcendent soul in the
Art would like to believe him, but his yogi drops an awful lot of LSD.
was the one who said if they were going to live in The Village, they
should live The Village. They started eating Thai and Indian and
Lebanese, acting like they had no money, spending evenings at Nobody's,
dressing like Jewish hippies, and following the anti-war. Most days Art
took to smoking weed. He said nothing is real until you actualize it in
your head, and weed was a tool to make your head bigger, to cram all
that actualization inside.
Paul embraced the Bohemian, far
past the point where his parents would fail to recognize their
middle-class Jewish son. For him it equated with a freedom absent from
Europe still laboring under the onus of recovery from the war. It was
people living their subconscious. It was the common denominator of
life--and therefore song. "If I'm going to write the universal songs,
then I have to live the universal life," he said.
He tried the
grass, but for him it fogged, not clarified. "We are what we live. We
have to be open to all of it, because part can never be an entire
truth. I need to know every kind of life and pain and love." He took
from the varied realities of the people around him. Every mother, every
kid, every factory worker, every prostitute, every businessman trapped
in a life he never asked for himself, Paul read from them and took from
them and assimilated them into the pantry of ingredients for his songs.
the throng of The Village, he imagined himself an island, though he had
hardly been alone a day in his life; he imagined himself a tailor,
though he bought all his clothes pre-made; he imagined himself a
sparrow, a swan, a snail.
He imagined himself a bookend although he was only twenty-three.
Records was riding them hard for a second album, but Paul liked to be
ridden hard, and Art liked the way it felt to have Paul passionate
around him again.
They worked from night until early morning
amongst scribbled papers, empty beer bottles, sticky origami cardboard
takeout boxes, guitar picks scattered like rose petals across the
multivariate stains on the shag carpeted floor.
Paul says as the last chord ghosts away. The 'Dangling Conversation':
so close to 'The Sound of Silence' that it couldn't be anything but a
But it didn't matter because they were done. Paul is sore
and tired and his fingertips hurt from fretting for hours on end, but
they had made music and he had seen that it was good.
With Columbia behind them, nothing could keep them from the top.
peels off the guitar; most of his shirt comes over the head with the
strap. He pitches it all aside and lies back on the carpet amidst the
mess. "Damn, man, you and me--we're good. We are so unbelievably good
like this." He throws out his hand, and it bangs Art in the chest in an
exhausted casual camaraderie that he hopes will make do instead of
Paul's used up all the good words he has in him for the night.
Art has some kind of short-circuiting where his nipple is hooked
directly to his nuts, and he can't help it anymore than he can stop it
or analyze it as the feeling floods over him full force. There's an
ingrained sense that it's not right, but there's a greater sense that
in this moment here, there's no such thing as a wrong for the two of
It could be the high of the hash, or the music or just sheer being too
tired to care, but Art lies down and kisses him.
It's a long while before it penetrates the jumble of his senses that
Paul is kissing him back.
Art imagined this it was slow and tentative. He imagined savoring every
detail, making it magical, memorizing every detail, every sound, every
smell. But like usual, the truths in his head have little to do with
the truths beneath his hands and they're both coming all over their
future Billboard hits almost before Art realizes it's finally real:
they are finally making love.
An hour or so later, they make love again in bed. This time Art
processes and remembers it all.
write better when I'm in love," Paul said, and so he did. Art's
therapist said that sexuality is a spiritual thing. When we're most
connected to our bodies-- our selves-- is when we're closest to our
maker, our God.
Paul wrote everywhere: in bed, on the trains,
on napkins and the backs of paper placemats at the diner, on the grass
with Art's head in his lap at the park. It's a little known fact that
'Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine' was written while Art was fellating
him at a dilapidated drive-in theater in Queens.
It was the summer of love, everyone was doing it. Everyone was feelin'
groovy...or at least they thought they ought to be.
first you think it's an everyman coming of age story, then you think
it's a storybook romance, then you realize you were right the first
time." That's how Mike Nichols explained The Graduate
" But the score is going to be the thread that ties it all up. Where
ever you're from, where and however you grew up, music is the language
of seduction. You'll be the voice inside our hero's head."
agreed to do it on the spot. Folk music was born for the coming of a
new age, for a whole new take on love and making love. He liked that
the idea of taking a love that could shock and offend, and making
people see that it should do neither.
Of course, Art said yes as
well. Not that he much cared about doing a movie, but he certainly
wasn't going to let Paul do it without him.
two-tiered music. The old stodgy stuff for Ben living his father's
world, the Simon & Garfunkel folk sound for the new world that
just within Ben's grasp.
They disagreed on the seduction scene. Mike called that the transition
point, but Paul adamantly disagreed.
"He changes, yes, but not because
of sex with her. He changes when he has sex with her and realizes that
hasn't changed a thing. Except maybe cost him his first and last chance
at love. The seduction is part of the old world, not the new.
"Our music is for people growing better, more together, more in tune,
bed after the screening, Paul and Art argue over the end. Art says Ben
really loves Elaine, he's just misunderstood. He's not a demonstrative
guy. Paul says no, he thought he did, but love's mercurial and won't be
held to circumstance. That's the whole point; love's greater than Ben
and Elaine or anyone. You have to keep up with it, not the other way
And anyway, it doesn't matter. It's just a movie, but 'Mrs. Robinson'
is going to be a hit.
agrees with the last part of that, so he mumbles something to indicate
as much. He sees no point in arguing the rest. Instead passes on the
joint and tells Art he shouldn't smoke so much, consider his vocal
cords. Or at least don't do it in bed.
Art gets up and takes
it into the other room. He burns the joint all the way down to the
roach. By the time he comes back to bed, Paul's asleep.
are always relative, never absolute," one of Art's teachers told him
once. "There's a big difference between 'a good knife' and 'a good
knife for stirring paint.'"
Art is a romantic. Paul is a
romantic songwriter. Those two may intersect for a while, but that
doesn't mean they're the same.
"August: die she must." Art was
the one who wrote that line. Paul wanted to cut it. He thought it too
sing-song, too trite a rhyme, but when the song came together, they
both thought it worked just right.
They might make love. They
might--they do share love, but that's not being in love, and no matter
how Art reframes the inequation, it always comes out the same.
Paul's barely written since Bookends
wrapped. Art knows why and he's sure Paul does too, but Paul says he's
just burnt out from three records due out so fast. What ever else you
say about him, Paul is kind, at least to him. Art supposes Paul will
always love him in some way. He hopes that way is big enough to be
fell in love with a lady like a dove
And he called her by name pretty Peggy-O
--Traditional, recorded by Simon & Garfunkel, 1963
Art. I'm Peg." Smiling broadly in their living room, she sticks out her
hand. Art takes it with a strange sense of psychic disconnect. He knows
that this is the woman who was born to break his heart.
For Paul was writing again.
had hoped until now that it might prove to be a hopeless, star-crossed
love like 'A Place in the Sun,' albeit maybe without the intrigue,
drowning and death.
But looking at her, he sees that Peg feels it too. Wrong movie. This is
'A Summer Place.'
Sail on silver girl, indeed.
And a rock
feels no pain. And an island never cries.
--Paul Simon, 1965
takes Mike Nichols up on the acting job when he offers it, partly
because it's something different, partly because Paul won't be in it,
but mostly because Mike's shooting in Mexico. Art thinks he can't wait
to get away, but when it's time to go, he discovers that he was wrong.
Catch-22 is the title of the film.
If Art were a funny kind of guy, he'd laugh.
He calls home less than two weeks in.
wrote you a song," Paul says. He tightens the E string, and at three
dollars a minute, he begins to play over the line. 'The Only Living Boy
in New York.'
"What do you think?" Paul asks as the last chord fades.
"I love it," Art says. He's glad that there's no one there to see him
"I miss you," Paul says.
"I miss you too."
three dollars a minute, they trade banalities back and forth until
Art's trailer mate comes back and it's time to hang up the phone.
sound, Mike was taking a completely different tack on this film.
There's practically no music, just a lot of gunfire, painful twisted
humor, and swarthy, sweaty men who wander about mostly unclothed when
they're not in costume on the set.
He asks Mike about it after
wrapping one night. If he was going to add music-vocals--later. If he
wanted Art to do some. After Mike's discourses during The
Graduate, Art thought he knew how Mike's mind worked.
had been one of Art's problems all along. He was an artisan, not an
artist. An eerily precise singer--a mathematician to boot. Despite a
lifetime of immersion, protean nature of the creative artist's mind
continued to elude his grasp. Or even that there was a difference. In
math, everyone worked things out the same way.
"It's not like
that," Mike tells him as they pass a blunt. "I can't use music to
spoon-feed people how to feel. They have to decide it for themselves or
the crux of the story's lost. If I can't trust the script, the
direction, the audience to get it right, then the
whole film isn't going to work.
"Music's manipulative; it derails your emotional free will."
agrees with the statement, but not the implied conclusion that makes it
a bad thing. For him and Paul, that had been the point of it all. Or
one of them, at least.
Besides, free will's not all it's cracked up to be. They don't tell you
that when you're young.
Two months later Art calls home and gets the news.
"We're getting married," Paul says. "She wants August, but I told her
only if you're back."
"I dunno," Art lies. "We're running behind. I'll probably be shooting
got to be there." Paul sounds very far away. "I want you to sing. And
how can I get married without you? Mike'll let you off for a few days."
"I don't know." It's the most that Art can manage.
"You've got to be there. It's the biggest day of my life. It won't be
the same with out you."
"I don't know," Art repeats. "I'll see. I gotta go." That's another
Art hangs up and rolls the biggest joint he can manage.
Bridge over Troubled Water
is on a deadline, but Paul's not worried. He's been writing up a storm,
and Peg says it's great. He's sure they can cut it in less than a month
when Art gets back from Mexico.
He and Art work like a well-oiled machine.
comes straight from the airport to Paul's. He looks surprised to see
Peg there and all but ignores her. He says it's the music he wants to
It's good. It's really good. He hears it all in his head and knows this
will be their best album yet.
"I write best when I'm in love," Paul says and squeezes Peg's waist.
Art gets up and leaves the room in a racket of chair legs scraping over
you going?" Paul calls after him. He wants to get at least three
arrangements finalized today, and it's already after two.
"Bathroom," says Art.
"That guy's got serious problems," Peg says when she thinks Art's out
"Don't we all?" Paul's nonchalant answer comes.
Still, a man
hears what he wants to hear and
disregards the rest.
--Paul Simon, 1968
Art meets Linda in the park one day. Her dog wraps around his ankle, so
he kind of has to notice her. If not for that dog...
Life's funny like that, Art thinks.
Linda's fun to get high with, and she makes Art feel great in bed. "Why
don't we get married?" Art asks one lazy afternoon.
She laughs at the idea, but Art's ok with that. Truth be told, that's
about what he thinks of the idea as well.
Art's not laughing is with Paul. The few times they talk, they fight
over everything and nothing to do with the record. They carefully never
mention what the real conflict is.
Still, when they lay down
tracks, their music soars high and sublime in eerie opposition to their
spoken words. They've never been a better fit. Perfect vocal harmony is
a living, growing thing, its roots shaping to the exact form of the
container, it's tendrils interweaving, filling in all the holes, gaps
and spaces in the other voice until there is no room left to fill. It
take years to reach maturity, for each to learn the other until they
speak and move and respire as one.
Art stretches out the
recording sessions because he can. Every time they merge voices, each
breathy high, it's a form of making love.
The psychiatrist he
just fired told him to accept that all things end, but Art figures that
as long as they haven't yet, nothing's carved in stone.
He drags his feet on every decision and hits a bad note on purpose more
than once. "Sorry."
From the sound booth, Roy, their engineer sounds tired. "Let's do it
again," he says.
I don't know
what is real; I can't touch
what I feel, and I hide behind the shield of my illusion.
--Paul Simon, 1964
wedding is strange. Art is high, but in his opinion those two facts
have nothing to do with each other. It's at some Presbyterian church
off of Houston. There's no parking, but it's charming in that
dichotomous crumbly-yet-solid way that weathered stone can be. It's an
example what Art finds most evocative and beautiful about daytime old
New York, and it's big enough that in addition to Paul's contacts, half
The Village can come.
It would have been Peg who picked the
place. Art wonders with wry humor if Paul has ever been inside anything
Presbyterian before, and yet it looks like the two of them. The vaulted
ceilings inside surprise, and the 20-foot tall stained glass depictions
of the life of Jesus that are supposed to convey the deepest reverence,
piety and wonder, well they're exactly the sort of thing that would
inspire Paul to write a song.
The best man is Tom Paxton. He
accepted after Art refused. Art answered in a monosyllable-- neither
reason nor apology offered up. Not that Paul felt in lack of either,
but Peg said it was unfathomably rude, and that Paul still needed
someone to fill the Best Man's role.
To Paul's surprise, Art did
agree to round out the six groomsmen, probably because when he called
to ask, Paul phrased the question as if he expected the answer "no."
If Paul had been more clever--or perhaps simply paying more
attention--he would have thought of that before.
sings to usher Peg into the sanctuary: 'Something So Right.' When he's
done, she'll take the aisle and the wedding march will play. Maybe it's
because he's high, or maybe it's because with Peg not in the room,
Paul's mostly looking at him, but either way Art can't shake the sense
that the words are aimed at him.
Art doesn't remember much after
that. He'd splurged on some imported Dutch for the occasion. It wasn't
every day your erstwhile childhood friend got hitched.
does the solo after the exchange of vows and rings. Something celestial
and heartfelt with soaring runs that Paul wrote especially for his
voice. He does it a cappella and nails it. The
notes fly around
the ceiling and then drift gently down to fill the room. "The voice of
a melancholy angel" is how it's put by someone pumping his hand
A week later, even when he tries, he can't remember what that song was
or how it goes.
sings at the reception too. Half the guests (Paul's side) do, but
mostly as a giant jam. Peg asks Art to do a special one for them: Paul
Yarrow's wedding song. Technically, she asks him to do it with Paul.
"It would mean a lot to me, and Paul," she says.
"It's a solo piece. It doesn't work as a duet," Art says, although he's
yet to find anything he couldn't rearrange.
doesn't argue, but he borrows Jack Elliot's guitar and slings it over
his head. He tweaks the E string, sets the capo low on the neck, and he
begins to play the rolling chords in that signature high flat minor
that few human voices can make work.
Art begins to sing, and
the whole room is mesmerized. When they're done, there's a smattering
applause mostly from Peggy's Upper East Side friends and family who
have the idea that's the right thing to do.
But performing a man's own song better than he ever did lends a certain
awkwardness to the occasion, even amongst friends.
the last note fades, so does the mood. Tom Paxton and Kris are riffing
something new off each other now, and people are dancing again.
Paul kisses Peg with the expected wedding day enthusiasm, then he
passes Jack's guitar back.
embraces Art with a hard squeeze across the shoulders, and a smile that
looks wide enough to hold almost everything Art has ever wanted to hear
"So, what's next on the plate for you?" is what Paul
actually says, and Art resets some silent calibration inside his hopes,
aspirations and dreams. He supposes everyone smiles like when they've
just married the person they want to be with forever.
"You've rehearsed that," Paul accuses.
this mean Peter, Paul and Mary's is about to become a foursome?" Paul's
breath is warm with the heady odor of champagne as he whispers
conspiratorially in Art's ear. Paul's voice is light and friendly, but
his arm is still warm and tight around Art's back, possessive as if he
had some ingrained right to assume that even in a split they always
had, always would be friends. "Peter told me last year he was going to
woo you away from me, but I didn't believe it then. If I owe him an
apology, I'll take my lumps like a man."
It's supposed to be a
demi-joke or maybe an expression of rue and regret mixed awkwardly with
admiration and thanks, but that part flies right over Art's head. He
only hears what he expects to hear. It's an interesting choice, his
father had said, in reference to someone else. It means you don't have
to spend much time wallowing in being wrong, but the trade is you have
to pass up a lot of truth.
"I told you, I only sing with you." Art shakes off the embrace and
arguably everything that is offered with it.
Paul goes back to Peg and twirls her. It is their wedding day.
not much of a drinker, but someone's passing with a tray of champagne
and Art takes one because it's something to do and it's easier than
trying to decide for himself what the hell he should be doing next.
More stuff happens; there's more champagne. Not long after that, Art
wakes up on a worn leather couch in sweaty shorts and ruffled shirt,
collar open to the chest. One cufflink's gone missing; the tuxedo
jacket he sees draped across a chair that isn't his. The vest and
cummerbund he finds crushed beneath him.
There's a long-haired cat staring at him from atop the trousers with
sawdust in his mouth warns him to brace for a headache when he sits. It
was right. His shorts chafe stiff with dried semen over much of the
front. Art's pretty sure it isn't his. Art has a hard time coming when
he's high, much less drunk.
Although it does mean he can last for hours. That's one of the things
Linda loves about being with him.
Come to think of it, Paul used to love it too.
needs to wet his mouth, and he needs to pee, and he'd like the swarm of
bees to leave his head. He spies a kitchen sink, but that would only
put him one for three. One, not two. One.
Even sick, high or hung over, no one will say that Mrs. Garfunkel
didn't raise a son with more class that that.
snoring through an interior door. There's probably a master bath. In
the midst of the architectural considerations, Art forgets about the
cat and his pants.
He's right. Master bedroom--master bath.
The flush of the toilet wakes the unfamiliar guy in the bed. "Hey," the
guy holds out sleepy arms to him.
Art says back. He rummages madly through his brain for a name, but
there is none. He stands his ground in the bathroom fluorescent light.
The guy drops his arms and stands up. Naked. "How 'bout breakfast? I'm
a decent cook--vegetarian--or there's a diner around the corner."
Art says. He feels more exposed than the naked guy. Now he wishes he'd
thought to grab those pants. "I gotta--" he nods his head toward the
window and the street below. Soho maybe? Manhattan for sure. The
building across the street looks like one where an old girl of Paul's
used to live.
"Sure," the guy says. He looks like he gets the
message. He nods his head. "Just so you know, I had a lot of fun last
night. If you're ever in the neighborhood..."
"Yeah, thanks. All right." Art hastens out, and the guy's smart enough
to crawl back into bed.
corrals most of his things, but the cufflink is still MIA. He thinks
for a moment about leaving a note with his name and number in case, but
he decides to let it go. They weren't valuable, just a token, Paul's
gift to his groomsmen in fact, and chances are he'll never wear French
cuffs in this lifetime again.
They are now three
weeks past deadline. "We're barely at thirty-eight minutes," Roy says.
"Thirty-eight minutes is not an album. Eleven tracks. An even twelve
might buy us a psychological pass on the length, but we can't call it
done like this."
"It's done," Paul says.
In his time at
Columbia, Roy's discovered that musicians seldom sound definite about
anything, but anyone could hear that Paul is definite about this.
am I going to tell Clive?" Record company presidents, on the other
hand, almost always do sound definite, and Clive said twelve
tracks--forty five minutes. Producers who let Clive down typically
don't go far, and like Paul, Roy's got bigger plans in this business
"Tell him anything. Make it up," Paul says with a bitter
laugh. "Tell him Art and I couldn't agree. Deal breaker. Impasse. Tell
him we almost came to blows. Tell him if I say the sky's blue, Art says
it's gray and he won't agree to cut anything that I don't hate."
"You think Clive's going to believe you'd ditch a million dollar deal
over something that could be fixed with a coin toss?"
tell me. You think that's less believable than the truth?" Some days
human nature tempts Paul to laugh, but he tries to bottle up the
insights and save them for his songs.
Roy runs damp fingers
through his hair. "The truth.... We just need to lay down one more,
Paul. Anything. Filler. It doesn't even have to be good."
looks transiently offended, but he lets it pass. That's not what at the
forefront of his mind, and he's always been a pretty focused guy. "It's
not going to happen. You don't know him when he gets like this. Push
him harder, and he'll quash the whole deal just to--" Paul shakes his
head. Even now he won't speak ill of a friend.
"We've done our last session together. Press the album out of what
you've got, or don't press it at all."
the proper word "nonplussed?" Roy is that and more. Or is it less? Paul
might not be as brilliant as Art, but he's not stupid--certainly never
about music. Roy can't believe he'd be foolish enough to walk away from
something as big as this.
"That's it? Best thing you've ever
done, and you're going to blow it over your pride? Whatever the spat
is, it can't be worth giving up a Billboard number
one." He bangs the mixing board to punctuate his point. "What have we
been doing for nine months? Don't you even care?"
care," Paul says. "That doesn't mean I can change him." He's looking at
the wall, the far one, at some point beyond Roy's left ear.
picks up his headset and goes back to his boards. He's not
unsympathetic. He's been married for twelve years. No one has to
explain how that works to him.
He supposed that no matter what
they do behind closed doors, there's some common denominator where all
men are pretty much the same.
"I'll talk to Clive, but it won't be pretty, I'll tell you that."
Paul gets up to leave. He knows it won't. He doesn't need to hang
around to have someone tell him that.
It's not the
sun you're trying to find; something
else is on your mind. You need a little space and time to break away.
--Art Garfunkel, 1975
it's not until after the split that rumors start. The level of
bitterness and animosity they exude can only stem from love. At least
that's how one widely-read columnist puts it in The Times,
and speculation sort of burgeons out from there.
can't believe the hack gets paid to write that kind of tripe. In 1970,
that kind of innuendo is not good, but since he won't even agree to
stay in the same room, it's rather a moot point.
is a smash success. During a TV interview Paul pulls out the "I write
best while I'm in love" line, and before he can segue into thanks for
Peg, the interviewer has observed that the tracks are almost all songs
of wistfulness, loss and heartbreak, and he makes the obvious marriage
Paul assures him that that's not it. He makes some lame
analogy about a boom season for a farmer leading to slaughter of
thousands of healthy animals, but to the farmer it's the best and most
productive year he's ever had. What's 'good' is entirely dependent on
one's perspective, Paul says. That's the way it always has been and
always will be. That gets him the predictable barrage of letters from
animal activists (and farmers), and in retrospect, it wasn't the best
idea, but what was really on his mind, he couldn't share.
England, a mentor had told him that to the best songwriters, every
single thing around them is expendable as fuel to the craft. The
compleat songwriter would, when stabbed and dying, pluck out his own
bleeding heart and pin it to the staff paper with all the ebbing
strength of his last ragged breath.
Paul took that advice. He
believes it still. But you can't say that on TV, not with the censors
and Peggy and Art watching, so he goes with the farmer thing because
he's got to say something and it beats his honest thoughts.
Then he assures everyone that he and Peg are fine, thanks her on air
for everything she does and blows her a kiss.
doesn't make up for the animal slaughter comment, but his fan mail
statistics indicate the female fans thought that kiss was really sweet.
1971 is the first year the Grammies are televised
live, so everything is big and splashy for the cameras. The plan was to
enter the Hollywood Palladium together, but Paul's brought Peg, and so
Art won't do the red carpet walk with them. He just won't. He offers no
excuses, no comment, he just refuses to budge, and so the cameras roll
as Paul and Peg wave and smile without him.
It's considered a given that they'll win something for Bridge--
if not all the big ones-- so they're given three seats together and up
close. With amusement Art watches from the back of the auditorium as
Paul and Peg rearrange several times. He hopes that means they are both
as uncomfortable as he is, and he vows not to make it any easier.
the end, it looks like they opt to put Peg on the inside with the aisle
seat left for Art and Paul second to the end. Sensible. Practical. On
might even think there's nothing else at play but ease of access to the
stage. The one catch is that Art's actually been assigned the seat that
Peg is in. He could be a stickley asshole about it if he liked, make a
scene, make her give up her spot for him. It's got a certain appeal,
and he plays out the possible outcomes in his mind.
before lights out, he slides into the end seat and stares straight
ahead. He's careful not to let his elbow bump with Paul's--or Paul's
careful not to let his bump with Art's. Either way.
on stage together is painful, and by the time it's over, Art's glad
they didn't win for 'group.' And if one more person makes a "bridge
over troubled water" joke, he swears he's going out to buy a gun.
with the wins, it's clear Paul doesn't feel the same. He throws his arm
around Art, touching him for the first time that night.
come on! Let's go celebrate. I booked a room at the Melrose." He
squeezes Art's waist in a manner so familiar that it hurts.
"I can't," Art says. Again, he offers no further explanation than that.
Paul's exuberance dims visibly. "It's our night. Come on. For the old
times if nothing else. We earned it together." Don't make it
all be for nothing. Don't throw it all away.
"I can't," Art repeats.
bypasses the phones and row of limos to walk back to his hotel. It's
over six miles away. When he gets to his hotel he packs, calls the
airport and changes to an earlier flight.
He calls Linda as soon as he gets back to New York. This time when he
asks, she says yes.
I'll continue to continue to pretend.
--Paul Simon, 1968
Things go easier once Art's engaged. He calls Paul and Peg, brings
Linda over whenever it's convenient for all four of them. See,
I can do it too.
called," Paul says over fettuccini one night. "I donated, and he called
me up himself, wondered if I'd do a benefit concert. Well, it's more
like he wondered if we'd do a benefit concert. I
told him I
would, but I couldn't speak for you. Of course, we'd bring in a lot
more together than I could with a solo gig." Paul thinks about stopping
there, but decides it's better to drop his trump card before it's too
"He says if we do it as Simon & Garfunkel he could
get us the Garden." Paul sees Art's eyes widen and decides that he did
good. Whereas Art never cared about fame or fortune--or really even
music--his love for New York City and its icons runs soul-deep.
"I think you should do it," Linda says. "McGovern! You could do a lot
of good just by doing what you do."
think about it," Art says, but in his mind he knows he will. He likes
to make people think he's not as easy as all that, but he's yet to
realize who being reflexively difficult really hurts.
Great. That's more than I expected." Paul nods and lets his
appreciation beam through. Then he goes back to eating, face focused
firmly towards his plate. He's seen enough of Art's expression to know
that it means yes.
But if he lets on he knows he's won, Art will change his mind for sure
don't know a soul who's not been battered. I don't have a friend who
feels at ease. I don't have a dream that's not been shattered or driven
to its knees.
--Paul Simon, 1973
marriages crumble at about the same time. No, that's not true. When
Paul and Peg separate, things go downhill for Art and Linda then.
have I done wrong?" Art asks as Linda packs the same bags over again,
but differently. This time they both know it's going to be for good.
"Just tell me what's changed, because as far as I can tell, I'm the
exact same guy you married."
"Nothing's changed. You haven't changed one bit since the day I met
She looks at him as if she can't believe that much stupidity can live.
Art. If you don't get it by now, every second I stay is just more
wasted time." She closes the bags and picks up one in each hand.
He stands on the hardwood in his underwear, unsure of what to do.
help me." She motions to him. It's that paradoxical irony that has
always eluded Art's esoteric grasp. Giving up, she swings a scarf
around her neck with flair. "I'll send my sister over for the rest."
sad, but not as sad as he should be. Not nearly as sad as he has been
before. In fact... He knows that says things about him that many would
consider unpalatable, but his new Rabbi (reform) says we were all
created according to His plan, and Art believes in his heart that he is
He's been trying very, very hard to reach and maintain that belief.
easier when he's walking. Just him and his body, its rhythms like a
mantra. When he's walking, it's easy to be in synch with himself.
Linda gone, there's no reason to be home. He makes impromptu plans to
walk to Niagara Falls. He's never seen it from the Canadian side, and
Mike Nichols had all these theories about water and being reborn. He'd
stuffed The Graduate chock full of water scenes and
bored their ears off explaining why each time. He wanted a Niagara
scene in there at the end somehow with Elaine and the wedding dress,
but could never figure out how to make it work, so it got scrapped.
He made sure there was no water anywhere in the desert of Catch-22.
In war, when you die you're dead, he said.
never bought that psychobabble, but it had stuck nevertheless. And it's
as good a place to go as any until he figures out what it is he's
trying to find.
At an uptown opening, their eyes meet across the proverbial crowded
room. It's 1976, and after SCAATY and Rhymin'
Paul's bigger than John Lennon was when he was bigger than Jesus, so
Art hadn't expected to see him at a piss-ant little thing like this.
still pissed, but he's still in love. His overpriced therapist says
that he's still pissed because he's still in love. That until he gets
over the latter he'll never get over the former. Art has no interest in
doing that, so he supposes he'll stay pissed a long time.
sees Paul get the message in Art's carefully neutral face, take some
girl's elbow and steer her the other way. Art's heart drops. He wishes
he could be a little less pissed.
He's really got to get a new therapist.
Instead, he puts down his Bitter Lemon with a twist, goes outside and
walks the length of Manhattan until dawn.
lost," I said, though I knew she was
--Paul Simon, 1968
meets Laurie in a TM session. She's pretty, makes him feel like a man,
and she might be the only woman he knows who isn't looking for anything
from him. It's funny how that makes one almost desperate to give.
takes him a while to figure out that she's kind of messed up. It might
be because his yardstick for 'messed up' is off, or it might be because
the deeper you fall in love, the more it puts you out of view of the
By the time he figures it out, he's already
smitten beyond the reach of practicality or common sense. Again. It's
like the Dalai Lama says we're destined to live until we stop repeating
our mistakes. Art assumes he'll one day be a very old man. He assumes
it will be with Laurie, and he's actually looking forward to that. He
burns less weed these days, but she's doing more pills.
Pills are easier to do without anyone catching on.
yardstick for happy is a little screwy too, but Art thinks that he is,
and nearing age forty, thinking you're happy and being happy are close
enough to the same for him. Once he said that to a guy he was getting
stoned with, and the guy pointed out that that was from Catch-22,
not from Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, like Art said.
Art had pinched it from one of his own movie scenes.
laughed, and it was so funny that Art hadn't bothered to say that the
scripted lines had been about being in love, not happy.
It was close enough to the same thing.
Still, Art's is a good life. He wishes that someone could go back and
tell himself at age fifteen that this was
something that could be his. He thinks back then if he'd considered it
even a possibility, things would have gone a lot differently for him.
a way he'd like things to have been different, but in a way there's
nothing he wants more than things to stay exactly like they are.
Laurie dies, Art gets a card in the mail. He gets lots, of course, but
there's one he turns over and over in his hands, keeps by his bed,
wants to read more into than he should, especially considering the
It's quite plain, the powder-blue star on the
white background with all the traditional Hallmark sentiments on the
inside right and a Hebrew verse on the left. He ignores them both. God
is dead, and Laurie is dead and therefore so am I, he thinks.
the words at the bottom in Paul's own hand that he clings to. Through
it all--even now--Paul has been the one who understood him best. The
words don't say much, only what you'd expect, far less than you'd think
for a poet of the age. They're a little clumsy even, but they're real
words, all for him, not for show or money or to seduce the clamoring
masses. They are a part of Paul that no one else has and so he tucks it
into the nightstand to read every night before bed.
When he's lost all else, at least he will have that.
between reads it lies in the drawer, in the dark, pretty much right
under the picture of Laurie that sits in the metal frame on the top.
not enough space or time in the world to walk this off, so Art doesn't
even try. He knows he should move because of the memories here, but he
stays for them. Even the worst memory is better than the risk of having
Paul's faded from Art's consciousness through the years. Things repeat.
That means Laurie could--would--one day do the same.
That's the thought that is just too much to bear.
Long ago, it
must be, I have a photograph. Preserve
your memories; they're all that's left you.
--Paul Simon, 1968
say that history got recorded wrong: that the sixties really happened
in the seventies. That left the eighties dangling free and floundering
to find its voice. Because disco, really, who'd want to do that over
The sound of The Village though, that was the summation
of souls coming together to cry out to a higher power as one. That was
a sound that would work though the ages. It was a sound any era would
be proud to keep.
In 1981, it's been more than five years since
Paul has had a number one song. He's in demand for projects, more so
now than ever. He likes to think there's a causal link between how busy
he is behind the scenes and not on the charts--that it's not an "in
spite of" or "hope springs eternal" situation.
Truth be told,
he hasn't had the same drive since Peg left. That temporal connection
he prefers not to think of as causal, but due to something like the
maturity of satisfaction with his achievements, or investment with his
children or some other healthier facade.
That's hard to do:
'Father and Child' reunion just doesn't have the same ring. As always,
the truth is found in his music even when nowhere else.
And Paul misses the acclaim as badly as any addict ever missed any
the Central Park proposal comes up, Paul's ready to leap, but he tells
them to hold off on Art's end. He'll call Art himself. Maybe it's
because he's become a cocky ass who assumes that Art is still needy and
lovesick enough to take his calls. Maybe it's because he's world-weary
enough to realize that he rift between them is too close to the soul to
be bridged by agents or offices.
Either way, he's right.
"Do you want to come over?" Paul says. "It feels strange talking to you
on the phone."
The line stays quiet but for soft crackling.
I could come over there," Paul amends. "Whatever you like. But I've got
a sound studio at the house; I thought it would be fun to play around."
you and me?" Art's surprised when he recognizes what he feels. It's
hope. A hope he'd thought was long-since dead, although he still
couldn't articulate whatever it was that he was hoping for.
gets it, even if Art doesn't, but that's not something you can tell
someone else, not even--especially not--a best friend of thirty years.
"Yeah, yeah. I told them I didn't know if you'd have any interest and
to leave you alone until you made up your mind. Just you and me. No
"All right," Art says. "When?"
"I'm free now."
hears it, and he wonders if Art does too. They're going to be Simon
& Garfunkel again. He's careful to keep from laughing into the
phone, something he knows Art would misunderstand. "Sure. I'm at the
New Haven house. It's…"
"I know where you live." Art hangs up the phone and stuffs a bag weed
into his pocket.
answers the door in baggy cargo shorts and a paisley satin shirt that
looks like it belongs in porno film. Still he looks good. Older, but
It doesn't seem like that long since Art's seen him, but time has a way
of, well, flying by.
try a tentative embrace, which is neither easy nor nearly as
uncomfortable as either had feared. Like riding a bicycle, they say the
body remembers even that which the mind wants to think it's outgrown.
gives Art the ten-cent tour, ending up in the basement studio. It's
modeled after Graceland down to the carpet on the walls, but it's twice
as big, and it has every electronic gizmo known to man. Paul says the
deep pile shag is mostly just for looks. There's some space-age
acoustic reverb preventing foam underneath it that does the serious
Paul's done well, no question. But it's a million miles
removed from the way they thought they'd change the world back during
It must have been something Paul said while showing off
his stuff, for the same thought hits them both at once. They see ghosts
hover in each other's eyes.
Paul lifts a rueful brow and takes
a seat. "I want to do the show," Paul says. "No other agenda. I want to
do Simon & Garfunkel again. I've…we've finally got
the platform to
get global attention for that early music. I want to do it.
"You?" Paul lets his expression inquire for him. Often with Art, extra
words only confuse the matter more.
don't know," Art says. It's not strategy or obstinacy this time, but
true position. He almost feels like he's come here to find his truth,
and he's in no shape to try to offer one out yet.
"You know where I stand," Paul says. "So, let's just go from there.
Tell me what it is you want."
hadn't planned on going there. In his deepest heart of hearts, he
hadn't. But as day spawns night and summer spawns fall, the question
spawns one inevitable answer that rises up in his throat unbidden and
takes the form of a bitter scoff.
He looks away to spare himself--for no other reason. Paul knew. Of
course he had to know.
can't give you that," Paul says very quietly. "I will give you whatever
is in my power to make this deal work, but I can't give you that. It's
not in me to give. It never has been. And if you're still the same
obsessively reflective guy I grew up with, then I think you know that.
And always have."
Paul leans over and lays his hand on Art's
leg, too high to be a reassurance between old friends, but not high
enough to sever options. "So I'm asking you, what would it take--what
would you want to do this show?"
The hand on his thigh is so
warm, so real. It caresses in a tender, visceral way that Art has
learned from experience that you cannot fake.
At that moment,
Art knows. It dawns not in gentle pastels, but like the abrupt flicking
of a switch, dousing the sleeper in an explosion of fluorescent blaze.
With the same certainty that he'd ever known anything--which albeit
isn't great--Art knows that Paul would bed him right here and now, or
at whatever place and time he asks. Paul would do it for the concert,
to make his music, or for old time's sake or for a friend--for him.
And it might even be fun again.
It is a catalyzing moment, like it must have been when the burning bush
appeared and spoke.
is a revelation--an epiphany. After twenty-five years of believing all
would be right if he could only be right here like this, here he was,
but the feeling wasn't there. All the therapists, all the temples, all
the courses, all the holy men and here he sat seconds away, his destiny
in his own hands, and it wasn't what he wanted at all.
What did he want?
reached way back to the happiest times, when they were kids. No money,
no fears, only hopes and dreams (none of them yet dashed) and Paul's
guitar and voices that blended like all the raindrops ever fallen
filtering through the earth and poring seaward to do it all over again.
He wanted to be that boy again.
In a sudden lurch, Art stands up and paces away, abandoning Paul's hand
and whatever else it implies.
"I want to do it," Art says. "We put in at least three of my songs, and
I'll do it."
There's a pause of accommodation. "Great," says Paul. "Great!" He
sounds more assured the second time.
He wraps Art in a chaste embrace. "I've missed you. I've missed--" He
flounders, but there's no better word. "You."
everything in him screams to stay, Art does the only thing he can and
shakes away. "You set it up. I'll sign it. Call me when you want to
rehearse." With his long legs he's at the door before Paul catches up,
but Paul does.
"Artie?" The door's open. There might be
neighbors, cameras, tourists, press. Connecticut's not that big, much
less Paul's estate. But what the hell, it's out now; it might as well
be all the way out.
"Artie," Paul calls after him again.
"You've spent all this time searching for answers. You tell me. If
you'd been in my position, what would you have done?"
Art smiles and laughs. It's genuine this time, and it's a joy to see.
"Don't you know? I never found any answers," he says.
"Call me," he adds, from the flagstone walk. Then he turns his back and
Outside, he rolls and burns a blunt on a bench in Paul's topiary garden
before hopping his car service ride home.
first rehearsal session lasts fourteen hours. Not because there was so
much to relearn, but because neither one wants to break it up. Art
remembers why he only sang with Paul, and Paul remembers why he wishes
Art had never left.
"The best years of my life were the ones with you," Paul says.
knows he means musically, but it doesn't matter. For Paul, it's pretty
much one and the same. Or if he does separate, it's always 'musically'
that comes first. And Art knows Paul's sincere. He always is when it's
about his music.
In Art's current headspace, that's good
enough for him. He holds on to those words and pulls them out like the
sympathy card and memories when he doesn't know what else to think.
The more you
near your destination, the more you're
slip slidin' away.
-Paul Simon, 1977
best ten--twenty--nights in their heyday could not compare with the
phenomenon that was the Concert in Central Park. Art doesn't believe
it's because they've grown better with age. He figures there's a whole
lot of people become half desperate to recapture something in their
pasts they missed the first time around.
They can't give
people back their youths, but they can sing their hearts out in the
attempt. Like Tinkerbell, "I do believe in fairies. I do; I do; I do."
population of New York City is not quite 6.5 million. Over 500,000
attended the Concert in Central Park. That's not including the
international television broadcasts over the years. To call it a
success would not begin to cover it.
The pre-production was not quite as black and white.
days before the show, they're still fighting over two of the numbers.
Paul tells the co-producer not to worry. "That's just Art's way," he
says. He can't function at peace; he draws his strength from conflict.
If he doesn't have one, he'll create one usually internally but
"Better the program than something more self-destructive," Paul says.
"That'll be a non-issue in a few days."
show must go on, and there's a contract Art can't afford to break, so
it does. There's tension between them; the camera doesn't lie, but the
voices shine unscathed. They harmonize clean and bright and true.
Perhaps it's not in spite of what's unsettled between them, but
because. Everything that's good and pure and real is poured into the
voices. Perhaps the dross and imperfections of mortal man need
somewhere else to go so they may rise untouched, unsullied by any dark
or baser aspects of the soul.
Once the concert is over, so is the fight.
It's hard to stay angry with run-away acclaim like that. It's hard to
be anything but on cloud nine.
celebrate with me," Paul says. Don has booked the penthouse at the Four
Seasons off Madison. Flying over the city, the crowds, their fans to
the rooftop helipad, Paul says it's the most perfect night of his life.
Art says he doesn't believe in perfection in this plane of
existence, but he looks happier than Paul has seen him in a very long
Perhaps he has point, for the problem with perfection, Paul thinks, is
then what do you do next?
party doesn't break up until almost dawn. Around five, Paul says
goodbye to someone and realizes it's down to he and Artie. Not so much
plain alone, but having been discreetly left alone by tacit agreement
of the last of the die-hard stragglers. At least that's the sense Paul
Art goes to grab his jacket. "Me to," he says.
"You can't go out on the street," Paul says. "Not after last night.
You'll be mobbed."
"It's no big deal," Art says. "They think I'm some weirdo yuppie hippie
wannabe with Art Garfunkel hair."
laughs. He reaches up and cards fingers through the maze of bristles.
"I can't tell you how many times I've wanted to do that," he says.
closes his eyes. It feels so familiar, and it feels so good. His jacket
slides past his knees as it falls to the carpet between their feet.
breaks the spell. Art jerks away, then bends down to get it, but by
then Paul has the same idea and bends down too. Their heads bang in the
middle. Art goes to ground and pulls Paul with him in some kind of a
graspy, floundering, flail.
Head to head, they lie on their
backs on the carpet and laugh. Art's not a drinker, but he's been
drinking tonight. The room spins like a merry-go-round memory dredged
up from the depths of his preconscious mind.
"Well, this is familiar." Paul says when the humor has worn itself out.
it's 1964, and they're back on their living room floor with the sheets
of staff paper and the dirty laundry, and the noodles smashed into the
Art reaches an awkward arm around until it finds Paul's head. "Yeah.
don't want you to go," Paul says. He wiggles his body around until they
are lying side by side. He puts a hand to Art's nipple and fondles it
in the way that always used to make Art hard. "I think about it too,
Art is on top of him in a flurry of hands and lips and limbs, his
fingers already peeling away Paul's pants.
hard as a rock, bright with a desire he hasn't known in twenty years.
The need to orgasm is so keen he feels he might die, but he doesn't so
he decides there must be something past perfection after all.
and fortune have left Paul unaccustomed to not getting what he wants.
He murmurs to Artie to roll over, lift his bottom, spread his legs.
Art's waited so long to hear those words again, he doesn't think, he
doesn't hesitate, he just does.
moving against him, over him, the friction of skin against dry hair
more painful than pleasant, but Art's wanted this too long to even
They both have too many miles to be
comfortable on the carpet, so soon they make it to the bed. With Paul's
weight pinning him, Art feels that he's finally safe--finally stable.
When Paul swells inside of him, Art feels that he's finally, once
again, alive. He's finally in touch with the only plane of reality he's
ever known or cared to know.
Art crushes the pillow into his
mouth, his nose. The low oxygen is making him dizzy, making him high.
Somewhere in the mix he's climaxed, but Paul's not done. He's still
thrusting into him, murmuring nonsense words, "I've missed you; I love
you; oh, God!"
Art's erection's gone. He's beyond that now.
He's beyond any convention of sex. Everything just feels good. It's
down to him and his body finally in harmony with the universe.
If he could live in one moment forever, it would be this.
moans into the gag of feathers as the burn inside him intensifies. The
stretch, the pressure on his gland is almost too much to bear. Paul
used to swell to almost twice the size in the few seconds just before
Apparently he still does.
familiarity combined with the feeling inside and all around him is too
much. Art needs some kind of release, but he can't orgasm. Instead it
comes out as tears. He presses his face hard into the pillow, teetering
on the cusp between a swoon and some fleeting ethereal plane as Paul
empties everything he has inside of him. Paul fills him, floods him
with some essential element his body--his very being--has, unbeknownst
to him, been missing all along.
But like all ejaculations, paradoxically the completion siphons
something ineffable away from him as well.
Paul collapses atop him chuckling, embracing, salting baby kisses
across his back.
Paul rolls aside, Art shifts the pillow and draws in fresh air. The
oxygen floods his body and the realization floods his mind: he does not
have the fortitude to live through emotion this intense again.
pulls the covers up, and they lie spooned, Art's back curled into
Paul's front. He doesn't want to sleep, he wants to revel in every
moment of being held, being warm and safe and not searching for any
thing at all.
Paul's almost asleep--might be asleep. That
might be the only reason Art asks. It's the question he's never
mustered the nerve to ask the myriad of shrinks, the doctors, the
Rabbis, the medicine men he has squandered time with throughout his
"Do you think it's a disease?"
"Is what a disease?" Paul's response is contorted by a yawn.
a pause, but Paul is kind enough not to pretend he doesn’t
He wraps one arm tighter. With his other he strokes Art's shoulder, his
"I think the Earth is filled with billions of different
people. The beauty is in the diversity of us all. It's the same as any
"You didn't answer."
"No. And I never
did. Never." Paul kisses Art's shoulder, his neck, his hair, but Paul's
lids are heavy. It's been almost a 24-hour day. He pulls Art as close
as he can, cups one palm boldly around Art's sac, and allows his eyes
When he wakes up in the morning, Art is gone.
disturb the slumber of feelings that have
died. If I never loved I never would have cried.
--Paul Simon, 1963
waits a day before calling because it seems safer. It's weird, he
thinks; it's as bad as dealing with a girl, but it's always been worth
the effort, and that's true more than ever now He makes himself sound
cheery, which certainly isn't hard. The press, the calls, the wires
have been non-stop.
It's intoxicating being on top of the world again.
"Hey," he says, the receiver pressed tight against his cheek. "I missed
not enough to tell if that's a "me too" or sarcasm, or if Art is just
high or bored or off on some other headspace. But it's not a hang-up,
and that's something at least, so Paul says what he needs to say.
been fielding appearance requests pretty much 24-7. It's already too
many to go through over the phone. Some of them are urgent. Carson
wants tomorrow night. I thought we could meet at the house--"
Art interrupts. "Paul, I can't go through it again."
Still, the faint popping of an open phone line continues.
can be no reasonable question as to what 'it' is, although Art and
'reasonable' aren't a terribly tight pair. Paul's not entirely sure if
he's talking about two days or two decades ago, when it dawns that to
Art, it's likely all the same.
At a root level, it's pretty much
the same to Paul too, except that life has added infinitely more layers
of complexity since their Village days.
"I think you're being
unfair. Just because I don't feel it in the same way, doesn’t
don’t feel it as much. I can't change any more than you can."
Improbably, Art laughs, which wasn't the desired effect; it’s
wasn't a code," Art says. "I meant just what I said. I can't put myself
through the whole cycle over again. I'm not coming to your house. I
can't-- I'm not going to-- I can't--" The sentences jump abruptly and
stick in limbo, like a record with a terminal scratch.
suggests Don's office--a neutral corner--and Art agrees to that. Art
tells Paul to say yes to Carson. His mother won't look at Rolling
Stone, but she watches Johnny every night. If they do Carson,
she might believe he's famous then.
Art's never liked talking about himself, but he likes being on TV and
having people see him together with Paul.
"Aside from Scissors Cut, your newest, you've done
several other albums."
Art's not exactly an easy interview, but Johnny has a job to do.
"Did you ever think about forming another musical partnership, seeing
how well it worked for Simon & Garfunkel?"
you can't just do that." Art shifts forward in his chair, engaged.
"It's not like buying a new guitar or replacing a band member." Art
becomes more animated with each word. "Interweaving voices is one of
the most intimate things there is. You have to discover how to fill
each others harmonic cracks, then you do it over and over, every single
time, until it becomes a beautiful natural instinct. Paul and I are
molded to each other. We grew into each other. You can't unlearn that.
I only sing with Paul."
"Yeah, they say you never get over your first," Johnny quips with a
quirk of his face, and the audience laughs.
Paul gives a token chuckle, but Art's grown quiet again.
turns to Paul. "What about you? You perform with other vocals, record
with them: Alvin & the Chipmunks--" Johnny lets the joke trail
laugh is more comfortable this time. "No, not them. But, yes, since
I've been able to, well, afford it--a big change from our days doing Wednesday
Morning and even Bridge Over Troubled Water--I've
been playing around with the studio sound including adding more
"So you don't agree with Art? Or are you just a musical slut?"
There's more laughter from the audience tiers.
no," Paul rearranges in body language that is far more serious than
seems to fit the general mood. "I do agree." He looks to Art. "I
wouldn't ever try to create a duo with anyone else."
"You say wouldn't; he says couldn't." Johnny tosses that into the air.
takes a breath, as if in preparation for the length of a speech he's
made before, or at least planned out in his head. "I'm not sure there's
a difference. I've made music with a lot of people over the years, and
loved every minute of it, and I hope to do so for many more years to
come, but our Simon & Garfunkel sound is the only vocal harmony
work that's reached my ideal. I met Artie when we were eleven. I heard
him singing, and something clicked. Something special. It's not
something you can remake or redo. I've never met anyone else with whom
I thought I could make it work."
Art's peering at Paul in that
way that is typically considered poor social manners, but the camera is
in tight on Paul. The studio audience are the only ones to see it.
decides to wrap it there. He cuts to commercial and shakes their hands
good night. When he comes back, it's in the enormous turban. He and Ed
launch into a Carnac set.
It's Art who leaps at the World Tour proposal. He's fallen a bit under
the spell of the promoter's hyperbole.
having done at least three himself (depending how you count), Paul
hears it as four months of airports and delays, endless hotels,
passport hassles, strange food, worse coffee, foreign languages and
missing his own bed. "Sure," he says. "Let's move forward on that."
private, Don tells Paul that's a decision against his interests. It
would cost him projects here valued at three to five times what the
tour would bring.
"It's not about the money," Paul tells Don
for the umpteenth time in their association, which is not a surprise,
except that it's never been in reference to a marathon tour before.
Eventually they settle on twenty-eight dates.
on the tour go easier than either of them expected. Between the travel,
the arrangements, the shows there's enough chaos and conflict to keep
Art--or anyone else--from seeking more.
Paul catches Art
looking at him on and off. Looking in a way such that what he's
thinking is in his eyes. It's so much better now that they no longer
have to pretend. It's flattering, and after a miserable grubby day Paul
often thinks it would be a nice way to blow off some of the steam.
But Art scrupulously keeps to his own room and keeps his hands to his
a long strange trip for them this making music again with the intimacy
of a couple co-mingled with the harsh realities that only decades of
knowledge of another person can yield. It brings all the good memories
flooding back, and some of the bad ones as well.
his foot down at doing as many solos as Paul in every show. The
managers assume it's some kind of artists' pissing contest, but Art
just doesn't want to get left behind again.
empty streets, down past the
shop displays; I heard cathedral bells, tripping down the alley
ways…as I walked on.
--Paul Simon, 1963
something transcendent about watching a master exercise his craft.
Listening to Art rehearse, takes Paul to a different place and time.
It's both the splendor of the past and an inspiration for their future.
There's no bars or notes or technical dissection. It's a pure,
unpasteurized essence of music that has forever fluttered in the
collective soul of humanity, searching for release.
Art sing, Paul wonders that he was ever young, cocky and stupid enough
to have the balls to suggest they should be a pair. Paul's vocal work
is competent enough, especially in this electronic age, but he knows
he's been living a farce. The conventional wisdom is that Paul's
musicality, his songs carried them I both, but Paul sees now--like he
was too busy to see then--that without Art's gift, they never would
have caught the public ear.
Art won't sing with anyone else,
so he's always said, and so he's always made it true. Paul will sing
with anyone, and he has sung with hundreds, but the only one he's ever
ached to be singing with is Art.
Once you've made perfection, where is there to go from there?
Atlanta, they start sound checks early. The stage manager barrels in
around noon. "Carrie Fisher's in my office. She wants to meet you."
Jedi just came out, and Star Wars
fever is running high.
"Are you kidding? Princess Leia? In that metal bikini thing?" Paul
sounds like he's twenty-five and seeing Star Wars
for the first time. "She doesn't know it, but we've had sex many, many
times." Paul curves the contour of his hand and mimes a few tugs. "It
sure was good for me."
"No bikini. That I can see. And I looked. Hard. Just her. Should I send
straight," says Paul. He checks himself in the mirror and tries to
finger comb his hair to fall the way he thinks a superstar should look.
"Artie? Where you going?" He sees Art grab his jacket. "Carrie Fisher's
on the way."
"I don't know," Art says. "I think I'll take a walk."
Two weeks later, Art pulls out of the album deal. Twelve weeks later,
Paul and Carrie are married.
When Art's invitation arrives, he pitches it in the trash. At the time
of the wedding, he is walking across Japan.
Carrie leaves, Paul falls into a deep abyss. It's the kind of pit so
twisted and deep that there's no glow of daylight, no hint of fresh
air, no celestial twinkling to guide you out and home.
He calls Art one night, his tongue stupid with liquor and his words
barely making sense.
"I'm so alone, Artie. Can you come over? If you love me, don't leave me
Art thinks of Laurie. How could any soul who'd lived through such a
Art comes, not because of the maudlin eighty-proof argument, but
because finally Paul needs him more than the other way around.
The next night, they make love.
imagine us years from today?
--Paul Simon, 1968
by night and partners by day. Living a double life proved not as
difficult as either one had feared. Camouflaging one's affections is
not difficult for neither the lifelong student of human nature, nor for
the emotionally impaired.
We may not be what we seem at any
given moment, but if we live the role long enough, it's what we will
surely become what we pretend to be. Dress for Success
got that concept right and made a fortune in the process.
not so hard to deny your lover in the light of day. The hard part is
not coming to believe it yourself by nightfall. Or any of the
They are in bed when Don calls. It's The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
They're in as a duo, two decades after their last hit.
The Hall only admits those who stand the test of time.
wants to know if I can talk you into performing." Paul laughs and grabs
Art's dick. "I told him I might have to twist your…arm. I
he even knows were not on the outs."
"Idiot," Art says. He lowers his lids and cedes to hazy fantasies as he
lets Paul make love to him.
You'd think Art's time was finally here, albeit a quarter of a century
late and second hand.
funny, though, how things don't work out like your fantasies, which is
why "fantasy" and "aspiration" are two entirely different words. When
Art was twenty-two in Mexico, he and another guy on the set (Marty
Sheen?) had tried having sex on the beach. The movies made it look like
the most romantic thing. They'd gotten sandburned on knees and back,
and finally quit when the grains worked their way in to places even
more delicate than that.
You'd think Art would have learned his lesson, but for poets and
songwriters, dreams are the last thing to die.
"I love you," Art says at least a dozen times a day. Perhaps he senses
he might not have the chance for long.
is the condition in which your happiness is entirely contingent on
someone else's." That's what Art's yogi had said a couple years ago.
Art had fired him when he found out it was a quote from Robert
Heinlein, but that didn't make it any less true.
And Paul is no longer happy with him.
the gurus and yogis and Rabbis and flower children with guitars had it
wrong. It was Walt Disney who got it right. "Once you pass its borders,
you can never return again."
There's a nearly infinite spectrum
of shades of being between "no longer in abject despair" and "happy."
Art's intimately familiar with most of them, especially on the lower
end. He's been good for Paul, he may have even saved his life, but
Paul's not happy, and so Art can't be either. Not even when he gets
high and tries to make believe the euphoria is coming from within.
meets Edie, and Art's okay with that. He knows what's coming--he knows
Paul better than anyone in the world. He's surprised it takes so long.
Art figures Paul's dragging his feet out of fear of a blow-up like
before, and that makes him both pleased and sad.
to have made Paul afraid of him. He's sorry about a lot of things--some
which can be changed and some which can't. He starts dropping hints
about how great Edie is and how lucky Paul is to have found her. How
not every one gets more chances at love.
Finally Paul tells him
that he can't do it anymore. Or won't. He says it's Edie's condition,
and he says it in such way that Art's pretty sure that's the truth.
not you," Paul says, "You know she's nuts about you, but with AIDS, I
think she's kind of freaked. We're talking kids, and you know how women
get when they're feeling maternal--" Paul reaches for the most
distancing reason he can: kids, women--nothing about you and me.
"It's okay," Art says. They both know it's a reasonable demand. Normal
even. Beyond normal. Their eyes concede as much.
"I love you." Paul voice is choked.
notes with some pride that he's not falling apart. He supposes like
horseback riding, it gets little easier every time you do it.
forget it while you're changing diapers on those rug rats," Art says.
He wants to say, "Be happy," but he knows that's not something you can
just make yourself--or any one else--do.
This time Art is best
man at the wedding. He gets a haircut, but he won't wear a tux. He
comes in black slacks, a bolo, and a gold brocade vest with a slightly
Asian look that he picked up on 37th. To his surprise, Edie's doesn't
say a thing about it. In the receiving line, she hugs and kisses him
with the same enthusiasm as does Paul.
Paul calls Art
himself about the NY concert series, this time not because asking is
such an enormous deal, but because it's hardly anything at all. Given
enough time, everything old is new again, and talking with Art is again
as easy as when they were fourteen and sharing dirty secrets about
Edie doesn't want Paul going on tour--not with her
pregnant and certainly not after the baby is here, so Paul's tied to
New York for the duration. Art finds himself wryly amused to see Paul
so at the mercy of someone else for a change, but Paul doesn't seem to
Art wonders if that was part of the problem all along:
if although Paul understood their situation, it had never occurred to
him some people aren't built to handle it as well as him.
not exactly what most people would call busy, but he's got some
artistic irons in the fire again, and he was never very good at
multitasking. It's not that he doesn't want to do it. In fact he kind
of does; after thirty years there's still no place he'd rather be and
nothing he'd rather be doing than making blended music with Paul. It's
hard to pass up a chance to be publicly heard and seen with him. But
with Paul's projects, everything is always so much more work than Art
had in mind, and Art's always had a need for his alone time that most
people can't understand.
"Half," Paul says. "I'll do half of
it with my band. That'll be the lion's share of the rehearsals. You and
I can hit it alone here and there. What do you say?"
"You don't need me."
the truth. Paul's a bigger name by himself right now. Simon &
Garfunkel is a name that speaks of reliving your parents' days.
"I want to do it with you."
It's not much longer before Art says yes.
we are more or less the same.
--Paul Simon, 1968
of the nicest things about getting older is that you learn what really
matters. Things that don't just kind of gradually fade away. When the
Recording Academy called about the Lifetime award, Art immediately says
yes. When Paul calls to talk about what they should do, Art immediately
says 'Sound of Silence.' That's what started it all. That's the one
that will always be us."
"No argument there," Paul laughs.
has the uncomfortable but hardly unprecedented sense he's missing some
cosmic joke, but then he and Paul have seldom been on the same plane
unless they were making music.
And it's so good to be happy with Paul again.
a little rough on stage, on camera in front of however many million
people making it all work anew. But the music comes through for them
For Paul, on the most basal level, it's always
been about the music. And apparently Art's found whatever it was he was
looking for as well, so for now everything's all right.
voice has changed a lot over forty years; it's harsher and can no
longer hit or hold the high notes that came so easily before the
uncounted and sundry smokes. Paul waits while Art slows the arrangement
down and alters it subtly. There's no "I told you so" or
holier-than-thou look. Paul's got his share of things he'd do over if
he could as well. All good people do, they both know by now. Only
idiots and assholes think they never make mistakes.
final run-through Paul slaps Art's thigh. "That's it! That's beautiful.
It's exactly the same sound as the '64 cut."
Art says. Paul's hand burns like a brand through the denim against his
thigh. Fifty years and Paul's been the one Art can't stop himself from
wanting through it all. "Once an addict, always an addict," is what
they say at N.A. You can trade one addiction for another, you can say
"I won't use right now," but you can never get it out of your soul.
the important stuff." Paul's thumb begins to massage, and Art thinks
that one way or another, he's about to go out of his mind.
half hard and it shows, but Paul is looking straight into his eyes. Oh,
the times Art had gotten lost in those eyes. He aches to move, to but
he knows if he does, it will only make things worse.
One drink is too many and one thousand isn't enough.
Unbridled desire in a man's eyes might be the most erotic sight in the
knows beyond a doubt that Paul would. If he gave the slightest sign or
even if he did nothing, he's virtually certain that they would end up
coupled on the couch. He imagines it playing out in his mind. It's slow
loving, tender, fun. And for an old man, the fantasy is almost as good
as the real thing. No pains in the joints, no cramps in the legs, no
kinks and aches in the back.
But the outcome is just as clear.
Art stands up and whisks his jacket off the chair. "I've got to meet
say that real love can neither be offered nor accepted; that it just
has to exist like gravity or sunshine or rain. Art was going to write a
poem about that, but he's pretty sure that he read it somewhere else.
the longest time he can't remember where. Then he remembers: it's one
of the feel-good posters his dentist has thumb-tacked to the ceiling to
distract people from the drill.
Paul's standing behind him
now, saying something low that Art missed. His voice sounds like their
village apartment, Thai take out and younger days. It's all too much
and Art turns to him. They hold in a chest-breaking embrace, Paul's
cheek warm against his face.
Art squeezes back hard, and he
nods. "Good." It really is all right. "Then don't let me screw it up.
I'll catch you tomorrow." He kisses Paul chastely on the lips, pulls
away, and leaves.
The fans agree: they are back.
There's a new concert series: Old Friends. There's a new generation of
fans. Art's insistent that they sing it all live; he says he'll never
let himself be tracked. Paul thinks that's ridiculous, but he's used to
Art's quirks and the fans don't seem to mind. They cheer all the same.
The money's nice, but mostly they perform to feel the love.
a different kind of love: no yearnings, no demands, no highs and lows:
just them. Art writes a poem about it and thinks that it would make a
He'll show it to Paul after the show, but right now it's almost time to
FICTION | THE CUTTING
ROOM FLOOR | CONTACT