I, like many of you post-Gen-Xers, grew up listening to Paul Simon's "Graceland" album. It's an album (perhaps the album) that I recall as a constant in memories from various parts of my life, from being a kindergartner singing along to it with my brother while being driven to our grandparent's trailer on a Minnesota lake, to the nerdy kid on my bus in fifth grade who brought a boombox everyday so that all of us could listen to it on the forty-five minute bus ride to our magnet school, to singing along on a walkman in high school, to a friend in college requesting that we not listen to it on the drive to New York city. No matter how far back I go, "Graceland" is there, and I'm singing along.
Well, that's what made it all the more shocking the other week when someone explained a lyric to me that I had never connected the dots to. In the song "That Was Your Mother" which is a zydeco hybrid, I'd always assumed every street and building reference in the song was about New Orleans. This was in a no way a stretch of the mind, since the second refrain says "I'm standing on the corner of Lafayette, state of Louisiana..."
As I was standing with Garth, in NY, around Astor Place across the street from the building we'd worked in together over a year ago, which sits next door to The Public Theatre, he quoted the first verse of the song (which I've known the words to since I was at least six) where it says:
"Well I'm standing on the corner of Lafayette, across the street from the Public, headed down to the Lonestar Cafe..."
It was like footlights exploded in front of me or something. There we were, standing on the corner of Lafayette, across the street from the Public, a few blocks up from what was once the Lonestar cafe. How many times had I stood on that corner, coming back from Staples, passing Philip Seymour Hoffman and Liev Schreiber taking smoke breaks in front of the Public Theater, then lugging bags up the fourth floor to our wacky non-profit cubicle? How many millions of times had I sung that lyric, without ever considering that the song was partially about New York? It was spooky and freaky and surprising and awesome. It may not seem like that big of a deal, but at that moment, it was this realization that I'd spent my childhood unknowingly singing about a place I would spend a large chunk of my life. And not just the city, but singing about a specific spot on a specific sidewalk of a specific street in a specific city. That is just too crazy. And I only learned of the connection once I had moved away from New York. I'm just glad the revelation came while I was standing there on Lafayette at least. (You know, where the Walgreens is now that used to be the Astor Wines & Spirits that's now across the street by the Public...)
Somebody please agree with me that this realization is cool.
How the Light Gets In
6 days ago