During the week, my alarm goes off at 4:45 AM. Almost instantaneously, my mind sings “get up and do it again, amen. Say it again, amen.” This is one of the songs of my life. It takes me back to college; it speaks to daily routine, and it has some lines (other than the “get up” one), that always stay lodged in my brain. The other one for this one is “I’m gonna find myself a boy who can show me what laughter means.” When Jackson sings it, he says “girl.” In my mind, I sing boy. That was my story. That is what I found when I was in college and playing that record on my dorm room stereo. I still have that boy who showed me what laughter means. Boom! Brain plant.
If you have been an AAA member, you may remember the Triptiks. These were narrow booklets, bound at the top with plastic spiral binding. On each page was a map of a piece of road. It may be 10 miles; it may be 50 miles of your planned journey. Once you had driven to the end of one page, you turned the page and continued down the next. If you were on a round trip, on your way home, you just read the triptik backwards and from the bottom up. As I recall, the maps would also feature some attractions you might want to seek out during each leg of the voyage.
The song pieces planted in my brain kind of read like a Triptik. There are pieces of road that I have taken more or less times which have specific songs lyrics attached to them. They are the road attractions. I have my growing up songs, moody songs, being silly songs, falling in love songs, struggling songs, mad songs, winning songs, having babies songs, worrying songs. The thing is, I couldn’t tell you what each of them are, but when I hear them, or when I happen to be figuratively traveling that piece of road again, they will come to me.
It happened this week as I was literally on the road. The road happened to be the road to work that I certainly do not need a map to. I was sitting at a stop sign and the lyrics just popped into my head. I had to wrestle with it a little to figure out what the song was. I didn’t have the lyrics completely right, but they were close:
Many’s the time I’ve been mistaken,
And many times confused
And I’ve often felt forsaken,
And certainly misused.
But it’s all right, it’s all right,
I’m just weary to my bones
Still, you don’t expect to be
Bright and Bon Vivant
So far away from home,
So far away from home.
The song is Paul Simon’s American Tune. It is a moody song for me. It reminds me of the days after September 11. There is something honestly brutal, brutally honest, but hopeful about this song. What I love most about it is the bridge. It takes another key and soars.
And I dreamed I was flying.
I dreamed my soul rose unexpectedly,
And looking back down on me,
I think that the song came to me this week to give me that reassured smile when I needed one. I can’t explain it other than that. I wasn’t thinking of Paul Simon, Simon & Garfunkle, September 11, or anything else like that. I was actually listening to an NPR Ted Talk podcast about framing stories, that I was loving! And then there was the stop sign. And then there was the song. Smiled reassuringly.
Today I have time to look at the song completely. I found several versions of it being performed, but the one I liked most was the most recent version I could find. Paul Simon was elected into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2011. During the ceremony, kind of out of the ordinary for an event that dates back to the time of John Adams, Paul performed American Tune. This is not thirty year old Paul first performing the song in the protest days of the 1970s. This is 70 year old Paul Simon — his voice not as strong, and perhaps a nervous or emotional shake to it. But boom. The Triptik attraction is fully revisited and rooted again in my brain.