In this song Paul Simon projects an entire relationship onto a trip from Michigan to New York. The “Kathy” mentioned in the song (and a few other Simon and Garfunkel songs) is real-life ex-girlfriend Kathy Chitty. “Let us be lovers,” he says at the beginning, and the song tracks their courtship from earnest to playful to not-exactly-hopeful: “‘Kathy, I’m lost,’ I said, though I knew she was sleeping. ‘I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why.’”
I have a live recording of this song. Paul Simon is playing a huge concert in Central Park twenty-five years after he and Kathy broke up and when the audience hears the opening line they erupt in ecstatic applause. “Hurray!” they’re saying. “Tell us again about how Kathy’s love couldn’t fully satisfy you.”
A good deal of art is telling stories you’re not authorized to tell. I know I’ve hurt more than one girl who didn’t deserve it by writing about her in TMOPMO. My first year at Bard, my girlfriend came to visit me, and with pride I showed her all the plays I had written that semester. She was oddly (it seemed) unresponsive and it was only years later, when I went back and reread some of those old plays, that I realized they were all about her.
When I listen to these songs, I wonder about the Kathys and Cecilias and Emily whenever I may find hers, the Carrie Fishers and the Joe DiMaggios. How peculiar to know that somewhere out there someone you loved very much is singing a song about how you broke his heart, and someone else is applauding.
Last week I saw Lisa Cholodenko’s The Kids Are All Right. I feel like this is destined to be one of those overrated underrated kind of movies — a movie that gets more love than it deserves and then faces a fierce backlash which it also doesn’t deserve.
I thought the film was solid, buoyed into greatness by its no-weak-link ensemble cast. There was one surprise plot twist (given away in the trailer — that’s why I didn’t post it) that I found mostly unnecessary and distracting, but then that twist turned out to be pretty much the plot of the whole movie, which I also found unnecessary and distracting. What can I say? It’s not the Lesbian Family Meets The Sperm Donor Before The Daughter Goes Off To College story I would have told, but Lisa Cholodenko’s gotta be Lisa Cholodenko.
Every year I keep a running tally and ranking of how much I like every movie I see because apparently I can’t just enjoy anything anymore:
And then there was the time I put this song on a mix for a girl I liked. I put it as the first song, because I loved it and I couldn’t wait for this girl to love all the things I loved. Our love will be like Carolina, I thought, with shouting hills and splendid greens. An adventure— up, up, and away! This song was a promise, I thought. This song was what I wanted us to be.
It was years later, when my sister and I looked up the guitar chords and sang this song for a small group of family and friends, when I first really paid attention to the lyrics, and as I cheerfully sounded out the sentences, I realized for the first time that the song is entirely and unambiguously about domestic abuse.