Hello darkness my old friend…


I’ve been listening to the music of my youth today and it never ceases to amaze me how evocative this exercise can be.

Simon & Garfunkel’s “Sounds of Silence” takes me back to the living room of “Hillcrest” – the cottage Auntie Dot & Uncle Homer lived in while they managed their collection of housekeeping cottages known as “Homer’s Haven” just south of Portland, Ontario on Big Rideau Lake. Their daughter, Nancy, a teenager much older than I was – at least in the mind of a pre-adolescent – used to play Simon & Garfunkel’s album “Bookends” on a flip-down turntable. I think that was also the summer that Mom and Dad went to see “The Graduate”. Although they didn’t discuss the details of it with me then it was quite apparent that this was no “Sound of Music”!

Fast forward to the early days of the twenty-first century. Still at my computer, still listening to Simon & Garfunkel, they sing “Bleecker Street”. This happens to be the name of the street (and the co-op) in Toronto where I have lived since 1992 so, when I had the opportunity to visit New York in 2001, I sought out the street of the same name there in Greenwich Village. Notice the “1” on the map is mid-way between Bleecker and Gay Streets! Today the song has meaning (in fact I don’t remember hearing it when it was released in the sixties) – the fog, the church, a street with “character” one might say:

A fog’s rolling in off the East River bank

Like a shroud it covers Bleecker Street

Fills the alleys where men sleep

Hides the shepherd from the sheep

Voices leaking from a sad café

Smiling faces try to understand

I saw a shadow touch a shadow’s hand

On Bleecker Street

A poet reads his crooked rhyme

Holy, holy is his sacrament

Thirty dollars pays your rent

On Bleecker Street

I heard a church bell softly chime

In a melody sustaining

It’s a long road to Cainan

On Bleecker Street

Bleecker Street

–Paul Simon, from “Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M.”, 1964

Read Art Garfunkel’s take on it from the liner notes.

As for Gay Street I have a picture, despite bad luck with my camera (see my entry from 25/04/2004) of the street signs at the corner of Gay and Christopher Streets, the area of the Stonewall Riots in 1969 something, again, I only learned about from people – lesbians and gay men to be precise – a little older than I am. Grieving “friends of Dorothy” were marking the death of Judy Garland – in fact many had been to the funeral home in Manhatten earlier – when they rose up against on-going police raids of their bars, a major milestone in the gay rights movement. Then, as today, some journalists were more objective than others. Oh for a Pride Parade with such passion again!

I also have a t-shirt and picture from the Oscar Wilde Memorial Book Shop, which I used to patronize – via mail orders – in the 1980s from St. Catharines. It’s just down Christopher Street from the former Stonewall property.

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