Dear Diary:
The Boxer


Having seen a woolly mammoth in the mirror over the past couple of days, I was determined, this morning, to visit Willy’s for a haircut and a beard trim. I hustled down and back in time for my lunch appointment with Steve Laico, the man who keeps my sites looking great. (It helped, enormously, that Steve was running late. What he would have seen in the apartment had he walked in at the appointed hour!) I listened to the iPod Shuffle while in transit (ie, on foot) — Rufus Wainwright and the Pet Shop Boys. Also on the Shuffle: I Muvrini, a Corsican group that sings in French and Basque, too; and Madredeus, a great Portuguese band that Jean Ruaud turned me on to years ago. Go figure.

I mention all of this music because Willy was playing WCBS FM — a format targeted at people my age or a little younger. People my age or younger who still want to hear “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” that is. I almost asked Willy what happened to the Peruvian music. Willy comes from Peru, and once, when he was playing an album of palatially schlocky aubades and serenades by Juan Diego Florez, he announced to his customers that only Peruvian music would be played in his shop. I have been wanting to snitch on the relief men who ran the place when he went home for his annual vacation last month: the music that they played was distinctly Brazilian. Today, though, I wanted to ask for the Peruvian. Anything but a Memory Lane that I stayed far away from. But I kept quiet.

The next thing I knew, the radio was playing “The Boxer,” a song that everybody my age or a little younger knows, by Simon & Garfunkel. The interesting thing is, I didn’t know that the song was called “The Boxer” until today. I realized, sitting there listening, that I have never owned a Simon & Garfunkel album — not so much as a 45. I didn’t dislike Simon & Garfunkel; it wasn’t that. But something made me hold back from declaring allegiance to the duo — which is what buying an album amounted to back in the Sixties. The music was absolutely inescapable, which is how I came to know “The Boxer” so well without knowing that it was called “The Boxer.”

The announcer at WCBS FM reminisced about the night in 1975 when Paul Simon was the host of SNL, and the producers surprised him by producing Art Garfunkel, with whom he was not on the best of terms. They greeted one another awkwardly and sang — “The Boxer.” Paul Simon would go on to have a vibrant solo career: I have several of his CDs from the Eighties, and if I don’t listen to them very much now it’s because they remind me too strongly of the second biggest mistake in my life, which I made round about when they were new. I believe that Art Garfunkel had an afterglow career of sorts, but when I think of him alone I remember a heartbreaking story that was told to us by a friend.

The heartbreaking part is that our friend had no idea how heartbreaking her story was. Flying across the Pacific in first class, she struck up a conversation with the man sitting next to her. One thing led to another, and soon he was outlining the details of his comeback concert tour. He, too, was the less famous name in a very well-known duo — trust me; you’d recognize the name if you’re over forty — but what hit us, when our friend recounted the story, was that she had no idea who he was. Not a pop fan by any means whatsoever (I wash Cindi Lauper’s laundry by comparison), she had never heard of X & Y. So here is this once-famous name, desperate to make a comeback, full of hope and needing a bit of wind in his sails, and the passenger next whom he’s fated to pass the hours between here and Narita is the one person in his demographic (out of — what? — twenty five?) who has never even heard of him. Encouraging, eh?

Kathleen has a very funny story about Art Garfunkel, but we can’t tell it yet. We’d have to shoot you. The funny part isn’t the Art-Garfunkel part but the what-Kathleen-did-with-it part. In a word, she made everybody at Willy’s laugh. Not my Willy’s; her Willy’s. “If you know what I mean by that.”

One Response to “Dear Diary:
The Boxer”

  1. Nom de Plume says:

    Wow. All these Xs and teases.