There Goes Simon’s Rhymin’

We voted this morning (Yes, Yes, Yes and Mr. Baker is toast and even better there was no doughnut table to guilt-trip you about not donating something to the polling-place school).

Then I did my initial listen to what, for now anyway, is Paul Simon’s final album, In the Blue Light. And it felt like closing a circle.

Back in Park Senior High, the simpering set adored Simon & Garfunkel, but I thought “Parsley” puke and even “Sounds of Silence” too quivering-nerve. “Bridge Over” was impossible to scoff away, however, and did provide my first revelation: the simp set was in love with Artie and Paul was ready to divorce all of them.

I think the Dean has had a damn-near-perfect ear for Simon through the decades and we responded to identical same tracks. Except that I always adored “One Man’s Ceiling Is Another Man’s Floor,” which came out the year I became an official adult and started living in my own apartment. Yeah, here’s somebody mirroring my mind. But I did have trouble with “Rene and Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After the War” — thought it was abstruse. I have not checked to see how much lyrics were modified, but sure enough, this is now a masterful metaphysician operation.

Biggest stinko of the whole set (I’ve listened to it twice and realized I did not even grok this cut the first time through) is that “Love” is track #2. It’s a plain regression to S&G manners and mores and even language. Worst of all, it confirms that part of Simon still respects simp swill. And if “The Teacher” is clearer than it used to be, I still can’t bother to pierce its opaque. It is abstruse.

“Darling Lorraine” is a casually complex example of the Simon the old pimple farms would never grasp — he became an adult, even a weathered adult, not just a pop star with years heaped on him. “How the Heart Approaches What It Yearns” pulls back every lonely era of my life and best of all “Can’t Run But” delights me anew as a twittering and trumpeting machine that radiates the sensibility of the saints.

Thanks for the trip.

The Cosby Immolation, Pt. Two

This is what I wrote almost four years ago. I would make one major change. I suggested that if Cosby had muffled his arrogant criticism of younger black culture, the story of his serial molestations might have stayed dead. That is absolutely not true. He could have used everything he had to keep the accusations old news, but social and cultural change would have kept them burning-hot items. It’s one of the saddest, most abject collapses of my life.

Michael Jackson: On the Cross or Off the Hook?

In the process of retiring summer wear, now-skinnier me was able to wear the T-shirt I picked up when I covered the first performance of Michael Jackson and the Jacksons’s Victory Tour. Like so much associated with these performers, the shirt itself was a contradiction: beautifully designed and printed, but made of oddly thin, fragile fabric.

MJ

(Mine has red sleeves.)

MJ really was the king of pop then. Ten times more alive than even excellent performers on stage, he turned into an enigma the second he walked off. Now I thought how far he had rumbled down and never quite climbed out of the rubble. How it was impossible to have settled feelings about him.

This is a good examination of the whole story, which, to coin a cliche, should be in the dictionary next to “sordid.”

What saddened me most this time, however, is that Michael Jackson has become a King Donald-type symbol.

OF COURSE he was a wicked, guilty monster who bribed his way out of it.

OF COURSE he was an emotionally stunted superstar who showed disgraceful bad judgement and was attacked by evil extortionists because of it.

But either way, on the cross or off the hook, he ain’t gonna be resurrected into the Victory-era life he knew anytime soon.

R.I.P.: Dick Gregory

I’ll be honest — comedians, even social-activist ones, are off my screen. The only funny-stuff albums I own are by Jonathan Winters, the Firesign Theater and Richard Pryor. And I almost never play them. So I know way more about Dick Gregory after reading his obits. Confirms my long-held belief that it’s possible to be an admirable figure and a crank at the same time.

R.I.P.: Carrie Fisher

[ENOUGH! This year is beyond merciless.]

It’s tough being a child with famous parents. It’s tougher when they are Hollywood famous. It’s toughest when you decide to get into acting.

I loved her in Shampoo but Star Wars came along almost immediately after and right away you could tell that Princess Leia was one of Those Roles: it would be hard for anybody to see her as anybody else, the rest of her life.

Thought she hit the perfect tone describing her rocky roads — she never wasted time early on pretending to be a goody-goody or angled for martyr status. Apt that she departs in a year that has taken so many rock stars — she was one.