January 5, 2009
This piece was named a “Best of Holidailies 2008.” Thank you!
Hello, lamp post, whacha knowin’?
I’ve come to watch your flowers growin’. . . .
Let the morning time drop all its petals on me.
Life I love you, all is groovy!
— Paul Simon, b. 1941
from “The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)”
When people asked me what I was going to do on my gallivant to New York City, my answers got the same reactions from just about everybody:
1. I’m going to see the Van Gogh exhibit again. (Ooh, good. Can’t get too much Van Gogh!)
2. I’m going to a communion service at an historic activist peace and justice church. (Oh yes, peace and justice, good works, need that stuff!)
3. I’m going to the 59th Bridge to sing, (What??)
“The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)” appeared first on Simon and Garfunkel’s 1966 album Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme. I knew it best from the version by Harpers Bizarre that reached #13 on the American Billboard Hot 100 for April 1967. The AM radio station I listened to played it every morning about the time I was ready to head out to class, and for a year or so its sweet uplifting message of joy and hope sent me into the world with a smile on my face and an eagerness in my step.
I was 20 years old at the start of my junior year in college. Finally away from home and the restrictions on my friendships and my activities that my parents imposed (because anything that took me away from studying and practicing my violin was by definition bad), I didn’t go wild like some suddenly unsupervised youngsters do. But I did start to enjoy myself. I was still discovering who I was and how I could best move and be in this world (a process that continues).
I stopped going to church because although I knew tons of doctrine, I had no faith. I did continue to participate in the Newman Club social activities on campus and a Wednesday afternoon discussion group on faith made manifest in secular literature. I broke up with the hometown boyfriend when he reprimanded me for not laughing at his friend’s joke about the recently-assassinated Martin Luther King, Jr. I took a job in a nursing home after other girls in the dorm TV room made fun of the old people pictured while Simon and Garfunkel sang “Old Friends” on the Ed Sullivan show.
By the fall of of 1968 I was the happiest I had ever been, and I still look back on that time in my life with great affection. I don’t know when I stopped hearing “Feelin’ Groovy” on the radio every morning, but by then I didn’t need it. I walked into every morning feelin’ groovy.
And yesterday, after the service at Judson Memorial Church, I took the subway out to 63rd and Lexington. This is the middle of the upscale shopping district. I passed Bloomingdale’s with no interest in going in. (There’s a branch in the King of Prussia Mall an hour from where I live, and anyway, what on earth would I buy there?) I walked steadily east on 59th Street, following the signs for the Queensboro Bridge (the official name of the structure).
Traffic was heavy and I really didn’t have the stamina and the determination to try to find a pedestrian area. The Roosevelt Island Tramway runs parallel to the bridge. This is a cable car somewhat more substantial than a ski lift that swings you on a thin wire high above the roadway of the bridge and sets you down on the island. I took that ride and as the car neared the apex, directly opposite the turrets seen at left, I sang, softly, but evidently audibly enough that several people turned to look at me. They smiled.
In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, a novel I studied about the time I first knew the 59th Street Bridge Song, Jay Gatsby and Nick Carraway walk across the bridge from Long Island to Manhattan. “The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge,” Nick says, “is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty in the world.”
In the forty years since that exciting time in my life I have changed a lot. I’ve been through times of trouble, I’ve been depressed, and I’ve sustained losses. I’ve redefined myself, walked away from a marriage that was going nowhere, found a faith, raised a child, become a real writer. I am not happier than I was back then. I am happy in new and different ways.
And I’m feelin’ groovy, walking into the wild promise of all the mystery and beauty of this world in this new year.
A year ago, I wrote about attending a high school wrestling tournament to see a friend’s granddaughter in action.
Two years ago, I did not post on this date.
Three years ago, I did not post on this date.
Four years ago, I wrote about putting away the Christmas tree.
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