Columns 2003

It’s all slip sliding away

“Slip sliding away.  Slip sliding away. The nearer your destination, the more your slip sliding away.”

When Simon and Garfunkel first sang these words to my generation, the destination seemed very far away.  Now, 30 years later, not so much.  It’s not that we’re not slip sliding anymore, it’s just that our destination is much, much closer.

I went to see Simon and Garfunkel in concert a week ago.  It was quite a blast from the past.  For many of us, if there was a defining word for our generation as we looked to the future, it was “plastics” and all the horror that word held for both Benjamin and us.  And of all the songs that truly spoke to us, certainly among the top ten are two songs from The Graduate, “The Sounds of Silence” and “Mrs. Robinson”.

Comparisons to concerts from the sixties and seventies were inevitable.  For instance, at a time when everyone in the hall would have once flicked on a lighter to symbolize peace, at this concert only about three lighters appeared.  My first reaction when they were flicked on was to wonder how those people got through security with them and then to wonder if the fire marshal would coming running up to them and extinguish them in a blast of powder.  But mostly I was concerned that they were probably people who were still smoking – and not the fun stuff of my past but that hard-core tobacco stuff.

Somewhere in the beginning of the concert, the Everly Brothers made an appearance and sang a few songs.  That’s when the varicose veins in my legs seemed to pop out with renewed vigor and enthusiasm.  It’s simply no fun to suddenly feel your age.

My sister said that the concert wasn’t like most that she attended in that it never really got to rocking. While admitting that Art Garfunkel still had a magnificent voice, she was disappointed that Paul Simon wasn’t allowed to cut loose with some of the songs from his Graceland album, which she claimed would have brought the crowd to its feet.  I just figured that in a crowd with the average age I was estimating for us, breaking out into rock music could be dangerous unless their were chiropractors and cardiologists standing by in the wings.  After all, most of the younger people there had obviously been brought by their grandparents, not their parents.

It was a funny time for me to attend this concert.  The past few years have seen the reappearance in my life of friends from my dim and distant past – people who were just struck by the impulse to contact me and managed to find a way to do so. A friend from New York City appeared after a twenty year absence; a friend from the old neighborhood after more than thirty.

Right before I left Anchorage to travel east, a college friend contacted me after hearing about me from a public health nurse who had worked in Barrow.  This friend, Nancy, had asked the nurse if she ever heard of anyone named Elise Sereni since the last time Nancy had heard about me I had been heading to Alaska. She eventually found me through the Internet. I’d last seen Nancy was when I visited her and her new husband just months after our college graduation. She’s long since divorced him; left him right after figuring out that acid was his vocation, not his avocation.  I arrived on the East Coast to find an e-mail waiting for me from a person who had actually only gone through freshman year in college with me but remembered me and had gone to the trouble of finding out my e-mail address.

It seems we are starting to feel the passing years and just how many there have been and need to reach out to those who shared them with us. It’s as though they provide some assurance to us that for so long as our past is still around, there must be a future too. It may be shorter than once it was, but it is there nonetheless.

“Now the years are rolling by me, they are rockin’ even me

I am older than I once was, and younger than I’ll be, that’s not unusual

No it isn’t strange, after changes upon changes, we are more or less the same.”