"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Sing a Simple Song like Sylvester Stone (and) Catch You Out There Like Rick Cerone

Nicholas Dawidoff profiles Paul Simon in the latest issue of Rolling Stone. The piece is not available on-line but here are a couple of cherce bits:

“One day not long ago, Donald Fagen, of Steely Dan, who has admired Simon’s work for decades but knows him only slightly, offered up a spontaneous theory of Simon’s childhood. ‘There’s a certain kind of New York Jew,’ Fagan began, “almost a stereotype, really, to whom music and baseball are very important. I think it has to do with the parents. The parents are either immigrants or first-generation Americans who felt like outsiders, and assimilation was the key thought–they gravitated to black music and baseball looking for an alternative culture. My parents forced me to get a crew cut; they wanted me to be an astronaut. I wouldn’t be surprised if all that’s true in Paul’s case.”

Baseball and black music? I can relate.

And this:

“One day when I am visiting Simon at the Brill Building, we go off to throw a baseball. Simon picks a guitar with his right hand, but on a baseball field, he goes the other way. ‘That’s something I remember about my father,’ he tells me. “I was five or six and we were having a catch. He got me a glove. A righty glove. I’d take it off to throw it back. He’d say, ‘No, no. We do it this way.’ Eventually he came into the house and told my mother, ‘Belle, we got a lefty!’ There’s incredible pleasure in throwing a ball. Having a catch with your dad is having a conversation. As you throw the ball back and forth it’s heavenly.”

I don’t have any fond memories of having a catch with my father–those were uncomfortable moments, filled with impatience, anger, and tears–but I loved having a catch with my younger brother (still do though I can’t remember the last time we had one). There is an intimate connection when you are having a good catch that is unspoken but powerful. The rhythm is easy, contemplative and soothing.

[Photo Credit: Bruce Davidson]


1 Sliced Bread   ~  May 13, 2011 11:13 am

Simon's new album is fantastic. I'm going to have to hunt down a copy of that Rolling Stone. And you know what? I know I sound at least middle aged saying these things aloud, and I don't give a shit.

Having a catch with Pops? Fond memories for me. He's a southpaw, and was a pitcher. He could still break a nasty curve, and float a knuckler when I was a kid. Hit me in the face a couple times, too, it was such a bitch to catch. I remember laughing at myself and my bloody nose.

Having a catch with bro? Not as much fun. It would quickly degenerate into throwing the ball AT each other, dodge ball stylee. Or intentionally hurling it over the other's head, laughing while he chased it down 33rd Avenue. Sadly, we couldn't hang together like that.

For me these days the only thing I enjoy more than playing catch, or kicking a soccer ball with my sons is watching them play among themselves. Yeah, occasionally they play like me and my brother did, but they're definitely having more fun than we did together

2 Alex Belth   ~  May 13, 2011 11:31 am

1) Great stuff, thanks. Yeah, my bro and I fought a lot when we were younger but then once we got to college the catches got great. We can be funny, doing stupid wind ups, or whatever.

The worst is when you have a catch with someone who tries to be macho and throws too hard, and just doesn't "get it." I also try to not be a snobby dick when having a catch with someone who doesn't know how to throw.

Had a catch with the writer Glenn Stout a few years back, that was great. He played ball in his Thirties.

3 Chyll Will   ~  May 13, 2011 11:37 am

Liking black music is assimilating? That's a new one on me. Gosh, I'm just so freakin' American!

[1] At first glance, I read that as "Having a catch with the Pope?" and was awed by how casually you regarded His Eminence... but then I guess getting hit in the face by a good knuckler from the Pope would be a fonder memory than actually meeting him. Unless, of course, you deserved it... >;)

4 Alex Belth   ~  May 13, 2011 11:48 am

3) Liking black music is assimilating for white immigrants. Maybe how you like Jewish comedians, I dunno. Then again, white kids loving black music is a time-honored tradition dating back to the Jazz Age and probably earlier.

5 YankInEugene   ~  May 13, 2011 12:01 pm

Dad wasn't a baseball fan so I never had the opportunity for a catch with him, but with three brothers there was ample opportunity for one of the great joys of life. These days I still play softball and I think my favorite day of the year is that first practice after a long winter and that first catch. My daughter (now an adult) has joined our team and I get to share the joy of having a catch with her.

6 Ben   ~  May 13, 2011 12:06 pm

Our last catch was in Isham Park, probably about two and a half years ago. :) too long.

7 Sliced Bread   ~  May 13, 2011 12:15 pm

the Fagen quote is interesting, provocative, but I'm not sure I understand what he's saying, especially the astronaut thing at the end. Curve ball strike 3 looking for me. How did he get from baseball and Black music to crew cuts and astronauts? One giant leap... No sweat though, I don't understand half of the Steely Dan songs either, and I love them all.

[3] heh, I shared a birthday with John Paul II (Reggie Jackson and Tina Fey while I'm at it) but never got to long toss with His Eminence.

[2] yeah, two of my favoirte unwritten rules of having a catch are no macho displays, and keep the talking to a minimum if you must speak at all.

8 Alex Belth   ~  May 13, 2011 12:17 pm

7) And no over-apologizing if you throw one away. Just "my bad." That shit happens.

9 Sliced Bread   ~  May 13, 2011 12:35 pm

wait, I think I get the Fagen thing now. His parents wanted him to assimilate by going all Buzz Aldrin, but his counter-culture thing was black music and baseball? I don't think of either of those things as counter-culture, even in the 50's (which I don't really understand either). Elvis was black music, and everybody knew it right? So that's not counter-culture.
Alright, I'm back to not understanding the Fagen quote.
Boomers, help!

10 Normando   ~  May 13, 2011 12:54 pm

Just about the best thing in the world for me these days is fielding and batting practice with my son. Can't wait to do it this weekend. I tell him, but I doubt he knows how happy it makes me.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver