Songs of the street: The Only Living Boy in New York

Like a favorite childhood friend walking into the room out of the blue, a song I had not heard in years came on with, “Tom, get your plane right on time, I know your part’ll go fine…” In the blink of an eye I am back in the comforting embrace of Simon and Garfunkel’s, “The Only Living Boy in New York.”  Moments later, I’m breathing in, “Half of the time we’re gone but we don’t know where,” a not inaccurate description of life for a homeless kid on the street. Songs can make for some mighty fine companions.

There is a large aloneness to manage when you’re on the street, doesn’t matter your age. True, when you’re a teen and almost every other teen you see on the planet has a family they live with, you’ve an additional sharp edge to manage; the only living boy in New York.

The background chorus of the song, tear-producing for me in this recent listen, is the sound of angels. Simon and Garfunkel recorded multiple tracks in an echo chamber.

The song was a refuge when I was cold, or hungry, or a walking stench from not having bathed in a few days. It was a refuge when I knew I was going to break night because there was no place to go.

When the song came on it would fill  me up and carry me its entire length, breaking into sweet-shuffle strides when the chorus played, sending miracle-chills through this dancer’s spine. Life!

For the length of the song, I was a free.

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