NEWS – Paul Simon Returns to Forest Hills and My Mother

Paul Simon High School Yearbook Photo 1958 By Jonathan Green

Paul Simon Forest Hills High School (Queens N.Y.) Yearbook.1958 Senior Year Portraits By Jonathan Green Celebrity Photography USA

“You should write about this.” I had every intention, Mom. Helen, my Mother, is a fantastically energetic and generous woman and on most of the days that I was in the hospital she would call Jimmy, her driver of choice, and she would shlep her 86 year old body to Lenox Hill or NYU Hospital, depending on where I was residing, to be there, either as company or, given my frequent periods of unconciousness, just to keep vigil and be of support to Jolean. She gives and she gives without complaint or comment. Mostly. For the most part, that is. What I mean to say is she is willing to sacrifice endlessly but she also gets tremendous satisfaction by having her sacrifice noted and, if you’ve dropped the ball momentarily, she’ll prompt you. “You know how old i’ll be on my next birthday?” Yes Mom, 87. “You think there are many 87 year old woman who can do what i do?” No Mom. “Before, it starts raining, can i get you anything? Some soup? I don’t want to get caught in the rain.” Just sit Mom. I don’t need anything. “You didn’t buy tickets to Paul Simon at the Tennis Stadium, did you?” No. Why? “Well, Joy and the other ladies bought tickets to see him but i couldn’t really commit because of you being in the hospital.” Sorry Mom. “You were in High School together right, just a few years apart?” I graduated in 1972. i think he was something like 1957. “That’s not that far.” I try to explain that for music fans my age, Forest Hills is the undisputed birthplace of punk music and those guys, the Ramones, were my contemporaries. “Who are they? The Ramones?” The Hymans, Mom. They lived on 67th by 110th street, same block as the Slevins and the Borns. “Well, I don’t know but i like Paul Simon.” And now, i’d like to name all the rock concerts Helen has attended in her life. And now, i have completed the naming of her rock concert attending history (we’ve been to the Philharmonic together many times and she’s a much more avid theater attendee than I but, as will surprise absolutely no one who knows her, no rock concerts). Then it was, “Everyone is so excited, everyone is talking about it, Paul Simon coming back to Forest Hills.” Really? “You know, i couldn’t get tickets with Joy and the others. It’s a shame.” I don’t know if my Mother is acquainted with Stubhub but I surely am. So what did i do? Was there anything else to do? “Mom, I bought Paul Simon tickets.” Front row tickets too, so she’d have a story for her friends. Samara, Jolean and I took the subway to Continental Avenue and got there maybe ten past five. The plan was to get there early so as to have time to explore the Forest Hills Gardens before meeting my mother at the Forest Hills Inn at 6:00. The Gardens, as it’s referred to by locals like me, is a planned neighborhood funded and developed between 1909 and 1922 by the Russell Sage Foundation, a well funded group of utopians. It was meant to be a model suburban community for working families designed by architectFrederick Law Olmsted. The aim was to demonstrate the economic and social viability of an intelligently planned suburban community, though it is today as expensive a residential neighborhood as there is in NYC. It’s a mix of free standing homes, connected houses and mid-rise apartment buildings, all in a charming elfin tudor style. ForestHills-StationSq

The sky was forbidding but the rain was holding as we walked the crescent streets, with beautifully overgrown stone walls at the sidewalks, the gentle kind of groomed meets ungroomed fairy-tale setting Olmsted created for Belvedere Castle in Central Park. It was a very pleasant way to spend a half hour, all the while watching the sky become more threatening. By the time we returned to the Station Square and The Forest Hills Inn, there was a light rain starting, putting a practical kibosh on the plan to meet Helen at one of the service tables outside the asian restaurant that occupies the first floor of the Inn so we went inside hoping Mom would find us there, which she did. It was a noisy, singly place, the kind of place where you get your own drink in a plastic cup at the bar and find a piece of banquette to squeeze your ass onto. I didn’t have the spilkes to last ten minutes there so, there we are, about a quarter past six, concert due to start 7:30, light rain outside, I suggest we walk the half mile or so to the stadium entrance, get an early shot at the concessions for dinner which we’ll eat at our seats. We begin our walk but I first draw everyone’s to the mural painted under the train tracks. “Mom, you see those four guys standing there? Those are The Ramones. Forest Hills High School pop music makes three main stops – Burt Bachrach, Paul Simon and The Ramones and, compared to The Ramones, Paul Simon is just an artful folk singer/songwriter.” “What are their songs?” “Beat on the Brat; Sheena is a Punk Rocker; The Blitzkreig Bop.” “What are those songs? They’re not ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water'” We walked along, tennis courts to our left, LIRR train tracks to our right. It’s not very crowded yet.client-westside-tennis-slider3 Not many people are pursuing our “Early Arrival” strategy although it looked like we were making the right call as we looked over the broad, empty grounds, a batalion of food vending booths arched along the perimeter. After a spirited discussion that Mom participated in, we decide on the lobster rolls purveyed by the owners of the late, lamented “Danny Browns Wine Bar”. “Sami, lobster roll? Chips?” “And water.” “And water. Jolean?” “The same.” “Okay, the same. Mom?” “Nothing for me.” “What do you mean, nothing for me?” “Nothing for me.” “Is there something else you want? Should we go to a different booth?” “No, I just had enough to eat earlier. I had enough at home.” “Don’t do that. It’s going to get late. You’ll be hungry. Eat.” “Just let me have some of your water.” I brought her her own bottle. And a T-shirt. The Stadium is pretty empty and I lead my little group further and further down the aisle to the very front row. Helen is close to dumbstruck though, of course, not.”I don’t believe it. You bought these tickets two days ago? I’m not even going to ask about the price. How much were they? You are really something. I like the way you live. No, really, how did you get them?” The same way Sol bought buildings – I paid more than anybody else would.

While Jolean, Sami and i were eating, Helen was doing what she does – starting conversations with everyone around her. She was energized. “It’s a happening. Everyone’s excited. Is it always like this?” Pretty much Mom. That’s why I love to go to concerts. Then the rains came and they were torrential. Mind you, this was at 7:45 for a concert scheduled for 7:30 so much of the audience began chanting for the show to get started, the earlier we’d be able to get out of the rain but, having gone to more than one Paul Simon concert before told an angry Jolean, “He’s not going to come out early and play for the crowd. He’s going to wait until everything is set up, he’ll come out with the band and they’ll do exactly the same set they did last night which is exactly the same set he does every night.” Each of us had our own strategies for dealing with onslaught.

By the time Paul came out at 8:45 the rain had ended. I’ve attached a setlist below (He finished with “American Tune” the night but “Bridge Over Troubled Water” our night). There are so many great songs, there’s no point in resisting. The band was filled with real virtuosi and was tighter than a tick. If it’s precise, though, it’s also a little hermetic. There’s not much going on between performer and crowd, no reference to the hometown nature of the show. The few stories Paul told were just elaborate lead-ins to songs. As Helen said post-show, “he’s got no personality.” In fact, I asked Mom what is it that she wants me to write about? “One that were there three generations going out together. That is special. Second, I went to my first rock concert at 86 years old, stayed all through the rain and had a terrific time. Third, he’s got no personality. I loved the music but he has no stage presence. He doesn’t add anything.” Okay Mom, I think I’ve got it.


The Boy in the Bubble



One Response to “NEWS – Paul Simon Returns to Forest Hills and My Mother”

  1. Hal Says:

    Love your mom, Dave.

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