Monday, May 19, 2008

The Critic

Last Friday evening, Kathie and I attended a Judy Collins concert at Town Hall in New York.

It was great and if I can’t think of anything else to write about in the meanwhile, it will be the subject of my blog later in the week.

However, now I want to relate an Incident that happened at the concert. We were seated in an aisle in the Loge that had just three seats. At the start of the show, the third seat was vacant, but soon a tall, late middle age gentleman excused himself, climbed over us, and occupied the seat.

At intermission when he stood up, I noticed that he was wearing a badge that read “Staff” and inquired about its meaning. He said he was a music critic for the New York Times. He entertained us with stories about recent events he had attended including a tribute for the songwriter, Jim Webb. He said that most of Webb’s songs including “McArthur Park”, “Up, Up and Away”, and “Gentle on My Mind” were performed.

Suddenly, I heard the following words emanating from my mouth : “Jim Webb didn’t write “Gentle On My Mind”. It was written by John Hartford who was a banjo player in the back-up band on the Glenn Campbell Show.” A very loud silence followed.

Kathie weighed in with her usual default position: “You’re wrong.”

The Critic just shook his head and confidently explained that, yes, Jim Webb had written the tune. Of course, he had every reason to be confident. He had the New York Times badge and he was talking to a man who had just drawn icy stares from three rows of concert goers by blurting out “I didn’t know Judy Blue Eyes was written about Judy Collins!!”

I saw terror in Kathie’s eyes and knew what she was thinking…..Jay Silver Wheels.

Before we were married a heated argument broke out among a group of our friend’s about Tonto’s real name. All of them, to a man and woman, said it was Jay Silver Heels.

I stridently and righteously maintained it was Jay Silver Wheels. Honest, we were not smoking funny cigarettes at the time.

I refused to surrender my position even after one of the group called ABC and established that his name was Jay Silver Heels. Feelings were hurt and relations were strained. I still don’t believe it. Jay Silver Heels makes no sense. What the hell is a Silver Heel? Silver Wheels means something. It might even refer to gaudy automobile he owned.

Anyway, it is often brought up as a classic example of my willingness to defend my opinion in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Now she feared we were about to head down the same road, but I have matured since my Silver Wheels days. I made no reply and we returned to our seats for the second half of the concert.

However, as soon as I was in the door of our house I Googled “Gentle on My Mind” and found that, not only did John Hartford write it, but he received a Grammy for it as did Glenn Campbell who recorded it.

“How did you ever know that,” Kathie asked. Well in all honesty, I didn’t know I knew it. My theory is that somewhere at the bottom of the cracked pot that holds the fetid stew that is my decomposing brain, a cell containing the Hartford information broke loose and floated to the surface at the precise moment my conscious self was in the midst of the Webb conversation. It was pure coincidence. The cell could just as easily have contained the curb weight of a 1957 Chrysler Imperial which I am sure is also floating around in there somewhere. Even so, if I had introduced that into the conversation, it could not have stopped things deader than the Hartford haymaker.

Once upon a time I would have moved heaven and earth to find out how to reach the Critic and rub it in. But, as I said, I’ve matured.

It’s enough for me to know that his façade as a Know-It-All-New-York-Times-Critic has been breached. He knows that I know that he didn’t know who wrote “Gentle On My Mind”, and he knows that I knew it…even if I didn’t know I knew it.

But maybe he knows that he is not really a NY Times critic? I’d look him up but I can’t remember his name.

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