By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
Forget any other reviews you’ve
read of last week’s Simon and Garfunkel "Old Friends" concert
at Madison Square Garden. The other writers, especially if they were at
all critical, may have credentials in music. Me, I got my credentials in
life — sort of growing up with them.
That’s both growing up
with them as one of the many kids in the neighborhood and in college who
were part of their very, very large circle, and growing up with their
(Paul’s) music and poetry. That music was part of my life, chronicalling
my generation and being the most frequently played albums — 33 1/3 rpm
— on the stereo in my home.
Simon & Garfunkel on tour again.
Paul and Artie are five years older than I — can you hear the guitar
strums? We all grew up in Kew Gardens Hills. They attended Forest Hills
High School at the same time as my sister Carole who would come home with
stories of "Tom and Jerry," the names they used on their first
professional recording — a late 50’s rock offering, "Hey School
Girl" — one of the more than two dozen songs in Tuesday night’s
MSG concert. I still have the 45 (yeah, that’s what we called singles
back then — 45 revolutions per minutes).
Paul and my sister went on
to Queens College, Artie to Columbia. Both Paul and Artie pledged AEPi,
the fraternity I joined at Queens three years later. Paul was Master
(President) of the fraternity three years before me and somewhere there
exists a plaque bearing both our names. Paul wrote our fraternity’s
winning Follies scripts — a Queens College competition — three years
in a row. Along with Paul’s younger brother Eddie, also a gifted
musician, and others, I wrote the winning scripts the next three years.
Paul preformed on stage. I worked the light board.
The “Paul Simon Song Book” recorded in London before the duo made it big.
Along with Eddie Simon,
Artie’s younger brother Jerry was also a fraternity brother of mine. I
knew them and their families back when. When I first pledged AEPi, parents
were invited over for an orientation and to see the fraternity house. Paul
Simon preformed. I knew of him from my sister — he was a local up and
comer who just hadn’t made it big. I went to see Paul perform at Gerdi’s
Folk City in the Village and have followed his/their careers ever since.
And after the single
"Sounds of Silence" was released and went nowhere, Paul and
Artie headed to England. Paul recorded a solo album, "The Paul Simon
Song Book," which was not available in the US, but was tracked down
by real devotees. That’s how you can tell the true Simon groupees from
the also-rans. Ask them to see their copy of the "Song Book."
When producer Tom Wilson
decided to add some electric guitars and unfolklike background to
"Sounds of Silence", and re-release it, the world changed for
the harmonic duo from Kew Gardens Hills. Overnight the song rose to number
one, Paul and Artie were on planes and booked on a whirlwind, nationwide
tour. And have ever since remained the chart topping duo of all time.
Five albums before
splitting, a 1981 Concert in Central Park – with album, and rare
appearances until the current "Old Friends" Tour – left an
emptiness for those of us who grew up on the folk rock of the 60’s and
And last week they were
back. And along with my friends from the 60’s, Gary and Rita Ackerman,
Lil and I spent Tuesday night celebrating our music and memories. So did
some 20,000 other New Yorkers, all of whom looked like they attended
Queens College sometime between 1960 and 1975 and were "Old
The music was great, the
harmonies memorable and the moment unforgettable.
And when, after an evening
of true joy, Paul and Artie came out for their second encore, Artie summed
it all up for me when he looked up at the cheering crowd and said:
"Not bad for a couple of guys from Queens."
"Slow down, you move too fast.
You got to make the morning last.
Just kicking down the cobble stones.
Looking for fun and Feelin’ Groovy.
–The 59th Street Bridge Song.
State & City Face Crisis in Rising Debt
By HENRY STERN
The State of New York is
operating in a financially irresponsible way.
The State often spends more
money than it receives, and borrows money each year to make up the
difference. The Empire State had the largest public debt of any of
the 50 states. The new Governor of California’s proposal to borrow 15
billion dollars to make up his state’s deficit would drop New York State
to second place (out of fifty) in state debt.
But don’t feel badly
about being number two, New York City is in third place and the Port
Authority and NYS Dormitory Authority are high up there in the debt
market. The authorities, at least, incur capital debt for
construction, rather than operating deficits.
Not only is there
ever-mounting state and local debt, but no one in government has even
talked about a strategy to start reducing it. The situation is even
worse at the federal level. The President does not seem overly
concerned about the swelling national debt, which now is about 6.9
trillion dollars — $6,900,000,000,000.00 (that’s eleven zeroes, not
counting the cents).
So, dear reader, what is to
There are three classic
remedies for a deficit: raise public taxes; reduce expenses, which for
local government means primarily labor costs layoffs and service
reductions; increase efficiency.
The Mayor has been
unsympathetic to waste-busters: "You can’t just say let’s go cut
out corruption, waste and the meaningless programs, because fundamentally,
they’re not there." (NY Times, 11-25-02). I cannot
agree. In a $43 billion budget, it is beyond reason that every cent
is spent wisely. In fairness, inefficiency is not, by far, the
largest part of the fiscal shortfall. It would, however, enhance
confidence in government if the City recognized that waste exists, and
asked for the help of the public in rooting it out.
There is no indication to
date of any desire on the part of the State or City government to either
raise taxes or reduce services. In fact, the Mayor and the Council
hope for property tax reductions, for which they can each claim credit,
even though they would simply be trimming the increases they
adopted. Lower property taxes may win votes, but will only worsen
the city’s financial plight.
Since 2004 is a year of
State legislative elections, and 2005 a year where the Mayor, five Borough
Presidents and 51 Councilmembers go before the voters, this is not the
time to expect increased responsibility from elected officials.
Look for intensified
pandering, as the candidates compete to be regarded as both
taxpayer-friendly and city employee-friendly. Those two positions,
popular as they may be, involve basic and fundamental conflict. What
you get from one group you pay to the other. This is called a
External reality rarely
impedes politicians from doing or saying whatever they believe will help
them get elected or re-elected.
The only way the
merry-go-round of fiscal irresponsibility will be stopped is if someone
pulls the plug on the carousel. In 1974 and ’75 this was done by
the large banks, which refused to roll over city notes. So far we have
seen no sign of similar awareness on their part. After recent
revelations of lending practices, some banks have the moral capital of
bartenders serving drunks. And, of course, since the banks
cheerfully financed Enron and others, why should they impose a higher
credit standard on the State or City of New York. And besides, the
greater the perceived risk, the higher the interest rate that may be
Perhaps one should appeal
to the agency with historical responsibility in this area, the New York
State Department of Banking, to look into the matter of credit-worthiness
and consider what effect, if any, the prospect of state or municipal
default would have on the security of New Yorkers’ personal and business
Objective observers like
the Citizens Budget Commission have documented the data on State finances
and made serious proposals. Can CBC’s common sense remedies be
translated into realities?
It is frustrating to watch
what we perceive as a disaster impend, and yet be unable to avert it, or
even to persuade our leaders of the approaching danger.
This is not crying
"wolf," which was a false alarm until the wolf actually
It is not yelling
"Fire" in a crowded theater, which can cause a panic and
stampede, whether there is a fire or not.
It is shouting
"Ice" on the Titanic, trying to get the captain to pay attention
to what surely lies ahead.
Henry Stern was NYC Parks
Commissioner for 15 years and a Councilmember for nine. He can be reached
at NY Civic, his good government group: email@example.com
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