The catholic high school I went to had a building they called the Good Samaritan Centre (GSC) which was basically a very large room they used when they had to congregate an entire grade together indoors. We would do PE self defense lessons or sex ed in front of Jesus on the cross.
By the time I’d reached grade 11 there were no nuns or priests at the school so all religion classes were taken by lay teachers. Since they wanted to make religion relevant to us they’d do things like show us movies like Roses in December, Beaches or Mississippi Burning. Not strictly religious but hey, they were moral. Those movies taught me not to kill nuns, blacks or white women with very black hair who had friends with very red hair.
One of the teachers called Miss Box was the kind of teacher who was young, full of inspiration and “with it man”. To make one of our religion lessons more interesting she arranged for her friend to come and talk to us about religion. Over the years this guy has morphed in my mind to someone similar to the jewish cowboy teacher Lisa fell in love with in the Simpsons. You could see through his trying to be your friend routine but forgave him because at least he was a grown adult who still didn’t wear socks up to his knees like every other teacher we had. Plus he played guitar. We all suspected that he was Miss Box’s boyfriend but of course had no proof. It didn’t really matter that much anyway as we suspected every teacher was sleeping with every other teacher. Gossiping about teachers was always a favourite pastime at my school.
The guy only came to the school a few times while I was there but he rocked my world in a way that it still has repercussions to this day. In this religion class in the religious centre he played a song on his guitar that dove right in to the heart of my alienated pimpled teenage being. It started like this…
A winters day, in a deep and dark december.
I am alone.
Gazing from my window, to the streets below
on a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow
I am a rock
I am an island
This song was just amazing. This described everything I was feeling and more. Did the guy write it? What was going on? Where did it come from? Why wasn’t everyone else stunned and speechless like me?
Thankfully the guy must have understood it’s impact because the next thing you know they were handing out photocopies of the words informing me that the song was by some guys called “Simon and Garfunkel“. Who was this Simon and what the hell is a Garfunkel? This was the age before the internet (well in homes anyway) so I couldn’t just google it to find out who or what they were. I’ve been waiting my whole life to write the next sentence…
Thankfully K-mart helped me. I was browsing their cheap tape section (this was before cds were mainstream – god I’m dating myself) a month or so later and discovered a two for the price of one set of “Simon and Garfunkel” albums for the el cheapo price of $11. I couldn’t wait to get home to play I am a rock over and over again from the Sounds of Silence album. Once home the revelations continued as I discovered other songs they had written that I recognised. Hey these guys wrote that Bangles song “Hazy Shade of Winter”. Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme …. wow.
In the humid wet heat of an Australian summer in 1991 I imagined myself in England freezing to death and feeling homesick or reading my Emily Dickenson and you your Robert Frost. I was hearing poetry set to music from some guy from New Jersey who lived in a country halfway across the world and he was describing my teenage angst like he was looking over my shoulder.
Thanks to that guy who wasn’t a jewish cowboy cartoon I now have a penchant for the music genre twee. My definition of twee is wordy music that tells a story with harmonies and acoustic guitars. If you think you might like twee, you should investigate the following artists:
They are perfect for moments when you want to reflect or hear a story with resonance and as you can see from my history twee music is a religious experience.