Old Friends

A Gift

The song didn’t exist and then, as if by magic, it did. He sensed it could be his greatest work. 

When Paul Simon said, “I think you should sing Bridge Over Troubled Water,” although Art Garfunkel obviously did sing it (and Paul ironically resented how the song came to be associated with Art), his original response was reportedly, “Nah, you go ahead and sing it.”


Simon & Garfunkel did not record another album after Bridge Over Troubled Water. If childhood friends who built their relationship over years and blended their voices together so beautifully couldn’t maintain a harmonious friendship, what hope is there for the rest of us?

The Harmony Game

Last year was the 40th anniversary of Bridge Over Troubled Water and I recently saw “The Harmony Game,” a documentary about the making of the album. The documentary reignited my college obsession with Simon & Garfunkel’s music. And their friendship.

I enjoyed the documentary as much for the old footage of Paul and Art interacting at the height of their partnership as for the more recent commentary on the music by them and the other players. The ease and bond between them back then came across clearly and poignantly. However, by the end of their partnership, Paul’s lyrics gave powerful voice to the abandonment, rejection, and regret he felt in his friendship. Those feelings resonate with me more than I’d like to admit.

I discovered the Simon & Garfunkel catalog and read their biography at a time of unwelcome changes in some of my friendships, some fading with distance and others damaged by regretful  behavior. From sitting in my tiny dorm room trying to work out Art’s harmonies, to shedding a tear 20 years later realizing I don’t sing very much anymore partly because I no longer have anyone to sing with, their music both soothes and unsettles me.

Obviously I don’t know the status of Simon and Garfunkel’s relationship today, nor is it any of my business. There was friendship, partnership, estrangement. There were reunions and rejections (like Art having to be talked into singing Paul’s masterpiece or when Paul decided to strip Art’s vocals from what was supposed to be their reunion album). The interviews did not focus on the friendship and Art, in particular, focused on how wonderful his memories were. Neither man mentioned any debate about who would sing “Bridge,” and Art only said how much he enjoyed “delivering Paul’s intentions.”

Both men danced around the obvious questions about friendship. Art said: “I don’t want to play my friendship with Paul on camera. It’s very deep, very private, and full of love. But yeah, those songs are about friendship.” Paul said: “If there’s a theme that runs through Bridge about leaving, it was certainly unintentional.”

This discussion centered around the most obvious abandonment song, “The Only Living Boy in New York” (one of three songs Paul did in concert this year that made me cry). But when Art heaped praise on what he called Paul’s “under-appreciated gem,” “Song for the Asking,” I couldn’t help but (probably) misinterpret this “love song” to be about his friendship with Art too. 

During the discussion of this song, Paul said, “Notes of apology that show up in album after album, that’s just to say I haven’t forgotten what I did to various people.”

“Thinking it over, I’ve been sad. Thinking it over, I’d be more than glad to change my ways, for the asking. Ask me and I will play all the love that I hold inside.”


I’ve been hurt by people I thought were my friends. And I’ve done really dumb things when I’ve felt a friend slipping away. It’s like my subconscious tried to avoid the pain of loss by, ironically, causing me to behave in a way that would speed up the loss. People say marriages require work, but friendship is more difficult for me. Without the commitment of marriage, the close proximity of shared space, and physical intimacy, what binds one to a friend?

One of the goals I set for 2011 was to be more social–a euphemism if ever there was one. It had become easier to believe I didn’t need friendship than to put forth effort, since that effort often exhausted me and left me feeling empty and rejected. And while it is daunting to feel that way, I decided to stop pretending I don’t need friendship or that a happy marriage negates that need. So I’m trying what for me is heavy lifting in the friend area. Like making some. And being a better one to those I have. I toy with the idea of trying to make amends to those I’ve hurt even though I worry those scabs are better left unpicked.

The jury is still out on how I’m doing, but I’m trying. In the year when both Simon and Garfunkel turned 70 (how terribly strange!), I wish for them the same thing I wish for myself, to have a cherished old friend sharing that park bench.


I haven’t even scratched the surface on the actual music. I’d love to write about my favorite songs, but haven’t been able to whittle my list down to fewer than 20. I might as well just say, “I really, really like Simon & Garfunkel” and leave it at that! Do you have a favorite Simon & Garfunkel song?

Have you ever reached out to an estranged friend? Or an old friend with whom you’ve lost touch? How did that go?

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11 Responses to “Old Friends”

  1. Tracy
    Monday, December 19, 2011 at 1:48 pm #

    I reconnected with an old friend and we couldn’t even remember why we had a falling out, but talking to her again brings me back to my childhood. She has reminded me of so many fun times I had completely forgotten about. You can always make new friends, but there are only a few special people who share your history!
    By the way, thanks for reminding me of how much I love Simon and Garfunkel. I’m listening to them right now!

    • logyexpress
      Thursday, December 22, 2011 at 5:11 pm #

      Tracy, that’s exactly what I was trying to say only more concise (new friends vs shared history)!

  2. Leah
    Tuesday, December 20, 2011 at 1:55 am #

    Very nice post! I love Simon and Garfunkel. Their voices, lyrics and songs are just beautiful and harmonious. I still listen to their Greatest Hits CD in my car all the time. Thanks for reminding me about the Only Living Boy song — another classic.

    • logyexpress
      Thursday, December 22, 2011 at 5:26 pm #

      Thanks! The one-two punch of “Old Friends” and “Bookends” has made me cry more times than I’d like to admit. That damn Paul Simon knows how to push my buttons.

      “America” is one of my favorites too. It reminds me of the time I took a bus trip with the guy I liked in college. One of my friends was going to school in his hometown. So we took the bus there together and I wished I was Kathy and he was Paul. Only he was going home to visit his girlfriend…ouch.

  3. Leah
    Tuesday, December 20, 2011 at 1:56 am #

    Oh and favorite song? Too many to name. But I’ve been known to hit “repeat” several times on “America” and “Bookends.”

  4. Recovering Supermom
    Wednesday, December 21, 2011 at 3:10 am #

    I have a friendship that I felt slipping away and I tried really hard to keep it. And in trying to keep it, I did some things that I regret, too. Now, I am letting the friendship be what it’s going to be. It’s hard, because I want it to be more, but it’s just not. Finally getting to the point where I can accept that has really helped me. Some day, maybe this person and I will be close again, but I know it will never be the same.

    I think there’s always hope though to rekindle friendships. Both people just have to be ready.

    In other news…I’m passing a blog award to you! Check out my post to see :

    • logyexpress
      Thursday, December 22, 2011 at 5:31 pm #

      “Never be the same…” that’s sort of why I haven’t reached out. Sort of feels too little too late at this point.

      Thanks for the blog award!

  5. kaleba
    Saturday, January 14, 2012 at 12:50 am #

    2011 was a bad year for me and friends. The few I had left I lost. They’d been dwindling for a while and now I live in a town where I have no friends at all.

    Oh sure there are “friends”. Acquaintances really. People I have known for years and years but with whom I do not socialize.

    On the other hand, 2011 was the year I came to grips with who my real friends are. We don’t talk, we barely keep in touch, all live miles and miles, or in some cases states and states, away, but they are the people who will always be in my life, who will always be my friends. They are the group I spent all my time with in high school (which was decades ago) (some of whom I have known since elementary school), and thanks to Facebook and email we are able to maintain these long distance friendships to the extent that I learned a valuable lesson about friendship. Some of the people in your life will like you no matter what you do or don’t do. That’s a friend.

    It’s also really good to have friends you don’t see or talk to often. Less chance of getting hurt that way.

    • logyexpress
      Sunday, January 15, 2012 at 3:36 pm #

      Love your doggy avatar! RE: friends, I totally hear you.

      I’m pretty introverted and I usually find it difficult to connect with people. Since making friends is so difficult for me, that adds to my annoyance with myself for not putting forth more effort to maintain existing friendships. It’s also made me too open to settle for “friendships” that weren’t so healthy for me–I’ve backed away slowly from those over the past year or so.

      And while I certainly haven’t put forth enough effort on the maintenance of friendships front, it takes two to tango (as my Dad used to say). As adults, everyone’s very busy, people move away, etc… I know now how much I value my old friends. I might not see them or even talk to them very often, but they knew me in my formative years, they’ve met my family, etc… I’d like to think they’d be there for me if I really needed them. I would be there for them too. I just need to do a better job of letting them know that.

      Thanks for the comment.

  6. scalesoflibra
    Wednesday, February 1, 2012 at 10:10 am #

    Any song in which a lamppost gets greeted is a-okay in my book!

    I too have difficulty making and keeping friends. Part of the problem in childhood was that my family would move around a lot, about every 4 years or so. I don’t have any childhood friends. The other thing is that I just ended up having so very little in common with most people around me. There aren’t too many people in the world who would get all the cross references I make. Few things can make you feel as lonely as coming up with a brilliant joke and then realizing that no one you know would get it because they just don’t have the background knowledge.

    Last year I had a very vague sort of falling out with someone, but what’s been difficult about it for me is that we have several mutual friends. Now, since I don’t want to see the one person, I’ve ended up not seeing many of these mutual friends as well because I feel that it’d be weird for them if they knew I hadn’t invited the one person.

    • logyexpress
      Monday, February 13, 2012 at 8:33 pm #

      I wish I had a better excuse, like moving around a lot. I suppose that’s my excuse now as an adult for losing touch with old friends (not living in the same place anymore), but that can’t be my excuse for having difficulty making friends in the first place. I hear you on the things in common…although I don’t think I’m that odd, it does seem like I don’t have a lot in common with most people. As an adult, the biggest example of this is not having kids, which I’ve found to be a huge conversation ender.

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