I pressed play on my Ipod and this is what I heard….Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard By Paul Simon
Those of you who have been following me for awhile now know that last year at this time (more or less) we moved to Queens after years in Manhattan. I have touched on this in a few posts already, but when I am playing Photo Shuffle, I have to follow the rules, so this change to our lives is coming up again. Not that it is a problem at all. This song, and the artistry of Paul Simon are far from being a chore to write about. Paul Simon needs no introduction of course, be it as a solo artist or as one half of Simon & Garfunkel. As a songwriter he is right up there with the best of them. I have always loved the ‘pictures’ he paints with his songs. Little stories and vignettes that though they are not bound to the New York zeitgeist, certainly feel like an integral part of them. It may have only been an afterthought as a lyric, but his song Me & Julio Down By The Schoolyard will be forever linked not only with the neighborhood of Corona, but of Queens itself.
Depending on the map, and depending on who you ask (opinions strongly differ) we either live in Astoria or Long Island City, Queens. So not a Paul Simon neighborhood (he is from Forest Hills) but an integral part of the pulse in this borough regardless. To be honest, I had kind of a snobs attitude to Queens for much of my life. Though we moved from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn when I was young, I always figured that Brooklyn would wind up being my life someday. I was born there and work there currently after all.
But now that I am in Queens I must confess that I freaking love it. The diversity of cultures, the old school attitude and presence that still can be found on Broadway (the Queens one!), Steinway Street, Northern Boulevard, Ditmars, and beyond. Lots of great restaurants and bars, non-chain stores, and a more relaxed atmosphere add to the enjoyment. Queens people really take pride in their neighborhoods and in this past year I have to admit that I feel the same way. After years of living in Manhattan, I really feel at home here now
There are several ways to come in and out of Queens. For me there is essentially only one way. A long trudge from our apartment to 31st Street to catch the subway. Coming home though, on an always crowded train no matter what time of day or night on the N/Q line, you inevitably encounter what I call the Queens Curve. After the train emerges from the tunnel, it rises towards the elevated station at Queens Plaza, where it remains until the end of the line at Ditmars Boulevard. Upon leaving Queens Plaza the train takes a sharp left hand turn before running along 31st Street. This is clearly delineated by a water tower sitting prominently above the line. For one glorious moment, as the N or Q plods along, other trains running in divergent directions seem to intersect at the Queens Curve. For that singular moment, the lines of Queens converge. It is Astoria. It is Rego Park. It is Forest Hills. It is Corona. It is Jamaica, all at once. It is home. So every night when I round the ‘Queens Curve’ I know I am home.
Although the song by Paul Simon has nothing to do with any of this, anyone from Queens knows of what I speak. We also know that Paul Simon is a treasure, not only of Queens, but music in general. Me & Julio Down By The Schoolyard has long been one of my favorite songs by him. That funky little acoustic guitar riff, the whistling, and the percussion, with the distinctive Cuica drum combine for one of those songs you just can’t help bopping along to. I hope you do too!
Me & Julio Down By The Schoolyard-Written By Paul Simon
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All Photographs By Robert P. Doyle
*Photo Shuffle is a new, very short slice of my regular blogs based on setting my Ipod on shuffle and matching up one of my photographs to whatever comes up.
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