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October 22, 2005

 

Arthur Garfunkel: Belated Gratitude


CALM

What follows are a number of reminiscent thoughts about an early friendship, an open letter of thanks to Arthur Garfunkel.

Arthur, I have often thought about the gratitude that I have always harbored for what you gave me, I'm sure unknowingly, during our friendship in New York. But now, for some reason, I have come to actually feel that gratitude. An interesting reversal of things, for we often struggle to attach thoughts to our feelings, rather than, as in this case, suddenly experiencing the feelings associated with a thought.

I remember our first encounter, when I was a relatively unimportant assistant director in the financial aid office at Teachers College, Columbia University. You came into the office and described how you had just returned from England, where your first album had been released to little critical acclaim and little general notice or popularity--a "flop". You had decided that, in the face of this seeming musical failure, you would turn your attention to becoming a teacher, to helping children.

Young and really knowing little, in my position at Teachers College I had quickly figured out how to help a prospective student fill out his/her financial aid application in a way that made it a "slam-dunk" success. So, in a way, I think that I helped to provide you with some sense of safety and comfort during a period of some significant disappointment and dispair. And you hid it well. I remember, with great humor, your asking me if I wanted to join your new back-up band. "But what would I do?", I asked. You replied, "Play the guitar, of course." "But I don't play the guitar," I responded. "Oh...," you said.

About a month later, the album was released in the United States, instantly becoming a monumental success: "The Sounds of Silence." Suddenly, you were on the royal road to national fame and significant financial wealth. And I was off to a an unplanned journey to becoming a teacher for the poor and later, a psychoanalyst working with young people suffering from disturbed emotions. As our lives took different paths, my memories of you have always remained with me.

"The Sounds of Silence" and your later album, "Bridge Over Troubled Water," have always been quiet inspirations to the way in which I have always worked with young people. And now I actually feel the gratitude toward you that has always been a part of my reminiscent thoughts about you.

Arthur, thank you very, very much.

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