Performer: Peter Gabriel
Songwriter: Peter Gabriel
Original Release: Peter Gabriel (Security)
Definitive Version: Secret World Live, 1994
This is one of those songs that has a specific memory attached to it—being on a bus in New York City.
As I’ve mentioned, the YMCA national headquarters sent me to write a feature about the Plainfield Y—paying for my airfare and a rental car. I saved them the cost of a hotel by staying with my aunt in New Jersey.
Well, after I got my work done, I figured since I was there, I might as well spend a day and go see the sights in NYC. So I took a commuter bus into the city and walked around for a few hours.
The funny thing is, I don’t recall doing much of anything except going to a deli and getting a roast beef sandwich that was about the height of the Chrysler Building. I hiked past the Metropolitan Museum of Art and finally up to Black Rock, but I didn’t go into anything.
I think what happened was that I didn’t get there till the afternoon and I realized that I really wouldn’t have time to do anything like a museum before I had to head back for dinner. It would be too far to get to the World Trade Center, which I would have liked to have gone to the top of, because I’d already been to the top of the Empire State Building when I was 6. Same with the Statue of Liberty, the Museum of Natural History and Central Park.
So I just roamed Fifth Avenue, window shopping, noting the guys on the street playing three-card monte and just getting a general vibe from the activity. At the time, I probably could’ve lived in New York City but not now. Chicago is far more spread out than New York City is—even downtown. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve been less eager to be packed among crowds. I’m not claustrophobic by any means; I just don’t like being surrounded by large groups of people if I can avoid it.
Anyway, I was listening to Plays Live on my Walkman on this day, and it might well have been the first time I had listened to that tape, because, as I noted at the outset, this song really stuck with me. I don’t remember if it caught me on the trip in or out on the bus, although if I had to say, I’d say it was at night.
Well, that would be impossible, because I was already back in New Jersey for dinner when it was night time, so it’s entirely possible that I have this memory confused with my next trip to New York City, which was four months later when Jin, Scott and I went to New Jersey to visit during the holidays. Oh well, it’s too late now, and anyway, I have other songs that will cover that trip.