Wednesday, December 31, 2014


I should go back to my old Missionary's Journal to look up his name: I'm pretty sure it was Paul—not Pablo but actually Paul, the only child of two people who were old enough, I thought then, to be his grandparents. He played the guitar all the time, usually alone in his room, he said; but on Christmas Day 1986, which my companion and I spent with him and his family, he sat at the dining room table after a late lunch and played for us and sang.

After he was done, we went outside and lit off bottle rockets. He and my companion and I were basically kids, remember, so it should come as no surprise that we thought it was great to place the stems of the bottle rockets in a pile of wet sand and aim them at passing cars. The Argentinian bottle rockets seemed to me stronger than any I'd used in California, but that impression might of been a by-product of my general delight at setting off fireworks for Christmas.

That night, before leaving, having, in my bag, nothing else of use, I gave Paul my copy—a cassette tape—of Paul Simon's Graceland. I wasn't supposed to have it (The Missionary Handbook authorized nothing but classical music or anything by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir) but I thought it was a sensational album and believed he'd like it.

I wasn't wrong. A couple of months later he told me that he'd listened to it so much that he'd broken the tape. To prove it, he brought out his guitar and sang "Graceland," the title track, which we both agreed was as good as any song by the Beatles, even though neither he nor I were parents, of course, and I was not yet divorced, so the truth of the song must have seemed to us as distant (yet indisputable) as the the truth of Jesus' love had felt, when we'd read of it together before lighting the bottle rockets, in a short passage from the Gospel of John.

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