The News I Need

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On Today’s Menu:
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** Share some New York cheesecake
for a poetic song-maker.
** Linger to ponder
how good music seeps into our lives.
** Savor a last ½ cup
on a trip to Yosemite National Park, circa 1983.
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First Sip:

 I feel good. It’s a fine day.
The way the sun hits off the runway.
A cloud shifts. The plane lifts.
She moves on.

♫ ♪ ♫
– Paul Simon

my photo of Yosemite Falls
Summer 1983


Slice of Cake:

I remember there’s a radio
coming from the room next door
And my mother laughed
The way some ladies do
When it’s late in the evening
And the music’s seeping through.

♪ ♫
– Paul Simon
‘Late in the Evening’

One-Trick Pony album (1980)

Paul Simon was born in New Jersey.
But when he just 4 years old his family moved to Queens
in New York City.

He met Art Garfunkel when they were 11.
They started singing together when they were 13.
Their musical heroes were the Everly Brothers, Lead Belly, and Woody Guthrie.


Happy 78th Birthday
** Paul Simon **

– born October 13, 1941
in Newark, New Jersey


Linger Awhile:

Been thinking this week about how many ways my life has crossed paths
with the music of Paul Simon.

“Music Seeping Through”

When I was in elementary school, my oldest siblings were teenagers.
It was the late 1960s.

The music I remember most was what was playing down in the living room—
and for what seemed like hours past my bedtime—
while, upstairs, I was hugging my doll Suky and falling asleep.

One pill makes you larger, and one pill makes you small
And the ones that mother gives you, don’t do anything at all
Go ask Alice, when she’s ten feet tall

It’s the hammer of justice, it’s the bell of freedom
It’s a song about love between my brothers and my

Go, take your sister then by the hand
Lead her away from this foreign land
Far away, where we might laugh again
We are leaving, you don’t need us

And, of course:

Hello darkness, my old friend,
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain still remains
Within the sounds of silence.

♪ ♫
– Paul Simon
‘The Sounds of Silence’

Wednesday Morning 3 A.M. album (1964)

In other words, what I heard was a lot of music that I love to this day.

Intro to Poetry

One day, my 8th English teacher handed out 2 sheets of paper.
One had lyrics to a 1966 Paul Simon song. The other was a poem from 1897 by E. A. Robinson.

And both had the same title: Richard Cory.

And he was rich—yes, richer than a king—
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

from Richard Cory
a poem by
E. A. Robinson (1897)


The papers print his picture almost everywhere he goes:
Richard Cory at the opera, Richard Cory at a show…
But I work in his factory
And I curse the life I’m living
And I curse my poverty
And I wish that I could be Richard Cory.

from Richard Cory
a song by
Paul Simon (1966)

The next week, this same teacher introduced e. e. cummings.

I was hooked.
For months afterward, I was writing my name as k. j. hardesty.

So, you see:
Paul Simon lyrics were my gateway drug to poetry.

The teacher’s name was
Kevin “yes-my-dad-wanted-a-son” McWilliams.
I am so grateful to her.

Intro to Guitar

Admittedly, while I was struggling to learn guitar in high school,
my favorite songs to play were more often Beatles songs than Simon & Garfunkel.
But I definitely remember the first song I could play using finger picking (rather than just strumming)
was Simon & Garfunkel’s Bookends.

Time it was and what a time it was
A time of innocence, a time of
♪ ♫
– Paul Simon

Bookends album (1968)

At the
Oakland Coliseum

In August 1983, I was working in Yosemite National Park.
(More about that adventure below.)
The one-and-only time I left the mountains that summer
was for a concert.

My younger sister and I got to see The Simon & Garfunkel Reunion Tour at the Oakland Coliseum.

It turns out that this was the year (the only year)
that Carrie Fisher & Paul Simon were married.

And at the end of the concert, out she came—
Carrie Fisher dancing onto the stage with Paul’s 11-year-old son.
(It was really sweet.)

Poetry Full Circle

In 2003, while living in New Zealand, I was thrilled to have my first poem published.
It was in the local newspaper. They paid me 30 New Zealand dollars.

The title of my poem is from a Paul Simon song:

The News I Need

Here I am,
washing up dinner dishes,
waiting on the South Island weather report.

Instead come guitar chords
Drop-dead familiar.
‘What is this?’ I say
And, ‘This crazy station’ll play anything.’

Tom, comes a whispered song,
Intimate as hell.
Get your plane right on time.
I almost drop a dish.

I am moving backwards so fast
I grab the sink for anchor.

I know
that you’ve been eager to fly now.

(I am sure there is something
Ahead in this song:
Something I’ve forgotten
and need to reclaim.)

Half of the time we’re gone
But we don’t know where
And we don’t know where.

The last chords drip
and vaporize.

Here I am
in Christchurch, New Zealand
looking out as a solid wall of cloud
seals off the stars.

My past
that stood ajar
clicks closed.

© 2002 Kelly J Hardesty
My poem The News I Need was published
in The Press (Christchurch) in March 2002.
The six italicized lines, as well as the poem’s title,
are quotes from The Only Living Boy in New York
with lyrics by Paul Simon.


“Half Cup More”

I lived for a summer in Yosemite National Park.

I was 21. I’d run out of money at college, so I stopped out of school to work and save up.

I applied for an assistant cook job at Yosemite Institute, an environmental education program.4

View of Half Dome from the trail
photo by the Yosemite Institute staff

It was the oddest interview I’d ever been on.
Here are two reasons:

#1 I wore jeans.
To a job interview.

#2 My mom came on the interview with me.
Because I didn’t own a car, my mom kindly drove me up to Yosemite. For her, it was an excuse to have an adventure in a beautiful place. I met the manager and it looked like the interview meant a tour of the grounds. What was my mom supposed to do, wait in the car? Of course she came along.

It turned out to be such a great job for me. In a lot of ways.

Money, for one.
The job provided all my meals, plus housing, and even clothing—
and since inside a national park there was little to shop for,
I had almost nothing to spend any money on.
So I pretty much socked away my entire salary into a savings account.

It was challenging for me, too.

Yosemite Creek Trail
Me, in the back, on duty

I was one of two cooks and I really liked the head cook. She was a vegetarian like me.

Then there were my other duties.
During my second week on the job, I was asked to go along on an overnight backpacking trip. They always needed two staff members to go: One to lead the hike, and one to stay back at the end of the line, to make sure no one was left behind.

I said: I’ll be the one in the back.
Fact is, I had never backpacked in my life. (Closest I’d gotten was a car-camping trip with a friend’s family back when I was 9 years old.)

We set out on on the Yosemite Creek Trail. I hiked in the back.

For five days.

I learned that it’s a good idea to put moleskin on my feet before a hot spot turns into a blister.
I learned that it’s not such a good idea to lean back against a fallen log.
Then I learned how to get a tick out of my neck. (A tick I’d acquired from, you guessed it, leaning back against a fallen log.)

And the best thing I learned was that I could make it.
All 24 miles.

And I still have the shirt!
The logo is the Jeffrey Pine
on top of Sentinel Dome
Me and the famous Jeffrey Pine
July 1983

The Jeffrey Pine on top of Sentinel Dome
was a Yosemite landmark for more than a hundred years.
It was first photographed in 1867.
The tree died during a drought in 1977, but still held on.
It finally fell during a storm in 2003.

I guess what I’ve thought about most from that summer,
other than how at home I felt living among the pine trees and Steller’s jays,
is a memory from that first 5-day backpacking trip.

At one particular low point, I remember thinking to myself:
‘Kelly, you can cry if you want to, but you have to keep walking.’

Stalling wouldn’t work, whining wouldn’t help, and giving up was not an option. The only way out was to pick up my pack and get my moleskin-covered, hiking-boot-wearing feet to move.

It was a good lesson for my 21-year-old self to learn:
That when I tell myself I have to keep going, I do.

Take-Away Box

♪ ♫
Well, that’s one way to
lose these walking blues,
wearing diamonds on the soles of her shoes.
♪ ♫
She said, honey take me dancing
but they ended up by sleeping
in a doorway
by the bodegas and the lights on Upper Broadway,
wearing diamonds on the soles of their shoes

♪ ♫
– Paul Simon
‘Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes’

Graceland album (1986)


Thank you for reading!
Kelly J Hardesty

Thoughts? Questions?
Scroll down to the endand you can leave me note!
Always so lovely to hear from you.

You Can Read More…


song credits & footnotes:

White Rabbit
sung by
Jefferson Airplane (1967)
written by Grace Slick

If I Had a Hammer
sung by Peter, Paul, and Mary (1962)
written by Pete Seeger and Lee Hays in 1949.

Wooden Ships
sung by Crosby, Stills, and Nash (1969)
written by Stephen Stills, David Crosby, and Paul Kantner

Yosemite Institute is still running.
Except now it’s called Nature Bridge.
Their website says they’re the largest
non-profit educational partner of the National Park Service,
their mission is to connect young people to
the wonder and science of the natural world
through overnight environmental education
in our national parks.


Please note:
Whenever you click on ‘Post Comment’ your comments always come to me first. Then I post them below.
If you’d rather they stay between us, just let me know.
© Kelly J Hardesty 2024

2 thoughts on “The News I Need”

    1. Thanks so much, Steve!!
      Yeah, I bet ‘Dangling Conversation’ would be a good one to dig into!
      “like a poem poorly written, we are verses out of rhythm,
      couplets out of rhyme, in syncopated time”
      (And yet…it was Dylan who got the Nobel Prize for Literature?)

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