Jim Croce's song "Working at the Car Wash Blues" is about a guy working at just such a place, after just having gotten out of jail "doing 90 days for non-support," which means not paying child support. This deadbeat dad's concern, however, is not making things right with his progeny, but being an "undiscovered Howard Hughes," who really has the business acumen to be in "an air-conditoned office with a swivel chair," not "working at this end of Niagara Falls."
Simon's speaker here, a Vietnam vet, also has "been working at the car wash," and likewise has grander ambitions. Not on Wall Street, but in Hollywood: "I've been working on my rewrite... gonna turn it into cash."
What about the screenplay requires revision? "Gonna change the ending." You see, it was originally about this guy with kids, see, but: "...the father has a breakdown/ And he has to leave the family." Oh. Hmm.
Yes, but in the rewrite? "Gonna substitute a car chase/ And a race across the rooftops/ When the father saves his children/ And he holds them in his arms."
The satirical newspaper called The Onion mocks current events but also has reviews, and in one coined the term "Manic Pixie Dreamgirl." This is a fictional female who is winsome and cute; she exists to breathe life into the dull and cloistered lives of brilliantly creative but unappreciated and shy guys, like... oh, say, maybe some screenwriters.
Yes, but isn't that-- somewhat at least-- what art is for? To create a better world than the disappointing one we actually inhabit?
So, we can tease the car-wash guy for being twice deluded-- once that anyone would buy his cliche-soaked screenplay, and once that even if he gets rich selling it, that this will help him reunite with his kids. We can tease him...we can mourn his loss with him...
Or we can be glad at least his heart is in the right place. That, even in his frustration, he is able to find a creative (and not destructive) outlet for his emotions. If you can't have the real thing, at least you can know you want it. This is not unlike the conclusion Ibsen reached in his play The Wild Duck, about the necessity of illusion in the face of the true bleakness of life, such as that of the inventor who has been puttering on his never-finished creation for years.
There is an expression: "Fake it 'til you make it." In this case, sure, fake it all you want, car-wash guy, since we know you will never make it anyway. Who are you hurting? In fact, you are helping... helping yourself cope.
The chorus-- "Help me... Thank you for listening to my prayer"-- seems to be directed at the listener. But what is his prayer? Perhaps it is to know that, even if you won't come to see his movie, you will at least wish him luck on his rewrite.
This song features a number of perhaps unfamiliar instruments. The "glass harp" is an array of drinking or wine glasses with varying amounts of water in them, which affects the pitch produced when their edges are rubbed with the player's finger.
The "kora" is a cello-size African string instrument with a rounded body; it produces the music box-like plinking head in the song. The "djembe" is a goblet-shaped hand-drum; the smaller ones are held under the arm like a bagpipe, while the larger ones are supported between the knees of a seated player.
And an "angklung" is an Indonesian percussion instrument of ingenious design. A horizontal frame holds vertical bamboo poles of varying lengths. Sticks are placed within the hollow poles, and when the poles are shaken the sticks rattle inside, with tones differing depending on the lengths of the tubes they are in. Small versions can fit on a table, while larger variants are on larger racks resembling those for tubular bells. The overall effect is not unlike that of a vibraphone.
Next Song: Love and Hard Times