Monday, January 12, 2015

The Mission

(Well, I said if I found more Paul Simon songs, I would post them, and I did... so here they are. Two more. One more this week, and another next week.)

This song is from The Capeman. More pointedly, it is not from that musical, as it did not make it into the final version or into the Lyrics book. It was posted by a very good fansite,, so thanks go to them for this find.

It is clearly intended for the musical, as it mentions Puerto Rico, but aside from that, not much is clear about it. It seems to take place during Salvador's parole-violating journey to see his pen-pal girlfriend in Arizona, since Tucson is mentioned.

Frustratingly, the site does not explain which character gets which bit of dialogue; it is unclear who is speaking (or singing) several of the lines. All we can know is that Sanchez introduces himself, and extrapolate from there. It may be that they simply take turns... or as in normal conversations, there may be a pause, after which the same speaker re-initiates the dialogue.

The song seems to have been left out due to the its introduction of a new character, who hesitantly calls himself Sanchez, who is not heard from otherwise, and the lack of their interaction advancing the plot at all or even revealing much about Salvador's character. Other than he is nervous, being on the lam and all. Which we knew.

The interaction, such as it is, takes place somewhere with a dirt floor. Perhaps in Arizona itself, on the way to his girlfriend's reservation (she's Native American). One of them does observe that "the desert gets cold at night."

The only other hint is the song's title, "The Mission," which seems to serve double duty. It means the mission  of love that Salvador is on... but also the building he finds himself in, one of the missions, like The Alamo, that dot the American southwest. An abandoned one may provide a roof and walls, but perhaps no more than a dirt floor for sleeping.

Sanchez, as we discover he calls himself, says he comes from "Canada" and works out of Tuscon. Salvador responds, falsely, that he is a "traveling salesman/ Pick-up and deliveries/ I'm waiting for someone/ He looks just like you." Which may be his explanation for being willing to converse.

Sanchez, picking up on Salvador's reluctance to talk, assures him: "No need to advertise ourselves to the local population." Sanchez does rightly guess that Salvador is from Puerto Rico, asking if he is headed there.

He also offers Salvador part of his food, possibly as a gesture of trust, since Salvador admits: "I've seen you watching me/ Maybe I'm wrong, maybe I'm paranoid/ But I've got my reasons/ My fears..."

The song closes with the following exchange as they say their good-nights and bed down:

A: The desert gets cold at night...

B: Still, Heaven is in your sight.

A: Isn't it strange that we came the same distance/ Just a coincidence?

B: Maybe so. Maybe it's fate that tied us together.

A: I ain't tied to anything.

B: I'll see you tomorrow.

A: Amen to that, my friend. Amen.

Speaker B is quite religious, speaking of "Heaven" and "fate." If it is Salvador, this is a bit out of character. Even if he is excited to be out of jail and to see his girlfriend, why is he using religious language to express that? He could simply speak of being happy and eager.

More likely, Salvador is the guarded, cynical Speaker A, who speaks of the desert being cold, coincidences, and not "being tied to anything." He may throw B the bone of an "Amen" at the end to make up for his aloofness and to signal that, while not religious himself, he does not dismiss the other's faith, thus ending the exchange on a warmer note.

Again, it is not hard to see why this was left out of the production. Aside from the sad rhyme of "snack" and "back," the whole piece is unnecessary. Sanchez is superfluous as a character, and we already know Salvador's place in the plot and his state of mind.

Next Song: Smile